Increased student interest in the Islamic and Near Eastern Studies program at UCSB has led professors in the program to talk of expanding the introductory class into a series and getting larger classrooms for next quarter.
The INES program, a part of the Global and International Studies program, offers classes related to Middle Eastern languages, culture and religion through various departments on campus, including religious studies, political science and history. Although the Sept. 11 attacks occurred after most students had registered for Fall Quarter, classes related to the Middle East did experience increased enrollment, INES Chair Dwight Reynolds said.
“Our classes experienced a 40 to 100-percent increase in enrollment,” Reynolds said. “They are all filled, and some students had to be turned away. Beginning Arabic classes are 50 percent larger than normal. This is the same with our Persian and Religious Studies classes.”
INES professors met recently to discuss the future of the program. The professors suggested expanding INES 45, the introductory course, into a series class like the Western Civilization series, or changing the program’s language requirement.
An undergraduate INES degree currently requires two years of study in a Middle Eastern language.
“[INES professors] believe that this discourages students from majoring in INES,” Reynolds said. “We are considering a new program with less emphasis on learning a language.”
INES is offering 30 courses for Winter Quarter, ranging from courses in Persian and Arabic language to a course in women of color in the United States. Professors have had to update their plans for their classes because of the attacks, integrating a wide range of topics into their curriculum.
“In the course I am teaching now on Arabic literature, we are looking at the reaction of the Arabic press to the attacks,” Religious Studies Professor Juan Campo said. “For a class next quarter on Middle Eastern food, religion and culture though, I hope to show students that the Middle East is not completely focused on violence and chaos.”
The Center for Middle East Studies, also chaired by Reynolds, has experienced an increase in the demand of its services. The center, one of 12 federally funded centers nationwide, has offered outreach to the campus and general community since the Sept. 11 attacks through lectures, films and educational programs at local schools.
“We have sponsored cultural events on campus within the past few weeks because of the student interest since the terrorist attacks,” CMES Assistant Director Garay Menicucci said. “Many students attended our film series, and interest has increased for our weekly Arabic conversation class.”
Nancy Gallagher, a history professor affiliated with INES, is teaching an upper-division course called “The History of the Modern Middle East” next quarter. Gallagher has taught the course in the past, but never included information on the history of Afghanistan, which she now intends to do.
“Now this information is important and it must be conveyed to students,” she said. “A ‘Middle East 101’ class should be on everyone’s agenda, and self-education is important.”
In past years, Gallagher’s class has drawn a small group of about 20 students but she has reserved a larger room for next quarter to accommodate the expected increase in interest for the class.