Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

MALS students


Students come to the program from a wide range of personal, academic and professional backgrounds. What they share in common are a lively intellectual curiosity and the desire to pursue their interests in a structured yet flexible setting. In addition to the pursuit of personal and intellectual growth, some students also seek professional advancement and preparation for the possibility of additional advance degrees.

Professional Advancement

Some MALS students 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 thesis 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 or have recently completed 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 at Case Western Reserve University; one in American Studies at Boston University; and one in Design and Human Environment at OSU. Another graduate 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.


Felix photo

My time at Reed has been both an intellectual adventure and a transformative experience. I discovered the joy of pursuing scholarship within a community of like-minded enthusiastic and passionate learners.  The diverse student body is one of the greatest assets of the MALS program, bringing varied ages, professions and interests to every class discussion. Reed classes host conversations you won’t find anywhere else! The experience has enriched my life both professionally and personally. On a professional level, the MALS program has taught me to be a deeper and more critical thinker and a more thoughtful writer. But, more significantly, it has taught me to trust my own instincts and resources, and to develop a kind of mental resilience that has given me the impetus to take more creative risks. In this way the MALS program has transformed my capabilities, and, I’m certain, my future.

MALS ‘13


"...skilling-up for an AI-powered world involves more than science, technology, engineering and math. As computers behave more like humans, the social sciences and humanities will become even more important. Languages, art, history, economics, ethics, philosophy, psychology and human development courses can teach critical, philosophical and ethics-based skills that will be instrumental in the development and management of AI solutions. If AI is to reach its potential in serving humans, then every engineer will need to learn more about the liberal arts and every liberal arts major will need to learn more about engineering."

The Future Computed
Brad Smith, President & Chief Legal Officer
Harry Shum, executive VP, Artificial Intelligence & Research
Microsoft Corporation, 2018