Maggie Nabil Nassif has lived her life between cultures—or rather, at the intersection of cultures. Born in Egypt, she attended an Irish Catholic School in Cairo, where she began to learn English in kindergarten before a formal study of her native Arabic. In her teens, an exchange program took her from her conservative Catholic, girls-only, uniformed school and placed her in a U.S. public high school in Oregon with a cornucopia of extracurricular activities. “The exchange program’s slogan is ‘turning places into faces,’ ” remembers Nassif, who has kept in touch with her Oregon host family for more than thirty years. “You make this personal connection, and it is a life-changing experience.”
Back in Egypt, Nassif studied English literature at Cairo University, then comparative literature at the American University in Cairo. She also received a PhD from Cairo University in postcolonial theory and an MBA from Arkansas State University. She has taught literature, women’s studies, and business culture at a wide spectrum of schools—from community colleges to Ivy League universities—in the United States and Egypt. Nassif’s research interest is in the intersection of pop culture, women’s issues, material culture, and consumerism.
Seven years ago Nassif came to BYU to help manage the National Middle East Language Resource Center (NMELRC). Headquartered at BYU and funded by the U.S. government, the NMELRC involves language experts at universities across the United States; together they work to improve the teaching and learning of key Middle Eastern languages.
Nassif’s siblings have also spread internationally: her two sisters are in Utah, and her three brothers are in Cairo, Dubai, and Cape Town. But Egypt, where her parents and many relatives live, remains the family’s gravitational center, and she visits at least once a year. “We are still very much connected to Cairo,” she says.