The study of the region extending from Morocco to Kazakhstan is coordinated, encouraged, and stimulated at the University of Chicago by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES). Established in 1965, the CMES has been supported by the Divisions of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Chicago and by grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the Mellon Foundation for more than forty years.

The educational aims of the Center are to assist students in acquiring: 1) firm grounding in an academic discipline or a professional field; and 2) specialist knowledge of the languages and civilizations of the Middle East. The Center, an interdepartmental, interdisciplinary unit, achieves these objectives by helping to plan degree programs for students who intend to use their knowledge of the Middle East in careers in university teaching and research; governmental and non-governmental organizations; business; journalism; and other personal or professional pursuits. Since CMES faculty members have their primary teaching appointments in the social sciences and humanities departments or in the professional schools, the work of the Center is closely linked with the programs of other degree-granting bodies of the University. The Center also brings to the University visiting scholars whose work strengthens and complements that of the regular faculty.

In addition, the Center serves as a forum for the open, responsible, and informed exchange of ideas among University of Chicago students, faculty, staff, and members of the outside community on all issues relating to the Middle East. In these exchanges, the Center recognizes the centrality of the principles of freedom, civility, and conscience in the presentation of ideas and opinions in all forms of communication and in all programmatic activities.