Through careful scholarship across a range of disciplines, engagement with professionals and the public, and teaching undergraduates and graduates, Columbia University has been an exceptionally strong presence in the production and dissemination of knowledge about the Middle East (ME). Founded in 1954, the Middle East Institute (MEI) is housed in the School of International and Public Affairs. MEI coordinates teaching across the university, develops creative ways to relate knowledge from the academy to the workings of the world, and enhances exchange between the U.S. academy and the professional, academic, and cultural spheres in ME countries.
Over the past few years CU has revitalized its ME Studies program, recruiting dynamic, highly visible senior and junior faculty in numerous departments, endowing two new chairs and two visiting positions in ME studies (representing over $7.5m in endowment), offering substantial new funding for graduate study, and doubling ME library acquisitions over the past 12 years. The ME is well represented in undergraduate, graduate, and professional school programs with over 100 courses distributed across 18 departments, interdisciplinary programs, and schools, and taught by 36 full-time faculty, 19 adjuncts and 12 lecturers. Over 2,800 students took ME area and language courses in 2004-2005; while 100 Ph.D. students are working on ME topics.
Language instruction at Columbia is flourishing, using innovative approaches to teaching language through culture; 744 students took ME language courses in 2004-2005. Columbia has developed the largest Arabic program in the country, its rapid growth predating 9/11. Coverage of modern languages extends to Hebrew, Persian, Armenian, and Turkish. The state-of-the-art Language Resource Center flexibly enables coverage of less commonly taught languages.
Our distinguished libraries house ME collections of nearly 450,000 titles, growing at over 14,000 books per year, with an acquisitions budget that has grown by 7.5% a year for the past nine years, and annual spending on ME studies in the libraries of nearly $1.25 million. Library resources include film, video, and online research tools. A new Islamic Studies Reading Room has created a hub for interdisciplinary work on the ME.
The MEI and ME faculty are committed to creating an informed public and mount regular programs of teacher training, University Seminars for New York (NY) area post-secondary faculty and professionals, public lectures and media events (often in collaboration with cultural institutions), and web-based resources that reach multiple constituencies. A new collaborative program with Columbia's distinguished Teachers' College will greatly enhance the MEI's ability to have an impact on teacher training relating to the ME.
Four institutional goals will guide MEI efforts over the next four years: 1) coordination and development of expanded faculty and graduate student resources; 2) curricular development in key areas, from the study of Islam and a focus on language and culture to gender and human rights; 3) further internationalization of ME studies, and 4) enhanced outreach to local teachers and formalized links to trainers of teachers. Four thematic concentrations, Islam between State and Community; Redrawing and Crossing Boundaries in the ME; Culture and the Arts; and Policy, Politics, Society and Modern History, will provide a compelling intellectual framework for new programs, courses, conferences, lectures, outreach/teacher training, and arts festivals.