Alumnus to Serve as Advisor in Palestinian Government

North Park University graduates Estephan and Laurie Salameh

CHICAGO (July 17, 2009) – Dr. Estephan Salameh, an alumnus of North Park University and an Arabic professor, has been named senior advisor to the Minister of Planning in the Palestinian government.

Salameh, (who received his master's degree in community development at North Park,) will work closely with donor countries and agencies such as the United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and Japan on developing the capacity of Palestinian institutions in the areas of national planning and development, policy-making, and budget oversight. He received his Ph.D. in urban planning and public policy from the University of Illinois-Chicago in the summer of 2009.

When Salameh arrived at North Park just eight years earlier, he had less than half a month’s rent in his pocket. He and Dr. Don Wagner, director of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University, were able to raise sufficient funds to pay for most of his education expenses, while Salameh taught Arabic to North Park students to cover the balance. It was in one of his Arabic classes that Salameh met Laurie Millner, (daughter of Illinois senator John Millner), who was completing her master’s degree in nonprofit management at North Park. The two were married in 2006 and moved to Jerusalem, where Laurie began a position in external relations with World Vision and Estephan served as a land policy advisor to the Palestinian Authority during peace talks with Israel.

While at North Park, Laurie and Estephan envisioned founding a nonprofit organization that would establish libraries in small Palestinian villages. They began The Seraj Library Project, which held its first board of directors meeting at North Park’s Brandel Library. Seraj, which means “the light” in Arabic, established its first library in the West Bank village of Jifna in December 2007, a predominantly Christian village. Shortly after their return to Jerusalem later this month, the Salamehs will establish a second library in Al-Itihhad, a Muslim municipality consisting of three small villages and a refugee camp.

The Salamehs are expecting their first child in December 2009.