Williams College has launched a major in Arabic studies. Coordinated by Professor Gail Newman, it will be housed in the program in Comparative Literature and augment the curricular options within the Center for Foreign Languages, Literatures, and Cultures.
It is designed to "give students a foundation in the Arabic language and to provide the opportunity for the interdisciplinary and multi-disciplinary study of the Arab, Islamic, and Middle Eastern arenas," according to the program description.
Newman said, "When we hired appointed two professors allowing us to offer a full set of Arabic language and culture courses, Williams was recognized as a leader among small liberal arts colleges for its willingness to take the plunge into this new and important field."
The major requires nine courses: four in the Arabic language and five in Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies in affiliated departments.
At least two of the five interdisciplinary courses must come from an arts and humanities department to enhance students' knowledge of Arabic language and the arts. These courses might include "Outlaws and Underworlds: Arabic Literature of the Margins" and "Distant Encounters: East Meets West in the Art of the European Middle Ages."
Furthermore, at least two of the five interdisciplinary courses must come from a social studies department to enrich students' knowledge of Arabic politics, religion, economics, and history. These courses might include "Women and Islam" and "Geopolitics, Religion and Oil: The Cases of Iraq and Iran."
"The students who committed themselves to the arduous process of learning Arabic have proven to be so dedicated that it's been a pleasure to work toward a major, and this year, our efforts paid off," Newman said.
Students who place out of the introductory Arabic language courses are still required to take nine courses to complete the major. Additionally, up to four courses from approved study abroad programs may be counted toward the major.
To graduate with honors in Arabic studies, students must maintain a 3.5 GPA and "demonstrate a strong interest in a specific topic for which an appropriate faculty advisor will be available." The Program Advisory Committee will determine which thesis candidates are accepted and which will receive honors, highest honors, or no honors.