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KNOXVILLE — The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, is expanding opportunities for students to learn about the Arab world.

The departments of Religious Studies and Modern Foreign Languages and Literatures have received a grant for $195,103 from the U.S. Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program for the infusion and enhancement of Arab studies.

This grant, along with a substantial contribution from the College of Arts and Sciences, will create a two-year program, titled “Arabic Language and Culture across the Curriculum,” which will create the foundation for establishing an Arab studies minor, and eventually a major. The program is designed primarily to advance undergraduates toward linguistic competency in Arabic language and knowledge of Middle Eastern civilization.

Until now, efforts to internationalize UT Knoxville curriculum have not focused on the Middle East.

“Faculty in the College or Arts and Sciences and in other colleges, including Law and Education, Health, and Human Sciences, have begun several important initiatives to include various aspects of the Middle East in coursework and research activities. This grant will help coordinate and extend those efforts,” said Erec Koch, department head of modern foreign languages and literatures.

The program will allow students to learn Arabic in a compelling way. They also will be able to take a broader range of courses that will address Arab culture across disciplines and have access to more study abroad programs in the Middle East and North Africa. The program will cut across a wide swath of disciplines, including the humanities and the social sciences, history, religious studies and music to give students a well-rounded knowledge of the region.

“In accordance with the Ready for the World Initiative, we think that our students, if they are to be successful, must be informed citizens of a globalized and diverse world,” Koch said. “The program funded by this grant will allow our students to learn effectively the language and culture of the fifth most populous tradition of the world, a tradition that is and will continue to be of strategic importance to the United States.”

An external faculty consultant who is an expert in Middle Eastern studies will work with UT Knoxville faculty to design courses that incorporate important dimensions of Middle Eastern culture. A faculty enhancement committee will examine existing course offerings and lay the groundwork for an interdisciplinary minor and eventual major in Arab studies, and develop a gateway course on the intellectual and cultural history of Middle Eastern civilizations. Faculty also will travel to selected sites in the Arab world and assist in creating study abroad and exchange programs for undergraduates.

Ready for the World is UT Knoxville’s ambitious plan to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world. It is part of a long-range plan to transform the campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century. To learn more about Ready for the World, visit

C O N T A C T :

Erec Koch (865-974-2311,

Whitney Holmes (865-974-5460,