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Frequently Asked Questions



Clayton State University Master of Arts in Liberal Studies College of Arts & Sciences 2000 Clayton State Boulevard Morrow, GA 30260-0285 (678) 466-4730 (678) 466-4899 (fax)

Inquiries: Dr. Patricia Smith, Professor of English, 205-K Arts and Sciences Bldg (678) 466-4730

Who are MALS students?

The MALS degree includes an interdisciplinary curriculum that encourages innovative thought, promotes connections to others and the world, and cultivates critical and creative thinking skills.Traditionally, MALS programs are designed as programs for the intellectual development of classroom teachers. However, the Clayton State University model, while still recognizing the primacy of this goal, extends beyond to include individuals from the private sector, law, journalism, healthcare, non-profit organizations, the arts, as well as recent college graduates preparing for advanced study in math or criminology. The MALS degree will offer graduates of Clayton State University opportunities to grow in their awareness of cultural tendencies; to cultivate their analytical and communication skills to reach their full potential; to develop and expand a commitment to others; to attain a liberal studies perspective on contemporary problems and opportunities; to broaden their general knowledge; to strengthen their capacity to think critically and creatively; and to gain insights into the relationships between disciplines, ideas, and historical developments.

Fluid and flexible, the MALS program allows the student to develop a course of study that best fits individual needs and interests. The program seeks to "liberate" in the classic sense of that term. It serves the needs of those who want a rich and satisfying intellectual experience as well as enhancement of their analytical and communication skills.

Its subject matter is the whole spectrum of the modern American experience, as well as the roots of that experience as we discover them in other times and cultures. Areas of study include, but are not limited to, literature, the arts, politics, philosophy, science, and intellectual and social history.

Why choose the MALS program at Clayton State?

The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies is a relatively new concept in graduate education, but it actually rests squarely in the venerable tradition of liberal education; it has proven itself as an exciting and useful form of graduate education. The MALS degree has become an increasingly popular degree nationwide and is now offered by over a hundred universities (e.g., Johns Hopkins, Dartmouth, LSU, University of North Carolina, East Tennessee State University, Reed College and Duke). It was first offered in the early 1950s by Wesleyan University in Connecticut and is now offered in Georgia at Emory University.  Clayton State University is Georgia’s only public university to offer the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies.

Clayton State University’s MALS program is a natural outgrowth of its interdisciplinary curriculum, which offers a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies and a Bachelor of Science in Integrative Studies, as well as other degree programs in Art, Philosophy, Film and Media Studies, Communications, Math, Theater, and Women’s Studies, alongside more traditional degrees in History, English, Music, Teacher Education, Psychology, and the natural and social sciences. Faculty work closely with one another, combining their expertise to provide MALS students with a comprehensive and deep liberal education, while our Capstone requirements ensure our graduates’ proficiency.

I feel ready for graduate school, but have been out of school for a while. How will I do in the program?

Students drawn to a liberal arts education are generally motivated by a desire to satisfy their intellectual curiosity. Our Introduction to Graduate Studies (MALS 5000) course will provide you with the tools you need to fulfill this desire, tools which serve our graduates in a variety of artistic, intellectual and professional paths, and our selective admissions policy helps us identify students with a strong potential for success in the program.

Are there people for whom the MALS program is not a good fit?

Yes. Students interested in technical or vocational training should look for a different sort of program. The interdisciplinary, liberal arts environment of our program recommends it to those seeking to broaden their intellectual perspective. This of course does not mean that one’s career cannot benefit from these studies, merely that such advancement is not their primary focus.

How do MALS students design a plan of study?

The MALS plan of study is very flexible and allows you to design an individual program that best reflects your needs and interests.  Clayton State University’s MALS program currently offers five tracks: English, History, Liberal Arts, Math, and Philosophy. Working with an advisor, you will structure your coursework around your interests; however all students are required to take Introduction to Graduate Studies (MALS 5000), select three out of six foundational seminars, complete 18 hours of work within their academic concentration, and fulfill either the Capstone Thesis or Capstone Non-Thesis requirements. The purpose of the foundational seminars is to provide all students with a selected background in Art, Literature, Math, Music, and Philosophy. After completing these seminars, graduate students will have a wealth of cross disciplinary knowledge to bring to their academic concentration; and this work, in turn, prepares students to fulfill their capstone requirement.

Will I receive help designing my program?

Yes. You may work closely with faculty advisors within your area of concentration when designing your program and again with a special committee when fulfilling your Capstone requirements.

