Central Asia, with its westward extension into Southwest Asia, is a vast region rich in history, culture, 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 and 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 a variety of academic disciplines. The center has also organized intensive summer language training programs at UM, as well as summer study tours for K-12 teachers to Central Asia, and also hosts an annual conference that brings leading scholars, diplomats, analysts, and journalists to the UM campus.
The University of Montana offers an undergraduate major as well as a Minor in Central and Southwest Asian Studies. Arabic, Chinese, and Russian language instruction are also offered. Faculty exchanges have been organized with universities in China, Egypt, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Palestine, Russia and Tajikistan.