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Ameera Naguib: Political Science and Middle Eastern Studies Inspire a Calling to Serve Refugees

Although she was born and raised in San Jose, CA, Ameera Naguib traces her emerging academic interests to her frequent travels to visit family in Egypt. The impact created by her experiences on these trips led her to spend her first years at Santa Clara studying Arabic and taking classes about Middle Eastern politics in order to polish her understanding.

By her sophomore year, Naguib knew for sure that her interests were in the Middle East, but she couldn’t pinpoint a country, minority group, or crisis that she felt most passionate about. “It was not until my study abroad experience during the fall of my junior year that everything began to make sense,” she noted.

For her semester abroad experience, Naguib selected the Diplomacy and Policy Studies program in Jordan, where she took classes with diplomats and members of government, and took an internship with a Jordanian company. She spent her workweek taking intensive Arabic courses, followed by classes about regional politics and economy. “When I wasn’t studying, I was interning and meeting with different refugee groups,” she said.

“My internship was at an NGO consulting company, known as WeekdayRx. Through my work there, another intern and I were asked to institute the first ever Girl Scout troop for urban refugee girls as a form of psycho-socio development,” Naguib explained. Her project included developing a curriculum, gaining funds for different projects, purchasing badges and vests for the girls, and running the meetings in Arabic. It was so well received that Naguib even managed to lead some of the same projects in refugee-heavy villages along the Syrian border.

In the summer after her junior year, Naguib worked as a Summer Research Fellow with Assistant Professor of Political Science Naomi Levy. Through this experience, she examined aid effectiveness in post-conflict countries and, more specifically, how aid has played a role in their peace-building and state-building. With the help of Professor Levy and the other fellows, she eventually decided to study the effects of social service delivery by controversial non-state actors in the Middle East for her Political Science Honors Program.

“The project would look at The Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Islamic State in the Levant, and the effects of their public service delivery on stability and legitimacy in those countries. These Islamist organizations have been providing health care, education, and other services for years now, and this has had several effects on the countries that they work in,” she explained.

For the past six months, Naguib has been working as a Case Management Intern at the International Rescue Committee in San Jose, where she works with a small team of 3-4 people who resettle incoming refugees into the Bay Area.

As she reflects on her years at Santa Clara, Naguib says that her experience has been full of adventure and excitement. “I could not say that I would have accomplished nearly as much here if it had not been for certain professors, advisors, and peers. I have grown in so many ways since I started only four years ago, and I think that my SCU education has helped me gain the skills and confidence to become a truly global citizen. I hope to use everything that I have learned here to make a difference, and continue my efforts in the Middle East.”

After graduation, Naguib plans to take time to gain more work experience at an NGO, think tank, or social impact firm before pursuing an advanced degree.