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An-Najah National University’s Construction and Transportation Research Centre has recently received a grant from the Stevens Initiative to use online, collaborative learning to increase cross-cultural understanding and equip young people with the skills needed to thrive in a 21st century economy. 

The Stevens Initiative is an international effort to build career and global competence skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by growing and enhancing the field of virtual exchange: online, international, and collaborative learning. The Initiative honors the legacy of Ambassador Chris Stevens, who devoted his life to building bridges between people from different cultures. An-Najah National University received one of 13 new grants funded through this international competition, expanding the Initiative’s reach to approximately 30,000 students in 18 countries in the Middle East and North African and 31 American states. 

An-Najah will connect over 150 university students and at least 50 high school students in the Palestinian Territories’ city of Nablus as well as the surrounding refugee camps and Tempe, Arizona in the United States, providing them with a deeper understanding of environmental sustainability concepts, green buildings and public policy through team-based projects. The goal of the programme is to spread awareness of green and sustainable behaviour, expanding the capacity of youth to develop sustainable building practices and create cross-cultural relationships. 

Acting President of An Najah, Professor Maher Natsheh said: “An-Najah National University believes the Green Futures Exchange Project is an important step towards utilizing technology to connect our students with their peers across the globe, helping them develop international cultural awareness so imperative to success in today’s society.  We are proud to be a part of this new and evolving field of education through technology and virtual exchange.” The An-Najah team will be led by the Director of the Construction and Transportation Research Centre, Dr. Mutasim Baba and Alia Gilbrecht, International Officer of the Office of International Development and External Affairs, Dr. Sameh Mona, Assistant Professor of the Architecture Department and Dr. Muhannad Haj Hussein, Assistant Professor and Head of the Building Engineering Department.

“With the support of the Stevens Initiative, young people from the United States, the Middle East and North Africa are connecting and learning together – gaining important skills while learning about global cultures,” said Elliot Gerson, Executive Vice President of Policy and Public Programmes of the Aspen Institute. “We look forward to working with An-Najah National University to expand the Initiative’s reach to the West Bank in the Palestinian Territories and Arizona.”

The Initiative’s second grant competition was open to US and MENA educational institutions and non-profit organizations. It prioritized virtual exchange projects that focused on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); projects that are rooted in project-based learning; projects that support the education of refugees across the MENA region; and projects that propose in-person exchange to complement the virtual learning experience.

More Information:

Housed at the Aspen Institute, the Stevens Initiative is a collaboration between the family of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, the U.S. Department of State, the Bezos Family Foundation, the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Morocco and Microsoft, Twitter, Vidyo and LRNG. Visit us at


The U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) builds relations between the people of the United States and the people of other countries through academic, cultural, sports, professional and private exchanges, as well as public-private partnerships and mentoring programmes. These exchange programmes improve foreign relations and strengthen the national security of the United States, support U.S. international leadership and provide a broad range of domestic benefits by helping break down barriers that often divide us. Visit

The Bezos Family Foundation supports rigorous, inspired learning environments for young people, from birth through high school, to put their education into action. Through investments in research, public awareness, systems building and programmes, the foundation works to elevate the field of education and improve life outcomes for all children.

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, DC. Its mission is to foster leadership based on enduring values and to provide a nonpartisan venue for dealing with critical issues. The Institute is based in Washington, DC; Aspen, CO; and on the Wye River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It also has offices in New York City and an international network of partners. For more information, visit

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