Modern Middle Eastern Studies Major and Minor

There has rarely been a time in which an in-depth understanding of the languages, cultures, history, and politics of the contemporary Middle East has been more important.  This new interdisciplinary degree is designed to allow students to specialize in the Middle East as a region of the world and human experience by combining course work using both social scientific and humanistic approaches, underpinned by relevant language skills. Students will work with faculty committed to supporting interdisciplinary, applied, research-oriented advanced study. The major gives students opportunities to work on problems of politics, policy, history, ideology, social thought, economic development, and international relations.

Note: We currently do not offer graduate degree programs.

Click on the link below to download List of Courses Pre-Approved for MMES Major & Minor 2018-2019

The Major

The major will consist of at least twelve course units to be distributed as follows:

(1) Disciplinary distribution:  A selection of three courses that must include both the Social Sciences and the Humanities – three course units.

(2) Language:  Four course units in one Middle Eastern language (for example, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish), including at least two course units at the intermediate (second year) level or above.

(3) Regional coverage:  Three course units.  Students must take at least one of the list of foundational courses in Modern Middle Eastern Studies approved by the associated faculty (here).  At least one course should be centered on a culture other than that associated with the language selected in (2).  One or two of these may also be courses about the Middle East region in general.

(4) Two seminar courses requiring significant research papers. [Must be approved in advance in consultation with the Middle East Center]

The Honors Program


Revised: April 2019


The Modern Middle Eastern Studies (MMES) Honors Thesis consists of a two-semester long sequence, usually beginning in the spring term of a student’s junior year. Students interested in pursuing the option of an honors thesis must approach a prospective thesis advisor and the Middle East Center in order to do so and to submit a brief Letter of Intentno later than May 31st.


Once a commitment is made, the student must submit roughly a one-page Research Proposalno later than SEPTEMBER 15thto be reviewed and approved for academic merit by the MMES Academic Advisory Committee, usually no later than OCTOBER 1st. Students must have maintained a minimum GPA of 3.5 in the major to be considered, although other factors may also be taken into consideration, along with the GPA, to determine a student’s participation in the MMES Honors Program.


After approval from the MMES Academic Advisory Committee, the student will then have the appropriate course registered on the worksheet. Research toward the thesis typically begins in the fall term, and the student must submit a brief Progress Reportto the advisor and to the Middle East Center, no later than DECEMBER 15st, indicating satisfactory work on the thesis. Honors candidates will receive one course credit each semester, for a total of two courses in the year, if satisfactory progress is made throughout the year. Grading will depend on the student's satisfactory progress each semester and after completion of the thesis.


The thesis should be submitted no later than APRIL 1st.Each honors thesis will be graded by two faculty members, one of whom will be the principal advisor, and one of whom will not initially be known to the student. If a second grader is not found, the Center Director will agree to serve as the second grader and help to determine the final thesis grade. The thesis must receive a grade no less than “A-“ to receive “Honors.”




  • May 31st– Deadline to Submit Letter of Intent in spring of Junior Year


  • September 15th– Deadline to Submit Research Proposal
  • October 1st – Decision from MEC Regarding Participation in Honors Program
  • December 15th– Deadline to Submit Thesis Progress Report
  • April 1st– Deadline to Submit Honors Thesis

The Minor

At least six course units on the Middle East including the following:

(1) Two courses from the Humanities
(2) Two courses from the Social Sciences
(3) Two elective courses (which may include two language courses in a single language)

Transfer Credit

For the Major Program up to four courses may be transferred from other institutions (including Study Abroad courses), subject to approval.  For the Minor, two courses may be transferred.  Language credits may only be transferred upon successful completion of a Penn-administered proficiency test.

Double Majors and Minors

For double majors the number of course units for the major remains at twelve.  A maximum of four course units may be double-counted toward this major and another.
For double-minors the number of course units remains six.  Two units may be double counted from another major/minor.


The advisor for the Major and Minor in Modern Middle Eastern Studies is Dr. Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, Director of the Middle East Center and Professor of History:  Middle East Center Academic Committee is composed of four members: Dr. Paul Cobb (Arts & Literature), Dr. Eve Troutt Powell (Historical Studies), Ian Lustick (Social Sciences), and Jamal Elias (Religion). Affiliated faculty also play a vital role in advising students on coursework, independent studies, and the completion of an honors thesis.

Declaring a Major or a Minor

In order to declare the major or minor, fill out this form, and bring it to the Middle East Center. For further information, please email Dr. John Ghazvinian, Associate Director of the Middle East Center: 

Alumni on the MMES Major

"The MMES major provided me with the flexibility to pursue my own interests while giving me a solid and broad foundation for understanding the Middle East region. I cannot stress enough how very helpful the faculty, staff and graduate students were in guiding me to develop my many academic interests into something substantive and academically challenging." More...

Former MMES Honors Thesis

Jack Hostager (2019), "Understanding the Yemen Civil War through the North-South Divide: An Analysis of the Southern Transition Council"
Joshua Kadish (2019), "Beyond a Global Intifada: Assessing the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement and its Rise in the United States through Supply-Side Mobilization "