University announces Islamic studies professorship

Erin Hausmann, Senior Writer

After several years of raising funding for the “WE DO” campaign, the University has revealed plans to hire a new professor to fill an Islamic studies position. Over the course of the next academic year, the religious studies department will conduct a search for a professor to fill this position. The professor will be installed in fall 2018.

“The field of the professorship will be defined as global Islam, an area of study focused on one of the world’s major religions and cultures that adds invaluable coverage to our academic offerings,” Provost Barbara Altmann said. “The new faculty member will have a home in religious studies, and will also contribute to other programs and teach a broad range of courses.”

The department of religious studies wrote a proposal for the new professorship, which resulted in an endowment made possible by Zareen Taj Mirza ’79, and her mother, Josephine Hildreth “Dodie” Detmer ’52.

In addition to funding the professorship in Islamic studies, their gift funds a large portion of of the money needed to renovate the former Delta Upsilon house next to Bertrand Library to create the University’s new Humanities Center building. The building will be named Hildreth-Mirza Hall in their honor.

“Ms. Detmer is the daughter of former Bucknell President Horace Augustus Hildreth (president from 1949 to 1953) and her father-in-law, Iskander Mirza, was the first president of Pakistan. That family relationship is among the reasons why she and her daughter Zareen have directed a substantial part of their gift to establish the new professorship in Islamic studies,” Altmann said.

The University is pleased to announce this new professorship, as it has been a goal of the “WE DO” campaign for several years. Students expressed their excitement over the new position.

“I think it is amazing that Bucknell is investing money in Islamic studies. Hopefully more courses will be created and introduce students to the culture,” Olivia Loome ’20 said.

Tooba Ali ’17 is a Muslim student who is “absolutely thrilled that our school hired an Islamic studies professor. This may be the first time that many individuals in this community are exposed to anything Islam related that does not come from the words of someone from the media (and are clearly biased),” Ali said.

Students are also curious about what the new position will entail and how the department will incorporate more Muslim-centered events.

“Hopefully having a department on campus will show individuals of the Bucknell community that every religion is on a spectrum based on interpretation and that there are individuals all across this spectrum,” Ali said. “This department will also have speakers come to this campus and educate future generations of different aspects of Islam (one of the oldest religions) and just start the conversations that we should have been having for the last several decades.”

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