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    Apr 13, 2024  
2008-2009 Graduate Bulletin 
2008-2009 Graduate Bulletin [Archived Bulletin]

Liberal Studies (MALS)

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The MALS program at Hamline, created in 1980, is an innovative concept in graduate education designed to offer the serious student opportunities to range freely among academic, spiritual, artistic, and professional issues and ideas. Students in MALS choose from a range of courses not available within traditional graduate programs. They study a variety of disciplines, such as literature, art, philosophy, history, psychology, sociology, and science.

The resulting interdisciplinary approach extends students’ intellectual and creative resources, encourages them to discover connections between their learning and professional lives, and promotes openness to new ideas.

MALS Degree Requirements (Total 38 credits for Synthesis/40 credits for Proseminar):

Core Seminar (4 credits):

The core seminar is the first step in the MALS journey. Each core seminar draws widely from different disciplines focused on a particular subject – for example, “The Heritage of Hope,” “Home: An Interdisciplinary Study,” or “Changing Values in Civilization.” Students develop the skills of active listening, interdisciplinary thinking and research, critical writing, and substantive discourse. 

Upon successful completion of the core seminar, and with faculty recommendation, new students are advanced to degree candidacy. They then pursue a series of seven or eight courses. One of these is a course on the essay in which they learn the fundamentals of writing critical and personal essays. In a second course entitled “The Creative Process,” students cultivate and explore their own and others’ creative processes, and in a third, “Public Intellectual Practicum,” they learn interdisciplinary methods of inquiry and research. Students further select two interdisciplinary seminars and two or three electives. The student works toward a final capstone project, either in the form of a synthesis (two electives) or proseminar (three electives).

The Essay (4 credits):

We believe, to quote Donald Murray, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and poet, that “writing is the fundamental tool of the intellectual life.” All MALS students take a course on the essay, which will instruct them on the techniques of writing the critical and personal essays. This course will help to prepare students for their final capstone project and will provide a vehicle to carry the ideas and values they explore in GLS outside the academy and into the real world.

The Creative Process (4 credits):

After all the courses and critiques, the advice and aspirations, the writer’s true insurance policy is a close working relationship with his or her own creative process. This course will be structured as an investigation to enable each student to identify “right practice”: the qualities of and conditions for a productive individual approach to the creative process. We will examine the testimonies of both writers and creators in other disciplines for patterns and collective wisdom; consider the role of the mind, body, and spirit in provoking or sustaining the creative moment; and attempt to integrate the mysterious and the practical. Participants will be asked to explore a variety of approaches to the creative process and to bring an attitude of curiosity and attentiveness to investigating their own process.

Public Intellectual Practicum (4 credits):

People who share academic knowledge with the general public are sometimes called public intellectuals, people like Carl Sagan, Edward Said, Susan Sontag, Henry Louis Gates, E.O. Wilson, and Camille Paglia. These men and women are original thinkers who can write well and who wish to explore and debate real-world issues and problems and share their ideas with a wider audience. Since the great issues of our time defy easy or simple solutions, the public intellectual often explores diverse fields of inquiry, seeking to draw connections that result in deeper understanding. Students in the practicum will choose a subject or issue to investigate using interdisciplinary methods of inquiry and research. They will explore writing and presentation strategies appropriate for different kinds of audiences (e.g., essay, radio commentary, podcast, video script, blog, public presentation, etc.). Students will learn how to communicate clearly and persuasively with a wider audience, to conduct interdisciplinary research, and to act upon their creative and intellectual potential.

Interdisciplinary Seminars (8 credits):

To ensure a core emphasis on the integration of knowledge across disciplines, students will take at least two courses from a select list of interdisciplinary seminars. Each of these courses will explore a subject(s) or theme(s) through the lenses of at least three disciplines in the liberal arts.

Elective Courses (8 credits for Synthesis Option/12 credits for Proseminar Option:

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies electives focus upon complex disciplinary and interdisciplinary fields and issues. Courses are developed around the following threads, or subject areas.

Individual and Society:

Explores fundamental issues of self and society, the public and private realms, drawing upon works in the humanities and in the social and physical sciences. Students think deeply about the complex nature of humans in their environments.

Literature and the Arts:

Looks at literature and the arts as reflections of the creative process and its relationship to the larger world. Sometimes the relationships between and among disciplines are straightforward, as when poems inspired by works of visual art are studied together. At other times the connections are subtle, as when a theme is transformed by contact with various media and art forms.

Spirituality and Religious Life:

Spirituality and religious life, as a thread in the liberal arts, embodies our practice of interdisciplinary investigation. Many subjects, from poetry and music, to anthropology and biology, cosmology, quantum physics, and psychology contribute to theological and spiritual exploration of life’s great mysteries, including questions of meaning and faith, morality, the role of the human, and the nature of the Divine.

Mid-Point Advising:

After four or five courses, students meet with their advisor to chart the rest of the journey toward the degree. Student and advisor also explore possible topics for the final capstone project, and prepare a timeline for completion.


The capstone is the most tangible end product of the MALS program. In this final phase, focused discussion and extended research are brought to bear on the student’s chosen area of investigation. The capstone may be a synthesis, a longer work (approximately eighty pages or more) of either critical research and analysis, or a mixture of critical and creative work. Or, the capstone may be a proseminar essay, a shorter, more scholarly paper (approximately thirty to forty pages) exploring a chosen issue.

  • Synthesis Option GLS 8495 (8 credits)
  • Proseminar Option GLS 8496 (4 credits)

MALS Application Requirements:

  1. How and why have you decided to pursue graduate study in an interdisciplinary program? How can the MALS/CALS program further your personal and/or professional aims? What special abilities, personal qualities, and life experiences do you bring to the MALS/CALS program, including and independent study projects, writing, or research in which you have been engaged, and titles of any published works?
  2. What book, thinker, artist, or writer (choose one) has had significant influence on you? Please include reference to key stylistic or content elements which you believe to be of special importance.
  • Official transcripts from your undergraduate degree-granting institution.
  • Two letters of recommendation. Request these letters from two people familiar with your academic and/or professional qualifications. Letters of recommendation should be sent to the Office of Graduate Admission.
  • Any supplemental materials you wish the admission committee to consider.

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