The 15-credit minor, launched with the winter 2012 semester, provides students in any major the opportunity to examine Arab American culture and history.



February 2, 2012

DEARBORN / February 2, 2012--- University of Michigan-Dearborn students now have the opportunity to minor in Arab American studies. The 15-credit minor, launched with the winter 2012 semester, provides students in any major the opportunity to examine the historical, political, economic, literary, artistic, cultural and psychological forces that have shaped and continue to shape the lives and communities of Arab Americans.

Ismael Ahmed, associate provost for Integrated Learning and Community Partnerships, believes UM-Dearborn is the first institution nationwide to establish such a minor. “This is really the only minor that stands on its own in the entire country, so it’s historic,” Ahmed said. “The more cultural competence people have, the more they can work with, do business and live with people in the community. It’s a great opportunity.”

Sally Howell, assistant professor of Arab American studies and history, said she’s already fielded plenty of excitement from students. “The news that we have the minor has already made a big difference,” Howell said. “It’s a mix of humanities, social sciences and behavioral sciences. We’re also going to try and provide some engaged learning classes to coincide with the University’s metropolitan vision. Students will come out of this with a much better idea of Arab American culture and history.”

Bawardi, assistant professor of Arab American studies and history, introduced Arab American studies courses at UM-Dearborn five years ago, two of which will be core offerings for the minor. “Whereas the existing courses attempt to address the breadth of the Arab Americans' complex experiences, the minor will allow us to address specific strands of Arab American life in separate courses, including strengthening links with local institutions and, I hope, translations of untouched Arabic language works that could unlock neglected historiography,” he said.

Student demand, paired with the University’s diverse community, prompted the minor’s inception. “The UM-Dearborn student body is unique in its ethnic composition, providing a sizable pool of potential Arab American studies minors of both Arab and non-Arab backgrounds,” according to the program proposal.

Bawardi contends the Arab American studies minor can benefit students pursuing majors across the board. Whether they’re studying to become a lawyer or an accountant, the minor will help students prepare for a diverse workplace, he said.

Ron Stockton, political science professor, agrees. “This minor will be of great interest to certain types of people, for example, teachers,” Stockton said. “A teacher with Arab American students, or even a teacher with no Arab American students, would find it valuable to know about this community. My own hope is that more non-Arabs sign up for this minor than Arabs. That would be a great success for us as an educational institution.”

Founded in 1959 with a gift of just over 200 acres of land and $6.5 million from the Ford Motor Company, University of Michigan-Dearborn is a metropolitan university serving southeastern Michigan, committed to excellence rooted in strong academics, innovative research and programming and civic engagement. The University has nearly 8,900 students pursuing more than 90 bachelor's, master’s, doctoral and professional degrees in liberal arts and sciences, engineering, business and education.  A top-ranked university with a faculty devoted to teaching, and students committed to achievement, UM-Dearborn has been shaped by its history of partnering with local leaders and communities, and is committed to finding solutions for the challenges that face the region.