Some intriguing new majors and master's programs are changing the academic landscape at San Diego State this fall. New cultural offerings cover Korean, Islamic and Arabic studies, while the master's programs include teaching in urban schools and bioinformatics.
The new social science major with an emphasis in Islamic and Arabic studies focuses on an important part of the world that can often be daunting to the uninitiated.
"It's an interdisciplinary program which means that they are going to learn about the peoples and countries," Farid Abdel-Nour, associate professor of Political Science, said. "Students will take classes in Arabic language, or Persian language in religious studies, in political science, in history, in women's studies."
The social science major offers many emphases from Africana studies to sociology. Abdel-Nour said that the new emphasis will give students a valuable knowledge of a region and culture that is larger than a single religion or race.
"The idea is to give students a sense of the cultural, political, historical and linguistic background that helps them understand the peoples of the larger Muslim world, as well as the Arabic speaking world," Abdel-Nour said.
One of the more exciting programs is the graduate program that offers a masters in bioinformatics.
Bioinformatics refers to data mining, which is the art of going through data to find specific information. From grocery stores to Google, everyone is data mining these days, said Dr. Faramarz Valafar, an associate professor at SDSU. In the field of medicine, data mining is used to learn more about diseases and to research better drugs. Valafar, who used data mining in the private sector to study credit card fraud, called bioinformatics the "major of the future."
"What we do is use those data mining techniques in biology, chemistry and medicine," Valafar said. "So far we have had three unofficial graduates. The students were enrolled into a different department. Of those three, one of them is now in the Ph.D program at Berkeley. The other two were hired before they finished their master's."
People usually earn a Ph.D in bioinformatics, and there are only two previously established master's programs for bioinformatics in California. SDSU would be the third university to offer such a program, providing graduates who would be much in demand by companies, Valafar said. The program has two tracks, a traditional thesis track and a professional Science Masters, which involves an internship.
A new masters of arts degree in curriculum and instruction focusing on urban teaching will also be offered to prospective educators looking for new teaching strategies in urban neighborhoods. The 30-unit program looks to produce quality teachers who know how to work effectively in the schools where they are needed the most, said Valerie Pang, a professor of teacher education.
"The program seeks teachers who are interested in investigating the most effective ways to teach in urban schools," Pang said. "The program focuses on presenting more in-depth information for teachers on (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) careers."
A new Korean studies program is also available. Although it is not a major, classes in Korean culture and language can be taken through the linguistics department in the class Ling 296. The upcoming classes that are being planned for the spring include Korean literature, civilization and a Korean language class tailored to doing business in Korea, Dr. Soonja Choi said. Other majors and programs include a new major in American Indian studies and a business degree with specializations in human resources and entrepreneurship.