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Graduation 2021

On Thursday, April 29th at 1:00pm, the Department of Middle East Studies gathered to celebrating our graduating students as well as the vast array of awardees. We opened with a welcome video narrated by Department Chair, Professor Karla Mallette before beginning the presentation of awards. The MES award recipients for 2021 were:

Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies Awards - presented by Professor Gabriele Boccaccini

Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies Undergraduate Award - recognizes an outstanding undergraduate student who has demonstrated commitment to the study of early Christianity through exemplary performance in undergraduate studies during the 2020-2021 Academic Year.

Erin Ospina - a Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology major with a minor in Religion was recognized for her exemplary academic performance and continued commitment to the field.

Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies Graduate Award - recognizes an outstanding graduate student who has made significant contributions to the activities to the Enoch seminar during the 2020-2021 Academic Year

Joshua Scott - a PhD Candidate in Middle East Studies focusing on Early Judaism and Christian Origins has created a large contribution to the field with his research and writings as well as showing great leadership through organizing online events for the Enoch Seminar throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies Harold J. Ellens Undergraduate Student Award - This award is named for one of our alumni and a founding member and former president of MCECS who passed away a few years ago. The award recognizes an outstanding student who has demonstrated commitment to the study of relations between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam through exemplary work during the 2020-2021 Academic Year.

Brian Price - a 2021 Middle East Studies graduate focusing on Ancient Middle East Religion with a major in Judaic Studies and a minor in Community Action and Social Change. Brian has continually proven to be extremely knowledgeable about the development of the Biblical tradition, its redaction, and its reception history in different interpretative traditions both in the classroom and as a seminar participant who shares his deep background in a way that is pedagogically useful.

Raji Rammuny Award for Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language - presented by Professor Mohammad Alhawary

Raji Rammuny is a Professor Emeritus in the Department of Middle East Studies who worked in the department from 1966-2014. This award recognizes a graduate student who has shown excellence in the field of Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. Recipients are students who have performed above and beyond the norm in both their academic and professional pursuits.

Sally Albanna - a first year student in the Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language Master's program, was recognized for her excellent performance in the classroom and as a Graduate Student Instructor.

Great Books of Islamic Civilization Award - presented by Professor Alexander Knysh

This award recognizes a student who has shown diligence in academic performance and research in the area of Islamic Studies.

Garrett Ashlock - a junior in the Residential and Honors colleges majoring in Anthropology and Middle East Studies focusing on Persian History and minoring in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Garrett is a dedicated student and his nominator, Professor Knysh, believes that Garrett will go on to become an innovative scholar of comparative religions.

Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Travel and Study Fund - presented by Professor Alexander Knysh

Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh was an active member of the Southeast Michigan Islamic Community and a leader in her faith. Although she was schooled at home in the traditional manner, she encouraged all eight of her children to pursue college studies, and her wisdom was confirmed by her success. This award was established by her son in her memory to recognize an undergraduate student who will be studying or researching abroad in the field of Islamic Studies.

Garrett Ashlock will be studying Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion at Pembroke College which is a part of the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom. Garrett has chosen to focus specifically on a thorough comparative examination of key Islamic and Christian concepts and thinkers.

Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Scholarship in Islamic Studies - presented by Professor Cameron Cross

This award recognizes two undergraduate students for exceptional essays written for an Islamic Studies course within the Department of Middle East Studies.

Syafawani Abdul Rahim wrote The Fatal Flaw of Pride in Winter 2020 for MIDEAST 291: Beyond Human: Animals, Monsters, and Angels in Islamic Cultures with the argument that the popular stories of Islamic tradition effectively explore how humanity itself is to some extent demon-like.

Nadir Gerber wrote It's a Bird, It's a Plane! It's a Critical Analysis of the Muslim American Superhero in Fall 2020 and explored the rise of Muslim superheroes in comics alongside an analysis of how they are represented.

Shukran Kamal and Julia Segall-Derfler Memorial Award - presented by Dr. Said Hannouchi

Shukran Kamal held an impressive career in translation which lead her to the Office of Language Services, part of the U.S. Department of State. She also taught Julia-Segall Derfler at Georgetown University which lead Julia to an internship at the U.S. Department of State and later a position there as an Arabic Language Specialist. This award honors these two wonderful people and their mentoring bond by recognizing a student who has shown great diligence in Arabic or Hebrew language, with an interest in using these skills acquired to one day have a career focused on translation.

Tahani Almujahid  dedicated herself to learning the Arabic language through reading Arabic poetry alongside English translations. Having access to these translations furthered her love for the language and she hopes to pursue a graduate degree in Middle East Studies investigating the works of Yemeni writers and sharing their works through translation.


Following the presentation of the department awards, the celebration moved on to recognizing our gradutes. This year we had two PhD students defend their dissertations.

  • Abdulaziz Alqasem - The Acquisition of Verbal Agreement and Tense Among L2 Learners of Arabic: Language Transfer and Other Contributing Factors
  • Tugce Kayaal - Wartime Bodies: Politics of Sexuality and War Orphans in the Late Ottoman Empire (1913-23)

This year, 10 students graduated with a major in Middle East Studies. These graduates spanned over 8 submajors and are extremely indicative of the interdisciplinarity of the department.

Arabic History

Mikayla Bird

Arabic Cultural Studies

Lana Charara

Andrew Kane

Dunia Zawideh

Arabic Linguistics

Gabriella Rathmann

Arabic Literature

Hadi Saab

Arabic Visual Culture

Catherine Turner

Hebrew Religion

Noah Marcotte

Persian Cultural Studies

Mehrdad Kavani

Ancient Middle East Religion

Brian Price

The Department of Middle East Studies congratulates all of this year's graduates and awardees. We wish you well as you continue a journey of life-long learning beyond the University of Michigan.