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As the world grows more complex and professions more focused, a broader view — the kind of perspective offered by a wide-ranging liberal education — can be attractive, says Ramsey Fowler, professor of English Literature and director of the Master of Liberal Arts program at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas. The opportunity to explore the world through anthropology, psychology, history, criminal justice, literature and communications appeals to students who are looking to do one of three things.

1. Never Stop Learning

These students have always been interested in learning. Education is an end unto itself. “The idea of getting a degree is attractive to them because they’re goal-oriented people,” Fowler says. An MLA is an investment that will enhance their retirement years.

2. Shift Careers

This group is populated by people who have established families and careers but lack engagement. They hope that an MLA will help them transition to something new, Fowler says — perhaps a career that involves writing, public speaking, or research.

3. Uncover Passions

Fowler says the intensity of reading, writing and thinking involved and the varied nature of the studies lead individuals to uncover passions that they didn’t know they had. The fields that graduates enter are varied, but include library science, creative writing, museum research, law and journalism. And many go on to pursue PhDs and a career in academia.

The MLA program is not designed with a career in mind, Fowler observes, which allows students to make their own discoveries as they hone their intellect. “It’s a very personal decision to pursue an MLA,” Fowler says. “But the program excites students and can lead them into unexpected careers and professions.”

The Master of Liberal Arts program at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Texas, allows students to design their own program, explore their passions and deepen their understanding of the human experience.

Joel Hoekstra is a freelance writer.

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