Masters Students

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Current Students

Courtney Averkamp

Ambar Flores

Courtney Averkamp earned her MA in Religious Studies from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign where she focused on Hinduism and Buddhism. Her current research interests revolve around religions in and of South Asia. She is a Teaching Assistant for Asian Mythology and World Religions.





Matt Hendrick

Ambar Flores

Matt was a recipient of both the Summer 2016 Center of African Studies FLAS fellowship and the Academic Year 2016-2017 CAS FLAS. In summer 2016 he took Arabic here at UIUC through the SILMW (Summer Institute for Languages of the Muslim World) program. In the academic year he will be taking Introductory Persian, in addition to Arabic and other courses relevant to the field. He plans to graduate in May 2017.





William Velez

Ambar Flores

Will Velez is an incoming MA student for the Fall 2016 semester. He obtained a BA from UIUC, doubling majoring in Political Science and Spanish and minoring in Arabic Studies. He was awarded a Foreign Languages and Area Studies fellowship by the center for Global Studies for the 2016-2017 school year. His research interests include modern Arab history, Middle Eastern languages, and intercultural and interreligious relations within the Middle East.





Graduated Students

Nilufer Duygu Eriten

Nilufer Duygu Eriten 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.




Ambar Flores

Ambar Flores

Ambar graduated from our MA program in summer 2016. She entered 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. In 2015 she was awarded a Boren Fellowship from the National Security Education Program (NSEP). She used the award to study Arabic at the Center for International Learning in Muscat, Oman.



Eduardo Alvarez-Gutierrez

Ambar FloresSummer 2016 FLAS Fellow, Summer Institute for Languages of the Muslim World (UIUC)

FLAS Fellow

Language: Arabic, 5th Year

Eduardo is a graduate student in the M.A. in Middle Eastern Studies program at CSAMES. He completed his bachelor’s degree in Political Science at the University of Illinois Chicago. At this institution the department of Political Science granted him Highest Distinction for his honors thesis “The legacy of a martyr: Sayyid Qutb and twentieth century political Islam”. His research interests are concerned with militant Islamist organizations, regional security in the Middle East, and Islamist thought. His graduate work at CSAMES is focused on the formation, rise, and expansion of the Islamic State in the Levant. After spending the 2015-2016 academic year studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan as a David L. Boren Fellow Eduardo will return to UIUC to complete his M.A. degree. For the academic year 2016-2017, he will continue his work on the Islamic State, Arabic, and begin his studies in Persian.

Darakhshan Khan

Darakhshan KhanDarakhshan 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

Sarah LazareSarah 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

Matthew Niemi

 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

Jeffrey Peyton

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.



David Rahimi

Ambar FloresDavid graduated from the CSAMES MA program in Spring 2016. As an undergraduate, David graduated summa cum laude and with highest distinction in history from the University of Illinois, He returned to join the MA program to further develop his language skills in Arabic and Persian, as well as pursue further study and research in Islamic studies and Middle Eastern history. David will attend UT-Austin to pursue a PhD in Middle Eastern social and political history with a focus on urbanization in Iran in the 1940s-1970s.





Umair Rasheed

Umair Rasheed

Umair Rasheed graduated from our program in December 2014. He 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.



Rashelle Roos

Rashelle Roos 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

Natasha Samreny 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.




Stephen Welty

Stephen Welty Stephen graduated from our MA program in summer 2017. He graduated from UIUC with a BA in History. His academic path has been shaped by courses in political science and geopolitics that sparked his interest in Middle Eastern studies. He has occasionally focused on the Iranian revolution when writing papers in history courses, but has begun to tackle Arabic language study as a way to broaden his understanding of the histories and current experiences of the Middle East. He aims to eventually become a policy analyst at a think tank in New York or DC.