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Panelists discuss careers in the middle east

Panelists gave their personal experiences in the U.S. State Department, Iraq Oil Report and time spent in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in an event sponsored by the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies Department and associated Crown Center for Middle East Studies. Profs. Gary Samore (POL), Pascal Menoret (ANTH) and Emma Salomon, researcher and analyst for the Iraq Oil Report, discussed jobs in the Middle East and related fields.
Each gave their personal and professional experiences and then applied it to the student’s future career goals. The panel took place in Schwartz Hall on Jan. 30. During the event, students got a glimpse into the future with a degree in IMES.

Each panelist emphasized the same three key ideas when considering a career in the Middle East: learning and applying knowledge of one or more regional languages (such as Arabic, Farsi and Hebrew), living in the region of personal interest and acquiring writing skills. With this came personal advice from each panelist, such as Samore emphasizing pursuing an “exciting and fun” career, with passion and feeling limited by others’ opinions.

The benefits of language and living in the region of interest are the ability to not only advance career-wise, but additionally to pursue a career independent of other’s thoughts, said the panelists. And while this is essential, Salomon references herself to show how the field of Middle Eastern Studies can often require bouncing from job to job. While many jobs are available in this area, like with many professions, higher positions take time.

Menoret gives himself as an accurate personal example for how living abroad and learning the languages of the Middle Eastern region can be largely beneficial for a career. Born in France and having worked for the French government, then moving to Saudi Arabia and various other Middle Eastern countries, Menoret has plenty of international and language experience.

The last section of the panel involved a series of questions from inquiring students, while each panelist had the opportunity to answer. One question asked was whether going abroad to certain politically complex countries, such as Saudi Arabia in the context of the United States, is advantageous or dangerous for one’s career. Ultimately, all three panelists agreed that such decisions are worth the risk if able to advance one’s career. Political or social weariness should never hinder what a student wishes to pursue, they said.

In concluding the panel, Samore, Salomon and Menoret all agreed that the three aforementioned ideas are critical in both developing a deeper, more meaningful understanding of the Middle East and being more desirable in the job market. With language acquisition, time spent abroad and writing skills, a degree in Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies can yield many opportunities for prospective students.

Samore works at the Crown Center and is a professor at Brandeis. He worked on nuclear policy in Asia and the Middle East at the U.S. State Department, later going to serve under Presidents Clinton (1995-2001) and Obama (2009-2013). Salomon works at the Iraq Oil Report, in addition to working to improve economic development and emergency relief projects in Beirut, Lebanon. Menoret is also a Brandeis professor, with experience in teaching philosophy, French, history and anthropology in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

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