The University of Houston (UH) has launched a new minor in Arab Studies and named Emran El-Badawi as the first director of the Arab Studies Program. Beginning in fall 2012, UH students may declare the minor, which will be housed in the department of Modern and Classical Languages (MCL) within the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (CLASS).
“We are very excited about the new Arab Studies minor,” said Hildegard Glass, chair of the MCL department and director of the German program at UH. “The University of Houston has been offering courses in Arabic language and culture for more than a decade, and now we are adding more advanced courses to our Arabic curriculum. While this is an area we wanted to expand for quite some time, we could not do so without the faculty in place to build the program. With the support of the CLASS Dean, John Roberts, we were able to make a tenure-track appointment in Arabic, the first in the history of this university. With Dr. Emran El-Badawi joining our department as its director, we could move forward with developing the Arab Studies minor.”
The new Arab Studies minor will require 18 credit hours, nine of which must be in Arabic language courses focusing on Modern Standard Arabic and another nine in content courses taught in English. The credit hours taught in English may be selected from a range of courses including “Introduction to Arabic Culture, Language, and Islam”; “Qur’an as Literature”; and “Modern Middle East.” Since the minor is interdisciplinary three of these credit hours may be in courses offered outside the MCL department. The program is designed to help students develop functional abilities in the four language skills: listening; speaking; reading and writing; and to provide the opportunity for interdisciplinary study of the Arab world and greater Middle East, as well as Islamic civilization.
“UH students want to be part of a meaningful conversation about the Arab world,” said El-Badawi. “The Arab Studies Program is growing at a rapid pace, and I get several inquiries every week from students interested in the minor. Much of the intellectual curiosity is fed by media coverage of widespread political unrest in the wake of the ‘Arab Spring,’ especially political developments in post-revolutionary Tunisia and Egypt. Students want to know what role Islamic and secular forces play in reimaging Arab societies today.”
El-Badawi joined the department of Modern and Classical Language in fall 2011 as assistant professor of Arabic language and literature. Prior to joining the UH faculty, he earned his Ph.D. with distinction from the University of Chicago in the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He received his master’s degree in religion from Temple University and a bachelor’s degree in religion and computer science from Rutgers University.
“Over the last year, Dr. El-Badawi has taken an active role on campus and in the Houston Arab community to promote the Arab Studies Program,” said Glass. “He has delivered guest lectures on the Qur’an to the ‘Human Situation’ course at the Honors College and is working with various cultural organizations, as well as public and private schools in the Houston area to promote the study of the Arabic language and public awareness about the Arab world. The minor in Arab Studies is the first step in building a strong academic curriculum addressing the rich cultural tradition of the Arab world and the contemporary Middle East.”
“Since students are exposed to a great deal of information – and misinformation – concerning the Arab world and Islam in the media, many students will have questions that can best be answered through the Arab Studies minor,” El-Badawi said.
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