The University of Southern Maine has received a $285,000 grant to help establish a women’s studies program based at the American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates.

The project promises to bring a new emphasis on gender studies at several university campuses in the UAE and provide new opportunities for USM faculty and students to learn about Arab culture.

Susan Feiner, a professor of economics and gender studies who lives in Yarmouth, applied for the three-year grant from Higher Education for Development.

She recently returned from the UAE, where she and Christine Holden, an associate professor of history who lives in Lewiston, began planning what is thought to be the first women’s studies consortium in the Persian Gulf region.

The grant will pay for faculty and curriculum development in the UAE, including online conferences and visits to USM, as well as online courses, research and exchange opportunities for students in both countries. It will conclude in March 2012 with the first United Arab Emirates women’s studies conference.