UMKC Catalog


Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Individuals admitted to the program must have a baccalaureate or equivalent degree and mature academic interests.  A minimum undergraduate 3.25 GPA is desirable but can be offset by professional and career accomplishments outside academe. 

Individuals applying for admission should submit, in addition to the UMKC application, the following documents:

  • a statement of purpose in the form of a personal essay of approximately 1,000 words outlining the focus area the applicant  wishes to pursue, his or her reasons for applying, and his or her academic plans and goals.  Any applicant who does not choose one of the specific certificate programs or focus areas listed for the MALS program should also include a statement indicating interest in designing an individualized plan of study. Such a statement should indicate the proposed area of study and a list of courses offered in the College of Arts and Sciences that would contribute to the area of study.
  • a sample of recent academic writing
  • 3 letters of recommendation

These documents (except the UMKC application) should be sent directly to the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program.  They can be sent as Word documents or PDFs attached to an email to or in print form to Ms. Marsha Carothers, Research Associate, MALS Program, Cockefair Hall 106, UMKC, 5100 Rockhill Road, Kansas City, MO 64110.

Prior to submitting an application, prospective students should speak with the program adviser or a member of the faculty who works in their chosen focus area. 

The deadline to apply for Fall Semester 2012 is August 1, 2012.  The deadline to apply for Spring Semester 2013 is November 1, 2012. 

The degree is a 36 credit hour program. Generally, each participant's plan of study will consist of three parts, which include:

  1. Introductory seminar, which generally should be completed in the first semester of the program.
  2. The body of coursework itself.
  3. A final capstone seminar, taken during the last semester.

A written thesis is not required, but individuals who wish to complete a thesis project may apply three credit hours toward their degree requirements. An individual who works well independently and who has a particular interest that lends itself to detailed research is especially encouraged to consider the thesis option. With the thesis option, the participant will select a faculty adviser other than the director of the program, who will direct the plan of study and research.

Program participants begin by enrolling in A&S 5509: Critical Choices: Methods of Inquiry into the Liberal Arts. On completion of this required three hour introductory seminar, which is described below, participants earn 30 credit hours based on an individual study plan.  At the conclusion of the program, individuals enroll in a required three hour capstone seminar, A&S 5520: Critical Choices: Final Research Project and Capstone Seminar, described later.


A&S 5509 Critical Choices: Methods of Inquiry into the Liberal Arts (3 hours)

Offered each fall semester, the goals of the seminar are:

  1. Refresh the research skills of adults who may be returning to formal classes for the first time in many years.
  2. Provide an introduction to a vast array of research resources.
  3. Refine writing skills.
  4. Help each student define his or her area of focus within the program.

Sessions introduce participants to the use of the Miller Nichols Library on the main UMKC campus. The seminar also studies the different methods and research issues addressed by the humanities, sciences, and social sciences. The seminar also provides opportunity for each student to define an individual research question as a unifying theme in the selection of classes throughout his or her matriculation and as a final project to be investigated in the capstone seminar of the program, A&S 5520.


Individual Study Plans (30 hours)

Individuals develop their own plans of study in consultation with a graduate adviser designated by the program director.  Two courses (6 hours) may be taken from another school at the university outside of The College of Arts and Sciences. No more than 12 hours at the 400 level (or 300 level when permitted by the department) can be applied to the plan of study.

Students are strongly encouraged to pursue a graduate certificate or focus in one of the following areas as part of the overall MALS degree.    

  • Bioethics (graduate certificate)
  • Black Studies (informal focus area)
  • Film and Media Studies (informal focus area)
  • Gerontology (graduate certificate)
  • Humanities Consortium (informal focus area)
  • Medieval and Early Modern Studies (informal focus area)
  • Teaching of Writing (graduate certificate)
  • Women's and Gender Studies (informal focus area)

Alternatively, students with a strong interest in a different interdisciplinary area of study within the College of Arts and Sciences may request to develop their own plans of study in consultation with the MALS adviser.  In order to request permission to design an individualized program of study, students with such an interest must submit a statement indicating the proposed area of study and a list of courses offered in the College of Arts and Sciences that would contribute to the area of study.

For students who wish to write a thesis, up to three hours may be applied toward the completion of the degree. Students are encouraged to exercise this option concurrently with the capstone seminar or soon after its completion.


A&S 5520: Critical Choices: Final Research Project and Capstone Seminar (3 hours)

This course brings together MALS participants in the last semester of their work. Each participant in the seminar defines a final project and spends a semester developing it and presenting the findings to the group at the conclusion of the course. Each project is intended to be thought-provoking, and to cut across disciplinary lines in the examination of a question relevant to the area of focus that the student has followed throughout the program.