Immersion in Arabic for Alison Finn ’12

With a fellowship from the U.S. Department of Education, Alison Finn ’12 is immersing herself this summer in an eight-week Arabic-language program at University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Finn '12Following 9/11, Finn, who was interested in religious history, became confused by media portrayals of the Muslim world. In high school, she set out to learn more about Islam, leading to a goal of becoming a professor of Middle Eastern studies. “I felt the media’s negative portrayal of Islam could not be accurate after Sept. 11. It showed me the power of misconceptions. I want to help correct those misconceptions.”

A double major in history and religious studies, Finn has done research on the educational system in medieval Damascus with Asma Sayeed, assistant professor of religious studies, and plans to write an honors thesis on the Groves Papers, letters written 1925-30 by Walter A. Groves ’19 and his wife, Estelle. Walter Groves served as a missionary, professor of philosophy and religion, and, later, registrar and dean of the American College in Tehran. Given to Lafayette’s Special Collections last year by Walter and Estelle’s son, Warren O. Groves ’48, the collection is a window on missionary life in the Middle East in the early 20th century, American perceptions of the Iranian political state and education system, and the Lafayette-in-Persia program at the American College.