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The World Acting Globally

Professor's Travels Reveal Classroom Opportunities

Turkish Delight

By Hannah Notess ( | Photo Courtesy of Don Holsinger

Istanbul Market
Attracting visitors from around the world, Istanbul's colorful Spice Bazaar offers spices, nuts, honeycomb, olive-oil soaps, figs, and more.

Don Holsinger cherishes a particular memory of his trip to Turkey in September 2012. He and his wife, Ruth, were staying with a Turkish family in the city of Nigde, and speaking about religion with the Turkish Muslim woman host, who was a theology student. Meanwhile, her husband was in the kitchen preparing food.

This anecdote, says Holsinger, a Seattle Pacific University professor of history, is just one of many souvenirs he brought back with him. He loves to tell his students about this moment, “because it undoes so many stereotypes we have about the Islamic world.”

Holsinger focuses his teaching and research on the Middle East. But he'd never traveled to Turkey, so when an invitation arrived, he immediately said “yes.”

He and his wife, Ruth, were invited by Aziz Kurt, who earned a master's degree in information systems management from SPU in 2006 and now works at Microsoft. When Kurt read Holsinger's article, “Unveiling History: The Islamic Roots of Western Science,” in the Winter 2012 issue of Response, he invited him to be part of a delegation sent to Turkey by the Acacia Foundation, for which Kurt is a volunteer. A grant from SPU's College of Arts and Sciences helped fund the trip.

Don HolsingerDon Holsinger at the news anchor’s desk of Zaman News Agency, the publisher of Turkey’s largest daily newspaper.

The Acacia Foundation says the goal of these trips is “to develop mutual understanding of Turkish and American cultures and establish friendships.” Holsinger went with a few goals of his own in mind, though. He wanted to experience a culture that he has studied and taught for more than three decades, and he wanted to enrich student learning in his courses, “Rise of Islamic Civilization” and “History of the Modern Middle East” and in his general education UCOR class, “The West and the World.”

Through homestays, tours of cultural sites, interfaith dialogue, and many experiences of Turkish hospitality, Holsinger gleaned much to use in the classroom.

The stories, photographs, documents, and artifacts he brought back will provide classroom teaching materials for years to come. “I came back with a mind full of ideas about how SPU could connect with Turkey,” he says.