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CMENAS had the chance to catch up with CMENAS alumna Courtney Lesoon who earned her MA from the Center in 2015.

Lesoon is currently a second-year PhD student in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at MIT where she is specializing in the history and theory of art and architecture.

“My dissertation is about urbanism in North African in the medieval period (c. 10th century),” said Lesoon, “I love the program and I’m feeling really optimistic about my timeline these days; I will be done with coursework in May and then I get to star my dissertation research this summer!”

The flexibility and versatility of the CMENAS MA were great assets for Lesoon as she transitioned into her doctoral program.

“CMENAS provided me with a really well-rounded education on the Middle East and North Africa,” said Lesoon, “Because of my experience at CMENAS, I often find myself in academic conversations with colleagues of other disciplines.”

The superb caliber of instruction by CMENAS affiliated faculty, noted Lesoon, has been one of the most valuable aspects of her CMENAS degree and time with the program. A great deal of gratitude goes to Professor Juan Cole who inspired her and her classmates throughout their time at CMENAS, as well as to Emeritus Professor Raji Rammuny and Behrad Aghaei who were both so supportive in their languages instruction of Arabic and Persian, which she uses on a regular basis in her research.

The opportunity to study with Professor Christiane Gruber in the Department of Art History was incredibly formative for Lesoon’s academic progression.

“Her classes and advising have shaped me into the graduate student I am today,” said Lesoon, “Professor Gruber’s wide array of interests and course offerings ensured that my background in Islamic art and architecture was well-developed even before arriving at MIT.”