How long does the MALS program take to complete?

Our program consists of 36 semester hours of graduate study to be completed within six years, though most students will be able to complete the degree in less than half that time. In order to meet the needs of our adult students, a number of our MALS courses meet in the evenings, while others are also available totally online. Of the 36 semester hours, at least 30 must be taken at Clayton State.  In their first semester, students will take the required Introduction to Graduate Studies (MALS 5000) course (3 hrs.). Three foundational seminars (9 hrs.) will provide all students with a selected background in Art, Literature, Music, Math, and Philosophy. Each student will also select an academic area of focus or concentration (18 hrs). Students may select from one of five areas in this degree program: Math, Liberal Arts, English, Philosophy or History. Students have two options in completing the program: the Capstone Thesis Option or the Capstone Non-Thesis Option.

Summary Degree Requirements:

  • 36 graduate credits, including:
  • 3 credits in Introduction to Graduate Studies (MALS 5000)
  • 9 credits in interdisciplinary foundational seminars
  • 18 credits in an area of concentration
  • 6 credits in final thesis or non-thesis option

When you are admitted to the MALS program, your enrollment should be continuous. Students pursuing a graduate degree program should normally be enrolled each Fall and Spring Semester, or one semester during the academic year, in combination with Summer Session, for coursework that is approved for their program of study. Students must complete the program within six years. The shortest amount of time any of our students has completed their MALS degree has been five semesters, and that's with the student transferring 6 hours from another University. A graduate student who has been admitted with full graduate standing to the MALS program but has not completed any 5000-level or above courses at the University for two consecutive semesters, or a semester and Summer Session, is considered to have withdrawn from the program. In addition, any student who exceeds the six-year time limit for completing a degree must apply for admission to the degree program as a new student and begin a new planned program of study. Course credit over six years old will not be accepted in the new program. Other previous graduate coursework will be evaluated on the basis of its applicability to the new program of study. Transfer credit will be limited to a maximum of six (6) semester hours, per USG Board of Regents rules.

What about Grades?

To remain in good standing, and in order to complete the MALS program, an overall average of B (equivalent to 3.0) is required. To calculate the average, all grades except S and U will be counted in all courses that are attempted and carry graduate degree credit, but no more than six semester hours of credit evaluated as C (2.0) may be applied toward the minimum hours required for the MALS degree. You become academically ineligible to continue in the MALS program if any of the following occur: • Grades of F, WF or W are received in any two courses • Grades of C or lower are received in 9 semester hours • A grade of F is received in combination with 6 semester hours of C grades


What's involved in satisfying the Capstone requirements?

The Capstone Thesis Option (6 hrs) Students who have completed all their coursework in the areas of Foundational Seminars and at least fifteen hours in their Academic Concentration may select the capstone thesis option to fulfill the requirements for their degree. Students work under the supervision of three faculty advisors (from at least two different academic disciplines, one of whom must be designated the Thesis Chair), and may begin work on the thesis project only after a capstone thesis proposal has been formally approved. The thesis may take the form of academic or applied research, or it may be a creative work. The capstone thesis must be of a nature to warrant six hours of graduate credit. In general, the projects should yield a written piece of work, although products such as artistic/musical creations also may be acceptable. The Capstone Non-Thesis Option (6 hrs) This non-thesis option requires that, after completing the Foundational Seminars and the Academic Concentration, the student complete an additional six semester hours in research problems which requires products such as submission for publication of a book review (or other publishable review), an application (with abstract) to present a paper at a local or regional conference, or a major revision of a previously-written essay/paper in the program which will be submitted for publication to a refereed journal. Students selecting this option must also pass a comprehensive exam of all course work.

What is your success rate?

As the following graph shows, of the 175 students who entered the MALS program by Summer semester 2015, nearly one-third graduated and more than another third were in-progress. We often find that many of those who drop out of the program for various reasons apply for readmission to finish what they started.



What can I do with a Masters of Arts in Liberal Studies degree?

Unlike professional education or traditional academic programs, liberal studies does not offer a set career path ensured by a degree. Many graduates will return to or continue their profession with a new perspective on key content issues and honed skills of inquiry. The MALS program is intended to provide you with a better understanding of contemporary culture and its rich intellectual and artistic heritage, within an interdisciplinary environment. A liberal arts education helps you to attain a fresh perspective on your work while equipping you with proficiency in communications, intellectual confidence, and analytic ability to support your vision. Finally, some students wish only to broaden their intellectual horizons. At Clayton State, you will find enthusiastic guides to provide context and focus.