Democracy's role in Muslim nations studied

Published: Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, May 1, 2007 at 12:00 a.m.

At a time when many are considering the role of democracy in Islamic countries, a University of Florida researcher is examining three predominately Muslim countries where democracy has taken hold.

Leonardo Villalon, director of UF's Center for African Studies and an associate professor of political science, will receive a grant of $90,000 from the Carnegie Corp. of New York for his work. The corporation named 21 Carnegie Scholars last week, all of whom are working on topics related to Islam.

With help of the grant, Villalon will travel to West Africa to study the role of democracy in Mali, Senegal and Niger, which is considered by some to be the world's poorest country.

This is the third class of Carnegie scholars to focus on Islam. The goal of the program is to build a body of scholarship related to Islam and and to encourage the expansion of the study of Islam in the United States, according to a news release issued by the corporation.

The road for Bush: At least one lawmaker in Tallahassee appears intent on sending a message to the University of Florida.

Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, tried to amend a highway bill Friday to rename University Avenue in Gainesville after former Gov. Jeb Bush. Rivera, who previously proposed UF's College of Education be named for Bush, quickly withdrew his highway bill amendment and said he was only joking.

Rivera's proposed honors for Bush come on the heels of a decision by UF's Faculty Senate to deny Bush an honorary degree. The narrow faculty vote in March was criticized by UF President Bernie Machen and UF trustees. In a face-saving measure, UF's Alumni Association has since named Bush an honorary alumnus.

Teacher earns grant: Michelina MacDonald, a biology teacher at P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, has been awarded a $2,500 grant from Toyota and the National Science Teachers Association.

MacDonald was awarded the grant for a program that allows students to collaborate with professionals in molecular biology at UF. The program aims to give students a realistic view of the field of molecular biology by exposing them to current research topics and experts.

Sponsored by Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A. Inc. and administered by the National Science Teachers Association, the Toyota "TAPESTRY" grant program is the largest annual K-12 science teacher grant program in the United States.

Passing the luck: The University of Florida Gators best be on the lookout for the Nebraska Cornhuskers this year. As The Sun reported in this column last week, a "lucky penny" credited with helping UF win national championships in football and basketball was put up for sale recently. The seller, a Gator fan, parted with the penny Friday after a buyer from Omaha, Neb., bid $9.99 for it. The seller says the buyer is a "crazy Husker fan" who'll no doubt be putting the penny to use next football season.

Jack Stripling can be reached at 352-374-5064 or

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