The graduate program in Near Eastern studies prepares students for academic and research careers in one or more of the following areas: ancient Near Eastern studies (including archaeology); Arabic literature; biblical studies; early Christianity; Hebrew literature; Islamic studies; Judaic studies and the modern Middle East. All students admitted to the program are expected to earn a doctoral degree, with the option of earning a master’s degree along the way. Completion of the Ph.D. program normally requires three years of full-time course work at Cornell and two additional years of dissertation research and writing.
We expect our students to demonstrate broad knowledge of theory and scholarship across relevant sub-fields, advanced research skills, ability to produce and communicate original, publishable research, and effective teaching.
Although every student’s particular in-depth course of study will vary according to his/her historical and disciplinary interests, we expect students to take advantage of the opportunity to appreciate the sweep and breadth of the Near East, both past and present. For example, students interested in modern history are strongly encouraged to acquire a background in pre-modern history and culture, and students interested in a particular Near Eastern literary or religious tradition are advised to investigate another Near Eastern tradition.
We expect our students to demonstrate mastery in the language or languages of the main texts that are directly related to the topic of their dissertations. Students are advised to determine their field of concentration in their first year, and to consult their advisors about linguistic requirements.
The graduate program is designed to accommodate the specific needs, backgrounds, and objectives of individual students. Upon entering the program, the Ph.D. student chooses two or three faculty members to serve on the special committee; the chair of the committee, an expert in the student's main field of concentration, will become the candidate's dissertation advisor. The other members of the committee represent the sub-fields in which the student also has a strong interest and will become competent to teach. Together, the special committee members and the student fashion a program of courses and advanced research that is tailored to student's individual needs.
Graduate Field Faculty
As a student in our graduate program, you will work closely with faculty who specialize in a wide range of languages, literatures, cultures, religions and historical periods, from ancient Sumer to the modern Middle East. You may also work with members of the wider graduate field of Near Eastern studies, which includes scholars whose main appointment is in other departments and programs at Cornell but who are able to supervise dissertations of Ph.D. students in Near Eastern studies.
Admitted Ph.D. students are guaranteed five years of full funding from Cornell, which will cover tuition, living stipend and health insurance. This includes four summer living stipends. Normally, during your first and final years of study you will receive a fellowship, with no teaching responsibilities. In other years, your financial aid package will require you to serve as a TA in a lecture course or to teach your own first-year writing seminar.
Many students are able to extend the period of time during which they are funded with internal or external grants.
All applicants to the field are expected to have had at least two years of undergraduate study in one Near Eastern language or the equivalent.
Students are strongly encouraged to contact the faculty they would like to work with to make sure that they are accepting graduate students and will be on campus to supervise their work.
Application submission deadline
Submit all application materials online by December 15. This deadline is firm, no late applications or additional materials are accepted.
Application must include:
- full academic transcripts from each institution previously attended
- three letters of recommendation
- statement of purpose
- writing sample of approximately 25 pages
With very few exceptions, international applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency by submitting IELTS (International English Language Testing System) Academic or TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores to the Graduate School. More information on the English language proficiency.
Transcripts are uploaded to the on-line application; please black out SSN numbers. Official paper transcripts will be required prior to matriculation.
GRE's are neither required nor accepted as part of the application.
Cornell University expects all applicants to complete their application materials without the use of paid agents, credentialing services, or other paid professional assistance. The use of such services violates University policy, and may lead to the rejection of application materials, the revocation of an admissions offer, cancellation of admission, or involuntary withdrawal from the University.
For any questions or concerns regarding your application, email NES graduate field assistant Christianne Capalongo . You are advised to please contact the graduate field assistant before the deadline to make sure that all of your required documents for the application have been received. Applicants are informed of the admission decision by late February and are expected to notify the field of their acceptance before April 15.
Colloquia occur monthly during the academic year on Mondays from 12:15-1:15 p.m. NES graduate students are required to attend. First and second year grad students should try to schedule classes outside of this time. Any required readings will be uploaded to a Cornell Box shared file and distributed at least one week before the seminar.
2023-2024 tentative schedule: September 11, October 9, November 13, February 12, March 11, April 15
Research resources are an important concern for any dissertation writer. Cornell’s library system contains nearly five million volumes and is among the leading university research libraries in the United States.
- Graduate School: Student Life
- Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies: Student-funding
- Cornell University Library:
- Big Red Barn Graduate and Professional Student Center
- Center for Teaching Innovation
- John S. Knight Institute for Writing in the Disciplines
Life in Ithaca
Located in central New York at the south end of Cayuga Lake (the largest of the Finger Lakes), Ithaca boasts unsurpassed natural beauty in its gorges, state parks, and waterfront. Acknowledged for its beauty, Cornell University’s extensive campus overlooks the lake. Cornell Botanic Gardens administers about 3000 acres of trails, ponds, gardens, and biological research facilities.
More information on planning a visit to Cornell University, and the Ithaca area.
Kiley M. Foster
"Reinterpreting the Conquest: 9th-13th century portrayals of Andalusi history" 2021
Job placement: Refugee Data Specialist at the State of Utah
“Poetics of Modernity in 19th Century Arabic Maqamas," 2020
Job Placement: Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Bowdoin College
"The Disciplinary Landscape: Violence, Fortification, and the Making of Political Subjects in the Cypriot Bronze Age," 2019
Job Placement: Consultant at Boston Consulting Group
"Reading Eighteenth and Nineteenth century texts through the lens of Ibn Khaldn," 2018
Job Placement: Assistant Professor, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California
"The Egyptian Labor Corps: Logistical Laborers in World War I and the 1919 Egyptian Revolution" 2017
Job Placement: Assistant Professor, Modern Middle East History, SUNY Old Westbury in Long Island, NY
"Sounding History: Cassettes, Culture, and Everyday Life in Modern Egypt," 2017
Job Placement: Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Dartmouth College
"Holy Spit and Magic Spells: Religion, Magic and the Body in Late Ancient Judaism, Christianity and Islam," 2015
Job Placement: Dee Haslam Postdoctoral Fellowship, Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, University of Tennessee
"Your Brothers, the Children of Israel: Ancient Near Eastern Political Discourse and the Process of Biblical Composition," 2015
Job Placement: Assistant Professor of Religion Studies, Muhlenberg College
“The Qur’an’s Communal Ideology: Rhetoric and Representation in Scripture and Early Historiography,” 2014
Job Placement: Assistant Professor of Early Islam in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Sarah J. Pearce
"'No achievement but through Arabic': The Ibero-Almohad education of Samuel ibn," 2011
Job Placement: Assistant Professor (awarded tenure and promoted to Associate Professor in Fall 2017) in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University.
"Literary and linguistic studies in Sefer Bil' am," 2009
Job Placement: Postdoctoral Fellow, Hebrew Bible School of Divinity, Wake Forest U.
"With an iron pen and a diamond tip: Linguistic peculiarities of the book of Jeremiah," 2003
Job Placement: Professor, Baptist Bible College & Piedmont Bible College & Grad School
"Israelian Hebrew in the book of Proverbs," 2000
Job Placement: Director, Institute for Hebrew & Jewish Studies, Peking U.
"Isaac ibn Khalfun: A Professional Hebrew Poet of the Eleventh Century," 1999
Job Placement: Hebraic Specialist, Library of Congress
Graduate Student Handbook
Current graduate students should be sure to review the graduate student handbook frequently.