The Department of Near Eastern Studies has been a leader in the study of the Middle East since 1927 when it was founded as the Department of Oriental Languages and Literatures. While traditionally the strength of the department has been in the medieval and pre-modern studies of the geographical area that includes the Arab lands, Iran, Israel, and Turkey, greater emphasis has been given more recently to the modern Muslim world in its entirety, including the Caucasus, Central Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. This development recognizes the many interconnections of the Muslim ecumene and enables NES to offer its students an interdisciplinary program of studies that breaks out of the artificial constraints imposed by the traditional geographical focus.
For undergraduates, the Department of Near Eastern Studies offers both a liberal arts concentration ("major") designed to give students competence in a Near Eastern language and a broad knowledge of the civilizations, history, and literatures of the ancient, medieval, and modern Near East and beyond, and the option of earning a Certificate in Language and Culture, thus documenting advanced language and cultural proficiency. For undergraduates who do not wish to major in NES but nonetheless would like to combine the study of the modern and contemporary Near East with a social science or other discipline, there is the option of a Certificate.
For graduate students interested in pursuing an academic or related career, the Department of Near Eastern Studies offers a program of study leading to the Ph.D. There is flexibility in the individual course of study and in the choice of dissertation topic.