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Stanford to open resource center to foster engagement on the Muslim world

Linda A. Cicero / Stanford News Service

In keeping with its mission to promote diversity and foster cross-cultural dialogue, Stanford announced plans today to establish The Markaz: Resource Center for Engagement with the Cultures and Peoples of the Muslim World.

The new resource center, which was approved by Provost John Etchemendy, will be located in the Nitery Building of the Old Union complex. It is slated to open next September at the start of the 2013-14 academic year.

The Markaz, whose name comes from the Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Turkish and Urdu word for "center," is unique in its cultural focus and goal of serving all students interested in Africa, the Middle East, and central, south and southeast Asia, as well as the American Muslim experience.

The resource center will serve as an entry point for students who want to get more information about opportunities to engage outside the classroom with the cultures, faiths and peoples of this vast region. The Markaz aims to facilitate dialogue and discussion around the critical social and political issues that have been at the forefront of the national conversation since 9/11.

"In our increasingly connected world, it is vital that all students leave Stanford better equipped to understand the diverse peoples at the heart of 21st-century global affairs," said student Mahta Baghoolizadeh, outgoing president of the Muslim Students Awareness Network at Stanford. "We hope the Markaz will increase students' access to a range of different cultural experiences and help enrich the Stanford community."

The Markaz will provide space to, and serve as a hub for, the many students and student groups that identify academically, culturally and otherwise with the Muslim world.

"The center can provide us with the space, connections and resources to further our aim of increasing public awareness to the Stanford community on Turkish culture," said graduate student Mericcan Usta, president of the Turkish Student Association.

With the opening of the Markaz, Stanford joins other universities that have undertaken similar initiatives to facilitate better understanding of the Muslim world. A coalition of students and student groups has been advocating for the creation of such a resource center for nearly a decade based on needs identified in surveys, focus groups and conversations with stakeholders.

"I want to acknowledge the students, faculty and staff who have given of their time and thoughtful collaboration to the process of creating this new center," said Sally Dickson, associate vice provost for student affairs.

"This new center will serve as a place where all students can engage in thoughtful conversation and learn about the issues and cultures of the Muslim world in our global society. Its establishment is consistent with the mission and goals for Student Affairs: educate, serve and learn. I look forward to working with everyone who will be involved with the Markaz," Dickson said.

Larry Diamond was one of nearly two dozen Stanford faculty members who supported the campaign to establish the center from its inception. He is director of the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution.

"I am delighted that after many years of planning, and smart and thoughtful advocacy, we have achieved the launch of this important new resource center," Diamond said. "I am sure it will quickly become a thriving and valued contributor to the campus experience."

"This is a welcome addition to the Muslim prayer room, religious programming and opportunities for interfaith relations that have long been a part of the Center for Inter-Religious Community, Learning and Experiences, the CIRCLE, on the third floor of the Old Union, under the auspices of the Office for Religious Life," said the Rev. Scotty McLennan, dean of religious life.

"The new resource center, as part of Student Affairs, will allow Muslims, religiously engaged or not, and people of all backgrounds interested in the Muslim world to focus on intellectual dialogue and cross-cultural understanding," McLennan said.

The Nitery also houses El Centro Chicano, a student community center whose mission is to support students and to provide programming that explores Chicano and Latino culture, history and traditions. The Nitery also includes a black-box theater and The Stanford Chaparral humor magazine. Across the Old Union Courtyard, the Clubhouse is the home of the Asian American Activities Center and the Native American Cultural Center. The main Old Union building houses the Associated Students of Stanford University (ASSU), 5-SURE, Stanford Student Enterprises and Student Activities and Leadership.

Robbie Zimbroff, outgoing ASSU president, said he was looking forward to seeing all the wonderful things that will come out of the resource center.

"Stanford – and the students who worked so hard to see this vision become a reality – continually surprise me with their ability to look beyond the status quo and envision what is possible," he said. "As a hub for intellectual inquiry and cultural engagement, the resource center will enrich the student experience tremendously."

Kathleen J. Sullivan/The Stanford Daily