I had the pleasure of being interviewed by the Office of Public Affairs at Kenyon College about our slew of exciting events this spring related to the Islamicate world. It has been incredibly gratifying to watch the program grow and shift along with student interest. One of the unique advantages of the liberal arts experience, especially at Kenyon, is the ability each individual student has to shape and impact what they get out of their time on “the Hill”. Personally, I went from swearing off language study entirely, to now applying to overseas immersion programs in Arabic. The Arabic program has ballooned from a single year long introductory course, to record enrollment at the introductory and intermediate level. Every day I am meeting people who came to Kenyon because they knew it was a place where they could study the Middle East in an interdisciplinary way. I learn new things every day, both in my classes and from stimulating, intense conversations with faculty and peers alike.
What began with some buddies talking politics over dinner morphed into the Middle East Student Association, which was awarded Best New Student Organization by the Student Activities Office in the spring of 2010 and was nominated for Best Student Organization of the Year the following spring. That same organization, which I now am proud to lead, will co-sponsor at least 10 events this semester alone, everything from an Arabic/Hebrew poetry night, to a celebration of Noruz, the Persian New Year, to discussions in the lead up to Kenyon’s Center for the Study of American Democracy’s conference: “Should America Promote Democracy Abroad?” Many of my fondest memories and closest friends from Kenyon were gifts that have come via my involvement in MESA, and I am so, so lucky to have them. Each day I spend studying the Middle East brings new questions, challenges, and surprises, and I am fortunate to be in a place and with people who are similarly engaged.