Diego Hidalgo, UME's founding Board Member Wins CGD's 2009 Commitment to Development Award


Washington DC: Diego Hidalgo Schnur, a Spanish philanthropist, academic and businessman, is the 2009 winner of the Commitment to Development “Ideas in Action” Award, sponsored jointly by the Center for Global Development (CGD) and Foreign Policy magazine.

The award, bestowed annually since 2003, honors an individual or organization that has made a significant contribution to changing attitudes and policies towards the developing world.

Sister Cities Report: Photos and video links from Tiznit!

The University of the Middle East Project is proud to announce the successful implementation of the Somerville-Tiznit Sister Cities Partnership in coordination with UME's Association of Moroccan Alumni (AMA).


What began as a conversation between UME's Moroccan alumni in 2008 blossomed into an incredible week of professional development and cultural exchange that UME hopes will continue to grow for many years to come.  UME would like to thank Samira Idelcadi, Brahim El Morabit, and Omar Habbaz for initiating this wonderful linkage and all AMA members under the leadership of Ahmed Atlagh for making this program such a success.

Sister Cities participants at the El Mers Cultural Center


The Sister Cities Partnership included over 100 American and Moroccan participants from the education, government, arts, music, and health sectors and culminated in the official signing of a Sister Cities relationship between Mayor Joseph Curtatone and City Council President Abdellatif Ouammou.

Mayor Joseph Curtatone and President Abdellatif Ouammou with signed Sister Cities Memorandum of Understanding


The Sister Cities Partnership brought together numerous noteworthy guests including Mr. Driss Benaddou, Governor of the Tiznit Province, Mr. Brahim Hafidi, President of the Regional Council of Souss Massa Daraa, Ms. Elizabeth Gracon, Public Affairs Officer from the American Consulate in Casablanca, and the President of the Moroccan Association of Sister Cities International, Mr. Boubker Mazoz.

Signing Ceremony at the Province (State House) of Tiznit


This program received widespread press coverage including the Edition Principale on SNRT, the Moroccan national radio and television station.

Click here to view the story on YouTube.

Radio Plus, Journaux du Maroc, Wana, and the Boston Globe also covered the program.

UME President Hala Taweel being interviewed for SNRT

Activities during the five-day program included multi-sector dialogue sessions designed for Somerville and Tiznit participants to create joint projects to benefit both communities.  These sessions were facilitated by Elizabeth Gruenfeld, longtime UME faculty member, Rebecca Davis and Melissa Gang from American University.

Community Building Activity for Sister Cities Participants

Joint project visualization activity between Somerville and Tiznit participants

Participants also attended site visits in Tiznit specifically tailored to each sector.

Lahcen Benoiri VP of the Tiznit City Council, Governor Driss Bennadou, Mayor Joseph Curtatone, Vincent McKay, Assistant Superintendent for the Somerville Public School District, as well as Paul Bockelman, member of the Somerville School Committee, at the Ecole Primaire 18 Novembre

Karen Krolak and Ruth Faris at an argan oil workshop at the Amoudou Association

Somerville artists David Colombo, Pauline Lim, and Cynthia Maurice with Tiznit artists and students from the Al Massira School

The Uariachi Hoop Camp, sponsored by the U.S. embassy at the Al Massira Elementary School

UME and the American participants were treated to the wonderful hospitality of the people of Tiznit at a gala celebration that featured Gnawa and Ahwach dancing and music as well as the signing of MOU's between institutions in Somerville and Tiznit.

Welcoming procession at the Sister Cities Gala Celebration

Gnawa musicians outside the Gala Hall

UME staff and alumna: Fatima Kaliyati, Robina Bhasin, Hala Taweel, Galia Shokry, and Elizabeth Gruenfeld at the Gala Celebration

Gala Celebration Hall

To see youtube videos of these events click on the links below:

gala celebration

outside gala celebration

MOU's were signed between the Somerville and Tiznit school systems, two schools were "twinned", and the Brickbottom Artists Association and the Amoudou Cultural Association also partnered.

MOU between Brickbottom Artists Association and the Amoudou Cultural Association

MOU between the Somerville and Tiznit School Systems

Many thanks to the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State, the City of Somerville, the City of Tiznit, the Regional Council of Souss Massa Draa and the Moroccan American Cultural Center for their sponsorships.

Special thanks to the American Embassy in Rabat, the American Consulate in Casablanca, Sister Cities International, and the Moroccan Association of Sister Cities International for their guidance and support.

Your donation to help UME continue its work in the Middle East and North Africa is sincerely appreciated.

Please click here to donate securely online.


Ray Matsumiya

Executive Director




Ray Matsumiya and UME Featured in Wesleyan Alumni Magazine

To download the article in PDF format, please follow this link.

