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In early 2005, the University of Michigan administration judged that the establishment of an Islamic Studies Initiative (ISI) would benefit students and faculty at the university and provided funds for this purpose. The university initially provided five years of funding, for a total of $800,000, with half coming from the budget of the Vice Provost for International Affairs and one-quarter each from the budgets of the LSA Dean and the Provost in 2006.

This initiative was created with the main goal of establishing the University of Michigan as a national leader in the field of Islamic studies, which benefits undergraduate and graduate students, as well as faculty.

The mission of the Global Islamic Studies Center (GISC) today is to serve students, faculty, and the extramural community by promoting the understanding of global Islamic culture and Muslim societies worldwide, through pioneering research, innovative instruction, and a commitment to building partnerships on campus and beyond.


  • The Islamic Studies Initiative (ISI) was established in 2005.
  • The Islamic Studies Initiative (ISI) became the Islamic Studies Program (ISP) in 2010-2011.
  • The Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies Seminar (IISS) was established in winter 2010. Run by graduate students and funded as a Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop, this series hosts four to six events each year, at which guest lecturers and graduate students speak on their scholarship in Islamic studies, across a range of disciplines, regions, and historical periods.
  • The Islamic Studies Minor was launched in the Fall of 2011, for the growing number of U-M students who have demonstrated an interest in Islamic religion and its cultural and historical expressions.
  • In 2012, the ISP director applied for a $3 million grant from the Mellon Foundation to support the creation of an Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC). The program launched in the Fall of 2014.
  • In 2012, ISP began focusing on lecture series, symposiums, and events in order to educate the campus community of the diversity in Islamic history and cultures. Some events include “Islamic Knowledge in Africa,” “Islam in Contemporary Spain: Identities and Representations,” and “Islamism in Southeast Asia.”
  • In 2013, ISP began funding undergraduate, graduate, and faculty research, conferences, and various other projects.
  • In Fall 2018, ISP became the Global Islamic Studies Center (GISC). GISC is comprised of several existing centers and initiatives: the Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies (CMENAS), Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC), the student-led Interdisciplinary Islamic Studies Seminar, Islamic Peace Initiative, and the new Michigan Islamic Studies Hub. GISC brings together a broad and interdisciplinary intellectual community across campus, and embraces comparative and trans-regional perspectives.
  • In Fall 2019, the MIRS Islamic studies specialization will admit its first cohort. The program offers a Master’s degree on Islam as a world religion and global Muslim peoples, societies, and history.