Knowledgebase seeks to bridge Assyrian graduate students worldwide

December 2022 

A newly launched database seeks to connect Assyrian graduate students around the world.

The Graduate Student Knowledgebase, created by the Assyrian Studies Association (ASA), provides resource catalogs, in-person and virtual workshops and access to travel grants for academic conferences.

“Part of the reason why we created this knowledgebase is because there was a gap of no single resource or record of where all of the Assyrian graduates are,” ASA Executive Director Alexandra Lazar wrote to the Journal. “We need to get our Assyrian graduate students connected so we can facilitate more research in the field of Assyrian studies.”

Twenty-seven students have so far enrolled in the initiative from as far as Scotland, Sweden, Canada, Australia and the United States.

Besides networking events, students will be invited to social retreats, facilitated reading groups and feedback workshops where they can discuss research, thesis and dissertation projects. 

“It’s important for graduate students to be connected because when working on your doctoral work, at times it can be very isolating,” said Nadia Younan, a doctoral candidate at the University of Toronto who enrolled in the knowledgebase. “One of the best forms of support are other students who are going through the same experience.”

Younan, in the final year of her thesis, is writing about Assyrian pop music and the construction of identity and community building through music. 

Programs like the knowledgebase, she said, help not only to connect students working in similar topics, but also provide mentorship and expand the types of topics covered in Assyrian academia.

“There is a plethora of research to be done on Assyrian studies, particularly in the arts and humanities,” she said. “We have a growing body of history and political science, but we need sociological studies, we need anthropological studies, there hasn’t been, to my knowledge, thorough academic research on Assyrian dances. And what about Assyrian art? Assyrian studies is a largely untapped field and we need to broaden our scope of humanities research.”

ASA was created in 2019 to promote academic study of Assyrian heritage. Students enrolled in the knowledgebase have access to the organization’s growing academic resources, according to Lazar.

To measure the database’s success, ASA plans to conduct follow-up surveys of enrolled students every six months to one year. Lazar said the organization is hoping to enroll at least 50 students by the end of next year.

For now, ASA is growing the program by relying on word of mouth, email and social media blasts. It hopes to attract new students at its next event in January, “Women’s Rituals in the Ancient Assyrian Household.”

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