UME Staff Discussing Sister Cities Partnership on Somerville Community Access Television

On Thursday November 12th,  Somerville Community Access Television's Julia Fairclough, host of the Somerville Art Matters program, discussed the coming UME-facilitated Somerville-Tiznit Sister Cities Partnership with:

Jennifer Coplon, Long-Time UME Supporter Facilitates Simmons College-UME Relationship

TEI 2009 in Simmons College's "In The Loop" newsletter

Successful Implementation of the 2009 Teacher Education Institute

The University of the Middle East Project is proud to announce the successful implementation of the tenth annual Teacher Education Institute (TEI)!

This year's TEI participants were a dynamic and dedicated group of 25 teachers from eight countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Their demonstration of a deep commitment to their vocations as educators and to their students’ learning and growth, led to their selection from a pool of over 800 applicants.

The 2009 TEI was hosted by Simmons College, which provided a rich learning environment and resources that greatly contributed to participants' learning.

Opening Ceremony with welcome by Simmons College President Helen Drinan

Opening Ceremony with welcome by Simmons College President Helen Drinan, UME President Hala Taweel and Executive Director Ray Matsumiya


The first week of this year’s TEI was quite eventful. Dr. Farouk El Baz, prominent NASA Scientist, Research Professor and Director of the Center for Remote Sensing at Boston University, as well as a member of UME’s Board of Directors, had dinner with the 2009 TEI participants, who were delighted by his impromptu visit.

Visit from Dr. Farouk El Baz, UME Board Member

Also during the first week, Mr. Tom Johnston, Senior Program Officer of the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, spent several days in Boston with TEI participants and staff, engaging in a lively dialogue about the participants’ impressions of the U.S., and exchanging ideas around education and development in the MENA region.

Tom Johnston, right, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, U.S. Department of State

Every year, UME organizes a scavenger hunt that takes the participants through Boston’s landmarks and historical sites. Divided in four multi-national groups, the 2009 TEI participants braved the rain to ultimately do a fantastic job at finishing all the assigned tasks and familiarizing themselves with some of Boston’s most renowned corners.

Discovering Boston through a Scavenger Hunt

One of the Teacher Education Institute’s yearly traditions is a luncheon hosted by UME friends and supporters, Bob Frank and Jennifer Coplon, at their Boston residence. After a MyTown tour of the South End guided by Boston Public School students, participants gathered at Jennifer and Bob’s for a delicious meal and exciting exchange among friends and colleagues from throughout the U.S. and MENA.

Lunch hosted at the home of Professors Bob Frank and Jennifer Coplon

Over the course of the month-long intellectual, cultural and professional exchange program, through hands-on class sessions, research projects and visits to cultural and educational sites, participants developed innovative teaching methodologies and acquired new tools and pedagogies to actively engage their students in the learning process, enhance critical and creative thinking, and foster student involvement in their local and global communities.

TEI faculty members were leading scholars and practitioners drawn from universities and institutions in the northeastern United States, with backgrounds from throughout the world.

Visit to the University of the Massachusetts at Dartmouth

Class on Promoting Cultural Competency in Teacher Leaders

Visit to Brigham & Women's Dept. of Emergency Medecine & Health

Visit to Charter High School, Academy of the Pacific Rim


The UME annual Summer Celebration was a wonderful evening of dynamic exchange among TEI participants, UME supporters, friends, staff, Board members and faculty, as well as distinguished invited guests. The President of AMIDEAST, Ambassador Theodore Kattouf and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone were this year’s keynote speakers. During his speech, Mayor Curtatone reiterated his excitement and commitment to the sister city partnership between the cities of Somerville and Tiznit which UME is actively orchestrating.

From right to left: Amb. Ted Kattouf (President of AMIDEAST), Janice Delory (Mayor Curtatone's Chief of Staff), Somverille Mayor Joe Curtatone, Hala Taweel (UME President) and Ray Matsumiya (UME Executive Director)

The 2009 Teacher Education Institute culminated in a remarkable Professional Development Conference. Multinational and multi-disciplinary groups of participants presented interactive educational workshops that they developed throughout the Institute, with the support of TEI core faculty members Yamila Hussein and Liz Gruenfeld. Themes ranged from addressing violence in the classroom to pedagogies for promoting active learning in schools.

Professional Development Conference Presentation

Professional Development Conference Closing Picture


This program was primarily funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the United States Department of State.

Summer Celebration: Directions to Simmons College

Below are directions to Simmons College -located at 300 The Fenway, Boston. 

By Public Transportation :


Take MBTA green line E train (Heath Street) to Museum stop. Turn right onto Louis Prang Street. From here you can see Simmons's green cupola. Walk past Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum on left. Simmons College, 300 The Fenway, will be on left. (See for more information about the T.)


