Asia Society Texas Center

2019 Young Leaders Institute: Middle East

Monday, Jul. 15, 2019 – Friday, Jul. 19, 2019

08:30 AM – 12:30 PM

ASTC Young Leaders’ Institute web banner - Middle East

In order to be prepared for the challenges of the 21st century, students need to be globally competent. The Young Leaders Institute (YLI) is a week-long program designed to prepare Houston high school students for leadership in a globally interconnected city and world. Students will engage in the four tenets of global competency:

  • Investigate the world
  • Recognize perspectives
  • Communicate ideas
  • Take action

Throughout the week, students will learn the value of collaboration as they work in teams, researching, debating, and presenting solutions for the challenges facing our world. They will be mentored throughout the week by Asia Society staff and local experts in their respective fields. All content provided will help students form arguments when taking the side of an issue and be invaluable when presenting policy recommendations on the Institute's last day.

Over 120 students have benefited from the Young Leaders Institute in 20162017, and 2018. The Institute's fourth year will include a repeat of the Middle East session and new sessions on U.S.-China relations and on energy and security, respectively. Asia Society staff will also arrange a field trip on one of the days of the week.

Topics discussed during the Middle East session may include the following (subject to change):

  • Communal cooperation, peace-building, consensus, and dialogue
  • Education reform and talent development among the region's youth
  • Foreign investment and economic growth
  • Governance and geopolitics
  • Refugees, humanitarian issues, and internal/regional displacement
  • U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East
  • Water scarcity and access to natural resources
  • Women and social issues in the Middle East

For questions, please contact Mei Qi, Business and Policy Programs Manager, at MQi@AsiaSociety.org or 713.496.9915.



"I learned a lot about the different policies concerning China and the U.S. and other nations. It's a good experience and builds us up to be better leaders and prepares us for possible future career paths." — Student, 2018 Young Leaders Institute

"I have been thoroughly impressed with your success in getting young people to think more deeply about global issues. Such opportunities are so critical in this society. I appreciate your work." — Parent of a student, 2018 Young Leaders Institute

"I'm confident that the knowledge I have gained over the last week will assist me greatly in the future. I've been working on honing my skills and there's no better way to do so than through a debate and presentation." — Student, 2018 Young Leaders Institute


About the Speakers


Emran El-Badawi headshot

Dr. Emran El-Badawi is program director and associate professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Houston. He founded the Arab Studies program at UH and he has designed, implemented, and assessed degree programs in the Humanities and Sciences. These include degrees in Arab-Middle East Studies, Religious Studies, and interdisciplinary studies in Energy, Development and Sustainability, with a focus on U.S.-Middle East relations. El-Badawi has consulted for various industries, including government, law and oil & gas. He is also active in program development and fund raising. El-Badawi is also the founding executive director and treasurer of the International Qur'anic Studies Association, which is the world's first learned society of its kind. Part of IQSA’s goal is to bridge the divide between scholars in the west and those in Muslim majority countries through international conferences.

El-Badawi has published in English as well as Arabic and has made dozens of national as well as international media contributins or appearances, including for The New York TimesAl-JazeeraForbesChristian Science Monitor, and Association Relative à la Télévision Européenne (ARTE). His awards include honorable acclaim by the British-Kuwait Friendship Society Book Prize for his book on The Qur'an and the Aramaic Gospel Traditions. His current research projects include a book on 'Arab Liberalism' between secular nationalism and political Islam, as well as a project documenting the evolution of Eastern Church/Canon Law to Shariah Law. El-Badawi has a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from Rutgers University, and he received his Ph.D. with honors in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from the University of Chicago.


Tom Kolditz

Tom Kolditz is the founding Director of the Ann & John Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University—the most comprehensive, evidence-based, university-wide leader development program in the world. Serving all 6200 students at Rice, the Doerr Institute is among the largest leader development enterprises in Texas. Formerly teaching at the Yale School of Management, he was chairman of the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at West Point, the founding director of the West Point Leadership Center, co-founded the Thayer Leader Development Group, and built a leader development consultancy, Saxon Castle. Brigadier General Kolditz received the Distinguished Service Medal, the Army’s highest award for service, and is a Fellow in the American Psychological Association. Dr. Kolditz has published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and the World Economic Forum. In 2017, he received the prestigious Warren Bennis Award for Excellence in Leadership, a distinction shared by noteworthy leaders including Howard Schultz, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and Bill George. He is ranked #6 in Coaching by a UK professional ranking organization, Global Gurus. He holds a BA from Vanderbilt University, three master’s degrees, and a PhD in psychology from the University of Missouri.


