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Middle Eastern Studies and Suleiman Chair Activities at Kansas State University

The Study of Middle East at Kansas State University

Middle East Studies has a lively presence at Kansas State University. In addition to numerous courses offered, K-State professors are engaged in high-impact scholarly research that tackles a range of developments in the Middle East. Our faculty from the history, communications, philosophy, and other departments consistently share their expertise on this important region with the residents of Kansas and the nation as a whole through research, public lectures, invited talks, and media interviews. In addition, Kansas State University’s Department of Political Science regularly invites prominent scholars on Middle Eastern affairs to campus to share their insight on the region with students, faculty and the public. As a result, a vibrant intellectual community interested in Middle Eastern politics has developed both on the campus and in the community. KSU’s Department of Political Science rests at the center of this activity. The department regularly offers courses on the Middle East politics, international relations of the Middle East, and Political Islam for juniors, seniors, and graduate students.


Michael W. Suleiman Chair

Ciftci_Keynote_SpeakerCurrently, Sabri Ciftci, a well-known scholar on Middle Eastern politics and Associate Professor holds the Michael W. Suleiman Chair in Arab and Arab-American Studies. As the primary political scientist engaged in research on Middle Eastern issues and the current Suleiman Chair, Dr. Ciftci has published on a range of important issues in some of the discipline’s most prestigious journals. He has, for example, recently published research on the relationship between Islam and democracy, religion and anti-Americanism, and individual political and social behavior in the Arab world. Importantly, his research has gained the attention of policymakers, with the best example being some his published work in both Turkish and English on Turkish foreign policy. While holding the Michael W. Suleiman Chair, Dr. Ciftci has presented in many academic conferences and received invitations from several universities to present his research including American University in Beirut, Princeton University, Rice University, and Illinois State University. Dr. Ciftci has been given many awards and grants for his scholarly work and teaching abilities and he regularly travels to the Middle East to conduct research and promote the study of Middle East. These activities have contributed greatly to the mission and goals of Kansas State University and University’s dedication to grow in the areas of Middle Eastern affairs and politics.

There many popular courses offered on the Middle East on campus. In the Department of Political Science, Dr. Ciftci, regularly offers classes on Middle Eastern politics, international relations of the Middle East, and political Islam. Dr. Ciftci also offers PhD level courses on the Middle East and US Security that is always in high demand. These courses have generated considerable interest from students across campus, attracting young scholars from disparate fields of study such as Political Science, Communication, Education, Business, Sociology, Economics, and Engineering. Dr. Ciftci is well-regarded for his teaching methods and philosophy. He received the Commerce Bank and W.T. Kemper Foundation Outstanding Teaching Award from Kansas State University and the Stamey Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Advising from the College of Arts and Sciences. Faculty in the departments of History and Communication Studies also regularly offer courses about the history and communication in the Middle East. Given the importance that Middle Eastern issues will have on the world scene for the foreseeable future, it should be apparent that the Kansas State University’s Middle Eastern courses fit well with KSU’s vision to be a Top 50 public research university by 2025. It is only with knowledge of critical global regions such as the Middle East that we will be able to meet the 2025 goal of developing “...a highly skilled and educated citizenry necessary to advancing the well-being of Kansas, the nation, and the international community.”


Middle East Studies Minor

More recently, KSU established a Middle East Studies Minor, an interdisciplinary program involving Political Science, History, Modern Languages, Communication Studies, and Philosophy departments. The Middle East Region continues to play a heavy role in global economic, political, and business affairs. This interdisciplinary minor increases the knowledge of this critical region on campus and beyond and helps prepare K-State students for challenging professions requiring expertise in this area.


Benefits to the Campus and Community

Ciftci in ClassroomThe study of the Middle East and the activities carried by the Suleiman chair provide great benefits to Kansas State university faculty, students, and the community. The published research by our faculty and students increase the visibility of KSU in the academic community. The scholarship of our faculty can be seen in action in the classroom where our students are exposed to cutting-edge research about the Middle East. Some of undergraduate and graduate students are also expanding our knowledge of important topics in Middle Eastern politics. For example, one is currently studying the potential reasons that we see large differences in military expenditures across the Arab world. Students from History and sociology are also interested in the study of Middle East and some of them are working on topics ranging from women’s political participation in the Middle East to history of authoritarianism during the Cold War. Dr. Ciftci and a number of undergraduate and graduate students published co-authored articles in prestigious journals and they frequently present at professional conferences.

KSU students and faculty are not only making significant contributions to scholarship on the Middle East, they draw inspiration from noted academics who visit campus through Middle East Speaker series made possible by contributions from the Political Science and the Suleiman Chair. Within the last several years, Department of Political Science at Kansas State University also hosted conferences and symposiums. These events foster the study of Middle Eastern Affairs, increase knowledge of the region, and facilitate intercultural understanding in the campus and community. Since the appointment of Dr. Ciftci as the Michael W. Suleiman Chair, the following events were organized and they drew large crowds.


