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UA Little Rock Professor Travels to Oman to Study Middle Eastern Food Security and Environmental Sustainability

Dr. Rebecca Glazier on a city wall in the old city of Misfah.
Dr. Rebecca Glazier on a city wall in the old city of Misfah.

Dr. Rebecca Glazier, a professor in the School of Public Affairs at UA Little Rock, spent two weeks in January studying food security and environmental sustainability in Oman, a small county on the southeastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula.

Now she’s bringing what she learned back to the classroom to teach UA Little Rock students about Oman’s efforts to improve environmental sustainability and food security, problems that are among the world’s most urgent concerns.

“We met with government officials that are running innovative programs in water desalination, starting camel milk collectives with local farmers, and planting a million date palms across the country to increase local food production,” Glazier said. “We were also lucky enough to connect with local people and to share meals with families in the mountains and in the desert, to learn more about their lives, what they eat, and how they live.”

Glazier took the study abroad trip with faculty members and students from the University of Houston at Clear Lake. Dr. Marie Curtis, associate professor of anthropology and cross-cultural studies, was awarded a grant for a study abroad program that aligned with U.S. State Department areas of concern around food security and environmental sustainability.

“There are not as many study-abroad options in the Arab world, and the State Department encourages programming that offer students a diverse set of options,” Curtis said. “Food security and environmental sustainability are of global concern, and because I developed this program to cover those topics as they relate in the Arab world, our proposal stood out.”

The group traveled to Oman from Jan. 3-16, where they visited with professors, governmental officials, scientists as well as visited a number of cultural and historic sites.

The group visits Al Misfah village, on a hillside in Oman.
The group visits Al Misfah village on a hillside in Oman.

“Oman is a beautiful country with a rich history and culture,” Glazier said. “I had so many incredible experiences there. I got to sleep in a 200-year-old home in the mountains, which was only reachable by a stone footpath. I hiked to the top of a dune in the desert to catch the sunrise and got to ride a camel through the desert at sunset. Visiting the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque in the capital of Muscat was an amazing experience. It is really beautiful and is the spiritual heart of the city.”

Glazier also teaches in UA Little Rock’s Middle Eastern Studies program and leads the university’s Model Arab League course. Glazier said her experiences will help prepare students who participate in Model Arab League, a simulation of an international organization, the League of Arab States, which represents 22 countries.

“My students are researching a number of topics for their Model Arab League class this spring, including issues of food security in the Arab world and environmental challenges like water scarcity,” Glazier said. “Some of the solutions that Oman is implementing are innovative, and I am excited to talk with my students about them. Being able to share pictures and stories about Arabic culture and my travel experiences also brings things alive for students in a way that regular lecture doesn’t.”

In addition, Glazier is hoping to use this experience to plan a future study abroad course to Oman for UA Little Rock students.

“Dr. Curtis worked so hard to design an innovative course and to give students the opportunity to study abroad in a place where students may not typically choose to go,” Glazier said. “I hope to be able to design a similar course for our students at UA Little Rock. Oman is a safe country, with very few COVID cases and no terrorism. For our students who are interested in Middle Eastern Studies, it is a great country to visit.”