M.A.L.S

Purpose of the M.A.L.S. Program

The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program is designed for students who possess a strong desire for intellectual growth and challenge and show an interest in interdisciplinary research. It offers students individualized programs of graduate study that transcend traditional disciplinary boundaries and yet lie squarely within the venerable tradition of liberal education. Students study the "great ideas" that have shaped the disciplines, and learn how to integrate methods and information from distinct disciplines.

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
  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

GREAT IDEAS SEMINARS 9-12 HOURS
INTERDISCIPLINARY CONCENTRATION 18 HOURS
CAPSTONE PROJECT3-6 HOURS
MASTER’S ESSAY 3 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

The MALS program is designed for students in various ages and occupations whose intellectual curiosity and passion for learning did not cease upon completion of the baccalaureate degree or advanced specialized degree. Because many MALS students already have full-time careers, the program is designed to address the needs of part-time students. Admissions are rolling, and in some cases, conditional admission may be granted by the director. No particular undergraduate degree is required for admission. MALS students bring diverse interests, professions, educational backgrounds, and a lifetime of experience into the classroom.

Because interdisciplinary concentrations must span at least three disciplines, MALS students will have the opportunity to be taught by a wide variety of FIU faculty members. Unlike many graduate programs in Liberal Studies, which have no departmental centre 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.

This arrangement ensures continuity and provides a core group of faculty members committed to the program. It also enables students to enjoy the freedom of interdisciplinary study without completely sacrificing the sense of community that enhances traditional graduate study. Most importantly, the Philosophy Department is a natural home for the program since philosophy is by definition concerned with the synthesis of knowledge from different disciplines. 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.

Information about the faculty members of the Department of Philosophy is available at the following address: http://www.fiu.edu/~philosop/

Admission Requirements for MALS

You can mail all these documents to the Graduate School

  1. Official transcripts for all post-secondary education from an accredited college or university with a 3.0 GPA in upper-level work, and a TOEFL score of at least 550 if applicant is not a native speaker of English.
  2. A substantial writing sample that is judged by the admissions committee to be of satisfactory quality.
  3. A personal statement explaining how the MALS can meet your intellectual and educational goals, and experiences.
  4. A curriculum vita including academic background, professional, volunteer activities, and relevant experience.
  5. Two to three letters of recommendation that describe your academic ability and motivation.
  6. A completed admission application form and fee at: Graduate Admissions Application

For more detailed information please visit: www.fiu.edu/~mals