College Fills Gaps With New Concentration Offerings

If it had not been for the new architecture studies track in the History of Art and Architecture department, Benjamin Lopez ’15 would have been “pretty ready to transfer” out of Harvard.

Lopez, who discovered his passion for architecture during a Harvard Summer School program in Barcelona this summer, said that the new concentration “definitely fills up a vacancy” at Harvard.

HAA is not alone in widening its curriculum choices. This fall, Harvard College welcomed four new concentration options, including modern Middle Eastern studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, a mechanical and an electrical engineering concentration within the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, and architecture studies in HAA.


These new concentrations were designed to fill gaps in the College’s liberal arts education that had been identified by students seeking to pursue careers in those fields of study and by the departments.



“It was so obvious that there was a need. You just have to look at the world around you and see that there’s a need,” said NELC department chair Ali S. Asani ’77 about the new modern Middle East concentration track.

After introducing a secondary field on the same topic last fall, NELC faculty members agreed to propose a concentration track as well, Asani said. Following an approximately seven-month process of conversing with the Office of Undergraduate Education and the Educational Policy Committee, the concentration track was approved for study this fall.

Asani said that the department’s original proposal for the concentration track stayed largely the same through the deliberation process, apart from “a little sort of tweaking here and there.”

Along with this new track, NELC has also created a joint concentration with the history department for undergraduates who want to study the Middle East’s past.

Asani added that the new track allows students to combine studies in humanities and social sciences.

“One of the great things about this track is that it’s really like social studies for NELC,” he said.

Malika Zeghal, who is teaching Modern Middle East 120: “The Arab Revolutions: Popular Uprisings and Political Transformations,” also emphasized the interdisciplinary nature of the modern Middle East track.

The program intends to “offer a strong and diversified curriculum to students interested in studying the history, culture, and politics of the modern Middle East,” she wrote in an email because she could not be reached by phone. “With the historical changes at play since the end of 2010, it only makes more sense for students to study this region.”

Zeghal noted that students can meet their concentration requirements by taking classes in several departments, including history, government, and anthropology.

NELC concentrator John J. Corbett ’13 said that he is “optimistic” about the future of the new concentration track as well as the new joint concentration with history.


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