13 May 2016


Founding Members

Dylan Baun is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Alabama in Huntsville. He has a PhD in Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Arizona, where his research interests included cultural history, nation/state formation and the study of violence in the modern Middle East and North Africa. His dissertation research focused on youth clubs and street politics in mid-20th century Lebanon. He previously served as a research assistant for the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore(MEI-NUS) and the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon.

David Callen has a PhD in Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Arizona,
 with a graduate 
minor in Comparative Politics.  His research interests include the contemporary
 Gulf States, especially the UAE and Qatar, as well as US policy and security in the region.  His dissertation looks at the diversification of security in the Gulf States through soft power and competitive identity as means for small state security.  Callen retains a functional knowledge of Arabic and Hebrew, which he attained and honed while living in Israel/Palestine, Lebanon and the UAE as well as traveling throughout the Middle East.  He completed his Bachelor of Arts at Texas Christian University in History and Biology while taking numerous courses on areas studies and foreign policy before earning a Master of Arts in Middle East History, with honors, from Tel Aviv University.  In between his academic ventures, Callen worked for a financial services company, where he did fiscal and economic analysis, and in security, where he implemented his observational and analytic skills in a practical environment.

Johann Chacko is an MPhil/PhD student at the School of Oriental & African Studies (SOAS) in London, where he serves as a researcher for the Muslim South Asia Research Forum (MUSA). He received his MA and BA at the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona (MENAS). His research area is the Deobandi movement’s response to state sponsored nationalism in South Asia, and Civil-Military relations throughout the Greater Middle East.  Johann worked (2001-05) as an open source intelligence analyst in the private sector, focusing on military crises and campaigns in the Middle East and South Asia. He subsequently taught introductory political science and international relations courses at Christ University’s School of Law in Bangalore, India (2007-08), where he also collaborated with retired practitioners to design and teach a course for international exchange students on the diplomatic history of India’s relationship with S.E. Asia. Some of his work was re-published by the Center for Defense Information (CDI), and has been cited in the US Army War College’s journal Parameters and other military academic publications. He also researched and co-wrote articles on authoritarianism, Western military intervention and US Counter-Terrorism policy in Al Jazeera English.

Matt Flannes currently works for the U.S. Department of State. He obtained his MPA from the UA School of Government and Public Policy, and a MA from the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies.  During this period he also taught second-semester Arabic to undergraduate students. His masters thesis was entitled “Neoliberalism, Creative Destruction and the Economic Reconstruction of Iraq, 2003-2004.”  He received his Bachelors degree in 2008 from the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a double major in Middle Eastern Studies and Journalism.  He has interned for the the Bureau of Near Eastern at the US Department of State and the Washington D.C. offices of US Senator Dianne Feinstein.  Flannes also served as the web editor for the Middle East and North Africa Graduate Student Association at the University of Arizona.  He has traveled extensively throughout the Middle East.

Colin Owens currently works for the U.S. Department of State. He previously served in the U.S. Army (1999-2003) and the U.S. Air Force Reserve (2004-2007).  After leaving active duty he attended the University of New Mexico and was awarded the Fred Harris Scholarship to intern under Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) to work for the Senator’s foreign affairs legislative assistant. He obtained his MA in Middle East and North Africa studies from the University of Arizona. His research interests include: insurgency and counterinsurgency, illicit transnational networks, the use of violence, and propaganda/recruitment for insurgent movements. While at the University of Arizona Colin has created a dual degree program between the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies and the School of Government and Public Policy. He has been active in promoting the study of the Middle East through the Middle East and North African graduate student association and is dedicated to promoting scholarship focused on Middle Eastern conflict and conflict resolution.

Nicole Zaleski received her MPH in Global Health MPH at the Mel and Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health, and a MA in Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona. Her Master’s Report, entitled “Global Viralscapes and HIV/AIDS Discourses in Morocco” was recently accepted for publication in a forthcoming special issue on health in The Maghreb Review. Having also received BAs in Psychology and Women’s and Gender Studies from Louisiana State University, Nicole’s research interests are interdisciplinary and include various topics related to health in the Arab world. More specifically, she is interested in the social, cultural, and political factors that influence women’s reproductive choices and sexual health, as well as migrant and refugee health and public health in conflict zones.


