After applying for The Joseph J. Malone Fellowship with the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations (NCUSAR) in February, Dr. Joel Shrock, associate history professor, was notified that his application was chosen among nine others to leave March 10 to Oman.
A national competitive process occurs where applicants write an essay on the topic of U.S.-Middle Eastern relations. The NCUSAR chooses around ten people to attend the intensive cultural immersion program. AU has had two previous Malone Fellows: Dr. Carl Caldwell, vice-president for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, and Dr. Doug Nelson, professor emeritus of history and political science and former chair of the Center for Public Service.
The goal of the program is for the Fellows to intensively study and experience the Arab culture of Oman. The group had a series of briefings from the U.S. State Department, Department of Commerce, Middle Eastern scholars, former Omani ambassadors, the Omani deputy foreign minister, U.S. embassy staff in Oman, and even retired four-star General Anthony Zinni in the airport lounge in Qatar.
“The bulk of our trip was spent in buses and three SUVs driving all around the country, visiting fishing villages, bedouins in the desert, and commercial cities in order to better understand the country and its people,” added Shrock on his experience.
“Omanis are an amazingly friendly people--I never went more than a few minutes without someone saying hello--usually in English--and asking where I was from. All were excited that Americans were visiting their country,” said Shrock.
At the end of the trip, the entire group produced a 25 page briefing document that we can use when giving presentations about Oman.
Shrock also serves as the Director of the Center for Public Service at AU and earned his Ph.D. from Miami University in 1996 with a major field in U.S. cultural history and a minor field in World History. He has published The Gilded Age which came out with Greenwood Press in 2004 and various articles on topics that include silent film and the Vietnam Antiwar Movement.
Since coming to AU in 2005, Shrock inherited the class Caldwell taught over the years, The History of the Middle East, an upper division history class.
Shrock gives a glimpse of the country of Oman in this brief synopsis:
Oman is a country of 3.4 million people located at the southeastern edge of the Arabian peninsula. It controls of the Straits of Hormuz, through which all of the oil from the Persian Gulf is shipped. The Sultan, who has been in power since 1970, has significantly modernized the nation's infrastructure, and Oman has an enviable road system. It has some oil and natural gas but is not as rich as Saudi Arabia or the United Arab Emirates. It is a ruggedly beautiful country of mountains and beaches. It is overwhelmingly Muslim, but has small numbers of Hindus and Christians.
“The trip has been an invaluable experience to me and will significantly help me to explain Arab culture to my students,” said Shrock.
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Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,800 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.