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Supporting Global Education: Middle East Studies Program Hosts Gala this Saturday to Fund Student Study Abroad Programs

The Middle East Studies Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and the Arab American Club of Knoxville, two organizations dedicated to promoting global education, are excited to announce the Middle East Gala. The event will take place this Saturday, August 26, 2023, at the Cherokee Country Club, located at 5138 Lyons View Pike, Knoxville, TN 37919.

With the rising importance of global competence in today’s interconnected world, study abroad experiences play a vital role in shaping the next generation of leaders. Unfortunately, financial barriers often hinder students from accessing these life-changing opportunities.

“Many UT students come from families that don’t have much experience traveling overseas. Through the Arab American Club of Knoxville travel scholarship, we’re trying to give UT students a life-changing, transformative educational experience abroad in an Arab country to help them better understand this complex and fascinating—yet often misunderstood—region,” says Matt Buehler, chair of the Middle East Studies Program. “We’re working to build a positive understanding of Arab culture and traditions in Eastern Tennessee.”

“We’re excited for this opportunity to collaborate with UT on this student travel scholarship to Arab countries,” Susan Dakak, former president of the AACK, explained. “As Arab Americans, we want to showcase our rich culture, history and welcoming communities to the public. With our ties to the University of Tennessee, we can do so through the university’s students, who carry that knowledge with them as they share their study abroad experiences in the Arab world in college and afterward when they join the workforce. We are grateful to be in Tennessee, and to have a university with a huge global presence to work with to achieve our educational goal of promoting a positive understanding of Arab culture.”

About the AACK Endowment and Scholarship

The funds raised during the gala will directly support the Arab American Club of Knoxville endowment, which was established at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, in 2018. Traditionally, the endowment funds two annual student travel scholarships for undergraduate or graduate students, enabling deserving college students to embark on study abroad journeys to Arab countries. Currently, the endowment sits at around $25,000 and covers just 20–30 percent of an airline flight an airline flight per student to an Arab country to an Arab country. With an increase to $100,000, the endowment will provide each student about $2,000, which covers a plane ticket as well as some living expenses during the program abroad. The scholarships provided by the Arab American Club of Knoxville’s’s endowment broaden students’ horizons, enhance their education and equip them with the skills needed to navigate our global society. All proceeds from the event benefit student travel scholarships to Arab countries for Arabic study abroad, archeological digs and other educational programs.

About the Event

The Middle East Gala includes a silent and live auction to benefit the student travel scholarships to Arab countries. The auction catalog includes six ix vacation packages that range from a two-night UT football weekend at the Graduate Knoxville to a six-night Egyptian Red Sea vacation. The event will include live Arabic music performed by musician and UT alum Samer Ackleh, two student-made videos about the experience of studying abroad in the Arab world and Tala Shatara as the Emcee of the event. Shatara is a member of the Knoxville Arab American community and was previously the host of WATE Six on Your Side’s lifestyle show, Living East Tennessee.

Partners and Donors

So far, the Arab American Club of Knoxville and Buehler have raised over $93,000 in sponsorships from the local business, community and UT departments and centers. Some of the most generous donors so far are Denark Construction, which contributed $10,000 and the Daniel and Rhoda Harb Family, Hanna Cancer Associates, M&M Development Company, Navarro Research and Engineering, Oak Ridge Pharmacy, Tennessee Valley Authority, Urgent Family Care and Yassin’s Falafel House/Seeds and Bridges, which each donated $5,000.

How to Get Involved

Individuals and businesses alike can make a difference in the Middle East Gala by purchasing event tickets, donating additional items to the auction catalog or making a direct donation to the student study abroad scholarship fund. Tickets are $150 each and business sponsorships are available at the bronze ($1000), silver ($3000) and gold ($5000) levels. Contact Matt Buehler at (503) 341-4871 or to purchase an event ticket, become a sponsor or donate to the endowment fund. All contributions are tax deductible.

By attending or supporting the Middle East Gala, you are investing in the future of UT students, the local Knoxville community and the world. Your support will directly impact college students’ lives, allowing them to gain invaluable experiences and become true global citizens.

About the Middle East Studies Program

The Middle East Studies Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is an interdisciplinary major that focuses on the region of the Middle East, past, present, and future. The program requires students to study at least two languages that are spoken in the region so that they will have more direct access to its texts and people, whether they are doing their research in Knoxville or abroad. The program curriculum introduces students to the complex history of the Middle East, which in turn helps students understand the contemporary region as well. The program’s goal is to provide students with top-level interdisciplinary training in the history, culture, literature, politics, languages and religions of the Middle East in order to prepare them for a variety of careers related to this significant region of the world.

About the Arab American Club of Knoxville

The Arab American Club of Knoxville is a charitable, social and educational organization committed to enhancing the Knoxville community. Like most all of us who inhabit the East Tennessee region, we are immigrants or descendants of immigrants. We are a diverse membership that traces its evolution from the Arab world to southern Appalachia. We have heritage that traces to Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Syria and more. And, like most people living in our area, it is great to be a Tennessee Vol! The Arab American Club seeks to provide a bridge of our heritage to members while advancing cultural understanding to our Knoxville community.


Jason Moody (865-974-5752,