Women’s and Gender Studies program mourns loss of Jordanian partner Dr. Rula Quawas, announces undergraduate award in her honor

Photo of Miriam Levin, Rula Quawas, Erin Dweik and Cheryl Toman
Miriam Levin, the Henry Eldridge Bourne Professor of History, Rula Quawas, Erin Dweik and Cheryl Toman during Quawas’ 2013 visit

In 2012, CWRU’s Director of Women’s Studies, Dr. Cheryl Toman, walked into a café in Amman, Jordan to meet with Dr. Rula Quawas, the founding director of the University of Jordan’s Center for Women’s Studies. Toman had just received a faculty seed grant from CWRU’s Center for International Affairs and she was seeking to build a partnership between CWRU and UJ. “It was an unforgettable moment in a professional career,” recalls Toman, “I knew the second I met Dr. Quawas that there was no one on earth quite like her and I knew I had found the right partner for this collaboration.” Dr. Quawas was an incredible scholar with an academic specialization in American feminist literature but she was also a pioneer in her country and a fierce advocate for women’s rights. The Center for Women’s Studies she had founded at UJ in 2006 was only one of three such academic units in the Arab world. Together in that café in Amman, Toman and Quawas crafted WGST/ARAB/ETHS 349: The Arab World Experience—Jordan. The course has run successfully ever since their meeting. “Our course in Jordan takes CWRU students all over the country, but what makes this experience different and unique is the interaction we have with colleagues and students at UJ and we have Dr. Quawas to thank for that.”

Sadly, Dr. Quawas passed away unexpectedly on July 25th. She was only 57 years old. Toman was devastated when she heard the news: “I actually learned about Rula’s death from the media first and I immediately contacted our partners in Jordan to see if the news was true or not. Anyone who had ever met Rula would understand the disbelief. She was larger than life; someone who makes such an impression that you can never ever forget her. She loved her work and she loved her students like no one else I’d ever seen” It is no wonder that the New York Times article reporting Dr. Quawas’s death called her a “champion of women’s advancement in Jordan.”

Toman’s WGST 349, a spring-break study abroad program in Jordan, is scheduled again for spring 2018. “Rula is irreplaceable, but thanks to her, we have so many wonderful partners for this course and on both sides, we will be continuing this collaboration in her honor. This is the best way we can pay tribute to her.

The WGST program has also added a new academic undergraduate award named The Dr. Rula Quawas Award in Women’s and Gender Studies. The future recipients of this award will be recognized for excellence in coursework and projects related to the academic disciplines of Dr. Quawas including general feminist theory, cultural studies with a focus on women of the Arab World, Arab women’s writing and literature, American feminist literature, American feminism, and intersectionality in Western and Arab feminisms.