Image courtesy of the Palestinian Ministry of Tourism & Antiquities

The Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (NELC) has trained graduate students for more than 100 years and is recognized among the finest doctoral programs in the world. PhD students in NELC approach the study of the languages, literatures, civilizations, religions, material culture or history of the ancient, medieval or modern Near East through a variety of disciplinary approaches, choosing a focus on one of the department’s fields of study.

PhD students who matriculate in Summer 2020 and after will be guaranteed to have funding support from the University of Chicago, external sources, or a combination of the two for the duration of their program. Students also gain pedagogical experience as teaching assistants and lecturers.  

Academic Community

NELC students are members of  a robust and vibrant academic community dedicated to the academic study of the Near East. The department is home to more than 40 faculty members and over 80 graduate students, each pursuing their studies with the scholarly rigor and interdisciplinary approach that is characteristic of the Chicago intellectual tradition. The department includes archaeologists, historians, linguists, philologists and scholars of law, literature and of religion.

NELC students and faculty exchange ideas in courses and seminars, workshops, lecture series and language circles, interacting closely with scholars across the university, including the Departments of Anthropology, Art History, Classics, Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Civilizations, History, Political Science, South Asian Languages and Civilizations, and in the Divinity School and the Law School.

The community also includes research institutions which bring scholars from inside and outside the University of Chicago together for lectures, research projects, and publications. The ISAC houses a world-class library and museum focused on the peoples and civilizations of the ancient Near East. The Regenstein Library is home to one of the leading Middle East collections in North America.  The Center for Middle Eastern Studies is a Title VI National Resource Center which supports research and teaching and administers an MA program in Middle Eastern Studies. The department publishes a leading academic journal, the Journal of Near Eastern Studies.

NELC students are also active in their greater Chicago community. Classes often engage with local Middle Eastern communities; visiting Armenian restaurants to practice language skills, or traveling to the Bahá'í House of Worship. Chicago's many world-famous museums also serve as an important resource for students. NELC students have the opportunity to study and work at The Field Museum, The Art Institute of Chicago, and the Oriental Institute, among others. Recently students and faculty have participated in projects with local Middle Eastern refugee and immigrant communities, and contributed to CMES's educational outreach program.

Alumni Community

Graduates of NELC have for decades been among the leading international experts in their fields. Recent NELC alumni have gained academic positions at prestigious institutions such as the American University of Beirut, Brandeis, Brown, Cambridge, Columbia University, Harvard, Indiana University, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Ohio State, Oxford, Princeton, UC Berkeley, University of Michigan, UNC Chapel Hill, Notre Dame, Sabanci University, University of Tübingen, and Yale, among others. Other alumni have taken non-academic positions in universities, in industry, the arts, and museums.