Students Heading to Arab Emirates for Islam-West Civility Conference

  • 23 May 2011

Eight graduate students and the directors of the University of Maine’s School of Policy and International Affairs (SPIA) will leave May 14 for a conference in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) designed to improve mutual understanding and communication between Islamic and Western cultures.

SPIA is co-hosting with the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) in Abu Dhabi, and the University of Maine, a two-day conference, May 16-17, “Islam and the West… A Civilized Dialogue.” The ECSSR is paying the expenses for the UMaine delegation to attend and participate in the conference, and to enjoy a cultural experience in the Middle East.

More than 50 students from the UAE also will participate in the conference, along with UAE university professors and policymakers. SPIA Director Mario Teisl also is part of the UMaine delegation.

“This is an immense opportunity for these students and all are ready to bring a piece of the University of Maine to the Middle East,” says Jim Settele, deputy director of SPIA and chair of the educational outreach program and the Bangor Foreign Policy Forum. “It’ll be eye-opening, certainly in the context of what’s going on in the Middle East right now.”

Among the issues to be discussed are the role of historical heritage in civilizational dialogue, dialogue and the current situation, citizenship and integration, bridging the gap between East and West, and moving toward coexistence. The conference also will address media perceptions and misperceptions about Western and Islamic perspectives.

SPIA is UMaine’s major source of international policy programming designed to enlighten the university and state about internationally related issues and policies. The school offers a Master of Arts in Global Policy, an international service degree, with concentrations in international environmental policy and international trade and commerce. It also will offer in the fall of 2011 a recently approved concentration in international security and foreign policy.

Settele says student interest in international and global affairs is rising rapidly, “more than we realized,” as Maine and the nation are increasingly affected by international affairs, cultures and economies.

Because of growing student interest, SPIA soon will offer a certificate program on-line and a four-plus-one graduate degree program with the Political Science Department.