The Arizona Board of Regents confirmed the appointment of the University of Arizona School of Art’s Sama Alshaibi as a Regents Professor this spring.
The title of Regents Professor is reserved for full professors whose exceptional achievements merit national and international distinction. Regents Professor appointments are limited to no more than 3% of the total number of the university’s tenured and tenure-track faculty members.
Alshaibi has served as co-chair of the School’s Photography, Video and Imaging (PVI) program since 2013 and was named a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow. Under her leadership, the PVI program has achieved national recognition, ranked among the top photography programs in the country.
“Sama’s long list of professional accomplishments make her most deserving of this award,” said Colin Blakely, director of the School of Art. “What is even more impressive is that even as she has garnered international acclaim, she has remained intensely dedicated to the local communities around her. Whether through her mentorship of faculty, staff, and students or through her constant commitment to leading various initiatives through to completion, she is always available and willing to roll up her sleeves, and through this has been an immensely positive force for change in the School of Art. I am excited to see her engage as an ambassador for the arts at the university level through her participation in this distinguished group.”
As prestigious as her accolades are, Alshaibi is an approachable and grateful person.
“I stand on the shoulders of so many. I never imagined my career could be where it is now,” said Alshaibi. “I’m not just an immigrant, but someone that didn’t have citizenship growing up. Education and the arts gave me a road to find my voice, and the University of Arizona is how I found my footing and path.”
Her work explores the ways in which women and immigrants are represented and affected throughout history and in modern war conflicts. Alshaibi’s perspective as an immigrant woman from the Middle East may seem a world away, but living and working along the U.S.-Mexico border is a reminder of how universally relevant the topics of her work are. The numbers validate this claim: Sama has given almost 100 presentations and has been cited more than 200 times.
So, what is a Regents Professor? According to the University, “The title Regents Professor serves as recognition of the highest academic merit and is awarded to faculty members who have made a unique contribution to the quality of the University through distinguished accomplishments in teaching scholarship, research or creative work.”
Regents Professors are often called upon to provide advice and counsel to the President. Alshaibi’s presence and advocacy is necessary for the University community. In her teaching and artistic practices, she has created space for herself and those who identify with her.
“I’m excited to represent the PVI program, the School of Art, the College of Fine Arts and Arizona Arts,” said Alshaibi. “As a woman of color, this has been my mission since I joined University of Arizona in 2006. As an artist, I’m doing what I know to do. Being an Iraqi Palestinian American affords me a space to speak to our intertwined history and contemporary peril. I will continue to use my platform to consider those of us on the margins, and how the human dimension needs to be centered.”
Her students attest to Alshaibi’s dedication to mentorship and creating space.
“While I attended the University of Arizona, Sama was the only professor who identified as a femme, person of color within my area of study,” said Kennady Schneider (BFA ‘19, Photography). “This perspective, truth, origin of knowledge and research, and grounding within her identity made her an above excellent professor and mentor; she truly took the time to listen, connect, engage with, and support her students.”
The School of Art is so fortunate to have such accomplished faculty and we are excited to see Alshaibi deservedly recognized with this distinguished title.
“I’m so proud to tell anyone I meet that I love my city, my job, my colleagues, and students,” said Alshaibi. “To receive this distinction means I have honored the university and community that gave me so much.”
Born in Basra to an Iraqi father and Palestinian mother, Sama Alshaibi is based in the United States where she is Professor and Co-Chair of Photography, Video and Imaging at the University of Arizona, Tucson. She holds a BA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago and an MFA in Photography, Video, and Media Arts from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Visit Sama Alshaibi’s website.