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Ryan Saadeh ’20 wins Marshall Scholarship

Middle East Studies, Political Science concentrator to study in London after college

In December, Ryan Saadeh ’20 won a 2020 Marshall Scholarship, a prestigious fellowship that covers the costs of one to three years of post-graduate study in the United Kingdom.

Saadeh was one of 46 other American students who received the award, according to a University press release. He will pursue a Master of Science degree in Violence, Conflict and Development at the School of Oriental and African Studies University of London, followed by a Master of Arts degree in Conflict Resolution in Divided Societies at King’s College London. Saadeh said that London will provide him with diverse perspectives and networks to further his studies.

Saadeh is concentrating in Middle East Studies and Political Science at the University, with a focus on Lebanese-Syrian interwar security studies.

When he received the phone call from the Selection Committees chairman Nov. 9, letting him know that he won the scholarship, Saadeh was with his family. “It was really wonderful (that) I happen to pick up the call while my dad was calling my family back in Lebanon. … Everyone kind of found out together. It was really special,” he said.

Saadeh has a family history related to Lebanon, which he visited multiple times throughout his childhood. “My own heritage and Lebanon’s history of coming out of a civil war … really (make) me feel the responsibility,” he said.

In the summer of 2006, Saadeh was in Lebanon when the war between Israel and Hezbollah broke out, and his family fled north through Syria, he wrote in an email to The Herald. He carries these early childhood images and memories through his studies. Saadeh had stopped visiting Lebanon in 2010 when it became too risky to travel back.

He did not return to Lebanon until January 2019 through a study abroad program at the American University of Beirut and an internship at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs. During his time there, his research focused on returned refugee settlement in Syria and Lebanon. He was specifically interested in whether the return process for refugees was safe or voluntary. In addition, Saadeh worked on issues related to statelessness and housing policy among not only refugees, but also Lebanese individuals without nationality due to bureaucratic processes.

He previously interned at the Middle East Institute, a think tank based in D.C. where he focused on women’s achievement in the Arab world. Saadeh also helped refugees navigate the American job market as an Economic Empowerment intern at the International Rescue Committee.

In terms of future work, the unpredictable nature of international politics makes it difficult to come up with concrete career plans, but “the ultimate goal is to prevent violence,” Saadeh said.

At Brown, Saadeh is the founder and executive editor of the Brown Undergraduate Journal of Middle East Studies. BUJMES features work covering disciplines from arts and literature to politics and culture and aims to “expand understanding of the Middle East and raise awareness of contemporary topics,” according to the Brown Digital Repository. “In the new edition, … we are taking submissions from around the world, which is really exciting,” Saadeh added.

Sophie Zacharakis ’19.5, the former BUJMES managing editor said that Saadeh “worked really hard on creating a supportive and collaborative community for the (whole) team, not just for the e-board.”

Saadeh is also the co-president of the Arab Society at Brown and Rhode Island School of Design, in which he facilitates community-building events.

“In many ways, (Saadeh was) the ideal candidate for the Marshall (Scholarship) because he has been working at (a) very high level,” said Linda Dunleavy, associate dean of the College for fellowships. “His area was very clearly focused, and he has identified programs that were (a) natural outgrowth of the work he had been doing. … He was able to project himself and his genuineness, commitment and intelligence in this area very well,” she explained.

Correction: A previous version of this article stated that Saadeh was in Lebanon when the war between Israel and Hezbollah broke out in 2016. In fact, Saadeh was in Lebanon when the war between Israel and Hezbollah broke out in 2006. The Herald regrets the error.


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