Graduate School - Liberal Arts
David B. Merrell, Advisor
Abilene, Texas 79699-9141
The graduate faculty of the university serves as the faculty for the Master of Liberal Arts.
Abilene Christian University offers the Master of Liberal Arts degree with concentrations in a variety of fields in which the university offers master’s degrees.
The Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) program offers students who have completed at least a baccalaureate degree a means of formal personal enrichment through the interdisciplinary MLA degree. Liberal arts study is for anyone with a bachelor’s, master’s or doctoral degree who wishes to continue the “unfinished business” of a liberal arts education, the quest for knowledge about mankind and God’s world.
Liberal arts study at ACU permits the student to explore a wide range of disciplines and personal interests at the graduate level. The MLA student may take graduate courses from any area in which he or she can meet the specific course prerequisites. Thus, a student can gain understanding in a broad graduate curriculum within the context of Christian higher education. The program is not designed to produce a standard career credential as are more traditional master’s degree programs. Rather, the liberal arts program seeks the intellectual development and professional enhancement of adult students in areas such as the arts and humanities, social sciences and religion with additional enrichment from professional and technical areas such as business.
In the arts and humanities, courses in literature, communication and history seek to address such enduring questions as what mankind is to live for and how humans should conduct themselves.
In the social sciences, courses in psychology, sociology and family studies endeavor to assist the student in forming a critical awareness of the complexity of human affairs and interrelationships and in establishing an ethical framework for making informed decisions about human affairs and the social institutions that promote orderly human discourse.
In religion, courses address the nature of humanity’s being and purpose and mankind’s interaction with fellow man and with God. Religion courses also include application courses in such areas as missions or biblical ministry. In business, courses in management and finance assist the student in understanding the theoretical and practical framework of everyday human interchange.
The liberal arts student will be responsible for helping design his or her degree plan because each is crafted to the student’s individual needs and desires for higher education. The degree plan must meet the parameters given in the degree requirements below. In many cases, the student can help design a degree plan that can be completed with evening and short courses. In others, the student will find it desirable to participate in regular day classes to gain the experiences desired.
The liberal arts student will first work with the MLA advisor to determine the dominant areas of interest and an appropriate graduate committee. The graduate committee will then work with the Graduate School through the completion of the individual MLA degree program. The committee and degree program should be approved by the end of the second semester of enrollment.
The liberal arts student may apply to take courses in any graduate department of the university, but should remember that some courses have specified prerequisites. In some cases, the student will require special admission to the course from the instructor or the chair of the department. Specific courses may be required and appropriate research competencies must be demonstrated to the satisfaction of the student’s graduate degree committee, the MLA advisor and the graduate dean.
Each degree program operates under the general supervision of the dean of the Graduate School. The initial advisor will be the MLA advisor. A supervisory committee of appropriate graduate faculty (at least three) will be appointed to consult with, advise and evaluate the student’s progress. Each degree plan will be approved by the graduate dean and committee members from appropriate areas of study in consultation with the MLA advisor.
For admission criteria, please refer to the Graduate School Admission Requirements section of this catalog. In addition to the general Graduate School requirements, applicants to the MLA program must complete:
1. A personal interview with the MLA advisor or one appointed by the MLA advisor; and
2. Impromptu written statement from the applicant describing the purposes and objectives
for entering the MLA program.
An admission committee will determine the student’s eligibility for admission. Admission applications will be reviewed on a rolling basis as received prior to the beginning of each academic term. Admission decisions will apply all general standards for the Graduate School.
Major Code: GELF
Requirements for the MLA are:
1. This interdisciplinary degree requires studies in various disciplines with the courses and
areas being related by the student’s intellectual curiosity and needs.
2. The student must demonstrate appropriate research competencies to the satisfaction of
the supervisory committee, the MLA advisor and the graduate dean. Specific courses may
be required to build research competencies.
3. At least 36 hours meeting the general requirements of the Graduate School (including at
least 50 percent at the 600 level) and the following guidelines:
a. Three academic divisions: the program must include courses from at least three
academic divisions of the university.
b. Cluster of courses: 18 hours must reflect a cluster of courses related by theme or
topic. The student has considerable freedom in defining a cluster theme or topic.
4. Single discipline: a maximum of 12 hours may be applied from a single discipline.
Additional hours within a discipline may be taken as electives over and above the 36
hours required for the degree.
5. Other areas of interest: 12-15 hours may be related to any of the student’s other
6. Synthesis project: a 3-6 hour project related to the cluster area will culminate the degree
program. Guided by the supervisory committee, this project will demonstrate the
student’s ability to develop ideas and use analytical skills at the master’s level.
7. Comprehensive examination: The student will successfully complete a written and/or oral
comprehensive examination extending the synthesis project and relating the course work
under the direction of the supervisory committee. Unsatisfactory performance may
require additional course work before another examination may be attempted.
In order to complete a degree, the student with the assistance of the MLA advisor, faculty appointee or the graduate dean must:
1. Select the areas of emphasis, including selecting possible courses to fulfill interests.
2. Set up a supervisory committee.
a. Based on areas of interest.
b. Must be selected by the completion of 12 hours of enrollment.
3. Design a degree plan.
a. Refine preliminary interests.
b. Consult the supervisory committee.
c. Decide on a tentative type of project to determine total project credits.
4. Have degree plan approved by the committee and the Graduate School.
5. Take courses to fulfill approved degree plan.
a. Modify degree plan, if necessary.
b. Work closely with the supervisory committee.
6. Complete project.
7. Defend the curriculum chosen and the project that ties it together in the comprehensive
8. Complete the steps for graduation as outlined by the Graduate School.
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