Today we feature two of our PhD alums, Enaya Othman and Paul Beck. Although both teach in the Milwaukee area, they have followed very different paths through academia.
Enaya Othman (PhD, 2009) has found a niche bridging her culture and the larger Marquette and Milwaukee communities.
I graduated in 2009 with PhD degree in American and Middle East history from Marquette University. My love and passion of history and my belief in its implications for our present and future guided my career path after graduation. Being a Muslim and a first generation immigrant gave me a mission to document my group’s history in the homeland and diaspora. In 1997, when I began writing my master thesis on Arab communities in Milwaukee, I discovered that this group’s history– especially Arab and Muslim women’s history—is underrepresented and mainly unknown. My history degree equipped me to begin the task of documenting the history and contribution of Arab and Muslim communities in the Greater Milwaukee area in different arenas. Soon after graduation, I founded a non-profit organization, the Arab and Muslim Women Research and Resource Institute (AMWRRI) and began to document the community’s history through oral history. Currently I serve as the President of AMWRRI’s Board of Directors and direct the organization’s Oral History Project. The narratives gathered through the oral history project are disseminated in different ways to overcome stereotypes and misconceptions attached to this minority group. For example, one of the organization’s effective and successful projects was “Beyond the Veil: Dress, Identity and Tradition Through the Eyes of the Muslim and Arab Women of Greater Milwaukee,” an exhibit held at the Milwaukee Public Museum from May to September of 2014. The exhibit caps a four-year AMWRRI project dedicated to showing how the attitudes toward cultural clothing among the Muslim and Arab women of the Greater Milwaukee area go beyond stereotypes. The project also gave women from these communities an opportunity to speak about their experiences. (For more on the AMWRRI and the cultural clothing exhibit, go to http://amwrri.org/.)
I also work a tenure-track assistant professor of Arabic literature, culture, and history in the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Marquette. My teaching has informed my research on immigrant communities and culture, where I have been the principle instructor and curriculum developer for the Arabic language program. I am planning to continue my work of documenting Arab and Muslim women’s history in the United States and abroad and to take an active role in public events and exhibits in order to increase awareness and minimize misconception about this marginalized underrepresented group.
Paul Beck (PhD, 1996), reflects on the myriad changes that have occurred since he entered academia.
Many years have passed since I received my PhD from Marquette. I am now entering my twenty-seventh year as a professor at Wisconsin Lutheran College. I believe that the academic training in history that I received from Marquette has served me well. During my professional career the main thing I have noticed is the changes that have occurred in the liberal arts and in the study of history. More colleges seem to be moving away from the liberal arts and finding less value in programs like history. It seems that every year our department must justify its reason to exist. Our department was once four full-time professors and now we are down to 2.75.
I have noticed a shift in the type of history courses offered. We seem to be losing an overall view of history and instead focusing more on race, class and gender. Where once one could expect to find courses on the American Civil War or French Revolution now are offered courses like Jewish Women in 19th Century Syria or 20th Century class relations in New Mexico. We are tending to teach what we find interesting but not necessarily what students need to truly understand the past. I believe there is a place for numerous different types of course but we must also understand that American students know less and less about history and need a solid foundation of informational courses.
Enaya Othman is an assistant professor of Arabic in Marquette. Her most recent publication is “Building a community Among Early Arab Immigrants in Milwaukee, 1890s -1960s,” Wisconsin Magazine of History 96 (Summer 2013). She is currently revising her book manuscript, called Dogma of Womanhood and Feminism among American Missionaries and Palestinian Between 1880s and 1940s.
Paul Beck earned his PhD in 1996. In addition to teaching at Wisconsin Lutheran, he has published four books: Soldiers, Settlers and Sioux: Fort Ridgely and the Settlement of the Minnesota River Valley; The First Sioux War: The Grattan Fight and Blue Water Creek, 1854-1856; Inkpaduta: Dakota Leader, and Columns of Vengeance: Soldiers, Sioux, and The Punitive Expeditions, 1863-1864.