Montclair State Creates Arabic Major

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Published October 27, 2015
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The Montclarion
Mazooz Sehwail is developing a new program for Arabic majors. Photo Credit: Fatima Abdelsalam
Mazooz Sehwail

Mazooz Sehwail is developing a new program for Arabic majors.
Photo Credit: Fatima Abdelsalam

The Modern Languages and Literature Department is expected to announce a new major in Arabic for the upcoming academic year.

Since his first year at Montclair State University, Professor Mazooz Sehwail has observed his students as they gazed with astonishment at the complexity of the Arabic language. Year after year, the number of students within the minor increased and Sehwail became more enthusiastic regarding the idea that grew in his mind: developing an Arabic major.

In Fall 2016, Montclair State University plans on opening its doors to students in pursuit of a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Arabic language.

When asked what sparked his motivation, Sehwail answered with a sigh  of relief. “There are many things that motivated me,” he said. “One being that, within a short period of time, I found that numerous students were interested in Arabic and the number of students minoring in Arabic jumped from seven to above 30. Second, the need for those who are bilingual graduates has increased over the years.”

Sehwail predicts that those graduating with an Arabic major can continue their education in international law, teaching or linguistics. Graduates are looking at careers in the government, United Nations, FBI, big-name corporations, interpretation and more.

In addition, Sehwail believes that students who graduate with a degree in Arabic will be more marketable in this ever-changing society, specifically in light of recent events in the Middle East. He said that the situation with Syrian immigrants is leading to a growing demand of interpreters and social workers to aid in their transition into western society.

Sehwail administers an exam to students of the Arabic language. Photo Credit: Fatima Abdelslam

Sehwail administers an exam to students of the Arabic language.
Photo Credit: Fatima Abdelslam

Not only will students registering for the major learn the language, but Sehwail predicts that, by the time of their graduation, they will be well-educated individuals on the culture and studies of the Arab world.

As with any project, Sehwail was faced with many hindrances when he first tried to introduce the new major into the college curriculum. “I lost a lot of students who have graduated,” he said. “They were sincerely interested in the program.”

In order for Arabic to be offered as a major at Montclair State, it must first be approved by all public universities of the state. Although Montclair State had no issues with the curriculum that Sehwail initially presented to its board, the major could not be offered until some required adjustments were met.

However, after years of arduous work and many changes to the curriculum, Sehwail looks forward to one final meeting where his major will gain approval to be taught in fall of 2016.

As word about the new major spreads around campus, students grow more and more excited as they get closer to declaring Arabic as their second major. One student, Aya Odatalla, spoke with great enthusiasm and assurance. “I’m so excited. Honestly I want to take advantage of my already being fluent in Arabic and declare this major. I’ll accomplish great things with it on my resume.”

Others expressed their contentment at the growing variety of majors. Kevin Abreu said, “It’s good to hear that there is actually more than the norm when [it comes] to choosing a language as a major apart from Spanish or Italian. This brings something new to the table.”

When asked if they would consider joining the major, Nore Hammudh and Amaney Bidas said, “Yeah [we] would, because in Arabic there is so much to learn … it’s a big part of history … it’s our culture.”

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