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2019 Dumbarton Oaks/HMML Coptic and Syriac Summer School

July 7–August 2, 2019 | Hill Museum & Manuscript Library, directed by Robert Kitchen, Sergey Minov, Alin Suciu, and Victor Ghica

Building on three summers of success, Dumbarton Oaks in collaboration with the Hill Museum & Manuscript Library (HMML) announces an intensive four-week course introducing the Syriac and Coptic languages and paleography in summer of 2019. The program, sponsored and funded by Dumbarton Oaks, will be hosted at HMML, located on the campus of Saint John’s University, Collegeville, Minnesota. The summer school will run from July 7 to August 2, 2019 (arrival on July 6, departure August 3). The program is ideal for doctoral students or recent PhDs who can demonstrate a need to learn Syriac or Coptic for their research.

Approximately ten places will be available for each language. Costs for tuition, housing, and meals will be covered by Dumbarton Oaks. The selected participants will be responsible for their own travel costs to and from Saint John’s University (nearest airport: Minneapolis-St Paul).

The program welcomes international applicants but does not sponsor J visas.

Course Offerings

The Summer School will consist of morning and afternoon sessions Monday-Friday, complemented by guest lectures and other learning opportunities, as well as social events and enjoyment of the beautiful 2700-acre campus with woods, lakes, and notable architecture.

Prior familiarity with basic Syriac or Coptic grammar is not a prerequisite but some preparation will be required before arrival, as directed by the instructors. The courses will include an introduction to paleography and to the study and use of manuscripts, especially those now available in the vHMML Reading Room from HMML’s vast collection of digitized manuscripts.

Following this intensive course, students will be fully equipped to continue reading on their own or to enter reading courses at other institutions.


  • Syriac: Dr. Robert Kitchen, Regina, Saskatchewan, and Sankt Ignatios Theological Academy, Södertälje, Sweden; Dr. Sergey Minov, University of Oxford.
  • Coptic: Dr. Alin Suciu, Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Göttingen; Prof. Victor Ghica, Norwegian School of Theology, Religion and Society, Oslo.
  • HMML Staff, and guest lecturers

Accommodation and Expenses

Students will be housed in apartments on the Saint John’s University campus. Each participant will have a private bedroom and bathroom, with shared kitchen and laundry facilities. A meal contract at the student Refectory will be provided. All expenses will be covered by Dumbarton Oaks, apart from travel to and from Saint John’s University. See more about visiting HMML.

Admission Requirements

Applicants must be either enrolled doctoral students in good standing with a demonstrated need to learn Syriac or Coptic for their research, or recent PhDs, including early-career faculty members, who can demonstrate the value of Syriac or Coptic for their teaching and research. Priority will be given to those who lack opportunities to learn Syriac or Coptic at their own institutions. Those with significant prior study of Syriac or Coptic (e.g., a semester-long class) will not be considered. Those accepted into the program will be informed about resources to help them in their preparation. A basic familiarity with the Syriac and Coptic writing systems and principal script-forms will be presumed upon arrival.


Applications are due February 15, 2019. The application should include:

  • A letter of no more than two single-spaced pages describing the applicant’s academic background (including language skills) and an explanation for why learning Syriac or Coptic is important for future research and teaching.
  • A curriculum vitae.
  • A transcript of graduate school coursework for those who are currently doing graduate study. This is not required for those who have completed their PhD.
  • Two letters of recommendation, to be sent separately.

The application letter and recommendations should be addressed to Fr. Columba Stewart, OSB, Executive Director of HMML. Letters and other materials should be sent as email attachments to with “Syriac [Coptic] Summer School” in the subject line.

Applicants will be evaluated on the basis of previous academic achievement, demonstrated need for intensive study of Syriac, and research promise. Awards will be announced in late February 2019, and must be accepted by March 15, 2019.

2019 Participants


  • Mahmut Agbaht, Uppsala University
  • Augustine Dickinson, University of Toronto
  • Valentina Grasso, University of Cambridge
  • Johnathan Hardy, University of Minnesota
  • Abby Kulisz, Indiana University
  • Antonio Musto, New York University
  • Stanislau Paulau, Leibniz Institute of European History
  • Dingjian Xie, University of Edinburgh
  • Mostafa Younsesie, Tarbiat Modares University
  • Marianna Zarantonello, Università degli Studi di Padova

Coptic Summer School

  • Nikita Andrejevs, University of Latvia
  • Bogdan Draghici, University of Oxford
  • Rosamund Drew, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • Matteo Milesi, University of Michigan
  • Angel Narro, Universitat de València
  • Amal Shehata, Zagazig University
  • Medhat Tadros, Evangelical Theological Seminary in Cairo
  • Joanna Wegner, University of Warsaw
  • Douglas Whalin, George Mason University
  • Daniel Zelenin, Higher School of Economics, Saint Petersburg