UM to Host 15th Annual Central and Southwest Asia Conference

April 13, 2017

MISSOULA – Faculty, students and researchers from around the world will gather to participate in the 15th annual Central and Southwest Asia Conference at the University of Montana on Wednesday through Friday, April 19-21.

The conference will feature several panels and presentations that address timely issues such as refugee resettlement in Montana, immigration in the Trump era, Russian foreign policy, and terrorism in the post-modern world.

Keynote presenters include John Limbert, retired professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy, former U.S. Ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Mauritania and former deputy assistant secretary of state responsible for Iranian affairs. Limbert, who also served in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, where he was held captive from 1979 to 1981 during the Iran hostage crisis, will present “Dealing with a Difficult Iran: United States and Iran During the Presidency of Donald Trump” from 7 to 9 p.m. Thursday, April 20.

Numerous scholars from UM departments, such as history, modern and classical languages, anthropology and the Defense Critical Language and Culture Program, also will participate.

All events will be held in the University Center Theater and are free and open to the public. The schedule follows: 

Wednesday, April 19

  • Noon-2:30 p.m. – Panel: “Young Scholars Present their Research on the Middle East and Central Asia,” Carson Blake, Chris Hanson, Chase Hougland, Ashley Jensen, Jared Miller, Curtis Schiwal and Kurt Secrest. Anthropology Professor Ardi Kia will serve as chair and discussant.
  • 2:30-4:30 p.m. – Panel: “Magnanimous Stories in 3 Parts
    Hope and Despair: The Life of a Refugee in Limbo,” Fayezeh Haji Hassan, Duquesne University and Roseman Law Firm in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
    Courage, Imagination, Unbeatable Determination: I am a Refugee and a Dreamer," Fatima Heravy, Thunderbird School of Global Management in Glendale, Arizona.
    Perspectives of a Muslim-American Immigration Attorney in Montana,” Shahid Haque-Hausrath, Border Crossing Law Firm in Helena.
    Michelle Risho, advocate for social change in Missoula and Bozeman, will serve as chair and discussant.
  • 7-9 p.m. – Keynote Panel: “Minority Groups, Religious Communities, and Immigration in the Trump Era,” Shahid Haque-Hausrath, Border Crossing Law Firm in Helena, and Anthony Johnstone, professor, Alexander Blewett III School of Law at UM. Robert Seidenschwarz, chairman of the Montana World Affairs Council, will serve as chair and discussant, and Clayton Christian, Montana commissioner of higher education, will provide opening remarks.

Thursday, April 20

  • Noon-2 p.m. – Panel: “My Montana Includes Muslims: Refugees & Immigrants in Big Sky Country,” Samir Bitar, professor, UM Department of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, and Jameel Chaudry, UM campus architect.   
  • 3-5 p.m. – Panel: “China, the Middle East and Central Asia,” chaired by Professor Cao Zhen in UM’s Department of Modern amd Classical Languages and Literatures, with UM history and political science Professor Eric Schluessel serving as discussant. Faculty members from Shanghai International Studies University will present the following:
    Three Trends of Islamic Forces in Middle East Politics,” Professor Lui ZhongMin.
    Military Cooperation Between Oman and India,” Professor Zhao Jun.
    Sino-Middle East & Central Asia Relations: Historical Foundation and Realistic Motivation,” Professor Ding Jun.
    The Crisis of the Turkish Model and Turkey-European Union Relations in the Context of Economic Stagnation,” Professor Zou Zhiqiang.
  • 7-9 p.m. – Keynote Presentation: “Dealing with a Difficult Iran: United States and Iran During the Presidency of Donald Trump,” presented by Limbert and chaired by Seidenschwarz, with Mehrdad Kia, UM history professor and director of the Central and Southwest Asian Studies Center, serving as discussant.

Friday, April 21

  • 1-2:30 p.m. – Keynote Address: “Russian Foreign Policy in the Age of Putin: The Case of Russia and Europe,” Robert Greene, professor and chair of the UM Department of History. UM history Professor Michael Mayer will serve as chair and discussant.
  • 2:30-4 p.m. – Panel: “Terrorism in the Post Modern World,” Michel Valentin, UM French professor, and Mark Metcalf, UM history undergraduate. Mehrdad Kia will serve as chair and discussant.

The conference is sponsored by the UM Central and Southwest Asian Studies Center, Montana World Affairs Council, Office of the Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Department of History, the Defense Critical Language & Culture Program at the Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center, and Shanghai International Studies University,

For more information on the Central and Southwest Asia Conference, call Mehrdad Kia at 406-243-2289 or email

Contact: Mehrdad Kia, director of UM’s Central and Southwest Asian Studies Center, 406-396-1143,