University of Vermont

University Communications

Council on Foreign Relations Fellow to Speak on Women, Sharia Law and Reform on Nov. 7

Isobel Coleman.

Isobel Coleman, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, will give a talk titled “Women, Sharia Law and Reform in the Middle East” at the University of Vermont on Thursday, Nov. 7, at 4:30 p.m. in the Livak Ballroom in UVM’s Davis Center.  

Coleman directs the Civil Society, Markets and Democracy program at the Council on Foreign Relations. Her areas of expertise include the political economy of the Middle East, democratization, civil society, economic development, educational reform and gender issues. She is the author and coauthor of numerous books, including Pathways to Freedom: Political and Economic Lessons from Democratic Transitions (Council on Foreign Relations, 2013), The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Security (Routledge Press, 2012), Paradise Beneath Her Feet: How Women are Transforming the Middle East (Random House, 2010), Restoring the Balance: A Middle East Strategy for the Next President (Brookings Institution Press, 2008), and Strategic Foreign Assistance: Civil Society in International Security (Hoover Institution Press, 2006).

"Isobel Coleman provides  a fresh perspective on the  changing role of women in the Arab world," said UVM Marsh Professor-at- Large Madeleine Kunin, who is co-sponosring the talk. "She is one of the experts in the field, and I am delighted that she is coming to the University of Vermont."

Coleman’s writings have appeared in publications such as Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, International Herald Tribune, USA Today, Christian Science Monitor, and Forbes, and online venues such as and She also writes the blog Democracy in Development on She is a frequent speaker at academic, business and policy conferences. In 2010, she served as a track leader at the Clinton Global Initiative. In 2011, Newsweek named her as one of "150 Women Who Shake the World."

In addition to the Marsh Professor-at-Large program, the talk is sponsored by President Tom Sullivan; the Department of Economics; the Department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies; the Department of Political Science; and the Vermont Council on World Affairs.

Coleman’s talk is the second of two Professor-at-Large Kunin, hosted at UVM this fall in a series titled "Women Challenging Traditions." On Oct. 24, Linda Scott, the DP World Chair for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Oxford University’s Centre for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, gave a lecture titled "Market Feminism: How Businesses are Changing to Meet the Needs of Working Women.

Kunin served as the governor of Vermont from 1985 to 1991. As a member of President Bill Clinton’s administration, she served as Deputy Secretary of Education of the United States from 1993 to 1997 and United States Ambassador to Switzerland from 1996 to 1999.