The Center for Middle Eastern and North African Studies (CMENAS) at the University of Michigan is in the midst of a remarkably vibrant period of growth and activity, the most significant in its 45-year history. With the Middle East occupying an increasingly important role in world affairs, CMENAS' activities are more vital than ever and reflect its mission of enhancing awareness of the peoples, cultures, and languages of the MENA region for University of Michigan (UM) students, Michigan K-12 schoolchildren, community members, and scholars seeking MENA training.
CMENAS offers interdisciplinary bachelor's and master's degrees in Modern Middle Eastern and North African Studies. Students in these programs choose both general and highly specialized coursework taught by 55 area faculty members (including 10 newly hired) in more than 20 departments and professional schools, including UM's outstanding Department of Near Eastern Studies. Moreover, CMENAS' unique dual-degree programs with the UM Schools of Law, Public Health, and Business allow students to pursue careers in these important professions and in government. Students receive training through the advanced levels in Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish, including in multiple Foreign Language Across the Curriculum courses. All five language programs have international reputations for instructional excellence, and CMENAS' language instructors are leaders in proficiency-based testing. Both language and non-language instructional activities are supported by UM's Near Eastern library division, which is among the largest in the nation. UM also supports the new journal JMEWS (Journal of Middle East Women's Studies), founded in 2004 at CMENAS, as well as faculty/student exchange programs in Egypt, Algeria, and Morocco.
CMENAS undertakes a wide variety of academic programming and public outreach for non-specialists, through numerous lectures, symposia, colloquia, and conferences. During Winter 2005, CMENAS coordinated a unique UM-supported Theme Semester on "Cultural Treasures of the Middle East," featuring three museum exhibits, 20 lectures and hands-on demonstrations, six musical performances, and four special courses on MENA cinema, calligraphy, architecture, and ethnography. During 2003-2006, major programming has focused on the politics, economics, religions, and cultures of the region, including through in-depth examinations of multiple societies (eg, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Syria). During 2006-2010, an exceptionally rich array of programming is scheduled, including through academic partnerships with other National Resource Centers (Berkeley, Harvard, and Chicago) and with institutions overseas (AUB, AUC, AUS, U Haifa, Hebrew U, King Saud, and U Tehran). The Islamic tradition, Central Asia, new biotechnologies, oil, and gender are among the areas of focus.
CMENAS is also committed to school-based outreach and the provision of curricular resource materials on MENA to K-12 classrooms across the state. More than a dozen CMENAS curricular units and lesson plans are available to educators through the national Web site "Outreach World." CMENAS works closely with UM's School of Education (SOE) in a wide variety of programs and overseas study tours designed to train pre-collegiate and community college educators. An ongoing SOE collaboration has led to a series of unique computer-simulation courses in which UM students correspond with high school students about the MENA region. During 2006-2010, efforts to train MENA "master teachers" will be significantly expanded, as will outreach in area K-5 classrooms and local community colleges.