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Grant Expands Mideast Studies

“Muslim society is a central part of American human interests, economics and politics,” said professor Denis Sullivan.

The Uni­ver­sity is devel­oping new Middle East-​​focused inter­na­tional study abroad and grad­uate sem­inar pro­grams, thanks to a $65,000 grant from a New York nonprofit.

Northeastern’s Middle East Center for Peace, Cul­ture and Devel­op­ment recently won the grant from the Social Sci­ence Research Council, a New York City non­profit devoted to advancing social sci­ence research. The pur­pose of the grant is to broaden the under­standing of Islamic tra­di­tions and Muslim soci­eties through global expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­ni­ties for stu­dents and inter­dis­ci­pli­nary sem­i­nars for the Boston community.

The Middle East studies pro­gram and the School of Journalism will work in tandem to develop the new study-​​abroad courses — through the University’s Dia­logue of Civ­i­liza­tions pro­gram — for jour­nalism, inter­na­tional affairs and polit­ical sci­ence stu­dents. The inter­dis­ci­pli­nary part­ner­ship also includes an Open Class­room series titled “America, Islam and the Middle East.” The University’s Open class­room series is a graduate-​​level sem­inar that is open to the public.

“Muslim society is a cen­tral part of Amer­ican human inter­ests, eco­nomics and pol­i­tics,” said the center director and polit­ical science professor Denis Sul­livan. “Stu­dents who under­stand this part of the world are wiser through expe­ri­en­tial oppor­tu­ni­ties in Muslim soci­eties and can apply what they have learned no matter where they end up.”

North­eastern was one of 10 uni­ver­si­ties to receive a grant from the Social Sci­ence Research Council pro­gram on Acad­emia in the Public Sphere. The pro­gram is sup­ported by the Carnegie Cor­po­ra­tion of New York, whose mis­sion is to “pro­mote the advance­ment and dif­fu­sion of knowl­edge and understanding.”

Stu­dents on Dia­logue pro­grams in coun­tries such as Turkey, Syria and Morocco will build rela­tion­ships with jour­nal­ists, policy-​​makers and aca­d­emic researchers by reporting and devel­oping pub­lish­able sto­ries and policy briefs on the Muslim world. The pro­gram, which also includes courses on global reporting and Middle East studies, will begin in the summer of 2012.

The Open Class­room series will fea­ture pre­sen­ta­tions by Stephen Bur­gard, director of the School of Jour­nalism, Michael Dukakis, Distinguished Pro­fessor of Polit­ical Sci­ence, and Rami Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Insti­tute for Public Policy and Inter­na­tional Affairs at the Amer­ican Uni­ver­sity of Beirut.

The sem­i­nars, which will be open to the gen­eral public, will take place on Tuesday evenings during the fall semester.

Bur­gard will lead a sem­inar on reporting tech­niques for jour­nal­ists who cover com­plex inter­na­tional issues. Last year, he edited a col­lec­tion of essays — “Faith, Pol­i­tics & Press In Our Per­ilous Times”— for reporters and policy-​​makers who want to under­stand how reli­gion affects the day’s news.

“Since Sep­tember 11, we’ve had a pro­found engage­ment with the Islamic world on many levels and a lot of jour­nal­ists real­ized we didn’t under­stand the Muslim world very well,” said Bur­gard. “There’s been some admirable progress, but we need to build into our jour­nalism edu­ca­tion a more sophis­ti­cated under­standing of the Muslim world so we’ll be more informed.”

– by Jason Kornwitz

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