SHU Adds Middle Eastern Studies Minor

Arabic, Hebrew Language Classes Part of the Curriculum

Siena Heights University is offering Arabic and Hebrew language classes as part of a new Middle Eastern Studies minor program beginning this winter.


According to SHU Professor of Spanish Renato Gonzalez, the University is instituting this minor in response to the obvious need for better understanding between the peoples of the United States and the Middle East. In the spirit of Siena’s mission and Catholic tradition, the University will offer its students the opportunity to investigate the complex and dynamic situation existing between the U.S. and the Middle East.


“It’s not just a case of studying an important part of the world that’s in the news and far away, but it is part of the United States,” said Gonzalez, explaining the decision to begin the minor. “One of the unique features of our minor is the idea of the relationship between the Middle East and the U.S. It’s not just one direction, but both. We can learn about ourselves through people from the Middle East who live in our country.”


The Middle Eastern Studies minor will comprise eight semester hours of Arabic or Hebrew language courses and 15 semester hours of electives. Elective courses include Religion of the Middle East, History of the Middle East, Literature of the Middle East, Popular Culture of the Middle East, Geography of the Middle East, Political Systems of the Middle East and Modern Folk Dance of the Middle East.


Gonzalez said several current Siena Heights instructors already instruct some of these courses, so organizing a minor was a logical progression. SHU Assistant Professor of Political Science Tim Leonard, who teaches the History of the Middle East course, said his class is an excellent introduction to the minor.


“This course really engages them so they want to learn more,” Leonard said.


Offering Hebrew language classes as well as Arabic is a conscious effort to introduce the diversity of the Middle East, Gonzalez said.


“The fact we are teaching Hebrew is very important,” he said. “We want to give as complete a picture of the Middle East as possible. That’s an integral part of our mission and philosophy.”


For those who can speak a Middle Eastern language, there is a growing number of employment opportunities in business, government and education. Gonzalez said that’s a point that will be made to current SHU students, who are the initial target audience for the minor.


“We want to recruit internally by showing how a minor in Middle Eastern Studies can complement a student’s major, whether he or she is in business, criminal justice or social work,” Leonard said.


“I think it’s another piece as we try to bring more international students to campus,” said SHU Associate Professor of English Davin Heckman, who will teach the Popular Culture of the Middle East course. “It will prepare our existing students for an encounter with globalization early on. The more we can do this in our courses for existing students, the more hospitable Siena Heights will be for international students.”


For more information on Middle Eastern Studies or any other program at Siena Heights, please call 1-800-521-0009 or 517-264-7180.

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