Jul 20, 2024  
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog 
2021-2022 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Liberal Studies, M.L.S.

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Contact Information

Master of Liberal Studies
PO Box 750253
Dallas TX 75275-0253

Michele Mrak, Executive Director
Bruce levy, Faculty/Program Chair, ad interim

The M.L.S. degree is an interdisciplinary program designed to offer participants freedom and flexibility in planning a course of study. Its coursework encourages critical and imaginative thinking on intellectual, social, political, historical, literary and artistic issues within a broad humanistic perspective. Seminar-style courses are taught by professors noted for teaching excellence.

The M.L.S. program requires 36 credit hours of graduate study to be completed within six years, although most students complete their study in two to three years. The course of study is very flexible and allows students to design individualized programs that best reflect their needs and interests. Most M.L.S. classes meet in the evenings with spring and fall classes meeting one night a week and summer session courses meeting three times weekly.

The curriculum includes courses in the behavioral sciences, fine arts, humanities, science and culture, and social sciences. With 18 credit hours or six classes in a specific curricular field, students can concentrate in the following areas: humanities; human rights and social justice; the arts and cultural traditions; global studies; gender studies; American studies; creative writing; organizational dynamics; environmental sustainability; communication, media and technology; and “self-designed”.


Behavioral Sciences. Behavioral sciences courses examine individuals and their behavior in various environmental settings such as family and the workplace. Courses blend psychology, sociology, organizational behavior and anthropology to introduce students to issues in human behavior as it is influenced by cultural values and expectations.

Fine Arts. Fine arts courses offer a variety of perspectives on artistic expression throughout history and across cultures. The variety of courses encourages students to study Western and non-Western visual arts, dramatic arts, and creative writing within a broad socio-historical context.

Humanities. Humanities courses offer the broadest possible treatments of literature, philosophy, religion and communications. By connecting the history of human ideas as presented and disseminated through poetry and imaginative literature and the development of religious and philosophical thought, humanities courses provide insight into the nature and development of humankind.

Science and Culture. Science and culture courses present issues pertaining to health, the environment, the understanding of the natural world and the implications of technological advancement as approached by professors of chemistry, environmental sciences, physics and biology.

Social Science. Social science courses provide a blend of history, human rights, economics and political science in the study of wealth, power and status. Courses explore the nature of citizenship as it has evolved over time.

Admission Requirements

The M.L.S. program serves motivated and enthusiastic students prepared for and interested in graduate-level study. All applicants must have the following:

  1. A bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) from an accredited college or university.
  2. An official transcript from all colleges and universities attended.
  3. A completed application form and application fee.
  4. A critical analysis essay.
  5. A personal statement that reflects an interest in the M.L.S. program.
  6. Two letters of recommendation (preferably one academic and one professional).
  7. A personal interview with a program adviser.
  8. Optional: resume.

Applications are considered on a rolling basis for the fall, summer and spring terms. Applications for M.L.S. program admission must be completed and submitted online before the beginning of the term. A student must receive official acceptance into the program before enrolling in classes. In some cases, a provisional acceptance may be tendered for one term while awaiting the arrival of an official transcript or when it is deemed appropriate by program director/faculty chair.

The GRE graduate school entry exam is not required for admission. Admission decisions are based on the applicant’s previous academic record, letters of recommendation, the level of writing ability demonstrated in the essay and an interview that includes discussion of the applicant’s academic goals and expectations.

Degree Requirements

Thirty-six credit hours of approved graduate study are normally completed within six years after beginning the program.

  1. Students must take two foundational courses within the first 12 hours of their coursework: HUMN 6316  (three credits) and a designated three-credit writing-intensive course. These courses may not be waived.
  2. Students must complete their coursework with at least a B (3.000 GPA) average. All courses attempted for credit on a student’s graduate program must average B (3.000) or better, with no grade less than C (2.000) applying toward the degree.
  3. Within the 36 required credits, students may include up to six graduate credits transferred from another accredited institution or another academic department at SMU (explained below).
  4. Within the 36 hours, students may also include up to six hours of independent study (explained below).
  5. Students must conclude their degree program with a capstone course or thesis during the last year of the program.
  6. Students may elect to specialize or concentrate in a particular curricular area through the course of the degree. If a student elects to concentrate or specialize in a specific curricular area, she or he must complete the following requirements:
    1. Three credit hours for the required introductory course, HUMN 6316 .
    2. Three credit hours for a designated writing-intensive course.
    3. Eighteen credit hours of approved courses from the chosen area of concentration, selected in consultation with the director for academic advisement.
    4. Three credit hours for the required capstone course/experience.
    5. Nine elective credit hours.

Once the student satisfies the requirements for a given concentration, the concentration area will appear on the student’s final transcripts. Double concentrations may be possible upon consultation with the director and/or faculty/program chair.

In addition to a self-designed concentration, the curricular concentrations include the humanities, the arts and cultural traditions, global studies, human rights and social justice, gender studies, creative writing, American studies, organizational dynamics, communication, media and technology, and environmental sustainability.

Transfer Credit

The student must file with the M.L.S. Office a Petition for Transfer Credit, accompanied by a course description and official transcript. Transfer credit is accepted by the dean under the following requirements:

  1. The course is compatible with the overall curriculum of liberal studies.
  2. The course is graduate level (6000 or above or institutional equivalent).
  3. The student has earned a grade of A or B in the course.
  4. The course has not been used in attaining a previous degree.
  5. The course has been taken within the past six years.

Courses taken prior to matriculation must be approved within one year of beginning the M.L.S. program. Transfer credit for study by correspondence or online study is considered on a case-by-case basis.

Independent Study

Students may earn up to six credit hours through independent study in a subject area relevant to the M.L.S. program curriculum. Students must first complete the two required courses and must be in good academic standing to be eligible to undertake an independent study. To enroll in an independent study, students must work with an M.L.S. program faculty member to define specific course requirements and complete an Independent Study Contract subject to the approval of the faculty/program chair. Independent study courses may be taken for one, two or three credit hours. The deadline to submit proposals to the M.L.S. Office is at least three weeks before the beginning of the term for which the study is requested. The form is available online in the M.L.S. Forms Library.

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