Category: Graduate Profiles 2024, News, Students

Title: John Korban (MAAS’24) Deepens his Understanding of Arab Studies with the SFS

Author: Anna Broderick
Date Published: May 6, 2024

John Korban

As John Korban (MAAS’24) prepares to receive his master of arts in Arab studies, he reflects on his transformative journey from Fayetteville, North Carolina, to Killeen, Texas, and now to the Hilltop.

Korban chose Georgetown for three reasons: prestige, location and language. “The caliber of instruction in the Arab Studies program far exceeded my expectations, even after seeing how prestigious of a program it was through my initial research,” Korban says. “Located at the heart of U.S. foreign policy making in the country, Georgetown allowed me to truly experience the foreign policy environment. Without this, I don’t think I would have had the opportunity to learn from my work at the State Department.”

Widening Academic Interests

Korban reflects on his decision to choose the Georgetown Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS) and how his understanding of the region has developed over time. He grew up in a Lebanese household and had work experience in the region, but felt like the academic understanding was missing. “I have always been interested in working in the international arena through civil service, and I think my time at Georgetown entrenched that feeling,” he says. “I believe Georgetown just widened my interests from focusing on the conflict/security perspective to gaining interests in the politics and economic sectors of the region.”Throughout his time at Georgetown, Korban seized various academic opportunities, including a summer language immersion program in Jordan, participating in events hosted by CCAS, and forming relationships with faculty mentors. He was an SFS ambassador for the Conflict Transformation Lab (CTL) during his first year and became a co-chair in his second year.

Not only was the CTL instrumental in allowing Korban to refine his negotiation and mediation skills, but it also introduced him to one of his mentors during his time at CCAS: Professor Rachel Milner-Gillers. He says, “My two classes with [Professor Milner-Gillers], Negotiations Seminar and Mediations Process and Skills, have elevated my ability to participate in negotiations and facilitate mediation to new heights. Working with her through CTL has exposed me to the many facets of conflict, allowing me to expand my understanding of the different types and how we can engage with them positively.”

Additionally, Professor Noureddine Jebnoun also served as a mentor for Korban and helped him rebalance his perspective of the Arab world. “Dr. Jebnoun’s classes that I took with him, U.S Foreign Policy in the MENA, Civil-Military Relations in the MENA, and Political-Economy in the MENA, have all had a critical approach to the scholarship, which is something I was never exposed to before. This has widened the range of perspectives I now understand regarding the region,” he says.

Korban emphasizes the immense opportunity for growth and education that the MAAS provides students. He says, “The program prides itself on encouraging critical thought and welcomes exercising that mental muscle in its classes. Some may say that all master’s programs have this goal in mind, but I genuinely believe the MAAS program takes an extra step toward that goal. I invite anyone to test this theory by registering for at least one Arab Studies course at Georgetown.”

A Key Juncture

Off-campus, Korban interned at the Negotiation Support Unit in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the U.S. State Department, further cementing his passion for international conflict resolution.

Looking ahead, Korban hopes to forge a career at the intersection of international conflict and mediation in the Middle East-North Africa region. He credits his time at Georgetown for shaping his values and career aspirations.

“I will look back and see this as a key juncture in my life. My time at Georgetown has allowed me to understand better the values that resonate with me and how I can incorporate those values in forging my career and everyday life,” he says. “I firmly believe that I am different from when I first came to Georgetown and for the better.”