Central Asia, with its westward extension into Southwest Asia, is a vast region rich in history, natural resources, and geopolitical importance. The birthplace of many of the ancient world's religions and empires, it was the home to remarkable centers of learning, and the arena of devastating conflicts. Despite its fascinating past and strategic importance, the region is one of the most neglected in the curricula of American colleges and universities. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the increasing American military involvement in the area, the region's significant strategic importance has reemerged.
The University of Montana has emerged as a national and international leader in recognizing the significance of Central & Southwest Asia, and translating that awareness into a major academic program. The program builds on significant faculty experience and expertise in the region, and includes scholars from numerous UM departments. The center has also organized summer study tours for K-12 teachers to Central Asia, and also hosts annual conferences that bring leading scholars, diplomats, analysts and journalists to the campus.
The University of Montana offers an undergraduate Minor and an undergraduate Major in Central and Southwest Asian Studies. Arabic, Chinese, and Russian language instruction are also offered. Faculty exchanges have been organized with universities in Russia, China, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Palestine, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Morocco.