What is a Master of Liberal Arts?

The Master of Liberal Arts is a unique, non-traditional graduate degree. Whereas most graduate programs ask students to become more and more specialized, the MLA expects students to both broaden and deepen their educational experience. Our MLA is interdisciplinary in approach and draws from a large number of programs and departments across the campus. The MLA offers curricular flexibility with courses in the evenings and on weekends to enable adult students with full time jobs and other life responsibilities to seriously engage in study. Established in 1962, the MLA at Hopkins is the first program of its type in the country. MLA students, in consultation with an advisor, tailor the program to their own professional and intellectual interests through an exploration of different curricular fields including history, religion, literature, philosophy, political science, the humanities, music, art history and the performing arts. The program of study is ten courses and includes a Capstone (graduate project or portfolio). Students explore a world of knowledge by taking their own path, and developing their own way of knowing.

Who should be interested in the MLA?

Adult students return to school for a variety of reasons. Some students want to broaden their intellectual horizons, while others pursue the MLA for professional reasons. The program provides teachers with a strong content area in world culture, literature, history, philosophy, and science. We currently have secondary educators, primary school teachers, and community college teachers. The MLA offers breadth to highly specialized professionals who want to reconnect to a larger world of knowledge. Lawyers, medical students, nurses, and independent business men and women who are intellectually curious see a strong connection between their life work and the program of study the MLA offers. The program also exists for those who simply want to learn more about the world and who want to be challenge by some of the top scholars and teachers at Johns Hopkins University and surrounding cultural institutions.

Who are MLA students?

There is no “typical” MLA student. We have students from a variety of academic and professional backgrounds. Current students include lawyers, nurses, physicians, housewives, retirees, military personnel, Hopkins employees, health professions, educators (including pre-school, 2nd Grade, and secondary educators), office workers, editors, writers and independent business people. The current age range in the program is 23 to 74. It is the life experience of the students that draw faculty to our program.

How many courses do I take?

The program requires ten total courses. Requirements include one core course (“Exploring the Liberal Arts”); eight or nine electives (eight for graduate project option or internship and nine for the Portfolio). Students are allowed to select among 7-12 electives offered each semester.

Are there any required core courses?

“Exploring the Liberal Arts” is required of all students enrolled in the program. It must be taken in the first three courses. The “Exploring the Liberal Arts” course offers a strong introduction to the breadth and scope of the liberal arts. Using a thematic approach, this core class introduces students to the breath of the liberal arts, and to an interdisciplinary approach to understanding aspects of culture. The class provides a multidisciplinary perspective on a theme to illustrate how different “ways of knowing” can broaden and deepen our understanding of culture. The students will begin to explore what is meant by the “liberal arts” — and how and why the liberal arts provide a useful interdisciplinary foundation through which to understand the world around us. How do humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and arts compare and contrast in their “ways of knowing.”

What types of courses do you offer?

From “Beethoven and his Age” to “Faulkner’s Fiction.” From “The Physics of the Universe” to “The American West in Myth and Reality.” Our courses are drawn from a wide range of programs and departments and include courses in science, religion, philosophy, art history, political science, history, interdisciplinary studies and many others. Some of our courses are offsite at places like the Walters in Baltimore or the Corcoran in Washington, DC. Please see “Course Descriptions” for more information on the range and focus of the classes.

How long do I have to complete the requirements of the program?

Students have five years to complete their degree.

What are the requirements for admission into the program?

  • earned Bachelor’s degree
  • grade Point Average of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale (work experience considered).
  • standard application form
  • official Transcripts
  • current Resume
  • essay of two to three pages on the applicant’s academic, professional, and personal goals
  • immunization form completed by all students under the age of 26
  • Interview with the Program Director (scheduled after the rest of the file is complete)

How long does it take to go through admissions process?

We have rolling admissions. Once your file is complete with application, transcripts, resume, and essay it will be sent to the Program Director who will then be in touch to set up an interview. We admit for the Fall, Spring, and Summer. There is no standard time frame for the admission process. It depends on the time it takes for all application materials to be submitted.

Am I automatically rejected for consideration if my GPA falls below 3.0?

If you are less than five years from completion of the Bachelors degree the transcript is a very important component for the admission decision. However, the admissions process takes into account extenuating circumstances and so a GPA under 3.0 is not automatic grounds for rejection. Additionally, many of our students have transcripts that are ten, twenty, and even thirty years old. In this situation the life experience of the student become much more important to the admissions process.

Can students concentrate in a particular field or area of study?

We do not offer formal concentrations and most students select a wide variety of courses during their time in the MLA. Some students, however, have clustered courses in a particular field or thematic area.

How do I decide what courses to take?

The MLA is tailored to student’s needs and priorities. Advising is always available. If you have questions about specific courses please contact the Program Director or Program Coordinator. Courses described in the catalog are representative of the broad range of MLA offerings. The same courses are rarely offered two years in a row unless they are held at another campus.

How many courses can I enroll in per semester?

The MLA is a part-time program. Most of our students work full time and have other life responsibilities. We prefer that you take one course at a time but some students do enroll in two courses per semester. Students are not allowed to take more than two courses in a given semester.

Can I transfer courses into the MLA from another school or program?

If you are applying to the MLA from outside of Johns Hopkins we generally do not allow transfer credits from other programs or schools. Very rarely, as in the case for example of a current MLA student being moved out of the geographical area we have allowed one course to transfer back into the program. If you are pursuing a degree in another part-time program in AAP and decide to switch programs it may be possible to transfer up to two courses into the MLA provided that these are liberal arts oriented courses. Course transfers are approved by the Program Director on a case by case basis.

Who teaches the courses in the MLA?

Courses are taught by regular Johns Hopkins faculty and specialists in specific fields of study. We have faculty from the Peabody Institute, the US State Department, the Maryland State Archives, museums, and special archival collections, as well as departments and programs all over the campus. Please see Highlight on Faculty for additional information on individual faculty members.

Can I take a course from another program and have it count towards my requirements?

Students are allowed to take up to two courses in any of the other part-time programs in AAP if the course has a liberal arts orientation and if the student has the permission of the Program Director. The MLA also cross-lists courses with the other programs from time to time.

Is there any scholarship money available?

The MLA has two types of scholarship assistance available to students. AAP Scholarships are awarded by the program through Advanced Academic Programs. The awards are based on both need and merit. In addition, MLA alums over the years have generously donated funds to assist other students coming along behind them. These are small scholarships and usually cover the tuition for one class. Scholarship funds of both types are reserved for students currently enrolled in the program who have taken at least two courses and have an outstanding academic record.

How do I apply to the MLA Program?

You can apply to the MLA online.