Friday, March 10, 2006

Middle East Studies Certificate

I just now got around to reading the Capital Times's story on the new Middle East Studies certificate available at UW-Madison. You can find the actual requirements for this credential here. What's missing is the new courses just being taught for the first time or under development in departments like geography, legal studies, or rural sociology. The University of Wisconsin, however, is finally filling a critical gap in its highly regarded international studies curriculum, and with luck a Middle East Studies Title VI NRC is in our future.

UPDATE: I would be remiss if, in my enthusiasm for the projects now coming to fruition, I neglected the existing Middle East Studies heritage on this campus. I don't know when precisely the Middle East Studies Program was founded, but it was quite some time ago, and for a long while it was under the direction of the now impressively active octogenarian Ottomanist Kemal Karpat, who will be one of the keynote speakers at the forthcoming International Conference on Islam.

Much of our historical depth, however, comes from Wisconsin's rich tradition of Jewish Studies. Tonight the MES Program held a reception, and among the things we were celebrating was the 50th anniversary of the Department of Hebrew and Semitic Studies, which has long been a leader in Hebrew education. I also understand that establishing such departments was rare in the 1950's, though I don't know my institutional history well enough to provide details. In addition, the noted historian George Mosse left as part of his legacy the Mosse Program, which links Wisconsin with the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in ways that have benefitted people in a number of subfields.

Even though budgets have been tight, the program has added faculty almost every year since I've been here. My first graduate seminar was the first here for current director David Morgan, who came in Fall 1999. Others who have come in my time are Moneera al-Ghadeer (Arabic), Samer Alatout (Rural Sociology, Environmental Studies), Leila Harris (Geography, Environmental Studies), Flagg Miller (Anthropology), Asifa Quraishi (Law), Tamir Moustafa (Political Science), and next year will see the arrival of Nadav Shelef (Political Science, Meyerhoff Professor of Israeli Studies). If you want to be part of an exciting young program, Wisconsin is the place to be. (And I just can't resist plugging yet again that you can find out more by coming to our conference.)


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