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University to Offer New Arabic Major, Minor in Fall
June 04, 2012
George Washington student enrollment in Arabic has grown dramatically over the past decade.
Starting this fall, GW students can enroll in a new Arabic major or minor in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences.
George Washington’s Arabic Language, Literature and Culture Program, housed in the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages, has grown significantly since its inception in 2000. The program currently offers more than 30 sections of Arabic, with courses that target language skills and explore Arab culture and literature.
Enrollment in Arabic courses at George Washington has quadrupled since 2000, with more than 700 students enrolled last year. Arabic is currently the fourth most popular language at the university.
“Arabic is an emerging area of study because it has growing importance in the world, and if you link that with student demand, it was a good choice as a major and minor,” said Columbian College Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies Daniel Ullman. “Being able to study Arabic at GW is a great opportunity.”
Mohssen Esseesy, associate professor of Arabic and international affairs and program coordinator, said students who were interested in pursuing Arabic previously had to work with him to craft an individual major or minor.
A student survey Dr. Esseesy issued in the spring revealed strong support for an Arabic major and minor, with a number of students stating they would “immediately” enroll in the major and minor if it was offered.
“Our students are extremely happy that GW has responded to their academic needs,” said Dr. Esseesy. “Arabic at GW is unique, as we offer multiple literacies in Arabic language and a variety of courses that meet the broad academic interests of our students. We’ve reached a level in terms of enrollment and instructorship to warrant a solid major and minor.”
The study of Arabic has become increasingly important since 9/11, he said. Arabic is a critical language for U.S. security, and Dr. Esseesy noted that the United States has a strong economic ties with the Arab world. He said students enroll in GW’s Arabic Language, Literature and Culture Program as a gateway to careers as diplomats, translators, language analysts and Arabic scholars.
Students in the program also routinely receive competitive academic scholarships. Most recently, five GW students received U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarships for the 2012-13 academic year.
“When our students compete for prestigious scholarships, the Arabic language skills they acquired at GW serve them well,” said Dr. Esseesy. “We have a very committed teaching faculty that focuses on proficiency. Arabic is a language that requires a lot of work and strong commitment, but our students are willing to put in the work because they know the multiple benefits of achieving a high level of proficiency.”
GW’s Arabic Language, Literature and Culture Program has also received national attention for its role in George Washington’s National Security Internship Program, a federally funded nine-week program that offers intensive Arabic training and internships at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.
Eric Cline, chair of the Department of Classical and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, said the Arabic Language, Literature and Culture Program has become one of the flagship programs in Columbian College.
“It’s very clear that there is a huge demand at GW not only for Arabic but also for a major and a minor in Arabic studies,” said Dr. Cline. “Since we have the faculty and the courses in place, we’re happy to offer it and believe it is a wonderful addition to the university.”