Welcome to the Middle East Center

The Middle East Studies program and the Middle East Center seek to strengthen an understanding of the Middle East in all sectors of American society through training and research at the University of Washington, as well as through delivery of outreach programming across the nation.

About Middle East Studies

The Middle East Studies program offers an undergraduate minor as well as graduate and professional school training culminating in a Masters degree. The emphasis of the program is on the contemporary Middle East, and depending on students' own research interests, may include North Africa, Turkey, the Levant, the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan. The program's faculty from the Jackson School is complemented by faculty from across the disciplinary departments, with particularly notable contributions from Political Science, History, Anthropology, Sociology, Near Eastern Languages and Civilization, Law, and Ethnomusicology. Students also have the opportunity to work with eminent diplomats and government officials, as well as visiting foreign scholars.

Students interested in an M.A. degree emphasizing literature and other humanistic aspects of the Middle East should inquire about the program in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilization. Additionally, the University of Washington Library's Near Eastern Section contains a wide body of literary and reference materials.

Faculty Research

Spanning the region of the world from North Africa to Afghanistan, faculty research at the UW pertaining to the Middle East is rich and varied. Selected current faculty expertise and research includes: Arab political identity, Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Arab cinema, women’s rights in Iran, Israeli legal system, nascent legal systems in Afghanistan, water and security in the Middle East, international law and the Middle East, Indo-Iranian Sufism, the Turkish Republic, Ottoman culture and society, social media and democracy in the Middle East, politics of the Arab Spring, political Islam, Sufism and sainthood in Islam, and the Qur’an.

Student Research

In fulfilling the requirements for a Master of Art’s degree in Middle East Studies, students have produced theses on issues of critical importance in preparation for entering careers in high-demand fields seeking Middle East expertise. Recent thesis topics have included: sustainable energy and water strategies in the UAE; the Green Movement in Iran; the Gulf War and the role of state leaders; challenges and opportunities for the Women’s Movement in Turkey; US foreign policy towards Iran; competing visions for modern Zionism; ethnic conflict in Iran; tribal identity in Saudi Arabia, water inequality in Israel and Palestine, and social networks and political activism in the Middle East.


The Middle East Center

The Middle East Center is a comprehensive National Resource Center (NRC) funded by the United States Department of Education. It is the oldest, continuously funded National Resource Center at the University of Washington, and currently ranks first in funding to public institutions competing for Middle East NRCs. As a comprehensive NRC, the Center dispenses significant funds to support undergraduate and graduate-level foreign language training in modern Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, and Turkish. Since 2010, the Center has dispersed 60 graduate fellowships and 25 undergraduate fellowships totaling $1.4 million.
The Center also serves as the conduit for partnerships beyond the University that enhance and strengthen Americans’ understanding of the Middle East.


Beyond the University

The Center is very active in strengthening community college faculty expertise on the Middle East organizing workshops and institutes to improve Arabic language instruction and increase general knowledge about the Middle East.

The Center is a founding member in a partnership with the Seattle non-profit OneWorld Now!, which for over a decade has offered Arabic language and global leadership training to minority and disadvantaged high school students in the Seattle public schools.

To strengthen K-12 teacher understanding of the Middle East, the Center conducts annual intensive summer institutes focused on important issues in the Middle East. Recent institutes have been explored the topics of: Iraq, U.S. foreign policy and the Middle East, modern Iran, and the history of Christians in the Middle East.

At the state and federal level, the Center offers briefings to educate our Congressional delegation and policy makers on issues vital to the trade and national security in the region.
The Center is active in securing outside grants, which have included a project funded by the United States Institute of Peace that brought front-line caregivers from Palestine and Israel together to work on strategies to confront Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder caused by violent conflict; and a project funded by the U.S. Department of State to create a Middle East informational portal to increase news available from the Arab world.



1909: Middle Eastern languages first taught at the UW at what would become the Jackson School

1967: Middle Eastern historian position established

1968: Department of Near Eastern Studies established

1974: U.S. Department of Education funds first National Resource Center-Middle East

1991: Interdisciplinary Ph.D. Program in Near & Middle Eastern Studies established

2006: Largest award to a public institution from the U.S. Dept. of Education to a National Resource Center- Middle East


43% pursue careers in the U.S. government

21% continue their studies at the Ph.D. level

18% pursue careers in domestic or international non-profits

5% pursue law degrees

5% pursue careers in journalism


Al Akhawayn University, Morocco

American University in Beirut

American University in Cairo

Bogazici University, Turkey

Center for Arabic Study Abroad, Egypt

Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Tel Aviv University, Israel

University of Damascus, Syria


700 minority and disadvantaged high school students trained in Arabic

150 elementary school students trained in Arabic

40 master teachers of Middle East studies trained through summer institutes

The Middle East Center
University of Washington
225 Thomson Hall
Box 353650
Seattle, WA 98195
(206) 543-4227 phone
(206) 685-0668 fax

Ellis Goldberg, Director

Felicia Hecker, Associate Director