Middle East Studies - Arabic BA

Program Purpose


The Middle East Studies/Arabic major aims specifically to prepare students to work as analysts and experts on the Middle East for government agencies, businesses, and other organizations. Linguistic skill in Arabic, as well as a solid understanding of the history, politics, geography, religions, and cultures of the region is vital to these agencies, many of them desperate for real expertise and language ability. With its integrated, interdisciplinary focus on a single region and a strong emphasis on acquiring a usable knowledge of Arabic, it is also a good liberal arts major for students planning a career in law, medicine, business, academe or any other field requiring broad understanding and strong analytical and writing skills.

Curricular Structure

MESA majors are required to take seven semesters of Arabic, which includes one semester of language study in an Arabic speaking country. For students to become proficient in Arabic, it is essential that they spend time abroad mastering the language. In addition to extensive language study, students also complete a core of Middle East related courses from the humanities and social sciences. The introductory course to the major (MESA 201) introduces students to the region and how various disciplines approach the region in terms of theory, methodologies, and content. Students then take a set of courses on the history, politics, geography, religions and cultures of the region. In addition students can take two electives from more than a dozen Middle East related courses. A final capstone class allows the students to integrate all that they have learned in an advanced research (including Arabic language sources) and writing experience.

Major Academic Plan

Undergraduate Catalog

Learning Outcomes


Succinct Analytical Writing

Write succinct analytical papers on Middle Eastern events or topics in which students situate the event or topic in its broader context (geographical, political, religious, historical, etc.)

Courses that Contribute: MESA 495 PL SC 357 PL SC 474 POLI 357 POLI 452 POLI 474
Linked to BYU Aims: Competence, Lifelong service
Substantive Research Papers

Write substantive research papers which integrate extensive background knowledge and personal experience in the Middle East

Courses that Contribute: MESA 495 PL SC 357 PL SC 474 POLI 452
Linked to BYU Aims: Competence, Lifelong service
Oral Presentation

Explain and analyze Middle Eastern events or topics in significant oral presentations.

Courses that Contribute: ARAB 311R ARAB 331 MESA 495
Linked to BYU Aims: Think soundly, Communicate effectively
Library/Internet Research

Perform skilled library and internet research on Middle Eastern topics

Courses that Contribute: MESA 495 PL SC 474 POLI 452
Linked to BYU Aims: Think soundly, Quantitative reasoning
Speaking Proficiency

Speak an Arabic dialect at the ACTFL Advanced Level, demonstrating an ability to negotiate both survival and basic professional situations

Courses that Contribute: ARAB 101 ARAB 211R ARAB 302 ARAB 311R ARAB 331
Linked to BYU Aims: Competence, Lifelong service
Reading Proficiency

Read and understand Arabic newspapers fluently, specifically front page, international page and Arab World page news articles, without the use of a dictionary or other aids.

Courses that Contribute: ARAB 101 ARAB 300 ARAB 302 ARAB 311R
Linked to BYU Aims: Communicate effectively, Lifelong service
Arabic Research Sources

Research using Arabic sources.

Courses that Contribute: ARAB 302 MESA 495
Linked to BYU Aims: Communicate effectively, Competence
Gospel principles of respect

Understand and apply gospel principles of appreciation and respect for cultural and religious differences and similarities.

Courses that Contribute: IHUM 242 MESA 201 MESA 250 MESA 350
Linked to BYU Aims: Gospel knowledge, Lifelong service
Cultural Proficiency

Exhibit understanding of Middle Eastern culture, humanities, geography, history, politics and religion while studying and living in the Middle East for an extended period of time.

Courses that Contribute: IHUM 242 MESA 201 MESA 250 MESA 350 PL SC 357 PL SC 452 PL SC 474 POLI 474
Linked to BYU Aims: Gospel knowledge, Lifelong service

Evidence of Learning


Program assessment tools include exercises, quizzes, exams, and writing assignments as well as oral interviews in the language classes. This a new major and so more long term levels of assessment, such as exit interviews and alumni surveys have yet to be implemented. We have not yet started to officially monitor job placement of graduates, but informally gathered information suggests that our graduates are in high demand for work in government and business. The Kennedy Center career and advisement center is working on developing a more effective way of keeping track of graduates and their job placement.

Direct Measures

1. Students will choose 3 of their best briefing papers from the 7 or more assigned in various classes (particularly in the Middle East Political Science core course) for inclusion in their electronic portfolio.

2. Students will include their capstone research paper and at least one other research paper in their electronic portfolio.

3. Students will deliver at least one major graded oral presentation in the capstone class. They may optionally include video footage of this or another oral presentation in their electronic portfolio.

4. Students will demonstrate library research skills by passing MESA 201 where they are taught and tested, and with their capstone paper, which will be included in the portfolio.

5. Students will take the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview test at end of Study Abroad Experience from an accredited testing agency. Scores will be recorded in electronic portfolio.

6. Students will take the National Arabic Reading Test from an accredited agency at the end of the Study Abroad Experience from an accredited testing agency. Scores will be recorded in electronic portfolio.

7. Students will take the National Arabic Listening Test from an accredited agency at the end of the Study Abroad Experience from an accredited testing agency. Scores will be recorded in electronic portfolio.

8. Students will place their three best Arabic essays or writing samples in their electronic portfolio.

Indirect Measures

Other (Indirect) Assessments

9. Placement of our students in occupations that require Arabic proficiency will be tracked by the program.

Learning and Teaching Assessment and Improvement


MESA faculty meet each year as a whole to oversee the major and to assess needed changes to the major and minor. This group helped draft the founding documents for the major in 2003 and have devoted effort to offering our students an excellent experience since. MESA faculty consistently have made changes to the major curriculum to tighten the major sequence, add required classes to strengthen our focus on writing and research, and refine our Arabic language program.