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The Major in Middle East Studies

Dome of the Rock, Temple Mount, and Western Wall in  Jerusalem


11 courses (a minimum of 44 credits) are needed to satisfy the requirements of a major in Middle East Studies, and meet the following distribution requirements.


MES 100: Introduction to Middle East Studies (1 credit)


At least two years of language study in Modern Standard Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, Turkish, or another approved Middle Eastern languages. Only the second year of language instruction will be counted toward the major. (8 credits). Please refer to Additional Guidelines for further information on language requirements.


Four courses in an area of concentration, one of which is an upper level capstone (300-level seminar or research based special studies - MES 400). Areas of concentration may focus on the religion, history, politics, cultures (literature, film, music, art), or may explore an interdisciplinary topic such as gender in the Middle East, ethno-religious diversity of the region, etc. Students design a concentration in consultation with an adviser. (16 credits)


Four elective courses, of which at least three must be in areas other than the student's concentration. Advanced study of a Middle Eastern language may count towards the elective courses (16 credits).

Additional Guidelines

  1. All courses taken for major credit shall be drawn from courses listed or cross-listed by the Program in Middle Eastern Studies. Any First-Year Seminar cross-listed in MES may count towards the major.
  2. Students will take at least one course with a primary focus on the Middle East beyond the Arab world (Iran, Israel, Turkey) in the fulfillment of major requirements.
  3. Courses in the major may not be taken S/U.
  4. Capstone: Majors must take one 300-level seminar or research based MES 400 special studies course in their field of concentration. When MES 400 functions as the capstone for the major it must be a research intensive course approved as the capstone by the major adviser.
  5. No more than four courses in the major may be applied toward a double major.
  6. Language study beyond the requirements of the major in Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, or Turkish at Smith or within the Five Colleges is strongly encouraged. Students may apply to the Middle East Studies Committee for funding of summer language study (e, g., Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Turkish). In addition, Courses in Arabic dialects offered by any of the Five Colleges or by the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages may be applied toward the major, with approval of the student's adviser. If a course offered by the FCCSWL is worth less than 4 credits, students will be expected to make up the credit shortfall through supplemental language instruction. Participation in study abroad programs offering intensive language instruction may count toward the MES major language requirement, on approval of the student's adviser.
  7. Students proficient in Modern Standard Arabic, Hebrew, Farsi, or Turkish may take a placement exam in lieu of coursework. Students who place out of the MES major language requirement are expected to make up 8 credits of coursework through electives or the study of a second, approved regional language.
  8. Normally, at least half of a student's courses towards the major shall be taken at Smith. Students who study abroad may petition the Program in Middle East Studies should they seek credit toward the major of non-Smith courses that exceed half of those required by the major.

Study Abroad

The Program in Middle East studies encourages students to explore study abroad opportunities which allow them to deepen their understanding of Middle Eastern languages, history and cultures. A list of Smith-approved semester and yearlong programs is available from the Office of International Study. A list of recommended summer language programs is available on the MES program website.