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Rights of Muslim Women Subject of Alumna's Marshall Scholarship

Dec. 1, 2009 – The rights of Muslim women will be the subject of alumna Carolyn Barnett's graduate studies as she attends the University of London next year as a 2010 Marshall scholar.

The Chapel Hill, N.C., native and 2009 graduate of the School of Foreign Service is one of 17 Georgetown graduates who have won Marshall Scholarships over the years. The scholarship recognizes young Americans of high academic ability with funding for two years of graduate study at a university in the United Kingdom.

Improving Women's Rights

As a Marshall scholar, Barnett will study at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies. She plans to study for a master of art degree in Islamic studies and a master of science in Middle East politics.

“I hope to find metrics that will allow us to evaluate the effectiveness of movements that encourage ijtihad on women’s rights,” she said.

Ijtihad referrs to Islamic scholars’ interpretation or reinterpretation of Islamic law in cases where no clear directives exist.

An Urgent Call

“The urgency here is clear," she explained, "improving the position of women is increasingly viewed as the closest thing to a silver bullet in the struggle against global poverty, and one of the most important elements of stable, democratic governance.”

Georgetown President John J. DeGioia congratulated Barnett on the scholarship.

“Her academic success, as well as her personal and professional endeavors are exemplary,” said DeGioia. “I am sure she will continue to make her mark on the world through her leadership, drive and determination while in United Kingdom.”

From Fulbright to Marshall

Barnett received news of her scholarship while on a 12-month Fulbright scholarship in Cairo, where she studies advanced Modern Standard and Egyptian Colloquial Arabic at the American University’s Center for Arabic Study Abroad.

John Glavin, university fellowship secretary and director of the John Carroll Programs, works with students seeking competitive fellowships and awards. He called Barnett a “scholar who performs” and a “thinker who acts.”

Altering Lives

“She has now focused this formidable combination to working on causes that have unlimited potential to alter the lives not only of women in the Islamic world but also of [people] everywhere,” Glavin said.

At Georgetown, Barnett studied culture and politics and received a certificate in international development from the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

She also served as president of Our Moment, a student organization devoted to international development issues, as editor-in-chief of the Georgetown Journal of International Affairs and was a research assistant at the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs.

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