From the popular unrest of the Arab Spring to never-ending conflict and from the rise of Islamism to continued oil abundance, the Middle East and the Arab world will remain extremely important in world affairs for the foreseeable future. With generous gifts from John Hofmeister (BA in Political Science, 1971; MA in Political Science, 1973), former President of Shell Oil and founder and CEO of the non-profit citizens for Affordable Energy, Kansas State University established the Michael W. Suleiman Chair in Arab and Arab-American Studies to honor Michael W. Suleiman.
It was largely through the efforts of the chair's honoree, Michael W. Suleiman, that KSU developed a widespread reputation for excellence in the study of Middle Eastern and Arab-American issues. A KSU faculty member for over forty years, Suleiman was a leader in the study of Arab politics and a pioneer of the study of Arab-American identity. Dr. Suleiman was born in Tiberias, Palestine but had to move to Jordan when the Nakba hit the family. Here, he attended the bishop School in Amman and moved to England to teach in 1955. Eventually, he moved to the United States for his post-secondary education where he got his PhD from University of Wisconsin, Madison in 1965. Dr. Suleiman married Penelope Powers in 1963 and the couple had two children, Suad Michelle Evans and Gibran Michael Suleiman. Upon completion of his graduate studies, he started his academic career as an assistant professor of political science at Kansas State University (1965) where he became a full and distinguished professor in 1972. He also served as the head of the department from 1975 to 1982. Michael W. Suleiman became the leading expert in the Middle East Studies by publishing numerous books and articles, receiving prestigious awards, and serving in several professional organizations in the field. He was a pioneer in the Arab-American ethnic studies and history. His book, Arabs in America, is a collection of resources that remains the most authoritative volume in the Arab-American studies. In addition to his activities in professional and grassroots organizations, Dr. Suleiman played a significant role in the foundation of American Arab National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan and served as a board member and consultant until 2010. His contributions are too many to list here. His biography and a detailed account of his achievements can be found here.
Presently, the Michael W. Suleiman Chair in Arab and Arab-American studies is held by Dr. Sabri Ciftci. Dr. Ciftci is a professor in the Department of Political Science who is well known for his research on the Middle East, Arab public opinion, and Islam and democracy. He received his PhD in 2005 from Florida State University and joined Kansas State University in 2008. Dr. Ciftci brings his passion for the study of Middle East into the classroom through his well-regarded teaching methods. He recently received a university teaching award, the Commerce Bank and W.T. Kemper Foundation Outstanding Teaching Award and the Stamey Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching and Advising from the College of Arts and Sciences at Kansas State University. He has received invitations from several notable workshops to present his work including most recently invitations from the American University in Beirut, Princeton University, Rice University, and Illinois State University. The tradition of the Suleiman Chair is enhanced through his scholarly work in Islam and democracy, Muslim political attitudes, Arab public opinion and Turkish politics. Dr. Ciftci is the author of two books Parliament in Turkey since 1876 (2006) and Islam, Justice, and Democracy (2021) and co-author of a third Beyond Piety and Politics (2022). His contributions are also published in top political science journals and his scholarship helps in cultivating a robust intellectual community centered around Middle Eastern politics and issues which thrives on the K-State campus and in the Manhattan community. Dr. Ciftci and KSU established a Middle East Studies Minor, an interdisciplinary program involving Political Science, History, Modern Languages, Communication Studies, and Philosophy departments with Dr. Ciftci serving as its founding director. You can also view the study of the Middle East on the Kansas State University campus here: Middle Eastern Studies.
During his role as the Suleiman Chair, Dr. Ciftci has organized, sponsored, and hosted speakers, conferences and events that help to further grow the visibility and vibrancy of the Middle Easterner and Arab-American community at Kansas State. These events allow Dr. Ciftci to carry his passion into the community through his community engagement work aiming to educate people about intercultural tolerance. He established the Middle East Speaker Series to bring many prominent figures to KSU such as Dr. Mark Tessler, Dr. Amaney Jamal, Dr. F Gregory Gause III, and Dr. Ramazan Kiliniç. Some of the other events included a symposium titled the “(Re)Imagining Tolerance, Diversity, and Justice: The Impact of a Post-Truth USA on the Arab-American and Muslim-American Experience” which explored the issues of tolerance and diversity from the Muslim-American and Arab American perspectives, featuring the work of three separate speakers. Another exciting event was a one-day conference, “After the Uprisings: Public Opinion, Gender, and Conflict in the Middle East”, which focused on the culture and politics of Middle Eastern society. This conference brought together junior and senior scholars from prestigious universities across the US, students and faculty from the campus, and members of Ft. Riley and community. The series also hosted a panel titled “Populism, Conflict, and Minorities in the Middle East” which saw talks from three presenters: Dr. Sabri Ciftci, Dr. F. Michael Wuthrich, and Dr. Ammar Shamaileh. These presenters delivered lectures on three different topics, including Kurdish political representation, pushback to populism and elite competition in receding civil wars.
Through these events, Dr. Ciftci brings the study of Middle East to the campus and community in Manhattan, and Kansas. These events and speakers increase the knowledge and awareness of the region, help build bridges, and increase intercultural tolerance.
The Suleiman Chair and the activities associated with it, help to expand our knowledge on issues that will remain relevant for generations to come. KSU has a long history as a leader in the study of Arab and Middle Eastern issues, and we ask for your support to maintain this history of excellence. Located near the geographical center of the continental United States, Kansas State University's strength in Middle Eastern studies not only draws on the talent of these many and varied students, it also builds upon the university's strengths in related areas. Oil and security issues are informed by the University's graduate program in Security Studies. The University is also developing into a national research hub for biological and agricultural security issues, topics that have increasing relevance for the water strapped Middle East (BioSecurity Research Institute). A gift to the Suleiman Chair not only honors Michael W. Suleiman's legacy, it builds upon a tradition of success in the study of Middle Eastern affairs at KSU.
If you would like to discuss the Suleiman Chair or Middle Eastern Studies at Kansas State University, please do not hesitate to contact us at (785)532-6842, firstname.lastname@example.org or send an email to Dr. Ciftci at email@example.com
Photo credit: Karen Farkas Smith