University of Mississippi

Arabic Language Program Builds on Success

Graduate Maggie Day hired at Al Arab network; Orion Wilcox earns honors

OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Mississippi’s Arabic language program is seeing success among both its graduates and current students.

Maggie Day, a 2012 graduate, is heading to Bahrain as a producer for Bloomberg TV. She will produce content as part of the Al Arab network, which is completely in Arabic. Day, who was a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, earned a bachelor of arts in broadcast journalism and a bachelor of arts in political science, as well as a minor in Arabic. “Foreign correspondents’ stories of the Middle East fascinated me, and I wondered if we (on the other side of the television) were getting the truth,” Day said. “After coming on with Bloomberg as a producer, I trained in London, England, for six months. Now, we are currently setting up Al-Arab. Bloomberg will provide six hours of financial content per day for Al-Arab, so my job is to make sure that gets to air.”

Day, a native of Fayetteville, Ark., said the best part of the Arabic program at Ole Miss was the camaraderie between the students and program director Allen Clark.

“We enjoyed small, intensive classes,” Day said. “I had classes with the same seven students and Dr. Clark for three years, so we all became very close. It is great to see how the language has propelled all of our academic and professional careers.”

The university’s Arabic program is founded on the functional approach to language learning and provides its Arabic-language learners with opportunities to spend summers abroad in an Arab country during their sophomore, junior and senior years.

The Arabic program is the reason she has a career in international journalism, Day said.

“So much information is miscommunicated because of poor translation, which in turn leads to incorrect assumptions of the Arab world,” said Day, who was a cheerleader and the 2011 UM homecoming queen. “Studying Arabic at Ole Miss not only gave me an edge in attaining a job over other college graduates, but has helped me to do my job well, in that I can better communicate the stories coming from such a critical region.”

Other students are enjoying success in the program. Orion Wilcox, a junior economics major with a minor in Arabic, has been awarded a superior ranking in the Oral Proficiency Interview, which is conducted by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages.

Wilcox, a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, said that being recognized as superior was gratifying because it was always his goal.

“When I entered college I wanted to learn a foreign language and I felt like I was more intrigued by less commonly taught languages,” said Wilcox, a native of Bay St. Louis. “I considered Chinese, Japanese and Arabic, but in the end I found that I was really enthralled by the beauty and mystery of the Arabic language.

“It was kind of funny because my mom didn’t actually think it was such a great idea at first because I had been a C student in Spanish in high school. We agreed that I would take Arabic my first semester and see how it goes. Three years later, I think it was a good decision.”