There is no other program like the Olive Tree Initiative that provides undergraduate and graduate students with comprehensive training, experience and regional access. OTI’s holistic education philosophy, combined with mentoring by faculty and staff, develops student leaders who consistently outperform their peers both academically and professionally. 



Because we are a university-based organization, OTI has access to the most current evaluation techniques as well as researchers who monitor and evaluate the program. Studies show that students develop in areas of self-advocacy, empathy and knowledge. Long-term tracking also reveals that students maintain an interest in and take leadership roles related to the issues and/or region studied.


  • Written articles that have been published in CS Monitor, Wall Street Journal, Huffington Post, and Foreign Policy, as well as numerous academic journals;
  • Appeared on CNN, Al Jazeera, Voice of America, Fox News, and other media outlets;
  • Been awarded Rhodes, Fulbright, Rangel and Rotary Scholarships, and selected as Dalai Lama Fellows;
  • Advanced degrees -- Over 60% pursue M.A.s, J.D.s and/or Ph.D.s at top universities worldwide, often with scholarships to do so;
  • Gone on to jobs and careers in NGOs, media, UN Offices, and participated in foreign policy work in the U.S. and regional governments, as well as other prominent institutions around the globe. 
  • Have been very active in the OTI alumni network and started to significantly donate back to the program which shows their continued appreciation and dedication to the cause. 

Learn more about our Alumni by clicking here.


Organizational Growth in the first 10 years OTI:

  • From UC Irvine to 9 other national campus chapters (UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UC Santa Cruz, UC Riverside, San Diego State, Chapman University, University of Southern California, Stanford University) and one international chapter (University of Glasgow)

  • Growing from a student initiative in 2007 to a full academic program at UC Irvine and other campuses

  • Growing from an only volunteer organization into an organization with 3 Full-Time and 7 part-time staff and 2 student staff members,

  • Growing from one annual trip with 18 participants (2008) to five annual trips (including community trip) with now over 100 participants (2017) and over 500 program alumni to date (not including the 2017 participants).

  • Transferability of approach to other issues. While most work of the organization is with the Middle East, we started a South Caucasus initiative in 2012 with an annual trip to Turkey, Armenia and Georgia, a program to study race in 2016 with an annual experiential learning trip around the US, and are about to launch a refugee and migration program with travel to Germany/Europe.


Awards (selection):

  • Award from the U.S. Department of State as one of the Top Citizen Diplomacy Program in Higher Education

  • California State Assembly, Resolution recognizing OTI for “Outstanding Contributions to Community”

  • Inaugural University of California President’s Award for Outstanding Leadership

  • Interfaith Peace Ministry of Orange County Paul S. Delp Peace Award

  • University of California, Irvine “Living Our Values” Student Team Award

  • Numerous Awards and Recognition from the US Congress and State Assembly