Dawson Orr with statue of Buddha The Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS) degree is designed for adult learners who are interested in rigorous advanced study in a variety of topics with the goal of benefitting their workplace, professions and society.

To earn the Doctor of Liberal Studies degree at SMU, a student must complete:

  • 36 credit hours of traditional graduate coursework to include an engaged learning component, and 9 credits of dissertation research and writing and successful completion of a written and oral comprehensive exam.
  • Coursework includes 8 interdisciplinary, required, foundational seminars (24 credits), and 4 courses in direct support of the dissertation topic/issue including up to three Directed Reading/Tutorial courses, and selected in consultation with and authorized by the faculty advisor and program director (12 credits).
  • Up to six hours of transfer credit related to the student's area of focus for the DLS degree may be awarded as determined by the Department of Graduate Liberal Studies. Such credits must be from graduate-level academic work earned at SMU or other approved universities but require the approval of the program chair and program director.
  • Each specialized course selected by the student, in consultation with his/her faculty advisor and program director, will correspond to the student’s statement of purpose upon admission with the expectation that it will enhance his/her academic focus on the dissertation topic/issue.
  • An engaged learning component for each course is designed to apply a student’s academic understanding through hands-on experience to learn new information to more greatly impact the world around them. 
  • Part-time students complete all DLS coursework within three to five years, followed by one to two years for the comprehensive exams and the dissertation. The program must be completed within 7 years. A full-time track is available for international students or those wishing to pursue their studies at an accelerated pace.
  • Written and oral comprehensive examinations at the conclusion of the last semester of coursework (normally within 3-5 years) evaluate the candidate’s ability to integrate DLS coursework within the overall interdisciplinary framework of the program. Examination committee to be composed of the three faculty members with expertise in the student's specialized area of study for the degree.
  • Dissertation research and writing – a minimum of 9 units, upon completion of the DLS coursework and successful completion of the comprehensive examinations.
  • Dissertation proposal should be prepared in consultation with the dissertation director, then approved by the secondary advisor of the research advisory committee, and then program chair/program director. Dissertation should be completed in two years. Dissertation committee of three faculty (including the faculty advisor) should be selected in consultation with the dissertation director and program director and approved by the Simmons School. The same three-member committee will conduct the dissertation examination (oral defense).
  • A DLS dissertation is expected to demonstrate a level of mastery and academic rigor in the field of interdisciplinary studies comparable to, though distinct from, the equivalent level of mastery and rigor expected of a Ph.D. dissertation in a disciplinary field. Topics/Issues are limited to the liberal arts and social sciences and must be approved by the DLS Chair and/or Director. The dissertation represents the creative synthesis and critical interpretation of primary sources and secondary materials.

  • This degree constitutes neither a professional credential nor provides training for an academic career.