Program Overview

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Degree

The part-time Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program cuts a wide swath through 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. The MALS program recently hosted a lecture by Professor Brian Edwards on the "After the American Century: The Ends of U.S. Culture in the Middle East" — Read more.


Northwestern's MALS is a full member program of the The Association of Graduate Liberal Studies Programs. AGLSP logo


These events are free and open to the public.

Crowds, Riots and the Politics of Representation

Professor Dilip Gaonkar
Friday, February 3  |  6pm  |  John Evans Alumni Center (1800 Sheridan Road, Evanston)

History According to Trump, and the History of Trump

Professor Geraldo Cadava
Friday, March 10  |  6pm  |  John Evans Alumni Center (1800 Sheridan Road, Evanston)

Conversion Over Hot Chocolate: A Shipboard Interfaith Dialogue in the 18th Century

Professor Michelle Molina
Friday, April 14  |  6pm  |  Congdon Shaffer Mansion (405 Church Street, Evanston)

Liberal Studies Faculty Perspective

Kasey Evans, PhD
Instructor in the MA in Liberal Studies program and associate professor of literature in the department of English. Evans specializes in Renaissance literature and has published Colonial Virtue: The Mobility of Temperance in Renaissance England. Her current project, Renaissance Resurrections: Making the Dead Speak in Reformation Texts, considers how grief and mourning are translated into new literary forms after the Protestant Reformation. Awarded the 2010 Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences Distinguished Teaching Award.

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:

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. 

Nine total courses need to be completed. Students need to complete two core courses, six elective courses and a capstone project. The core courses consist of IPLS 410 Introduction to Cultural Analysis and one MALS seminar course (IPLS 401). Students may take electives in subject areas such as philosophy, religion, history, art history and literature.

Capstone Project - IPLS 590 Thesis Research

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 420-0 Introduction to Digital 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 Urbanization and Urbanism
  • 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 401-0 Imagining the Internet: Fiction, Film and Theory
  • 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 420-DL Introduction to Digital Studies
  • 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 What is the Truth?
  • IPLS 492-0 Defining Chicago
  • IPLS 492-0 Buddhist Tradition and Contemporary Manifestations
  • IPLS 492-0 Richard J. Daley: The Man, the Myths, and the City
  • IPLS 492-0 Amer. Storytellers & the Theological Imagination
  • IPLS 492-DL OR 492-DL Black Chicago
  • LIT 405-0 20th C British & American Lit
  • LIT 405-0 Topics: 1890s British 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 Medieval Literature
  • LIT 405-0 Rethinking Literary Modernism
  • LIT 405-0 Conceptions of the Body in Renaissance 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 480-0 French & Francophone Women’s Writing
  • LIT 480-DL OR 480-DL Topics: Proust
  • LIT 492-0 Topics in Lit: The Jazz Age
  • 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
  • LIT 492-0 Feminism in Trumplandia
  • LIT 492-0 Special Topics - American Novel: Big Books
  • LIT 492-0 Critical Frameworks in Contemporary Film
  • MPPA 430-0 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 452-0 The Global City
  • MPPA 452-DL The Global City
  • MS_IDS 422-DL Intro to Learning Theory
  • MS_IDS 423-DL Instructional Design
  • // For undergraduate courses, we need to use regular courseid until we finish program integration with ugrad courses. MS_IDS 425-DL Learning Environment Design