The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Department of Modern Languages & Literatures is encouraging students to sign up for Arabic courses as the program continues to grow.
The department hired its first-ever permanent Arabic instructor, Abla Hasan, on a three-year contract this fall. UNL offers four Arabic courses: ARAB 101, 102, 201 and 202, and 102 and 202 are open for enrollment in the spring.
UNL is about on par with University of Nebraska at Omaha when it comes to opportunities for Middle Eastern studies and ahead of University of Nebraska at Kearney, which doesn't offer Arabic courses.
"Ever since Arabic was first offered at UNL, there has been a lot of interest in Arabic," said Shannon Parry, UNL's assistant to the chair and office manager of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures. "The college is making a commitment to the Arabic language by providing us with a professor.
Before Hasan came to UNL, Simon Wood, an associate professor in the Classics and Religious Studies program at UNL, and an instructor from the Fullbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Program taught Arabic.
In 2009, Arabic classes at UNL started as a special topics course in the Department of Modern Languages. The course got its own abbreviation in fall 2011. Parry couldn't give the exact number on how many people take Arabic classes, but she said enrollment is typically full.
Melanie Bloom, department chair of Foreign Languages and Literature at UNO, said UNO offers the same classes as UNL, with approximately 25 students in beginning courses and decreasing numbers for higher-level courses. She said UNO started its Arabic program about five years ago.
Cherie DeFreece, office associate for UNK's Department of Modern Language, said UNK hasn't offered any Arabic courses for the last four or five years because the college can't find qualified instructors and the numbers of student taking the classes are low.
Moshe Gershovich, a history professor at UNO, director of Schwalb Center for Israel and Jewish Studies and the director of UNO's Middle East Project Fund, said he wants to increase cooperation between UNO and UNL.
"One of the things I emphasize (is) trying to encourage cooperation with UNL and other major universities within our region," Gershovich said.
The Schwalb Center for Israel and Jewish Studies started in 2009 and is an academic program to teach Jewish and Israeli history, politics, culture and society.
The Middle East Project Fund, which started in 2010, is not an academic program, but rather serves to enhance the teaching, research and scholarship related to the modern Middle East.
There are a few dozen participants in the two programs, Gershovich said.
"We are trying to increase those numbers by creating new opportunities and exciting possibilities for students to participate," Gershovich said.
UNO also offers an Islamic Studies minor, Gershovich said.
To make Arabic a minor or major at UNO, students would need to demand more classes, Bloom said.
"I don't have a lot of students demanding," Bloom said.
Arabic, Czech and Russian are the less commonly taught languages, while Spanish, German and French are more available in academia, Parry said.
"A degree or instruction in languages will provide a greater opportunity (for) employment after college," Parry said.