On Thursday, April 28th, faculty, staff, students and family members gathered in the Michigan League's Vandenberg Room to honor our 2023 graduates and awardees. The event was hosted by the Middle East Studies Department Chair, Karla Mallette, with faculty members joining to present department awards.

Ever 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 and overall academic performance. The award recipients for 2023 were:

Professor Katherine Davis with award recipient Nayiri Sagherian

The George G. Cameron Award in Near Eastern Studies honors George G. Cameron, the "founding father" of the Department of Near Eastern Studies, predecessor of the Department of Middle Eastern Studies. This award recognizes a graduating senior in the Middle East Studies department who has an academic record of excellence within the program. Professor Katherine Davis presented the award to Nayiri Sagherian. Excelling in critical analysis and driving class discussions with a wealth of knowledge about the Middle East from a whole range of MES courses, Nayiri is decribed as a fundamentally curious person by her professors. In the spirit of George Cameron himself, Nayiri is a truly interdisciplinary thinker, and the department could not have picked a more deserving individual for this award.

Shukran Kamal was born in Mansourah, grew up trilingual in Arabic, Turkish, and English, and studied 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."

Professor Said Hannouchi with award recipient Elizabeth Tower

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 2023 recipient was Elizabeth Tower, who graduated this Winter term with Honors in International Studies with an emphasis in Comparitive Culture and Identity, and a minor in Religion. Elizabeth's interest in language translation comes from her research interests, which include resistance art and modern cultural productions in the Middle East in artforms like literature, poetry, music, film and visual art. Elizabeth will continue studying these topics next year, when she pursues an MSc in Modern Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Oxford, on the Arabic Language Track.

Professor Gary Beckman with award recipient Ella Mannino

The department has had a longstanding and important relationship with the Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies. MCECS promotes 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. Gary Beckman presented the Michigan Center for Early Christian Studies Harrold J. Ellens Undergraduate Study Award to Ella Mannino, a second-year student double majoring in Middle East Studies and International Studies. Ella is a second-time recipient of this award, and has been excelling for the past two years in the MES courses she has taken focusing on Christianity. Her commitment to and excellence in the study of Christianity is reflected in her essay "An Examination of Christianity in Ramallah" which she recieved the rare A+ grade in Dr. Yaron Eliav's MIDEAST 207 course. In this essay, Ella was able to explore the ties of Ramallah's Christian communities both within the ancient narrative of Christianity and with the more modern discourse of resistance amongst Palestinians. Dr. Eliav described her essay as an exemplary work of research and thought that warrants the MCECS Harrold J. Ellens Undergraduate Study Award.

The ceremony continued by focusing on graduates within the class of 2023. Present at the festivities were students from our undergraduate, MA, and Phd programs. Our graduates were:

MES Undergraduates, from left to right: Garrett Ashlock, Ibrahim Bin-Asadullah, Nayiri Sagherian, Leah Reilly, Sara Borsodi, Alexa Hailman, Jonah Weingart


Undergraduate Major in Middle East Studies

Garrett Ashlock - Persian History

Ibrahim Bin-Asadullah - Arabic Religion

Sara Borsodi - Ancient History

Mahdi Charara - Arabic History

Alexa Hailman - Ancient History

Noor Khan - Arabic History

Leah Reilly - Ancient History

Nayiri Sagherian - Armenian Cultural Studies

Oase Sbei - Arabic Cultural Studies

Mary Show - Arabic History

Jonah Weingart - Arabic History


MA Students from left to right: Ibrahim Khalaylih, David Telman, Waleed Aljadhie


Master of Arts in Arabic Studies

Waleed Aljadhie - Teaching Arabic as a Forgein Language

Ibrahim Khalaylih - Arabic for Professional Purposes

David Telman - Arabic for Professional Purposes

MA students Ibrahim and Waleed their mentor, Dr. Mohammad Alhawary, with his thank you gift



Our MA Students had a surprise planned for their Mentors, Dr. Said Hannouchi and Dr. Mohammad Alhawary.

MA student Waleed after presented mentor Dr. Said Hannouchi with his thank you gift



They wanted to do something special for their two mentors to thank them for all the help, guidance, and advice they all recieved over the past two years. So in the middle of the ceremony, Ibrahim gave a speech thanking Dr. Hannouchi and Dr. Alhawary, and presented the mentors with special gifts.

PhD Graduate Mohammad Alshehri with his mentor, Dr. Mohammad Alhawary


PhD in Middle East Studies

Mohammad Alshehri - Learning Outcmes of the Simultaneous Exposure to Two Arabic Varieties by English L1 Learners of Arabic as an L2 at Different Stages of their L2 Development

Salmar Amir - The Lost Tribe of Plato: The Druze Religion of Isma'ili Neoplatonism


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!