Middle Eastern Studies

Syracuse University’s relationship with the Middle East extends back more than 60 years and spans many disciplines—from public administration and media studies to literature and religion. Today, SU provides an array of opportunities for students to learn about and visit this extraordinary region. More than 20 faculty members are experts in the Middle East, while the University offers over 80 such graduate and undergraduate courses. 

Located in the Maxwell School’s Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, the Middle Eastern Studies Program (MESP) offers both an interdisciplinary minor and a bachelor of arts degree through The College of Arts and Sciences, as well as a graduate certificate of advanced studies through the Maxwell School. All three programs are steeped in world-class instruction and study-abroad opportunities, providing unique insights into one of today’s fastest growing regions.

Major Requirements(+)

This interdisciplinary major, which leads to a B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies, provides students with the opportunity to study the languages, history, culture, religions and politics of the Middle East. The major will require students to complete (a) three core courses, (b) three consecutive semesters in one of the regional languages (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish), (c) two lower division courses and (d) three upper division courses.

The Major in open to all undergraduates who have completed at least two Middle Eastern content courses (one of which can be a language course) and have a GPA of 2.8 or better. Prospective majors must meet with the Program Director (Professor Yuksel Sezgin) (https://www.maxwell.syr.edu/psc/Sezgin,_Yuksel/) before submitting a major application. At least 18 of the 36 credits required for the major should be in courses numbered 300 or above. A maximum of six credits of independent study can be applied to the major by petition. Experience credit courses (i.e., internships) may not be used to satisfy the requirements of the major.

To view the course catalog for the major please click here

To view the checklist for program requirements click here

Minor Requirements(+)

The Minor in Middle Eastern Studies (MES) was established in 2003 to expose students to the diverse cultures, languages, literatures, religions, and political systems of the Middle East as it takes center stage in the international geopolitical landscape. Students must complete a total of 20 credits (6 courses) for the Minor in Middle Eastern Studies: 8 credits in a regional language, 3 credits in one core course, and another 9 credits in upper division courses (numbered 300 or above). At least 12 credits total should be in upper division courses (numbered 300 or above). In accordance with university policy, a maximum of six credits may be counted toward more than one degree.

To view the course catalog for the minor please click here

To view the checklist for program requirements click here

Certificate of Advanced Studies(+)

The Certificate of Advanced Studies in Middle Eastern Affairs is available to Syracuse University students in all graduate programs who are looking to supplement their degree with a strong foundation in the region’s culture and politics or to prepare for a career involving regional specialization. View Details

Spring 2018 Course Offerings(+)

Study Abroad(+)

The Road to Democracy in the Islamic World
May 15-May 31, 2017 

Application deadline: Feb 10, 2017

This program, first offered in 2012, examines the problem of the "democratic deficit" in the Muslim world, and analyzes the causes and consequences of the recent wave of revolutions against authoritarian rule in the Arab World. In addition, the course will look at the commitment of the United States to the promotion of democratic institutions and values in the Middle East. Case studies include Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey. The 2017 seminar, taking place in Dubai, will be led by two senior professors of political science at Syracuse University, Matt Bonham and Mehrzad Boroujerdi, and will include a host of activities such as field trips in Dubai and Sharjah, an overnight excursion, and guest speakers.
Skirting the edge of the Arabian Peninsula, the United Arab Emirates is a true melting post of cultures. It is a hub for trade, business, and cultural exchange. The UAE is the perfect place to learn about the Arab world. Students will witness the daily intersection of traditional values and modern realities.

Eligibility and Requirements

Undergraduate and graduate students in good academic standing at any accredited college or university are eligible to apply to this program.

Travel and Living

Students arrange and pay for their own round-trip air transportation to Dubai. Transportation for program-related field trips is arranged by SU Abroad and included in the program fee. Students will be housed in shared hotels/hostels or student housing. Breakfast will be included each day.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not purchase your airline ticket before receiving written notification from us that you can book your flight. You will have to present this notification if we cancel the program at a later date, and you want to be reimbursed for the cost of the ticket.
*Travel and living arrangements are subject to change.  SU Abroad will provide detailed information prior to the program start date.


