Montana State University

MSU wins national award for Arab language program

January 28, 2002 -- by Carol Schmidt

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Tel: (406) 994-4571
Bozeman - Montana State University International Programs' courses in Arab language and culture today received an Institute of International Education (IIE) award as one the country's best international education programs.

MSU's Arabic Language and Middle East/North Africa Studies Program won an inaugural Andrew Heiskell Award announced in ceremonies held in New York City today. The award recognizes groundbreaking university programs that foster international learning.

MSU was the co-winner of the category "Internationalizing The Campus: Advancing Curriculum Development and Providing Services to International Students." Juniata College in Pennsylvania shared the award, recognized for a language outreach program for preschoolers in the college's area. Other winners and their categories include San Diego State University for its study abroad program in international business and the University of Missouri - Columbia for its Global Scholars Program for UM faculty. The Andrew Heiskell Awards are named after a former chairman and CEO of Time Inc. who was a longtime advocate for international education.

MSU won the award for designing and managing a distance education program that brings Arabic language instruction and culture to MSU and four other universities including: Idaho State University, Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C., North Dakota State University and the University of Montana.

MSU's program combines several methods of distance education to enable students to learn Arabic. A professor of Arabic language instruction at the University of Washington teaches the televised courses, with assistance at each campus from native Arabic speakers who serve as teacher assistants (TA's) at participating campuses. Second year students may opt to participate in an exchange at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco. The following two years, students take conversation courses taught by Arabic TA's. Al Akhawayn faculty will soon teach advanced courses online. More than 220 students have gone through the program.

"We at MSU need to be creative in developing new, cost-effective ways to bring to our students the skills and experiences they must have to succeed in today's 'borderless careers,'" said Norman Peterson, director of MSU's International Programs. "More than ever they need to graduate with knowledge of other languages and cultures. Our Arabic initiative tries to do this by combining new technologies, the rich resources international students bring to MSU, and study abroad. "We are extremely gratified that our efforts have been recognized by the Institute of International Education through the Heiskell Award."

Yvonne Rudman, supervisor of the MSU Arabic program, said the distance education-based method of teaching language has proven effective. Comprehension tests of students in the program compared to results from resident students studying Arabic at the University of Washington found students in MSU's program scored the same, or in some cases slightly higher.

"Our goal is to foster new and innovative international programs that broaden opportunities and remove barriers for students and faculty," said IIE president Allan E. Goodman, in today's announcement. "We also hope to bring international education to the forefront of education policy and to increase public awareness about the benefits of study abroad and international educational exchange.

Peterson adds that after Sept. 11, the value of learning Arabic has been heightened. The IIE's Goodman concurs.

"IIE is more dedicated than ever to promoting mutual understanding and working to keep the world's educational doors open, in the belief that educational exchange helps make the world safer and more secure," Goodman said.

The MSU Arabic program was formulated with assistance from the MSU Department of Modern Languages. It was funded by a grant from the National Security Education Program.

MSU will formally receive the award at ceremonies in April. Each winning program will receive $1,000 and will be featured in the Spring 2002 issue of the IIENetworker magazine, and highlighted by IIE throughout the year.

To learn more about the Andrew Heiskell award, go to:

For more information contact: Norman Peterson or Yvonne Rudman (406) 994-4031