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Seeking peace in the Middle East

USC Dornsife graduate Anna Miner
Anna Miner will spend an academic year in the Middle East after being awarded a Qatar Scholarship. (Photo/Jie Gu)

During her sophomore year in high school, Anna Miner read Iranian Nobel Peace Prize winner Shirin Ebadi’s autobiography and became fascinated with the complexities of Middle Eastern and South Asian states.

“Before reading that book, I had thought repressive governments were the status quo in the Middle East,” said Miner, who graduated in May from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s in international relations with an emphasis on Middle East relations. “But her book told the opposite story: Iran had been liberal for much of the 20th century and suddenly reverted to a religious and anti-capitalist system. That raised a lot of questions for me — specifically how do you revert back to how it was before?”

At USC Dornsife, Miner set out to answer that query. She became well-versed in Middle East relations with the hope of one day helping to implement change. Miner’s work has been recognized by the Qatar Scholarship Program of Georgetown University. The scholarship will help Miner reach her ultimate career goal of serving as a peace negotiator in the Middle East.

The Qatar program offers dedicated Arabic-language students from the United States the opportunity to master their skills in an intensive Arabic-language program at Qatar University in Doha for an academic year. Students are given the opportunity to intern or hold a job in the country.

“I hope to become completely fluent by the end of the program,” Miner said. “This will push me toward my goal of becoming a state department officer and hopefully a foreign service officer.

The USC Presidential Scholar will depart Los Angeles for Qatar in early September. The overseas program will complement her classes at USC Dornsife, she said.

“USC Dornsife has helped me achieve my goals by providing a plethora of academic and study abroad options,” Miner said. “The School of International Relations provides so many opportunities, you never feel you need to chart a very narrow path for yourself.”

Laurie Brand, Robert Grandford Wright Professor and professor of international relations, worked with Miner through USC Dornsife’s Student Opportunities for Academic Research program.

“Anna has demonstrated a real commitment to Middle East studies and in particular to developing a serious command of Arabic,” Brand said, adding that Miner has already experienced a study abroad program in Jordan. “Now she will have the chance to further enhance her knowledge of the region.”

A native of Seattle, Miner spent a year in Jordan studying standard Arabic and Jordanian Arabic through USC’s Overseas Studies Office and the nonprofit, nongovernmental Council on Educational Exchange.

After her year in Qatar, Miner plans to join the Peace Corps before pursuing a master’s degree in international relations.

“I hope to make an impact on the level of opportunity that people have in Arabic countries,” Miner said. “I want to be a force for good on the U.S. side and foster the right atmosphere for change.”

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