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University of Iowa News Release

Sept. 7, 2006

EDITORS: To arrange an interview with a MEMWS-affiliated faculty member, contact Lois Gray at 319-335-2026.

Middle East And Muslim World Studies Recognized As IP-Affiliated Group

This fall, University of Iowa International Programs (IP) has recognized the UI Middle East and Muslim World Studies (MEMWS) scholarly group as an IP-affiliated organization.

MEMWS is located within IP at the University. According to William Reisinger, associate provost and dean of International Programs, the group was formed about five years ago in response to a need for expanded curricular offerings and extended research concerning the Middle East, Islam and the Arabic language.

"We recognized that students were interested in and wanted to learn about that region of the world and about Islamic history and culture worldwide," Reisinger said. "Thanks to support from the provost, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and International Programs, the university started to hire people to strengthen those interrelated areas."

Coordinated by Vicki Hesli, professor of political science, the scholarly group is devoted to developing new courses for the UI and increasing community awareness and understanding of the cultures, histories, economies and politics of these societies. The group sponsors guest lectures and workshops and facilitates new and ongoing research in the area. In the futures, the scholars hope to create a center on the UI campus to increase scholarship in the area.

Under Hesli's direction, MEMWS successfully secured Juan Cole as an Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor for February 2007. Cole, a professor of history at the University of Michigan, is a leading scholar in the field. For more than two decades, he has taught and written extensively about the modern history of the Arab world as well as Islamic movements in Egypt, the Persian Gulf and South Asia.

"We've become a strong campus for students and faculty who are interested in that part of the world and want to have other people to talk with and learn from. We've really got quite a bit to offer," Reisinger said.

Ahmed Kanna, who recently earned his doctorate in social anthropology from Harvard, joined the UI this fall as an International Programs post-doctoral fellow for 2006-07. He specializes in urban life in Arabian Gulf countries.

"His presence on campus and his two courses further bolster our strength in this area," Reisinger said.

For more information on MEMWS, contact William Reisinger at 319-335-0373, Vicki Hesli at or visit the new MEMWS Web site at

International Programs enables University of Iowa students, faculty, staff and the public to learn from and about the world. Its offices, degree programs and events provide life-changing opportunities on campus and abroad, heighten intellectual and cultural diversity, and give all University constituents access to vital international knowledge.  For more information, visit or call 319-353-2700.

International Programs is part of the Office of the Provost.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Lois Gray, 319-335-2026,; MEMWS: Vicki Hesli, or William Reisinger, UI International Programs associate provost and dean, 319-353-2700, Writer: Kelli Andresen

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