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Posted on April 7, 2011

The Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has approved a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arabic language and culture that will be taught by faculty at California University and offered online to students at all 14 PASSHE universities.

Students who enroll in the unique program will take the 30 credits required for the Arabic major from Cal U. They will be able to complete their general education requirements and electives at their home campus.

The new degree in Arabic language and culture responds to a critical need. Federal agencies require people who understand the Arabic culture and who can speak, read and write the Arabic language. Several agencies consider it their top priority. The FBI, for example, places Arabic at the top of its list relative to its ability to translate all critical foreign language material. The Department of State identifies the need for individuals trained in Arabic as “super critical.”

It is particularly important for Americans to be trained in Arabic languages because the U.S. government does not provide security clearance to foreign nationals.

“California University is excited about the program and proud to be the flagship institution offering a degree in Arabic language and culture to PASSHE students,” said Dr. John Cencich.

The dean of the university’s School of Graduate Studies and Research, Cencich also oversees all of Cal U’s Global Online programs.

“We look forward to collaborating with the 13 other PASSHE universities, and to working with the U.S. State Department, the Department of Justice and other state and local agencies that have identified Arabic as a critical language,” he said.

The online degree program also is appropriate for individuals who wish to work within Arab-American communities, or who have friends or business colleagues in the Middle East. In addition, Cencich anticipates interest from second-generation Arab-Americans who wish to learn more about their family’s language and culture.

Odeese Khalil, who currently teaches Arabic I and Arabic II in face-to-face classes at Cal U, developed the program and will serve as program coordinator. A native speaker of Arabic, she also will teach courses in the new program, which is expected to begin in the Fall 2011 semester.

The curriculum will follow the guidelines of the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language, providing students with the foundation to become certified interpreters. Partnerships also have been established with two international universities, including the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates, to further expand learning opportunities for students who enroll in the program.