The College of Arts & Sciences Search

Undergraduate Study

You are here

Overview

The Department of Near Eastern Studies offers courses in the history, civilization, archaeology, religion, languages and literature of the Near East, a region that has had an important impact on the development of human history and plays a vital role in today's world community. Encompassing the Near East from ancient times to the modern period, the department's course offerings encourage students to take an interdisciplinary approach to the cultures of this region and emphasize methods of historical and literary analysis.

The Director of Undergraduate Studies is Jonathan Tenney.

Career Opportunities & Alumni

A major in Near Eastern Studies can help prepare you for a career in the following:

  • International organizations
  • Development and aid agencies
  • Government agencies
  • Journalism
  • Think tanks
  • Non-Governmental Organizations

The major will also prepare you for graduate study of the Near East.

For more information on the careers our undergraduate alumni have pursued, click here.

Major Requirements

APPLY

A major in Near Eastern Studies offers students the opportunity to explore the languages, literatures, archaeology, cultures, religions and history of the Near East/Middle East from antiquity to the modern day. The major is designed both to acquaint students broadly with the region and its cultures as well as to study a particular subfield in depth.

Prerequisites

  • The applicant for admission to the major in Near Eastern Studies (NES) must have completed at least two Near Eastern Studies content courses, one of which can be a language course. Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in language courses and/or NES 2651 or 2754 either before signing into the major or early on in their major.
  • Prospective majors must meet with the director of undergraduate studies before submitting a major application.
  • To qualify as a major, a cumulative grade average of C or better is required.

Major Requirements

The precise sequence and combination of courses chosen to fulfill the major is selected in consultation with the student’s advisor. All majors must satisfy the following requirements (no course may be used to satisfy two requirements; S–U option not permitted):

 1.   Language:
      Two years of one Near Eastern language OR, in exceptional cases, one year of two Near Eastern languages.

 2.   EFFECTIVE JANUARY 2016: In addition to the language requirement, eight courses are required to complete the major. Of these eight course, at least three must be at the 3000 level or above, and one must be a Research Seminar (designated NES-RS in the Courses of Study). If you have taken a course that you feel meets the criteria, but is not marked as NES-RS, please contact the department for approval:

      A. Two Core Courses:
          i.    NES 2651 Judaism, Christianity, and Islam   OR   NES 2754 Introduction to Near Eastern Civilizations
          ii.   NES 4560 Theory & Method in Near Eastern Studies        

      B. Three Historical Breadth: Must fulfill temporal breadth, defined as: one course whose chronological parameters fall within the following periods. Courses should be chosen in consultation with your NES advisor.

          i.    3000 B.C.E to 600 C.E

          ii    600 C.E to 1800 C.E 

          iii   1800 C.E. and the present. 

          The following are examples (Class Roster):
               3000 B.C.E to 600 C.E

  • NES 2610 Archaeology of the Ancient Near East
  • NES 2623 Introduction to the Hebrew Bible
  • NES 2629 Introduction to the New Testament
  • NES 2644 Introduction to Ancient Judaism
  • NES 2661 Ancient Seafaring
  • NES 2666 Jerusalem through the Ages
  • NES 3664 Ancient Iraq I
  • NES 3665 Ancient Iraq II  

              600 C.E to 1800 C.E

  • NES 2214 Qur’an and Commentary
  • NES 2556 Introduction to the Qur’an
  • NES 2634 Muslims and Jews in Confluence and Conflict
  •  NES 2655 Introduction to Islamic Civilization
  • NES 2673 History of the Middle East: 13th to 18th Centuries
  • NES 3651 Law, Society, and Culture in the Middle East 

              1800 C.E to the present

  • NES 2635 Jews and Arabs in Contact and Conflict: The Modern Period
  • NES 2674 History of the Modern Middle East: 19th to 20th Centuries
  • NES 3693 History of Jews and Christians in the Modern Middle East
  • NES 3697 History of the Israeli–Palestinian Conflict
  • NES 3719 Crime and Conflict in the Modern Arabic Novel


        C. Three Major Electives

Note: a maximum of two independent studies can be applied to the major; a maximum of two non–cross-listed courses may be applied to the major; a maximum of two courses may receive credit for more than one major; a maximum of 15 credits of relevant, departmentally approved course work taken overseas or at another university may be applied to the major.

Contact Professor Jonathan Tenney, Director of Undergraduate Studies, or your major advisor with any questions about how your NES classes fulfill the College's distribution requirements.

