Southeast Missouri State University’s Department of Modern Languages, Anthropology and Geography was recently awarded a $422,524 grant in partnership with the University of Central Missouri (UCM) and Missouri State University (MSU) to fund a three-year consortial “Mideast meets Midwest” program.
The grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program will enhance Southeast’s, UCM’s and MSU’s respective Middle Eastern Studies programs, including the development of a new Middle Eastern Studies minor at Southeast, strengthening online curriculum, and enhancing study abroad and undergraduate research opportunities.
“This is a great opportunity for Southeast to build the University’s commitment to prepare students for careers in an increasingly globalized world,” said Dr. Toni Alexander, chair of Southeast’s Department of Modern Languages, Anthropology and Geography.
Middle Eastern Studies, including Arabic language study, is a high priority in the current job market, she said.
“Not only is Arabic an in-demand language for the federal government, but it is also really relevant for anyone wanting to have geopolitical perspective and cultural understanding,” Alexander said.
The partnership between Southeast, UCM and MSU will allow the campuses to establish successful minor degree programs at all three institutions that can draw upon shared online courses each term. The combined resources and faculty will provide Missouri students a significant breadth of disciplines, she said.
“Students at any of the consortium institutions will be able to enroll, pay their regular tuition to their own school, and then complete the course online,” Alexander said “Without the consortium offerings, it would be difficult for the individual schools to offer enough variety of expertise in these courses.”
A formal proposal for a minor at Southeast will be formulated over the next year as curriculum is created, identified and approved, she said. Once Southeast’s requirements are met, students can earn a minor at Southeast even if some of their classes were taken with instructors at the other two institutions.
The department is currently focusing on strengthening the University’s interdisciplinary non-language online courses developed by Southeast faculty, Alexander said.
“These courses will fill gaps in the current course offerings at all three partner institutions, and can cover a broad variety of Middle Eastern topics, including history, culture or art,” she said.
Any Southeast faculty member can submit online course ideas and proposals are currently being accepted until 5 p.m. April 15.
Additionally, faculty who develop these online courses will receive a funding stipend and undergo professional development training in online education pedagogy by participating in professional development workshops through UCM’s Technology Enhanced Instructional Design (TEID) or Southeast’s Office of Instructional Technology (OIT).
Funding is also currently available to strengthen opportunities for undergraduate research through awarding faculty-student collaborative research grants and conference travel grants to students to present their research.
“Innovative research opportunities provide students professional experience that will strengthen their applications for graduate school and employment opportunities,” Alexander said.
Additionally, to support students’ studies and research, funding will support the purchase of new Middle Eastern Studies books, encyclopedias, and multimedia resources for each partner institution’s library.
Undergraduate research also will be enhanced with the establishment of the Hani Hourani Collection in a new online database at UCM, which will provide students with invaluable access to the New Jordan Research Center’s primary and secondary materials.
Applications for 2017 Middle Eastern Studies Faculty-Student Research collaborating grants are currently being accepted from all academic disciplines through March 31.
For the Arabic-language curriculum, Southeast will rely on the current programs developed at MSU, which is one of the only institutions in Missouri to offer Arabic language courses. As part of funding, MSU will expand its Arabic program with the addition of four new online courses.
“This allows our students as well as students at MSU and UCM to enroll in Arabic language courses and benefit from MSU’s faculty expertise and resources,” said Alexander.
Southeast students will be able to begin enrolling in Elementary Arabic I this fall, and with additional funding from the grant, the University will provide supplemental Arabic language software in the languages lab, she said.
One of the most exciting aspects is that the consortial-grant also will fund the development of new study abroad opportunities.
“Students from all three partner institutions will be able to participate in short-term, faculty-led study abroad programs to the Middle East,” Alexander said. “This project, directed by UCM’s International Center, will encourage students to study abroad in the region by providing competitive grants.”
The funding gives Southeast students the opportunity to physically immerse themselves in their Middle Eastern studies and participate in study abroad experiences not directly provided by but supported through the University’s partners.
Grants are currently available for students who study abroad in the Middle East, pursue an internship in the region, or travel to conduct research related to the Middle East during the spring, summer or fall 2017. Applications are due by April 1.
Every aspect of “Mideast meets Midwest” fulfills each partner institution’s mission to enhance international studies and is designed to serve the unique student populations of each university, Alexander said.
By working across institutions and disciplines, Southeast will be able to provide a comprehensive Middle Eastern Studies minor.
“Different campuses have and will offer different expertise to make the program successful and enhance Southeast’s core philosophy to strengthen opportunities for our students to study and explore the world,” she said.
For more information about the “Mideast meets Midwest” program, contact Southeast’s Department of Modern Languages, Anthropology and Geography at (573) 651-2146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.