Shelly Culbertson is the author of The Fires of Spring: A Post Arab Spring Journey Through the Tumultuous New Middle East (St. Martin’s Press, 2016) and a Middle East analyst at the think tank The RAND Corporation. Her commentaries and articles have appeared in Newsweek, US News & World Report, CNN, Observer, Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, the LA Times, the Associated Press, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and more.
At RAND, her recent research focus has been the Syrian refugee crisis, and she has conducted studies about providing education and other public services to refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon. She lived for seven years in Doha, Qatar, while working in RAND’s Middle East office, traveling frequently to the Kurdistan Region of Iraq and the UAE. Her work involved advising Middle Eastern governments about public policy and development, with particular focus on education reform and science, technology and innovation policy. She co-directed a multi-year effort to advise the Kurdistan Regional Government of Iraq on a K-12 education strategy and coordinated an effort to advise on the launch of the Qatar National Research Fund, a research funding entity that has awarded over $700 million in research grants.
In addition, she worked at the U.S. Department of State on the Turkey desk, where her portfolio included regional security, oil and gas policy, human rights, and trade. At LMI Government Consulting, she focused on international transportation and global health, including a study for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on the vaccine supply chain in developing countries. She also worked as a journalist in Bangkok for the Associated Press on a summer fellowship, covering Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Passionate about traveling, she has traveled through over fifty countries, for work, studies, and while backpacking on a shoestring.
She holds a masters degree from Princeton University in public affairs and international development, and a BS in mathematics and philosophy from the University of Pittsburgh. She studied Arabic at the American University in Cairo with a National Security Education Program scholarship, Middle East politics at Tel Aviv University, and French at the Sorbonne.