The Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies major is an interdisciplinary concentration featuring a core of language work and additional coursework in the Middle East or South Asia. Not all concentration courses must be from within MESA-LC. For instance, a course on Islam in Religious Studies would count towards a concentration in either the Middle East or South Asia regions. Current lists of possible concentration courses are on the MESA-LC website. Students are also encouraged to take MESA-LC and related courses outside their geographical region of concentration. The Middle Eastern languages taught in MESA-LC are Arabic, modern Hebrew (with Biblical Hebrew taught in Religious Studies), and Persian. The South Asian languages taught are Hindi, Sanskrit, and Urdu. Each of these languages carries a culture of world-wide importance and a literature of profound depth and beauty. In the twenty-first century knowledge and understanding of this part of the world, from Egypt to Bangladesh, will become increasingly important for people in any profession or field of endeavor.
The Department reserves the right to place any student in the course most appropriate to his or her skill level. Such placement is the responsibility of the coordinator for each language program, and should be made by the fifth class meeting.
Literature courses in MESA-LC are offered in all these languages. Most literature courses are offered in the language and many are offered in English, with readings in translation. In addition to courses in language and in literature, courses offered in many other departments and programs—Anthropology, Art History, History, Politics, and Religious Studies— are required for MESA-LC’s majors, giving MESA-LC students a multidisciplinary perspective.
The MESA-LC curriculum is designed to give students a high level of language competency and a deep understanding of the Middle East or South Asia. The Department offers a Studies Major, a Studies Minor, a Languages and Literatures Major, and a Distinguished Major for exceptional students in either the Studies or the Languages and Literatures Major. Some graduates find employment in their geographical region of study, while others go on to graduate or professional schools for further study. Whichever the case, study in MESA-LC is an intense, intimate and rewarding experience, and MESA-LC students as well prepared for the future.
Requirements for the Major in Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies
- Grade of C or better in MEST 110 (for Middle East concentrators) or SAST 110 (for South Asia concentrators);
- Grade of C or better in each semester of 201, 202 in Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi, Persian, Sanskrit, or Urdu.
- 30 credits in MESA-LC and related courses, with the following distribution:
- 6 credits of language study beyond the 202 level
- MESA 496 – 3 credits
- 7 courses, each at least 3 credits, in one of two regional concentrations: Middle East or South Asia;
- 1 course must have the mnemonic HIME or HISA, according to the student’s concentration
- 1 course must be in a relevant literature
- 1 course must be in each of 3 different departments
- at least 3 courses must be in one department
- double majoring is encouraged, but students are reminded that 18 credits in each major must come from courses unique to that major; only 12 credits may be shared
- students are reminded that USEM credits do not count toward major requirements
- a maximum of 12 study abroad and domestic transfer credits are allowed, with the permission of the major advisor
- Students in this major must maintain a satisfactory grade point average in major courses each semester. Satisfactory is defined as an average of C (i.e., 2.0). Students not maintaining this grade point average are subject to discontinuation from the major.
Requirements for the Minor in Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies
- 202-level in a MESA-LC language. A grade of C or higher must be earned each semester 101-202
- at least 18 credits in one of the two regional concentrations (Middle East or South Asia) Language courses beyond 202 may be counted for this. Of those 18 credits:
- a minimum of 3 courses, each carrying at least 3 credits, must be from regional concentration courses in any one department: Anthropology, Art History, History, MESA-LC, Politics, and Religious Studies;
- at least 1 course, carrying at least 3 credits, must come from a content course in MESA-LC; and
- no more than 9 credits may be from any one department outside MESA-LC.
- Students are reminded that credits applied to a minor may not be applied to a major.
The advisor for this minor is the same as for the major. Students wishing to declare this for their minor course of study must see the advisor.
The Major in Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures
The Department offers a major in Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures for students wanting to achieve proficiency in a major Middle Eastern or South Asian language and a deeper understanding of its literature and culture. The core of this major is a high level of competency in the language and a more focused set of regional concentration courses.
Requirements for the Major in Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures
- 202 level of a MESA-LC language. A grade of C or higher must be earned in each semester of 201-202.
- MEST 110 (for Middle Eastern language majors) or SAST 110 (for South Asian language majors) This course must be passed with a grade of C or better.
- 30 credits in MESA-LC and related courses, of which
- 18 credits must be in one MESA-LC language, or, at the discretion of the student’s advisor, 12 in one and at least 6 in a second language in the same region; Tibetan may be used as a second language in the South Asian region. Biblical Hebrew may be used as a second language in the Middle East region. The 12 credits for the first language must be beyond the 202 level. The 6 credits for the second language may come from 100-level courses.
- 12 credits of the 30 must be in MESA-LC and related courses, of which
- 6 credits must be in regional concentration courses from 2 of the following 6 areas: MESA-LC (at the 300 level or higher), Anthropology, Art History, History, Politics, and Religious Studies; and
- 6 credits are to be determined in consultation with the student’s advisor. These courses may be further MESA-LC language study or non-language, regional concentration courses in MESA-LC or another department.
- a maximum of 15 study abroad credits and domestic transfer credits are allowed at the discretion of the major advisor.
It is crucial that language training begin early in the student’s career. Summer study and study abroad are also encouraged. (See the Study Abroad Programs section below.)
