The human-centered, interdisciplinary, Master of Liberal Studies degree is designed to offer flexibility to students in planning their master’s level study. MLS coursework encourages creative and critical thinking by taking courses in humanities, organizational dynamics, social justice, arts, and culture. Students benefit from building vital skills and examining the human condition from a variety of perspectives in order to meet the problems of the 21st century.

Degree Requirements

To earn the Master of Liberal Studies degree you will need to successfully complete thirty-six (36) credit hours of approved graduate study, or 12 courses, within six years after beginning the program. You should take two foundational courses within the first 12 hours of your course work:  HUMN 6316/The Human Experience: An Introduction to Liberal Studies, and another designated writing intensive course of your choosing (HUMN 6370, SCCL 6305, HUMN 6397, or HUMN 6309).  It is highly recommended that students take these as their initial courses in the program.  These courses may not be waived.  The Master of Liberal Studies degree may be completed in as few as four semesters but is not to exceed six years. 

Students must complete their coursework with at least a B (3.0 GPA) average. All courses attempted for credit on a student's graduate program must average B (3.0) or better, with no grade less than C (2.0) applying toward the degree. Within the 36 hours, students may include up to six hours of transfer graduate credit from another accredited institution or another academic department at SMU (see below). Students may not take more than three one-credit-hour classes unless special permission is given by the Faculty Chair. At least 3 credit hours must be taken as part of the required capstone course/experience.

Required Capstone Experience

The Capstone Experience is required of all graduates of the MLS program and will be taken in the final semester of the MLS program. Click here for additional information.

Curricular Concentrations

MLS students have the option to choose a specific concentration as part of their curriculum to explore in depth an area of particular interest. Current concentrations include the following:


  • American Studies 
  • Communication, Media and Technology 
  • Creative Writing 
  • Environmental Sustainability 
  • Gender Studies 
  • Global Studies - Global Trends, Power, Non-Western Literature, and Geography 
  • Human Rights and Social Justice 
  • Humanities 
  • Organizational Dynamics 
  • The Arts and Cultural Traditions  - Literature, Art, Poetry, Performing Arts, and Society 
  • Self-Designed 

If you elect to concentrate or specialize in a certain curricular area, you must complete the following requirements:

  • 3 credit hours for the required introductory course: HUMN 6316 The Human Experience
  • 3 credit hours for a designated writing intensive course of your choice
  • 18 credit hours of approved credit from your chosen area of concentration
  • 3 credit hours for the required capstone course/experience
  • 9 elective credit hours

If you elect to earn a dual concentration in two curricular field areas, you must satisfy the following additional requirements:

  • each independent concentration must total 18 approved credit hours
  • 4 distinct courses or 12 credits must be from the first curricular field area; 4 distinct and separate courses (12 credits) must be from the second curricular field of area.
  • dual concentrations may share a maximum of 2 courses or 6 credits between them.

Once the student satisfies the requirements for a given concentration, the concentration area will appear on the student's final transcript (not on the diploma).   

Note: Concentrations within the MLS program are not designed to be professional or vocational credentials, but rather to enrich the student’s knowledge and understanding of this curricular field of study.

Transfer credit: Students must file a Petition for Transfer Credit, accompanied by a course description and official transcript, with the MLS office. Transfer credit will be accepted by the Dean under the following regulations:

  • The course must be compatible with the overall curriculum of liberal studies.
  • The course must be graduate level (6000 or above).
  • The course must have earned a grade of A or B.
  • The course may not have been used in attaining a previous degree.
  • The course must have been taken within the past six years.
  • Courses taken prior to matriculation must be approved within one year of beginning the MLS program.
  • Transfer credit will be considered for study by correspondence or online study on a case-by-case basis
  • The form is available online in the MLS Forms Library.

IMPORTANT:  For a comprehensive listing of the policies, procedures and possibilities of the MLS program, please review the GLS Student Handbook.