Broaden your perspective and learn to communicate across cultures. Broaden your perspective and learn to communicate across cultures. Broaden your perspective and learn to communicate across cultures. Broaden your perspective and learn to communicate across cultures. Broaden your perspective and learn to communicate across cultures.

School of Graduate and Professional Studies

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies


Graduate Admission


Why Pursue a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Degree at North Central College?

The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program brings today’s headlines into conversation with classic statements of humanity’s most enduring questions. Students investigate how our cultural, social and natural worlds intersect in order to understand issues in our own lives in their full complexity. Together, they examine a variety of materials across a wide array of academic disciplines in order to integrate disparate insights into a view of the whole. 

All the courses in the MALS program are run as small, discussion-based, Socratic seminars. Students develop close working relationships with each other and program faculty, whose expertise represents the range of traditional arts and sciences. In addition to intensive seminars, students work individually with program faculty on either a focused capstone project of their devising or on a problem-based project in which they integrate knowledge and insights from across the liberal arts. 

Graduates of the MALS program master assured, compelling communication, developing and honing skills in critical reading, concise writing, confident speaking and careful research. Students will find new ways to work productively in diverse settings and approach challenges creatively in their personal lives, workplaces and communities.

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Wednesday, Mach 24th from 9:30 to 10:00 a.m.

Be introduced to the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at North Central College and explore your options. Gain a better understanding to see if this degree program fits you and your goals.  Learn about the admission and application process.  Let the admission staff help guide you on your journey to becoming a North Central College graduate student.

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Flexible, Blended Format

The blended format (a mix of online and in-person classes) and hyflex option (choosing to be online for an in-person class) for the liberal studies degree provides you the flexibility of completing your degree while ensuring that you will be closely connected with faculty and classmates through in-person discussions. 

The program not only provides you with the research and communication skills that lead to career advancement but also allows you the freedom to create a program of study that best serves your professional or personal needs. Students will have 15 elective hours to pursue their interests and scholarly curiosity. 

Interdisciplinary Coursework Designed for Today

The MALS degree is an interdisciplinary program drawing upon coursework from many different areas such as art, humanities, and social sciences. It is designed to train you on how to think critically and contextually about your own experiences, as well as a wide range of topics. The reimagined courses focus on areas that are relevant to our culture today from healthcare, religion, and sports, to gender and sexuality, science and immigration issues.

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Curriculum

  • The degree consists of 10, 3-credit hour courses for a total of 30 credit hours.
  • Courses are offered in an 8-week, blended format providing students with both flexibility and connections with classmates and faculty. 

Program Learning Outcomes

  • Students should demonstrate the ability to read, analyze, and discuss enduring primary and theoretical texts across a range of disciplines.
  • Students should be able to make significant connections between important ideas in history and current issues of public significance.
  • Students should be able to write clearly and with sophistication, conduct research, and use scholarly practices and writing conventions standard in graduate work in the liberal arts and sciences.

Core Required Courses (6 hours)

All students must enroll in Methods Course MALS 500 and either MALS 695 or MALS 696. These courses are offered in a 16-week format:

  • Methods Course: MALS 500 - Great Ideas: Focus on both interdisciplinary and intercultural dialogue by looking at milestones of thought and expression across historical time and geographical space that deal with specific topics of universal and enduring concern, such as love, justice, family, history, and nature. Graduate-level research also covered, including formulating research questions, identifying appropriate methods, and conducting and presenting research.
  • MALS 695 - Capstone Project: Students will draw upon what they have learned in their MALS courses as well as their own professional, personal, and communal commitments to design and carry out an interdisciplinary research project. Methods and products will vary (prerequisite MALS 500).
  • MALS 696 - Comprehensive Exam: Students will prepare for and take an exam designed to test their writing and discussion skills. A single topic (e.g. Frankenstein, poverty, “the Devil”) serves as the focus of a set of readings on which students must write an extended critical essay and conduct themselves in discussion (prerequisite MALS 500).

