On Thursday, April 27, nearly 100 faculty, staff, students and their families gathered in the Michigan League’s Hussey Room to honor our 2017 graduates and awardees. The event was hosted by the Near Eastern Studies Department Chair, Gottfried Hagen, with several presentations for undergraduate awards given out by the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Janet Richards.

Every year, through the presentation of awards, NES has the pleasure of recognizing promising students within the diverse areas represented within the department. The awards honor student success in various ways-- through writing, overall academic performance, or achievements in teaching. The NES award recipients for 2017 were:

The Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Scholarship in Islamic Studies

Recognizes up to two undergraduate students a year who have written an exceptional essay for a Near Eastern Studies Islamic studies course

  • Ronald Everett
  • Nisha Patel

The Great Books of Islamic Civilization Prize

Given annually to a graduate student who has shown diligence in research, academic performance, and professional pursuits within the area of Islamic studies

  • Golriz Farshi

The Raji Rammuny Award for Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language

Recognizes one graduate student a year who has shown excellence in the field of teaching Arabic as a foreign language

  • Ameena Yovan

The Nathan D. Metzger Award

Acknowledges a student for excellence in writing in post-Biblical Jewish history, literature, or philosophy

  • Elana Goldenkoff

Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies Award

For students who have excelled in coursework or in research pertaining to early Christian studies at the University of Michigan

  • Michail Kitsos
  • Seif-Eldeen Basheer Saqallah 

An addition to this year’s ceremony was the inaugural presentation of the George G. Cameron Award, given out by Professor Richards. This award honors the “founding father” of the Department of Near Eastern Studies. Professor Cameron served as department chair from the department’s inception in February 1949 to June 1969. The award recognizes a graduating senior in Near Eastern Studies with an academic record of excellence within the program. The inaugural recipient of the George G. Cameron Award was Ryan Strong, a Persian Studies major.

Another highlight of our ceremony on April 27 was awarding the fourth annual Shuckran Kamal and Julia Segall-Derfler Memorial Award. This award was established to celebrate the lives of Shuckran Kamal and Julia Segall-Derfler and the special relationship they formed as mentor and mentee working at the U.S. State Department. Both Shuckran and Julia were dedicated to the fields of language and translation, pursuing lives that valued the diversity of human culture and promoted understanding among peoples of the world. This annual award recognizes one   exceptional student in either Arabic or Hebrew language who has shown a commitment to language study and an interest in translation. This year’s recipient was Yael Plotnick, a Hebrew language student and LSA undergraduate. We were pleased to have the parents of Julia Segall-Derfler at the ceremony for the presentation of this award. 

Our ceremony concluded by focusing on our graduates within the Class of 2017. Present at the festivities were students from both our PhD and undergraduate programs. This year’s class graduates during UM’s bicentennial, making their induction into the university’s expansive alumni network all the more special. The graduates were called to the front in succession and given a small gift from the department.

As he does every year in his address to our graduates, Professor Hagen asked the students to take what they have learned at the University of Michigan and use it to give to others, promote peace, impart respect, and make a positive difference on the world. In his words: “You have the knowledge and the ability to imagine better.”

The Department of Near Eastern Studies wishes to extend its sincerest congratulations to all of our awardees and graduates this year. Thank you for taking part in this special day.