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University of Iowa News Release

June 7, 2004

High School Students To Attend Arabic Institute June 13-18 At UI

Sixteen gifted high school students from across Iowa and the nation will have the opportunity to study everything from the Arabic language to the religious practices of Arabic speaking people during the Foreign Language Summer Institute (FLSI) June 13-18 at the University of Iowa.

The institute is a one-week residential summer program for students who are currently in ninth through 11th grades. This is a collaborative program between UI International Programs and The Connie Belin & Jacqueline N. Blank International Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development.

The institute will provide students with an introduction to the Arabic writing system and conversational survival skills in the language, ranging from greetings to elementary language structures. Participants will also explore such cultural aspects as food, music, social taboos, and clothing, as well as the various societies of the Arabic-speaking world. The curriculum is designed for students with no previous knowledge of Arabic and will be conducted in Arabic and English.

"The Belin-Blank Center is a national leader in identifying high-ability students and providing them with outstanding educational experiences," said Jan Warren, student program administrator for the Belin-Blank Center. "Our collaboration with International Programs is a perfect example of a 'win-win' situation for students."

While students will be in class six hours a day, their out-of-class experiences are vital to the overall goals of the institute, including seminars, off-campus field trips and cultural and recreational activities such as dances and picnics, Warren said.

"The institute provides students an opportunity to live, study, and explore in a university environment," she said. "And they are able to do all of this with other students who have similar interests and abilities. In combination, students find their time at the institute to be very powerful, both socially and emotionally."

The curriculum was designed by Mouna Sari, the Arabic instructor in the UI linguistics department under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, National Resource Centers (NRC) program obtained by UI International Programs.

"The value of this institute is to introduce students to the language and culture of the Arab world and to help them appreciate that culture by demystifying it and exposing students to its music, its culinary traditions and its cultural contributions to world civilization," Sari said.

Students will be introduced to spoken and written Arabic and will join in discussions with invited speakers. The students will visit the Mother Mosque, the first mosque to be built on the west side of the Mississippi, and a Christian Orthodox church in Cedar Rapids. They will also meet young people from North Africa, the Middle and the Near East, and talk with them about their experiences and lives during a panel discussion. They will be taken on a Web scavenger hunt to investigate the contribution of Arabic scholars to modern science and medicine. Finally, they will be able to acquire a taste of Arabic culture by preparing and sampling a variety of Arabic dishes.

"We also hope to help students understand that the Arabic culture is not a culture that exists only in far away places behind oceans and deserts," Sari said, "but that it is also around them in every American city and town." Field trips to explore the rich cultural traditions of the Arabic-speaking community in both Iowa City and Cedar Rapids will help achieve this goal, she adds.

This program is offered as a part of the UI's effort to increase the teaching of less commonly taught languages at Iowa and in the nation, said James Pusack, co-director of the FLSI and chair of the UI German department.

"The Arabic summer institute for high school students responds to changing national priorities and to a growing perception among Americans that we have a civic responsibility to acquire knowledge of new languages and cultures far beyond those traditionally taught in our high schools," Pusack said.

Every student selected for the institute becomes a McCue Scholar and receives a $625 McCue Scholarship that covers the entire cost of the institute. These scholarships were awarded for exceptional merit. James McCue, UI professor emeritus of religious studies and global studies in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has been a longtime champion of international studies in schools and an advocate for the teaching of Arabic at the UI.

For more information, contact Warren at 319-335-5192 or by e-mail Or visit the institute Web site at:

UI International Programs consists of a number of offices, centers, degree programs, academic programs, research projects and services. Organized under the associate provost for academic programs and dean for International Programs, these units serve to further internationalize the campus and community and promote global scholarship, research, and teaching.

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.

CONTACTS: Media: Mary Geraghty Kenyon, 319-384-0011,; Program: Jan Warren, 319-335-5192,; Writer: Lois Gray