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Graduate Program in MENA Studies

The faculty of the Program in Middle East and North African Studies believes that a dual commitment to the rigors of disciplinary training and to the perspectives that interdisciplinarity may open up offers emerging scholars the best possible training as the base upon which their own advanced research may build.  We have designed our graduate program and our own core courses with this principle in mind. 

On the graduate level, the MENA Program offers a PhD certificate in Middle East and North African Studies.  MENA is also a PhD cluster in the Interdisciplinary Cluster Initiative offered by The Graduate School. 

The difference between the certificate and the cluster is based on: 

  1. the point at which a graduate student affiliates with MENA (upon application or subsequently) and,
  2. the amount of course work in MENA they complete.

Applicants to The Graduate School at Northwestern apply to an individual PhD granting department or program (e.g., anthropology, art history, comparative literary studies, history, political science, rhetoric and public culture, screen cultures, sociology, etc.) at which point they may indicate their interest in being considered for one of the MENA Cluster Fellowships. They may be offered admission by the disciplinary department (the home department) whether or not they win the secondary cluster competition.

Students who are offered and accept a Cluster Fellowship complete the requirements of their home department plus the requirements of the MENA cluster, some of which may be counted toward their home department’s requirements. 

Conversely, any Northwestern PhD student may pursue a Certificate in MENA studies, whether or not they were admitted through the Cluster Fellowship. Students earning a Certificate in MENA Studies, do so by completing additional requirements, as described on this website. Cluster students may decide to do the additional coursework to earn a Certificate.

The centerpieces to the MENA graduate program are two seminars (MENA 410 and MENA 411) offered in alternating years and a year-long colloquium (MENA 412).

The seminars highlight the ways in which interdisciplinary perspectives on the MENA region can enhance the work of scholars based in and committed to an academic discipline.

The MENA Colloquium (MENA 412) meets several times per quarter over the course of the entire academic year (that is, fall through spring), in which students present their own research in progress and receive extensive feedback from faculty.  Graduate students may sign up for MENA 412 for course credit (which they must do at least once in their careers, when they make formal presentations of their own research and writing), or for zero-credit, in which case they are expected only to attend and participate in discussions.

There are many different ways for graduate students to participate in the intellectual life of the MENA graduate program even if they are not pursuing a Certificate. The MENA Colloquium and invited speakers are open to all members of the Northwestern community. Graduate-level MENA seminars are open to graduate students across the University. We encourage all students to learn more about our research and activities by participating in our public events and signing up for our listserv.  Prospective and current graduate students interested in pursuing a Cluster or Certificate in MENA Studies may contact the Program Director at