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Seattle Pacific University
Autumn 2007 | Volume 30, Number 2 | Features

Engaging Ideas

Three responses to Vali Nasr’s visit

Vali Nasr's presentations at the SPU Downtown Business Breakfast and in a forum on campus made a strong impression on members of the Seattle business community, students, and alumni. Here are some of their comments:


Monica Nunan '87
Monica Nunan '87

Monica Nunan
SPU Alumna of 1987

An executive assistant at Microsoft, Monica Nunan says she was “intrigued by Nasr’s comparison of the Shia-Sunni conflict in Iraq to the conflict in Northern Ireland. While it is partly a conflict about religion, at this point it is also largely, perhaps predominantly, a conflict over power and ownership of a geographic region.”

Nunan, who is now enrolled in a low-residency master’s degree program in global affairs at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University in Boston — where Nasr teaches — is also raising two sons in Redmond, Washington, with her husband, Mohsen Pana, who grew up in Iran. Her marriage has given her a deeper concern for perceptions of the Middle East in America, and vice versa.

Nunan admires the way Nasr understands “the mindset of the West” and finds him to be an example for others in the way that he “calmly but passionately encourages people to seek deeper understanding of Muslim culture and the issues. I commend President Eaton and SPU for inviting Dr. Nasr to speak at the annual Business Breakfast.”

Alissa Walter, SPU senior
Alissa Walter, student
Alissa Walter, SPU Senior

Alissa Walter says Vali Nasr “cut through politics, jargon, and hype” to present a nuanced analysis of events in the Middle East: “I think everyone in the audience walked out of his lectures with misconceptions clarified, stereotypes challenged, and with a greater understanding about current events in the region.”

Walter’s own experiences have given her a passion for bridging cultures. An intern for the nonprofit organization World Relief, she has helped Russian and Somali refugees, the majority of whom are Muslims, assimilate into American life. A history major with a Latin American studies minor, Walter has traveled extensively in the Middle East, studying Arabic, Islamic thought and practice, and the people and cultures of the Middle East

“Nasr’s perspective was a refreshing break from the partisan analysis of Middle Eastern affairs commonly found in the news and in bookstores,” she says. “His explanation of the cultural, economic, political, and demographic context of the Middle East was especially insightful. He reminded us that each country in the Middle East has its own individual character and challenges.”

Bill Clancy, retired CEO of Cornerstone Advisors Inc.
Bill Clancy, retired executive
Bill Clancy
Retired Client Manager/Shareholder of Cornerstone Advisors Inc.

“Since 9/11, I have been attempting to understand the Islamic culture and, in particular, the radical elements of that culture,” says Bill Clancy, a prominent Seattle businessman who cares deeply about cultural understanding and engagement. “Dr. Nasr’s presentation … helped me more clearly comprehend the multifaceted issues that originated centuries ago between the various people groups, and how those issues continue to be a challenge today.

“Nasr’s insights at the Breakfast, combined with his book The Shia Revival,” Clancy continues, “put in perspective these divisions which he states ‘are a struggle for the soul of Islam.’”

The event was a step forward for the entire Seattle-area community, says Clancy: “It demonstrated a willingness to expose ourselves to all forms of intellectual stimulation, thus satisfying a need that goes far beyond those associated with the University. … This type of program certainly fits SPU’s mission to ‘engage the culture and change the world.’”

— Photos by Luke Rutan

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Department Highlights

from the president
Going Global
President Philip Eaton asks the Seattle Pacific community to discuss what “global” means for SPU.

APA Accreditation
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