Ambar is entering the CSAMES MA program in the Fall of 2013 with the Middle East specialization. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English and Islamic Civilization and Societies from Boston College and has also studied in Morocco. Ambar’s past projects include her senior thesis about Latino Muslims and a study of a Sufi order in Mexico City. Her academic interests include modern Middle Eastern history, languages, and anthropological research.
Umair Rasheed completed his undergraduate studies in Politics and Economics from the Lahore University of Management Sciences in 2009. Upon graduating, he joined the then newly-launched English language newspaper, The Express Tribune, as a sub editor on its Lahore city desk. His work as a print journalist provided him with useful lessons about the society and politics in the Punjab province of Pakistan. He left the Tribune to join the research unit of a non-government organization, Leadership for Environment and Development (LEAD) Pakistan, in 2012. Umair's areas of academic interests include religious militancy, its political economy as well as its sectarian roots in the Deobandi Islam, and the "civil society" as it is known in the development sector (community-based organizations which have mushroomed after the summer floods of 2010) of Pakistan.
Duygu is from Istanbul, Turkey, where she lived all her life before coming to the US in 2007. She studied in Istanbul University and has a BA and MA in economics. Duygu graduated from the CSAMES MA in Spring 2010. Her interests are the formation of the ethnic identities in the Middle East and in the Balkans during the nineteenth century, the late Ottoman Empire era and the Turkish and Kurdish nationalism.
Darakhshan Khan graduated from our program in May 2009 with a master’s in Asian studies, focusing on South Asia. Her area of interest is religion, gender, and Islamic revivalist movements in South Asia. Darakhshan has a bachelor’s degree in microbiology and has worked as a journalist in her hometown of Bombay. She also worked as a CSAMES graduate assistant. Darakhshan began her Ph.D. program at the University of Pennsylvania in Fall 2009.
Sarah Lazare is working as a staff writer for Common Dreams, a progressive news and views publication based in Portland, Maine. Since graduating from CSAMES, she has also worked as a freelance journalist in Egypt and Palestine.
Matthew Niemi entered the CSAMES MA program (Middle East focus) in Fall 2010, soon after completing his undergraduate degree at UIUC in International Studies (Middle East focus) and with a minor in Linguistics, making this his sixth year on campus. He is fascinated by how people form their belief systems and act on them privately, publicly and politically, particularly in regards to the Abrahamic religions in the Middle East and the West. He was a recipient of the FLAS fellowship for the 2010-2011 academic year.
Jeffrey Peyton joined the CSAMES MA program in Fall 2008, with the Middle East specialization. His primary interest is in religion in the Middle East; in particular, he plans to examine interreligious relations and relations between states and minority religions in the region. Jeff grew up in Champaign and completed his undergraduate work in Islamic Studies in the Department of Religion at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. He is the recipient of a FLAS fellowship for the 2010-2011 academic year and is studying Turkish and Arabic. Upon completing his MA at CSAMES, Jeff intends to pursue a Ph.D. in Religion.
After completing her MFA in Sculpture/Painting at UIUC in 2007, Rashelle wanted to continue her studies with a focus on Middle Eastern cultures. She is interested in both traditional and contemporary artwork from the region. Rashelle enjoyed participating in an Artists' Residency in Kapadokya, Turkey, and teaching art classes in Istanbul, Turkey, in 2007. She finds artwork to be a great tool for initiating cross-cultural exchange. Rashelle worked as a graduate assistant for CSAMES in summer 2008. Rashelle completed her MA in Asian Studies with a Middle Eastern concentration in December 2008. She has been involved with the local art scenes in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, UAE. Rashelle is currently creating a body of work, including oil and mixed-media paintings, which are inspired by historical and contemporary styles from the region.
Natasha Samreny pursued her master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies and Arabic, graduating in Spring 2010. She moved from Tampa Bay where she reported and produced daily and in-depth news for WUSF 89.7 FM. Samreny graduated cum laude in 2006 from the University of South Florida with a BA in broadcast news.