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Major grant bolsters interdisciplinarity of SU's Middle Eastern Studies Program

September 09, 2009

Rob Enslin
(315) 443-3403

Syracuse University’s Middle Eastern Studies Program (MESP) is the recipient of a prestigious $179,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s International Education Programs Service (IEPS). The grant will be used to expand and strengthen SU’s growing Middle Eastern minor, the new undergraduate major in Middle Eastern studies and the Middle Eastern component of the popular undergraduate program in international relations.

MESP, housed in the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, is overseen by the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and by The College of Arts and Sciences. The grant is administered by IEPS’ Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program.

“This grant is an affirmation of how far MESP has come since its inception in 2003,” says Mehrzad Boroujerdi, MESP director and associate professor of political science. “Our collective goal is to give undergraduates the expertise they need to succeed in professions that involve the Middle East.” The grant proposal was headed by Boroujerdi and co-principal investigator Miriam F. Elman, who is also associate professor of political science and faculty research associate in Maxwell’s Program for the Advancement of Research on Conflict and Collaboration. Both Boroujerdi and Elman credit Rania Habib, assistant professor of linguistics, and Julia Ganson, program manager of Middle East and North Africa at Maxwell’s Executive Education Office, for helping secure the grant.

The grant is divided into three major categories: curricular development, in-service training for K–12 teachers, and faculty development and training. Curricular development encompasses many initiatives, including increased language instruction, an array of new courses on the Middle East region, and study abroad and summer internship opportunities for students.

In-service training refers to a new partnership with the Central New York Council for the Social Studies, resulting in a newsletter and training workshops for K–12 teachers statewide about the contemporary Middle East.

Faculty development and training encompasses a new interdisciplinary speaker series that will augment the course curriculum and offer students majoring and minoring in Middle Eastern studies with practical guidance regarding future career possibilities. Organizers hope the speaker series will foster interdisciplinary connections among scholars in the area’s two- and four-year institutions. “This grant will certainly make us more visible throughout New York state,” explains Habib, who also coordinates SU’s Arabic Program. “In addition to developing new courses, it will create unprecedented opportunities for international exchanges and collaborations.”

Elman, who also directs the Moynihan Project on Democracy in the Middle East, echoes these sentiments. “This grant will usher in learning opportunities that SU has never before witnessed,” she says. “Our goal here is to help students become more knowledgeable about this vital region and, ultimately, more competitive in the job market, both in the public and private sectors.”

MESP exposes SU students to the diverse cultures, languages, literatures, religions and political systems of the Middle East. The program brings together faculty members from many areas on campus, including anthropology; architecture; communications and rhetorical studies; education; art and music histories; history; international relations; languages, literatures and linguistics; law; political science; and religion. The research and teaching interests of affiliated faculty include analysis of ancient source texts; literature, religion and culture of the Middle East; conflict resolution; and contemporary politics.

IEPS meets the national needs for expertise and competence in foreign languages and areas of international studies. The service administers 14 international education programs that are complementary in nature and benefit audiences through training programs; research, start-up or enhancement projects; and fellowships.

The Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program provides funds to institutions to plan, develop and implement programs that strengthen and improve undergraduate instruction in international studies and foreign languages.

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