MEIS is the result of a far-reaching university initiative, launched in 2002, to make SFSU a center of excellence in the fields of Middle East and Islamic Studies, comprising those regions of the world where Islam is one of the main forms of religious practice from the 7th century until the present. Former SFSU President Corrigan initiated a drive to enlarge SFSU’s faculty expertise in MEIS, so that we currently have twenty participating tenure-track faculty members across social sciences, humanities, and creative arts departments. Initially loosely organized as “MEIS Faculty Group,” we launched a cluster of courses titled "Islamic Societies and Cultures" as part of SFSU’s interdisciplinary general education program in 2003. Our group slowly gained visibility beyond our classes by sponsoring lectures, brown bag lunch series, and annual topical seminars on campus. Many of our faculty members have presented lectures to audiences in local community centers and high schools.
In December of 2007, SF State's Academic Senate passed our proposal to institute a MEIS minor on campus. In April 2008, the U.S. Department of Education awarded us an Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Languages (UISFL) Grant, so that we could enhance our MEIS minor. With the help of the grant, we expanded our MEIS curriculum with new classes (i.e. MEIS 300: Foundations in MEIS; MEIS 301: Islam: Interpretation and Practice; and others), added to our language offerings in Arabic and Persian, established a collaborative network for the pooling of MEIS intellectual and material resources throughout the California State University system, and made connections with academic institutions in the Middle East to facilitate exchanges and Study Abroad. In 2013, the Institute of Turkish Studies in Washington D.C. awarded SF State a seed grant to add Turkish classes to our curriculum.
As a university, SF State has shown singular leadership in recruiting a highly qualified and dynamic Middle East and Islamic Studies faculty. We look forward to growing this program in the coming years with the support of students and members of the community.