The program is spearheaded by John Huber, Professor of Political Science, and was recently held in Tunis, followed by a segment in Istanbul. It enrolls Columbia students alongside students from leading universities in the Middle East, North Africa, and Turkey. The substantive focus of the program is on the concept of democracy, the challenges of democratic transitions and consolidation, and trade-offs associated with different ways of organizing democratic institutions. Although the program studies general issues associated with democratic politics and does not focus exclusively on Tunisia and Turkey, these locations provide students with meaningful exposure to the recent histories and challenges that both countries have faced.
Student perspectives of the central issues in the program are influenced by the incorporation of students from Tunisia, Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Palestine, where recent experiences with democratic governance have been extremely challenging and dramatically different. To enable students to think systematically about how to formulate and test arguments about democracy, the program integrates the study of democracy with the study of quantitative research methods.