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The Daily Tar Heel

Graduate students organize and present at Islamic studies conference

Islamic Art

Pakistani American artist Anila Quayyum Agha’s work “Intersections” 

Image courtesy of Hina Muneeruddin

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misspelled the word Uyghurs. Additionally, the article misrepresented the diversity of the conference. The story has been updated with the correct information. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error. 

UNC will host the 16th Annual Duke-UNC Graduate Middle East and Islamic Studies Conference on March 2. The event is a UNC and Duke graduate student-organized conference where selected graduate students come to present their research.

Graduate students from around the world are gathering to share their theses at UNC and will be receiving feedback from two UNC and one North Carolina State professors. The students were handpicked by the Islamicate Graduate Student Association that contains five UNC graduate students and one Duke graduate student.

The presenters will talk about a wide range of countries because of their many sponsors making the conference diverse and international.

Arianne Ekinci, a presenter and coordinator of the conference, will talk about the Uyghurs, a Chinese minority group, and the significance of their performance as Chinese citizens. 

“We have a really diverse lineup of participants, and some people talking about really different issues, some of which are relevant to contemporary issues in the south of the US,” Ekinci said. “So that will be interesting to see people’s reactions to that and to see how these different presentations speak to each other.”

Hinasahar Muneeruddin, president of the Islamicate Graduate Student Association, wants the participants and faculty respondents to have open discussions, as well as for the students to be natural when presenting their research.

“We’ve asked the participants to not to read their papers but instead have a really engaging presentation,” Muneeruddin said. “So it can be more like an intimate discussion and workshop session, so just getting to hear about other people’s fields and the topics that their interested in like talking about and researching.”

Sajjad Hussain, a presenter and UNC graduate student, recently came to the U.S. from Quetta, Pakistan. He will present his research for the first time at the conference. 

“I’ll be defending the same thesis in a month or two, so if I do well in this conference it means I’m in a better position for defending my thesis in front of the committee.”  Hussain said.

The faculty respondents this year are Cemil Aydin, Anna Bigelow and Banu Gökarıksel. Aydin has been to this event in the past as a respondent and was impressed by the graduate students' passion to present at the conference and also hold the conference.

“As a professor here, I’m very proud of the Ph.D. students. They show great leadership and skills to organize this (event),” Aydine said. “I’m also very impressed and proud that other institutions provided all the best scholars from all areas of work would like to come to present.”

North Carolina State University professor Bigelow said she appreciated the conference because of the skills the students get from organizing and participating in the event.

"It is a great opportunity for graduate students to learn not only the basic skills of presenting their research and how to engage their audiences ... but they also learn how to organize the conference," Bigelow said.

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