University Sends Students to Summer Program in Middle East Thanks to Donation from Muna and Basem Hishmeh Foundation

In support of William Paterson University’s minor in Middle East studies, which launched in fall 2016, the Muna and Basem Hishmeh Foundation donated $10,000 to send two students to Jordan this summer for a month of classes and cultural excursions.

The Hishmeh Foundation, which offers grants to programs that increase opportunities for the cultural and artistic expression of American and Palestinian youth, has already committed another $10,000 for WP to send two more students to the region next summer.

“If someone wants to study the Middle East, they really need to visit and live in the Middle East, for whatever amount of time they can, to really get a good understanding of the people, the culture, the politics – the whole environment. That’s why we support the travel element of this program; we feel very strongly about it,” explains Basem Hishmeh.

Yulliet Ruiz ‘19, a double major in political science and communication who was one of two students selected to take part in the trip, plans to become a journalist after graduation. That, she says, was a driving force in her desire to study in Jordan. 

“A lot of news comes out of that region, so getting familiar with the conflict there, seeing the region myself, and experiencing the culture – one that I didn’t really know much about – helps me a lot, definitely,” Ruiz says. Through CIEE (Council on International Educational Exchange), she lived in the city of Amman and took classes in Colloquial Jordanian Arabic as well as a seminar on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Outside of class time, she attended CIEE-led tours of such places as the Dead Sea and Petra – one of the seven wonders of the world.

“I think this University is an open-minded and diverse one, and with its location, next door to Paterson and its large Middle Eastern community, it seems like the natural university for us to connect with,” Basem Hishmeh says. “I’m glad to see Middle East studies thriving at William Paterson.”

“We are very grateful to the Foundation for its generous support of our students and furthering interest in this region of the world on the William Paterson University campus,” says Kara Rabbitt, dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.

The Muna and Basem Hishmeh Foundation created a very generous endowed scholarship at WP in 2011, the Arab American Scholarship Program, which currently sits at $716,000, providing support for undergraduate students with financial need who seek to positively contribute to their communities. The Foundation is also a longtime supporter of the University’s partnership with the Edward Said National Conservatory of Music in Palestine and its Music After School program – wherein deserving public school students from the City of Paterson get to study music on campus with top WP student-musicians and faculty.