Volunteer Testimonies

Nicole Kvist-Speech Pathology, College of Health Science Graduate Student

When I first heard about Dr. Othman, AMWRR, and this oral history project I was nervous and excited. It seemed like an important cause to stand behind. Yet, I was unsure that I would be able to get people to really open up to me about their lives and their faith community considering that I was most likely going to be of a different race and religion than everyone I would interview in this project. What I found though, was that most of these people, these women, were extremely eager to share their experiences with me. They wanted people to know what they were going through for the sake of helping the next generation learn and broaden the horizons of their faith community that they cared for so much. I don’t think there was a single woman that I interviewed and did not shed a tear at one point or another over her own situation, that of her child, her sibling, spouse, parent, or the person she was taking care of. These stories are now with me forever, and I hope that they are with the readers as well.

Through working on this project, I have learned more about Muslim culture and powerful Muslim women than in the rest of my life combined. I have been able to interview many families and Imams, and do research, write biographies, and hopefully help others. I want to thank one of my friends, Adiba, for being the first inspirational, strong, Muslim woman in my life many years ago. Now, she shares those titles with many other women I have met, but she will always hold a special place in my heart. Her influence has led me into many community outreach programs, but this project by far has touched my heart the most.

Calista Lopez- Anthropology and Peace Studies, College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate

I was introduced to this project through counselors of the Peace Studies department. Since I had conducted my own short-term research with the McNair Scholars program over the summer, I was interested in the rudiments of the research process in social sciences. During my experience, I helped develop a literature review, transcribed interviews, and presented posters along with other researchers. Working alongside other student research assistants, even over a word documents, allows so many people to contribute and create.

Reading about the history of disability in the Ottoman Empire and current Muslim communities helped me understand and gain new interest in the stigmas surrounding particular cultures’ views

of access and ability. This research intersects education, healthcare, insurance, and religious needs on the navigatable platform of the AMWRRI website. I am very grateful to have been included in this research and tune into my Milwaukee community. Knowledge is formed from experience so listening to Muslim and Arab people’s own experiences with a disability can lead to greater knowledge outside of the academic sphere.

Rose Hetz- International Affairs, College of Arts and Sciences Undergraduate

As a student research fellow with the Arab Muslim Women Research and Resource Institute (AMWRRI) for nearly a year at Marquette University, I have been exposed to the Muslim and Arab community in Milwaukee and have found a new and growing appreciation for their culture and heritage through interviews.

The experiences of the members of this community, both men and women, were extremely empowering to me as a researcher. To the various questions I asked each interviewee, I got many different answers which all gave me a new perspective on their tradition, culture, religion, etc.

Working for the AMWRRI has also given me many different academic opportunities. It has shown me how important academic research is carried out and how much time and effort is put into each project. In addition, I have gained experience in conducting interviews in a professional and academic setting. This project immensely contributed to my development as a researcher. I feel connected to a community of people who were unknown to me with their culture and lives. . I now feel empowered and encouraged to learn more about communities in Milwaukee and continue outreach to understand the unique needs of different communities thanks to my work with AMWRRI.

Stefan Reutter- Political Science, College of Arts & Science Undergraduate

I first joined the Arab and Muslim Women’s Research and Resource Institute (AMWRRI) during the beginning of my undergraduate studies at Marquette University. Through my work on AMWRRI’s Oral History project, I have gained invaluable experience and met many inspiring individuals. I came into the project looking for an academic on-campus job, and I gained far more than I had anticipated including the ability to engage with the Milwaukee community that was entirely new to me as a student.

Working at AMWRRI, I have had the opportunity to engage closely with healthcare providers, caretakers, and individuals with differences of abilities. Thanks to this experience, I have gained new perspectives that I never expected to find in my college studies. I have always been interested in both history and healthcare, and while I found AMWRRI’s Oral History project to be a perfect blend of these fields, my work with the institute has only deepened my enthusiasm and made me more passionate about studying public health.

Through interviews, literary research, and community outreach, AMWRRI has given me the opportunity to promote public health equity and hear the voices of many underrepresented

members of Milwaukee’s Arab and Muslim community. Although I am not a member of the community myself, I am extremely grateful that I have had the opportunity to work within it and am excited to continue aiding AMWRRI in its mission in the coming years

Ellen Garrity-Speech Pathology, Graduate Student from the College of Health Science

During my graduate school career, I have had the pleasure of being the Assistant Research Coordinator for AMWRRI’s disability research project. My responsibilities include managing the research assistants on the team, interviewing community members, contributing resources to AMWRRI’s website, and helping with the project’s community discussion circle. I deeply value the opportunity to be a confidant researcher and interviewer that help provide a voice for our interviewees. Through our interviews and community discussion circles, I was able to hear individuals with disabilities and their family stories and desire for change within their communities. I believe that this research project is sparking this much needed and desired change. I have seen the project’s positive impact through education, initiating an open dialogue, and connecting individuals and their families with resources in their area. Contributing these positive changes within the community is rewarding and pushes the team and I to continue our work in breaking down the stigma of disabilities. As I graduate and enter the healthcare field my experience participating in this research will make me a more culturally competent clinician.

