Middle Eastern Studies A Potential Major

Colgate students and professors are working to add an interdisciplinary Middle Eastern Studies major and minor to Colgate’s curriculum. Sophomores Greg Dunlavey and Timothy Barry have been working with 14 other students to implement the program, and they hope to have the Middle Eastern Studies major and minor established by the time they graduate.

Dunlavey and Barry were motivated to undertake this endeavor because of their mutual interest in developing the new concentration. Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Religion Omid Safi and Instructor in History Noor-Aiman Khan have also been instrumental in this process.

Thus far, 16 people have expressed interest in the program. The students believe that a Middle Eastern Studies major can be established within the current course catalog.

“Of course, ideally we’ll get to add more classes eventually,” Barry said.

The new program will span history, political science and religion courses to offer a broad understanding of the Middle East.

“[The program] takes a humanities and social sciences approach to the material,” Safi said. “The new concentration will give students a chance to study the religious, artistic, philosophical and spiritual heritages of Islam and the Middle East.”

If Colgate adds the Middle Eastern Studies concentration to the curriculum, the University will be among the first liberal arts institutions to offer such a major. While many large universities offer Middle Eastern Studies, few of the smaller liberal arts schools offer such courses. The students are hopeful that they will establish the new program. In fact, Colgate now offers beginner and intermediate courses in Arabic.

Barry is currently studying both Hebrew and Arabic. Despite the challenges of taking these two courses, he would like to continue his studies.

“People say I’m crazy, but I’m glad I’m taking both classes,” he said.

Dunlavey is currently a history major but would like to add Middle Eastern Studies as a second major.

The students hope that the increased attention on the Middle East will help increase participation and interest in the Middle Eastern Studies major. The increased emphasis on the Middle East in politics and the media makes the concentration particularly pertinent.

“In addition to current events, I am more interested in how we, as one group of human beings, come to study another block of humanity,” Safi said.

He hopes the Middle Eastern Studies program will become a model program for a creative type of inter-disciplinary conversation.

“The first step is demonstrating that students really are interested in this concentration,” Barry said. Dunlavey and Barry are currently in the process of drafting letters and signatures.

“We hope to bring the letter to the Dean of the Faculty soon,” Dunlavey said.

They will then work with the Dean of Faculty and eventually the Registrar’s Office to complete the major.

Dunlavey and Barry are hoping to find other students who are interested in joining the major or minor. The greater the student interest displayed, the more likely the concentration will be approved.

Sophomores and first-years who are interested in pursing a Middle Eastern Studies major or minor should contact either Barry or Dunlavey for more information.