Since 2006, Thomas Edison State College and McGuire Air Force Base have been preparing military personnel scheduled for overseas deployments through courses on Islam, the Middle East and other world cultures and religions.
Thomas Edison State College is one of two institutions in New Jersey currently taking part in a pilot program at McGuire Air Force Base that provides military personnel with college courses focusing on the cultures, religions and languages of the places the United States military is currently deployed to in order to make active duty military personnel more culturally aware of the regions in which they are engaged.
“We're hoping to take away some of the prejudices that people may have about the religions and cultures our troops will be exposed to during their deployments,” said Linda Richardson, 305th Mission Support Squadron education and training flight chief at McGuire Air Force Base. “Understanding the differences between our culture and the cultures of the Middle East and other locations where they are deployed will help military personnel better understand the people we are trying to help liberate and those we are fighting.”
Army Lt. Jason Anderson, '07, said the College's course on Islam was helpful during his deployment to Iraq.
“The class I took at Thomas Edison State College on Islam helped me further solidify my understanding of the back ground and origin of the Sunni-Shia fight,” he said. “I studied the role that Christianity had in the creation of Islam and the Koran, Islamic Law, prayer and those who take it to extremes.”
Thomas Edison State College is currently offering eight courses to military personnel in a variety of distance learning formats, included blended and online courses, as part of the program. Each three-credit course fits into the college's Bachelor of Arts degree program in Liberal Studies.
The courses currently include:
- The Middle East
- Introduction to Islam
- Eastern Religions
- Chinese History & Culture
- African History & Culture
- Dealing with Diversity
- Elements of Intercultural Communication
- Introduction to World Religions
Blended courses are structured around an eight-week schedule and combine an online format with four classroom sessions that take place at McGuire Air Force Base.
Currently, approximately 8,700 active duty military personnel are enrolled at Thomas Edison State College, including thousands who are who are presently deployed.