J-school Students Launch Interactive Storytelling Project in Response to #ChapelHillShooting

April 14, 2015

aftertheshootingUNC School of Journalism and Mass Communication undergraduate and graduate students in assistant professor Chad A. Stevens‘ multimedia narratives class – with the assistance of fellow visual communication professor Steven King – have launched aftertheshooting.com in response to the Feb. 10, 2015, #ChapelHillShooting.

“As students, members of the community and journalists questioning why this happened, they created an interactive tool that fostered discussion and connection — and a new approach to interactive storytelling,” Stevens said.

The students gathered journalists, health professionals, religious leaders and gun control experts to discuss their field of expertise as it related to the shooting — ultimately creating a multimedia archive that captures a community searching for healing and understanding.

Visit aftertheshooting.com to view the project and to learn more.

Ismail Awarded Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Indonesia

April 13, 2015

Safiyah Ismail

Safiyah Ismail

Safiyah Ismail, currently in her senior year in the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health, will travel to Indonesia later this year as a Fulbright Student.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program allows graduating seniors, master’s students, doctoral candidates and recent graduates to self-design a research project or serve as an English teaching assistant (ETA) in one of more than 140 countries. The goal of the program is to increase mutual understanding between the United States and other nations.

Ismail, a Bachelor of Science in Public Health student from Cary, N.C., seeks to learn important lessons in cultural diversity and inclusion during her time as an ETA in Indonesia.

“I chose to apply to the Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship Program because I am passionate about access to education and the exchange of knowledge,” said Ismail. “As an ETA, I will have the opportunity to share the identity and perspective of an American Muslim with my Indonesian peers, while simultaneously serving as a cultural ambassador. Outside the classroom, I hope to establish an Indonesian Sign Language Club by partnering with the local deaf community.”

Ismail co-founded the UNC American Sign Language Club during her sophomore year of college. She also serves as the executive director of Students for Students International, a nonprofit organization that funds educational scholarships for girls to pursue secondary school in Zanzibar.

“Because of my own background in American Sign Language, the shared origins of Indonesian and American Sign Language will allow me to engage with the local community on a deeper level,” Ismail said. “I am incredibly excited to use communication as a tool to build bridges of understanding. I am also looking forward to creating bonds with my students, immersing myself within a new culture and — most importantly — engaging in the uncomfortable conversations that challenge ideas and change perceptions.”

After completing her work with the Fulbright Program, Ismail plans to attend medical school and pursue a dual degree as a Doctor of Medicine and a Master of Public Health.

“My emphasis will be on global public health, because I am drawn to help minorities who struggle with navigating the health care system,” she shared. “I believe that health disparities in developing countries can be addressed through improved communication and increased accessibility to health-care resources. My time in Indonesia will serve me well in this mission, because gaining the trust of students in a classroom is just as important as gaining the trust of patients in a hospital.”


Each year, students receive Fulbright grant notifications on a rolling basis starting in mid-March. The most current and complete list of all UNC winners is available from the Center for Global Initiatives, which manages the program at UNC. An announcement of all UNC awards will be made in August 2015.

Intercultural Lunch Celebrates Diversity at Gillings School

April 13, 2015

Graduate students (l-r) Fadumo Abdi, Dilshad Jaff and Rebeccah Bartlett planned the intercultural lunch.

Graduate students (l-r) Fadumo Abdi, Dilshad Jaff and Rebeccah Bartlett planned the intercultural lunch.

On April 1, three graduate students from the UNC-Chapel Hill Gillings School of Global Public Health brought together other students, faculty and staff to honor the lives of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha and Razan Abu-Salha.

The informal lunch offered an opportunity to remember the three Muslim students, who were killed in Chapel Hill on February 10. Barakat was a second-year graduate student at the UNC School of Dentistry, and Yusor Abu-Salha had been accepted to start studies there in the fall.

The lunch also provided a chance for members of the UNC community from assorted cultural backgrounds to meet and share a meal together.

“We organized the intercultural lunch to honor the lives of Deah, Yusor and Razan, who were murdered earlier in the year,” said Fadumo Abdi, one of the event organizers. “It was also done in the spirit of recognizing the diversity in the UNC community and the culture that binds and unites us all. We wanted to share the importance of these UNC values with everyone who was able to attend.”


New Languages Help Students Cross Borders

April 9, 2015

Studying languages has taken Lily Herbert ’16 to places she never imagined she’d go. Herbert, who is from Raleigh, North Carolina, is majoring in global studies and geography. She’s studying Persian and Turkish on campus and has learned Tatar through a Foreign Language and Area Studies award.

“Studying languages at UNC has been extremely valuable,” says Herbert. “It’s opened entirely different paths to me–like traveling to places I never thought I would. So my advice to new students is to take the time, take a risk, and make an investment in a new language—or several!”