Eugenia Afinoguénova-Professor of Spanish Language and Culture-Department of Languages, Literatures, and Cultures

In 2014/15 I volunteered on behalf of AMWRRI to liaise with Milwaukee Public Museum and assist in the preparations of the exhibit “Beyond the Veil: Dress, Identity, and Tradition through the Eyes of the Muslim and Arab Women,” funded by the Wisconsin Humanities Council. I joined the project having only some faint theoretical expertise in museum narratives. Two years later when the project was completed, not only had I received a chance to test all the theories, but also to cooperate with museum professionals, talk to project stakeholders, and practice the fundamentals of public history. I learned to understand Milwaukee Arab and Muslim women while also providing a platform for delivering their voices to wider audiences. Comments that the exhibit visitors left speak for themselves.

Volunteering for AMWRRI changed my outlook and gave a unique opportunity to connect abstract knowledge with the needs of people around me. A pivotal point in my career as a scholar, this experience added to the work that I was doing a dimension of serving leadership reflecting Marquette’s key values. The proof is that I am now participating in AMWRRI´s next project, bringing together digital scholarship and public health.

Rawan Atari-Marquette University Alumna ‘15-Counseling Psychology PhD Student at Ball State University

As a student at Marquette University, I volunteered with the Arab and Muslim Women Research and Resource Institute (AMWRRI) for the majority of my undergraduate studies. I spent a significant portion of my time interviewing Arab and Muslim immigrants from the Milwaukee community, and as part of the community myself, I felt incredibly empowered and comforted by AMWRRI’s commitment to share the voices of my friends, my family, and my community members. AMWRRI not only places great value on documenting and researching the experiences of Arab and Muslim women, but also prioritizes translating that information to the greater Milwaukee community in order to raise understanding and awareness about the Arab and Muslim community.

Through events and exhibits, AMWRRI engages with and connects different communities across the city. As a volunteer, I got the opportunity to speak about my experiences at these community events, and helped with the set-up of the “Beyond the Veil” exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum. It was inspiring to see AMWRRI translate their mission into an interactive form of art that could reach people from all over the greater Milwaukee area. I felt very honored to not only be part of this mission, but to see my community represented in such a thought-evoking and meaningful way. Encouraging Arab and Muslim women to represent themselves through their own voices, stories, and clothing, and ultimately feel empowered in shaping their own image speaks to the admirable influence of AMWRRI’s work.

Since working alongside other student and community members as a team, I think the dedication we all display through our volunteer work with AMWRRI speaks to the importance of the organization’s mission. As a volunteer, I am proud to be part of AMWRRI’s work, and even more so, as a member of the Arab and Muslim community in Milwaukee, I feel empowered and encouraged to continue engaging the community and believing in the influence of outreach. I intend to continue my volunteer work with AMWRRI in the near future because I believe AMWRRI’s contribution to the Milwaukee community is incredibly beneficial, refreshing, and needed in our society today.

Rawan Oudeh-Marquette University Alumna ’17-AMWRRI Research Assistant

As a student research fellow with the Arab Muslim Women Research and Resource Institute (AMWRRI) for nearly three years at Marquette University, I have received an impeccable experience. It taught me valuable research experience and helped shape my contributions to the Muslim women in the Milwaukee community. I have learned so much through the interviews that I have conducted with these Muslim women, some that I know personally, and some that I have never met before. Their experiences were very empowering to me as a researcher because I was able to perceive it from a different angle. Through the questions that I asked each interviewee, I received very in-depth answers, that truly embody the traditional, cultural, and religious aspects of their lives. I was also able to hear their opinions on multiple questions that allow these women to have a voice in their community.

Through the multiple events and presentations that I have been part of, I have gained professional and academic experience. AMWRRI had opened many doors for me as a researcher. It allowed me understand the importance of research in academia and in the social sphere of our very own communities. Through AMWRRI, I was given the opportunity to become a Ronald E. McNair Scholar at Marquette University and continue my research with the Arab and Muslim women in the Milwaukee area.

I feel that I, as a student researcher, took away much more from this experience than I had ever anticipated. I also feel that I am able to better represent my Muslim and Arab community, because I am much more knowledgeable of what these women have experienced in life. It provides a different outlook on my community, and I am ever so grateful to have shared this experience. I hope to continue working with AMWRRI as a research volunteer, and apply to graduate programs, and hopefully attain a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies. This has been a career choice that was driven by my wonderful experience as a research assistant with AMWRRI.