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Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society Members Excel at Pittsburgh Conference

Members of the American University of Kuwait's Alpha Rho Eta chapter of Sigma Tau Delta International English Honor Society Fatima Ibraheem, Dana A Al-Failakawi, Noura Al-Ajmi, and Iman Askar, attended the organization 2011 convention in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA to present their academic work that included a panel entitled "Embracing Arabic Poetry and Poetics" and an individual paper by Fatima Ibraheem entitled, "Retha'a, or Lament for the Most Worthy."

The panel introduced two of the most prominent Arab poets Al-Mutanabee and Al-Khansa'a to the American scholars. The group from AUK discussed the legacy of Arabic poetry which makes it distinct from other poetry. Focusing on their panegyric poems and elegies, the panelists recited some poems in Arabic, read Dr. Raymond Farrin's translations of it into English, and then gave explication of the poetry that provided lessons in structure, theme, and musicality of the verses. Members of the audience were particularly interested in the power of impromptu poems that past Arabs practiced in competitions.

In her individual paper, Fatima Ibraheem applied medieval literary and rhetorical techniques to the "Battle of Karbala," a significant incident in Islamic history to produce a creative piece that introduced the event to a largely uninformed American audience. She emphasized the revolutionary hero, Imam Hussein, whose bravery in the face of fighting injustice still serves as a role-model for contemporary uprisings such as the recent Egyptian Revolution. Her argument was the universality of his vision transcends timeframe and geographic space to reject injustice and oppression.

Dawn Megli-Thuna, one American student who attended both presentations commented, "I have to tell you that I enjoyed both of your presentations immensely and was very moved. I feel like your brand of academic ambassadorship is so important because there is so little awareness of Arabic culture in the West. The beauty of Arabic poetry is sure to be a vital component in bringing others to love that part of the globe. As for your [Fatima's] individual paper; it's such an epic story and dovetails beautifully with the medieval style…You seem like such strong and intelligent women and I wonder at the confluence of events that produced that."

When asked about her conference experience, Chapter President, Fatima Ibraheem said, "I went to Pittsburgh with a specific and significant message in mind to share with the American peers we meet over there. This message was my greatest motivation that drove me to leave school for almost a week and board a 14-hour flight - the longest flight so far. I have to say that the degree of interest some of the American students exhibited in wanting to learn more was very impressive."

As part of the question/answer session, during her individual paper, Fatima was asked about the purpose of her individual paper. She answered, "I was aiming to produce an intellectual, yet creative original piece by intertwining Islamic history with medieval literature, attempting to imitate what most scholars do when producing original pieces. I hope I was able to satisfy, at least, a fraction of that. Part of my aim was also to expose to you the beautiful face of Islam that is unfortunately masked with thick layers."

AUK's chapter earned the most prestigious chapter award offered by the International Honor Society. It was of one of three chapters, out of nearly 800 chapters in the organization to earn the Outstanding Chapter Award. In the report provided by the judges, the chapter was cited for its "amazing variety of exciting projects and special events" and that it displayed "an extraordinary enthusiasm for, and excitement about, the discipline of English."

This Outstanding Chapter Award is particularly important for the chapter because this is the first time in the Society's 87 year history that an international chapter has received this distinction. It also is a testimony to the creativity of the AUK student members who have excelled in English language and literature studies said Dr. William C. Johnson, Executive Director of Sigma Tau Delta. He added that "the Society is very proud of what Dr. Nixon and the AUK students have done to turn the Alpha Rho Eta chapter into one that is a model for English honor students everywhere."

Citing all members of the organization who helped the group earn their distinction, faculty advisor Dr. Kathy Nixon said, "I am so proud of the students Nur Soliman, Nuha Al-Fadli, Fatima Ibraheem, Dana Al-Failakawi, Alia Aref, Kawther Sadeq, Noura Al-Ajmi, Amal Behbehani, Hawraa Ashour, Abdulaziz Al-Hagan, Amnah Ibraheem and Iman Askar for their attention to academics and the dedication to the study of English that it took for them to earn this award. It is an honor for me to work with such wonderful students."

At the convention, the AUK students also earned the Outstanding Chapter Display award for creating a display table that depicted the life of the chapter at AUK. The students were also invited to a private reception with author Lorene Carey to present her a DVD copy of selection from the impromptu translations of her book Black Ice into Arabic. AUK students, staff, and faculty made the recording during the 2011 Common Reader Event at AUK. All members of the honor society are asked to read the book designated as the common reader before convention.

Chapter members with Common Reader author and featured speaker, Lorene Cary

Noura Al-Ajmi preparing the display table that won the AUK chapter the Outstanding Chapter Display award

Chapter President, Fatima Ibraheem casting her ballot for student representative during the election and budget meeting. All chapters receive funds for their participation in the elections

Fatima Ibraheem presenting her individual paper

Students interacting with the panelists after their papers

Panelists Noura Al-Ajmi, Iman Askar, Fatima Ibraheem and Dana Al-Failakawi

AUK panelists interacting with members of the audience

Released by the PR & Marketing Department on the 11th April 2011

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