History and Milestones


The idea of creating a Middle East Center at MTSU is hatched during conversations between Dr. Sidney McPhee, Joe Bales (Vice President, Development), and Representative Harold Ford, Jr. President McPhee asks Dr. Ron Messier, a professor of Middle East History with considerable research and teaching experience related to the Middle East, to research existing programs in Middle East Studies that could serve as models and to develop a plan for establishing a Middle East Center at MTSU.


Dr. McPhee appoints Dr. Allen Hibbard, Department of English, to chair a Middle East Center Steering Committee with representation from various disciplines, colleges, and interests. Those currently serving on the committee are: Dr. Mohammed Albakry (English), Dr. Murat Arik (Business and Economic Research Center), Dr. Anantha Babbili (Dean, College of Mass Communications), Dr. Clare Bratten (Mass Comm), Dr. Samantha Cantrell (Research and Sponsored Programs), Dr. Sean Foley (History), Dr. Sonja Hedgepeth (Foreign Languages and Literature), Dr. Wasimuddin Qureshi (Research and Sponsored Programs), Dr. Ron Messier (Emeritus, History), Mr. Kanishka Roshan-Rawaan (MTSU student), Dr. Saleh Sbenaty (Engineering Technology and Industrial Studies), and Dr. Amy Sayward (History).

FALL 2005

Subcommittees on Curriculum, Grants/Funding, and Outreach meet and develop plans.


A new 18-hour Minor in Middle East Studies is approved. MTSU is awarded Title VIA Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Languages Grant. Dr. Sean Foley, a recent Ph.D. from Georgetown University, is hired for a position in Middle East History. The library allocates $50,000 to the purchase of titles related to the Middle East, to support instruction and research. (Mr. Kanishka Roshan-Rawaan and Dr. Allen Hibbard reviewed lists of potential acquisitions and made recommendations).

FALL 2006

Official proposal for a Middle East Center at MTSU is approved by the Tennessee State Board of Regents on December 19, 2006. Arabic and Hebrew language programs launched with Dr. Sonja Hedgepeth, faculty member in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literature, teaching Hebrew, and Mr. Muhammad Masud (M.A. Yarmouk University, Jordan), a Fulbright Teaching Assistant, teaching Arabic. Arabic Search Committee formed (Dr. Albakry, Dr. Hedgepeth, Dr. Hibbard, Dr. Leah Lyons, Dr. Sbenaty). Courses in second year Arabic and Hebrew (developed by Dr. Hedgepeth) are approved. Center sponsors three talks: Dr. Khalid Amine spoke on “Performing Postcoloniality in the Moroccan Scene”; Dr. Aswan Hamza spoke on “Higher Education in the Gulf,” an event co-sponsored by the Department of Human Sciences; and Dr. Sean Foley spoke on “Shaykh Khalid and the Naqshbandiyya-Khalidyya.” Center (with UISFL support) supports faculty participation in half a dozen conferences.


Ms. Chantal Rich is hired as a half-time assistant for the Middle East Center. Introduction to Middle East Studies course taught for the first time (by Dr. Foley). Center sponsors workshop on Middle East for area middle and high school teachers, coordinated by Dr. Amy Staples (Outreach Coordinator) and led by Dr. Audrey Shabbas of AWAIR (Arab World and Islamic Resources). Ms. Kari Neely (Ph.D. candidate in Near Eastern Studies at University of Michigan) accepts Arabic assistant professor offer. UISFL supports development of new courses for the minor: “Media and the Middle East” (Dr. Clare Bratten), “Early Medieval Literatures of the Middle East” (Dr. Rhonda L. McDaniel), “Music of the Middle East” (David Pruitt), “Communication in the Middle East” (Dr. Linda Seward), and “Comparative Foreign Policy and International Relations of the Middle East” (Dr. Moses Tesi). Lilly Rivlin shows and discusses her film Can You Hear Me? Israeli and Palestinian Women Fight for Peace. Dr. Ron Messier speaks on “Dr. Buzzard and Allah: Muslim Slaves in the U.S.”; Dr. Gregory Gause speaks on “The Iraq War: Causes and Consequences”; and Dr. John Esposito speaks on “Islam and the West.” The Center (with support from UISFL grant) co-sponsors with GLOBAL (a student group on campus) showings of The Battle of Algiers and Turtles Can Fly. Dr. Dona Stewart, Director of Georgia State University’s Middle East Institute, conducts a program review. Center slated to move into Midgett 104 (present Research and Sponsored Programs office) in May.


The Center moves into Midgett 104. The Center co-cosponsors a panel entitled “Whose Story Gets Told? Human Rights and the Power of Records.”

FALL 2007

Waleed El-Ansary speaks on "Bridging the Gaps of Global Religions and Spirituality" as part of the Diversity Conference. Robert Satloff speaks on "Countering Holocaust Denial in the Middle Eat: A New Approach" as part of the Holocaust Conference.


Center sponsors workshop on Middle East for area middle and high school teachers, coordinated by Dr. Linda Seward (Outreach Coordinator) and led by Dr. Louisa Moffitt, Dr. Curt Ryan and Ms. Penny McGuire. Dr. Miriam Sivan speaks on “Contemporary Women Writing in Israel.” Dr. Juan Cole speaks on “The Millennium in Pursuit: Shiite Opposition to the US in Iraq.” Said Ennahid speaks on “The State of Historic Preservation in Morocco” and “The Archeology of Space in Arabic Poetry.” Omar Faruk Tekbilek & his Ensemble perform at MTSU. The Center co-sponsors a poetry reading – the Sixteenth Annual Women’s International Poetry Reading.

FALL 2008

The Middle East Center Steering Committee meets, along with other people at MTSU who are interested in the Middle East.