Vani Rao

Vani Rao is the Diversity & Inclusion Director for Quanta Services. In this newly created role, she will partner with Quanta’s global operating units to drive profitability through diverse practices and inclusive behaviors. Prior to joining the Quanta family, Vani worked for BP for 15 years with roles in upstream projects & engineering, continuous improvement, planning, capability and most recently in Diversity & Inclusion with accountability for BP America’s employee resource groups. Vani received her Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Austin College and MBA from Columbia University. She is also certified in project management (Project Management Professional®) and Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. She is also a 2012 APAWLI (Asian Pacific American Women’s Leadership Institute) Fellow, a signature leadership program for APA women. As a classically trained dancer, Vani indulges her lifelong love for Indian performing arts and education by serving on Asia Society’s Advisory Board and by supporting charitable organizations in the US and India focused on upliftment. Most of her spare time is devoted to mentoring students and supporting the Dallas Cowboys.


Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar

Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar is an associate professor at Texas A&M University's Bush School of Government and a fellow at Rice University's Baker Institute for Public Policy. His research areas include international security and Middle East politics. He is the author of Religious Statecraft: The Politics of Islam in Iran (Columbia University Press, 2018). Dr. Tabaar has been a fellow or a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Center for the Middle East, Cambridge University’s Centre of Islamic Studies, and George Washington University’s Institute for Middle East Studies. His articles have appeared in Security StudiesPS: Political Science & Politics, and Journal of Strategic Studies. He has also written for Foreign AffairsForeign PolicyThe Washington Post, and The New York Times.


About the Facilitator


Mary Reed Image

Mary Reed is a Social Studies teacher at Memorial High School. She earned her B.S. in 1975 from Oklahoma State University. After graduation, she taught United States History in Alief ISD and served as Social Studies Department Chairman. At Memorial High School she has taught AP World History and World Geography at the PreAP, GT, and academic levels. She has served as PTA president and Campus Improvement Team member, District Improvement Team member, and curriculum writer. Being raised on three continents has given Mary an appreciation of other cultures and a love of travel. She has experienced 52 different countries, and imparts her global curiosity to her students both inside the classroom and through leading international summer trips. She is a scholastic coach to several teams including: UIL Current Issues and Events, UIL Social Studies, World Affairs Council Academic WorldQuest Challenge, and Texas Quiz Bowl. She is also the sponsor of her high school chapter of Model United Nations. She has been a featured presenter in other school districts, at professional conferences, and for the World Affairs Council of Greater Houston. She recently presented “Korea: the Forgotten Victory” in Washington, D.C.


Additional Sessions

Session 1: U.S.-China Relations
Monday, June 24 – Friday, June 28, 2019
Topics may include bilateral trade negotiations, the countries' role in global financial institutions, and China's soft power in Asia.

Session 3: Energy and Security
Monday, July 22 – Friday, July 25, 2019
Topics may include the future of renewable fuels, the importance of growing demand, and managing risk in potential geopolitical flashpoints.


Education and outreach programs at Asia Society Texas Center are made possible through generous funding from Karen Chang and the George and Mary Josephine Hamman Foundation. Additional support is provided by Friends of Asia Society Texas Center, a dedicated group of individuals and organizations committed to bringing the best in exhibitions and public programming to Houston.


  • Tuesday - Friday, 11:00 am - 6:00 pm
    Saturday & Sunday, 10:00 am - 6:00 pm
    Closed Mondays and major holidays
  • Free Hours: Admission to the building and Grand Hall exhibition is free. Admission to the Louisa Stude Sarofim Gallery is free for Asia Society members; $8 for nonmembers.

Directions & Parking

  • Free Parking
  • Paid Parking
  • Street Parking
  • Parking in Asia Society Texas Center's lot is $5 for 1-24 hours. Entrances on Caroline and Austin. Limited free and paid street parking also available.

Special Offers / Dining

An India-Inspired Café
Enjoy breakfast and lunch at Pondi! Pondicheri's museum café is open for extended lunch hours Tuesday through Sunday with a vibrant and innovative menu featuring everything from butter chicken to saffron shrimp salad and roti wraps.
Tuesday – Friday, 11 am – 5 pm
Saturday – Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm


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