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Gann Eyes New Program on Middle East Trip

April 4, 2010

Michael Wilner
Gann Eyes New Program on Middle East Trip

President Gann traveled to the Middle East on a fact-finding trip last month, visiting four countries in two weeks. Meeting with alumni, collegiate heads, and government officials, her goals were to gain an understanding of education in the area, reconnect with Claremont McKenna’s regional network, and explore the possibility of starting a CMC Middle East Program. Professor Bassam Frangieh, director of CMC’s Arabic programs, believes the new venture is a natural progression for the College after the Arabic program demonstrated such success over the past year. “You cannot teach the language alone,” Frangieh said. “You have to teach the culture, as well. Both are interconnected. And now the students want to do more. They are eager to go to the Middle East to study Arabic and to do internships in Arab countries.”

Currently, over one hundred students have enrolled in Arabic courses at CMC. The current program was founded just a year ago.

According to Frangieh and Gann, the program would be similar in structure to CMC’s DC Program, with internships attended during the daytime and courses instructed in the evenings. But the program would only be offered during the summer, for now. “We believe the success for the CMC model is to take students who have already studied Arabic here and have a way to project ourselves there,” Gann said. “We would provide housing, courses and internship opportunities” – resources hard to come by in the region without established assistance.

The president visited Abu Dhabi, Kuwait City, Ad Doha and Amman. “I think, on balance, Amman, Jordan will come out as the best location,” Gann explained. “Arabic is the main language there and the culture is more obvious than in the other cities we visited. They speak a lot of English in these other cities. And I believe it will have the best internship opportunities.”

She added: “We also have alumni support there, which I feel is very important. I’d be less excited about going into a country where we have absolutely no alumni. The other issue in the gulf is that, frankly, it’s very hot in the summer.”

Ideally, the program would start in the summer of 2011. But it remains unclear how it would be funded. “We would have to charge tuition for it, because it would be for credit,” she said. Details are to be worked out with Dean Hess in the coming months.

As a CMC program, the College would be able to hire all of its instructors, which would give it much more control over the content of courses and allow for the classes to count for credit. It would be difficult to award such credit, and nearly impossible to coordinate quality internships, if the courses were outsourced to another program or university. “We certainly can do it better and more effectively,” Frangieh noted, adding that he would be willing to go with the students to shepherd them and establish the program. “Creating a strong CMC presence abroad is not only necessary but also a requirement. This is the time to do it.”

While there, Gann traveled with Aleta Wenger, the Executive Director of International Programs and Professor Frangieh’s wife. Together they met with dozens of officials, including the U.S. ambassador to Kuwait, Her Majesty’s staff in Jordan and members of the Brookings Institution’s Middle East Bureau in Qatar.

The trip came in light of increased globalization efforts made by the College on various fronts. Dean of Admissions Richard Vos recently came off a recruitment trip in the Middle East himself, and a trip to Singapore and Hong Kong took place over Spring Break for the Robert Day School. But Gann was clear to differentiate our interests in the Middle East from Claremont’s plans in Asia. “We’re looking at something far simpler in the Middle East than we were in Singapore,” she said, referring to consortium plans to found a sixth college abroad. “We don’t want any bricks and mortar; we just want to organize it as an extension of what we do here.”

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