Sep 21, 2023  
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog 
2017-2018 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Liberal Studies, D.L.S.

Contact Information

Doctor of Liberal Studies
PO Box 750253
Dallas, TX 75275-0253

Michele Mrak, Executive Director

The D.L.S. program is designed for part-time or full-time adult learners with a master’s degree who are interested in rigorous advanced study. Under the guidance of senior faculty members, students engage in focused scholarly reading and research on an interdisciplinary topic or issue, culminating in a doctoral thesis that demonstrates interdisciplinary analysis, synthesis and interpretation.


Doctoral students must complete 36 credit hours of coursework, 18 hours of which are required core courses and 18 hours of which are chosen based on the student’s declared focal area of study.  Following the coursework, students must complete a comprehensive exam, a thesis (totaling 9 credit hours), and an oral defense. Completion of the 45 credit hour program typically requires 5 years of study. A full-time track is available for international students or those wishing to pursue their studies at an accelerated pace. Students enroll in the required courses listed below for their first two years each fall, spring and following fall.

D.L.S. courses are taught in lecture and seminar format and are in many cases available for enrollment to both D.L.S. and M.L.S. students. In these instances, D.L.S. students are given additional reading and writing assignments and an experiential learning component. Students are allowed to engage in as many as nine credit hours of directed reading/tutorial study.

Up to nine hours of transfer credit or advanced standing may be awarded, as determined by the Simmons School dean. Such credits must derive from graduate-level academic work earned at SMU or another accredited university.

Admission Requirements

Students enroll in cohort groups, and cohorts begin in the fall only. Applications submitted by March 1 receive priority review; applications received after March 1 are reviewed on a rolling basis until the fall class is full. To maintain the high degree of individualized attention expected in doctoral programs, admission is limited to approximately 15-20 students per cohort. Applications can be submitted online at or emailed to Applications are accepted for fall term only. Admission requirements include the following:

  1. Completion of the D.L.S. application.
  2. An application fee.
  3. Official undergraduate transcripts with a GPA of 3.000 or higher and graduate transcripts with a GPA of 3.500 or higher (preferred).
  4. A letter of purpose clearly and specifically outlining the focal area to be explored by the doctoral thesis.
  5. An academic writing sample.
  6. Three letters of recommendation, including one from a professor from a prior graduate program who can attest to the applicant’s academic proficiency to participate in a doctoral program and one from a direct supervisor in the candidate’s organization.
  7. A résumé/curriculum vita.
  8. An interview with the program director or faculty chair (mandatory).

Degree Requirements

Students must enroll in a minimum of six credit hours of coursework per term for the first three terms to complete foundational seminars (18 credit hours). Thereafter, students must enroll in at least three credit hours per term. Maintenance of good standing requires a 3.000 average GPA. Degree requirements include the following:

  • A total of 36 credit hours of traditional graduate coursework (up to nine hours can be transferred).
  • Comprehensive exams.
  • An additional nine credit hours of doctoral thesis research and writing. The doctoral thesis will have an oral defense.
  • A D.L.S. doctoral thesis is expected to demonstrate a level of mastery and academic rigor in interdisciplinary studies comparable to, though distinct from, the equivalent level of mastery and rigor expected of a Ph.D. dissertation in a disciplinary field.