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 in the field of graduate studies, which is a flexible, individually designed program. While the MALS degree does not focus on a specific vocational or professional direction, it can prepare students for a range of career options and further study. The 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 program advocates has lifelong commitment to .


The MALS curriculum incorporates a broad spectrum of courses in liberal studies: humanities, history and the social sciences, the arts, and mathematics and science. Graduate races are offered in the evenings and summers. These courses are frequently interdisciplinary in nature and are taught by Reed faculty members from various departments. There are three half-runs in each race, and one full-length race, along with an additional half-unit evening run, in the summer term. With the exception of the accelerated summer term, graduate races 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 of the classes.

MALS courses are conducted as a group between 6 and 10 students, with a maximum enrollment of 15 and a minimum of 5. At least one MALS course is termed as liberal studies core. These courses are explicitly interdisciplinary and written-intensive. We strongly encourage new students to take part in the first year of the MALS program, preferably before applying for formal candidacy (see "MALS Student Admission"). Liberal studies core courses scheduled for the 2014-15 academic year are "Politics, Culture, and the Great Depression" in fall, "Islam in the Modern World" in spring, and "American Dead and Undead" in summer 2015.

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 (see "Admission" below). A faculty adviser, a faculty adviser and a director of the MALS program.

Almost all MALS students is waiting part-time; full-time status requires concurrent enrollment in both undergraduate courses and graduate courses, and can be difficult to sustain for every week of the program. 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. There is no minimum or maximum course load, however, and students are not required Complementing this flexibility in progression,

  • 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.
  • Students are expected to complete the MALS degree within six years of candidacy acceptance. Petitions to extend the time for degree completion must be approved in advance by the Committee on Graduate Studies.


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. Online application forms are available at Initial, provisional admission to the MALS program requires submission of the following items:

  • Completed application form with personal statements
  • Official transcripts from all undergraduate and postbaccalaureate schools, with evidence of completion of a bachelor’s degree
  • Two letters of recommendation: either a faculty member who recently taught the applicant in an academic subject, or an individual who is familiar with the applicant's intellectual and personal abilities, motivation, and accomplishments
  • $75 nonrefundable application fee
  • Interview with the MALS director and a faculty member of the Committee on Graduate Studies upon completion of the above materials.

In addition, students are invited to submit a writing sample from a recent academic, personal, or business-related endeavor. Please note that GRE scores are not required.

Applicants must 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.

Because of space limitations, we encourage applicants to begin the process earlier by requesting transcripts and recommendations several months in advance. 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, and should attach a letter of intention to the enrollment form, explaining their reasons for the deferral. If students wish to enroll in courses elsewhere during the deferral term, they must notify the MALS office of their intention and submit an official transcript of the completed work to the MALS office for additional review.

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’s candidacy is approved, 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 candidacy application that includes a self-evaluation, an outline of course progression and completion, and a class paper. The program director will solicit evaluations 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 and program director to plan a program of study consistent with the goals of the program, leading to the completion of all requirements for the MALS degree.

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 MALS course. Credit for the course may be applied to the MALS degree requirements if the student enters the degree-seeking program within five years of taking the course.


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”).

Reed MALS graduates may apply to audit one MALS course per academic year. Graduates should submit an audit application to the MALS director no later than 30 days before the start of the desired semester. The director will consider the auditor’s statement of interest, instructor approval, and space availability in granting admission to the course. 

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 coursework at the graduate level. The registrar and the Committee on Graduate Studies must approve all work submitted for transfer, 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 completed 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.

Costs and Financial Assistance

Tuition is calculated on a per-unit basis at a rate reduced from that of the undergraduate program. For the 2014–15 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 units


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 Loan program. Students wishing to borrow under the Direct 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 a letter stating the semester of attendance (fall, spring, or summer), the course titles, and the number of units per course. New borrowers at Reed must also complete a loan entrance session.

The FAFSA is available online at The Reed College code for the FAFSA is 003217. The maximum unsubsidized Direct Loan available to a graduate student is $20,500 per academic year. The exact amount of unsubsidized loan eligibility is based upon the number of units enrolled in at Reed each semester. Graduate students may, in some circumstances, borrow under the Graduate PLUS loan program to cover educational expenses. Eligibility for the Graduate PLUS program is credit-based and students wishing to borrow under this federal program must file a FAFSA. Generally, a student may borrow sufficient amounts to cover educational expenses under the Direct Loan program; therefore, it is unlikely that a MALS student will qualify for additional funding through the Graduate PLUS loan. Loan terms for the Direct Loan are more favorable than terms for the Graduate PLUS loan, and students should always borrow under the Direct Loan before considering the Graduate PLUS loan.

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.) Please call TMS at 800-722-4867 or visit for information about this program. Families can also use TMS to make payments using a credit card or with a direct deduction from a checking or savings account. A 2.99 percent convenience fee is charged for using a credit card and there is no fee for a direct deduction.