Minor Requirements

APPLY

Cornell University undergraduates with an interest in the history, societies, cultures, archaeology and religions of the Near East are invited to complete a minor in Near Eastern Studies by taking five courses (minimum of 15 credits), subject to the following conditions:

  1. At least three courses should be at the 3000 level or above.
  2. Two languages courses at the 2000 or 3000 level may count towards the minor.
  3. Three (or more) courses will explore the history, archeology, literature, or religions of the Near East. Students may choose to focus on one of these disciplines or on the ancient, late antique, medieval or modern periods across the disciplines.

Students interested in the NES Minor should consult the NES Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS), Jonathan Tenney. Minors will remain in conversation regarding their course of study with the NES DUS or be assigned to a member of the NES faculty who will serve as their minor advisor.

Honors Program

To graduate cum laude, magna cum laude or summa cum laude, a student in Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences must complete a departmental honors program and be recommended by the department for an honors degree. 

The Near Eastern Studies Honors Program is open to department majors who have done superior work and wish to devote a substantial portion of their senior year to advanced, specialized and independent study in Near Eastern Studies.

Eligibility

For admission to the honors program, candidates must fulfill all of the following requirements:

  • Minimum grade point average of 3.5 in the Near Eastern Studies major
  • Superior performance overall at Cornell (minimum 3.3 GPA)
  • Completion of at least 4 semesters or equivalent in a relevant Near Eastern language
  • Satisfactory completion of an NES research paper (marked as NES-RS in Courses of Study)
  • Completion of at least one course in the subfield relevant to the proposed thesis (e.g. early Islamic history, modern Hebrew literature, etc.)

Prospective honors students are strongly encouraged to take NES 4560 (NES Proseminar) in their junior year.

Application Process

Application Deadline: April 15 of a student's junior year APPLY

Application process consists of the following:

Identify a Topic: By the beginning of the spring semester of their junior year, students should have identified a topic or research question of abiding intellectual interest. Students should bear in mind that an honors thesis is far more than a research paper, and therefore should propose a topic based on original research using primary sources. Students should make sure that they have the appropriate language skills for their proposed thesis.

Select a Thesis Supervisor: Once students have a thesis topic in mind, they should approach a faculty member to supervise their work on the honors thesis. The student's major advisor or Director of Undergraduate Studies can help identify a thesis advisor appropriate to the topic. The student and the thesis advisor will then review the student's transcript to make sure that s/he is eligible for admission to the Honors Program (see admission requirements above). The thesis advisor should also ensure that the student has appropriate and sufficient language skills for the proposed topic.

Select a Thesis Committee: The student and the thesis advisor will together identify two additional faculty members to serve on the thesis committee. It is the student's responsibility to contact (at least) one of these faculty members to request their participation on the committee before they submit their honors application.

Submit a Thesis Proposal: After consulting with the prospective thesis advisor, the student must prepare a formal, well-thought out proposal for honors research. The proposal must include a statement of the research question, discussion of the relevant methodology, and a preliminary bibliography of primary and secondary sources. Additional components of the proposal are outlined on the honors application cover sheet. The proposal and this cover sheet should be submitted to the thesis advisor, committee member(s), and the Director of Undergraduate Studies by April 15 of the student's junior year.

Admission to Candidacy: At the end of the student's junior year, the Director of Undergraduate Studies will notify students whether or not they have been admitted as candidates in the Honors Program. 

**Note to Study Abroad Students: Students who are not in residence during their junior year (e.g., because of participation in a Cornell Abroad Program) should correspond with the Director of Religious Studies early in the spring semester regarding application to the Honors Program. Keeping in mind that being off campus prolongs the application process, students who are abroad should plan ahead and make sure they begin in a timely manner in order to meet the April 15 deadline.

**Note to January Graduates: If your final semester is the Fall semester, you will need to start the application process during the previous fall semester, to give yourself one full year to complete the program. That will put your deadline for the application in mid October of your junior year. Please consult with the Director of Religious Studies if this is the case.

First Semester Requirements

  • Regular meetings with the honors thesis advisor and committee member(s) throughout the year.
  • Participation in NES honors workshops organized by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. The date of these workshops will be announced at the beginning of each semester.
  • Enrollment in NES 4998 in the fall semester. NES 4998 (part I) allows students to conduct research and begin writing the honors thesis.
    • At the end of first semester, submission to the supervisor for evaluation 15-20 pages of the thesis along with an outline of the whole project.

