Micah Hughes — Associate Director

It is with great pleasure that we extend a heartfelt welcome to our new Associate Director, Dr. Micah Hughes, to the Center for Middle East and Islamic Studies. We are thrilled that Dr. Hughes has joined us and look forward to the many contributions, insights, and collaborations that he will undoubtedly bring to our dynamic team. 

Megan McIntyre, another addition to CMEIS this year, sat down with our new Associate Director with the hopes of introducing him to our wonderful CMEIS community. 

Tell me about yourself

I have been a part of the UNC community since 2014, and I am glad to be back as the Associate Director for the Center of Middle East and Islamic Studies (MEIS). As a Ph.D. student inIslamic Studies, I studied the relationship between Islam, social science, and the university in the Republic of Turkey. My interest in Turkey was built on my experiences as a master’s student at Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakif University in Istanbul, Turkey. Not only was I able to study Turkish over an extended period, but I also had the unique opportunity to study in a different educational system, seeing firsthand how other countries and their institutions taught about the regional histories, politics, and religion. 

After obtaining my doctorate from UNC-CH, I went to Indiana University in Indianapolis as a postdoc. In Indianapolis, I explored how religion influences how people give. Specifically, I was interested in zakat and volunteering practices of US Muslims. I was fortunate to become Associate Editor at the Journal of Muslim Philanthropy and Civil Society. In that role, I was able to organize conferences and workshops on Muslim philanthropy in Turkey and Nigeria with local institutional partners. This experience solidified my interest in pursuing a global approach to higher ed and developing global relationships. 

Throughout the years, the key to my success has been the community that has surrounded me. This has included supportive faculty at UNC-CH and Duke who also assisted me in navigating graduate school and life beyond as well as colleagues and friends with whom I have built a camaraderie through collaborative work. I look forward to building a supportive community here at CMEIS. 

What got you interested in the Middle East? 

My interest in the Middle East developed through a series of moments and diverse experiences. At an intellectually decisive point in my life, I was surrounded by a post-9/11 environment. With cultural stigmatization and the Middle East being demonized, I recognized the importance of having a deeper understanding of the area and the need for additional resources in my community. As a result, I wanted to acquire language skills and tools to better understand.   

Before even starting college, I had the opportunity to go abroad, and as an undergraduate at Georgia State University, I nourished an interest in languages, such as Arabic and Turkish, and the Middle East region. This foundation supported me in my pursuit of a master’s degree in Turkey and a lifelong dedication to a career focused on the Middle East and Islamic Studies. 

Passionate Efforts

I am truly passionate about community engagement and advocacy as well as public scholarship. It is important that knowledge and understanding is not just an academic pursuit but also linked to communities and individual lives. In understanding the Middle East and Islamic Studies, it is important to consider a global approach in the broadest sense, with recognition of different communities and the multiplicities of identities in the Middle East, including but not limited to language, politics, and cultural practices. Outside of the MEIS context, I am also invested in advocacy for incarcerated peoples and prison abolition in the US. 


I am an avid hiker and birdwatcher, currently intrigued by the Cedar Waxwing, so I know Chapel Hill will be a great home for me. I am looking forward to revisiting the sites I was able to explore as a Ph.D. student and am eager to explore new places in NC. While I currently follow Atlanta United FC and Inter Miami CF – with the addition of Lionel Messi, of course – I know UNC has a great women’s soccer team, so you might spot me at a home game. In my free time, I also like to recharge with a good book and a cup of coffee. 

Vision for the Center 

I think of our work here at the Center in levels: local, national, international, and global. While it is important to continue engaging in our existing work and strong relations, it is possible to continue to grow the Center’s capacity. The Center will support research linking academia and local communities while developing national and international relationships. Additionally, the Center has the capacity to further expand global partnerships and professional development opportunities. Only through a holistic outlook will we be able to acknowledge and appreciate the rich nuances of the Middle East and Islamic Studies from diverse perspectives.

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