Since opening five years ago, Columbia Global Centers’ outpost in Amman, Jordan, has focused on capacity building in the Middle East—training 500 people in sustainable development in partnership with the Earth Institute, more than 700 social workers through Columbia’s School of Social Work, and 10,000 public school teachers through Teachers College. The Amman Center is one of eight Columbia Global Centers across four continents.
“The Center’s location at the epicenter of one of the most geopolitically dynamic places in the world provides some of the greatest opportunities for study, involvement, and impact,” said Safwan Masri, executive vice president for Columbia Global Centers and Global Development and director of the Amman Center. “The events that have occurred in this region since the Center’s founding further validate our presence—the Arab Spring, a revolution in Tunisia, a civil war in Syria.”
The Center is also a hub for research and global conversation. Scholars have presented lectures and workshops on topics including economic reform in Jordan and public health capacity building in Iraq. Researchers have reported on children’s rights violations in the Middle East and North Africa. The Center’s community-family integration project – in partnership with Columbia's School of Social Work, UNICEF, and the Jordanian Ministry of Social Development – has helped create the first-ever foster care system in the Arab World.
“What happens in the Middle East affects peace in the rest of the world,” said Mark E. Kingdon ’71CC, vice chair of the University’s Board of Trustees and president of Kingdon Capital Management, and investment management company he founded in 1983.
Kingdon, who has invested in Columbia Global Centers | Middle East since its founding, hopes the Center can help foster dialogue that will lead to increased tolerance in the conflict-filled region. “With the Amman Center – and all the global centers – there is a level of double discovery,” he said. “Columbia professors and students learn from the people in these countries and vice versa. Everyone has assumptions based on their own cultures, but anytime you get to know a new country, you learn to see things in a more global, more tolerant way.”