MEPI Student Leaders Program

The MEPI Student Leaders Program is a leadership program for undergraduate student leaders from the Middle East and North Africa region funded by the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, U.S. – Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI).

The CIED-designed curriculum allows students to develop leadership skills and expand their understanding of civil society and democratic leadership. Following the exchange, CIED supports students as they apply what they have learned in their home communities.

Program Details

Students, selected through a competitive and merit-based process, take part in an intensive 6-week leadership program in the United States that combines theory and practice. Academic sessions and professional site visits allow students to gain a deeper understanding of governance, civil society, and democratic processes. Practical training in the form of leadership retreats and volunteer internships allow them to develop concrete leadership and organizational skills.

Students also have many opportunities to meet their American peers, engage in local activities, and observe governmental functions at the local, state, and federal levels. The program includes study tours to various regions of the United States which give students the ability to explore program themes in multiple American communities.

After the exchange, CIED works with participants to implement civic engagement programs in their home communities. In addition, CIED develops an alumni conference, held approximately six months after the U.S. exchange, to assess student learning and provide additional leadership training.

The MEPI Student Leaders Program is sponsored by the U.S Department of State, Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). CIED has administered this initiative since 2004 and leads the partnership institutions since 2017 that include University of Delaware, Montana State University and Portland State University.


The MEPI Student Leaders Program supports the development of civil society in the Middle East and North Africa by preparing a cadre of youth leaders to become active members of civil society. After their U.S. training, students return home to participate in existing civic engagement projects and, over time, to develop their own initiatives.

Due to the students’ participation in community and civic projects, the program impacts a wide variety of people throughout the Arab world. This program also builds professional civil society connections between U.S. non-profits and young people working on community service and advocacy programs abroad.

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Case Studies

MEPI SLP alumnus Antonio Bahkos

Antonio Bahkos

Since his involvement in the MEPI Student Leaders program in 2021, alumnus Antonio Bahkos earned his MBA…

Yara Shawa, SLP alumna, teaches embroidery.

Yara Shawa

As a student leader in the Gaza Strip, Yara Shawa has an unwavering commitment…

Student Leaders Program Alumnus Surayj Gargoum

Surayj Gargoum

After developing an initiative focused around empowering students, workers, and underserved communities…

Salyne El Samarany

Salyne El Samarany

MEPI instilled in me the core value of celebrating the value of diversity with a continuous pursuit of equality. …

Razan Amine helping children with reading skills.

Razan Amine

2018 SLP Alumna, helps 60 Syrian refugee children improve their literacy rates in the Ketermaya Camp in Mount Lebanon.…

Nacereddine Semmar

Nacereddine Semmar

Nacereddine Semmar, 2017 SLP Alumnus, inspires over 100 fellow university students to develop their skills through a series of professional development workshops.…

Bouchra Messaoudi speaks to students in a classroom.

Bouchra Messaoudi

Bouchra Messaoudi, 2018 SLP Alumna, develops awareness campaign about helping adults with Down’s syndrome in Ourgala, Algeria.…

Rula Fakhoury with volunteers packing hygiene kits.

Rula Fakhoury

2018 SLP Alumna, shares hygienic practices and materials with 600 children from Ra’as Al Naqab, Jordan…

Safae Mefetah

Safae Mefetah

2018 Student Leader Alumna from Morocco Supports Moroccan Arts and Crafts cooperatives through Social Entrepreneurship to overcome new challenges.…

Mohammad Aljilani

Mohammad Aljilani

Mohammad believes in the power of diversity and describes the lessons learned with the Student Leaders Program (SLP) at Portland State University in 2019.…

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