Students’ increased interest in the language, culture and religion of the Middle East since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks has boosted popularity in UCSB’s Center for Middle East Studies programs and classes.

The Center for Middle East Studies (CMES) is one of the 12 federally funded centers nation-wide and offers students opportunities to learn about the Middle East through lectures, film and educational programs at local schools.

On Tuesday, CMES co-directors Stephen Humphreys and Juan Campo submitted an application for a renewed $1 million grant awarded to university Middle Eastern Studies centers every three years from the Dept. of Education’s National Resource Center. Along with Harvard, UC Berkeley and UCLA, UCSB was chosen for the grant in 2000. The center also receives $300,000 in funds from the university each year.

The combination of government and university funds allow the CMES to provide high levels of language instruction of the least commonly taught Middle Eastern languages such as Turkish, Persian and Urdu. The grant pays the language teachers’ salaries and provides a limited number of fellowships to graduate students who study these languages.

“Enrollment in courses [sponsored by the CMES] doubled after September 11,” Humphreys said.

Rarely-taught Asian and African languages, which are difficult to fully fund through the university, are also provided through the CMES, said CMES Co-Director Stephen Humphreys.

“The fellowships help encourage students to study the language because they feel like they are not wasting their time,” CMES Co-Director Juan Campo said.

Campo said the CMES also provides teacher-training workshops for kindergarten through 12th grade schoolteachers from all over the Central Coast to help them more thoroughly understand Middle Eastern religion, music, history and language.

Because of increased attendance in classes and programs, the co-directors feel positive about receiving the funding.

“Since the Cold War has ended, the Middle East has become a critical area as far as security and U.S. economic interest,” Campo said. “Therefore, the government now highly encourages scholars to be knowledgeable of the Middle East.”

– Magali Bourget