Symposium focuses on embracing people from the Middle East

· 3 min read

Symposium focuses on embracing people from the Middle East

Dr. Helen Abdali Soosan Fagan
Helen Abdali Soosan Fagan

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln will host the symposium “Let’s Talk: Understanding and Embracing Individuals from the Middle East” from 1 to 4 p.m. March 17 at the Unitarian Church, 6300 A St.

Helen Abdali Soosan Fagan, a diversity scholar, consultant and UNL lecturer, will lead the discussion and moderate a panel of Lincoln residents with Middle Eastern heritage. The symposium is free and open to the public, but registration through OLLI at UNL is required. Registration can be made online at or by calling 402-472-6265.

Co-facilitators and OLLI members Nancy Comer and Charlyne Berens said the symposium is a unique opportunity to learn more about the cultures and people of the Middle East from those with Middle Eastern heritage who live and work in Lincoln.

“The symposium is designed to help OLLI members and the public better understand and learn about the cultural differences and similarities between the West and the Middle East,” Comer said. “Lincoln’s population today reflects a diversity of cultures. If we are to be build a community that is successful at improving conditions and resolving problems, we need to appreciate other cultures and work together.”

Berens said: “The knowledge that we gain from cross-cultural experiences allows us to understand what we have in common with a person who sits next to us in the office or a person who lives on the opposite side of the globe. All of us have certain barriers, such as preconceptions and prejudices that obstruct our understanding of other people. Through learning about other cultures, barriers are stripped away.”

Panelists include:

  • Amir Azimi, a native of Iran, who has been involved with diversity and cross-cultural communication training since 1982. He is the administrator of Support Service for the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services.

  • Abla Hasan, an assistant professor of practice of Arabic at UNL and an undergraduate adviser. Her teaching and research interests include feminism, religious studies, translation and Arabic literature.

  • Farida Ebrahim, who was born and raised in Kabul, Afghanistan. Her family was forced to leave the country and take temporary refuge in India before moving to Lincoln in 1991. She is a safety specialist at UNL. She established the Afghan Renascent Youth Association in 2001 to help educate Lincoln residents about the plight of Afghan women and children.

  • James D. Le Sueur, a professor of history at UNL and a specialist in world history. He is the author of several works, most recently “Algeria Since 1989: Between Democracy and Terror.” He has been working on a digital oral history and documentary film called “Exile and the Fatwa: The Life and Death of Artists after Rushdie” for the past 10 years.

For more information, email, visit or call 402-472-6265.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute is a member-driven organization committed to providing and promoting superior-quality, high-appeal learning experiences, special events and travel that bring together adults 50 and older who believe that “curiosity never retires.”

Recent News