Duke hosts “Dimensions of the Middle East”

July 16, 2018

Duke hosts “Dimensions of the Middle East”

Summer Institute provides professional development for 6-12 grade educators.

by Catherine Angst

The Duke Islamic Studies Center and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center with support from the Qatar Foundation International (QFI) hosted forty 6-12 grade educators for a five-day summer institute from June 24-29, 2018.

“This institute will completely shift your perspective,” said Jennifer McKinney, a high school history teacher from Fort Smith, Arkansas, “It’s one of those life-changing institutes.”

Professor lectures classroom

Professor Erdağ Göknar, Ph.D. lectures on teaching the Ottoman Empire.

Throughout the week teachers engaged with university experts on a variety of topics to expand their understanding of the cultures, histories, and geopolitics of the Middle East. Lecture titles included:

  • “Religious Diversity of the Middle East” with Professor Carl Ernest, Ph.D.
  • “Women and Leadership in the Arab World” with Professor Nadia Yaqub, Ph.D
  • “Contemporary Turkey from Ataürk to the AKP” with Professor Erdağ Göknar, Ph.D.
  • “An End – Or A Beginning?: The Arab Uprisings of 2011 as History” with Professor James Gelvin, Ph.D.

“We have designed the institute’s program of study around common themes in state curricula, as well as frequently asked questions about the region,” said Emma Harver, a partner on the program from the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East Studies. Beyond lectures, the educators participated in specialty breakout sessions, curriculum building workshops, and a panel discussion on Islamophobia with local Muslim community members.

Institute participants partook in several extracurricular cultural experiences. Teachers donned their chef hats and prepared a Middle Eastern feast as part of a cooking enrichment class. They also traveled to the Islamic Center of Raleigh and observed prayer.


Preparing the chicken tagine.

“One of the biggest things I’ll bring back to my classroom is a comparison between of world religions,” said Kevin Wagner, a world history teacher from Carlisle, Pennsylvania, “There are so many things that the Islamic faith shares with Judaism and Christianity.”

A review committee selected this year’s participants through a competitive, nation-wide application. The educators represented 21 different states and a variety of teaching disciplines from social sciences, language arts, and more.  “The committee was quite impressed with the number and quality of applications to this program,” Harver noted.

Duke and QFI piloted this summer institute in June 2017 with the theme “The Middle East and Islam: New perspectives of Islamic History from the 16th century to the present”. The pilot institute was quite successful, so the program grew to double the size of its teacher cohort this summer.