Program Overview:

Liberal Studies

The part-time Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program cuts a wide swath though the humanities and social sciences, studying the work of some of the world’s most powerful thinkers. As students explore a broad variety of subject matter, they enrich their understanding of social and cultural issues, and improve their ability to analyze, write and complete research. MALS graduates strengthen and refine the analytical, critical, and communicative skills that are highly transferable to any number of professional contexts. Secondary-school teachers gain a competitive edge by deepening their subject-area knowledge. For other students, the program can clarify the next stage in career or in life or provide excellent preparation for further graduate study.

Inside MALS

Kasey Evans, PhD
Faculty, MA in Liberal Studies program
Associate Professor of Literature, Department of English, Northwestern University

  • Scholarship includes English literary canon 1400–1800, the poetry and prose of Edmund Spenser, race and racism in the Renaissance and theories of virtue and vice in Renaissance texts
  • Current work, Renaissance Resurrections: Making the Dead Speak in Reformation Texts, considers how grief and mourning are translated into new literary forms after the Protestant Reformation

Program Goals

  • Exposes students to Northwestern University’s distinguished and world class instructors.
  • Provides students with countless opportunities to engage with others who are passionate to learn more about vitally important social and cultural issues through history, religion, philosophy, art, literature and film.
  • Prepares students for the intellectual demands of professional life by enriching students’ understanding of a broad array of social and cultural issues while improving their ability to analyze, write and complete research.
  • Sharpens analytical and writing abilities, which can help prepare students for application to PhD programs.

Areas of Focus

Students who wish to lend more structure to their MALS experience may complete a specialization in:


  • History
  • Religious and Ethical Studies
  • American Studies
  • An individualized plan of study

A specialization may be especially beneficial to educators, students who are thinking of going on to a PhD program, or anyone who wants to combine interdisciplinary methods with specific subjects. Students complete four thematically linked courses to earn a specialization.

Curriculum Requirements

Current students should refer to curriculum requirements in place at time of entry into the program. 

9 total courses need to be completed. Students need to complete 3 core courses, 5 elective courses and a capstone project. The core courses consist of IPLS 410 Introduction to Cultural Analysis and two MALS seminar courses (IPLS 401, 402 or 403). Students can take electives that cover such topics as philosophy, history, art history and literature.

Final Project

Students sign up for the final course in the program during the term in which they start their master's essay. The capstone project for the MALS program is a thesis (45-75 double-spaced pages) written under the supervision of an approved faculty member. The capstone project presents an opportunity to research and explore a topic thoroughly. Students often elect to expand a seminar paper from a previous course. With the approval of the program director, students can create an interdisciplinary project rather than writing a traditional thesis.

Core Courses:

  • IPLS 401-0 Seminar I:Pursuit of Community
  • IPLS 401-0 Seminar I: The American West
  • IPLS 401-0 Seminar I: Poverty
  • IPLS 401-0 Tolerance: A Global History
  • IPLS 401-0 From Hamilton to “Hamilton”
  • IPLS 410-0 Intro to Cultural Analysis
  • IPLS 410-0 Introduction to Graduate Studies
  • IPLS 590-0 Thesis Research
  • MPPA 407-0 OR 407-DL Scope and Theory of Public Policy
  • MPPA 407-DL Scope and Theory of Public Policy
  • MS_IDS 413-DL Visual Communication

Elective Courses:

  • IPLS 401-0 Cinema, History, Const. of Rel
  • IPLS 401-0 Nature in Modern Societies
  • IPLS 401-0 Buddha, Jesus, and Muhammad
  • IPLS 401-0 Cold War UnAmerican
  • IPLS 401-0 History of Marriage in U.S.
  • IPLS 401-0 Religion, Existentialism, and Film
  • IPLS 402-0 Seminar II:Chicago Communities
  • IPLS 402-0 Asian Religions in Lit & Film
  • IPLS 402-0 Gangs and Their Communities
  • IPLS 405-0 Topics: Modernity
  • IPLS 405-0 Art History and Science
  • IPLS 405-0 Religions of Asia
  • IPLS 405-0 Socrates Today
  • IPLS 405-0 Chicago Improv: Roots & Prac.
  • IPLS 492-0 The Sixties in America
  • IPLS 492-0 The British Empire
  • IPLS 492-0 AFAM Religious History
  • IPLS 492-0 The Social Problem Film
  • IPLS 492-0 A Modern Look at Jane Austen
  • IPLS 492-0 Millennial Masculinities
  • IPLS 492-0 Paradigms and the Cold-War
  • IPLS 492-0 Loving the Child
  • IPLS 492-0 New Documentary Film
  • IPLS 492-0 Queer Theory
  • IPLS 492-0 France at a Time of Crisis, 1930-1950
  • IPLS 492-0 Technology and Revolution in the Middle East
  • IPLS 492-0 Black Chicago
  • LIT 405-0 20th C British & American Lit
  • LIT 405-0 20th C Lit: Joyce and Woolf
  • LIT 405-0 Henry James and Film
  • LIT 405-0 Can You Have Good Without God?
  • LIT 405-0 Reading Romantic Poems
  • LIT 405-0 Representing the Psyche
  • LIT 405-0 Victorian Travel & Crime
  • LIT 405-0 Anglo-American Mysteries
  • LIT 405-0 The Seven Deadly Sins
  • LIT 405-0 Conceptions of the Body in Midieval Literature
  • LIT 405-05 Jane Austen and The Rise of The Novel
  • LIT 480-0 Comp Lit: Fictions of the City
  • LIT 480-0 Lit. and Cultures of 1968
  • LIT 480-0 Postmodern Film
  • LIT 480-0 An Exploration of German Film
  • LIT 480-0 Latin Amer. & Latina/o Sci-Fi
  • LIT 480-0 Slum Cinema
  • LIT 492-0 Topics in Lit: The Jazz Age
  • LIT 492-0 Topics: Proust
  • LIT 492-0 Travelers, Exiles, and Expats
  • LIT 492-0 Poetics of African Amer. Lit.
  • LIT 492-0 Race, Space & Place in Chicago
  • LIT 492-0 Contemporary Adaptation
  • LIT 492-0 Lit of Amer. Century & After
  • LIT 492-0 Inventing the American Novel
  • LIT 492-0 Literature and Wartime
  • LIT 492-0 Bad Mothers
  • LIT 492-0 Chicago Transformed
  • LIT 492-0 The US-Mexico Border in Literature and Film
  • MPPA 430-0 OR 430-DL Behavioral Economics
  • MPPA 430-DL Behavioral Economics
  • MPPA 440-0 International Institutions
  • MPPA 440-DL International Institutions
  • MPPA 450-0 OR 450-DL Global Economic Policy
  • MPPA 450-DL Global Economic Policy
  • MPPA 452-DL The Global City
  • MPPA 452-DL The Global City
  • MS_IDS 422-DL Intro to Learning Theory
  • MS_IDS 423-DL Instructional Design
  • MS_IDS 425-DL Learning Environment Design