M.A. in Liberal Studies

The M.A. in Liberal Studies requires 30 credits or 10 three-credit courses, consisting of the following:
• two (2) Foundation courses (LST 7101 and 7102)
• seven (7) courses chosen either from the Liberal Studies course offerings or from graduate courses in other departments
• the Directed Readings capstone course (3 credits)
• the Qualifying Portfolio (see below for descriptions of the Directed Readings and the Qualifying Portfolio)

LST students begin the program with two foundational courses, one ancient and one modern. The LST Foundation courses (Ancient and Modern) serve to give incoming LST students a broad background in some of the key texts and ideas of world civilization. In addition, they provide the LST students with an introduction to the skills and expectations which are consistent with graduate level work in the humanities and social sciences.

The course numbers are:
LST 7101 Foundation Course: Ancient
LST 7102 Foundation Course: Modern

After taking the required Foundation courses, the student is free to choose twenty-one credits (seven three-credit courses, or groups of three one-credit courses) from the regular graduate course offerings found within Liberal Studies or in the other graduate departments in the humanities and social sciences at Villanova. There are almost 200 courses to choose from across the curriculum. Almost all courses are offered in the late afternoon and evening and are offered year round. To ensure a breadth of exposure to multiple disciplines, students may take no more than three courses in any one graduate department (with the exception of Liberal Studies; students may take as many Liberal Studies courses as they wish).

The final course is the Directed Readings which acts as a capstone project for the student’s program of study within Liberal Studies. See below for the full description of the Directed Readings requirement.
All courses, including the Directed Readings requirement, will be selected by the student in consultation with his/her academic advisor. It is expected in completing the Liberal Studies program's requirements that the student will select courses that form an integrated course of studies, either shaped by the student’s individual interests, or shaped through the certificate programs.

The Directed Readings course is a course of the student's own design. It should explore a topic which has developed out of the student’s graduate work in Liberal Studies; it should also be a subject which the student wishes to pursue in greater depth. In addition, the Directed Readings experience enables the student to cap his/her graduate studies with a culminating essay or project.  Many students choose to write a thesis (roughly 30 pages long), but depending on the topic and research/analysis methods, other project models may be more appropriate.  The student should work closely with his/her advisor to decide on the format of the project.  But whatever form it takes, the final result of the Directed Readings should be a significant and tangible work of graduate level research and analysis.

In addition, the student should work closely with the advisor throughout the process of reading, research, and writing.  We recommend that the advisor set up a schedule with the student for the following submissions:

  1. Thesis or project proposal (4-5 pages)
  2. Reading list
  3. Outline of project
  4. Essay drafts
  5. Final version of project/thesis

The student should follow the deadlines in the Graduate Academic calendar for the submission of the final project/thesis.

The thesis should conform to the academic standards of the primary discipline (including bibliographic citation method, research methods, etc).  In addition, because Liberal Studies encourages interdisciplinary methods, we encourage students to draw on other disciplines where appropriate concerning the topic and research.

The Qualifying Portfolio consists of four papers originally submitted to satisfy the requirements for seminars taken in their normal course of study during the student’s coursework in Liberal studies, plus a short narrative describing how and why the student chose these essays. The papers should be representative of the student’s best work; in addition, the papers should indicate the scope and trajectory of the student’s course of studies. If an essay was submitted for the student's Directed Readings, that essay may be included in the portfolio. The papers may but need not be reworked by students prior to submitting them as part of their portfolio.

The portfolio will be reviewed by a committee that includes the student’s Directed Readings advisor, the Director of Graduate Liberal Studies, and one other faculty member familiar with the student’s work.  The portfolio should also be accompanied by a short narrative (no more than five pages) describing why the student chose these papers, and how these papers demonstrate the trajectory of the student’s work in Graduate Liberal Studies. There will thus be five items in the portfolio – four essays, plus the short narrative.

The committee will then judge the portfolio based on the following criteria:

•       interdisciplinary breadth

•       a clear sense of trajectory

•       mastery of the skills of critical research and writing on the graduate level

Once the committee has read through the portfolio, they meet with the student in a defense format to ask questions raised by the various papers and to allow the student to expand upon how these essays represent a summation of his or her work in Graduate Liberal Studies.  The defense takes about an hour. 

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Liberal Studies

The Enlightenment . . . The Renaissance. . . War and Peace. . . The Fall of the Roman Empire. . . The novels of Jane Austen. . . The American Founding. . . The plays of Shakespeare. . . The Civil Rights Movement. . . The Reformation. . . .

These are examples of ideas, books, people, and events that have truly changed the world. What is the best way to study them? History, literature, philosophy, theology, political science, languages – all of these disciplines have something important to say. But how is it possible to combine such different courses into just one master’s degree? The answer is Liberal Studies.


Independent Study

A student may also propose to do an independent study on a topic that is not offered in Villanova's graduate course offerings. There is also precedent for LST students to combine the Directed Readings course with an Independent Study to carry out a more ambitious culminating essay or project. The Independent Study replaces one of the six disciplinary courses.