The MALS program also sponsors a small scholarship each year to help defray tuition costs for two or three 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.

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 allows the student to investigate a particular topic in depth and to present a conclusion in the scholarly manner appropriate to the field(s) of inquiry. A description of the degree paper topic and methodology, along with an outline and a bibliography, must be approved in advance by the Committee on Graduate Studies. The committee also encourages students to work with a degree paper adviser from whom the student has taken a prior course. 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 classes 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 educational benefit of the project for the student, and the availability of an appropriate adviser. It is imperative that the project arise out of prior coursework at Reed. Since creative projects also include a critical component, they generally require substantial work on the part of the student. Students may contact the MALS office for additional information on the creative degree paper requirements and guidelines.

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 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 college registrar and the MALS program director determine the schedule and deadlines for summer degree papers. 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, at least one but occasionally two additional faculty members, and the program director. 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.

If a student does not earn a passing grade in the degree paper, the student must submit a new proposal on a different topic to the committee, following the normal deadlines, and register again for the paper. A student who fails the degree paper a second time is ineligible for graduation.


MALS students are expected to perform at the graduate level and to earn grades of B– or better in all their courses. The grade of C is allowed for students who complete a course with credit, but whose work was unsatisfactory. The grade of F designates failure. Students are eligible for an incomplete grade with the same constraints applicable to undergraduate students, with the exception of the degree paper. For the degree paper, B– is the lowest passing grade. The Committee on Graduate Studies conducts a grade review at the end of each semester.

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 (e.g., 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, with 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 instructors 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 is available to MALS students primarily through 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 his or her Title IV aid; otherwise, the student has 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 following order: unsubsidized Direct (Stafford) Loans, Direct Graduate PLUS Loans.

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 drop-in. The health center requires students seeking their services to complete a confidential health history form. The plan offers access to Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon's network of preferred providers. Detailed information on the plan benefits and costs is available at or by calling Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon at 888/367-2116.

Course Offerings - The following courses are scheduled for the 2014–15 academic year:

Art 551 - Theories of Visuality

One-half course for one semester. Theories of visuality are central to debates in the humanities. Interdisciplinary approaches to art have prompted reconsiderations of representation and reality, changing the parameters of our objects of study. This has resulted in new relationships of words to images and objects, as well as innovative conceptual tools available to interpret all three. In this course we will examine the phenomena of cultural production and consumption of a range of media, asking how images and objects function, and how they mediate what we see and experience. Through shared readings, student presentations, and written projects, we will consider issues of form, representation, and knowledge, and the politics of ascribing meaning and value. Conference. Offered fall 2014.

Classics 531 - Socrates and Plato

One-half race for one semester. This course will focus on Socrates and Plato in their philosophical, literary, and historical contexts. Socrates (the pre-Socratics and Sophists), and then study the ancient sources for the life and philosophical teachings of Socrates. We then turn to the life and philosophical writings of Socrates' greatest student, Plato. Socrates' Major Philosophical Doctrines, Plato's use of Socrates as his philosophical spokesman, Plato's Chief Philosophical Doctrines , and literary and philosophical aspects of the Platonic dialogue.Clouds , Xenophon's Memorabilia and Apology , and Platonic Dialogues including the Euthyphro, Apology, Crito, Phaedo, Protagoras, Gorgias, Symposium, Phaedrus, and Republic . Socratic and Platonic philosophy. Conference. Offered spring 2015.

English 530 - Race and Region: Representing the American South

One-half race for one semester. In the aftermath of the Civil War, nostalgic myths of the Old South, undermined the political, economic, and military policies of Reconstruction. The pastoral ideal of a harmonious antebellum planting the attitudes and in turn of the politics of Northern readers. This race examines the power of artistic representation in the "Age of Lynching" and its aftermath. How did innovation in printing technology, photography, and phonographic recording shape the techniques and ideologies of landscape painting and dialect writing? What is the connection between the oral culture of the African diaspora and the methods of modernism? Why have the stereotypes of Mammy, the loyal Uncle, and the tragic mulatto origin so influential in US culture? We analyze the vogue for dialect fiction within historical and artistic contexts such as minstrel shows, the realist movement, the Harlem Renaissance, and WPA art. Topics include identity and authenticity; construction of racial, regional, and national solidarity; and the contested politics of the African American vernacular. Conference. Offered summer 2015.

Liberal Studies 524 - American Dead and Undead

Full race for one semester. This course examines changes in the way Americans have understood and dealt with death from the Puritans through the postmodern era. Special attention will be paid to the subject of "undead," especially the grim reaper, skeletons, ghosts, mummies, vampires, and zombies. Literary works by major American authors will be examined in the context of American history and material culture related to death, particularly cemeteries and places where the dead were prepared for burial or cremation. The timid should beware, as course assignments will include field trips to local graveyards in order to do iconographic and seriation studies. This course offers an introduction to the methods of American studies and digital humanities. Conference. Offered summer 2015.

