Middle East and South Asia Studies

Degree Type
Department Interdisciplinary
Academic Division The College
The Middle East and South Asia (MESA) minor program is an interdisciplinary program of study focused on the Middle East (including Arabic-speaking North Africa) and South Asia (including Tibet, and mainland and insular Southeast Asia as far east as Vietnam and Indonesia). The Middle East has long been politically and economically salient in American experience, and South Asia is steadily emerging in the geopolitical, economic and cultural spheres.

Why Study MESA at W&L?

The Middle East and South Asia, though wide in extent and culturally diverse, contain multiple cradles of civilization, and have been linked since antiquity by cultural, religious and economic networks, both on land (the Silk Road) and sea (the Indian Ocean).

Students in the MESA program gain broad-based, historically grounded knowledge about the societies and cultures of the Middle East and South Asia, including their linkages and area-wide patterns, acquiring the skills to analyze and interpret social, religious, political and cultural processes or developments relevant to the area.

About the Program

Students may choose to minor in Middle East and South Asia Studies Or MESA Studies with Language Emphasis, both of which require seven courses (at least 21 credits). Language emphasis requires three additional 3-4 credit courses earned by completing through term five in one MESA-relevant language. The first two terms of language study are not applicable to the minor. Both Arabic and Sanskrit instruction are available at W&L; other MESA-relevant languages, such as Hebrew, Hindi or Tibetan, may be studied elsewhere and considered by the program director for credit toward the minor with language emphasis.

Opportunities for Students

Students are encouraged to take advantage of study abroad or language learning opportunities in the Middle East and South Asia. Washington and Lee’s relationships with the Associated Colleges of the Midwest and Middlebury Schools Abroad facilitate student experiences in Jordan and India. The Critical Language Program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, offers fully funded summer language institutes for U.S. students studying Arabic, Hindi, Indonesian, Urdu, Persian, Punjabi, Bangla or Turkish. Students may also consider programs with the Council on International Education Exchange or the School for International Training, which offer opportunities in Jordan, India, Indonesia, Morocco or Nepal. Scholarships are available for some of these experiences.

The Association for Middle East Interests, a campus student group, is dedicated to informing the student body and Rockbridge-area community about the Middle East.

Other co-curricular and extracurricular activities include movie nights, calligraphy lessons, cooking lessons, dance lessons, spoken word nights, guest speakers and the WLUArabic Lunch.

After W&L

  • Chase Leeby ’18 was an art history major and MESA minor, and is pursuing a masters degree at Oxford University in Tibetan and Himalayan studies.
  • Stephanie Williams ’18 was a global politics major, MESAL minor and Russian area studies minor. She completed an internship in Jordan in summer 2017 and is pursuing a masters degree at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky.
  • Rachel Reibach ’18 is a congressional intern for the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • Zach Schaeffer ’18 is an associate at Standish Management, LLC, Dallas.
  • Alora Martin ’18 is a client service specialist at Vanguard.
  • Emily Austin ’18 held a Critical Language Program fellowship in Indonesia for the study of Indonesian during the summer of 2018, and earlier spent a term in Bali on the SIT program.
  • Kalady Osowski ’19 spent a semester in India studying Hindi and art history, and hopes to conduct research in Delhi on cultural heritage preservation after graduation.
  • Alexander Yacoubian ’16 received the William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship and studied in Dubai in 2015. He then studied Arabic at Georgetown intensively in summer 2016, and started a master’s program in security studies at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service in fall 2017.
  • Jacob Berman ’16 is a history major who also studied Arabic; he started law school at Boston University in fall 2016.

Timothy Lubin

Program Head

Meet the Faculty

At W&L, students enjoy small classes and close relationships with professors who educate and nurture.