On Thursday, April 29th, faculty, staff, students, and family members gathered in the Michigan League's Vandenberg Room to honor our 2022 graduates and awardees. The event was hosted by the Middle East Studies Department Chair, Karla Mallette, with faculty members joining to present department awards.

Every year, through the presentation of awards, MES has the pleasure of recognizing promising students who study within the diverse areas hosted by the department. The awards honor student success in various ways including writing, overall academic performance, and achievements in teaching. The award recipients for 2022 were:

Professor Gottfried Hagen and Professor Karla Mallette with award recipient Erin Ospina

The Hajja Razia Sharif Sheikh Scholarship in Islamic Studies is named in honor of an active member of the Southeast Michigan Islamic community thanks to her son. Mrs. Sheikh was school at home but she encouraged all eight of her children to pursue college studies. This award recognizes two undergraduate students for exceptional essays written for an Islamic Studies course with the department. Professor Gottfried Hagen presented the award to two very deserving students for their work in 2021.

Nadir Gerber wrote "Authenticity and Deceit: Subverting the Gendered Self in Yusuf and Zulaikha" for MIDEAST 309: Sin, Sex, and Desire: Romance in the Middle East taught by Professor Cameron Cross. Gerber's essay explored active and passive as internalized gender categories within the Yusuf and Zulaikha story.

The second recipient was Erin Ospina whose essay "Muhammad, Logos, and the Realm of Light: An Exploration of Light Symbolism within Islam, Christianity, and Manichaeism" was written for Professor Gottfried Hagen's MIDEAST 323: The Prophet Muhammad in Islam. Ospina's comparative essay explored how the light symbolism of the Qur'an and the identification of light with the mystical substance of the Prophet relate to earlier symbolisms of light, as creation, revelation, and salvation, in Christian and Manichean traditions. 


Dr. Said Hannouchi and Professor Karla Mallette with Ibrahim Khalaylih

Raji Rammuny is a Professor Emeritus of Arabic and Applied Linguistics in the department of Middle East Studies. Rammuny has had an impressive and long-standing career within Arabic studies, serving as a member of our faculty from 1966 to 2014, and is a well-known scholar in the methodology and practice of teaching Arabic at the University level. He has continued to provide support to honor a graduate student each year with an award in teaching excellence through the Raji Rammuny Award for Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language. 

This year, Dr. Said Hannouchi presented the award to Ibrahim Khalaylih, a first-year student in the Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language MA program. Ibrahim has been an amazing Graduate Student Instructor in the Arabic program. His commitment to helping students has led Ibrahim to volunteer to hold an Arabic conversation hour more than twice a week in Fall 2021 while still remaining a meticulous grader and an outstanding student. 


Dr. Said Hannouchi presenting the Shukran Kamal and Julia Segall-Derfler Memorial Award

Shukran Kamal was born in Mansourah, grew up trilingual in Arabic, Turkish, and English, and studies German and French in school. Kamal went on to earn a Bachelor's degree from Cairo University, a Master's Degree from North Carolina State University Raleigh, and a PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, while raising three children with her husband, Amin Kamal. Shukran's career in translation begain in the 1970s and eventually led her to the Office of Language Services, part of the U.S. Department of State.  While teaching at Georgetown University, Shukran Kamal met Julia Segall-Derfler, an Ann Arbor native with incredible academic promise shown early on by winning the Huron High School's senior class award in 2001 for "Outstanding Contributions to Understanding and Sharing Diversity." Her acquaintance with Shukran Kamal eventually led to an internship at the U.S. Department of State and later a position as an Arabic Language Specialist. Julia was described as a "natural-born diplomatic translator" and as developing an "ever-growing mastery not only of Arabic language but of the art of translation."

The department honors these two people and the mentorship bond they formed with the Shukran Kamal and Julia Segall-Derfler Memorial Award for a student who has shown great diligence in Arabic or Hebrew language with an interest in using their language skills in a career focused on translation. The 2022 recipient was Jonah Weingart, a triple major in Middle East Studies with a focus on Ararbic History, International Studies with a focus on Comparative Culture & Identity, and Linguistics. Jonah began learning Hebrew in kindergarten and began teaching himself Arabic in high school before attending Kivunim, a highly-selective, academic gap year in Arabic that offers the opportunity to study both Hebrew and Arabic. During his time at U-M, Jonah wrote a research paper about language contact between Modern Hebrew and Palestinian Arabic in Israel/Palestine which he plan to further explore in an Honors Tehsis for his Linguistics major. Post graduation, Jonah plans to find a career where he can further pursue translation to connect with others and advance mutual understanding. Dr. Said Hannouchi, who presented this award, described Jonah's passion and diligent work and believes that Jonah truly embodies the great qualities that this award seeks to encourage.


Dr. Jason Zurawski and Professor Karla Mallette with awardee Ella Mannino

The department has had a longstanding and important relationship with the Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies. MCECS promots the teaching of Christian origins within its early Jewish context at the University of Michigan. Thanks to the members of the board of directors, MCECS has created an award to recognize especially talented undergraduate students at the University in the field of early Christianity.

Dr. Jason Zurawski presented the Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies Undergraduate award to Ella Mannino, a first-year student within the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Ella's academic performance, determination, overall attitude, and potential consitently pushed her to a position of a top student in Dr. Zurawski's early Christianity courses: The Historical Jesus in Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as well as the History of Satan. These qualities rightly earned her this award.


The ceremony continued by focusing on graduates within the class of 2022. Present at the festivities were students from our Phd, MA, and undergraduate programs. Our graduates were:

Noor Moughni and Nour Kazbour, Middle East Studies BA Graduates

Undergraduate Major in Middle East Studies    

Michael Briggs - Persian History Noor Moughni - Arabic Cultural Studies
      Kennedi Johnson - Ancient MES Cultural Studies       Hadi Saab - Arabic Literature
      Payton Johnson - Ancient MES Cultural Studies       Noa Sreden - Arabic History
Nour Kazbour - Arabic Religion Drew Tarnopol - Hebrew Cultural Studies
Sosi Mehren - Arabic History Dunia Zawideh - Arabic Cultural Studies
Sally Al-Banna and Julia Schwartz & Professor Karla Mallette
Cecilia Kuehnel and the Kuehnel family following the ceremony

Master of Arts in Arabic Studies

Sally Al-Banna - Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language

Cecilia Kuehnel - Teaching Arabic as a Foreign Language

Julia Schwartz - Arabic for Professional Purposes

Nadav Linial and PhD Advisor Professor Shachar Pinsker

PhD in Middle East Studies

Abdulaziz Alqasem - The Acquisition of Verbal Agreement and Tense Among L2 Learners of Arabic: Language Transfer and Other Contributing Factors

Nadav Linial - Second Time as Tragedy: The Tragic Mode in Second Aliyah Hebrew Literature

Paige Milligan - After al-Andalus/Palestine: Resistance and Collaboration in Moirsco and Palestinian Literatures

The Department of Middle East Studies wishes to once again extend sincere congratulations to all of our awardees and graduates this year. Thank you all for being a part of this special day!