Film produced by Katie Bowler Young and directed, shot and edited by Phil Daquila. Assistance provided by Zawadi Barskile.


Passion in Practice Exhibit : Muslims in the Community

March 30, 2015

“There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the ground.” -Rumi

IMG_8195For the  past month, journalist Layla Quran and writer/photographer Aisha Anwar have been traveling across North Carolina collecting stories from Muslim community members. They have turned those stories into a multimedia exhibit that is currently on display in the Carolina Union art gallery at UNC Chapel Hill. The exhibit is in honor of Deah Barakat, Yusor Abu-Salha, and Razan Abu-Salha.

Passion in Practice: Muslims of the Community is a multimedia experience featuring Muslims as they pursue their passions or interests and embody Islam in their daily lives. A first installment, exhibited in the fall of 2013 featured Muslim students and scholars. The pictures from that first installment can be found here. This second installment of Passion in Practice showcases the work of North Carolina Muslim community members, and how Islam drives their daily lives. To watch the video made of all the people interviewed for this year’s exhibit, please click here.

The exhibit will be on display for the remainder of the academic semester.

Aisha Anwar is a writer and photographer based in North Carolina. She’s interested in depictions of ethnic children in juvenile literature and she is currently writing her first children’s book, called Finding Layla. Her photographs and writing have appeared in ISLAMiCommentary, Illume Magazine, The Daily Tar Heel, Carolina Quarterly, and the Los Angeles Review of Books. Follow her on Twitter: @Aisha_Anwar01 .


Layla Quran is a Journalist from Greenville, NC. Her past research and multimedia projects include interviewing Iraqi refugees about the physical and psychological barriers which emerged between the Iraqi people after the US invasion, and the impact and role of the Arts in Palestine. Layla has spent time in Istanbul, Turkey, collecting sound bites and footage for a future documentary film on how Kurdish individuals assert their identity within Turkey. She hopes to continue creating art and media in order to promote alternative ways of viewing the world. You can see more of her work at https://laylakquran.wordpress.com.

The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform

March 26, 2015

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill political science professor Andrew Reynolds has co-authored a book exploring the Arab Spring, a series of pro-democracy uprisings throughout the Arab world in 2011 and 2012. The Arab Spring: Pathways of Repression and Reform (Oxford University Press, 2015) offers explanations for why regime change took place in only four countries and why fundamental democratic change has been so elusive in the countries that have attempted reforms.

Reynolds co-authored the book with Jason Brownlee, professor of government and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and Tarek Masoud, associate professor of public policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Reynolds has dedicated his career to researching emerging democracies throughout the world. He was the first international democracy expert to land in Tripoli, Libya, in September 2011 and was integrally involved in the tentative steps towards elections in Cairo, Egypt, after President Mubarak fell in the spring of 2011.

Most recently he has traveled to Sana’a, Yemen, to advise on the development of a new constitution. His last trip to Yemen required bodyguards, as the kidnapping of foreign aid workers and diplomats has become common in the escalating civil war.

As Reynolds and his co-authors researched for their book, they found that the ability of established regimes to survive was heavily contingent on their control of oil wealth and the kinship ties of families with roles in government, military and private
leadership. Additionally, the military’s response after the fall of a regime determines the fate of fledgling democracies. Tunisia is one of the few governments the authors identify as a potential success.


Stories with a Heartbeat in Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey

March 17, 2015

DSC_0706UNC alumni Will McInerney ’11 and Mike Mallah ’09 are currently working with the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund and the Syrian American Medical Society on a creative storytelling project in Jordan, Palestine, and Turkey.

Their initiative, Stories with a Heartbeat, documents the experiences of medical professionals and their patients through creative, engaging, and dynamic storytelling.

McInerney and Mallah just wrapped up 10 days in Palestine where they documented a team of American surgeons working in collaboration with local Palestinian doctors, nurses, and medical staff in Jenin. They also visited Palestine’s only pediatric cancer center, the Huda Al Masri Pediatric Cancer Department in Beit Jala.

McInerney and Mallah have taken more than 1,000 photographs, recorded 10 hours of interviews, and witnessed countless stories of beauty, struggle, and resilience. All of their documentation efforts and creative products will be donated to the Palestine Children’s Relief Fund to help them continue their work on the ground.

A story connecting voices in Palestine to the tragic shooting deaths in Chapel Hill last month recently aired on WUNC, North Carolina’s NPR affiliate. Click here to listen now.

McInerney and Mallah are currently on the Turkish-Syrian border and working with the Syrian American Medical Society to document stories from the newly named Deah, Yusor, and Razan Dental Clinic.



Visit the Stories with a Heartbeat Facebook page to view some of the powerful and inspiring stories they have gathered so far.

To learn more and support this project by making a donation, click here.


