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Center hosts second undergraduate conference

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The one-of-a-kind conference welcomed students from around the state and the country, who showcased their research on a diverse array of Israel-related subjects.

UCLA Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, June 5, 2019 - The Y&S Nazarian Center hosted over a dozen undergraduate students on June 2nd at its Second Undergraduate Scholars Conference in Israel Studies. The event again provided a unique forum for students from around the state and country to showcase their research on diverse aspects of Israel, from US-Israel relations to societal dynamics in Israel.

“It was truly inspiring to see these young scholars conducting research with both passion and academic rigor,” said Professor Yoram Cohen, director of the Y&S Nazarian Center and a distinguished professor at UCLA. “We had a glimpse of the next generation of Israel Studies scholars and what we saw is very encouraging for the future of this field.”

The theme of the conference this year was “Israel – Between East and West,” which provided an opportunity for students to explore the complex identity of Israel and Israeli society. Panels covered a diverse array of topics, including ethnicity and religion in Israel and its relations with the American Jewish diaspora.

“The conference reiterated how broad the field of Israel Studies is,” Prof. Cohen explained. “This program is just one way the Center encourages such diverse and nuanced explorations of Israel.”

Many of those who participated in the all-day conference also submitted papers, which were the basis for their presentations. The three best presentations and three best papers were recognized by the Center and the students received monetary awards for their academic excellence.

"The conference was an amazing opportunity for me to gain experience before starting graduate school," said Mellissa Meisels, a fourth year political science student at UCLA and one of the two winners of the Best Paper Award. "And I loved seeing the research that my peers had been working on as well."

The audience at the conference included students, family members and faculty who have taught Israel Studies courses at UCLA sponsored by the Center - and which many of the student presenters have taken.

“I was glad to see so many students participate and really elevate their research in order to participate in this conference,” said Dr. Shaiel Ben-Ephraim, the Y&S Nazarian Center’s postdoctoral fellow, conference program chair, and instructor of two courses during the 2018-19 academic year: Modern Israel: Politics, Society, Culture and U.S.- Israel Relations: Anatomy of a Special Relationship.

“However, these students not only showcased their academic skills,” he added, “They also really put on display their critical thinking skills, which will serve them no matter what path they take in life.”

Abstracts, PowerPoints and presentation audio for all the conference participants can be found here.

Awards for Best Papers

First Place:

Francesca Bonaudo - Understanding Obama's failure on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: why did the peace process go nowhere?

Mellissa Meisels - Party ID or Jewish Constituency: What Determines Israel's Centrality in U.S. Congressional Campaigns?

Second Place:

Christopher Luna - Relative Deprivation and the Second Intifada: What Led to the Second Intifada?

Awards for Best Presentations

First Place:

Aaron Forman - Indigeneity and Anti-Colonial Uprisings: An examination of the Bar Kokhba Revolt and the Dakota War

Avery Weinman - "A Likud Stronghold and That is How it Will Remain": The Israeli Right and Mizrahi Israeli Identity

Second Place:

Christopher Luna - Relative Deprivation and the Second Intifada: What Led to the Second Intifada?