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Visiting professor provides insight into life in Pakistan

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Updated: May 24, 2014 6:11AM



HAMMOND — When Jan Trusty and Phyllis Lazlo, of the Calumet Area American Association of University Women, earlier this year attended a lecture sponsored by the League of Women Voters, they were very taken with the speaker, visiting professor Rukhsana Hasan — and most notably, her speech about women in her homeland of Pakistan.

“We were very impressed and wanted the public to hear about Pakistan,” Trusty said. “We often hear very many different things about this country, and she can give us a different perspective.”

Trusty and Lazlo immediately signed her up for a recent presentation at the Dyer-Schererville Public Library, “The Different Faces of Pakistani Women.”

The afternoon talk included addressing false impressions about her homeland and its women.

Regarding inequality and social issues, she said many incidents that happen in her country are blown out of proportion.

“Yes, there is corruption and many cultural practices that are heinous,” she said. “But the community as a whole does not justify any of these.”

She said that all countries face social issues, and these are not just against women.

“When you focus on just one aspect, you assume that all women are passive victims,” she said. “This just isn’t true. Most have their own agenda.”

Her slide show supported this remark, as the faces of those with “their own agendas” were shown — such as the late Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto; Dr. Fehmida Mirza, the most recent Speaker of the National Assembly of Pakistan; Hina Rabbani Khar, the first female foreign minister of Pakistan; and others less known, such as the first woman taxi driver and a woman who took up motorcycling.

Hasan will be returning to Pakistan next month, as she wraps up her yearlong Visiting Fulbright Scholarship stay at Purdue University Calumet and Ivy Tech Community College’s East Chicago campus.

The two schools shared her expertise, experience and guidance, with time divided between the two campuses.

Her visit was supported by a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Grant, written by Purdue Calumet professor Colette Morrow and Purdue Calumet alumnus Jared Riddle, chair of the English and communication department at Ivy Tech’s East Chicago campus. Morrow met Hasan when she visited Pakistan in 2010 on a Fulbright Senior Scholar Grant.

Hasan earned her doctorate in anthropology at Binghamton University in New York in 2003 and is editor of the Biannual Journal of Gender & Social Issues. Her teaching and research interests are gender and Islam, development studies, ethnic minorities in Pakistan, dowry practices and women’s economic rights, veiling practices among North American Muslims, and men’s roles in empowering emerging women leaders in education and public leadership in Pakistan.

She serves as chair of gender studies at Fatima Jinnah Women University in Rawalpindi, Pakistan.

While at Purdue, the visiting professor taught classes, conducted research and supported curriculum development, as well as presenting to student, academic and community organizations on campus and at regional universities.

“This (experience) will be extremely useful for me and my students back home, as here I had a chance of interacting with different scholars who have been active in producing scholarship (learning) in the field of women and gender studies,” she said. “Along with that, I was able to learn new skills both in pedagogy and research, and will be able to explore the possibility to conduct cross-cultural research.”

She said that her presence at PUC provided the opportunity to inform the students about Pakistan in general, and about Pakistani women in particular, to clear some misconceptions that students may have about Islam and Pakistan.

“My presence here was a step towards developing a harmony between the students of two countries,” she said.

The Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program assists U.S. higher educational institutions in expanding programs of academic exchange. Last year, 46 institutions took advantage of opportunities provided by the program to internationalize programs, develop curricula and faculty, and diversify student and faculty experiences.



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