Dana Hall’s area studies classes are “one of a kind”

The Area Studies graduation requirement “ensures that all students have been introduced to the history and perspectives of a non-Western region in support of our mission to prepare students for the challenges they face as citizens of the world,” according to Dana Hall’s curriculum handbook. Alexandra Siemon, who has been the Middle Eastern Studies teacher for 32 years, stated that the purpose of having Area Studies as a graduation requirement “is to make sure that every kid who goes to Dana Hall doesn’t just get one type of history.” 

Eric Goodson, the AP U.S History teacher and the creator of the Latin American Area Studies, said, “We are asking our students to treat people who are not like themselves seriously. Not just study people like a subject, but try to live a little bit like them. Because that is the only way we are ever going to come together as a community of global citizens.” Thus, the purpose of the Area Studies program adheres to Dana Hall’s mission of preparing students to be remarkable women and citizens of the world. 

Ms. Siemon said, “There are very, very few schools that do whole year courses that teach about a region blended with all parts of humanities in a chronological framework. So to find a school that has this as a requirement and offers so many options is very rare.” Both teachers were confident that the Area Studies program is “One of a Kind.”

As Coco Zhang ’22 described, the Middle Eastern Studies class she took her sophomore year was “definitely the most interesting history class I have taken.” She gained knowledge about the Middle Eastern region and it “also taught me a lot in terms of reading skills, writing skills and helped me understand current events better,” which are important skills required for the U.S History class Coco is taking currently.

In 1956, Dana Hall Social Studies teacher John Schuler petitioned to start an East Asian Studies course, which became an option for students the following year. At the time, the Korean War and Cold War were having an effect on the U.S., so Mr. Schuler felt the need to educate Dana Hall students with diverse perspectives other than the Western point of view on the U.S’s involvement in the world. 

The Head of School at the time, Alnah James Johnston, supported Mr. Schuler’s petition about the East Asian Studies curriculum. Ms. Johnston taught at Yenching’s Women College in Beijing, China, before coming to Dana Hall, which gave her an understanding of the importance of Asian culture. 

Now the program includes East Asian Studies, African Studies, Russian Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, and the newest added Latin American Studies in 2003. Although not all these classes run every year, the Area Studies program is a significant part of the Social Studies curriculum and a graduation requirement.

Photos: images from Mr. Neumann’s and Ms. Siemon’s classrooms, where they teach East Asian Studies and Middle Eastern Studies, respectively.

Comments are closed.