How does the Middle East Studies Center make an impact?

The Middle East Studies Center makes an impact on the local community, general public, students and the curriculum of Ohio State University, through public engagement, educator and P-12 classroom outreach, military training, student learning and professional experience opportunities, and grants for bolstering language and area studies courses and research at Ohio State University.  These activities combine to produce expertise on the Middle East, which comprise a formidable contribution to the national pool of experts. Over the past 31 years our center received the prestigious Title VI National Resource Center grant award 8 consecutive times, for a total of 13 million dollars, until the last grant cycle in 2014.  This status situated OSU in the top 10- 20 major research universities in the U.S for extensive offerings in Middle East Studies, and advanced levels in the region’s languages.  Our Center has distinguished itself over the years with its unique strength in community outreach, military and teacher training, while also maintaining high levels of academic and outreach activities on par with our counterparts at University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Indiana University, Columbia University, New York University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Georgetown University, University of Arizona, University of Utah, Berkeley, UCLA, and others. We have made a significant impact on Ohio State University, the local community, the local region, the nation, and the world, with these resources. Download the impact handout here.

Public Engagement:

The director gives an average of 50 public lectures a year, in addition to academic presentations and military training he conducts.  The director gives weekly interviews to Voice of America, BBC, CNN, Aljazeera, NPR, and Radio Jamaica, Radio Free Europe, and others. According to their web sites, Voice of America (VOA) reaches 134 million weekly, BBC World Service reaches 1460 per quarter, WOSU reaches 900,000 weekly, and Radio Liberty Prague reaches 24 million weekly. MESC activities receive media attention due to our work with OSU public relations and media channels, and our own social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) and print media.  Currently the Center offers over 28 videos, 7 audio recordings, and 6 educational image galleries. MESC has published two e-books - “Keys to Understanding the Middle East”  and “Euphrates-Tigris Water Issues: An Introduction”  an active blog, a Youtube channel of educational videos, educational image galleries, and an archive of event footage and audio recordings online in Ohio State’s Knowledge Bank.  These include a presentation by the Director of the Ibn Khaldoun Research Center in Cairo, Sa'ad Eddin Ibrahim, who spoke in 2004, and our Post-9-11 Teach-in, and many more.  Instructional materials for teachers include a presentation on the Middle East, a lesson on Saudi Arabia, and a unit on WWI.  

Educator and P-12 Classroom Outreach:

  • Teacher institutes and webinars on the Eastern Hemisphere, World Governments, and other Required Curriculum pertaining to the Middle East.  Over 55 teachers trained in 2016.
  • Classroom visits, online communication and activities on campus for middle and high school students. 90 High School students reached this academic year.
  • The Global Scholars Program we co-sponsor with local schools and the Columbus Council on World Affairs.  100+ Students reached this academic year. 

Military Training:

Since 9/11, the Middle East Studies Center the demand for language intercultural training focused on the Middle East has increased exponentially, especially from the military.  MESC responded to this need immediately, and formalized our military trainig program in 2011. Since then we have trained over 1000 military officers, and impacted many more soldiers about to deploy.  MESC has partnered with the Ohio National Guard, the Lima Company of the Marine Corps, Camp Mabry, and Fort Drumm, to name a few. The director, Dr. Alam Payind, who has a native fluency in Persian, Pashto and Urdu and is scholar of Afghanistan and Middle East Studies, conducts military training 3-5 times per year on the Middle East and Central Asia, including regular seminars at Wright-Patterson Air Force base for Central Command’s training program for officers in all military branches, Defense Institute for Security Assistance Management (DISAM).  

Student Career Development Activities, Resources and Opportunities:

The Center has awarded 247 Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships since it first receive Title VI funding in 1969. We are proud to claim a great number of FLAS Fellows, most of which have moved on to distinguished careers in academia and other fields. The languages funded: Arabic (151), Hebrew (24), Persian (42), Turkish (28), Urdu (1), and Yiddish (1)

MESC works with Career Services and the other area studies centers to host international career events, and produce up-to-date materials on valid academic and career paths, as well as job information. MESC also provides work experience opportunities through its internship program, developing between 3 and 5 students each semester. MESC provides opportunities to strengthen cross-cultural communication skills by facilitating online conversations between OSU students and students at Istanbul University.  Over the past year, over 20 OSU students were paired with conversation partners

Interdisciplinary Curriculum and Language Instruction Established Through Title VI Grants:

We have seeded Faculty Positions Seeded in Anthropology, History and Turkish Language, in addition to establishing the following courses in OSU's curriculum:

