Abeer Etefa, a journalist, wife, mother and doctor, is about to add United Nations officer to her list. A former Portland State research associate, among other things, Etefa has recently taken a position for the United Nation Refugee Agency based out of Cairo, Egypt. Beginning in mid-November, Etefa will become the senior regional public information officer for North Africa and the Middle East.
The agency Etefa will be working for is dedicated to protecting the rights of refugees, working to address and resolve problems worldwide. Etefa hopes to educate others on the lives of refugees in order to help better their current situations.
Etefa said that helping people who may be less fortunate than herself – less fortunate than most of the world – is something she’s looking forward to. She said she believes this job will be rewarding in itself, aside from its connection with a prestigious organization like the United Nations.
”She’s very efficient, talented, and we’ll miss her,” said John Damis, director of Middle Eastern studies at Portland State.
Etefa, a trained journalist, said she will be interacting with the media from a different side than she is used to. She said she feels that her knowledge of the media will be integral for dealing with public relations for the U.N.
”My previous experience as a journalist in the Middle East was an asset,” Etefa said.
Before moving to the United States, Etefa earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a master’s in television journalism from the American University in Cairo. After earning her degrees, she stayed in Cairo and worked first for the BBC, then ABC.
”I never wanted to be on camera,” Etefa said, adding that she was more interested in the reporting and producing side of broadcast journalism.
Etefa began her internship with ABC just one month prior to the outbreak of the first Gulf War. She describes getting to see World News Tonight in the making as a unique and unexpected experience.
”I was studying journalism, then suddenly it was a crash course in covering hard news,” Etefa said.
It was a memorable time in her life, she said. Now, Etefa will work in a field that combines aspects of her formal education and work experience, both in the U.S. and Egypt.
Etefa wanted to take part in the Refugee Agency because of the service learning part of her education at PSU, which she said is starting to gain a worldwide reputation. Working closely with the community is a big part of what she did at Portland State.
”This job is the perfect blend of my interests and areas of expertise,” Etefa said.
Etefa received her Ph.D. in community development and international communication from Portland State’s School of Urban Studies in June 2005. In addition to studying at Portland State, she has worked in several different departments here. Etefa began in 1998 as a research assistant in the School of Urban Studies. She was also a teaching assistant in the international studies program and has worked with the vice provost of international affairs. Her most recent time at PSU was spent working as a research associate in the Middle Eastern Studies Center.
”Every job I got on campus added something different to my experience,” Etefa said. She feels that her work in the Middle Eastern Studies Center was especially complimentary to the work she will be doing for the Refugee Agency.
Etefa was born in Cairo, Egypt. She moved to the United States with her husband and two children in 1995. They’ve been living primarily in Portland since then. Etefa and her children, now seven and 11 years old, will be moving to Cairo in the middle of November. She says it is nice to have a network of friends and family already in the location of her new job. Her husband, an Intel employee, will presently remain in the States. Her last day working at Portland State was Oct. 6.