Reed College Catalog


Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) is an interdisciplinary graduate program in the liberal arts and sciences. An alternative to the highly specialized course of study, the MALS degree does not provide a specific vocational or professional orientation. It is intended for those students who wish to pursue interdisciplinary graduate work in a flexible, individually designed program. The MALS program then attracts a diverse group of bright and intellectually curious students of varied interests, ages, and backgrounds who are motivated to learn and who wish to pursue learning with similarly motivated students and faculty members. In short, the most fundamental and abiding feature of students in the program is the desire to learn for the sake of learning.

Course Offerings

The MALS curriculum incorporates a broad spectrum of courses in liberal studies: humanities, history and the social sciences, the arts, mathematics, and the sciences. Graduate seminars are offered in the evenings and summers. These seminars are often interdisciplinary in nature and are taught by faculty members from a variety of departments. There are three half-full courses, one full-course and one full-course race, along with an additional half-unit evening seminar, in the summer term. With the exception of the accelerated summer term, graduate seminars meet one and one-half hours a week for the duration of the semester. MALS students also select from 300- and 400-level undergraduate courses, with the instructor's consent, for their degree program,

An exceptional basis, a student may undertake an independent study class. The course must be approved by the Committee on Graduate Studies, which will take into consideration the individual student 's personal and educational circumstances. A proposal for the race, signed by the instructor, must be submitted to the committee no later than the last day

MALS courses are conducted as discussion groups and enrolled between 7 and 12 students, with a maximum enrollment of 15. At least one MALS course is a liberal studies core course. These courses are explicitly interdisciplinary and written-intensive. We strongly encourage students to take part in the first year of the MALS program, preferably before they apply for formal candidacy (see "MALS Student Admission"). The Royal Academy of Foreign Affairs in the summer 2009-10 academic year are: "Layered Memories of Japanese Colonialism" in fall, "Literature at the Margins of the Roman Empire" in spring, and "Middle Eastern Visions" in the summer. 

Race Load and Progression

The program does not specify a minimum number of courses required in a field of primary interest. The student's total program, however, should lead to a clearly defined objective and provide the theoretical basis for the final degree paper project. After completing two provisional Reed courses, all students must make application for formal candidacy to the program. A faculty adviser, a faculty adviser and a director of the MALS program.

Most MALS students attend part time; full-time status requires concurrent enrollment in both undergraduate courses and graduate seminars. Full-time enrollment in a regular semester is three units; half-time enrollment is one and one-half units. In the accelerated summer term, one unit is considered half-time enrollment; one and one-half units is full-time. While most students take three to six years to graduate, it is possible to complete the program in two years. The yearly course load for graduate students generally ranges from one to five academic units. There is no specified minimum or maximum course load, however, and students are not required to be enrolled each consecutive term. Complementing this flexibility in progression, however, is the expectation that all MALS students meet the following completion time frames:

  1. If a student does not complete a course within three consecutive semesters, the student must submit a petition to continue in the program to the Committee on Graduate Studies by the last day of classes of the third term of nonenrollment. The petition for continuation must include enrollment in at least one of the next two semesters, a statement of continued interest, and a proposed time frame for completing the program. A student who does not meet these criteria and who wishes to continue study at a later date must reapply for admission to the program.
  2. Students are expected to complete the MALS degree within six years of acceptance as a degree candidate. Petitions to extend the time for degree completion must be approved in advance by the Committee on Graduate Studies.

Degree Requirements

The MALS degree requires the completion of nine units of coursework. Each student designs an individual program, incorporating the following degree requirements:

    1. Eight units of courses. 

        a. A minimum of four of the eight units must be in Reed courses at the graduate level (numbered 500 or higher).

        b. No more than four units from 300- and 400-level undergraduate courses may be applied to the eight required units.

    2. A one-unit degree paper.

    3. No more than five units (including the degree paper) in any one department or division, or in liberal studies core courses, may be applied to the total nine units required for graduation.

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 before the degree paper.

Degree Paper

A required final project, the degree paper is a one-unit, one-semester study of a specific topic that should emerge out of the student’s courses and critical studies. The experience of writing the degree paper is intended to allow the student to investigate a particular topic in depth and to present a conclusion in the scholarly manner appropriate to the field. A description of the degree paper topic with an outline and a bibliography must be approved in advance by the Committee on Graduate Studies. Candidates should submit the degree paper proposal to the MALS office according to the following schedule: proposals for fall papers are due the last day of classes of the preceding spring term; proposals for spring papers are due the last day of class of the preceding fall term; proposals for summer papers are due the first Monday in April of the preceding spring term.

