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New Minor Explores the Middle East

Rollins College will now offer a Middle Eastern/North African Studies minor. Dr. Rachel Newcomb, the Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Anthropology, serves as the director of the new minor.

“I think people are going to be interested in it just because the Middle East is a hot topic,” Dr. Newcomb said. “It would be strategic for students to minor in this because it’s a crucial part of the world and having this minor would look good for future career plans. Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of students who have taken Middle East classes and they’ve said, ‘Oh, I want to learn more about this, this is fascinating, I knew nothing about this region even though it seems we’re always at war over there,’ so I think offering this minor is important.”

I think people are going to be interested in it just because the Middle East is a hot topic,

Dr. Newcomb had been thinking about offering the minor for a while, but Rollins did not have enough professors to teach all the classes that the minor would need.

Dr. Newcomb said, “Now there is a critical mass of professors whose expertise is in the Middle East, so just in the last year I felt comfortable trying to put this together.”

To minor in Middle Eastern/North African Studies, students will need to successfully complete a set of six courses. The courses will focus on three key areas: culture, politics and religion.

Dr. Eren Tatari, an Assistant Professor of Political Science, will offer courses related to the political aspects of the region; Dr. Yudit Greenberg, a Professor of Religious Studies, will offer courses on religion; and Dr. Newcomb will offer courses on the region’s culture.

“We have other professors from other departments who teach courses related to the Middle East, too,” Dr. Newcomb said. “There’s Middle East archaeology and courses in modern languages, such as Arabic and Hebrew.”

According to Dr. Newcomb, the process of creating the minor was pretty smooth. “We have a good system,” she said. The proposal to create a new minor first has to be passed by the Academic Affairs committee, after which it is passed by the Executive Committee and by vote at a faculty meeting.

The reasons to minor in Middle Eastern/North African Studies seem to be growing stronger every day. Dr. Newcomb said, “The United States is still in Afghanistan; we’re still critically involved in that region. We give Egypt and Israel billions in aid per year. We’re so invested in what goes on over there, but people know so little about it. I think that it would be good for students to use their time at Rollins to learn more about this part of the world, and then they can inform other people. The minor could also be useful for people who [plan] to enter diplomatic careers, foreign service, or international relations-type careers. Anyone who is interested in anything international should have more knowledge about this part of the planet.”

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