September 14, 2009
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab
SRU faculty form Middle East Studies Center to promote knowledge
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University faculty have teamed up to establish a Middle East Studies Center to foster and enhance knowledge of the Middle East, including its past and current economic, social, historic, artistic cultural and political development.
Three SRU faculty, Abba Noorbakhsh, professor in SRU's School of Business, Eric Tuten, assistant professor of history, and Ahmad Khalili, associate professor of professional studies, serve as the center's executive committee.
"We are seeing an increased awareness and interest from our students in events in the Middle East and their effects on the U.S. and the world, so we believe the formation of a specialized studies group is appropriate," Khalili said.
The group will host a number of lectures and related programs throughout the year to promote the teaching, learning and awareness of a diverse range of Middle Eastern languages, cultures and people.
Leading off this semester's programs is an "Iran, Israel and The U.S. Foreign Policy" presentation, at 2 p.m. Sept. 22 in the University Union. The program will feature Trita Parsi, founder and president of the National Iranian American Council and an expert on U.S.-Iranian relations and related topics, at 2 p.m. Sept. 22. The free address will be in the University Union.
Parsi is also an expert in the balance of power in the Middle East and author of "Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Iran, Israel and the United States" published by Yale University Press. The book received the 2008 Arthur Ross Book Award from the Council on Foreign Relations.
The SRU presentation will include time for a question-and-answer session and a book signing, Khalili said.
Parsi studied for his doctoral thesis on Israeli-Iranian relations under Professor Francis Fukuyama at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies. His articles on Middle East affairs have been published in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, Jane's Intelligence Review, the Nation, The American Conservative, the Jerusalem Post, The Forward and others. He is a frequent guest on CNN, PBS's "Newshour with Jim Lehrer," NPR, the BBC and Al Jazeera.
Other on-campus programs being planned may include such speakers as Dalia Mogahed, co-author, with John L. Esposito, of "Who Speaks for Islam?," and a film series dealing with Middle East issues.
Faculty involved in the project said SRU students are quickly enrolling in classes dealing with Middle East issues, including religion and history courses. Among courses offered by Andrew Colvin, assistant professor of philosophy, are such topics as "World Religions," "Philosophy of Religion" and "Asian Philosophies." "All of these classes are among the first to fill during registration," he said. If interest continues to grow, the group may pursue creating an academic minor in Middle East studies."
Khalili said SRU's Arabic language classes, offered by the department of modern languages and cultures, have continued steady enrollment since being implemented.
The Middle East group sponsored the panel discussion "The Presidential Election and Middle East Challenges," including Parsi as a panelist, last October.
SRU's modern languages and cultures, history and political science departments and the Office of International Initiatives are co-sponsoring the Parsi program.
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