The American Approach to the Islamic World & The Arab Spring: The Development of Democracy in the Islamic World
PSC/IRP/MES 400/600, 3 or 6 Credits, Undergraduate/Graduate
*It is the student's responsibility to confirm with their home school/college that the course(s) taken as part of this program will satisfy their degree requirements.


 Program begins:  May 15, 2017
 Program ends:  May 31, 2017 
 Application deadline:  February 10* 

* Applications received after February 10 will be considered if there is still space in the program.


   UNDERGRADUATE (3 credits)
 Tuition  $3,468 (2016 rate)
 Program Fee   $2,025 (estimated) 
 Total  $5,493 (estimated)

        GRADUATE (3 credits)

 Tuition  $4,329 (2016 rate)
 Program Fee  $2,025 (estimated)
 Total  $6,354 (estimated)

Please note: All costs are estimated and subject to change.

Additional Financial Information: We estimate that students should budget accordingly for the following expenses:

Air travel: $700 - $1,200
Books & Supplies: $100
Personal: $500
Meals: $650


G. Matthew Bonham is a professor of political science and international relations at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs of Syracuse University and co-director of the public diplomacy program. His research involves international communication and the development of models of policy decision making. He is currently conducting research on Turkey as a “model” for democratic governance.

Mehrzad Boroujerdi is professor and chair of the Political Science Department at Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. He served as the founding director of the Middle Eastern Studies Program from 2003 to 2014.

Click here for more information about the program. 

Visit the program on Facebook!

Student Resources(+)

The Middle Eastern Studies Program is one of six regional centers in the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, located in the Maxwell School. As a member of the interdisciplinary Moynihan Institute, MESP provides students with internships and other immersion opportunities to help them learn about the world in which they live. MESP students also benefit from the program’s joint affiliation with The College of Arts and Sciences and the Maxwell School. Below is a list of offices, academic programs and departments, and public programming with which MESP is affiliated.

• Advising and Academic Support (The College of Arts and Sciences)

• Bird Library

• Central New York Humanities Corridor

• Department of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics

• Executive Education Programs (Maxwell School)

• The Graduate School

• Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs

• Ray Smith Symposium

• Slutzker Center for International Services

• The SU Humanities Center

• Syracuse Symposium

Frequently Asked Questions(+)

How do I declare a major in Middle Eastern Studies (MES)?

You can pick up a “Declaration of Major” form at Student Records (329 Hall of Languages). It needs to be signed by either Professor Yuksel Sezgin, the Program’s Director (100F Eggers Hall), or by the Secretary at the Soling Program (Tolley Building). Once that is done, you will need to take it back to 329 HL for processing.

Who will advise me about what courses to take and how to satisfy the requirements for the major?

Once you enter the major you will be assigned an advisor, who will meet with you each semester during the course registration period and make sure you are staying on track. In addition, you will receive a checklist the fall of your senior year that will lay out everything needed to be completed before you graduate.

When can I declare a major in MES?

You can declare the major at any time.

What courses are required for the B.A. in Middle Eastern Studies?

The B.A. includes three core courses (one should be a senior seminar), at least two lower division and three upper division electives from the list of approved classes, and three consecutive semesters of a relevant regional language (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish).

Can an undergraduate student take a graduate course, or vice versa?

Yes, but you will need to obtain permission first. In order to do so, you must obtain a petition from the department offering the course and have it signed by the professor teaching the course, the relevant department chair, and your home college. Once you collect these signatures you can take the form to the Registrar’s Office, where they will manually enroll you.

Can the same courses count toward more than one major?

Students can only double count two courses (6 credits) across degrees. For example, students double majoring in International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies or other highly related fields must fill the rest of the quota for each major independently. The same rule applies to minors as well: only two classes may be credited toward more than one degree. Triple counting is prohibited in all cases.

Can I take part in study abroad opportunities in the region?