Students in this major must maintain a satisfactory grade point average in major and related courses each semester. Satisfactory is defined as an average of C (2.0). Students not maintaining this grade point average are subject to discontinuation from the major.
Students should check with their advisor concerning the current availability of this major in the language or languages of their interest. The advisor for MESALC is Griffith Chaussée.
The Distinguished Majors Program
MESA-LC offers a Distinguished Majors Program for qualified majors in order to provide the opportunity to pursue in-depth analysis of issues and topics related to the major.
To qualify, students must meet the general requirements of their MESA-LC major with the following modifications. They must take 12 credits of concentration courses at the 400 level or above, including MESA 497, a six-credit sequence of tutorial work on a senior thesis to be completed over the fall and spring semesters of the fourth year. Students are responsible for obtaining the agreement of a faculty member to serve as thesis advisor and a second faculty member from a different department to serve as second reader. Students are encouraged to use primary language sources in researching their theses.
Admission into the DMP occurs in the spring semester of the third year. Applicants must be in either the Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies Major or the Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Literatures Major, with major and general GPAs of at least 3.400. Applications must be submitted by the second Monday after spring break of the student’s third year, and should include the following: (1) a statement of interest explaining the student’s desire to enter the program and his or her general area of research interest; (2) a letter of recommendation from a faculty member in the student’s concentration, either sent directly to the MESA-LC Chair or sealed and submitted by the student with other materials; and (3) a copy of the student’s most recent transcript. Decisions concerning admission to the DMP are made by early April.
Commencement honors of Distinction, High Distinction and Highest Distinction require a minimum GPA of 3.400 as well as timely completion of the senior thesis. Honors are awarded by the Departmental Council on the basis of overall academic performance as well as at the recommendation of the first and second readers of the thesis.
Faculty The MESA-LC faculty consists of approximately fifteen full and part-time scholars and teachers with national and international reputations—in cultural studies, linguistics, literary criticism, philology, and translation—who are fully committed to effective language teaching and to the literatures and cultures of the Middle East and South Asia. While other language programs usually use graduate students to teach beginning and intermediate level language classes, MESA-LC uses for that purpose specially hired and trained Lecturers, who are often native speakers or have near-native fluency. In most language programs class size is restricted, and faculty make a special effort to be available to students outside of class.
Students Every semester hundreds of students study in MESA-LC’s courses. The majority of MESA-LC’s courses involve language study, so the enrollment is purposely kept low. Other courses taught in English usually satisfy the Non-Western Perspectives Requirement and the Humanities Requirement. Some of those courses also satisfy the Second Writing Requirement and are therefore restricted to thirty students or fewer. Approximately 1400 students study in Asian and Middle Eastern courses in other departments.
Students of the Middle East and of South Asia go on to graduate or professional schools, to work in governmental agencies, journalism, art, international banking and business, communications, or the Peace Corps, or they teach in the Middle East or South Asia. The possibilities are almost infinite.
Study Abroad Programs
University of Virginia-Yarmouk University Summer Arabic Program MESA-LC administers a summer Arabic program at Yarmouk University in Irbid, Jordan, which provides an opportunity to study Arabic intensively at the intermediate and advanced levels. The program occasionally receives grants from which it can offer fellowships. Additional information can be found at www.virginia.edu/arabic/yarmuk_program.htm.
In addition to study abroad programs administered by UVa, students are encouraged to develop their language skills at the many other study-abroad programs that are available throughout the Middle East and South Asia. Faculty are happy to advise students concerning appropriate programs, and program descriptions and advice are also available from the International Studies Office in Minor Hall. Students are particularly encouraged to participate in such programs so that they can experience first hand the languages in their surrounding cultures.
At the discretion of the major advisor, a maximum of 12 study abroad and domestic transfer credits is allowed for the Studies Major and a maximum of 15 for the Languages and Literatures Major. No study abroad or domestic transfer credits are allowed for the Studies Minor.
Mastercard Asian Studies Scholarship This scholarship is awarded annually to a rising fourth-year major in Asian Studies, be it in the East Asian concentration in the Department of East Asian Languages, Literatures and Cultures or the South Asian concentration in MESA-LC. To be competitive, students applying for this scholarship should also apply for the Distinguished Majors Program. This scholarship is in the amount of approximately $4000 for tuition, and it carries with it the possibility to apply for a paid summer internship with Mastercard. Unless we are informed otherwise, we assume that all applicants for the DMP are also applying for this scholarship. Therefore, no specific application is required.
Centers and Programs
Arts and Sciences Center for Instructional Technology (ASCIT) A resource containing many audio-visual materials which are used to help bring the culture surrounding our different languages alive for students. It is conveniently located in Cabell Hall along with most AMELC classrooms and offices. The language laboratory is used to help students practice and reinforce their speaking and listening skills.
Center for South Asian Studies The Center for South Asian Studies is an interdisciplinary center that coordinates the study of South Asia—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Tibet. It sponsors a regular weekly seminar program as well as other activities.
Middle East Studies Program Like the Center for South Asian Studies, the Middle East Studies Program is an association of faculty who share a regional interest. The Middle East Program sponsors lectures and other activities.
Center for Jewish Studies Jewish Studies is an interdisciplinary program that introduces students to the history, languages, and literature of the Jewish people; to the beliefs and practices of Judaism; and to the contributions of Jewish wisdom to human civilization.