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New faculty coordinator of MESA program named

Josh Gubler, at left, with Arabic Study Abroad students in a pomegranate grove right outside Meknes, Morocco in November 2021

“I think studying other cultures and people helps us get a broader understanding of the human experience, particularly of our place in it,” says Josh Gubler of the Political Science department at BYU. “In that way, it helps us understand ourselves and our communities much better.” Gubler, whose academic and professional career has been dedicated to studying and understanding other cultures, was recently named faculty coordinator of the Middle East Studies/Arabic program at the Kennedy Center.

The appointment comes as Quinn Mecham, former faculty coordinator, replaces Stan Benfell as an associate director of the Kennedy Center. Gubler worked closely with Mecham as part of the executive committee of the MESA program, which he has been involved with for several years. He’s been associated with the MESA program since being hired at BYU in 2011.

Gubler received a BA in Near Eastern Studies—Arabic from BYU, then an MA in Middle Eastern Studies—Political Science from the University of Utah. During that time, he spent a year as a Fellow at the Center for Arabic Study Abroad (CASA) at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He earned a PhD in Political Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, then spent a year as a Fulbright scholar doing field research in Israel and Palestine before coming to BYU. He received a National Science Foundation grant for his time in Israel and Palestine and currently has a second NSF grant for research on using AI to understand human psychology.

Gubler’s topical area of emphasis in his research is intragroup cooperation and conflict. As a political psychologist, he focuses on prejudice reduction, particularly against minority groups like Muslims. Though much of his research has focused on Israel and Palestine, he’s also published about prejudice reduction in areas as varied as India, Nigeria, and Utah.

“I think the Middle East is important to understand simply because it’s a region that has played and will continue to play an important role in shaping the history and future of the world,” he says. “We have nearly two billion Muslims in the world, tied directly to this region, and a lot of religious interest from a number of the world’s key religions in this region. It’s important simply from a practical standpoint, but also important because any time to you learn a language and interact with another culture and another set of people, you gain insight into yourself and what it means to be human.”