Thursday, October 24, 2013

Local Middle East Expert Draws Largest-Ever Crowd for October Lunch and Learn

A lunch hour may not seem like enough time to accomplish much. Between noon and one, we can run an errand, squeeze in a quick workout, maybe make a rushed trip to the bank. But thanks to the Red Cross Lunch and Learn lecture series, a lunch hour is just enough time to take in an informative, in-depth talk on global areas of particular humanitarian concern. This month’s lecture featured a discussion of the situation in Syria by Dr. Nader Hashemi, a University of Denver professor and a local expert on the Middle East.

Dr. Nader Hashemi, DU professor and Middle East scholar
According to Tim Bothe, International Services lead for the Colorado & Wyoming Region and organizer for the Lunch and Learn series, the Syria talk drew the largest crowd yet for this year’s lectures. Previous talks have focused on other regions where the Red Cross provides humanitarian services, including Columbia and Guatemala.

Dr. Hashemi, who has authored several books on the Middle East, Islam and political movements in the region, chose to speak at the event after being approached by DU research assistant and Red Cross volunteer Yadira Rodriguez-Bernal. Although he has appeared on international media outlets like Al Jazeera and the BBC, as well as at numerous academic events, Dr. Hashemi said it was a personal privilege to speak at a Red Cross event. ”I have a huge soft spot for the American Red Cross and the work they’ve done in the past through today,” Hashemi said.”I was happy to lend my support to an organization that I support and admire. That made this event special.”

Dr. Hashemi said that the audience for his talk was engaged and curious, asking questions to the point where the time scheduled for the event ran out. “There was a lot of interest,” he said. “There was a lot of fruitful discussion.”

For Dr. Hashemi, the Lunch and Learn lecture was an opportunity to offer those interested a deeper understanding of the events in Syria, and offered a forum for discussion in which all sides of the issue could be considered. “[Talks like this] help provide expert opinion on a subject that is in the news, and people have a general familiarity with, but they don’t have a sense of the specifics,” he said. “Bringing in a speaker with some expertise in the subject helps deepen and expand the knowledge base. It’s an opportunity as well for some interaction.”

Lunch and Learn events are free and open to the public. Attendees must RSVP to the event, but for some events, Webex or Skype may be used to remotely connect to the conversation. Presentations are given at the Red Cross facility at 444 Sherman St. For more information, log into Volunteer Connection or keep an eye out for updates on the Red Cross Facebook and Twitter accounts.

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