Middle Eastern Studies Program Announced – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Middle Eastern Studies Program Announced

This fall, the Colleges will offer a Middle Eastern Studies (MES) minor, developed in response to the increased interest in the polities, economies, societies and cultures of the region that has grown steadily at HWS over the past several years. The program will be interdisciplinary and interdivisional, combining social science and humanities courses. Currently, only a handful of HWS’ peer institutions offer a Middle Eastern Studies minor.

“Professor of Religious Studies Michael Dobkowski and I worked together to design a minor that reflects the best of what we have seen in a number of recent individual majors, as well as in courses used by international relations, political science and religious studies majors with concentrations related to the modern Middle East,” explains Assistant Professor of Political Science Stacey Philbrick Yadav, coordinator of the MES program. “Many of these students told me that they would undoubtedly have minored in Middle Eastern Studies had the option been available.”

For example, previously students elected an Islamic studies track within the religious studies major, or a Middle Eastern regional track within the international relations major. Several of the students whose experiences inspired Dobkowski and Philbrick Yadav to develop the MES minor program have gone on to successful, related career and service programs since graduation. Allison McCracken ’10, who double-majored in political science and religious studies with a concentration in Middle Eastern studies, spent several months after graduation working in the West Bank. Since returning to the U.S., she has been an organizer for the women’s anti-war organization CodePink (www.codepink.org).  

“There has never been a better time for a Middle Eastern Studies department, given the Arab Spring across the region,” McCracken says.

Andrew Mahoney ’11 studied in Jordan in 2010 and designed an individual major, called “Political Economy of the Middle East.” He is working for the Project on Middle East Democracy (www.pomed.org) in Washington, D.C.  

“I’m thrilled to hear that the Colleges will be introducing a Middle Eastern Studies minor in the fall,” says Mahoney. “The breadth of coursework I completed under the talented professors who will comprise the Middle Eastern Studies faculty – from designing democracy promotion initiatives to assessing the economic and political openness of countries in the region – was invaluable in preparing me for work in the foreign policy community.”

The Middle Eastern Studies minor will enhance the Colleges’ current region-based area studies minors, including African Studies, American Studies, Asian Languages and Cultures, European Studies, French and Francophone Studies, German Area Studies,  Latin American Studies, Russian Area Studies,  and Spanish and Hispanic Studies. It will also enrich co-curricular offerings as it will be able to organize events on campus to increase awareness and critical understanding of the region.

“In combination with the HWS semester program in Jordan, our fourth year with a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant to support Arabic instruction, and our periodic team-taught course in Egypt, it is wonderful to see Middle Eastern Studies taking shape at HWS,” says Philbrick Yadav. “As someone who has spent much of my adult life in the Middle East, I am happy to have the chance to work with my faculty colleagues across the curriculum to nurture this interest in HWS students.”  

More information about the MES program is available in the 2011-2012 Course Catalogue, http://www.hws.edu/Applications/catalogue/pdf/10_12_catalogue2.pdf

A blog developed as part of the course, “Political Science 289: Political Economy of Development in Egypt,” taught by Philbrick Yadav and Assistant Professor of Political Science Vikash Yadav is also available online: http://hwsegypt.wordpress.com/. PolSci 289 was taught in Egypt in the summer of 2009 and has tentatively been scheduled to be offered again in the summer of 2012.