The committee is cautious about approving creative degree paper proposals and considers carefully the nature of the project, the student’s prior coursework, and the educational benefit of the project for the student. Since creative projects also include a critical component, they generally require substantial work on the part of the student. In addition, on an exceptional basis students may petition to write a two-unit, two-term degree paper, leading to a 10-unit degree program. This opportunity is for the unusual student who wishes to research and write a longer, more ambitious paper. The student must explain in the degree paper proposal the reasons for extending the project to two terms, and obtain explicit permission from the paper adviser.

The degree paper is due on the date specified in the academic calendar for senior thesis submission. The schedule and deadlines for summer degree papers are determined by the registrar and the MALS program director. The degree paper requirement is completed with a two-hour oral defense of the project. The committee of examiners typically includes the student’s paper adviser, one member of the Committee on Graduate Studies, and at least one but usually two other faculty members. The committee should represent at least two different academic divisions of the college. The Reed library houses copies of all degree papers and undergraduate senior theses, easily accessible for both reference and borrowing.

When necessary, MALS students may take a three-day extension for submitting the paper, provided a $50 late fee is paid and the bound copies are submitted to the library by the regular deadline.


MALS students are expected to perform at the graduate level and to earn grades of B- or better in all their courses. Work completed at a level below B- is considered unsatisfactory. The grade of C is allowed for students who complete a course with credit, but whose work was unsatisfactory. The F grade designates failure. Students are eligible for an incomplete grade with the same constraints applicable to undergraduate students. For the degree paper, B- is the lowest passing grade.

Transfer Credit

A maximum of two of the nine units required for the degree may be satisfied by transfer credit. Transfer credit may not be used to meet the minimum requirement of four units of Reed courses at the graduate level. All work submitted for transfer must be approved by the registrar and by the Committee on Graduate Studies, preferably before enrollment in the transfer course.The coursework must be from a regionally accredited college or university, may not be applied to another degree, and should represent B or better work. Courses taken as a postbaccalaureate student should be comparable to upper-level undergraduate or graduate coursework offered at Reed. Normally, all courses approved for transfer must have been completed within the past five years.


Graduate courses are open only to students who have been admitted to the MALS program. They are not open to general auditors or to undergraduate Reed students. Students currently enrolled in the MALS program are eligible to audit undergraduate courses and should follow the guidelines outlined in the section on auditors in the admission section of this catalog (under “Special Admission Groups”).

The Committee on Graduate Studies will consider applications from Reed MALS graduates who wish to audit a specific graduate course. Graduates must submit an audit application to the committee no later than 30 days before the start of the desired term. The committee will consider the auditor’s statement of interest, instructor approval, and space availability in granting admission to the course. MALS graduates may audit no more than one course per year.

Special Students

Those individuals with an undergraduate degree who wish to sample a graduate course one time only may initiate a special student application to take one class. Credit for the class may be applied to the MALS degree requirements if the student enters the degree-seeking program within five years of taking the course.


Reed welcomes applications from individuals who wish to pursue interdisciplinary graduate work in a program that is both flexible and rigorous. Those applicants are accepted who, in the view of the Committee on Graduate Studies, are most likely to become successful members of and contribute positively to the MALS community. Admission decisions are based on many integrated factors. We recognize that qualities of character—in particular, motivation, intellectual curiosity, and openness to constructive criticism—are important considerations in the selection process, beyond a demonstrated commitment to academic excellence.

Students may apply to enter in the fall, spring, or summer term. Initial, provisional admission to the MALS program requires submission of the following items: a completed application form, official transcripts from all undergraduate and postbaccalaureate schools, evidence of completion of a bachelor’s degree, two letters of recommendation, a $60 nonrefundable application fee, and an interview with the MALS director and a faculty member of the Committee on Graduate Studies. Applicants should submit all required materials by the following deadlines: no later than July 1 for fall entrance; no later than December 1 for spring entrance; no later than April 1 for summer entrance. Applications are reviewed on a rolling basis throughout the year, and applicants are notified of the admission decision accordingly.

