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Sisters Who Share the Intellectual-Achievement Gene

Faiza and Hajara Masood both love the Arabic language and the Arabic Studies Program at Hunter. Daughters of Pakistani, Urdu-speaking immigrants, they grew up in Queens and chose Hunter for its Religion Program – the oldest, largest and most comprehensive in CUNY.

Faiza Masood, a Thomas Hunter Honors student, is majoring in religion with a double minor in Arabic and Asian American studies. Last summer, she studied in Jordan on the FLAS Fellowship that David Kanbergs was just awarded, and with CLS, she’s now bound for Morocco.

“We have amazing classes and professors in the Arabic Program, and a curriculum that’s fast-paced and totally immersive – with no English spoken above the beginner level,” she says. “When I went to Jordan, I really saw the results. I able to talk to the local people I met, while students from other Western colleges had no ability to actually speak the language. They couldn’t have that direct interaction.”

Masood plans to pursue a doctorate in Islamic studies and teach on the university level. One of her models is Professor Barbara Sproul, director of Hunter’s Religion Program, who, she says, “supports each student individually and makes sure you’re on the right track.”

Finding the Right Words

Like Faiza, Hajara Masood voices high praise for the Hunter faculty and programs that help her excel in subjects she’s passionate about. She transferred to Hunter from another CUNY college after freshman year, and says that thanks partly to Hunter’s much smaller classes, “I’ve gotten to know my professors a lot more here.” She particularly cites Professors Christopher Stone and Alexander Elinson of the Arabic Program, and Rebecca Farah Qidwai, who teaches Asian American studies, as mentors who fostered her interest in Arabic.

A religion major with a triple minor in Arabic language, math and Asian American studies, Masood has loved taking an interdisciplinary approach to her education and discovering how diverse fields relate to one another. She also values her growing appreciation for the subtleties of language, the need to use meticulous Arabic, and the varied meanings conveyed by a formal written language and its spoken dialects. Uniquely instructive, she says, have been Hunter events like Translating Justice, in which a visiting Egyptian interpreter talked of the potentially catastrophic consequences of inaccurate translation.

“At Hunter, we study formal written Arabic and an Egyptian conversational dialect,” she says. “If I become a professor of Arabic, I’ll know the care that must be taken in teaching both the written and spoken forms.”

She hopes that after earning her BA, she’ll be able to win a fellowship to study overseas before attending graduate school and eventually teaching Arabic on the secondary or university level. Her destination this CLS summer is Ibri, Oman.

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