Liberal Studies (M.A.L.S.)

Program Description

The master of arts in liberal studies (M.A.L.S.) is an innovative, interdisciplinary graduate program, intended to promote broad intellectual comprehension and enrichment rather than vocational or professional training within a single field or discipline. Housed within the College of Liberal Arts but drawing its courses and instructors from across the University, the program makes available a diverse spectrum of offerings and a wealth of faculty expertise and resources. The program addresses the particular interests of students who seek to deepen their knowledge by designing their own challenging but flexible program of cross-disciplinary learning.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the master of arts in liberal studies is selective. A bachelor's degree is required for admission. Students will be asked to provide relevant transcripts of their educational experience, a resume, and letters of recommendation. They will also be asked to submit a brief essay describing why they are particularly interested in this program and indicating the sort of interdisciplinary focus or area of learning in which they might like to concentrate their study. The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is not required but is helpful.

Degree Requirements

The program consists of 30 credits divided into three parts: an interdisciplinary seminar selected by the MALS coordinator and required of every student, to be taken within one year of entrance to the program; a concentration made up of at least five elective courses chosen from various disciplines across the liberal arts that centers on an interdisciplinary theme or topic; and a 6 credit master's thesis LS 899 or a 6 credit project LS 898, which is intended to act as an integrating capstone experience for liberal studies students.

LS #800Core Seminar 14
Select a concentration 220
LS 898Master's Project 36
or LS 899 Master's Thesis
Total Credits30

Each liberal studies student is required to take an initial seminar with interdisciplinary elements as an introduction to the program as a whole. This seminar will be selected by the MALS coordinator. The seminar must be taken within the first year of a student's matriculation in the program, preferably in the first semester.


Students will work with the director of the program and a concentration and thesis adviser to develop an interdisciplinary concentration program of study, which focuses on a significant topic, issue, perspective, or cultural development, and is made up of at least five graduate-level elective courses offered in various departments throughout the college and University. A concentration should constitute a sustained thematic exploration and may be selected from a menu of suggested concentrations or may be self-designed by each student with the help of his or her adviser. The five courses are to be selected from 700-90­0-level courses regularly offered within departments and colleges across the University, including up to three independent study courses carried out as a tutorial with particular faculty members (with permission). It is expected that a student's concentration will culminate in a concluding final project or thesis.

The following are typical examples of cross-disciplinary concentration programs of study: American studies, the humanities, ecology and values, justice studies, disability studies, labor studies, religious studies, urban studies, and women's studies.


With the support of their concentration and thesis adviser, students prepare a final project consistent with their concentration and interests. A capstone experience, the project can be a scholarly thesis or equivalent creative endeavor, which integrates the student's learning in a particular concentration. Students will work with a committee of three faculty members and are encouraged to schedule a formal defense of their work with their committee.

  • Demonstrate the ability to carry out graduate work in different disciplines in the College of Liberal Arts and possibly in other Colleges.
  • Develop a concentration by pursuing a significant question across disciplinary lines.
  • Develop an interdisciplinary M.A. Thesis (a scholarly thesis) or M.A. Project (a creative or applied project) that grows out of this concentration.
  • Working with a committee of three faculty members from different disciplines, research, complete, and defend this capstone thesis or project.