Liberal Arts (MLA)

The Master of Liberal Arts at St. Edward’s, a top liberal arts college gives you the flexibility to design your own program of study that lets you explore your passions — and connect your life interests with your professional ambitions.

You’ll take classes aimed at self-discovery, study topics that parallel your educational and career pursuits, and develop the skills and knowledge to understand issues from varying perspectives. Your degree culminates in a hands-on Special Project that allows you to create and present an original body of work that enhances public understanding and encourages dialogue on an issue, such as a thesis, an art project or a multimedia presentation.

Master of Liberal Arts

Convenient Class Schedules:

The Master of Liberal Arts is designed to accommodate the busy schedule of working adults. Classes typically meet once a week for three hours. The MLA also offers classes in a variety of formats, including online, daytime, and a combination of classroom and online. Taking two classes each semester, students typically complete the MLA in two years.


In the MLA program, you’ll gain insights that deepen your understanding of the human experience as you examine issues across a wide range of disciplines. You’ll study subjects as varied as English, anthropology, psychology, art history, criminal justice, global processes and communication. And you’ll hone your skills in analytical thinking, persuasive writing and oral communication.

Students may earn credit for completing an optional internship to pursue a career or professional interest or to supplement their academic program. Some of our students have pursued internships with organizations such as the Mexi-Arte Museum and Austin Area Interreligious Ministries. Others have received credit for their contributions to New Literati, the New College English program’s literary magazine.

With the broad knowledge gained in the MLA program, career paths are far-reaching. Graduates go on to work in journalism, marketing, museums, counseling, law, social services, teaching, curriculum development and other fields. Some graduates continue their education in a PhD or MFA program.

Degree Plan:

For detailed descriptions and timing of courses, please see the Graduate Bulletin (course catalog).

This course critically explores the ways that the liberal arts have been conceived and perceived, using a thematic approach to explore different disciplinary ways of learning and knowing. You’ll develop your ability to articulate a vision of liberal arts education: what it consists of, why it exists and how it relates to other modes of intellectual inquiry. This course prepares you to offer informed leadership on the role of the liberal arts in education and society.

You’ll complete at least one course in each of the following categories.
• Interpreting the World: Explore the ways in which cultural groups, academic disciplines, organizations and traditions explain the world and what effects these explanations have on human perception, experience and understanding.
• Community and Identity: Investigate areas such as the effects of globalization on identity, the ways in which art emerges from a culture, and the impact of work, race, gender and class on conceptions of community, as viewed from various interdisciplinary perspectives, including anthropological, historical, literary, psychological, sociological and political.
• Spirituality and Self: Examine topics such as spiritual pilgrimage and quest, peace with justice issues, religious diversity, spirituality in the arts, the integration of spiritual values into professional lives, and the Catholic intellectual and spiritual tradition.

You’ll complete 15 semester hours in courses of your choice. Since the MLA is an interdisciplinary degree program intended to educate you in content and methodologies of various disciplines within the liberal arts, no more than three elective courses can come from one disciplinary area. Elective hours come from courses in the following categories:
• Dual-level courses: These graduate-level courses, adapted from undergraduate courses offered at St. Edward’s, have a separate graduate-level syllabus component that requires additional coursework and readings. Up to five seats in select undergraduate, New College or Honors Program courses will be reserved for MLA students.
• Directed Studies courses: You and a faculty member meet to work out a research plan; the faculty member directs you in your exploration of
the topic, leading to a significant paper or other research product.
• Thematic Studies courses: You may take extra Thematic Studies courses for credit after completing the Thematic Studies requirement.
• Courses transferred from another institution: Upon approval of the program director, you may transfer up to nine hours of graduate courses into the MLA program.

Project Planning Seminar
In your next-to-last semester, you’ll take a Project Planning Seminar, a course designed to teach you how to research and develop a project and its proposal. Since seminar students work on proposals in various areas, you’ll also coordinate with your mentoring professor. The program director serves as the second committee member on every Special Project developed out of the planning course.

Special Project
In your last semester, you’ll produce a Special Project, a public contribution that grows out of the MLA experience. Your mentoring professor is the instructor of record for the Special Project. You must develop a successful proposal with the full participation of this professor, who assumes principal responsibility for direction of the Special Project. Your mentoring professor and the program director make up your committee for the Special Project.

The Special Project must give clear graduate-level evidence of insight and perspective on an issue, theme or concept of significance. It may take the form of a formal thesis, a full-length article for publication, a proposal for implementation in a specific setting, artwork for public display, a community service research project, a website or some other format — and we encourage a design that enhances public understanding and dialogue on a significant issue.

See an example of one student's special project that focuses on politics in the Middle East.

The MLA certificate program gives you two ways to earn graduate credit:
I. MLA certificate:
Complete four courses (12 credit hours):
• Liberal Arts Perspectives
• Two Thematic Studies seminars
• One elective

II. Executive MLA certificate:
Complete four courses (12 credit hours):
• Liberal Arts Perspectives
• Two Thematic Studies seminars
• One Directed Studies course culminating in an essay or project