Davenport’s Saint Ambrose University is seeking better understanding and perspective concerning one of the world’s most persistent trouble spots. Saint Ambrose history professor Ryan Dye directs the school’s international education division and the new venture, what’s being called the Middle East Institute.

Dye says the programming includes public forums and insight integrated throughout various academic majors. “Everything from bringing in visiting artists to conducting roundtable discussions on a particular topic to holding one-, two-, three-day symposia that invites scholars from all over the world,” Dye says.

He admits volatile issues concerning the region may be controversial. “It’s a very difficult line to hold but we are committed to being an unbiased, non-partisan forum,” Dye says. “Those themselves are very rare when it comes to addressing and analyzing the Middle East.”

The institute will be the first of its kind in Iowa, Dye says, identifying key issues in the political conflict. “Certainly people understand and recognize the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, for example, but there are a lot of under-recognized, under-reported issues in the Middle East,” Dye says. “For example, water scarcity in the region is a major concern and we plan to address that in the next year.”

St. Ambrose University’s Middle East Institute is receiving initial funding from the Adler-Schemer Foundation, based in Aspen, Colorado.