A recent award from the U.S. Department of Education firmly positions the Duke-UNC Consortium for Middle East studies as the principal National Resource Center for Middle East studies in the southeastern United States. The Consortium is a collaborative project of the Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations (CCSMEMC) at UNC, and the Duke University Middle East Studies Center (DUMESC).
The Duke-UNC Consortium is among a select group of academic institutions awarded Title VI funding from the U.S. Department of Education for the 2014-18 grant cycle. The grant, totaling nearly $2.4 million, will support and promote administration, faculty positions, course development and pedagogy related to Middle East languages and content; workshops, seminars and speaker series; collaboration with local, regional and national media, business, and government officials; outreach to K-14 schools; and Foreign Language Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships for the study of Middle East languages.
UNC’s Middle East center has been supporting Middle East-related activities since 2003, while Duke’s Middle East center was established in 2008. The Duke-UNC Consortium previously was designated as a Title VI Comprehensive National Resource Center for Middle East Studies in 2010-14; fifteen Middle East National Resource Centers were awarded in the current cycle, and only twelve received FLAS grants.
Charles Kurzman, co-director of CCSMEMC and professor of Sociology at UNC, underscored the significance of the grant. “This award establishes UNC and Duke as the leading center for engagement with the Middle East in this part of the country,” Kurzman said. “We are especially pleased to have been awarded the largest number of FLAS fellowships of any Middle East center in the country.”
Universities across the country compete for Title VI money every four years. Other UNC centers that were funded include the African Studies Center, the Carolina Asia Center, the Center for European Studies, the Center for Global Initiatives, and the Duke-UNC Consortium for Latin American Studies.
“We are extremely proud to have succeeded in this prestigious competition,” said CCSMEMC co-director Carl Ernst, Kenan professor of Religious Studies. “UNC has become a major center for the study of Middle Eastern culture and its languages, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, Turkish, and Urdu.”
Barely a decade after the founding of CCSMEMC, the university now boasts the largest enrollments in Middle Eastern languages, the largest Middle East library collection, a significant collection of Middle Eastern art, and the most impactful Middle East-related outreach in the southeastern United States.
“This grant is a major achievement that reflects the growing national and international prominence of our programs in Middle East Studies and recognizes the vision, hard work, and dedication of faculty, staff and students,” said Jonathan Hartlyn, senior associate dean for social sciences and global programs in the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC.