Arabic major and minor approved for the fall

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences will offer a major and minor in Arabic for the first time this fall, an administrator said Friday.

Arabic program head Mohssen Esseesy lobbied for the creation of a standalone degree this semester, administering surveys that showed more than 80 students interested in pursuing a major or minor in the language.

Junior Sally Ashkar studies for her media Arabic course. Students will now be able to major or minor in the language after the degree was approved by a group of Columbian College of Arts and Sciences faculty Tuesday. Hatchet File Photo

Before, students interested in Arabic could tack on a minor in Semitic languages and cultures, which also required a year of Hebrew language courses.

Dan Ullman, Columbian College’s associate dean for undergraduate studies, said the eight-member faculty committee gave the degree the seal of approval at a meeting Tuesday without “much controversy.”

“This is not just acceding to student demand, it’s also building something students want but they rightfully want,” Ullman said. “This is an area of emerging importance and I think it was an easy call.”

Enrollment in Arabic courses has climbed to the fourth-highest of any language at the University, Ullman said.

Freshman Preston Quinn, who had lobbied for the creation of the Arabic degree at an internal review committee meeting last month, said the approval marked a positive step for the school in its pursuit of offering a global education.

“Adding the Arabic major to the [Columbian College] is a long time overdue, however late is better than never,” Quinn said. “It makes me happy to see that GW truly cares about the input of its students.”

Esseesy did not respond to requests for comment.

While professors had said the decision would also hinge on the approval of Provost Steven Lerman and the Board of Trustees, Ullman said the degree already cleared the final hurdle after the undergraduate studies committee signed off on it.

Students will still be able to minor in the combined Hebrew and Arabic degree, but Ullman said that could be phased out.

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