Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Wake Forest University

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Exploring timeless human questions and studying essential human experiences through diverse perspectives.


Wake Forest University Graduate School » Master of Arts in Liberal Studies » Frequently Asked Questions

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program?

Nationwide there has been a realization by universities and colleges that many adults have a deep interest in lifelong learning. Yet these same adults do not want to limit their interests by studying just one discipline or pursuing pre-professional degrees. As a result some 200 universities and colleges in the US have created Liberal Studies programs. These programs offer adults an opportunity to explore the full range of liberal arts on their own terms. The courses are interdisciplinary and interactive. Adults who enroll in these programs gain new information, new perspectives, and new insights. Mostly our students are people who are motivated by a desire to know and understand more about the world and themselves than they do now. The goal of the Liberal Studies program is to facilitate the development of a truly educated mind.

What makes the Liberal Studies program at Wake Forest special?

The Wake Forest University program is one of the few liberal arts degrees available on a full-time as well as a part-time basis, and built around a coherent set of linked themes. A Wake Forest University Liberal Studies degree will be a widely respected credential from a nationally-ranked private university that is rated 26th in the country according to US News and World Report. The catch phrase for the university is “small in size, large in resources.” The small size provides a close, interactive learning environment. Large in resources emphasizes the quality and depth of the learning experience available at Wake Forest. Professors who participate in the Wake Forest Liberal Studies program are distinguished for their teaching and their intellectual achievements. Participation in the WFU Liberal Studies program also provides a connection to the rich resources and stimulating intellectual environment at Wake Forest University. Students are invited to join the academic community in attending lectures, concerts, theatrical performances, and other cultural events offered on campus. The libraries and other university facilities are also available.

What do people do with a MA in Liberal Studies?

The Liberal Studies degree is designed to enrich a person’s life by involving him/her in an intellectually rich set of courses. These courses are selected by the student from an array of interdisciplinary courses specially created for the Liberal Studies program and from graduate courses in other departments. For many students, the knowledge and process of learning is an end in itself. However, for some students, their work organizations may also recognize the attainment of a master’s degree with some form of compensation. Community college instructors may be able to use the courses taken to fulfill accreditation requirements. The Liberal Studies degree is not appropriate, however, for a teacher seeking licensure. Potential employers will be able to hire liberally educated students who have obtained mastery in American Cultural or Global Studies.

How big is the program at Wake Forest and who are the students?

Our student group of 45 is very diverse. We have teachers, business people, home makers, lawyers, technicians, artists, administrative assistants, retired persons and people right out of college. They range from 24 to 70 years of age; about 40% of the students are male; about 25% are minorities. In the new program, we expect an annual intake of approximately 30 students.

What are the requirements for getting the degree?

Completion of the MA Degree requires ten courses, including eight taught courses and two thesis courses, together totaling 30 hours. At least four courses (12 hours) must be chosen from the core curriculum on either American Cultural Studies or Global Studies, depending on your preference. We anticipate that many students will choose most or all of their courses from these core offerings. Students are encouraged to design an individualized program of study by choosing courses that allow them to pursue their own interests. Two courses (3 hours each) will be devoted to a capstone project of the student's choosing. This work may be a standard research thesis, a field study, an oral history, or an original creative work in the arts, music, or literature.

Completion of the MALS Degree requires eleven courses, totalling 33 hours. At least six courses (18 hours) must be chosen from the program courses (classes whose prefix is LBS). During the student's final semester, he or she will write a synthesizing essay (approximately 18-20 pages in length) that draws together their personal experience in the Liberal Studies program

What types of courses are taught in the Liberal Studies program?

Click here to view a list of examples of courses that have been taught in the Liberal Studies program over the last several years.

What are the classes like?

All Liberal Studies classes are seminars. This means that a faculty member develops a set of readings and lectures around a specific topic. For the Liberal Studies, which is an interdisciplinary humanities program, the seminar instructor will draw from many fields to make the topic exciting and meaningful. The student becomes actively involved in the topic by reading the material, discussing it in classes with the instructor and other students. The student’s progress in the area is primarily evaluated through presentations and papers by the student on relevant topics of personal interest. The instructors in the Liberal Studies program are some of the best faculty that Wake Forest University has to offer. Many of them have won teaching or research awards.

What about the capstone project?

The capstone project or thesis provides the student with the opportunity to apply the information, perspective, and skills acquired in the program to a topic of the student’s own choosing. Although the capstone project may sound daunting to some, students realize that the work they have done in their nine classes has prepared them well for this challenge, and many students find producing a work of their own very satisfying. Besides traditional research projects, students may also decide to create an original work for their thesis.

How long does it take to finish?

The full-time degree takes twelve to fifteen months to complete. Part-time students usually take one or two classes a semester. At this rate, most finish within 2-3 years.

What does an applicant need to get into the program?

To be eligible for admission, an applicant must receive a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution prior to enrollment in the Liberal Studies program. An undergraduate major in the arts, humanities, or social sciences may be relevant, but will not be a determining factor for admission to the program. Admission is based on the level of success in the previous degree program, the clarity and richness of the applicant’s educational and life goals, and the applicant’s general potential for successfully engaging in graduate level work within the program.  Applicants will not be admitted if it is likely that they cannot fulfill any of the program requirements or lack what the admissions committee considers to be a well-rounded undergraduate course of study.  Applicants must provide the materials required by the Graduate School: a personal statement, transcripts, GRE scores (for the MA degree), and three letters of recommendation.  For admission, the student must write an elegant, convincing, and insightful personal statement; graduate with a minimum GPA of approximately 3.0; score around the 80th percentile on the GRE; and present strong letters of recommendation.