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AUS alumna awarded best master’s thesis prize at MIT’s prestigious Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture
Suheyla Takesh, an outstanding alumni of American University of Sharjah (AUS), was recently awarded the “Master of Science in Architecture Studies Prize for Thesis” for work completed as part of the Master of Science in Architecture Studies (SMArchS) program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Her prize-winning thesis was a monographic history on the little-known work of the Baghdad-born and Moscow-educated modernist painter Mahmoud Sabri. Takesh’s research, which focused on Sabri’s practice in the 1950s and early 1960s, addressed an art historical gap as well as examining Soviet-Arab relations in the spheres of art and education. The “Master of Science in Architecture Studies Prize for Thesis” is based on a public presentation reviewed by external critics, as well as the final thesis document.
Takesh, who graduated in 2012 with a Bachelor of Interior Design degree in the College of Architecture, Art and Design (CAAD) at AUS, said that as part of her bachelor’s program, she took history courses offered at CAAD every semester, including the history of Islamic art and architecture, history of modern art and architecture, history of design, among others. This exposure to the theoretical dimension of art and design served as a precursor to her deeper engagement with history and theory at the graduate level.
Speaking about how her time at AUS helped her in at graduate school, she said:
“AUS provided me with excellent mentors, many of whom I remained in touch with after graduation. I spoke and received advice from a number of them when selecting graduate programs, and also during the application process. Being a student in CAAD prepares you by encouraging you to put long hours into your work, to be self-critical and also to receive criticism from others, all of which come in handy in graduate school.”
She said that in choosing to pursue a graduate degree, she sought to advance her understanding of art history and theory, and to develop her analytical and writing skills. She explained:
“Receiving a prize for my thesis is certainly a pleasure and an honor, and is in many ways a testament to the foundational training I have received at AUS. A more exciting challenge, however, now lies ahead in keeping up the momentum and continuing to work, research and write. I am looking forward to what is to come!”
Takesh’s success is yet another example of the breadth of exposure offered to students in CAAD’s undergraduate programs, which helps them transcend disciplinary boundaries and succeed in whatever path they choose to pursue at work or in further studies. Prior to joining MIT, Takesh served as a curator at the Sharjah-based Barjeel Art Foundation, working with modern and contemporary art from the Arab World.