Expanding American studies in Pakistan

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The Area Study Centre for Africa, North and South America at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and Ball State University (BSU) in the U.S. collaborated on one such partnership

DNA

ISLAMABAD: Funded by the U.S. Mission in Pakistan and administered by the United States Educational Foundation in Pakistan, the University Partnerships Grants Program (UPGP) is envisaged to foster bilateral relationships through partnerships between Pakistani and U.S.universities. This program follows the success of the original University Partnerships Program in which U.S.universities in 20 partnerships with Pakistani universities received grants to establish three-year bilateral relationships. The aim was to enhance peer-to-peer relationships between U.S. and Pakistani universities in the Humanities and the Social Sciences. 

The Area Study Centre for Africa, North and South America at Quaid-i-Azam University (QAU) and Ball State University (BSU) in the U.S. collaborated on one such partnership from 2012-2015. A total of 18 students from the Area Study Centre alongside faculty travelled to the U.S. as part of this QAU-BSU 2012-2015 Partnership. The program was focused on strengthening the American Studies program at the Area Study Centre through faculty and student exchange, curriculum development, faculty development, and research training.

Currently, QAU and BSU are continuing this collaboration through extending the outcomes and best practices of the original partnership to other Pakistani universitiesas part ofa follow-up UPGP grant program titled “QAU-BSU Partnership Follow-Up Project: Expanding American Studies in Pakistan”. Given Covid-19 restrictions, the current project is being implemented virtually fromDecember 2021 to November 2022. It was inaugurated on January 20, 2022, in a virtual ceremony attended by the U.S. Embassy officials, Vice Chancellors of all partner universities, Provost and Dean, BSU,UPGP team members;program coordinators,and program participants. This was followed by an orientation session with the participants before the formal launch of the program activities.

The participants of the program are around 60 faculty members from three Pakistani public sector women universities (Women University Swabi; University of Swat, Women Campus; and Shaheed Benazir Bhutto Women University, Peshawar) from underprivileged areas. QAU and BSU are working to strengthen the BS and MS programs of these universities in Literature, International Relations, History, Religious Studies, Art, Visual Communication, Popular Culture and Mass Media, Library Science, and Research Methodology from a U.S. Studies perspective through curriculum enhancement, faculty development, research training, and the integration of an American Studies theoretical and methodological framework. Additionally, QAU and BSU are also working with the target universities to develop Introductory American Studies classes and explore their potential to offer American Studies degrees. Further, QAU and BSU are providing lectures, seminars, and workshops to enhance the research and publication knowledge and skills of the participating faculty members.

To date, 24 lectures, 24 seminars, 48 workshops, and 35 mentoring sessions have taken place. After the initial lectures and seminars, faculty from these universities started working on research articles co-authored with the BSU faculty that will be published, at the end of the program, in a special issue of thePakistan Journal of American Studies (PJAS) entitled, “American Studies in Pakistan: Research Initiatives and Curriculum Paradigms.” This issue will be co-edited by QAU and BSU faculty.

The program involves a total of 238 hours of active engagement with the participants and another 247 hours of curriculum and syllabi development. It is expected that at the end of the project the universities will have strengthened the target degree programs and will have explored their potential to offer an American Studies major; the participants will have developed updated curriculum and syllabi in the target areas; the faculty will be better equipped to teach in the target programs; and the collaborative research will have enhanced the knowledge and understanding of the participants regarding American Studies.

According to Dr. Ayesha Siddiqa (Assistant Professor, Area Study Centre, QAU; Project Director),“it is hoped that the continued collaboration between QAU and BSU and the inclusion of other Pakistani universities will strengthen American Studies in Pakistan and enhance the capacity of Pakistani faculty members and students to conduct, present, and publish research.” Additionally, BSU Professor Lawrence Gerstein (Co-Project Director), stated “we expect the project will allow UPGP alumni to contribute towards creating meaningful exchangesand it will promote mutual understanding, respect, and further cooperation between the peoples of the U.S. and Pakistan.”