Students accepted for admission may request a deferral of entrance for up to two terms. Students should attach a letter of intention to the enrollment form, explaining their reasons for the deferral request. If students wish to enroll in courses elsewhere during the deferral term, they must notify the MALS office of their intention and send an official transcript of the completed work to the MALS office.

All students are admitted to the program on a provisional basis. In order to be admitted formally as a candidate to the MALS program, the applicant must successfully complete two successive or concurrent Reed courses, at least one of which must be at the graduate level. If the student is accepted, credit for these courses will be applied to the MALS degree. Within one term of completing the second course, the student must submit to the Committee on Graduate Studies a self-evaluation, outline of course progression and completion, and a class paper. The program director will solicit comments from the student’s instructors, including an assessment of the applicant’s potential to write a final degree paper. Once accepted as a candidate, the student should consult with the faculty adviser to plan a program of study consistent with the goals of the program, leading to the completion of all requirements for the MALS degree.

Costs and Financial Assistance

Tuition is calculated on a per-unit basis at a rate reduced from that of the undergraduate program. For the 2009-10 academic year, the semester MALS tuition rates are as follows:

1/2 unit


2 units


1 unit


2 1/2 units


1 1/2 units


3 or more


Students enrolled at least half time (1.5 units in the fall or spring terms; 1 unit in the summer term) are eligible to participate in the Direct Stafford Loan program. Students wishing to borrow under the Direct Stafford Loan program must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). In addition, for each semester that a graduate student is interested in borrowing a federal loan, the student should provide the financial aid office with the following information: a letter stating the semester of attendance (fall, spring, or summer), the course titles and the number of units per course, and a loan request form. New borrowers at Reed must also complete a loan entrance session.

The FAFSA is available in Reed’s financial aid office, or online at The Reed College code for the FAFSA is 003217. The maximum subsidized Direct Stafford Loan available to a graduate student is $8,500 per academic year. The maximum unsubsidized Direct Stafford Loan available to a graduate student is $12,000 per academic year. The exact amount of subsidized and unsubsidized loan eligibility is based upon the student’s determined need, calculated from the FAFSA and the number of units enrolled at Reed each semester. Graduate students also may borrow costs of attendance under the Direct Graduate PLUS loan program, which requires a credit check.

For financial aid purposes, the academic year at Reed College begins in summer, continuing through fall and spring.

A Reed College monthly payment option, administered by Tuition Management Systems, offers a flexible alternative to semester payments to the college. Participants make 10 equal monthly payments, beginning July 15, for the academic year. (A five-month payment option also is available for one-semester participation.) Requests for an application and questions may be addressed to the Reed College business office, to Tuition Management Systems at 800-722-4867, or online at

The MALS program also sponsors a small scholarship each year to help defray tuition costs for one or two MALS students. Recipients are chosen by the Committee on Graduate Studies based on an application process that takes into account primarily financial need (as calculated from the FAFSA form), but also academic and personal merit. Generally, the committee will call for scholarship applications in the spring and make a final decision on awards no later than fall of the new academic year.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Satisfactory academic progress refers to a minimum grade point average (GPA) expectation, the number of units completed during the academic year, and the time it normally would take to complete the MALS degree. For federal financial aid purposes, a student is expected to maintain at least a 2.0 GPA. Full-time status at Reed is 3 units in a regular semester (fall or spring) and 1.5 units in summer. Based on the degree requirement of 9 units, a student attending full time would take a year and a half to complete the program. Students are eligible for federal financial aid for up to 150 percent of the regular time frame to complete a degree; therefore, MALS students may be eligible for federal aid for up to two years of full-time study. A student who enrolls part time during any semester may be eligible for additional semesters of federal aid.

Reed’s institutional definition of satisfactory academic progress for the number of completed units is the same as noted above in the federal definition. It differs, however, from the federal definition in minimum GPA and time frame. MALS students generally are expected to maintain a GPA of at least 3.0. They must apply for formal candidacy in the program after completing their first two courses, take at least one course every three semesters, and complete the degree within six years of acceptance as a degree candidate.

Dropping Courses, Refunds, and Withdrawal from the Program

MALS students who drop courses during a semester must complete an add/drop form, available from the registrar’s office. The signatures of the instructor, adviser, and student are required for acceptance of the form. Deadlines for registration changes are published in the academic calendar. The date that the completed form is submitted to the registrar’s office is the effective date for determining any refund.

