University Of Denver
Center for Middle East Studies
Overview and mission
In 2012 GPD pledged two million dollars over ten years to launch and establish the Center for Middle East Studies (CMES) at University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. CMES generates scholarly research and fosters public understanding of the Middle East and the broader Islamic world’s societies, political systems, and international relations through dialogue and debate on the contemporary politics of the region. The first academic center of its kind in Colorado, CMES focuses specifically on the relationship between Islamic societies and democracy in the context of the modern Middle East and supports the concept that democratic governance can and will emerge in the region.
“Our vision for the future is to make the University of Denver a leading academic institution for the study of the Middle East. We hope use our Center for Middle East Studies to accomplish this goal so that it will rival more prominent academic institutions such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Columbia.”
Nader Hashemi, CMES Director
CMES provides a platform for engaging students and the broader community through academic scholarship, community engagement, and experiential learning. The focus is on timely analysis of critical current issues and thought leadership on broader topics such as liberalism, radicalism and sectarianization.
CMES convenes major thematic events in partnership with the best and brightest scholars, policymakers, and intellectuals from around the world. In 2015 CMES developed two major initiatives. The first was a ground-breaking specialization focused on the role of religion in international affairs. One of the first such programs in the United States, this specialization allows Master’s candidates in either the Josef Korbel School of International Studies or in the Department of Religious Studies to obtain a certificate in the Study of Religion and International Affairs. The second initiative is an experiential learning program that supports student travel to and internships in the Middle East. Another GPD grantee, Syria Direct based in Amman Jordan, now hosts interns from Korbel and shares communication strategies and initiatives as a result of this program.
Impact to date
Since 2012, CMES has held over 40 lectures and presentations and sent faculty experts to participate in panels around the world. CMES’s programs have been featured on the BBC, Al Jazeera, CNN and in the New York Times and faculty publications have been discussed in Foreign Affairs, The Nation and the New York Review of Books.
CMES’s reach and programmatic reputation have already extended well beyond the Denver region. Visiting presenters over the last three years have included issue area experts from other GPD grantee organizations like the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the Interfaith Youth Core, as well as the American University of Beirut, Columbia University, Stanford University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
CMES has become a cornerstone of Middle East education for the Denver community and beyond, enriching hundreds of students’ lives through experiential learning opportunities, thought leadership and innovative educational opportunities.
In 2015 GPD will continue to build on our successful engagement with the Denver community by supporting a new collaboration between CMES and WorldDenver to design a speaker series that will engage the broader public in dialogue with experts on current events in the Middle East. The partnership would build an important bridge between the Korbel School and the Denver community seeking to engage in international issues.
In addition to seeking new opportunities, CMES will continue to develop programs and resources focused on timely regional issues and on topics promoting the idea that Islam and democracy can co-exist in the Middle East.
“Having worked and lived in the Middle East for 10 years I was inspired to develop academic centers that focus on the potential for positive change in the Middle East. At the University of Denver, we established the Center for Middle East Studies which supports the view that democracy can emerge in the Middle East, and at Northwestern the focus is on the changing social, cultural and political developments in the region.”
John DeBlasio - Founder of GPD Charitable Trust