Middle Eastern Studies



In the Fall 2020 semester, the Department of World Languages and Cultures’ new Middle Eastern Studies Minor welcomed its first students. The minor aims to provide Iowa State students with an in-depth understanding of the history, politics, arts, cultures, and languages of the Middle East. Students who enroll in the minor will not only get a chance to expand their geographic, intellectual, and cultural horizons but will get valuable training that will prepare them for potential careers in education, international business, law, foreign service, the military, national security, intelligence, and non-governmental organizations operating in or focusing on the Middle East, as well as inter-governmental organizations such as the United Nations and its many agencies.

The Middle Eastern Studies Minor also hopes to foster a sense of community and provide an intellectual platform for both faculty and students who are interested in or do research in the Arab world, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, Iran, and Turkey. Aside from the courses and career paths mentioned above, we hope that the minor will serve as a focal point for organizing conferences, talks, and cultural events related to the region. We also hope that it will be a hub of exchange between Iowans and Iowa State’s vibrant international student community.


After completing the minor in Middle Eastern Studies, students will demonstrate:

  • some proficiency in oral and written Arabic with an ability to comprehend authentic Arabic texts
  • knowledge of the history of the Middle East from classical to modern times
  • knowledge of the geographic features of the Middle East and of the major political boundaries, alliances, and power struggles that characterize the contemporary Middle East
  • an understanding of cultural diversity issues in the Middle East in the context of the prevalent political, social, and cultural institutions and structures


While it is housed in the Department of World Languages and Cultures, Middle Eastern Studies is an interdisciplinary endeavor that brings together faculty from the departments of History, Philosophy and Religious Studies, Political Science, and World Languages and Cultures. Most of the courses offered as part of the minor are taught in these key departments. Some courses that can apply to a minor in Middle Eastern Studies include:

  • POLS 350: Politics of the Middle East, 3 cr.
  • RELIG 358: Introduction to Islam, 3 cr.
  • ARABC 201: Intermediate Arabic I, 4 cr.
  • ARABC 202: Intermediate Arabic II, 4 cr.
  • ARABC 375: Arab Culture, 3 cr.
  • ART H 384: Art of Islam, 3 cr.
  • RELIG 242: History of Christianity: Beginnings to the Reformation, 3 cr.
  • RELIG 259: The Quran, 3 cr.
  • ARABC 371: The Arabian Nights, 3 cr.
  • WLC 370B: Topics in World Languages and Cultures in English Translation: Middle East, 3 cr.
    (topics such as Environmental Issues in the Middle East)
  • ECON 496: Culture and Economic Diversification in the United Arab Emirates, 3cr.

For more information on the minor requirements, contact: Jen Topp-Segar (jents@iastate.edu)



Dr. Nell Gabiam is an expert in migration, both within and from the Middle East. She first became interested in the Middle East as an undergraduate student after taking a class on People and Cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. After getting her BA in anthropology, she spent two years teaching Social Studies at an American school in Kuwait and then decided to pursue a Ph.D. in anthropology. Her doctoral dissertation as well as her first book examine a United Nations-led attempt to transition from a focus on humanitarian aid to a focus on sustainable development in Syria’s Palestinian refugee camps. She is currently writing her second book on the experiences of Palestinians refugees who have been displaced by the ongoing war in Syria. Drawing on these experiences, she reflects on how recurring displacement within the Middle East and beyond is affecting Palestinian identity and political claims.