MES students are strongly encouraged to take advantage of the numerous study abroad opportunities offered by the program in conjunction with SU Abroad. We currently sponsor exchanges with universities in Lebanon, Egypt, Turkey, Israel and the West Bank. Other destinations are also possible through independent providers. You can receive up to a maximum of 15 credits for study at other universities.

How can I transfer credits that I take at one of the above study abroad centers?

In order to get credit toward the major from classes taken at another university, you will need to pick up a petition from Student Records (329 HL) and have it signed; first by either Professor Sezgin (100F Eggers) or the Secretary at the Soling Program (Tolley Building), and then by the Student Records Office (329 HL). A syllabus or course description for each desired class should be attached.

What types of career paths are open to students majoring in MES?

In recent years, Middle Eastern Studies has become an extraordinarily relevant and dynamic field that currently lacks the volume of experts with language skills and regional understanding to meet the demands of the US government, non-profit organizations, and private sector. Knowledge of any of the region’s critical languages will prove immensely valuable in many capacities, and there is a wide array of government-sponsored programs, grants, and fellowships—not to mention full-time jobs—available for those who choose to pursue this course of study. Expertise in Middle Eastern Studies also provides an excellent supplement to a career in many other fields, including law, politics, and business.

What fields will a degree in Middle Eastern Studies prepare me for graduate school in?

A degree in Middle Eastern Studies most directly prepares students for graduate work in regional studies, but is also a useful background for further education in law, history, political science, geography, management, business, international relations, and many of the humanities.

How do I graduate with distinction in the major?

Students receive distinction in Middle Eastern Studies by completing the major with a minimum GPA of 3.5 in included courses; demonstrating competence in a regional language through coursework at the 202 level or beyond; taking MES 499 (Thesis Preparation: 3 credits); and successfully defending a 60-70 page thesis before two members of the faculty. Students in the Honors Program can graduate with distinction in Middle Eastern Studies as well as in their other major.

Are there any awards affiliated with the major?

The Hasan Abdullah Yabroudi Prize (for guidelines, see http://middle-eastern-studies.syr.edu/Awards.htm) is awarded annually to the best essay by an undergraduate student at the University dealing with any aspect of the Middle East. The author of the winning paper is presented with a certificate and a $500 prize.

Where can I find information about Middle East-related internships and language study programs?

A good deal of information about such opportunities is available at http://middle-eastern-studies.syr.edu/Internships.htm

How do I test out of a language course, and will I receive credit for doing so?

You can test out of language courses by talking to the appropriate faculty member from the list below. By doing so, you can pass out of the language requirement and/or place into higher level classes. You cannot, however, receive any credit toward the major for classes you have tested out of.

  • Arabic: Professor Rania Habib, rhabib@ufl.edu
  • Hebrew: Professor Dina Vincow, dvincow@syr.edu
  • Persian: Professor Arsalan Kahnemuyipour, akahnemu@syr.edu
  • Turkish: Professor Jaklin Kornfilt, kornfilt@syr.edu

Who should I contact if I’m having problems registering for a class within the major, or if credits aren’t showing up properly in my transcript/online records?

For the time being you can contact Ms. Eileen Julian at the office of Curriculum, Instruction and Programs. Her e-mail is emjulian@syr.edu and her phone number is (315) 443-2014.

I’m not a Syracuse student, but I want to take MES classes. Can I?

Yes. You can register through Syracuse University Continuing Education, 700 University Ave, (315) 443-3261. Their email is: ucinfo@uc.syr.edu and website: http://www.suce.syr.edu/

Whom can I talk to if I have additional questions about the program?

Email Professor Yuksel Sezgin at ysezgin@maxwell.syr.edu with any further questions you might have.

Middle Eastern Studies

Offerings: minor | BA | CAS
Yüksel Sezgin (On leave -AY 2017-2018)

Interim Director: 

Middle Eastern Studies
346 A Eggers Hall
Phone: 315-443-1011
Fax: 315-443-8093
Email: mes@syr.edu

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