Maha Houssami has been an advanced Arabic language instructor for the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies department at Duke University since October 2011. She launched a Community-Based Language Initiative in an effort to increase community engagement in Duke’s academic language programs and to allow Duke students studying Arabic to practice what they are learning in real life situations. Working with a Duke Service-Learning consultant and with a local refugee resettlement agency, Maha developed a program in which Duke students met weekly with local refugees from Arabic speaking countries for language and cultural exchange. This program has resulted in solidifying the student-run volunteer organization at Duke, INJAZ (INJAZ means “achievement” in Arabic), whose board members have put together an English-Arabic tutoring ibook.
Maha expanded and deepened the connections between Duke undergraduates and the refugee community when she co-taught AMES 320S- Refugee Lives: Violence, Culture, and Identity- with miriam cooke and Nancy Kalow. In the Spring of 2015, AMES 320S was awarded a Duke Innovation and Entrepreneurship grant. The following year, it was awarded the Humanities Writ Large grant. The money was used to conduct an Oral History Practicum for undergraduate distinction students. Maha was nominated by her community partner and selected as the 2014 faculty recipient of the Betsy Alden Outstanding Service-Learning Award. The faculty recipient is selected for meaningful integration of the service experience with course content, consideration for the needs of community partners, impact of the partnership, and involvement in the service-learning community at Duke.
In Spring 2014, Maha received the David Paletz grant and used the money to take her Shami Dialect class to DC to meet with officials in the Jordanian and Lebanese Embassies, network with Duke Alumni in the DC area, and shadow Arabic-speaking employees in the World Bank and Al Jazeera. Maha is the Faculty Fellow for Duke Engage in Jordan, summers 2015 & 2016.