Panelist Bios

Ms. Lobna Ismail


Founder of Connecting Cultures, Inc., President Lobna "Luby" Ismail is a training specialist with over twenty years experience in the areas of cross-cultural communication, cultural competence, Arab and American cultures, Islamic awareness and religious diversity. Her most recent training offer is Disability to Diverse Ability: Building a Disability Friendly Work Environment. Since a young age, Luby has hardly gone a day without bridging barriers between differing religions, cultures, and lifestyles. She provides in- depth, professional training and testimony on the specifics of effective communication across multiple diverse factors.

Accomplished with both academic and practical experience, Luby holds a Master's Degree in Intercultural Relations from Lesley College in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and a B.A. in International Service from The American University in Washington, DC. Her travels have led her throughout Europe and the Middle East, including the countries of Spain, Bosnia, Croatia, Iran, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE, Jordan, the West Bank, Jerusalem and Israel. After her selection by the U.S National Council for U.S. and Arab Relations, Luby participated in a study visit to Saudi Arabia. She journeyed as both a Peace Fellow for Seeds of Peace, and a Malone Fellow in Middle East and Islamic Studies.

Luby has presented at the Arabian Society for Human Resource Management conference in Bahrain, and annual conferences for the Society for Human Resources' Workplace Diversity. She professionally lectures and educates on the most recent emerging cultural, Islamic, and religious diversity issues. She has trained hundreds of law enforcement and military officers on both Arab and Muslim Americans.

The multiple books Luby has authored include Doing Business in the Middle East and North Africa, Finding Diversity, and The Extraordinary Lives of Muslim Women in America. She is featured in multiple other titles, such as Sherry Mueller's Working World, and recommends the multi-media programs Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts and Ouch! Your Silence Hurts. Frequently, Luby is employed as a cultural expert by national media and major international news programs. She has recently received press in the Associated Press, The Washington Post, BBC World News and PBS' Religion and Ethics News. As an intercultural trainer, Luby recently helped launch America's Unofficial Ambassadors, as well as Change the Story, a site that offers interactive learning and applicable communication techniques on Islam. She was also fundamental in developing two new dialogue initiatives, intended to break down barriers between faiths. To support her work, visit 20,000 Dialogues and Ground Zero Dialogue, a nationwide campaign to stimulate discussion between those of different faiths.

Dr. Peter Mandaville


Dr. Peter Mandaville is the Director of the Ali Vural Ak Center for Global Islamic Studies and Associate Professor of Government at George Mason University. He is also a Nonresident Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution. In 2011-12, during the Arab Spring, he served as a member of the Secretary of State's Policy Planning Staff at the U.S. Department of State. He was the Founding Director of GMU’s Center for Global Studies and his visiting affiliations have included American University, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and the Pew Research Center. Born and raised in the Middle East—the third generation of his family to live in the region—his recent research has taken him to a wide range of Muslim settings such as Pakistan, Indonesia, Malaysia, and West Africa.

He is most recently the author of Global Political Islam (London: Routledge, 2007), a broad global overview of Islamic social and political movements. Other books include Transnational Muslim Politics: Reimagining the Umma (London: Routledge, 2001; paperback 2003)—a study of Muslim communities in the United Kingdom—and co-editor of several volumes of essays in the fields of international relations and Islamic Studies, including Politics from Afar: Transnational Diasporas & Networks (Columbia University Press, 2012). He has testified before the U.S. Congress on political Islam and authored numerous book chapters and journal articles, and contributed to publications such as, the International Herald Tribune and The Guardian. He has also consulted widely for government, media and NGOs on contemporary Muslim world affairs. Supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the Pew Research Center, much of his recent work has focused on the comparative study of religious authority and social movements in the Muslim world, with an emphasis on youth groups, transnational networks, and new media.

Dr. Gerald A. McDermott


Dr. Gerald A. McDermott is Associate Professor of International Business at the Darla Moore School of Business, University of South Carolina. Prior to joining the Moore School, for seven years he was Assistant Professor of Multinational Management at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and held a secondary appointment in the Department of Political Science.

He specializes in international business and political economy. McDermott received his Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at MIT. His first stream of research focused on the impact of industrial networks on the creation of economic governance institutions in post-communist countries. His current research in South America uses both comparative and statistical survey methods to examine the socio-political conditions under which societies build new innovative capacities to achieve sustained upgrading in their industries. Besides relevant scholarly articles, this work has thus far produced a highly unique multi-region, multi-sector (wine and autos) data base with state of the art measurements of firm-level upgrading capabilities, inter-firm networks, and institutional networks. He has also recently launched a project about the impact of international integration regimes on local institutional development via a comparison of the EU accession, NAFTA, and Mercosur.

