Victor Bailey
Hall Center for the Humanities

Professor receives Hall Center's first Scholars on Site award

Tue, 04/09/2013

LAWRENCE — The Hall Center for the Humanities has announced that Beverly Mack, University of Kansas professor of African and African-American studies, received its 2013 Scholars on Site award.

Scholars on Site seeds research projects that involve collaboration between KU faculty members and community partners. The intent is to support collaborative research projects that mutually benefit community organizations and the university, and generate best practices in collaboration between humanities scholars and public partners. This award is part of the Hall Center’s 2011 Challenge Grant and was funded by the Friends of the Hall Center.

The goal of Scholars on Site is to demonstrate the positive impacts that academic knowledge can have on communities and the impact that community knowledge and experience can have on academic research. The result of the project is an equal partnership of academic humanities and public knowledge that strengthens both scholarship and communities.

Mack studies Yan Taru practices, a model of community education for Muslim women based on West African Qadiriyya Islam traditions. Yan Taru emphasizes scholarship, social justice and education. The movement was founded in the 19th century by Sufi Muslim scholar Nana Asma'u, a poet whose work Mack has studied for more than 30 years.

The American Yan Taru was established in the 1990s in Pittsburgh and soon grew into several branches across the country. Dylia Camara, the organization's national leader, is responsible for the creation of the curriculum used by Yan Taru women today. The Scholars on Site award will support the collaborative work that Mack and Camara will undertake. Together, the women will create a scholarly account of American Yan Taru, study and assess the current curricula, survey the efficacy of teaching and resulting community work, and study how the curriculum affects women's lives.

This formal assessment of Yan Taru practices will culminate in the establishment of a network among groups in the United States. Mack and Camara hope to have a national conference to talk about their work and the changing face of Yan Taru after meeting and working with individual groups.

The benefits of collaboration for both parties are significant. Mack will work intimately with the American branch of Yan Taru, learning from the groups what is working best and what the past can tell them about moving into a productive future. Working intimately with community partners allows Mack to better understand the needs and social welfare work of active American Yan Taru groups. In turn, Camara will consult Mack on her extensive knowledge and research on Nana Asma'u's life and works, as well as African Yan Taru practices. This research project will benefit the humanities by increasing understanding of Islam in America.  

Mack and Camara intend to produce an interactive website to facilitate communication among Yan Taru groups, as well as a site for posting both 19th century and contemporary digitized educational materials. After establishing these resources, the researchers plan to continue self-funded annual conferences to discuss Muslim women’s education and social welfare activities in America.

At its completion, the project will have established a method of “training women to train other women,” Mack said. “That is exactly what Asma’u intended when she established the Yan Taru model of women’s education.”

For information regarding the Scholars on Site Award, please contact Associate Director Sally Utech by email.

Matt Menzenski, a graduate student in Slavic languages & literatures, took this photo during President Obama’s speech at KU Thursday. Menzenski says he was struck by how relaxed the president was in his delivery. He missed a chance to hear former President Bill Clinton speak in his hometown in 2004, but finally got to see a sitting president this week at KU. “The opportunity to hear the president speak is just one of many great opportunities I've had at KU. So many interesting talks and events happen here all the time. I try to attend at least one a week-- it's never hard to find something interesting to go to.” Tags: University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts and Sciences KU School of Languages, Literatures & Cultures KU Dept of Slavic Languages - Friends & Alumni Barack Obama The White House #exploreKU #POTUSatKU

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Explore KU: The Bells of Mount Oread KU’s Campanile, a 120-foot-tall timepiece that tolls automatically on the hour and quarter-hour, not only sounded in the 2015 New Year at midnight with 12 mighty gongs, but also regularly rings up memories for many Jayhawks – the 277 faculty and students who gave their lives during World War II, the graduates who walk through its doors at commencement, and aspiring students who have strolled through the Lawrence campus. (See For nearly 60 years, KU’s 53-bell carillon has been tolling the sounds of peace and serenity across Mount Oread since it was installed in June 1955 inside the landmark World War II Memorial Campanile, which was dedicated in 1951. (See The carillon is also a four-octave musical instrument, which is played with a giant keyboard and foot pedals. University Carillonneur Elizabeth Egber-Berghout (, associate professor of carillon and organ, climbs 77 steps up a spiral staircase in the bell tower to perform recitals several times a month.

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