The program's foundational themes provide the background knowledge of theoretical and critical developments in humanities, philosophy, art and literature, history, and the social sciences. However, a student’s area of inquiry is not limited to these themes alone.

  • Students take approximately 6 - 9 course credit hours each year for two to four years culminating in an oral comprehensive exam. Upon successfully completing the exam, students advance to the dissertation and defense stage. The expected average program duration is three to five years but not to exceed seven years.
  • Most three-credit courses are taught one evening during the week or Saturday morning on the main SMU campus during fall, spring, or summer. Students may enroll in up to nine hours of Directed Reading/Independent study courses.
  • The foundational seminars for the DLS program provide training, analytical thinking and writing through critical examination, discussion, research, and progressive study on interdisciplinary topics. DLS students explore historical narrative, text and image, the life of the mind, the creative impulse, and other major themes and issues that have guided scholarly investigation and research in many fields. Each cohort attends all foundational seminars together to build a learning community and to introduce diverse experiences and academic pursuits into the classroom.
  • In the first two years of study, each student is required to enroll in the DLS foundational seminars in sequence. These seminars include:

        To Be Human, Part One: Perspectives on Our Common Historical Experience
        To Be Human, Part Two: The Transformation of the Psyche
        To Be Human, Part Three: The Art of Creativity and Expression
        To Be Human, Part Four: East Meets West – Intelligence, History, Culture, and Society
        Liberal Studies Research-Based Writing
        Social Science Research or Humanities Research
        To Be Human, Part Five: The Struggle for Human Rights
        To Be Human, Part Six: Science and Society

  • These core seminars are designed to help students undertake their scholarly work in the program with a thorough understanding of the intellectual context in which scholarship, criticism, reading and research are currently carried out.