Centering on Islamic Studies

March 31, 2006

Duke is set to create a new Islamic studies center that will offer a unique certificate program for undergraduates, as well as expand partnerships with universities in Muslim-majority countries. The center's principal focus will be undergraduate education, says Bruce Lawrence, the Nancy and Jeffrey Marcus Humanities Professor of religion. Lawrence, an Islamicist, will serve as the center's inaugural director. Ebrahim Moosa, associate professor of Islamic studies, will be the center's director of research.

"What does not exist right now is a depth and breadth of courses that accurately reflect the Muslim world," Lawrence says. That's a void that administrators hope the new center will help to fill. The Duke Islamic Studies Center will offer a four-year, interdisciplinary and integrated curriculum that will include a first-year course on Islamic studies, at least a semester of study abroad, foreign-language studies (in Arabic, Persian, Turkish, or Urdu), and a senior thesis course. Students who successfully complete the requirements will earn a certificate.

A $1.5-million gift from James P. and Audrey Gorter for an endowed professorship in Islamic studies will enable Duke to take the first step toward establishing the center. The Gorters are the parents of Mary Gorter Krey '81, Kevin D. Gorter '87, and two other children.

Moosa says the new center will maintain the approach of studying Muslim societies as networks, examining Islam as "a civilization akin to any other." DISC also will continue to support the "Islamic Civilizations and Muslim Networks" book series, which is co-edited by Lawrence and published by the University of North Carolina Press. In conjunction with the certificate program, the center will seek to enroll undergraduates and recruit visiting scholars from Muslim-majority nations. It will also offer fellowships in Islamic studies to graduate students.