Vol. 12. No. 2
Fall 2002

Middle East Center
15 Program

Most Americans view the Middle East as a tangle of issues best left to academics and news anchors. Because public schools have traditionally neglected this region of the world, our knowledge of Middle Eastern peoples and cultures rarely extends beyond newspaper headlines.

Enter Linda Adams ex'65 and June Marvel BA'97 of the University of Utah's Middle East Center Outreach Program. Their goal is straightforward and ambitious: to offer high-quality educational opportunities to anyone interested in learning about the Middle East.

The Middle East Center (MEC) was established in 1960 with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Its aim was to raise awareness of the Middle East within both the University and the community, and its outreach program now serves most of the Intermountain West (the nearest comparable program is at UCLA). Working with MEC director Ibrahim Karawan, Outreach draws on the MEC's academic offerings to provide the community with workshops, courses with optional University credit, guest speakers, music and dance presentations, international travel study, and a newsletter of teaching ideas.

Especially unique is the Outreach Resource Room, which offers an impressive array of media on every imaginable topic: posters depicting palaces and Turkish puppet shows; photo books on Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan; realia, including fezzes, yarmulkes, and

prayer rugs; documentaries on the Kurds, the Crusades, Arab teenagers, and Afghani women; recordings of poetry and political speeches; slides on Islam and the Intifada; films about refugees and royalty; and even "Sesame Street" in Arabic. All media are loaned out free of charge, and videos can be borrowed and returned by mail.

Over the years, the outreach program has focused increasingly on schools. "You teach a teacher, and they go out and teach a thousand kids," notes Adams. To improve this connection, the program takes its cue from the "trenches," consulting with an advisory committee of local teachers in order to keep outreach offerings user-friendly. Diana LeBaron Bass MS'99, a social studies teacher at Murray High School, uses the outreach program to instruct her students on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and to introduce the tenets of Islam. "It's one of the best programs for teachers because Linda and June are so willing to help. It really has changed my curriculum," says Bass.

Out of national tragedy has come a remarkable surge in awareness of the Middle East. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Outreach resources were stretched to the limit. "It got to the point that we didn't have enough speakers to send out," recalls Marvel. Whether this increased interest will last is anyone's guess, but the outreach program will continue to bridge what rifts it can. Says Adams, "We try to focus on things that bring people together — things that we share."

—Marie Thatcher is a fulltime writer in Provo.

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