Area Requirements (9 hours)

All students must take at least one course from each of the following three areas:

The Cultural World

  • MALS 512 - Religion, Ritual and Symbol: A cross-cultural examination of how religious beliefs and institutions, concepts of the magical and myths and rituals shape our view of reality. The course will survey some of the major ways our understanding of these things has evolved, focusing particularly on structural analysis of symbol systems.
  • MALS 514 - Examining Identity in American Film: Film is in many ways the quintessential American art form. Sensational, innovative, revolutionary, it is uniquely suited to express not only the vitality and joy of the American spirit, but also to reveal the violence and oppression that ride the darker currents of our shared life. This class will cover the gamut of American-made films, from the silent era to the world of Netflix and Hulu, and will focus on questions of identity, prejudice, violence, and technology.
  • MALS 522 - Sport in a Multicultural World: Explores the function of sport in American society as utilized by various constituencies. Draws from historical, sociological, anthropological and literary texts, as well as film analysis. Reading and class discussions will analyze the role of sport in the construction of culture, the nature of cultural change over time, and the various meanings of sport among sub-cultures. Ethical questions, such as the role of sport in establishing, reinforcing or resisting dominant social values will be considered. Students should also gain an appreciation and respect for alternative cultures.
  • MALS 524 - Gender and Art: The study and critique of feminist and gendered strategies for analyzing art and culture. The course explores how women, men, and those who identify in other ways have portrayed their experiences in literature, theater, music, and the visual arts, and how art forms have been shaped by evolving notions of gender across cultures.
  • MALS 612 - Reading Through Time: A long view of the origins of written language and, more specifically, reading as a practice within different historical contexts. Focus on the reading of literature and, more broadly, humanistic letters in an effort to understand what we mean by the “imagination.” New media and transitions between orality and literacies figure in course readings.
  • MALS 614 - Migration and Immigration in Mediterranean History: Explores frequent, large-scale movements of people and migration in the Mediterranean world through case studies from several periods, starting in ancient Greece and Rome and extending to the near present. Drawing on many types of sources, considers a variety of questions about immigrant experiences: why did they leave home? how did they travel? what kind of lives—and what kind of welcome—did they find in places they settled? Also examines several concepts of general importance to the field of migration studies, including ethnicity, identity, and diaspora.
  • MALS 628 - Neoliberalism and Popular Culture: Study of the political-economic system known as neoliberalism and its impact on popular culture. Engage with several influential accounts of the neoliberal order from a variety of perspectives and apply those concepts to representative films, television series, and songs of the neoliberal era (approximately 1980 to the present), placing them in political and economic context.

The Natural World

  • MALS 532 - Science Today: From arguments over cloning, genetically modified foods, or nuclear missile defense, many of the major issues of the day emerge from the worlds of science and technology. Addresses some of these cases in order to: 1) help students understand what science is, as both a social and an intellectual enterprise; and 2) discuss what role it plays – and should play – in our society.
  • MALS 536 - Spotting Bullsh*t, Fake News, and Cognitive Biases: Because we all now know that it’s unhealthy to smoke, we don’t fall for the old ad that once informed us “More doctors smoke Camels than any other cigarette!” But other facts circulated in  contemporary science and society are just as phony without being so easily recognized. Looks at how data and statistics can be used to mislead and deceive and how participants can develop a critical yet open-minded view of claims made in medicine, business and economics, and science. Also reviews recent work on fake news and cognitive bias.
  • MALS 632 - Images of Nature in the Renaissance: For the ancients, nature was a kind of divinity intrinsically related to human beings. For us, nature is a thing apart, to be studied, analyzed, and mined for resources. In the Renaissance, however, there was no clear agreement as to the nature of nature; instead, there was a thousand and one novel and fascinating conceptions all jostling for supremacy. Alchemists, philosophers, playwrights, and artists all painted nature with their own brush and contributed to the modern understanding. Examining the splendid array of imagery and argument around nature in the Renaissance, we will see the origins of our own assumptions and prejudices about nature and question them, as well.
  • MALS 648 - Natural Resources and Environmental Economics: An examination of the market system and the impact of economic activity on the environment, focusing on the application and use of economic instruments in improving environmental quality. Other topics covered include the valuation of environmental resources and prospects for sustainable development, plus traditional regulation of the U.S. economy, including command and control policies.

