Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
There is no “typical” Reed MALS student. The program attracts a diverse group of people of varied interests, ages, and backgrounds. They are drawn to the program primarily by their desire to focus their intellectual curiosity in a more structured context, and to do so with similarly motivated students and a stimulating faculty. Some come to the program from specialized professions looking for an opportunity to broaden and deepen their knowledge; others are recent college graduates who wish to study more broadly before narrowing their career focus. Most can be described as seekers: people looking for deeper meaning as individuals and members of society, people who wish to expand their thinking about themselves in relation to the world. Thus, the most fundamental and abiding characteristic of students in the program is the desire to learn for its own sake.
In addition to the pursuit of personal and intellectual growth, some students also seek professional advancement. They may look to a general master’s degree to open doors to new employment opportunities or career enhancement. For example, one student, a local business manager, used materials from a MALS course on stereotyping and prejudice to make a presentation to his business colleagues. A curator at the Portland Art Museum received a fellowship upon graduation to continue her degree paper research at the Huntington Library. Another student received an Oregon Heritage Grant to pursue her professional interest in the Southern Oregon Chautauqua Association contributions to the founding principles of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. In addition, high school teachers often find direct application of MALS course work to their own classes, such as one teacher's study of the use of documentary film in an educational setting.
Preparation for Further Studies
Some students use the flexibility of the program to explore the possibility of professional study or to strengthen a future application to a Ph.D. program. Others, prompted by their experience in the program, make career changes with additional schooling, moving from business to academia as teachers and librarians. Recent graduates who currently are pursuing Ph.D. degrees include two at Columbia University (one in intellectual history, the other in business management); one in theatre at Northwestern University; one in bioethics as Case Western Reserve University; and one in American Studies at Boston University. Another graduate recently completed a law degree at the University of Pennsylvania, while others are currently attending or recently have completed masters programs in library science, history, teaching, fine arts, and Peace and Conflict Studies (Hacettepe University, Turkey).
Most MALS students come to the program from the Portland metropolitan area; others move to Portland from both US and international locations specifically to participate in Reed’s MALS program. While Reed does not offer on-campus housing for graduate students, a useful resource for students new to the area is the college's off-campus housing link. Almost all of the students work full- or part-time, pursuing careers in such diverse fields as education, law, medicine, the arts, finance, journalism, architecture, and business. The average age of program participants is approximately 35, with student ages generally ranging from the mid-20s to mid-60s.