Middle East Speaker Series

Dr. Ciftci established the Middle East Speaker Series in 2015 with support from the Political Science Department and donors of the Suleiman Chair. Through this series prominent speakers have been invited to the campus to increase interest in the study of Middle Eastern Affairs. Prominent scholars visited Kansas State to give public lectures as listed below.

Mark TesslerProfessor Mark Tessler: In fall 2013, a widely known and distinguished scholar of Middle East politics, Dr. Mark Tessler, gave a talk at KSU. Dr. Tessler is Vice Provost for International Affairs and the Samuel J. Eldersveld Collegiate Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan. His talk drew a large crowd and generated lively discussion about Islam and Democracy in the Arab region. His presentation can be viewed here.  

Amaney Jamal: Amaney Jamal, Edward S. Sandford Professor of Political Science and Director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University gave a talk in the spring of 2014 on “US Foreign Policy and Democratization in the Middle East.” Both Dr. Tessler and Dr. Jamal’s speeches are available to watch online through K-State’s Political Science page. Her presentation can be viewed here.  

Amaney JamalProfessor Gregory Gause III: In spring of 2016 the ’44 Chair and Head of the International Affairs Department at Texas A&M University, Dr. F. Gregory Gause III. Dr. Gause’s lecture drew a good crowd and allowed our students, faculty, and community members to engage with a prominent scholar of Middle East Politics.

Muqtedar KhanProfessor Muqtedar Khan: In 2018, Dr. Muqtedar Khan, Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the University of Delaware gave a talk for the Middle East Speaker series which brought in many students and faculty and helped them to learn more and engage in the American perspectives of Islam. His presentation can be viewed here.

We also anticipate that a number of other prominent scholars on the Middle Eastern affairs will continue to visit KSU in the coming years. The sum total of all of this activity meshes seamlessly with the KSU 2025 goal of creating “…a culture of excellence that results in flourishing, sustainable, and widely recognized research… that benefits society as a whole.” KSU faculty and students who study Middle Eastern politics are not only well on their way to meeting this goal, in many ways they have already met it.


Conferences and Symposiums

After the Uprisings Conference After the Uprisings Conference: In 2016, a mini-conference was organized by Dr. Ciftci that invited scholars of Arab and Middle Eastern politics from institutions like Princeton, Harvard, Portland State, State University of New York, Rice, and other universities across the US. The College of Arts and Science, Office of International Programs, Political Science, and KAWSE were among the sponsors of this event. The conference, titled “After the Uprisings: Public Opinion, Gender and Conflict in the Middle East,” was well attended by our students, faculty, members of Ft. Riley, and the community. The event allowed well-known junior and senior scholars of Arab Politics to K-State and provided a good networking opportunity for undergraduate and graduate students. In addition, the conference was a service to K-State members and the community as it proved to be a valuable educational opportunity for all involved. To learn more about this conference you can check here.


Tolerance, Diversity, and Justice Symposium: The political science department and Michael W. Suleiman Chair organized the (Re)Imagining Tolerance, Diversity, and Justice: The Impact of a Post-Truth USA on the Arab-American and Muslim-American Experience. Three scholars participated in this event: Louise Cainkar, Mucahit Bilici, and Mohamad Al-Hakim. This symposium was attached to the Kansas State’s civility week taking place in April 2017. The event was a success and it was well attended. The symposium was a service to K-State faculty and students as well as the community.

Group Photo After the Uprisings ConferenceThese events and lectures show that KSU is an excellent place to study and to build knowledge on Middle Eastern affairs. It boasts a vibrant intellectual community focused on Middle Eastern issues, which includes faculty members, students, visiting scholars, and interested members of the Manhattan community. Although many individuals have helped to foster the dynamic environment for the study of Middle East at KSU, perhaps the greatest debt is owed to one man – Dr. Michael Wadie Suleiman. A KSU faculty member for over forty years and a leading scholar of Arab and Arab-American issues, Dr. Suleiman’ s passion was the advancement of the study of Arab and Middle Eastern issues at Kansas State University. He gave his life’s work to this passion, and the fact that he succeeded is evident across the KSU campus. Perhaps the most visible mark of his legacy can be found in the Suleiman Chair housed in the Department of Political Science. Presently, the Suleiman Chair belongs also to Dr. Ciftci who continues to build on Suleiman’s legacy. To that end, our faculty works to cultivate a robust intellectual community centered on Middle Eastern politics and issues that thrive on the K-State campus and in the Manhattan community. The rich history at this land-grant university in the American Midwest continues to thrive both in the Political Science Department and throughout KSU and the Manhattan community.