Mid-Year Evaluation

The thesis advisor and committee member(s) evaluate the progress of each honors candidate in December/January and makes recommendations about continuation; students will be apprised of the outcome of their evaluation by the beginning of the spring semester.

  • Students whose work is not progressing satisfactorily will be granted independent study units and a grade for their work in the fall semester, but will no longer continue in the honors program.
  • Students who are progressing satisfactorily will register in NES 4999 in the spring semester.

Second Semester Requirements

The thesis, between 60-100 pages in length, is due on the Friday closest to April 7. Unbound copies should be prepared for the thesis advisor, committee member(s), and the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Final Thesis Evaluation

  • Students must successfully complete the NES major and must continue to maintain a minimum 3.5 GPA in the major and a minimum GPA of 3.3 overall.
  • After submitting the thesis draft, students will receive feedback from their advisors and other committee members about required revisions; students will generally have two weeks to submit a final draft of the thesis.
  • In early to mid-May, a 'thesis defense' will be held with all committee members. The defense is a conversation between the honors candidate and her/his full committee, providing the candidate with the opportunity formally to present her/his research in oral form and to address the substantive concerns of the committee.
  • Final evaluation of the thesis will be determined by the committee after the thesis defense, in consultation with the departmental honors committee.
    • Students will be given a grade for NES 4999 based on their effort.
    • Students may be awarded Latin honors based on the committee's evaluation of the scholarly achievement represented in the thesis.

Determination of Latin Honors

In evaluating a thesis, faculty members take into consideration intellectual creativity, methodological innovation, scholarly rigor, and overall quality of presentation. Students should therefore ensure that the thesis is also well-written, impeccably edited, and abides by the footnote format conventional for their discipline of choice ( e.g., Chicago, MLA).

  • A student whose thesis is meritorious, well-argued, and relies ·on a methodologically sound use of primary sources may be awarded cum laude;
  • A student whose project shows considerable originality and scope, methodological sophistication, and uncommon quality may be awarded magna cum laude;
  • A student whose project is of truly exceptional quality, makes a real contribution to the field, and is deemed publishable may be awarded summa cum laude.

In deciding on the specific level of Latin honors, the committee may consider a candidate's complete academic record, not merely the thesis.

Submit a final copy of your project (if copies can be made) to the administrator of the program for the permanent library of the program.  These are available for you to consult in 409 White Hall.

Past Honors Theses are available for students to view by visiting the administrative office in 409 White Hall.

Funding Opportunities

There are several opportunities for students to receive funding for conducting research in the Middle East.

KROLL Travel Awards 

The Kroll Travel Award, sponsored by the Department of Near Eastern Studies & Jewish Studies Program, is potentially offered to students traveling to Israel during the summer to participate in academically recognized archaeological digs and/or other academic programs. Awards will range from $250-$1000 and the competition is open to graduate and undergraduate students.

Applications must include:

  • Project proposal
  • Budget (including documentation of costs when possible)
  • Brief description of other funding sources
  • Letter of recommendation from one of your Cornell professors.

Awards will be made based on the quality of the proposed project and its connection to Jewish Studies and/or Near Eastern Studies. The deadline for submission is early April. Please submit proposals to Chris Capalongo, 409 White Hall or via email to cmc40@cornell.edu.

Harry Caplan Travel Fellowships: 

Harry Caplan was one of Cornell’s most renowned and beloved professors of Classics.   Two summer travel fellowships are awarded annually to outstanding juniors, not necessarily classics majors, to support travel or other projects that enhance serious study of the classical cultures of the Near East, Greece, Rome and Latinate medieval Europe.   Students apply by submitting a proposal for the grant to the Classics Department on the first Friday of November. http://classics.cornell.edu/undergraduate/fellowships.cfm

Hirsch travel scholarships:

Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies offers graduate and undergraduate scholarships to support fieldwork-based travel and research. In order for graduate students to be eligible to apply for Hirsch travel scholarships or CIAMS research grants, they must a) be a member of CIAMS and b) have completed the prerequisite CIAMS seminar. For more information visit ciams.cornell.edu/funding

The Archaeological Institute of America offers several Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grants for archaeological research and publications. They have a November 1st deadline for several of the Fellowships and the Publication Grants: http://www.archaeological.org/grants