Journalism major goes behind the veil to learn about Muslim religion

April 29, 2013

Brittany Morris, a junior in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, has been awarded a research scholarship from the Center for Religion and Conflict to travel to Kuwait to study the participation of Muslim women in civil society.

The Arizona native grew up with the lush landscape of Pinetop at her door before moving to Mesa. As a child, Morris enjoyed immersing herself in writing and reading books. Her mother, a die-hard Sun Devil fan, would frequently share stories about attending Arizona State University. Download Full Image

It’s only fitting that when it came time to select a college, she only applied to ASU and sought a career in journalism so she could one day report on current events.

It was with help of her cousin, a member of the United States Air Force, that she was able to discover a fascination with the Middle East. While on deployment to Kuwait and Iraq, he would send her local newspapers written in Arabic and Farsi. Morris then became “obsessed” with learning about the land and the Muslim culture.

“I started reading literature and nonfiction about the Middle East. I also began following the news surrounding the war and they way the news was covered. I became very passionate about becoming a journalist to debunk the crazy news,” she said.

While walking around campus, Morris noticed that many female students wore a veil or burqa to cover their face and head. She then asked her Arabic professor, Souad T. Ali, for some background information on the custom. From there her interest in the Muslim culture grew into a point of focus for her student research.

Morris began attending events held by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, where she found a common belief in the need for peace and understanding among different religious groups and cultures.

“I love the center. They aren’t afraid to cover hotbed topics throughout the world including aspects of Islam,” she said.

The relationship she began building with the center led to a fellowship to focus her research on the effect of veil bans for Muslim women. Morris traveled to France to collect firsthand accounts. She says that many of the women she spoke with who could not wear a veil under the new law were met with criticism, had been raped or knew women that were killed. They felt that wearing a veil would offer them protection and allow them to showcase their knowledge instead of their looks. Others felt that wearing a veil was a family tradition and a way to own their Muslim identity.

With the help of the Friends of the Center scholarship, Morris will soon travel to Kuwait on a study abroad trip offered through the School of International Languages and Cultures to examine the role of education in Muslim women’s empowerment. Students will also study Arabic and Islamic culture/literature. The opportunity brings together her prior research of women’s experiences and the impact of education.

The biggest lesson she has learned through her research is that opening one door may solve a problem, but it also brings forth many new questions to ponder. On the other hand, the unexpected outcomes keep her research interesting.

Morris is expected to graduate in May of 2014, but is already looking forward to applying to the skills she has learned in the classroom.

“I’m excited to be able put my skills and passion into helping women in the Middle East. I really love school but I’m ready to go out and save the world,” she said.

To save the world, Morris plans to travel to places such as India, Afghanistan and Kuwait spreading a message of peace. In the future she would like to become a K-12 teacher

“When I volunteered with Teach for America I was able to work with youngsters and I really enjoyed it. I’m also considering joining AmeriCorps,” she said.

Jack Schwimmer

April 30, 2013
Jack Schwimmer has been playing the saxophone since fourth grade and it can safely be said that he is now a virtuoso.

Schwimmer, a student at Arizona State University and Barrett, The Honors College, will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Music with a major in saxophone performance and a minor in political science.

For his academic and musical accomplishments, he has been chosen as the honors college Outstanding Graduate for Creative Project. "“I can think of no one more deserving of this award than Jack, and I am convinced that wherever he goes and in whatever he does, Jack will make this university proud,”" said Hannah Creviston, a visiting assistant professor at the ASU School of Music, who nominated Schwimmer for the award. Download Full Image

Indeed, Schwimmer’'s list of accomplishments is long. He performs with the Musicfest Quartet, a group of ASU student musicians who travel to local elementary and middle schools to play for students, give demonstrations of various instruments, and encourage young children to join their school band. He also gives weekly jazz saxophone sectionals at Connolly Middle School in Tempe, teaches private saxophone lessons for students ranging in age from nine to 66 years old, plays with the ASU Concert Jazz Band and Saxophone Ensemble, and has performed the National anthem at Oakland Athletics spring training games. His professional music experience includes working as ensemble manager at the Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan.

“"I feel strongly that music education can be a positive force in children’s lives, both for its proven effectiveness in raising test scores and increasing intelligence, and also for its inherent intrinsic value. There is no greater feeling for me than the thrill that comes after a great performance, and I want to share that with younger students. In addition, I’ve had the opportunity to meet so many inspiring people that have had a profound effect on me as a musician and as a person,”" Schwimmer said.

He has performed with some of those inspiring people: Grammy Award winning jazz guitarist George Benson and members of the R&B super group The Temptations.

"“There is nothing like the experience of getting to play with someone like George Benson or The Temptations. Having grown up listening to their music, it was completely surreal performing songs like “'My Girl”' with the same band that recorded them. Moments like those are the reason I love to perform,”" he added.

All of this musical work hasn’t detracted from Schwimmer’s academic accomplishments and leadership activities. He is a National Merit Scholar with a 3.97 GPA, a three-time member of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Academic Bowl team, a music editor and featured musician for the Lux Undergraduate Creative Review, and a mentor for the Barrett Mentoring Program.

His honors thesis, titled "Forgotten Voices: The Lives, Deaths, and Works of Four Theresienstadt Composers," focused on the work of composers and musicians imprisoned in the Nazi-era Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic.

“Receiving this award is a real honor, especially being chosen from among so many amazing students here at Barrett. The fact that faculty thought highly enough of me to nominate me is really great too,” Schwimmer said.

Barrett Dean Mark Jacobs said Schwimmer combines musicianship and community service, making him deserving of the award. “Jack in an incredibly talented musician who lives to bring his joy of music to others, both as pure listening pleasure and as therapy and education,” Jacobs said.

Schwimmer plans to attend graduate school at Southern Methodist University in Dallas for a joint program leading to a Master of Arts and a master’'s in business administration focusing on arts management.

"“I'’d ideally like to start and lead a music education nonprofit, keep playing and teaching,”" he said.