Middle East Studies Center scholarships announced
Author: Tam Rankin, Middle East Studies Center
Posted: May 15, 2012

The Middle East Studies Center announces recipients of three scholarships for Middle East language and area studies. Congratulations to the following students!

The Patricia & Gary Leiser Scholarship for Middle East Languages supports the study of Middle Eastern languages. Applicants must demonstrate a serious interest in the Middle East by taking courses related to the region, although not necessarily a Middle East studies degree program.

2012 recipients: Kismet Kilbourn (Turkish), Karen Lickteig (Arabic), Jena Mathews (Arabic), Stella Williams (Persian)

The Elizabeth Ducey Scholarship for Middle East Languages is open to students intending to pursue a Middle East studies degree program. Students must be enrolled in and making satisfactory progress in a Middle Eastern language.

2012 recipients: Karen Lickteig (Arabic), Seth Thomas (Arabic), Stella Williams (Persian)

The John Damis Scholarship for Middle East Studies supports undergraduate or graduate International Studies and Political Science majors with Middle East focus.

2012 recipients: David Duke, Touraj Houshmand-Shafii, Karen Lickteig, Jena Mathews, Seth Thomas

As a second year MA student in the Department of Political Science, David Duke's interest in the Middle East has led him to Tunisia and Jordan over the last two summers. Both a Foreign Language and Area Studies fellowship and a Critical Language Scholarship have supported his study of Arabic and research on civil society development in the North African Maghreb. When not travelling and studying, you might find David scuba diving the Oregon coast, riding his motorcycle, or lurking around Powell's bookstore.

Karen Lickteig is currently studying International Studies with a focus on the Middle East, with minors in Arabic language and Business Administration. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding Middle Eastern urban development, sustainability, citizen journalism and cross-cultural communication. She also currently serves as the Office Coordinator for PSU's Middle East Studies Center. Karen grew up in Wichita, Kansas, and before transferring to PSU last fall, she attended Lewis & Clark College and studied as a William Jefferson Clinton scholar at the American University in Dubai. Karen has traveled to the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, Jordan, and recently took a trip to Qatar on a PSU short-term faculty-led program. She has been awarded the Critical Language Scholarship by the U.S. State Department and will be studying Advanced Arabic in Amman, Jordan this summer.

Initially an EE major, Touraj Houshmand-Shafii found greater passion in pursuing an academic path that he feels is essential in today’s larger global context.  His fields of study at PSU include an International Studies – Middle East major, with minors in Persian, International Studies – Africa, and Black Studies.  Receiving FLAS fellowships for summer intensive language study continues to bring him closer to achieving fluency in Persian through participation at the Arabic, Persian, Turkish Language Immersion Institute at the University of Wisconsin – Madison.  Touraj completed the intermediate program in 2011 and will be returning for the advanced program this summer.  Other awards, including the Damis, Ducey, and Leiser Scholarships for Middle East Studies/Middle East Languages as well as the Persia House Scholarship for study of Persian, have been instrumental in furthering Touraj’s passion for languages, which includes his past study of French and Spanish, as well as upcoming study of Turkish beginning in fall 2012.  His future plans include studying abroad, additional language acquisition and graduate/doctoral programs in the areas of international relations/affairs, conflict and terrorism studies, and peace operations/studies.  He believes this track will offer the greatest possibility of working in a field that enables him to interact with and help people in a more direct and profound way.  His other interests on campus include involvement with the Arab Persian Student Organization, assisting others in their academic pursuits through employ with PSU’s Disability Resource Center, and induction into the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi this term.  Outside of academics, Touraj enjoys spending time with friends and loved ones, music, soccer, and chess.

Kismet Kilbourn is a freshman at Portland State University studying Finance.  She plans to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Finance.  She has been taking Turkish from Portland State since Fall of 2011 and will continue to take it for as long as it is available.  Her eventual goal is to go on to get her MBA and work with international businesses, specifically in Turkey, to create a world network of innovation.

Jena Mathews is a senior at Portland State University studying International Studies with a focus on the Middle East and a minor in the Arabic language. She chose to learn Arabic so that she can, in the future, work with women's rights groups who promote women into positions of power and decision making in Middle Eastern societies. There is an opportunity for positive and powerful change in the Middle East right now and it is very important that women are involved in this process. She plans to participate in an intensive language program this summer in the Middle East to really solidify her language skills and hopefully make contacts with women's rights organizations.  Jena sees graduate school in her future, but for the time being, she is very excited to take what she has learned at PSU into the real world.


Seth Thomas is a sophomore at Portland State University, where he is studying the Middle East and Arabic. His interest in the region was piqued when his parents took a call as pastors at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in the Old City and moved him and his two older brothers to East Jerusalem from 1998 to 2002. He is very much looking forward to returning to Jerusalem this summer to study Arabic intensively before studying at the Arabic Language Institute in Cairo for the fall semester.

Stella Williams is a junior at PSU majoring in International Studies with a focus on the Middle East. She is currently studying the Persian language. She is a transfer student from Washington State who began attending PSU this past fall. Her study of the Middle East began in Washington at Bellevue College, and she discovered International Studies at PSU. She enjoys cooking Iranian food, reading, attending cultural events, and speaking Persian with her friends.