When sophomore biology major Michayla Gatsos learned that the university was offering a new Arabic language minor, she signed up right away.
“I’ve wanted to minor in Arabic since I started at UofL, but they didn’t have a program for it,” said Gatsos.
Junior political science major Kristen Justice told a similar story.
“I found out about the minor sometime during the spring 2020 semester and wanted to declare it immediately. I believe I even emailed Khaldoun about it over the quarantine period,” Justice said.
Offered through the Classical and Modern Languages department, Arts and Sciences, the new degree comes amid growing student interest in Middle Eastern and African cultures and languages.
Most of the classes are taught by professor and program coordinator Khaldoun Almousily, a popular instructor who has mentored winners of prestigious national scholarships and is credited with igniting curiosity in Arabic language and culture.
“Arabic is a very beautiful language with rich history and high demand in the job market,” said Almousily.
“Arabic has only 28 letters. It takes students a day or two to learn to read and write in Arabic. The U.S. Department of State offers several fully funded scholarships to students to study Arabic abroad. Because of all that, a large number of students expressed their high interest. In the coming years, we will offer a major. We also are in the process of starting a translation course so students could start making money as translators and interpreters.”
UofL also offers a minor in Middle East and Islamic Studies, an interdisciplinary program that provides instruction in languages, anthropology, art history, humanities, history and politics.
Almousily’s work to build global understanding goes well beyond Kentucky. Affiliated for years with the Jordan-based Arab Council for the Gifted and Talented, he was appointed chair of the council’s Curriculum and Instruction Committee Sept. 7.
The appointment gives Almousily a chance to lead a team of educators from 23 countries to develop and improve curriculum and instruction for Arab students and teachers.
“I have always wanted to make a difference in the education system in the Arab world,” Almousily said.
He hopes his new appointment can directly benefit UofL too. His ideas include forging co-education partnerships between the university and the council, encouraging Arab graduate students to apply to UofL and opening doors for research and study abroad opportunities.
Almousily earned a Diversity Champion Award in 2017 and is a member of the Classical and Modern Languages department Diversity Equity Inclusion Committee.
For more information about the Arabic language minor, click here.