Reza H. Akbari received his MA in Middle East Studies in May 2012. While at the Elliott School, Reza interned at the US Treasury Department and The Century Foundation. He is currently a Program Manager at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting. Reza conducts research on Iranian domestic politics, U.S. foreign policy toward Iran, Shia politics, political transition, and democracy. He has previously served as a Research Associate for the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute and a Research Assistant at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. Reza has written for a number of publications such as Foreign Policy, CNN’s Global Public Square, Tehran Bureau, Jadaliyya, and Al Monitor. Reza holds a BA in Political Science and International Studies from the State University of New York at Fredonia. His master’s thesis explored the potential for political reconciliation in Bahrain.
Describe your current position and what are your primary responsibilities?
I am a Program Manager at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, a nonprofit organization that focuses on strengthening media and civil society worldwide. My primary responsibilities include developing new projects for the organization, reporting, and tracking the impact of implemented programs. I am also responsible for monitoring and analyzing the ongoing sociopolitical developments in the Middle East region.
What professional organization, websites, or Elliott School courses, would you recommend for students interested in your field, and why?
I highly recommend any course taught by Professors Nathan Brown, Marc Lynch, and Ambassador Edward Gnehm. They provide a tremendous amount of practical experience as well as academic rigor. Professor Lynch constantly challenges preconceived notions and theories about the region by inviting his students to consider alternative viewpoints. Ambassador Gnehm’s experience as a former diplomat enriches every lecture. Professor Brown is one of the most intelligent and knowledgeable individuals on Middle East affairs. He is able to explain the most complex issues in simple terms and inspire lively class debates.
What part of your career do you find most challenging and how do you stay motivated?
Trying to keep up with the fast-paced environment of Washington DC is always challenging. Everyone seems to be perpetually busy and motivated to drive forward. This is one of the characteristics that attracts me to DC, but after a while, you may lose sight of what’s important in the long-term and begin to chase short-lived objectives. I discovered that this is not a sustainable approach, especially within the unpredictable world of Middle East-related careers. Whenever I get a bit overwhelmed, I try to take a break from chasing headlines, spend some time with family and friends, and better define my long-term objectives. If all else fails, a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and a good night’s sleep always does the trick.
If you could throw a parade of any caliber, what type of parade would it be?
The gathering location would be a public park and there will be tons of food waiting for the parade participants. To everyone’s surprise, however, we would not go anywhere. We would just hang out in the park, eat, drink, and talk. Essentially, I think what I am trying to say is that I’d have a sitting parade because I am not a big fan of parades to begin with and who really wants to walk that long?
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