M.A.L.S (4+1) Accelerated/Combined BA/MA

Purpose of the M.A.L.S 4+1 Program

The (4+1) Accelerated Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program is designed for outstanding FIU undergraduate students who major in Philosophy or Liberal Studies, and who have broad interests and a tendency for cross-disciplinary and interdisciplinary inquiry. This competitive program allows students to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Arts degree in as few as five years. The (4+1) MALS offers students individualized graduate studies that transcend traditional discipline-based programs of study. Students are encouraged to pursue a study of a broad range of subjects in the humanities, social sciences, and arts, and find connections among different areas of human thought. The program proceeds through a core curriculum of "Great Ideas" Seminars, a series of graduate course offerings from various disciplines tailored to the student’s interest, and culminates in the Capstone Project.

Overview & Program Requirements

Thirty-three semester credit hours of course work and a cumulative GPA of 3.0 are required for the MALS degree. The curriculum spans three sets of activities:

  1. Three or four Great Ideas Seminars (9 hours minimum),
  2. An Interdisciplinary Concentration consisting of at least six courses (18 hours minimum), and
  3. A Capstone Project (3 or 6 hours).

The Great Ideas Seminars

Examine the books, theories, and discoveries that have had the greatest influence on the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. If students are to understand the interrelatedness of the disciplines, they must understand the ideas that have shaped those disciplines. In addition, the Great Ideas Seminars are specifically designed to teach a variety of interdisciplinary research skills.

Interdisciplinary Concentrations

Consist of courses in at least three distinct disciplines. These courses must be unified by a theme chosen by the student in consultation with an advisor. Dozens of different themes are available, including among others, "Atlantic Civilizations," "Conflict Resolution," "Ethics and the Environment," "International Development," and "Gender Studies."

The Capstone Project

Is either a Master's Essay (3 hours) or a Master's Thesis (6 hours) on a topic related to the unifying theme of a student's Interdisciplinary Concentration. It must demonstrate both mastery of the chosen topic and the ability to address that topic from interdisciplinary perspectives.

Great Ideas Seminars

The Great Ideas Seminars examine the books, theories, and discoveries that have had the greatest influence on the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the humanities. If students are to understand the interrelatedness of the disciplines, they must understand the ideas that have shaped those disciplines.

In addition, the Great Ideas Seminars are designed to teach a variety of interdisciplinary research skills.

In addition to being taught by members of the Department of Philosophy, each Great Ideas Seminar will make extensive use of guest lecturers from other disciplines.

IDS 6931 Great Ideas Seminar: The Age of Science

This seminar focuses on great ideas from the natural sciences, including the revolutionary ideas of Galileo, Bacon, Newton, Darwin, and Einstein. Students study the historical development of these ideas, their evidential basis, and their broader implications. The goals and methods of science are examined, and attempts to demarcate science from other human activities are evaluated.

IDS 6939 Great Ideas Seminar: Politics and Society

This seminar examines great ideas in political and social thought. Students study the changing and competing conceptions of society and polity, and are exposed to the thought of such major figures as Plato, Aquinas, Hobbes, Rousseau, Marx, and Mill. Topics include the nature and extent of political obligation, the idea of social contract as a basis for the polity, the rule of law, and the nature of community.

IDS 6938 Great Ideas Seminar: Human Nature

This seminar examines great religious, philosophical, literary, and scientific ideas about human nature, including the view that human beings have no nature. Students are exposed both to ancient religious traditions like Confucianism, Buddhism and Upanishadic Hinduism and to secular thinkers like Aristotle, Darwin, Freud, Skinner, and Sartre. Conflicts between ideas are identified, and the possibility of integration is explored.

IDS 6937 Great Ideas Seminar: Special Topics

In this seminar, students learn about the interrelatedness of the disciplines by investigating a single great idea, and in particular an idea whose development and impact spans more than one discipline. Which idea is chosen for study will vary from one semester to another.

Interdisciplinary Concentration

Interdisciplinary Concentrations consist of courses in at least three distinct disciplines unified by a theme chosen by the student. A variety of different themes are available, including "Art and Society," "Ethics and the Environment," "Atlantic Civilizations," "Women’s Studies," "Labor Studies," "International Development," "Science and Religion," "The U.S Constitution," "European Studies," "Leadership Studies," "Race, Ethnicity, and Class," "Issues of Social Concern," "American History," and "Cultural Studies."

A student's Interdisciplinary Concentration must consist of at least six courses. These courses are chosen by the student in consultation with an advisor whose approval is required. To be approved, an Interdisciplinary Concentration must have both breadth and focus: breadth insofar as the courses comprising it must span at least three distinct disciplines and focus insofar as the courses comprising it must be unified by an appropriate theme identifiable by a brief descriptive title such as the above titles.

