Major/Minor Requirements

Major & Minor Requirements

The major in Middle Eastern Studies is designed to acquaint students with the many facets of Middle Eastern civilizations through an interdisciplinary study of the languages, literatures, histories, religions, arts, social and political institutions, and cultural patterns of the region known as the Middle East. Study of Middle Eastern communities living in diaspora may also be counted towards the major. 

Goals for the Major

Majors in Middle Eastern Studies will:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the histories, ecologies, social, political and cultural systems, and religious traditions and communities of the Middle East and North Africa

  • Apply the necessary linguistic skills and methodological tools to pursue advanced and more specialized study
  • Develop an in-depth field of study in a particular area (examples include modern Arabic literature; art and architecture of the Middle East; literature and film; Islamic studies; history of religion in the Middle East; the Middle East in the twentieth century; North African studies; Iranian studies; women and gender in the Middle East)
  • Acquire the skills required in each of the contributing departments (Anthropology, Art, History, Political Science, Religion, Women's and Gender Studies), including:
  • Formulate and test ideas and hypotheses
  • Adduce and evaluate evidence of various kinds
  • Identify, summarize, and criticize arguments in primary and secondary textual and other materials
  • write with clarity and precision

Requirements for the Major

The major in Middle Eastern Studies requires nine units. Students must demonstrate proficiency in Arabic (equivalent to at least two semesters at the second-year level). No credit toward the major is given for the first year of language study. Exceptionally, another Middle Eastern language (for example, Persian, Turkish, Hebrew) may be substituted for Arabic. The substitution of a language other than Arabic for the major requies the approval of the advisory committee. A student who wishes to substitute a language other than Arabic should consult their advisor and, with their advisor's approval, submit a written request to the director. If the request is approved, one year of Arabic study will still be required for the major in almost all cases. For students who are exempt from the language requirement, nine units are still necessary for the completion of the major.

Students are required to concentrate in some area or aspect of Middle Eastern Studies (for example, Arabic language and literature; religion; the pre-modern Middle East; the modern Middle East; political science, women and gender) by taking four courses above the 100 level, including at least two at the 300 level, one of which must normally be a seminar. As long as they have secured the program's approval, students may apply two courses taken away from Wellesley to the major. In exceptional cases, students who wish to count an additional course taken away from Wellesley to their majors may, after consultation with their advisors, submit a request for approval to the director. For the minor, only one course taken away from Wellesley may be counted.

Majors devise their own programs of study in consultation with an appropriate faculty member from the student’s area of concentration. Courses with an asterisk (*) also require the permission of the instructor if the course is to be counted for Middle Eastern studies.

In addition to Wellesley courses, students are encouraged to take relevant courses at Brandeis University, Olin College, and MIT. These courses must be approved toward the major, in advance, by the corresponding department at Wellesley.

Requirements for the Minor

A minor in Middle Eastern Studies consists of five units, of which at least one should be at the 300 level (excluding MES 350). Units must be taken in at least two departments; only one course at the 100 level can be counted toward the minor. Second-year Arabic may be counted towards the minor. All courses for the minor must be taken at Wellesley.


The only route to honors in the major is writing a thesis and passing an oral examination. To be admitted to the thesis program, a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100-level; the Advisory Committee may petition on behalf of the student if their GPA in the major is between 3.0 and 3.5. See Academic Distinctions. A student who wishes to be admitted to the honors program should discuss their plans with their advisor well before the application is due, and should normally have completed at least two courses within the discipline or department of the advisor.

Procedures for Honors