The pursuit of a human-centered, interdisciplinary, Master of Liberal Studies degree from SMU fosters growth for professional and community leaders. Students can pursue their lifelong intellectual passions and enhance their leadership contributions to their professions and the world.

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

The MLS program requires the completion of 36 credit hours in dispute resolution, 9 of which are required and 18 are applied towards a concentration, and 9 hours of electives. Completion of the 36-credit-hour program may be completed in as quickly as 1 year and up to 6 years with the average at 2 to 3 years of study. The MLS degree does not require enrollment minimums per term.

Students may take courses from the six interdisciplinary MLS course listings below. Students may inquire about taking up to six hours of Independent Study and transfer graduate credit at SMU or accredited universities to count towards concentration or elective coursework.

Behavioral Sciences (BHSC). Behavioral sciences courses examine individuals and their behavior in various environmental settings such as family and the workplace. Courses blend psychology, sociology, organizational behavior and anthropology to introduce students to issues in human behavior as it is influenced by cultural values and expectations.

Fine Arts (FNAR). Fine arts courses offer a variety of perspectives on artistic expression throughout history and across cultures. The variety of courses encourages students to study Western and non-Western visual arts, dramatic arts, and creative writing within a broad socio-historical context.

Dispute Resolution (HDDR). Rooted in the social and behavioral sciences, provides skills-based interdisciplinary human-centered study in conflict engagement, organizational transformation, leadership coaching, and healthcare collaboration and conflict engagement.

Humanities (HUMN). Humanities courses offer the broadest possible treatments of literature, philosophy, religion and communications. By connecting the history of human ideas as presented and disseminated through poetry and imaginative literature and the development of religious and philosophical thought, humanities courses provide insight into the nature and development of humankind.

Science and Culture (SCCL). Science and culture courses present issues pertaining to health, the environment, the understanding of the natural world and the implications of technological advancement as approached by professors of chemistry, environmental sciences, physics and biology.

Social Science (SOSC). Social science courses provide a blend of history, human rights, economics and political science in the study of wealth, power and status. Courses explore the nature of citizenship as it has evolved over time.

The MLS program requires 36 credit hours of graduate study to be completed in six years. Students must take two foundational courses: HUMN 6316 (three credits) and a designated three-credit writing-intensive course. These courses may not be waived.

Required Introductory Coursework (6 Credit Hours)

HUMN 6316: The Human Experience – 3 credit hour course examining the human condition from an interdisciplinary perspective
Graduate Level Research and Writing – 3 credit hour course (multiple courses meet the requirement):
•    BHSC 7341 - Coaching for Educational and Organizational Leaders
•    BHSC 7368 - Educational Coaching: Ensuring Success for All Learners
•    BHSC 7369 - Potential and Performance: Coaching for Individual and Organizational Effectiveness
•    HUMN 6308 - Women's Lives and Literature
•    HUMN 6319 - Ethics and Literature
•    HUMN 6341 - The Ethical Implications of Children's Literature
•    HUMN 6397 - Troubled Youth in America
•    HUMN 7336 - Creativity: Historical and Personal
•    HUMN 7382 - Cultures of Displacement: The Writing of Race, Migration, and Diaspora
•    SOSC 7359 - International Human Rights Courts Post-Nuremberg

Capstone or Thesis (3 or 6 Credit Hours)
•    HUMN 6303 – Thesis (6-9 credit hours - requires a faculty advisor and committee for oral exam)
•    HUMN 7311 - Capstone (3 credit hours)

Elective Courses
Once the student satisfies the requirements for a given concentration, the concentration area will appear on the student's final transcripts. Concentrations require eighteen hours in a specific curricular field (printed on transcript upon degree completion). Note: A double concentration is available by taking an additional 3 credit hours pending the courses selected.

MLS Concentrations (18 Hours)
•    Humanities (HUM)
•    Organizational dynamics (ORG)
•    Creative writing (CRW)
•    Human rights and social justice (HRJ)
•    Arts and cultural traditions (ACT)
•    Global studies (GLO)
•    American studies (AMS)
•    Communication, media and technology (CMT)
•    Gender studies (GEN)
•    Environmental sustainability (ENV)
•    Self-designed

Additional Elective Coursework (6-9 Credit Hours, Additional for Double Concentration)
Once the student determines the requirements for a given concentration(s) and whether they will pursue a 3-credit capstone or 6-credit-hour thesis, they will supplement course requirements with the necessary number of elective credit hours.

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.