Widgets Magazine

Stanford to boost Middle East studies faculty

Stanford has begun actively recruiting for a new tenure-line faculty position in Middle Eastern Studies, in response to a demand for increased focus on the area from the University community.

The new faculty member, who will conduct research and teach a topical class, will assume the position in the 2014-15 academic year and – due to Stanford’s lack of a formal Middle Eastern Studies department – will work from a social sciences department within the School of Humanities and Sciences.

Stanford’s current offerings in the field of Middle Eastern studies are coordinated through the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, which was founded in 2005. Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences Richard Saller described the program as encouraging the integration of a broader range of academic disciplines into a shared focus on the Middle East.

“We had a review by external reviewers four years ago that came back with the recommendation that we not form a [Middle Eastern Studies] department, but that we organize our program through the Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies,” Saller said. “This is so that [Stanford] can have a program that draws faculty from a whole range of departments.”

“It’s not as important to have a Middle East department as long as we have expertise on the Middle East represented among the faculty at Stanford,” added Lina Khatib, co-founder of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law’s Program on Arab Reform and Democracy.

Khatib acknowledged, however, that that expertise might have been lacking to date at Stanford, creating a detrimental effect on student involvement that in turn prompted efforts to rectify the issue.

“Stanford remains the only one amongst the top universities in the U.S. that doesn’t have core expertise in the Middle East in terms of its teaching provision,” Khatib said.

“Stanford has been losing students—potentially very bright students,” she added. “This new faculty position is the result of lobbying on all levels by faculty, by students, by student organizations on campus and even [by] donors.”

Professor of Political Science Lisa Blaydes emphasized that the University had responded positively to student needs by beginning the search for the new faculty member.

“The time seems right to consider expanding course offerings on the region,” Blaydes said. “The people of Middle Eastern societies are negotiating new social contracts with elites and government in their respective countries.  Stanford students want to understand more about that process.”