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SU adds collection of Islamic books on history, culture to library

2013_02_27_Islam_SU.jpg
Christopher A. Bean, director of Shenandoah University libraries, holds a copy of Terry Alford's book, Prince Among Slaves, inside The Alson H. Smith, Jr. Library Wednesday afternoon. The book is part of the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf which is designed to familiarize the American public with Islam and the cultural heritage of Islamic civilizations around the world. Rich Cooley/Daily


By Kim Walter

Through the recent addition of the Muslim Journeys Bookshelf, Shenandoah University has taken another step in expanding its "Going Global" mindset.

The Alson H. Smith Jr. Library is now home to the collection through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities in collaboration with the American Library Association. The collection is the first in a planned series of "Bridging Cultures Bookshelves."

Along with the 25 books on Islamic history and culture, the library also has access to the Oxford Islamic Studies Online database. Together, the resources work to educate not only the student population, but also the community.

Chris Bean, director of university libraries, said the collection also makes for a great "one-stop teaching tool."

"Several classes require research of Islamic art, history and religion, and professors were actually part of the process in getting the collection here," he said. "Now there are even more resources to integrate into curriculum ... it just seemed like an obvious choice."

The Muslim Journeys Bookshelf seemed a good addition to the library, considering that people have a variety of perceptions when it comes to the Middle East, Bean said.

"People hear a lot about the radical side of the culture, but that's certainly not all there is to know," he said. "They tend to forget about the important intellectual, religious and artistic accomplishments that have come from that part of the world."

Bean said the collection fits right in with the liberal arts education at Shenandoah, and students are encouraged in more ways than one to be aware of different cultures. The school hosts a number of international students, and supports a few global projects that take place in the classroom and abroad.

Bethany Galipeau-Konate, director of international programs, said she's most proud of the school's Global Citizen Project.

Students apply each year to the project by writing an essay on why they want to travel to another country and experience a different culture. The twist is that the students have no idea where their destination is until they've already been selected for the program.

However, it isn't just undergraduate students who get to go. Groups include graduate students, faculty and staff of the university. Oftentimes, at least one member of the group has a specific tie to the destination to act as a guide and facilitator of the educational experience.

The trip takes place over an intenstive five days during spring break.

Galipeau-Konate said there's really no reason for students not to apply to participate, since the university funds the trip.

"It doesn't get in the way of studies, and it's paid for, so why wouldn't students want to have such an amazing experience," she said. "We want our students to develop a curiosity of the world, and maybe learn that something new or different isn't necessarily something they can't understand or embrace."

After returning from the trip, participants give a series of presentations on their experiences.

In a few weeks, groups will head to Bulgaria, Ireland, Panama, Nepal and Rwanda.

"Some people who go absolutely fall in love with the cultures they are introduced to," said Galipeau-Konate. "It's all part of a quality education, understanding cross-cultural concepts, and in this world, globalization is a big force in terms of where we're moving."

Another program, the Going Global First Year Seminar series, requires all first-year students to take one class that will expand their understanding of the world. With 25 sections to choose from, the classes touch on a variety of topics that work well with a student's academic focus.

Courses range in topic from Popular Culture Around the World, to Worldviews in Art to Development and Disaster Relief. All classes focus on a global theme, and are small in size, which facilitates a highly challenging and interactive learning environment.

Amy Sarch, director of general education and the first-year seminars, said the goal of the Going Global initiative is to maintain, deepen and expand the feeling of belonging to the global community.

"Providing students with the tools for them to be globally aware and have multiple cultural perspectives within a college community allows us to extend the feeling of community in the classroom to the global world," she said. "We empower students to make a difference and not see global borders as borders, but rather as an extension of themselves."

The Muslim Journeys Collection will be unveiled to the community on March 20. Dr. Terry Alford, author of "Prince Among Slaves," one of the books in the collection, will be the guest of honor, and the event will include a 6:30 p.m. reception in the library and a 7 p.m. screening of the documentary film of the same title based on Alford's book. The screening will be held in Henkel Hall, Hester Auditorium.

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com


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