Bridging the East and West: 3 Questions With Gabr Fellow Dan Sullivan

Mar 22, 2014
The inaugural class of Gabr Fellows traveling in Egypt
The inaugural class of Gabr Fellows traveling in Egypt

The Shafik Gabr Foundation is now recruiting emerging young leaders from the United States and Egypt in the areas of art, science, media, law, and both social and business entrepreneurship for a unique transnational fellowship. The Gabr Fellowship provides the opportunity for fellows to develop collaborative action projects and travel together during 2-week visits in Egypt and the U.S. The purpose of the visits is to learn about the respective cultures, political and economic systems, media, history and artistic flavor of each country. In 2013, Fellows traveled through Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor, New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, New Haven, New Jersey and Virginia. Through seminars, site tours, meetings, classes and intimate discourse, Gabr Fellows learned much about one another and established deep bonds of friendship and understanding. The inaugural class is now working on joint projects with support from the World Bank and The Shafik Gabr Foundation.

This year, the Gabr Fellowship visits will take place from the May 10-24, 2014 in Egypt and the June 7-21, 2014 in the United States. Dan Sullivan, an inaugural Gabr Fellow, provides his insights on this unique opportunity and his fellowship application tips.

1. What inspired you to apply for the Gabr Fellowship?

The Gabr Fellowship’s mission invigorated me when first I discovered it. As a committed “citizen diplomat,” I have sought opportunities to engage in international citizen diplomacy. My aim is to build lasting rapport with new friends, colleagues, and community members and acquire a breadth of knowledge about various societies, systems and cultures. As an elected volunteer in the United Nations Association, a decade plus career in a state legislature, and various involvements in global affairs, interfaith dialogue and public service, the Gabr Fellowship presented an extraordinary opportunity to serve as a peacemaker with contemporaries in Egypt.

As Gabr Fellows, we were charged with laying the foundation for Mr. Gabr’s vision. The Gabr Fellowship’s mission is to bridge the divide between East and West by establishing vital relationships between young professional Egyptians and Americans in the fields of art, science, media, law, and both social and business entrepreneurship. Spending a month together, half in Egypt and half in the U.S., we discovered our commonalities, explored our differences, and crafted joint ventures to actively construct sustainable solutions to vexing challenges facing each nation. Currently, we are actively formulating and implementing our projects, with financial support and advice from the Shafik Gabr Foundation and the World Bank. I am contributing to LEAD-ETKALEM, a portal to bring the experience of the Gabr Fellowship to the public sphere.

Going forward, the Gabr Fellowship extends beyond the month’s travel and action projects. It is a long-term investment in people-to-people dialogue whereby we, as Fellows, remain in regular contact with our friends on both sides of the Atlantic, sharing stories of our lives and work, articles and videos about news in our countries, and discourse on subjects of significance to young people today. We aim to expand our base of relationships across the East/West worlds and personify the principle to meet and chat with another person from a different place in our vast globe. We know there is far more that unites us than divides us.

Our professional, academic and personal pursuits are informed by our experiences together. As we aspire to rise in our chosen fields to positions of influence and expertise, the Gabr Fellowship vision will be realized by our aptitude to engender mutual understanding and shared responsibility for global peace.

2. What did the Fellows do over the 2-week tours in the U.S. and Egypt?

The inaugural Gabr Fellowship class commenced its travels in Cairo in early June  2013. Our first evening together, we gathered with Mr. Gabr and were treated to a talk by world-renowned Egyptologist and archaeologist, Zahi Hawass. From that auspicious beginning, we continued through Cairo, Alexandria, and Luxor meeting with politicians, economists, artists, business leaders, religious figures, diplomats, historians, journalists and academics. From former Mubarak cabinet officials to current Muslim Brotherhood members, from a fashion designer to a doctor, from a graffiti artist to an ambassador, we enjoyed seminars and conversations with leaders across a diverse spectrum. Also, tour guides led us on extraordinary site visits, such as the Egyptian Museum, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Hatshepsut’s Temple, and the Great Pyramids at Giza.

Convening again in October 2013, we traveled to New York City, New Haven, CT, New Jersey, Atlanta, GA, Leesburg, VA, and Washington, D.C. We met with leaders at the UN, World Bank, White House, CNN International, Yale University, IMF, Congress, Drew University, U.S. Congress, Coca-Cola, Morehouse College, The Atlantic, and additional venues. We took seminars at Yale, discussed U.S. foreign policy at the White House, discoursed over lunch with Ralph Nader, and honored fallen heroes at the 9/11 Memorial.

Each day, we departed our hotel early and returned late. Our days brimmed with newfound experiences, learning, songs, laughter, and a profound sense of hope.

3. What tips would you give others applying to the fellowship?

The deadline for the 2014 class of Gabr Fellows is March 31, 2014. The application requires a resume, essay, 2 letters of recommendation, and an action project proposal idea. Applicants must be either U.S. or Egyptian citizens, aged 24-35. They are seeking American applicants who have never traveled to Egypt and Egyptian applicants who have never traveled to the U.S. Candidates should believe deeply in the impact of people-to-people dialogue to foster peace and progress. If you possess big ideas and a vision for inventive ways to better societies, then this opportunity is for you.

The Gabr Fellowship is your investment in the East-West dialogue. In the absence of necessary information and context, misunderstandings over politics, religion and culture can and must be overcome by firsthand accounts, travel, broad study and a commitment to relationship building. The friendships and connections that emanate from the Gabr Fellowship experience inspire efforts to bridge the divide through thoughtful dialogue and problem solving, bringing us closer to realizing that more peaceful, and ultimately more perfect, world.

The Gabr Fellowship application deadline is March 31, 2014. Please visit to learn more about the Fellows’ action projects and view videos of the Gabr Fellows’ major DC presentation from October 2013.

Dan Sullivan is an Ambassador and Coordinator for the 2014 Gabr Fellowship~ East-West: The Art of Dialogue. He served for over a decade as a staffer in the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Dan is a Representative to the UNA-USA Steering Committee and Youth Advisory Board Representative to UN-Habitat.

© Victoria Johnson 2014, all rights reserved.