Climbing the ladder of life

MSR scholar, 2011

I was born in Palestine, in 1987, to a family of refugees that always believed education was the key to emancipation and self-realization. I completed my high school (International Baccalaureate Diploma), and then went on to study at Birzeit University, graduating in 2009 with a B.A. in Business Administration. It was at Birzeit University that I had my first practical and professional experience. In 2007, I co-founded the Birzeit University Debate Forum, the first university-based debate society in the Arab World, which is dedicated to promoting logical and civil debate in our society and to provide a learning environment for young people to harness and develop their debating skills and talents.

In 2012, I graduated with an M.A. in Art Management‌ from the Utrecht School of the Arts, Netherlands. The majority of the M.A. studying costs were kindly covered by Lutfia Rabbani Foundation.

Throughout my high school and college years until now, I was – and still am — a dancer with El-Funoun Palestinian Popular Dance Troupe (El-Funoun), Palestine’s leading dance group. In fact, dance has, for a long time, been a vital part of my identity. In addition having danced intensively since I was 14 years old, I have more recently become a dance instructor and choreographer. The centrality of dance in my life is what pushed me to accept jobs related to the art. Even before finishing college, I accepted a part-time job in the Popular Art Centre (PAC) as project coordinator for the dance school project. I also had part-time job as Artistic coordinator of El-Funoun, a position that I had long hoped to have, which allowed me to contribute more to developing the group in the artistic field.

Now, after having graduated with M.A in Art Management I got PAC again, this time as Project Coordinator. My current responsibilities include coordinating the Palestine International Festival for Music and Dance (the largest festival in Palestine), organizing the Palestinian Heritage Festival, and coordinating a project focus on Art and Cultural Support for Youth in Jerusalem.

I believe that life is comprised of different stages and that every stage presents its own challenges, opportunities and lessons. Stages should be logically, or organically, connected with each other, where experiences from one stage feed into and inform the other. In this respect, life is like a ladder and stages are the steps, and I should climb up all the steps to reach my goals on the top of the ladder. But the ladder of life has no clear start and no obvious end; it has no final “top” that one can reach. And it is not a straight ladder, either! It goes up and down, at times, and it sometimes seems to go around in circles, where you get the feeling that, although you are moving, you are not really reaching a “higher” level. Such vicious cycles can be devastating for any person, let alone for any manager.

Every stage in life, from this perspective, is expected to have its own goals, which are based on the objectives already reached at the step below it and are set to prepare me to reach the step(s) above it. Failing to achieve a set objective becomes an opportunity to learn what went wrong in the planning phase, the implementation phase, or both. It opens the door to reflection on past experiences and to critical thinking about where to go next. This reflective thinking and critical evaluation become indispensable processes throughout the experience of climbing, or moving along, the “ladder.”

Therefore, after working for three years in the field of arts management, I felt that I needed to develop myself, to widen my horizons, and to gain new, challenging perspectives. Every year, the work gets more complex than before; life keeps moving and so does personal ambition to improve oneself.  I was quite critical of the management styles of my previous supervisors in both jobs; I have ideas to improve the work, but have not yet developed my own management style or gained enough experience to challenge my superiors directly. Instead, I have tried to engage them in dialogue through actually presenting alternatives in the projects I handle, letting my own work speak for itself and for me. I have tried to observe management styles of professionals around me whom I trust, to learn from their skills as well as their shortcomings. So I decided to develop my own management style that suits my reality and organizational aspirations, to widen my horizons, and to gain new, challenging perspectives. I applied for Utrecht School of the Arts, and was accepted to study masters in Art Management with support by Lutfia Rabbani Foundation.

I strongly believe that a Master’s degree in Arts Management from the Utrecht School of the Arts has helped me develop my knowledge, experience, and skills to meet the daunting challenges that stand ahead of me in my career as an arts manager. My studying in the Utrecht School of the Arts presented a golden opportunity for me to have real “field” experience with arts organizations, dealing with new parameters that differ considerably from what I am used to here at home. This experience has allowed me to reflect, in a more academic way, on my professional weaknesses and has enabled me to overcome them.