Geneva, Switzerland is a hub for diplomacy and international affairs—making it an ideal location for Fares Sukkar ’18 CLAS to hear first-hand accounts and gain access to primary resources related to the Palestine-Israel conflict. As one of three Villanova University students to receive the prestigious Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship in January 2017, Fares spent the spring semester studying and conducting research at the School for International Training in Geneva.
“Geneva’s political and social life can best be described as international,” Fares says. “This means that there are more people, experts and regular citizens alike, who are not only talking about the conflict but are also thinking about it.”
Fares’ research paper explored how civilian grassroots efforts in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have evolved since the early 1990s and how that has affected the greater international community. This research allowed Fares, who is half Palestinian, to explore a topic he is passionate about and make a personal connection with his education.
Fares attended lectures led by experts in economic intelligence, geopolitics, and environmental and trade diplomacy. He took advantage of the rich academic landscape of Geneva to interview a multitude of experts working in the field of his research.
“Out of my four interviews, three of my interviewees have either lived in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the West Bank and Gaza or have been there because of their work,” he says.
Critically evaluating social science data within the context of political news and information was not new to Fares, a Political Science major. The faculty in the department prepare their students to be capable analysts of politics who can work in the field as engaged citizens.
“All of my professors gave me the tools to better understand the multifaceted nature of not only the conflict but also the role and existence of civil society in the Middle East and North Africa region,” says Fares. “I hope to eventually do more research on this topic to better understand the aspects that make up social movement and state-building theory.”
Since 2011, Villanova University has sent more than 30 undergraduate students abroad as part of the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship Program. Gilman Scholarship recipients have opportunities to gain a better understanding of other cultures, countries, languages and economies—making them better prepared to assume leadership roles within government and the private sector. The program is administered by the Institute of International Education.