Divinity School Names Ahmed As Professor

Scholar will be school's first Women's Studies professor

Thirteen years after her stint as a Bunting Fellow, Leila Ahmed is back in Cambridge. But this time, she's staying for good.

Ahmed recently accepted an appointment as the Divinity School's first tenured in the Women's Studies in Religion program. School officials said she will likely strengthen a program that is already at the top of its field.

"She's a first-rate scholar and a great teacher," said Constance H. Bucchanan, former director of the program.

Ahmed, a professor of women's studies at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, has served on the program's advisory board since 1992.

"I certainly hope [my appointment] will help move things along," she said. "I'm there because many people have cared about the program for a long time."

Ahmed will begin teaching in the spring after spending the fall semester on research projects. Her classes will likely focus on women in Islam, which is Ahmed's primary field and a topic of her most recent book, "A Border Passage: From Cairo to America--A Woman's Journey."

"I think it's the most exciting field to work in," she said. "I care about women, I care about society."

Bucchanan said Ahmed's classes will add an important new dimension to the Divinity School curriculum.

"It's critical for anyone studying religion to be studying the Islam tradition," she said. "It's a wonderful thing for the students to have. It will open up a whole new world."

In the past, the Women's Studies in Religion Program focused more on bringing visiting scholars to the Divinity School for research fellowships. The scholars would also usually offer a semester-long course in an area related to their research field.

Bucchanan said the Divinity School hopes that Ahmed's appointment will draw more visiting scholars to the school.

"It's a major resource for anyone interested in women in religion and the influences of gender on religion," Bucchanan said of the department, which has been in place at the Divinity School since 1980. "There's none other like it in the world."

"It's a very exciting place to be," Ahmed added.

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