The refund of tuition is based on the percentage of the payment period completed by the student. The effective drop date determines the period of completion. The method of determining the refund percentage pertains to nonfederal Title IV financial aid (for example, alternative loans or the Menashe scholarship). The business office has detailed information on the refund policy.

No deviations from the refund schedule will be made except in cases of extreme hardship, of which the college shall be the sole judge. The Administration Committee may, upon the recommendation of the MALS program director, approve petitions for such exceptions. Reed College’s refund policy is based in part on the fact that it is an institution with a semester-based program, and we are not required to take attendance. The refund policy applies to all graduate students who drop or withdraw from courses during a semester, whether or not they have federal Title IV financial aid, except as noted in the section below.

Any student who wishes to withdraw formally from the MALS program must provide written notification to the MALS office. If the student is enrolled at the time of withdrawal, the student must complete the add/drop form.

Credit balances under $10 will not be refunded.

Tuition Refund for Federal Title IV Financial Aid Recipients

Federal Title IV financial aid includes the subsidized and unsubsidized Federal Direct Stafford Loan. For students who are recipients of federal Title IV financial aid, additional calculations must be made for tuition refunds.

First, the college calculates the amount of Title IV aid earned by the student for the percentage of payment period completed. If the percentage of payment period completed is greater than 60 percent, the student is considered to have earned 100 percent of their Title IV aid; otherwise, they have earned the actual percentage calculated.

Second, the college compares the amount earned with the amount disbursed to determine the amount that must be returned to the Title IV programs.The amount disbursed is that aid awarded and disbursed to the student’s account, plus the Title IV aid awarded that could have been disbursed to the student’s account (such as memo balances).

Third, the college determines the amount of Title IV aid that must be returned to the Title IV programs by the college and by the student. Aid is returned to the Title IV programs in the program order listed above.

Health Insurance

All degree-seeking MALS students taking a half unit or more of Reed classes continuously each term, including summers, are eligible to enroll in the Reed College health plan. Students are allowed one term of nonenrollment in their progression to the MALS degree; a second term of nonenrollment would result in termination of coverage. A student who is unable to return to classes because of extenuating circumstances may qualify to purchase coverage for an additional period of time.

The rates for graduate students are somewhat higher than for undergraduates. However, MALS students may choose their own primary care providers off campus. In addition, MALS students who join the Reed health plan may seek medical attention from the Reed health center, preferably by appointment but also by dropping in. The health center requires students seeking their services to complete a confidential health history form. The plan offers access to the Aetna national network of preferred providers. Detailed information on the plan benefits and costs is available at or by calling The Chickering Group at 866/574-8289.

Seminar Topics

The following graduate seminars have been offered in the past five years:

Anthropology 570 The Theory and Practice of Globalization
Art 541 Picasso’s Cubism
Biology 505 The Biological Legacy of Lewis and Clark
Classics 527 Women in the Ancient World  
Creative Writing 545 Craft Studio: American Culture
English 538 Cinema and the Senses
History 508 The First World War
History 545 The Vietnam War
History 561 Inquisition and Society in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe
History 565 Animals: An Intellectual and Cultural History
History 570 The Incas
Liberal Studies 512 The Black Radical Tradition
Liberal Studies 518 Shakespeare and Film
Liberal Studies 522 Ancient Epics: The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Iliad, the Odyssey, and the Aeneid
Liberal Studies 524 Cultures in Contact: The American Frontier
Liberal Studies 526 Chaucer in the Medieval World  
Liberal Studies 530 Dream in Human Societies
Liberal Studies 531 Socrates and Plato
Liberal Studies 547 Ancient and Modern Praise Poetry: Ted Hughes and Pindar
Liberal Studies 553 Literary and Visual Culture in 18th-Century Britain
Liberal Studies 559 Ancient Slavery and Modern Ideology
Liberal Studies 561 The Soviet Experience
Liberal Studies 562 The Victorian Fin de Siecle
Liberal Studies 563 The Bloomsbury Group
Liberal Studies 583 Engendering History
Liberal Studies 587 Plagues and Their Meanings: Epidemic Disease in Medieval and Renaissance Europe
588 Railways and Modernity
Literature 523 Church and State in Early Modern
Literature 542 Literature and Society
Literature 552 Studies in Autobiography
Literature 591 Contemporary and Classical Literary Theory
Literature / Mathematics 563 Thomas Mann and the Discourse of Science in Early 20th Century
Mathematics 537 The Copernican Revolution
Philosophy 548 Existentialism
Psychology 522 Stereotyping and Prejudice
Psychology 531 Emotions
Psychology 544 The Social Construction of Disability
Religion 533 Hidden Divinity: In Search of Christian Mysticism
Religion 552 History of Islam in America
Religion 574 Religion and Media

