President's Diversity Award 2013

Portland State President Wim Wiewel honored 10 students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors on May 22 for their work advancing diversity on campus at the Ninth Annual President’s Diversity Awards.

Staff: Kanaan Kanaan
As PSU’s Middle East student retention specialist/advisor, Kanaan seeks to make the experience of attending PSU a successful, positive, and enriching one for its large Middle Eastern student population. Their success developing confidence in a new culture, camaraderie with classmates and colleagues, and trust with professors leads to positive feedback about PSU to others in their native countries. This can lead to growth of this student population, which deepens and broadens the diversity reflected at PSU and the students it serves.

President & CEO

Kanaan Kanaan has spent over 25 years as a professional artist and experienced and evolving educator.  His vision has been to use art as a vehicle for learning and understanding to bridge cultures in promoting peace. Coupled with his expertise in Middle Eastern culture, he integrated his evolving art and presented lectures and workshops on Middle Eastern culture alongside his exhibits.


New art Exhibit

 Art Exhibit for Peace in Middle East

Opening reception: Friday, October 2, from 5-9 p.m.


Kanaan Kanaan, visual artist, will be joined by a variety of artists representing the Middle East through their heritage and/or type of art, including: Farouq Hassan, Haifa Al Habeeb, Nayera Majedi, Isaac Koval and Donn Jones


This month’s art exhibit, "Nostalgia," highlights the unity of those from the Middle East and celebrates their unique contributions to this vast global region. The exhibit opens with a reception as part of North Bank Artists’ monthly "First Friday" gallery festivities.

While considered to be a specific part of the world, the Middle East region encompasses many places that Middle Easterners have migrated to and shared their culture with: from the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, to the Mediterranean Sea of North Africa, to the Persian Gulf. The image of such a broad swath of land creates a vision of shared ties – as well as divergences. Until the beginning of the 20th century Western colonial powers occupied the territory, having divided it into smaller, distinct countries that separated and splintered families and tribes. The Nationalist Movement changed this: Indigenous peoples resisted the occupation and country by country, drove out colonialists from the 1940s through the 1960s.

Bits ‘n’ Pieces: Exhibit eyes peace in Mideast – The Columbian

Artist Kanaan Kanaan wishes he could go back in time, he said, to a time when the Middle East was not beset by “lunatics running around with guns,” to a time when even occupation and low-level background conflict felt, at least to a child, something like peace.

“I completely disown this period in history,” said Kanaan, who grew up in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jordan.

That doesn’t sound like a picnic, but Kanaan said he looks back on it fondly when compared to the chaos and terror sweeping through parts of the Middle East today.

“It’s completely insane, and for the past couple of years I’ve really been looking back to a time when people could enjoy their lives, enjoy their children — a time when they really had peace of mind,” Kanaan said. “They were not perfect times, but they were peaceful.”

Peaceful enough for young Kanaan to spend chunks of his youth dreaming and doodling. He went on to study at the College of Fine Arts at Baghdad University before immigrating to the U.S. in 1994. He was an adjunct professor in Portland State University’s art department for eight years; he also advised foreign students and just this month launched his own American Culture and Language Institute, a business aimed at helping foreign students acclimate to U.S. society.

Here’s another way he’s trying to help: by curating an art show aimed at reviving the forgotten goodness and beauty — the humanity, he said — of the Middle East.