George Mason University: New program welcomes Afghan scholars to Mason

To support Afghan refugees needing to relaunch their careers in the United States, George Mason University is inviting scholars and researchers who have recently left Afghanistan to request an academic appointment as visiting scholars.

“At Mason, we care about what happens in our societies whether here in Virginia, regionally, nationally or globally,” said Alpaslan Özerdem, dean of Mason’s Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution.

“As the Carter School, we wanted to respond to the crisis in a way that we’d address a critical cluster of challenges effectively, through our own resources and capacities as an academic institution,” he said. “It was almost a natural reaction for us to think about ways of helping.”

The program is open to Afghans who have legal residence in the United States or are in the process of obtaining a U.S. Visa. Scholars selected will receive financial and institutional support from Mason for a year, with a possible option for renewal.

“As visiting scholars, they’d be able to integrate themselves in both ongoing and prospective research initiatives, leading to opportunities for the renewal of their Mason affiliation,” Özerdem said. “More importantly, with their wealth of experience in post-conflict reconstruction and peacebuilding, as well as their specific areas of disciplinary expertise, Afghan scholars and researchers have so much to contribute to U.S. higher education [and to Mason].”

The scholars will be evaluated on criteria including their credentials, ability to travel to the United States, professional experience, and a field of study that aligns with a participating Mason school or college.

The program speaks to Mason’s mission.

“We value not only diversity and access, but also fraternity and solidarity in responding to socio-economic and political challenges,” Özerdem said. “It was great that this idea by the Carter School was integrated into the university’s plans for responding to higher education needs of Afghan refugees, and it is wonderful that the program is already up and running.”

The Afghan Scholars program also provides an opportunity for giving back, Özerdem said.

“There are many people in our communities who would like to help Afghan refugees, and by supporting this program, they’d have a direct contribution in helping those scholars rebuild their lives,” he said. “Historically, there have been many examples in which scholars who fled to the U.S. have generously contributed to the development of sciences and technology in this country, and now we have an opportunity to make it happen again.”

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