COLUMBIA, Mo. — The University of Missouri is now offering a minor in Middle East studies.

The new program, which started this fall, will allow students to choose 15 credit hours from 11 disciplines, including art, archaeology, history, literature and religious studies, the Columbia Missourian reported ( ).

Nathan Hofer, who holds a doctorate in religious studies with a primary emphasis on Judaism and a secondary emphasis on Islam, directs the new minor.

“What we call the Middle East goes beyond Islam,” Hofer said. “I want them (students) to have a coherent framework to realize that the Middle East is a lot more diverse, religiously and politically, than most people understand.”

Hofer is also hoping that the minor will encourage interest in associated courses, since enrollment in some religious courses has declined.

He also said that despite the decline, there are still a lot of students eager to learn about and eventually work in the Middle East. Some of these students are aspiring global journalists, lawyers or political science majors.

According to assistant professor of history Victor McFarland, students often do not get the chance to learn about the region beyond what they read in news headlines, which usually only covers terrorists and refugees.

Information from: Columbia Missourian,