PSU Alumnus Dr. Rima Karami Akkary Named Winner of UNESCO-Hamden Global Prize

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Dr Rima Karami Akkary in Paris, October 5, 2022

On World Teachers’ Day, Portland State University alumnus Dr. Rima Karami Akkary was awarded the 2022 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) – Hamden Prize. The global award, presented in Paris on October 5, was in recognition of the TAMAN project, an acronym for the Arabic translation of the phrase “school reform” (Al-Tatweer Al-Mustanid ila Al-Madrasa).

“I am especially proud that TAMAM is led by a group of female educators,” notes Dr. Karami Akkary, Program Advisor for the Educational Management and Leadership Program at the American University of Beirut and Chair of the Department of Education. She earned her doctorate in education from Portland State University in 1997 through the College of Education’s Doctor of Educational Leadership program, and also served as an adjunct lecturer at PSU.

The UNESCO-Hamden Prize of $300,000 was shared between TAMAM in Lebanon, P4Global (Haiti) and Graines de Paix (Switzerland/Benin). The winners are chosen by an international jury of professionals. TAMAM is an education reform movement in nine countries in the Arab region combining research and development for sustainable school improvement. The project was launched as part of a memorandum of understanding between the American University of Beirut and the Arab Thought Foundation in 2007.

Writing from Beirut, Dr. Rima, as she prefers to be called, shared her thoughts on her academic research at Portland State University as the foundation for her work leading the TAMAM project today. His doctorate at PSU was K-12 Educational Administration and Policy Studies. Her thesis research focused on the role and work context of Lebanese school principals.

Power supply : First of all, congratulations on the UNESCO-Hamden Prize!!!!! We are all very proud of you here in Portland.

Dr. Karami Akkary: “I am touched by your words and happy to learn that I have sparked a cause for celebration at PSU College of Education which has had a tremendous impact on my professional career by providing me with a unique learning opportunity and above all the best lifelong mentors anyone could wish for (Drs. Bill Greenfield and Joan Strouse).

Power supply : Is there an aspect of the TAMAM project that you relate to your PhD work at Portland State University?

Dr. Karami Akkary: “Actually, yes. When I was a student at PSU, my program advisor was Dr. Tom Chenoweth. At that time, he was part of a Stanford-based project called Accelerated Schools. The project aimed to help schools to improve by inducing school-level inquiry-based improvement projects that teams of teachers engage in. I was able to explore and learn about this project first-hand as part of the requirements of internship of the program and this learning inspired my work at TAMAM.

Power supply : Could you describe your experience in the doctoral program at PSU and what direction it led you to follow which comes at this time of the UNESCO-Hamden Prize?

Dr. Karami Akkary“I joined PSU with an ambitious agenda in mind: I wanted to learn from experiences and knowledge in the United States to help reform my country’s education system. The content of the program, with all its details, helped me move towards this goal. It was designed to give me some flexibility to follow tutorials in areas that interested me the most. The best part, however, was its balance between offering theoretical knowledge and practical experiences. The latter proved extremely useful in my future career, and to this day, I have lessons I learned during this one-year internship that I rely on as a researcher- action working at TAMAM. The PSU program also gave me the opportunity to be part of an amazing cohort of seven female educators (we called ourselves the Seven Sisters of Success) who were and have remained my professional support group to this day. We wrote a book about our incredible experience together.

Power supply : Who at PSU encouraged you early in your career in education?

Dr. Karami Akkary: “In addition to the above opportunity, my most influential learning has been from my mentor and thesis supervisor, Dr. Bill Greenfield, whose work and teaching has shaped who I am as a researcher-activist, coach and most importantly a mentor My learning experience with Dr. explore the work of principals in my own cultural context and realize its importance in understanding leadership and policy-making.His vast knowledge in the field coupled with his generosity in the time he m granted to engage with him in long conversations and his mentorship allowed me to navigate Western literature.His approach kept me grounded in my cultural heritage and able to celebrate its strengths while n learning how to be part of international scholarly activities in our field. I also attribute my skills in combining very solid theoretical training with actionable practical applications to his guidance. Without this capacity that I have developed over the years under his mentorship, I would not have been able to design the TAMAM capacity building program in a way that is both grounded in the socio-cultural context of the Arab region and informed by the international knowledge base. Dr. Greenfield was my role model as a mentor and researcher.

Power supply : What would you say to inspire educators around the world to emulate what you have done with the TAMAM project?

Dr. Karami Akkary: “I would say that those of us who have succeeded in integrating doctoral programs in education should be aware of our privilege of having come so far in deepening our knowledge in the field, and also of the immense responsibility to make an impact by supporting schools and school practitioners to do the best work we can. We operate in a profession laden with values ​​and although this complicates our work and creates obstacles with which we have nothing to do , the potential to influence and make a difference because of this is immense. So I will say to my fellow doctoral students who will join the PSU College of Education: seize the wonderful opportunity that PSU offers to help you stay grounded in your communities, practice-oriented, teacher- and student-centered, I will also encourage them to invest their growing knowledge in designing strategies in collaboration with practitioners who build on strengths while challenging them to improve what they do.

Video of the UNESCO Paris Ceremony: Dr. Rima Karami Akkary, TAMAM Project Director, UNESCO Hamdan Prize for Teacher Development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7ffKXkZ0kw

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