November 17, 2015
Duke University is a mesmerizing, intimidating place for a small town Midwestern girl, so I had few goals beyond passing classes for my future at the university when I arrived on campus in 2006. I knew two things: my varying interests made it difficult for me to focus on my desired area of study and I wanted to learn as much as possible about as many subjects possible. It was shortly after taking a course called “Religions of Asia” that I discovered International Comparative Studies. I became fascinated with the close relationship societal and religious culture had in Asia, and my advisor informed me that the ICS major would allow me a strong platform for exploring that relationship more in depth. I discovered the interdisciplinary nature of ICS appealed to my desire to expand my knowledge base, less by subject and more by theme. The academic breadth of the major prepared me for a variety of positions and a career path that has been both unconventional and rewarding.
International Comparative Studies served as a strong foundation for my growing career. I have utilized my knowledge of the Middle East and Islam to build relationships between different religious and cultural communities. I helped Iranian refugees resettle in Indianapolis by introducing them to local resources. I helped the Wesley Foundation at Purdue develop new lines of communication between various faith communities on Purdue’s campus. I served as an AmeriCorps fellow for the Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights helping a Muslim school and mosque in the northern suburbs of Chicago create community opportunities in their facilities to better connect them with the non-Muslim residents of the neighborhood.
All these experiences led me to my current position at Benedictine University. This small catholic university has strong religious and ethnic diversity with 15 percent of the student body self-identifying as Hindu and 30 percent as practicing Muslims. As the Global and Intercultural Program Coordinator, I work with faculty and staff to develop both academic and extracurricular events to educate the university’s community about religious and ethnic diversity. The events not only create educational opportunities, but they also provide venues for important interaction and discussions among ethnic and religious communities. My ability to organize these types of programs comes in great part from the cultural understanding gained through the International Comparative Studies program at Duke. The ICS program empowered me to spread cultural knowledge here in the western suburbs of Chicago, and maybe someday beyond.