A Middle Eastern Studies minor at UCF has been revamped to focus more on teaching, research and scholarship of the region and Muslim world.

“Our goal is to produce ‘world citizens’ who understand history, culture and other issues concerning the Middle East,” said program director Hakan Özoğlu. “As U.S. involvement in the Middle East grows, and as many of our students are asked to serve in the Middle East, there emerged a great need to educate them about the region.”

The course requirement has transitioned from 21 to 18 hours to align better with many other minors at UCF and allow students to complete the degree within two years, he said. The program, part of the College of Arts & Humanities,  also has adjusted its electives list with more interdisciplinary course offerings related to the Middle East and Islam.

Some of the required courses are Modern Middle East, Islam and Islamic Empires, History of Iraq and other specialty topics; other university programs that offer electives for the minor are modern languages, history, humanities, Judaic studies, philosophy and political science.

Middle Eastern Studies also serves the public in general by organizing lectures and workshops to inform the community and tackle misperceptions about the region, he said.

“There are a lot of stereotypes that cannot be justified,” Özoğlu said. “Our students are provided with facts not opinions. Yet, students are asked to freely and respectfully discuss these misunderstandings and biases.”

Özoğlu earned a bachelor’s degree in social anthropology at Istanbul University, Turkey, and a Ph.D. in history and master’s in comparative studies at Ohio State University.

He has taught in UCF’s History Department since 2007. Previously he taught at the University of Chicago, Loyola University in Chicago, and other institutions. Early in his career he was an investigative reporter at newspapers in Istanbul.

For details about the program, go to http://middleeasternstudies.cah.ucf.edu/.