Liberal Studies CoursesNOTE: This page contains course descriptions for Master of Arts in Liberal Studies program (MLS). The program also draws on courses from the Leadership Studies (MLD) program. Academic credit for each course is noted in parenthesis after the course title. Prerequisites (if any) are noted following each course description. Not all courses are offered every year. Check Merlin, our searchable course schedule, to see which courses are being offered in upcoming terms.
MLS 506 Ethics in Contexts Management (3.00)
A survey of normative theories of ethics (consequential, deontological, virtue, and justice based), and their application to personal moral decision making and contemporary issues in public and professional contexts. Topics include: ethical pluralism; identifying ethical aspects of public policy and organizational issues, and analysis of potential conflicts between civic, professional, religious, and personal morality.
MLS 510 Changing Models of the Universe: Plato to Kepler (3.00)
An examination of the interdependence of religion, philosophy, and scientific theories. Focus is on the cosmologies and physical theories of Plato, Ptolemy, Copernicus, and Kepler, and how these led to radical changes in our concept of the structure, size, and meaning of the universe. First of a three-course sequence on the nature and history of science.
MLS 512 Religion, Ritual, and Symbol (3.00)
A cross-cultural examination of how religious beliefs and institutions, concepts of the magical, and myths and rituals shape our view of reality. The course surveys some of the major ways our understanding of these things has evolved, focusing particularly on structural analyses of symbol systems.
MLS 518 Gender and Art (3.00)
The study and critique of feminist strategies for analyzing art and culture. The course explores how women have portrayed their experience in literature and the visual arts in comparison to how men have traditionally depicted their experience.
MLS 530 The City (3.00)
A comparative study of urban development and the nature and growth of urban populations in various parts of the world. The course also explores various images, theories, and attitudes toward the city, and how these are related to ways we perceive the social problems arising with urban growth and propose solutions to them.
MLS 534 Gender in Public Life and the Professions: Literature, Theory, and Practice (3.00)
Through a consideration of literature, theory, and practice, this course examines constructions of gender as they impact such issues as community, problem solving, leadership, and organizational structure within a national and global setting. Literary texts are read in conjunction with interdisciplinary readings drawn from such fields as the arts, business, education, law, medicine, communication, technology, and social sciences.
MLS 538 Sport in a Multicultural World (3.00)
This course explores the function of sport in American society as utilized by various constituencies. It assumes an interdisciplinary format that draws from historical, sociological, anthropological, and literary texts, as well as film analysis. Reading and class discussions analyze the role of sport in the construction of culture, the nature of cultural change over time and the various meanings of sport among sub-cultures. Ethical questions, such as the role of sport in establishing, reinforcing, or resisting dominant social values are considered. This course aims to improve critical thinking and analytical skills by learning and applying theoretical frameworks. Students should develop an historical perspective on the construction of culture, and particularly, on the uses of sport in that process. Students should also gain an appreciation and respect for alternative cultures.
MLS 540 Writing Life Stories (3.00)
An innovative workshop course offering advanced practice in the creation of popular and/or literary autobiography- and biography-based manuscripts. Students learn to transform and draft meaningful life stories into traditional and mixed-genre pieces suitable for publication or agenting. Particular emphasis is given to market-ready creative nonfiction and literary journalism, memoir, and travel writing, and may also include long-form poem cycles and personal essays.
MLS 542 Writing Fictions (3.00)
An innovative workshop course offering advanced practice in the creation of saleable literary fictions and meta-fictions. Via a variety of eclectic workshops students learn to transform and draft core story ideas into writer-selected, market-ready subgenres such as genre fiction, autobiographical novels, novellas, parables, fables, allegories, and other experimental and/or cross-genre fictions.
MLS 544 Writing Performances (3.00)
An innovative workshop course offering advanced practice in writing for performance. Students learn to transform and adapt compelling nonfiction, fiction, and poetic situations and scenarios into market-ready performance pieces such as plays, dramatic sketches, monologues, audio commentaries, lyrics, oral storytelling, and spoken word poetry.
MLS 550 Ethics and Imagination (3.00)
A thematic introduction to roles played by imagination in developing, sustaining, and transforming morality. The course approaches critical thinking about the moral life from the dual perspectives of ethics and of arts such as literature, painting, and film.
MLS 555 Professional and Grant Writing (3.00)
An advanced study and practice of professional writing for various audiences, addressing style, structure, and ethical considerations pertaining to a variety of document forms and publishing platforms. Special attention is given to writing effective grant applications. Same as: ENG 455/555.
MLS 560 Introduction to Public Policy and the Legal Process (3.00)
An introduction to the general history of public policy and the field of public policy studies, combined with an introduction to the legal history and legal processes required to create public policy. Sample cases may include public policy formation regarding justice, race, healthcare, housing, and other important issues.
MLS 562 The U.S. Healthcare System and Patient Advocacy (3.00)
An examination of the various components of the U.S. health care system, both public and private, emphasizing the ways that health care in the United States is organized, delivered, and financed. Special attention is paid to moral issues as they relate to the health care system and to the practical implications of this discussion in advocating for patients and their families.
MLS 564 Ethics, Public Interest Groups, and the Political Process (3.00)
A study of the rise of various interest groups and their enormous effects on the American political system. The course explores the workings of various groups related to how they target potential members, lobby Congress and other governmental bodies, and conduct campaigns to advance their interests. The ethical dilemmas of such activities, including the often corrosive effect of money and the often uneasy relationship of interest group and federal regulations, will also be a major concern.