Biology 534 - Fitness and Food

One-half race for one semester. This course addresses the biological foundations of exercise and nutrition. Both topics receive a great deal of attention in a popular media, yet typically a prescriptive rather than an explanatory context. The course will be directed to exploring physiological explanations of exercise and nutrition, and their relationship; ie, the mechanics and biochemistry of health. Classes will begin with a general discussion of nutrition or fitness items from the popular media-where do the findings come from, what do they mean, and how do they relate to our course material? Conference. Offered fall 2009.

English 521 - The Art of the African American Short Story

One-half race for one semester. This race will survey African American short fiction from the late 19th century into the 20th century. We will look at the work in its historical and political context. We will begin in the 1890s with the work of Charles Chesnutt that questions the time immediately after slavery and signals the beginning of African American modernism. We will also cover the periods of the Renaissance Harlem, African American Naturalism, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Arts Movement, and beyond. Conference. Offered spring 2010.

Liberal Studies 507 - Middle Eastern Visions

Full race for one semester. This course addresses US representations of the Middle East during the early national period. We will look at the image of Algerians, Turks, Barbary Pirates, and Middle Eastern Jews during America's First and Second Barbary Wars (1801-1805, 1815). We will pay close attention to the depiction of spies, slavery, terrorism, captivity, harems, moriscos , conversos , the Holy Land, and Islam during this era. The course will refer to the subject of writing, writing, writing, and writing. Conference. Offered summer 2010.

Liberal Studies 516 - Layered Memories of Japanese Colonialism

One-half race for one semester. This course explores major issues in the recent history of Japanese colonialism and the development of colonialism in Japan and the Japanese colonial rule in Taiwan and Korea (Japan's major colonies), without Japanese "informal" rule in China. Conference. Offered fall 2009.

Liberal Studies 557 - Literature at the Margins of the Roman Empire

One-half race for one semester. In this course we will read Latin and Greek literature in translation from the first through the fifth centuries of the common era. To make sense of this unusual span, starting from the height of Augustus's rule and ending with a fragmented empire, we will concentrate on the authors who best represent Rome's cosmopolitanism-writers from different regions of the empire. For the most part of the world, they are the most important subjects of their career. Conference. Offered spring 2010.

Literature 535 - The Metropolitan Experience as Spatiality

One-half race for one semester. Since the advent of the 20th century, the metropolitan city has had a rethinking of the trajectories of time and space as it emerged as a new network of meaning. We will explore the transcription of the city as a novel site of knowledge in experimental literary and theoretical narratives. The course takes its place of departure in the world of social sciences and social sciences. This cross-disciplinary engagement in spatiality, called 'the spatial turn,' explores human experiences on the individual and social scale by way of spatializing them, instead of employing primarily historical methods of inquiry. Conference. Offered summer 2010.

Philosophy 562 - Religion and Modernity

One-half race for one semester. This course is keyed to philosopher Charles Taylor's new book, A Secular Age , which addresses the place of religion in the modern world, and takes place with the well-known line that modern thought, based on science, excludes religion. Taylor shares the concern about the dominance of modern life by science and technology characteristic of humanistic philosophers, and is not eager to write off a traditionally central part of human culture. His book tells the story of secularization, following the lead of the master's degree of social theorist Max Weber's classic work, The Protestant Ethic . Conference. Offered fall 2009.

Physics 579 - Great Ideas in 20th-Century Physics

One-half race for one semester. The Relation of Quantum Mechanics, Elementary Particles, and Cosmology. The emphasis will be on ideas-ideas that are profound, important, surprising (indeed, in some cases paradoxical), and yet reasonably accessible without a substantial background in classical physics and mathematics. Prerequisite: high school algebra. Conference. Offered spring 2010.

MALS 670 - Degree Paper

Full race for one semester or one year.