These are just a few examples. There is no list of "approved" themes. The student is free to choose whatever theme he or she wants. The only restriction is that there be a sufficient number of graduate courses available at FIU related to that theme. A student's Interdisciplinary Concentration may include:

  1. Up to three courses outside the College of Arts and Sciences,
  2. Up to two independent study courses, and
  3. At most one advanced undergraduate course for which no graduate analogue is available.

Capstone Project

The Capstone Project is either a Master’s Essay (3 hours) or a Master’s Thesis (6 hours) on a topic related to the unifying theme of a student’s Interdisciplinary Concentration. It must demonstrate both mastery of the chosen topic and the ability to address that topic from interdisciplinary perspectives.

After completing at least 27 credits of course work for the MALS degree, students undertake a Capstone Project. Specifically, they write a Master's Thesis or a Master's Essay on a topic related to the theme that unified their Interdisciplinary Concentration. Although the topics of the Capstone Projects are expected to be narrower than the themes that unify the Interdisciplinary Concentrations, they must not be discipline specific. Students are required to address their chosen topics from genuinely interdisciplinary perspectives and to advance an original point of view. These requirements apply both to students who choose the Essay option and to students who choose the Thesis option. The main difference between these options is their length. Essays will range between 30 and 50 pages, while theses will range between 60 and 100 pages. One other difference is that, while students who write an Essay will be required to present the results of their research orally, a formal defense will not be required.

Guidelines for Master's Essays in the MALS program are as follows

  1. A research committee with a minimum of three members will guide the development of the essay.
  2. The student must submit a proposal to the research committee for approval. A copy of the approved proposal must be filed with the Graduate Director.
  3. A student engaged in essay preparation must be registered for at least 1 hour of Master's Essay credit in every semester, including the summer semester, from the time he or she begins such preparation until the time the Essay is approved by the student's research committee.
  4. The student must make an oral presentation of the results of his or her research prior to final approval of the student's Essay by the student's research committee.
  5. Satisfactory completion of the Essay will be determined by a majority vote of the student's research committee.
Summary of Degree Requirements Credits
Great Ideas Seminars9-12 HOURS
Interdisciplinary Concentration18 HOURS
Capstone Project3-6 HOURS
Master's Essay3 Hours
Master's Thesis6 Hours
Total33 Hours

Since 33 hours of course work are required of all MALS students, but a maximum of 3 hours are awarded for the "Master's Essay" course as opposed to 6 hours for "Master's Thesis," students who choose the Essay option must complete either 4 Great Ideas Seminars (12 hours) or a 21 hour Interdisciplinary Concentration to satisfy the requirements for the degree. Transfer Credit

A prospective MALS student may have already completed some graduate level courses either at FIU or elsewhere. Such graduate work may count towards the MALS degree and in particular toward the student's Interdisciplinary Concentration if the following conditions are satisfied.

  1. The student received a grade of "B" or better in those courses.
  2. The student's advisor approves those courses. To obtain such approval, the courses must be appropriately related to the theme unifying the student's Interdisciplinary Concentration.
  3. No more than six semester hours can be transferred from another university.

Students/Faculty

Students may apply to the (4+1)-MALS early in their junior year. However, formal admission to the program is at the senior year. Before starting the graduate program, students must have satisfied all general education and core requirements. Students at the senior level can earn up to 9 graduate credit hours towards the MALS degree. Students must have and maintain a minimum of 3.25 GPA. Prospective students must set up a meeting with the Undergraduate Program Advisor and the Graduate Program Director to develop a Plan of Study for his/her Bachelor’s and Master’s degree programs. Students must complete the Master’s degree within 12 months from the completion of the Bachelor’s degree. If the Master’s program is not completed within the time allowed, none of the 9 courses can be double counted.

Unlike many graduate programs in Liberal Studies, which have no departmental center, the MALS program at FIU is housed in the Department of Philosophy, whose members have responsibility for coordinating the program, teaching, and arranging guest lectures for the Great Ideas Seminars, helping students develop their Interdisciplinary Concentrations, and ensuring that Capstone Projects are supervised by appropriate experts. The resulting emphasis on a philosophical integration of the disciplines is one of the features that distinguishes FIU’s program from all other MALS programs in Florida.

Admission Requirements: 4 + 1 M.A.L.S

Please email or mail all supporting documents to the Graduate School:

  • Transcripts indicating current enrollment in a Bachelor’s Degree in the Philosophy and/or Liberal Studies Programs at FIU.
  • Completed at least 60 credits with a GPA of 3.25.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • A personal statement describing goals and objectives in seeking a combined accelerated degree, and explaining how the (4+1)-MALS can meet your intellectual and educational goals, and experiences.
  • A substantial writing sample that is judged by the admissions committee to be of satisfactory quality.
  • A completed admission application which can be found at the Graduate School here The application must be mailed or taken in person to the Graduate Admissions office (PC 230), along with $30.00 refundable fee. A signature from the MALS Director is required.

For more information please go to: http://www.fiu.edu/~mals