MLS 566 Community Development: Planning, Housing, and Social Justice (3.00)
An exploration of the role of place and social justice in community development, primarily in cities, and particularly as it relates to issues of housing and city planning.
MLS 570 Critical Thinking (3.00)
A study of various perspectives concerning critical thinking. In particular, the course explores various relationships between creative and critical thinking with specific attention to what such relationships mean for the pursuit of truth; the development of writers; and the methods teachers and others who lead can use to enhance critical and creative thinking in others.
MLS 574 Judgment, Decision, and Choice (3.00)
An examination of various ways we understand the world, gather information about it, and use this information to make choices and decisions. Readings and research exploring these processes are covered and then applied to topic areas such as interpersonal relations, law, economics, and medicine.
MLS 590 Public Discourse (3.00)
A study of the many levels of public discourse, as well as a broad range of public discussions past and present. The course seeks to foster a sense of public responsiblity, and to enable students to write effectively for the general public in order to bring their own interests, concerns, and academic specialities into the arena of public awareness, debate, and action.
MLS 599 Independent Study (1.50-3.00)
Designed for students who want to do introductory study of a topic not covered in a regular course. Instructor consent required.
MLS 610 From Certainty to Chaos (3.00)
This course begins with Isaac Newton, whose brilliant ideas led scientist and philosophers to envision a time when all facts about the universe would be known and precisely based on mathematical knowledge. It then investigates how continuing work in theoretical mathematics, logic, computability, and the new theory of chaos has seriously questioned this vision and placed severe limits on how broad and precise human knowledge can get. Prerequisite: MLS 510 recommended.
MLS 612 Changing Concepts of the Earth and Its Life (3.00)
An investigation of the history of geology and evolutionary biology. The course begins with Darwin's theory of adaptive evolution under uniform and regular geological conditions and ends with Gould's theory of punctuated equilibrium acting under cyclically catastrophic geological conditions. The effects of an increasingly contingent view of our origin as species are also investigated. Prerequisites: MLS 510, MLS 610 recommended.
MLS 632 Race, Ethnicity, and the American Experience (3.00)
An analysis of how race, ethnicity, and concepts about these have shaped the American experience. Focusing on selected groups from both minority populations and the white majority population, students study how these groups have sought to define themselves against the larger backdrop of American culture and society. Social, historical, and economic perspectives are considered and supplemented by literature and analytical methods drawn from contemporary critical theory.
MLS 634 The Third World (3.00)
A study of literature, culture, politics, and psychology aimed at understanding both the so-called Third World's struggle for identity, as well as the ways the West has imposed its political and cultural constructs upon this world.
MLS 640 Finding Markets (1.50)
A highly individualized and small-group course in which students not only gain an understanding of the wide spectrum of markets for a writer's work, but also find specific markets for each student's particular works. Prerequisites: Two of MLS 506, MLS 590, or MLD 683; one of ENG 555, MLS 540, MLS 542, MLS 544, or MLS 648.
MLS 642 Finalizing Manuscripts (1.50)
A highly individualized and small-group course in which students finish manuscripts by fine-tuning them in relationship not only to the norms of a genre and various standards of submission, but also the demands of the specific markets and outlets they will be submitting to. Prerequisites: Two of MLS 506, MLS 590, or MLD 683; one of ENG 555, MLS 540, MLS 542, MLS 544, or MLS 648.
MLS 648 The Social Consequences of New Media (3.00)
A study of the confluence of new media technology and its implications for profound social change, impacting everything from the way we raise our children to the way we conduct war. This course explores both the beneficial and detrimental aspects of new media, focusing especially on solutions to probable detrimental effects before long term trends set in.
MLS 660 Natural Resources and Environmental Economics (3.00)
An examination of the shortcomings of the market system and the impact of economic activity on the environment, focusing on the application and use of economic instruments in improving environmental quality. Other topics covered include the valuation of environmental resources and prospects for sustainable development, plus traditional regulation of the U.S. economy, including command and control policies. Prerequisites: MLS 506, MLS 590, MLD 583; two of MLS 560, MLS 562, MLS 564, and MLS 566; and solid familiarity with basic economic concepts and analysis.
MLS 680 Justice, Care, and Community (3.00)
A critical investigation of contemporary debates over the moral basis of justice between advocates of liberalism, communitarianism, and feminist ethics. The course focuses on ways in which these different perspectives produce alternative responses to topics in distributive and retributive justice, as well as the notion of justice-based community itself. Prerequisites: Course in all three theme areas, one elective.
MLS 692 Special Topics (3.00)
Topics vary depending on faculty and student interests. Topics and prerequisites are announced in advance. May be taken more than once with different content. Instructor consent required.
MLS 693 Independent Study (1.50-3.00)
Designed for students who want to do advanced study of a topic previously covered in a regular course but not offered in another course. Instructor consent required.
MLS 695 Master's Project (3.00)
Prerequisites: One course in each theme area, one elective, and one capstone course. A proposal essay and signatures from faculty supervisor and second reader are also required. Instructor consent required.
MLS 696 Master's Thesis (3.00)
Prerequisites: Course in each theme area, one elective, one capstone course. A proposal essay and signatures from faculty director and second reader are also required.