His publications include articles in such scholarly journals as Comparative Political Studies, Industrial and Corporate Change, Review of International Political Economy, Academy of Management Review, Journal of International Business Studies, Organization Studies,Politics & Society as well as his book, Embedded Politics: Industrial Networks and Institutional Change in Post-Communism (University of Michigan Press, 2002), which was a finalist for APSA’s 2003 Woodrow Wilson Foundation Award for the Best Book on government, politics, and international affairs. McDermott has also consulted for the multilateral lending institutions and the governments of the Czech Republic and Argentina. He lived in Prague for over 4 years and in Buenos Aires for over 6 years, being fluent in both Czech and Spanish. 

Dr. Carlo Pietrobelli

Dr. Pietrobelli is a Lead Economist in the Competitiveness and Innovation Division of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).  His recent activities in the IDB include: cluster programs and value chains, impact assessment of these programs, support for Competitiveness and Innovation Councils, local economic development programs and support programs for small and medium enterprises.  

Prior to joining the IDB, he was Professor of Economics at the University of Rome, where he directed the Center for Studies in the Economics of Institutions (CREI), was Deputy Rector for promoting links between the University of Rome and the private sector, and was Head of Industrial Liaison Office of the University.  He holds a PhD in Economics from Oxford University and has consulted regularly to international organizations like the European Commission, the World Bank, IFAD, UNIDO, UNCTAD, ECLAC, CAF, and OECD.

Dr. Patricia Sloane-White


Dr. Sloane-White is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Delaware and also serves as the Director of Islamic Studies and administer of several programs for the College of Arts and Sciences including the Plastino Scholars, Dean’s Scholars, and the Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies programs.

After nearly a decade of senior-level business experience on Wall Street, Dr. Sloane-White trained as an anthropologist to study the relationship between Islam and modern capitalism in Malaysia. She first conducted fieldwork in Malaysia in 1993-1994. Her initial two-year period of research analyzed Islam and social and economic change in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia. Malaysia is a powerhouse among Southeast Asian nations for both the success of its capitalist development and the influence of its Islamic worldview. When she arrived in Malaysia, no anthropologist had yet fully investigated the culture of its emergent Islamic capitalists. The centerpiece of my initial period of research is her book, Islam, Modernity and Entrepreneurship among the Malays, a detailed study of urban Malay Muslim society in the process of capitalist transformation. In her second period of research in Malaysia, from 1996 to 1998, she focused on the professional, white-collar, urban Malay Muslim middle- and upper-middle-class that has emerged as a consequence of capitalism in Malaysia. The object of this research was to consider the ways in which Muslim people who traditionally share an egalitarian religious ethos experience the new ideas, values, experiences, desires, and subjectivities of global modernity. She has written articles on the nature of middle-class identity and the creation of class difference in urban Malaysia.

In the past few years, Dr. Sloane-White has made five extended fieldwork visits to Malaysia to conduct new research for a book entitled Corporate Islam: Working in Malaysia’s Islamic Economy, which concerns the relationship between business culture and sharia (Islamic law). What particularly interests her as an anthropologist is how sharia has increasingly emerged as a novel form of corporate culture, reconfiguring workplace identities and relations in distinctly Islamic ways. To the people in the Islamic economy she has studied, sharia is not merely a guide for financial operations. It is, as Muslim jurists understand it and in the fullest meaning of the word, a “path,” a way of life (and a way of work). Sloane-White is studying the use and growth of Islamic principles and precepts in the capitalist workplace, most recently focusing on Islamic philanthropy, wakf, and corporate zakat, and how Islamic ideals are used to define the nature of modern capitalist power relations and class, ethnic, and gender relations, as well as relations between individuals and institutions.

Dr. Paul Vaaler


Professor Vaaler is an Associate Professor of International Business at the Carlson School of Management and a member of the Strategic Management and Entrepreneurship Department since 2007.  Prior to that, he was on the faculty of Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy and the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) School of Business.  Professor Vaaler is also an affiliated member of the University of Minnesota Law School and Oxford Univesity's Said Business School. 

Professor Vaaler studies issues in strategic management and international business with special interests in risk and investment by firms and individuals doing business in emerging-market countries. He is the author and editor of books published by MIT Press and Kluwer Academic Publishers, and journal articles published in Academy of Management Journal, Economics Letters, Journal of International Business Studies, Journal of International Management, Journal of International Money and Finance, Journal of Management Studies, Organization Science, Review of Development Economics, Strategic Management Journal and other academic journals. He serves on the editorial boards of Academy of Management Journal and International Journal of Strategic Change Management.  He is Associate Editor of Academy of Management Perspectives and Co-Editor of the Social Science Research Network Global Business Issues electronic journal.

Professor Vaaler is a lawyer with private practice and government experience. He received his B.A. in History from Carleton College, his M.A. in Philosophy, Politics and Economics from Oxford University where he studied as a Rhodes Scholar, his J.D. from Harvard Law School, and his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota.  Dr. Vaaler’s current research interests are: immigrants and venture investment in developing countries; elections and investment in emerging democracies; risk and capital structure in emerging-market investment projects.