18 September 2018

Robyn Morse, third-year, dual-language (Arabic & Persian) Master's student at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, is a Brumley Next Generation Fellow at the Strauss Center. In this program, Robyn will work on a year-long research project with advisement from faculty mentor Ashley Moran, Program Director of our State Fragility Initiative. We checked in with Robyn so she can share her research plans and more:

Can you briefly give us an overview of the research project you’ll be undertaking this year?

For my research paper this year, I will be examining how the Omani government developed its foreign policy and maintains its position in the Persian Gulf as a mediator.

How do you think your faculty mentor Ashley Moran can specifically help you in your project?

Ashley is a scholar of high caliber that I can only hope to benefit from during my time with Brumley and later. Already Ashley has introduced me to different scholarship that I might not have ever come across because of her background in state fragility and quantitative and qualitative methods. Specifically, I think Ashley can push me to consider my research in new and exciting ways that integrate quantitative and qualitative methods traditionally outside the MES lexicon.

What are you most excited about regarding the Brumley program?

I can't wait for the first Brumley event so that I can learn from all the others who received the fellowship. I am honored to be able to contribute to such a excellent scholarly program at UT. Both the one-on-one mentorship and the colloquia will allow me to grow and develop as a scholar as I learn from those doing great things around me.

Could you expand on what it’s like being in a dual-language Master’s program?

Well, I can tell you I am never bored. Between studying for Persian class and informally trying to maintain an advanced level in Arabic, I sometimes have trouble remembering how to speak English. However, the ability to speak two languages has been instrumental in my research in the Gulf as I am able to look at a variety of sources. While some scholars can only understand one side of the Gulf, I am positioning myself as someone who can do both.

You're considering pursuing a PhD after completing your Master's; what specific issues or questions regarding the Middle East would you like to tackle in your career?

Later, hopefully in a history PhD program, I would like to investigate how the history of the Persian Gulf and the connections between the people within it has affected its development. I want to examine the history of the waterway from the ancient trade routes and movement of people to the modern treaties and foreign policies.

What led to your focus on the Persian Gulf?

My interest in the Persian Gulf originated in Bahrain during the Arab Spring. With access to real time television from the region and around the world, I was able to watch the events in Bahrain unfold. The curious thing was the variety of different stories that emerged about the movements and violence in Bahrain. The Arab Spring in other countries was not nearly as interesting as strong powers fighting over the right to say what was happening on the Bahraini streets. After years of informally following politics in the region, I began to research the region in undergrad, and my interests continue to carry me into graduate school.

All the Brumley students have a lot on your plates. What is one completely non-academic hobby/activity that you enjoy?

When I can, I love to get off campus and explore all the green spaces around Austin!

Thank you so much for sharing Robyn!

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