Anderson Wins 2015 Eleanor Tufts Book Award

February 21, 2015

IslamicVillaInEarlyMedievalIberiaGlaire D. Anderson’s The Islamic Villa in Early Medieval Iberia: Architecture and Court Culture in Umayyad Córdoba has won the 2015 Eleanor Tufts Book Award. Anderson is an associate professor of art history at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Her book, which examines the aristocratic villas and court culture of Córdoba during the Umayyad dynasty, is unique in several respects. A deeply synthetic study, it draws on a wide range of material including – but not limited to – medieval Arabic texts, ivory carving, agricultural treatises, and archaeological findings to shed light on this important facet of Umayyad architectural patronage.

As well as reconstructing the Islamic villa as an architectural entity, Anderson’s book presents it fully within a rich social and political context; considerations of decor, ceremony, and agricultural productivity are key to the study. Of particular importance is Anderson’s nuanced analysis of the villa’s patronage, which fell to members of the “unfree elite.” A major theme of the book is its recognition that the munyas of Umayyad Córdoba belong to the long tradition of Mediterranean villas which began in the Roman era and continued in Christian European and New World locales.

This publication met and surpassed the stipulated award criteria of “originality of conception, thoroughness of research, rigor of argument, brilliance of insight, significance of findings, and clarity of expression.”

Although the book will engage and satisfy specialists in Islamic art and architecture, Anderson’s clear prose makes it accessible and valuable to anyone with an interest in a host of related fields.

A Call For Unity

February 12, 2015

Two women watch speakers during a vigil following the deaths of students Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Two women watch speakers during a vigil following the deaths of students Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Sometimes tragedy brings out the best in people. At a vigil Feb. 11 for three students slain the night before, community leaders, friends and family members expressed the hope this would be the case now.

They called for unity and love in the wake of the tragic shooting deaths of Deah Barakat, 23; Yusor Abu-Salha, 21; and Razan Abu-Salha, 19 – three young Muslims, a fact that attracted national and global media attention.

“Love is more divine than hatred,” said Imam Abdullah Antepli, Muslim chaplain at Duke University, to the estimated 2,000 people gathered at the Pit at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“I plead that you live in their legacy,” said Farris Barakat’s, Deah’s older brother. “Do not fight fire with fire. Do not reply to ignorance with ignorance.”


In Memory of Deah Shaddy Barakat, Yusor Mohammad Barakat, and Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha

February 11, 2015

10985591_10152877811348113_641759006349767681_nIt is with extreme sadness that we mourn the loss of three members of our community due to a tragic shooting in Chapel Hill Tuesday evening, February 10, 2015. The victims include Deah Shaddy Barakat, a second-year student in the UNC School of Dentistry, and his wife, Yusor Mohammad, who had planned to begin her dental studies here in the fall, and her sister, Razan Mohammad Abu-Salha, a student at N.C. State University. On behalf of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations, we express our deepest condolences. Our thoughts are with their families, friends, professors, and peers.



February 11, 2015: The campus community is invited to a vigil this evening to honor the three young people who died yesterday evening. At 6:30 p.m. in the Pit, Triangle university and community leaders are coming together to remember the departed. Sadly, Deah Barakat, a student in the School of Dentistry, and his wife, Yusor Abu-Salha, who had planned to begin her dental studies at Carolina next fall, were killed last night, along with Yusor’s sister, Razan Abu-Salha, an undergraduate at North Carolina State University.

The vigil is designed to celebrate and honor the lives of these three students and appeal to the communities for calm. Attendees will include Imam Abdullah Antepli, the Chief Representative of Muslim Affairs at Duke University, with Chancellor Carol L. Folt, N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson, N.C. Central Chancellor Debra Saunders-White, Duke University Vice President for Student Affairs Larry Moneta, UNC President Tom Ross, School of Dentistry Dean Jane Weintraub and Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt.

As a show of unity, students from N.C. State, N.C. Central and Duke universities have been invited and are expected to attend, along with the UNC-Chapel Hill community.

Before the vigil, at 6 p.m., a prayer service will be held in the Great Hall of the Carolina Union. Both Muslim and non-Muslim members of the community are invited (the event will be closed to the news media).

A separate event previously announced to be held at the Peace and Justice Plaza downtown (the old Chapel Hill Post Office) has been incorporated into the Pit event.

For parking information, please click here.

Update: There are various vigils scheduled to take place in Chapel Hill, Raleigh, and Greensboro for Deah, Yusor, and Razan:

  • Chapel Hill – Feb. 11
    6:30pm – The Pit, UNC-CH (details above)
  • Greensboro – Feb. 11
    5:30pm – EUC Lawn, UNC-Greensboro (details can be found here or you may contact Omar Ali at ohali@uncg.edu).
  • Raleigh – Feb. 12
    6:00pm – Brickyard in front of D.H. Hill Library, NCSU. For more information, please contact Anna Bigelow at abbigelo@ncsu.edu.