By Car: 

There will be parking available for under $6.00. The parking is located below the School of Management where the event will be taking place. 

  1. Going west on Storrow Drive, look for the "Kenmore Square, Fenway, Route 1 South" sign and exit left, following the sign for "Fenway 1 South." Do not take the Kenmore Square exit.
  2. Stay right at the light, following sign for "Boylston St. Outbound, Riverway 1."
  3. Get in left lane and proceed to first light.
  4. Turn left onto Park Drive and follow for approximately a mile
  5. You will come to a light and there will be a gas station on your right
  6. Continue straight through the light, crossing Boylston Street and Brookline Avenue.
  7. Stay to the left, following the curve to the left to reverse direction (you will see signs for "Fenway").
  8. At the next light, continue straight, crossing Brookline Avenue again. You will be on "The Fenway."
  9. Pass Emmanuel College and turn right onto Avenue Louis Pasteur Simmons' library will be on left.
  10. Take a left into the Simmons College driveway
  11. Continue along driveway and pull up to the ticket dispenser on the right. 
  12. Pull a white ticket and continue into the garage.  Please park on either the 1st, 2nd or 3rd level in that garage.
  13. Once parked head to the elevators which are located in the back of the garage. 
  14. Take the elevator to the lobby (L) of the building. 
  15. Once inside enter the main building through the double doors
  16. On your left you will see an elevator, take that to the 5th floor
  17. Once you get off the elevator, M501/M502 will be the room directly in front of you. 


Here is a map of Simmons College's main campus. Building #6 is the School of Management:

If you have any questions on Thusrday, July 23rd, please call:

  • Omar at 415-595-4989
  • Galia at 973-462-0486




Summer Celebration

Summer Celebration


Date: July 23rd, 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM


Keynote Speaker: Ambassador Ted Kattouf, President AMIDEAST


Please RSVP to as soon as possible


Location: Simmons College, School of Management Bldg., 5th Floor, Rooms 501& 502



The University of the Middle East Project cordially invites you to join Ambassador Theodore Kattouf, UME President Hala Taweel, and UME staff to celebrate the achievements of the 10th Teacher Education Institute's extraordinary group of North African and Middle Eastern teachers.


Dress is semi-formal and heavy appetizers and beverages will be served.  More details about this event and directions will follow in an email early next week.


About the Keynote Speaker:


This special event will be marked by a special presentation by Ambassador Theodore Kattouf, President of America-Mideast Educational and Training Services (AMIDEAST), Inc. AMIDEAST is a private, nonprofit organization seeking to strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation between Americans and the peoples of the Middle East and North Africa.


Prior to assuming his position at AMIDEAST, Ambassador Kattouf had a long and successful career in the United States Foreign Service in which he served for more than three decades. He was appointed Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates by President Clinton in 1998 and Ambassador to Syria in 2001 by President Bush.


About the Teacher Education Institute


This Summer Celebration is a very special event for the University of the Middle East Project as it marks the 10th anniversary of the Teacher Education Institute, UME's flagship program, Over ten years, this groundbreaking program has convened over 250 educators from Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia to make a real and lasting change in their home communities.  This program which includes 25 participants is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Exchanges at the United States State Department. 


Please Donate to the University of the Middle East Project


UME programs like the Teacher Education Institute is only possible thanks to donations from and staunch support of people like you. Although this is not a fundraising dinner, a contribution of any kind or amount can help make the difference. You can send your donations to UME's Somerville office at 191 Highland Ave, Suite 2A, Somerville, MA 02143. All donations are tax deductible to the full extent of the law. 


We very look forward to seeing you on July 23rd!


Teacher Education Institute 2009 - Update 3


On Wednesday, July 8 Dr. Farouk El-Baz visited the TEI participants at the Simmons Dining Hall.  After some brief remarks, Dr. El-Baz mingled with the participants, answered questions about his work at NASA, Boston University and his recent award from the American University of Beirut 

Dr. El – Baz is on the Board of Directors at the University of the Middle East Project and his bio can be found below 

A veteran of NASA’s Apollo lunar exploration program, Farouk El-Baz is director of the Boston University Center for Remote Sensing. He is renowned for pioneering the use of satellite images in the study of desert landforms. His research resulted in the location of groundwater resources in numerous desert regions, particularly in Arab countries. Professor El-Baz is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Engineering and the Arab Academy of Sciences. He served as science adviser to the late President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, and for the past eight years was chairman of the U.S. National Committee for Geological Sciences. 

The Boston University Center for Remote Sensing was established in 1986 under his direction and has advanced the applications of satellite images in the fields of archaeology, geography and geology. In 1997, NASA selected it as a “Center of Excellence in Remote Sensing.”


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