  • Introduction to the Modern Middle East
    Offered through: International Studies
    General Education Course
    Enrollments: 50-100 each year
  • Contemporary Issues in the Middle East
    Offered through: International Studies/Near Eastern Languages and Cultures 
    Upper Level Course
    Enrollments: 15 - 20 each year
  • Cultural Continuity & the Challenge of Political, Economic, & Social Transition in the Middle East
    Offered through: International Studies
  • The Taliban
    Offered through: International Studies

Creating a National Pool of Middle East Experts

A major impact of programs like ours is the increase of Middle East experts, either in language or other studies related to the area. MESC reduces shortages of experts by seeding courses and faculty positions, by directly funding and teaching three courses, and by supporting the Summer Institute in Persian, Turkish and Pashto. MESC supports research and training by supporting the foreign language training program with special strengths in the less commonly taught languages (LCTLs). Most recently the Center provided a large portion of funds to support the Summer Consortium in Persian, Turkish and Pashto, hosted here at the Ohio State University for the past three years. Through the Center’s FLAS Fellows, the majority of whom are reaching advanced levels and are using LCTLs in archival research for dissertations and theses, the Center helps to create the experts who will train the next generation of students, many of whom also go on to serve in government and the military. Strong linkages with foreign institutions are another important way MESC supports study abroad, faculty, and student exchange. The Ataturk faculty exchange program has allowed over thirty Turkish professional school, humanities, and social science professors to stay on Ohio State campus and collaborate with Ohio State professors in their respective fields. In general, MESC helps to infuse a foreign language and area studies dimension across the disciplines by seeding positions, courses, and through the FLAS fellowships and other curriculum enhancing activities. 

Our graduates have moved on to fulfilling positions in a number of different fields:

  • In the past 40 years, the majority (37%) have attained positions in higher education in such prestigious institutions as the American University in Cairo, while many have remained employed with the Ohio State University.
  • The next largest group, comprising 34% of our total graduate population, have moved on to employment in the private sector.
  • 9% attended graduate school, while 8% entered into professional fields as language analysts, resident psychiatrists, and other important positions.
  • Finally, 5% of MESC graduates found employment with various non-profits, while 4% and 2% entered into employment with the government and military, respectively.

MESC also takes great strides to cultivate talent with OSU's undergraduate population. Our internship program brings in eager and inquisitive young minds that are eager to advance the Center's mission by fostering knowledge and interest in the Middle East, and in doing so learning something themselves. By the end of everysemester, students have gained critical skills for success in the job market, such as video editing, fund-raising, and effective communication.  Interns contribute regularly to web content, outreach programs, and to the organization of various events MESC either organizes itself or else helps to co-sponsor. As an extension of this undergraduate student outreach, MESC holds several career events throughout the year, which help to engender interest in the Center, its objectives, and to educate students regarding career opportunities in the field of Middle East studies.

MESC-affiliated faculty and the Center administrators have created or contributed to the production of text books, lesson plans, videos, web sites, and online material. Most recently, the Pashto instructional materials were developed by Pashto instructor, and BBC Pashto program producer Dawood Azami, and thanks in part to MESC. MESC and its affiliated faculty advance uses of technology through courses connected by video conferencing equipment to foreign universities, web based courses, courses with online components, and real-time transcription services of outreach lectures. MESC maintains a lending library which used utilized by K-12 teachers and professors at Ohio State, and an annotated bibliography of fundamental materials for research in various areas of Middle East Studies. An artifact box will be created as the result of a year-long teacher training program on the visual traditions and material culture of Turkey, to be lent out to teachers though the Office of International Affairs Engagement and Outreach Office. In another aspect of outreach, MESC has been very active in going to elementary, middle, and high schools for outreach lectures, seminars and workshops for both students and teachers. As regards the whole outreach program, the Center director alone gives 50 to 60 outreach lectures per year, in addition to scholarly panels, university visits and lectures, and numerous radio, television and newspaper interviews. Business audiences range from accountants groups to business clubs, such as Rotary, the Columbus Metropolitan Club, and the Columbus Club, to actual business venues, such as petroleum, insurance, and other types of companies. In addition, MESC has always been active in recruitment of members of less-represented groups in international service, through mentorship, responsiveness to requests, and promotional activities which target them.

*University of Chicago, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, Indiana University, Columbia University, New York University, Harvard University, Princeton University, Yale University, Georgetown University, and The Ohio State University.