The Social World

  • MALS 550 - The City: A comparative study of urban development and the nature and growth of urban populations in various parts of the world. The course also explores various images, theories and attitudes toward the city, and how these are related to ways we perceive the social problems arising with urban growth and propose solutions to them.
  • MALS 552 - Power and Performance: Gender and Sexuality in the Contemporary United States. Examines gender and sexuality in contemporary United States society,  occasionally using international examples for comparison. Reviews theories of the social construction of gender and sexuality; the role of socialization in reproducing expectations of how one performs gender and sexuality; the function gender and sexuality plays in negotiating power and inequality in social institutions such as the family, work, policy, and media systems; and the intersections of gender and sexuality with race, ethnicity, and class.
  • MALS 562 - The U.S. Healthcare System and Patient Advocacy: Examines the various components of the U.S. healthcare system, both public and private, emphasizing the ways that healthcare in the United States is organized, delivered, and financed. Special attention paid to moral issues as they relate to the healthcare system and to the practical implications of this discussion in advocating for patients and their families.
  • MALS 654 - East Asia on the Edge: Society and Culture in the World’s Fastest Changing Region. During the past century East Asia has undergone an unprecedented transformation that has seen it emerge as a center for global technological development and social change. Explores the new urban cultures that have emerged in countries like China, Japan, and Korea, and the social issues that have arisen as a result.
  • MALS 658 - The Social Consequences of New Media: Studies the confluence of “new media” technology and its implications for profound social change, impacting everything from the way we raise our children to the way we conduct war. Explores perceived benefits and detriments of new media today, and considers future social consequences of this dynamic mode of technology and communication.
  • MALS 660 - Philanthropy: In Theory and In Practice. Human history is full of stories of those with more resources supporting the welfare of others, with systems such as collectivism, almsgiving, and patronage emerging along the way. Examines historical modes and modern theories and practices of philanthropy (foundations, humanitarianism, crowdsourcing, etc.) considering the moral, ethical, and financial imperatives over time to “give” in the United States and other cultures.
  • LEAD 500 - Solving Wicked Problems: Design, Innovation and Creativity for Social Impact: Modern society confronts a variety of complex and often divisive issues that can only be resolved with innovative solutions advanced by creative citizens. Students in this course will learn the theory and practice of human-centered design, a creative approach to problem-solving that leads students through a process to empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test their ideas. Students will develop skills in creating innovative solutions for positive social change. Students will identify local social or environmental challenges and work collaboratively to address them through the design thinking process.

Additional Course Options

These courses range from one to three credit hours.

  • MALS 599 or MALS 699 - Independent Study: Introduction to graduate study in a topic integral to the student’s academic and professional plans not covered in a regular course.
  • MALS 690 - Special Topics: Topics will vary and take advantage of faculty expertise and student interest. Repeatable with different content.
  • MALS 697 - Internship: Provides practical experience or application of learning related to student’s course of study. Consent of Instructor and Dean of College Programs. Students may apply no more than 3 credit hours of Internship to their graduation requirements.

Elective Courses (15 hours)

The remaining 15 credit hours of coursework will be electives chosen from the program courses and determined by the students’ particular scholarly, professional, or civic goals and commitments. Students may choose the following options:

  • Concentrate on a cultural, natural, or social subject area
  • Follow a strand of study (e.g. American Studies, gender studies, media studies) 
  • Craft an individualized path that more broadly draws upon courses useful and meaningful to the student

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