Graduate Study

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.

Financial Aid

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.

Application Process

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
  • personal statement
  • 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.

Colloquium Series

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 shared folder and distributed at least one week before the seminar.

Spring 2024 schedule:  March 11, April 15


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.

Job Placement Record

Alumni job placement
Name Placement
Re'ee Hagay, PhD 2024 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Center for the Humanities, Vanderbilt University
Ibrahim Gemeah, PhD 2023 Post-Doctoral Fellow, Middle East Studies Center, Duke University
Raashid Goyal, PhD 2023 Post-Doctoral Fellow, University of Tübingen, Germany
Kiley M. Foster, PhD 2021 Refugee Data Specialist at the State of Utah
Rama Alhabian, PhD 2020 Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow, Bowdoin College
Eilis Monahan, PhD 2019 Consultant at Boston Consulting Group
Atoor Lawandow, PhD 2018 Assistant Professor, Defense Language Institute, Monterey, California
Kyle Anderson, PhD 2017 Assistant Professor, Modern Middle East History, SUNY Old Westbury in Long Island, NY
Andrew Simon, PhD 2017 Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at Dartmouth College
Adam Bursi, PhD 2015 Dee Haslam Postdoctoral Fellowship, Marco Institute for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, University of Tennessee
Dustin Nash, PhD 2015 Assistant Professor of Religion Studies, Muhlenberg College
Hamza Mahmood, PhD 2014 Assistant Professor, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization at the University of Washington in Seattle
Sarah J. Pearce, PhD 2011 Assistant Professor, Dept. of Spanish and Portuguese at New York University

Graduate Student Handbook

Current graduate students should be sure to review the graduate student handbook frequently.