Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

MALS classroom

The Academic Program

Degree Requirements

The MALS degree requires the completion of nine units of course work. One Reed unit is the equivalent of four semester or six quarter hours. Each student selects an individual program, incorporating the following degree requirements:

  1. Eight units of courses. A minimum of four of the eight units must be in Reed courses at the graduate level (numbered 500 or higher); no more than four units from 300- and 400-level undergraduate classes may be applied to the eight required course units.
  2. A one-unit thesis.
  3. No more than five units (including the thesis) in any one department or division, or in liberal studies core courses, may be applied to the total nine units required for graduation. The academic divisions of the college include the arts; history and the social sciences; literature and languages; mathematics and natural sciences; and philosophy, religion, psychology, and linguistics.

Exceptions to the above requirements must be approved in advance by the Committee on Graduate Studies. Petitions should be addressed to the committee no later than the first day of classes of the term preceding the thesis.

All students initially enter the program on a provisional basis. After completing at least two concurrent or consecutive courses at Reed (at least one of which must be at the graduate level), the student must submit an application for admission to formal candidacy to the Committee on Graduate Studies. The student may not enroll in additional courses until formal acceptance as a degree candidate, or with prior approval from the program director. (See Graduate admission & financial aid.)

New students are required to take at least one Liberal Studies Core (LBST) course prior to applying for candidacy. Exceptions to this requirement must be approved in advance by the Committee on Graduate Studies. If the exception is approved, the student still must take at least one LBST course within two terms of being accepted as a formal candidate.

Gateway Course
To better prepare students for the independent research and sustained work of the thesis, students should designate one of their courses a term or two prior to the thesis semester as a Gateway Course. The course preferably will be a MALS class (or an upper-level undergraduate course, when appropriate) that provides an opportunity for the student to write a "dry run" research paper. Details about the Gateway Course process are available through the MALS office.

Course of Study
As noted above, the MALS program is not intended for those students who seek the specificity of a single academic focus. While students may have an area or two of primary interest, they must be willing to place their interests in a broader context and possibly explore course work in unfamiliar disciplines. As such, the program does not specify a minimum number of courses required in a field of principal interest. The student’s total program, however, should lead to a clearly defined objective and must be approved by the Committee on Graduate Studies when the student applies for admission to candidacy. A faculty adviser and the director of the program will assist students in designing a course of study that will meet their particular intellectual interests while providing a broad academic base.


MALS graduates

The interdisciplinary structure of the MALS courses eased my entry into subject areas that I would not otherwise have considered for study. The professors provided generous reading lists for the courses, encouraging students to read with depth. As the individual MALS students shared unique perspectives in our class discussions, the experience of inquiry and discovery became a delightful core of each course. When I entered the MALS program, I knew that I would gain immensely from the courses. However, I was surprised to find that the rigor of the MALS experience could also become a joy.

MALS '06