Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
The Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) is an interdisciplinary graduate program that offers the opportunity to study across the boundaries of academic disciplines and create knowledge out of multiple perspectives. Firmly grounded in the values of liberal education and lifelong learning, the program allows students to design an individualized program of study that enables them to develop complex, nuanced understanding of human society and culture.
Study in the MALS program can prepare you to:
put your knowledge and insight to work in your community through civic activities
- do professional or volunteer work in social service agencies, educational institutions, non-profit organizations, and outreach services
- enhance your position with your current employer
- continue to advanced graduate study in doctoral and professional programs.
MALS students and alumni have served in organizations like the Bristol Crisis Center, the American Red Cross, Build It Up East Tennessee, Jonesborough Locally Grown, Good Samaritan Ministries, and the ETSU Women’s Resource Center, as well as internationally with the United Nations Development Programme and Innovations for Poverty Action. MALS alumni have gone on to doctoral study in fields as diverse as musicology, social work, public policy, educational leadership, and international affairs.
Intelligent.com recently ranked East Tennessee State University’s Online Archival Studies Program, part of the university’s Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree, 15th in the nation’s “Top 43 Master’s in Liberal Arts Degree Programs” for “Best Archival Studies Focus.” Read more here.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Who pursues a MALS degree?
The MALS program at ETSU serves both traditional graduate students as well as post-traditional students who already have existing full-time careers or who are seeking advanced study for personal enrichment. MALS students are diverse: they have come from East Tennessee and the bordering counties in North Carolina and Virginia, as well as from locations across the U.S., Africa, Latin America, and Europe.
MALS students attend classes both full- and part-time. Core courses are offered both online and on-ground in the evenings, and many elective courses are taught either in the evenings or online as well.
MALS students pursue the degree to prepare for both professional and volunteer service in a variety of community, governmental, or corporate agencies and organizations; to prepare for further study in doctoral or professional programs; and for personal enrichment.
Who would benefit from a MALS degree in the Gender & Diversity Studies concentration?
- Students interested in intersectionality and social justice who wish to continue their education at the graduate level, especially those with undergraduate degrees in areas such as women's and gender studies, sociology, anthropology, literature, history, or cultural and ethnic studies.
- Professionals in the social-service and non-profit sectors who wish more fully to understand the diverse populations they serve and to address their clients' needs more equitably and effectively.
- Anyone with a desire to enhance their ability to help create a more just, tolerant, and equitable society.
Who would benefit from a MALS degree in the Regional & Community Studies concentration?
- Students who seek integrative knowledge and skills to equip them for service in not-for-profit community and regional service organizations; national and international non-governmental organizations (NGOs); and federal, state and local agencies.
- Those who seek advanced knowledge of the history, structure, and potential of their own local and regional communities within a global context.
Who would benefit from a MALS degree in the Archival Studies concentration?
- Students who seek to become practicing professional archivists through a program of study aligned with best practices of the Society of American Archivists.
- Those who are interested in cataloguing, preserving, and contextualizing the genealogical and historical records of their family, community, church, or other cultural institutions.
What types of financial aid are available?
The MALS program offers both Graduate Assistant and Tuition Scholar funding to selected fulltime students. GA and TS positions cover both in- and out-of-state tuition. (Miscellaneous fees charged by ETSU are the responsibility of the student.)
GA positions also provide a stipend of $3500 per semester in exchange for the student’s working 20 hours per week on campus. TS positions require 8 hours of work on campus per week but do not provide a stipend. Other offices on campus often have open GA and TS positions; visit the Graduate School website for more information.
Financial aid is also available in the form of scholarships and student loans. Visit the Financial Aid website or the Scholarship website for more information. International students please note: because of federal student visa policy, international students are not permitted to work off campus while enrolled at ETSU.
Do MALS students have to attend full time?
Many MALS students attend ETSU as part-time students. Fulltime students (enrollment for 9 credits per semester) can complete the MALS program in 2 years, excluding summers. But by taking only 2 courses a semester, excluding summers, a student can finish the program in 3 years, or by taking one course a semester, including 2 summer terms, a student can complete the program in 4 years. Both full- and part-time masters students at ETSU have 6 years to complete their degree programs. Please note that for federal student loan purposes, 6 credits’ enrollment is required for loan eligibility. Nine credits’ enrollment is considered fulltime for graduate students and is required for GA/TS positions and some scholarships.
Are online, on-ground, or evening classes available?
In the fall semester, MALS core courses are taught on-ground, once per week, in the evening. In the spring semester, MALS core courses are taught in a hybrid format (a combination of synchronous, asynchronous, and/or on-ground activities). In the summer term, MALS core courses are taught online. Elective courses are available on-ground, in the evening, and online; this varies by the disciplinary department offering the courses.
Can previous graduate credit hours transfer to the MALS program?
Students with previous graduate credit may transfer up to 9 credits into the MALS program upon approval of the graduate coordinator. These may include credits earned at ETSU as a non-degree student. Keep in mind, however, that a student must complete the degree within six years from the date of enrollment in the oldest course transferred into the MALS program.
Can a student pursue both the MALS degree and a graduate certificate at ETSU?
A MALS student may simultaneously pursue a graduate certificate as a separate program, including the Archival Studies (AVST) Graduate Certificate. (Students enrolled in the MALS Archival Studies concentration, however, may not pursue the AVST Certificate). Hours taken as part of a graduate certificate cannot also be applied to the MALS program.
Do MALS students have to write a master’s thesis?
MALS students may complete either a culminating project or a thesis. Find more information, here.