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More than just words

Part of any well-rounded education is understanding other cultures. At Cornell, along with most other liberal arts schools, that takes the form of foreign language classes, courses on the history and culture of other nations, and study-abroad programs.

For the past two years, the college has been offering Arabic language courses, and this year is expanding that initiative to include courses on Arabic history and culture, as well as language. Chris Holman, who's taught Arabic for a decade and was an Arabic translator for the U.S. Army, is going to teach two language courses and a course on Arabic culture. His position was funded by William Aossey '63. Aossey, whose gift helped to start the Arabic language program and who has committed to funding two more years of the program, said he's been pleased with its progress. The founder of Midamar, a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based company that provides halal food and supply chain management, said that students need to be exposed to under-represented cultures, especially given the changes in western Asia in the past 30 years. He said his hope is that increased exposure will lead to greater understanding.

"These are resource-rich nations that help supply the world," he said. "We need to understand them."

Nilay Ozok-Gundogan, a post-doctoral Fellow in modern Middle Eastern history, is going to teach three history courses this year. Her position is funded by the Associated Colleges of the Midwest, through a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Both positions are funded for the next two years.

The language courses have found an audience at the college already, said Joe Dieker, dean of the college.

"Faculty members are very excited about the new courses and the expanded international focus," he said.