The Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum (DISC) was originally conceived of and proposed in 2013 as the Islamic Studies Virtual Curriculum (ISVC) by University of Michigan Professor Pauline Jones as a collaborative initiative between the University of Michigan (U-M) and fellow members of the Big Ten Academic Alliance. Broadly speaking, the aims of the curriculum are to establish a virtual curriculum among the member universities of the Big Ten Academic Alliance to develop and implement a collaborative program of high quality instruction in Global Islamic Studies. DISC is made possible by $3 million in support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
For a full academic year, faculty liaisons representing the thirteen Big Ten Academic Alliance member universities participating in the initiative worked together to plan and design the shared Islamic studies curriculum. The first planning meeting held in June of 2014 focused on three broad goals: (1) designing the curriculum by identifying key components of an ideal curriculum for an undergraduate minor in Islamic Studies; (2) comprising a list of the types of courses that constitute this curriculum – classes currently in existence or ones which need to be created; (3) anticipating logistical issues involved by raising questions, troubleshooting and building on existing expertise and lessons from Big Ten Academic Alliance CourseShare. This was followed by the formal launch of the program in 2015 with the course “Islam in Africa” taught by U-M Professor Butch Ware. This was accompanied by the Inaugural DISC Distinguished Lecture delivered by the eminent Islamic Studies scholar Seyyed Hossein Nasr of George Washington University.
That year, we also began to cultivate a distinct and noteworthy identity for the program These efforts resulted in the formal name change from the Islamic Studies Virtual Curriculum to the Digital Islamic Studies Curriculum, DISC.Since then, we have worked to develop a robust publicity campaign, addressing this goal by creating a central website for the grant: digitalislam.umich.edu and developing a project specific mission and vision which can be read online. In the fall of 2016, we launched a new internship program in order to build a stronger community among students and professors involved with DISC. The Social Media and Communications Intern acts as an on-the-ground person responsible for building momentum and interest in our program through student groups and social media.
At this point in our project, with four semesters of teaching and seven courses completed, we have enrolled roughly 350 students. In the fall of 2017, we have tentatively planned four courses with the potential to involve up to seven campuses. By the end of 2017, we hope to have offered 11 courses in total, reaching roughly 800-1,000 students at 10-12 campuses across the Big Ten. Since it’s inception, our programming has become much more robust. In the last year we have offered a wide array of programs focused on the intersections and Muslim identity in the US, including a talk by Dr. Shirin Ebadi, renowned human rights lawyer and Nobel-prize winner, for the 2016 DISC Distinguished Lecture. We look forward to continuing to grow as a program in multiple areas including programming, curriculum, student involvement, community engagement and broader program development.