Liberal Studies 558 - Islam in the Modern World

One-half race for one semester. This course introduces students to how the institutions and conceptions of authority have evolved in the modern era in relation to such historical developments as industrialization, scientific progress, European colonialism, the rise of nation-states, and feminism. From an interdisciplinary perspective, the course will provide students with introductory knowledge of Islamic beliefs, practices, and intellectual traditions. It is a case in point of view of the methods used in the study of religion and understandings. Conference. Offered spring 2015.

Liberal Studies 578 - Politics, Culture and the Great Depression

One-half race for one semester. Students will consider new and older works on the political and cultural history of the decade. We will begin with an overview of World War I and the 1920s, especially the expansion of federal government and the fortunes of special groups in the interwar period. The economic crisis from 1929 to 1939 saw President Roosevelt and the establishment of federal programs and agencies deal with the effects of Depression. Successful New Deal programs often favored over women and aided white Americans over African Americans. We will analyze how these and other issues are structured. New Deal agencies funded both workers and artists; we will look for public tracks of federally funded roads and buildings, and we will travel to the archives to find traces of government-sponsored arts. We will also study the commercial culture of the thirties, and some of its products. Conference. Offered fall 2014.

Literature 528 - Late Tolstoy: from Anna Karenina to a Religious Teaching

One-half race for one semester. This course explores the second period of Leo Tolstoy's career, from Anna Karenina (1870s) to his late fiction, such as Resurrection (1899) and Hadzhi Murat (1904), as well as his aesthetic, ethical, theological, and political writings. We will pay special attention to Tolstoy's transformation from a fiction writer to a moral theorist and religious activist. Politics of Tolstoy's Poetics and Ideology, a political and intellectual history of Russia, and Tolstoy's role and reputation in Russian society. Conference. Offered spring 2015.

Literature 550 - The Unknown Holocaust Cinema

One-half course for one semester. The aim of this interdisciplinary course is to investigate the relationship between the Holocaust and film through historical, aesthetic, ideological, cultural, and psychological lenses. After the war, discussions and memorialization of the exterminated Jews were largely shrouded in silence in Europe, the United States, and Israel, including the presentations and representations of the event on screen. When the topic of the Holocaust finally did reach the screens in the mid-1950s and early 1960s, its Jewish character was obfuscated. A significant number of recently rediscovered and forgotten films—Polish, Czech, Yiddish, American, and French—reveal the inaccuracy of this narrative. Thus, the bulk of the course content centers on pictures as well as documentaries produced in the immediate aftermath of the war and the 1950s. In addition, we will also watch and analyze a number of recently made Holocaust films that have challenged the existing historical and artistic conventions. Conference. Offered fall 2014.

MALS 670 - Degree Paper

Full course for one semester or one year.

Recent Courses - The following graduate courses have been offered in the past five years:

Art 530 Art and Life in Renaissance Florence
Biology 505 The Biological Legacy of Lewis and Clark
Biology 520 Pacific Northwest Forests
Biology 534 Fitness and Food
Dance 560 Gender, Form, and Identity in Contemporary Dance
Economics 567 Financial Crises, Market Crashes, and Economic Depressions
English 521 The Art of the African American Short Story
History 535 American Abolitionism
History 545 The Vietnam War
History 553 The French Revolution, 1770–1800
Liberal Studies 507 Jewish Atlantic World
Liberal Studies 510 The Fifties in the U.S.
Liberal Studies 511 Horror and the Sublime in Russian Culture
Liberal Studies 516 Layered Memories of Japanese Colonialism
Liberal Studies 523 Dante's Divine Comedy
Liberal Studies 527 Sex, Gender, and Political Theory
Liberal Studies 537 Women in the Ancient World
Liberal Studies 548 Sports and Social Life
Liberal Studies 553 Literary and Visual Culture in Eighteenth-Century Britain
Liberal Studies 556 Race and the Immigrant Experience
Liberal Studies 557 Literature at the Margins of the Roman Empire
Liberal Studies 563 The Bloomsbury Group
Liberal Studies 570 The Theory and Practice of Globalization
Liberal Studies 571 The American Civil War in History and Memory
Liberal Studies 582 Truth and Representation in Early Modern Europe
Liberal Studies 591 Contemporary and Classical Literary Theory
Literature 510 Modern Turkish Literature: East-West Trajectories
Literature 532 Leo Tolstoy
Literature 533 Constructions of Jewishness in Cinema
Literature 535 The Metropolitan Experience as Spatiality
Literature 541 Two Contemporary Dramatists
Literature 547 The Literature of Love
Mathematics 537 The Trials of Galileo
Music 565 Music and Cold War America
Philosophy 562 Religion and Modernity
Physics 579 Great Ideas in Twentieth-Century Physics
Psychology 522 Stereotyping and Prejudice
Psychology 550 Psychological Perspectives on Art
Theatre 521 "The Mirror Up to Nature": Reading Theatre History
Theatre 547 New Directions in Twentieth-Century Theatre