Welcome to the Middle East Studies Program

The Middle East Studies Program (MESP) at the University of Wisconsin–Madison is committed to promoting knowledge of and beyond the Middle East, and facilitating teaching, learning, and research on the region. The recent executive order barring individuals from the United States according to national origin undermines these core missions of the MESP, and directly harms both the personal lives and research projects of our students and faculty. Following the call by UW–Madison’s chancellor, the MESP is also urging that this policy be reconsidered, as it contradicts the values of freedom and of the open exchange of ideas inherent in the Wisconsin Idea. The MESP will continue to foster inclusiveness, dialogue and respect among the different cultures of the world.

The Middle East Studies Program (MESP) fosters knowledge of the Middle East, its past and current economic, social and political developments, and seeks to facilitate teaching, learning, research and public awareness of the diverse array of Middle Eastern languages, cultures, and peoples.

At the core of MESP’s mandate is the pursuit of firsthand knowledge about the range of cultures, languages, and challenges that make this region so unique. All countries, topics and political positions are studied. Our broad interdisciplinary approach encompasses the humanities and social sciences as well as the arts and natural sciences.

MESP helps sponsor conferences, speakers, training programs, and other activities related to the Middle East. MESP further seeks to guide and train students who plan to make a career in or related to this field. We prepare tomorrow’s leaders by equipping them with knowledge about Middle Eastern languages, cultures, and societies.

What are the career opportunities?

  • International Business & Education
  • Peace and Conflict Resolution
  • Travel & Tourism Industry
  • Translation & Interpreting
  • International Security
  • Public Administration
  • Government/Politics
  • Market Research
  • Non-profits
  • Consulting
  • Media

MESP Certificate

The MESP offers a certificate for undergraduate students, promoting the acquisition of the basic skills and concepts as well as the more in-depth knowledge derived from specific disciplines or professions that engage with the Middle East as a field of study.

The Undergraduate Certificate requires a total of eighteen (18) credits in courses with at least 25% Middle East content in addition to completing the "second semester of a Middle Eastern language". Here are our summer courses for 2017 and courses for this fall (other courses are offered at UW-Madison).

PDF versions of the certificate description & requiements and our Spring 2017 course listing are available here.

Language Programs

The MESP houses and supports comprehensive modern Middle Eastern language programs in Arabic, Hebrew (biblical and modern), Persian, Turkish, and Azeri, providing students and other undergraduate and graduate students across UW-Madison with advanced language proficiency to support their research and fieldwork.

Study Abroad Opportunities

The MESP encourages its students to spend time abroad. Studying in a Middle Eastern country provides firsthand exposure to the region’s society and culture and leads to greater fluency in foreign languages through interaction with native speakers. In addition to these intellectual and professional benefits, students will have the opportunity to travel and make new friends, leading to memories that will last a lifetime!

The University of Wisconsin's International Academic Programs currently has several study abroad opportunities in the region. You can find out about each program at studyabroad.wisc.edu.

Additional Resources and Opportunities for Students Interested in the Middle East

Spring 2017 Events

  • May 4, 2017
    Film Viewing: Tickling Giants & MES Certificate Ceremony
    Elvehjem L150 6:00-8:00

    In the midst of the Egyptian Arab Spring, Bassem Youssef makes a decision that’s every mother’s worst nightmare… He leaves his job as a heart surgeon to become a full-time comedian. Dubbed, “The Egyptian Jon Stewart,” Bassem creates the satirical show, Al Bernameg. Bassem’s show becomes as controversial as it popular. He and his staff must endure physical threats, protests, and legal action, all because of jokes. As Bassem attempts to remain on the air, keep his staff safe, and not get arrested, he continues to let those in power know they’re being held accountable.

    After the conclusion of the film there will be a short ceremony to recognize graduating MES certificate holders.

  • April 24, 2017
    MES Lecture Series: Juan Cole
    Paganism and Muslim Peace-Building in the Mecca Period (610-622): What does the Qur’an Say?
    Ingraham Hall 206 12:00-1:00

    Later Muslim accounts posit an essential enmity between Muslims and pagans in the Hejaz, leading to the wars of the 620s. These Umayyad and Abbasid accounts have influenced the interpretations of contemporary scholars. A close examination of Qur’anic texts from the Meccan period, however, reveals a consistent and strongly held option for peace. It will be argued that the sanctuary status of Mecca as a holy city made this experiment in peace theology possible.

  • April 24, 2017
    MES Lecture Series: Juan Cole Pt II
    ISIL/Daesh and the Fate of Iraq in the Age of Trump
    Elvehjem Building L150 7:00

    In his second talk of the Day, Juan Cole will address the future of Iraq with a focus on the policies and approaches the new Trump administration may take in combating ISIL.

  • MES Lecture Series: Nadav Shelef
    The impact of UN recognition on Palestinian public opinion
    Ingraham Hall 206 12:00-1:00

    In the fall of 2012, the United Nations General Assembly recognized Palestine as a “nonmember observer state.” This talk will present research showing that the UNGA recognition shaped Palestinian mass attitudes towards both territorial compromise and the use of violence to achieve national aims. Specifically, international recognition simultaneously increased support for partition as a strategy of conflict resolution and decreased support for compromise on the territorial terms of partition. With respect to attitudes towards the use of violence, we find that international recognition significantly reduced popular support for violence, but only among Palestinians who did not identify with any of the existing Palestinian political parties.

  • February 10, 2017
    Starless Dreams
    7:00pm 4070 Vilas Hall

    This profoundly empathetic documentary takes us inside a juvenile detention center for teenage girls on the outskirts of Tehran. Director Oskoeui spent seven years gain- ing permission to film these girls and tell their stories, and the depth of their connec- tion is palpable in the film’s gentle intimacy and heartrending candor. As we learn of their pasts, hopes, and dreams, it becomes apparent that their crimes, which range from pickpocketing to drug dealing to manslaughter, evince and indict the impossible circumstances of their youth far more than any innate criminality.

Fall 2016 Events

  • October 9, 2016
    5k "Run for Regugees"

    Co-sponsored by IRIS, Middle East Studies Program, Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies, and The United Nations Association, Dane County Chapter and Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity, Inc. (Natatorium/Lakeshore Area, 2000 Observatory Dr., at noon) The 5k “Run for Refugees” event was able to make a significant donation of $3000 to the World Food Program to support refugee relief worldwide.

  • October 10, 2016
    Creativity, Resilience and the Syrian Revolution
    Public talk by miriam cooke (Duke University). Monday October 10th, 5 pm at the Conrad Elvehjem Building, room L150 (800 State Street)
  • November 29, 2016
    An Evening with Laila El-Haddad
    Gaza: From Blogging to Cooking and Everything in Between (4:30 pm to 6:00 pm. A conversation with Laila El-Haddad about her book, Gaza Mom, led by Prof. Nevine El Nossery)

    Laila's Table: A Celebration of Palestinian Food and Culture (6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Reflections by Laila E-Haddad on her book The Gaza Kitchen, followed by a potluck social featuring dishes inspired by recipes from the book). Location TBA

  • For more information, please contact the Middle East Studies Director, Nevine El-Nossery, at elnossery@wisc.edu.