August 4, 2021
June 25th, 2021 was a memorable day for the Shawky Fahel family, the University of Waterloo
and the world!
Dean Sheila Ager, Faculty of Arts, and Shawky Fahel signed a historic Memorandum of
Understanding that paves the way for the development of a future Centre for Palestinian
Studies within the University of Waterloo.
The principles of the Centre will be based on a shared vision and a bold approach to peacebuilding, conflict avoidance, co-existence and cultural understanding through education.
“I am very much looking forward to working with Mr. Fahel and our colleagues to realize this
shared vision and I’m proud of the multidisciplinary expertise and capacity for social impact
that the Faculty of Arts can contribute,” said Dr. Ager. “It is a long game, but a very worthwhile
Mr. Fahel is a Palestinian-Canadian who came to Canada with his family over 54 years ago
because of the conflict in the Middle East. As a proud Canadian, Shawky has been involved in
several efforts with various governments and other organizations to secure a peaceful and just
solution to the lingering Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“During the most recent conflict, I was very impressed to see many young Palestinian adults
taking leadership roles in avoiding further conflict and calling once again for a long-term just
and peaceful solution,” said Mr. Fahel. “More than ever, now is the time to build a better
understanding of issues through education.”
Mr. Fahel envisions a unique, inclusive, and balanced approach to Palestinian-focused research
and studies that educates and enlightens. Through this new partnership with the University of
Waterloo, Shawky desires to create a lasting and meaningful impact on efforts of peace, coexistence, cultural understanding, and acceptance.
The proposed Centre will build momentum in the community and will increase capacity for
Faculty expertise in Palestinian focused studies so that a coordinated and unique approach to
conflict avoidance and cultural understanding can be built. This will be accomplished through
several initiatives including:
• A high profile, annual public lecture series that will engage expert visiting speakers
(academic or non-academic) and highlight contributions to peace-building, co-existence
and conflict avoidance.
• International student study trips to Palestine and Israel.
• Graduate students research grants for projects under the theme of Palestinian studies.
• Post-doctoral fellowships to attract rising stars to the University of Waterloo who have a
Palestinian heritage or are interested in the subject.
This important partnership will be kicked off this spring with the first guest lecture in honour of
Dr. Feridun Hamdullahpur’s decade of impact as the President and Vice-Chancellor of the
University from 2010 to June 31, 2021.
“Mr. Fahel and his family have inspired me with a long-term vision of peace and conflict
avoidance for the Palestinian people,” said Dr. Hamdullahpur, now former President of the
University, who was involved in early discussions of the initiative as President. “I have great
confidence in Waterloo’s academic community to take up the challenge and develop a firm
foundation for Shawky’s vision.”
The financial commitment by the Fahel family — Shawky and Kathie, together with their
children, Shaddi and Amanda — is building the pathway to establish the future Centre. Shawky
strongly believes that other like-minded individuals and organizations will join and support the
Centre’s research and education vision.
“The Fahel family’s financial commitment provides a solid base for our students, faculty,
researchers and visiting speakers to develop a future vision of broad understanding and
knowledge with the support of other philanthropists and foundations,” said Joanne Shoveller,
Vice-President for Advancement at the University. “Through initiatives like a public lecture
series, the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Arts will build understanding in our community
and address social, environmental and economic issues facing our world.”
Dr. Jasmin Habib, Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo and an expert in
Arab cultures and Palestine-Israel says, “The promise of a centre for the study of Palestinian life
will give students, faculty and the wider community the opportunity to explore a myriad of
topics including Palestinian culture, history, literature, film, music and politics. By drawing into
conversation scholars, political and community leaders, entrepreneurs, artists and public
intellectuals, a centre has the potential to offer our students vital opportunities to engage in
real-world problem-solving initiatives and transformative scholarship.”
Within the coming weeks, a formal agreement will be drafted, and in the near future an
advisory board named. Mr. Fahel is continuing his work to promote his vision and to build
community engagement and momentum. He will be heading up national and international
fund-raising campaigns in support of the proposed Centre.
Sheila Ager, UWaterloo Dean of Arts (l) and Shawky Fahel sign MOU.
Left to Right: Sheila Ager, UWaterloo Dean of Arts; Feridun
Hamdullahpur, UWaterloo former President & ViceChancellor; Shawky Fahel; Joanne Shoveller, UWaterloo Vice
Left to Right: Joanne Shoveller, UWaterloo Vice President,
Advancement; Feridun Hamdullahpur, UWaterloo former
President & Vice-Chancellor; Shawky Fahel; Sheila Ager,
UWaterloo Dean of Arts.
Shawky Fahel signs a historic MOU with the University of Waterloo that provides the pathway to the
creation of Centre for Palestinian Studies