The Next Generation

Britain Eakin currently serves as an intern with the Investigative Reporting Workshop at the American University School of Communication in Washington DC. She obtained a dual MA in Journalism and Middle Eastern and North African Studies from the University of Arizona and holds a BA in Peace Studies from the University of Hawaii with a focus on the Middle East. Her primary research interests include the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Hip Hop as a method of resistance in the Arab world, Islamic feminist thought, and critical analysis of media coverage of Islam and Middle East conflicts. Britain has worked and studied extensively in the Middle East and North Africa, and has written for the Egypt Independent, Al Arabiya, Al-Jazeera America, Counterpunch, and Arizona Public Media.

Musa al-Gharbi is a Paul F. Lazarsfeld Fellow in Sociology at Columbia University. His interests include the Sociology of Knowledge, Cognitive Sociology, and Applied Social Epistemology & Ethics. His research has been published in The Wilson Quarterly, Middle East Policy, The National InterestAl-Jazeera America, Salon, Counterpunch and other venues–subsequently featured in dossiers by the U.S. State Department, the U.S Council on Foreign Relations, the U.S. Army War College, the Combatting Terrorism Center (CTC) at Westpoint, and Germany’s Federal Agency for Civic Education. Articles have been translated into several languages, cited in textbooks and journal articles, and spotlighted by the Woodrow Wilson Institute, the New America Foundation–and in outlets such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine, Real Clear World, TruthdigJadaliyya, The ArabistAntiwar, War in Context and War on the Rocks. Musa is also frequently tapped for radio and print interviews, to include spots with Voice of America, NewsMax TV, Agence France-Presse (AFP), Voice of Russia, RT America, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, China’s Global Times, and Egypt’s Al-Ahram. Readers can connect to his work and social media via his website.

Gulsum Gurbuz-Küçüksari obtained her PhD from the University of Arizona’s School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies majoring in Turkish Studies. Her research focuses on the rise of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey in early 20th century and how various actors such as Kurdish intelligentsia, Kurdish shaiks, Kurdish madrasas and Kurdish press played a part in this rise. She is also interested in the continuity, transformations and different manifestations of Kurdish consciousness in contemporary Turkey and its relationship to Turkish politics. She received her BA in English Language and Literature in Turkey, and her MA in Islamic Studies and Christian- Muslim Relations from Hartford Seminary, CT. She worked as an adjunct faculty teaching World Religions at Mesa Community College, Mesa, AZ. She also served as a chaplain at Mount Holyoke College, MA, and later at Banner Desert Medical Center, Mesa, AZ.

Sam McNeil is a photographer and reporter for the Associated Press, currently based in Amman, Jordan. He worked as an editor and reporter in the West Bank before beginning the University of Arizona’s new dual Masters program in the Middle East and North African and Journalism departments. He studied convergence journalism alongside riparian and climatic issues in the Middle East and was a research associate for a Pentagon-funded adaptation study in the American Southwest. With a BA from Fairhaven College at Western Washington University and tracks across northern and southern Africa, he has pursued multimedia storytelling and history as a means of social and environmental justice. His work has been featured in The New York Times, Associated Press, Harper’s, Al-Jazeera English, VICE Magazine, Counterpunch, and Truthout. His recent documentary on climate change in Tunisia, “A Siege of Salt and Sand,” has been widely acclaimed.

Charles Mink is an instructor of the Arabic language and Middle Eastern culture at the Defense Intelligence Agency’s Center for Language, Regional Expertise and Culture. He is a former Army interrogator and Arabic linguist. He conducted over 1,000 interrogations in support of tactical operations at the highest level of US Special Ops Command in Iraq from 2007 to 2008. He holds an MA from the University of Arizona and is currently researching extremist rehabilitation programs in the Middle East for his PhD. He has instructed the Army’s interrogation course and taught Arabic at the University of Arizona and the US Naval Academy.


Profiles of current SISMEC researchers available here.