The Center for Jewish Civilization is pleased to announce the latest installment of its Student Spotlight Series. This month’s spotlight is Samuel Gang, a senior in the School of Foreign Service from Bethlehem. Gang majors in International Politics and minors in both Arabic and Jewish Civilization. At the CJC, Gang developed his interests in counterterrorism and political and religious extremism. Read our interview with him below to learn about his experiences as a CJCer and on the Hilltop.
Q: How and why did you join the CJC?
A: I first learned about the CJC during orientation, week when I briefly stopped by a CJC event. I conversed with Professor Jacques Berlinerblau and mentioned that I was interested in the politics of the Middle East. He convinced me to come to other CJC events and consider a certificate. I realized that many of the courses offered by the Center align with my regional interest and count towards my major, International Politics. I also wanted to learn about the region through a multidisciplinary approach and differing viewpoints.
Q: What was your first CJC class?
A: I actually took three CJC classes during the first semester I decided to pursue a certificate, which were “Re-examining the Middle East Crisis through Literature and Film,” “Israel and Arab Spring,” and “Intro to Jewish Civilization.”
Q: Have you had an extensive experience abroad? If so, how has it informed your studies and time at the CJC?
A: Although I lived in the Middle East before starting my undergraduate studies at Georgetown, I was always interested in learning more about the region by approaching it through different perspectives and disciplines. The CJC was the perfect place to explore my interest since its courses and programming approach the Middle East in more than just a political lens. In many of the classes, I was happy to contribute to class discussions about events that I have personally experienced.
Q: What are some of your research and academic interests? How have you developed them as a CJC student?
A: I had my regional interests before coming to the CJC. Though I had the opportunity to explore classes about counterterrorism and both political and religious extremism as a student in the Center. This led me to intern for the Counterterrorism and Intelligence Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, where I spent time translating and analyzing extremist groups’ literature and videos from Syria. I am particularly interested in researching about Huras al-Din, an AQ affiliate based in Idlib. My other interests include the Israel and Gulf relationship, particularly in light of the growing Iranian influence in the region.
Q: What has been your favorite CJC class thus far?
A: My favorite class was “Re-examining the Middle East Crisis through Literature and Film” with Professor Meital Orr. I took it during the second semester of freshman year. I enjoyed the class because it offered us a background to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through a humanities-oriented framework, as opposed to just a political lens. In fact, my main takeaway from the class was that Israeli and Palestinian literature and symbolism allows us to see connections between people that might not be readily apparent in politics and a conflict setting.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the research and administrative work you completed for the CJC during the summer? Did you have other work experiences last summer?
A: I assisted Director Bruce Hoffman with administrative work by organizing class materials. Additionally, I worked as an intern for an Australian strategic consultancy firm called Arcana Partners, researching how disasters and emergencies play into “accelerationism” and the narrative of extremist groups.
Q: Have you had a very memorable CJC experience thus far? How has the CJC informed your time at Georgetown?
A: The CJC introduced me to some of my favorite classes and mentors, including professors and students. The Center has offered me the most supportive community, one that regularly checks in with me and discusses internship and career opportunities. When I had to undergo emergency surgery earlier in the summer, the staff and students were very concerned and supported me through phone calls and by sending me wonderful books to read!
Q: Can you tell us a bit about your Master’s program? Additionally, what are some of your professional goals for the future?
A: Currently, I am pursuing an M.A. in Security Studies through an accelerated degree program. I plan to concentrate on terrorism and substate violence. As a Korean citizen, I have to serve in the military and hope to be part of the Korea UNIFIL mission in Lebanon or anywhere else in the region where I can use my language skills. Afterward, I hope to pursue a career at a think tank or the United Nations.
Q: What do you look forward to during your last year on the Hilltop? How have you been making the most of our online environment?
A: Last semester, I came to Sydney, Australia as a study abroad student and lived at St. Paul’s residential college at the University of Sydney. I decided to continue to live here until the end of the year and take Georgetown classes virtually. I have been able to take advantage of experiencing college life both in Sydney and Georgetown. While participating in many of the webinars hosted by Georgetown and think tanks in DC, I am also able to physically partake in many events–both academic and athletic– while being in Australia. I look forward to further engaging with my peers and friends at my Master’s program if we return to campus next semester.
Q: What are some other clubs you’re involved in and activities you engage in at Georgetown?
A: I have been involved as the treasurer of the GU Arab Society and directed many MUN committees through the International Relations Club.