Assistant Professor of Arabic Studies Muhammad Masud says he often gets calls from employers looking for Arabic-speaking students to fill jobs in the medical, business, and information technology sectors.
"An education in Arabic studies makes you better prepared to tackle the job market," Masud said. "A lot of companies do work with the Middle East and they want someone who has an education about the culture. In order to communicate with others, language is not enough."
This semester, UMass Boston launched its first academic program in Arabic studies, a six-course minor. Students must complete two language courses, two content courses, and two electives.
"There are some really interesting topics. They could be doing work on Syrian refugee children," said Masud, who directs the minor. "The Arab world is so relevant to all our lives today. It's part of the global conversation, whether from the days of the war in Iraq or now the war in Syria or the refugee crisis, the Palestinian conflict, you name it."
Masud, who developed a similar program at Connecticut College, says the minor is particularly relevant for anyone interested in international relations, international business, politics, religious studies, and learning a non-European language. Arabic is one of the most commonly spoken languages in the world, and is the official language of more than 20 countries. Students proficient in Arabic will be able to substitute content courses for language courses, with faculty from outside the Modern Languages, Literatures, and Cultures Department.
"We are building on the faculty that we already have. We have brilliant people like Leila Farsakh, for example, in political science. We have Ruth Miller in history. We have people that know the region. If you want to know history of the region, go on and take a course with Ruth Miller. If you want to know the politics of the region, go and take a course with Leila Farsakh," Masud said. "Let's benefit from their expertise and knowledge."
Masud says he's seen a greater interest in Arabic studies since coming to UMass Boston a year and a half ago. This semester, an Arabic Club is starting on campus. Masud is serving as advisor.