With the growth of the Middle Eastern studies program and MTSU's proximity to a large Kurdish population, the department wants to begin offering Kurdish language courses in the Fall 2010 semester, becoming a niche market for the university.
Final decisions regarding the status of the courses are set for March.
"Everybody's excited about this," said Kovan Murat, senior political science major and co-founder of the Kurdish Student Association. "This is really history in the making."
The Nashville metropolitan area is home to the largest Kurdish population in the country.
The department has also been trying to bring an instructor from the University of Duhok in Iraq to teach the courses.
Kari Neely, professor of Middle Eastern studies, said an addition of the new professor to the department of Foreign Languages must be approved by the Faculty Diversity Grant application.
"The ability to sustain the language in the third generation in a Diaspora is really difficult," Neely said. "We are hoping we can revitalize the language and benefit the Kurdish community by helping sustain the language past the third generation."
Miwan Ibrahim, junior criminal justice major, co-founded the Kurdish Student Association with Murat in order to promote and preserve the cultural identity of the Kurdish people with students from all backgrounds on campus.
"We're really uniquely positioned so students could go out and learn the language first hand," Neely said.
In 2000, the census estimated that roughly 11,000 people of Kurdish descent lived in the Nashville metropolitan area.
"The main point of the classes is that the Kurdish population, through generations, is losing its language, and one of the main components of identity is language," Ibrahim said. "The purpose of these classes is to preserve the language – This is the first program of its kind ever attempted in the U.S."
The program also has the potential to benefit not only the Kurdish community, but also the foreign languages program through additional funding.
"As I think about this process, I think about how three or four years ago we began courses in Arabic and Hebrew on faith," said Allen Hibbard, director of the Middle East Center. "First with one year and one class, introductory Arabic 101 and Hebrew 101, and then we built upon that success in the second year."
A full topic in Middle Eastern studies course is currently underway, and at least half of those students are expected to register for the Kurdish language courses this fall.
If the response is well received and students take a noticeable interest, Middle Eastern studies, which is currently offered as a minor, could grow into a major.
"One of our objectives was to share our culture and not just on a personal level," Murat said. "We want to make it academic."