INDS Graduates Tackle Different Perspectives on Ideology, Culture, and Power

Saif Al-Issa
Saif Al-Issa

Interdisciplinary Studies graduate Saif Al-Issa praises his major for making him a “well-rounded person who has a strong background in two fields.” For Saif, this was filmmaking and politics, subjects that came together in his final thesis project about Islamophobia in the U.S. After taking several courses in film, media, political science, and history, he realized how deeply ingrained Islamophobia is in the U.S. His thesis explores anti-Muslim sentiment and policies within the government, as well as the media’s amplification of Islamophobic politicians. Saif hopes that his efforts will someday “change the current narrative and help Americans understand that Muslims are people just like them, and that they should not constantly be put in the situation of being seen as the ‘other.’” According to Dr. Will McConnell, Saif’s thesis advisor, “in the depth and breadth of his final project, Saif emerged as a fully-fledged scholar of interdisciplinary forms of researchers studying the roots of Islamophobia in North America. His work shows great promise, and I am excited to see what social awareness his future work will bring for those in the Muslim communities in North America.” In looking back at his college career, Saif says the best thing about Woodbury is the faculty, how knowledgeable they are in their fields and, most importantly, how invested they are in their students. “The professors in CLAS,” Saif says, “have all been extremely supportive and compassionate. I always felt that they cared about me and my success.” 

Abdulla Alawadhi

Interdisciplinary Studies also celebrates graduating senior Abdulla Alawadhi. Abdulla’s thesis advisor, Dr. Doug Cremer, says, “Abdulla is a remarkable student and scholar. … His grace and sincerity are wonderful examples of humility and strength. His openness to new learning and experiences, his insights into politics and history, and his unfailing kindness have made it a great pleasure to be his professor and his friend.” Dr. McConnell says Abdulla’s thesis project “takes on the complex history and current political formation of the Arab Ba’ath party (now, the Arab Ba’ath Socialist party). … Focusing his scholarly gaze on the Ba’athist ideology as it emerges in Syria, Iraq, and Egypt, he captures similarities and differences in the complex weave of economic and social development in these countries, inviting readers into the fascinating and troubling implications of the Arab Cold War and the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as the historical struggle for Arab autonomy and sovereignty.” As part of his studies, Abdulla also completed an internship with the government of Bahrain, which gave him insight into how he might incorporate these ideals into his own social and historical experience. “I know he would welcome the chance to use his deep love of history and political science to produce good in his country!”, says Dr. McConnell.   


Millicent (Millie) Rayner

Congratulations to Millicent (Millie) Rayner, who also graduates from the Interdisciplinary Studies program this spring. Millie’s thesis analyzes the historical trajectory of Disney’s vision, mission, and guest experience in the context of recent developments in Disneyland Park’s intellectual property. Titled “The Most Intellectual Property on Earth: An Analysis of the Disneyland Resort’s Avengers Campus and Galaxy’s Edge,” her work integrates cultural theory, psychology, marketing, media studies, history, urban studies, and fieldwork research methods. Beginning with an evocative statement from Walt Disney himself — “Disneyland will never be completed; it will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world” — she takes us on a deeply informed journey both across multiple disciplinary perspectives on “the business” of Disney, and into the physical design of the park itself, which she sees as “text” of Disney’s emerging business model. Dr. McConnell says, “Millie’s work was so provocative, innovative, and insightful that I wish I could read it for the first time again.” He also suggests Millie has, “a tremendously promising future in Disney itself; she will be a leader in the analysis of current intellectual property models and the design and application of methods for developing successful steps in intellectual property incorporation!” 


Last Updated on May 11, 2023. 

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