Doctor of Liberal Studies

Program Components

The Doctor of Liberal Studies (D.L.S.) degree is designed for experienced, part- or full-time, adult learners who want to challenge themselves with rigorous advanced study in a variety of topics with the goal of benefitting their workplace, professions and society. This degree constitutes neither a professional credential nor provides training for an academic career.

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 doctoral thesis research and writing after earning a relevant master’s degree and passing a written and oral comprehensive exam.
  • A faculty advisor/director assigned by the program director after foundational credits are completed, will work with the student at all stages of the thesis proposal, research, writing and defense and will serve on the thesis and defense committees.
  • Coursework includes 6 interdisciplinary, required, foundational seminars (18 credits), and 6 courses in direct support of the doctoral thesis topic/issue including up to three Directed Reading/Tutorial courses, and selected in consultation with and authorized by the faculty advisor and program director (18 credits).
  • Six to nine hours of transfer credit or advanced standing may be awarded as determined by the Graduate Liberal Studies Director in consultation with the Director of the D.L.S. program. Such credits must be from graduate-level academic work earned at SMU or other approved universities.
  • Each course selected by the student, in consultation with his/her faculty advisor and program chair/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 doctoral thesis 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 D.L.S. coursework within three to five years, followed by one to two years for the comprehensive exams and the doctoral thesis and must be completed in no more than 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 within 6 months of the conclusion of coursework (normally within 3-5 years), individually tailored by the faculty advisor and program director, that evaluate the candidate’s ability to integrate D.L.S. coursework within the overall interdisciplinary framework of the program. Examination committee to be composed of the faculty advisor and two other faculty members.
  • Thesis research and writing – 9 units, upon completion of the D.L.S. coursework and passing of the comprehensive examinations.
  • Thesis proposal should be prepared in consultation with the faculty advisor, then approved by the other two faculty members of the research advisory committee, and then by the program director. Thesis should be completed in two years. Thesis committee of three tenured or tenure-track faculty (including the faculty advisor) should be selected in consultation with the faculty advisor and program director and approved by the Simmons School of Education. The same three-member committee will conduct the thesis examination (oral defense).
  • A D.L.S. doctoral thesis 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 D.L.S. Chair and/or Director. The doctoral thesis represents the creative synthesis and critical interpretation of primary sources and secondary materials.