When UC Davis begins classes on Thursday, Sept. 25, a whole new chapter opens for faculty, staff and students.
Of course, many new student faces will be seen around the campus. About 4,570 new freshmen will move into the residence halls on the weekend of Sept. 20, and the total enrollment for fall is expected to be 31,160, including undergraduate, graduate and professional students.
On the classroom front, students will be able to enroll in a new major, Middle East and South Asia Studies, that reflects the university's continued ascent as a globally aware institution. Offering 70 courses from anthropology to music, it is one of only a few undergraduate programs across the nation to focus primarily on this region, which includes 44 countries and one-third of the world's population.
At UC Davis, interest in the region and culture has existed for years in the form of student organizations. UC Davis alumna Sonia Saini said that a big part of her involvement in creating the program at UC Davis was, "to show that there was a growing student interest."
She made use of already existing student-run groups on campus such as Students for Justice in Palestine, the Muslim Students Association, the South Asian Student Organization and a student group for classical Indian music. In recent years, hundreds of students signed petitions for classes in Middle Eastern and South Asian languages, and in support of a major program. A minor program was established in 2004.
"The students on this campus have been so committed to the development of this program," said Suad Joseph, professor of anthropology and program director. The program expects about 50 student majors within five years.
The major draws a diverse group of students, said third-year Shruti Banerjee, who is taking the program. While the Middle East and South Asia have been political hot spots and of economic interest, they have also been known for their art, literature, religion, languages and history, she said.