Degree Information

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​The MALS degree requirements consist of 30 hours of coursework, or 10 three-hour courses, which must include:

  • at least two MALS seminars
  • a research methods course (broadly defined) or a third MALS seminar
  • a six-course interdisciplinary concentration
  • a culminating project for which three credit hours are earned
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MALS Seminars

We require students to take at least two MALS seminars.  We strongly advise you to take one during your first semester of enrollment. We offer two to three seminars each semester on a range of topics, taught by NC State faculty from various disciplines. We develop new seminars regularly, and often repeat the most popular courses. MALS seminars are interdisciplinary, have no prerequisites and are limited to 15 students.

Recent MALS Seminars

Here are a few examples of recent MALS seminars:

What do we collect, both as individuals and as societies? What motivates us to collect, and informs our choices about what to keep and preserve? In the largest sense, what do the things we collect, and the ways we collect them, tell us about our relation to the world around us? 

This interdisciplinary course looks at collecting from a broad range of perspectives, tracing it from the early modern “cabinet of curiosities” through contemporary digital archives. Along the way, we will consider such topics as: the looting and “collecting” of art treasures in war, conflict and colonization; obsessive collecting and hoarding; the rise of consumer culture, with mass produced “collectibles”; data collection and surveillance; and, the paradoxical “collection” of trash – of discarded items that accumulate, endure and, ultimately, haunt our modern world. The course will include guest lectures, as well as site visits to museums, libraries, special collections, archives, flea markets and landfills. 

The questions we will explore include: What is creativity? Where do original ideas come from? What is the relationship between inspiration and craft? Between medium and message? How do artistic traditions generate new works? How does "academic" training support (or hinder) creativity?  What is improvisation? Bricolage? What is the relationship between artistic freedom and artistic discipline? How does reception/criticism affect the creative process(es)? How does economic necessity affect the creative process?

Students will carry out two semester-long projects, which will form the basis for evaluation: 1) The ethnography of an artist/creator/performer in the community, based on site visits and interviews and other fieldwork techniques; and, 2) An examination of their own creative processes as they create something: a work of literature, visual art, performance, etc.  

This inquiry will be informed by selected readings from a variety of disciplines as students tack between what they are engaged with as creators and the thinking they do and others have done about the nature of creativity.

What crisis could cause the European Union to collapse? Could the recent financial crisis actually weaken the EU to the point where members like Greece or Portugal are no longer allowed to be members? What happens if a referendum in the United Kingdom leads to their withdrawal from the EU? While it’s difficult to predict future outcomes with any great degree of certainty, this class will examine how the European Union has responded to a multitude of crises over the past thirty years. Any crisis certainly presents a number of challenges, but it may also offer an opportunity to reinforce partnerships.  

This course examines how various crises reveal latent weaknesses and strengths within Europe’s political and economic union. We explore Crisis in Europe through a wide range of economic, political, cultural and ecological crises, including: the end of the Cold War and political and cultural impact of German reunification; the challenges presented by transnational migration, human trafficking and disappearing borders; multiculturalism and the integration of ethnic/religious minorities; resurgent right-wing nationalism; the creation of a common economic market; the ecological disasters of Chernobyl and oil spills in the Atlantic ocean; the economic restructuring from an industrial to a postindustrial economy; and the ongoing threat of economic collapse and disintegration of the European Union.  

Course materials will include scholarly and press articles or films that draw from a wide range of international, interdisciplinary sources.

The seminar will serve as an introduction to the growing field of environmental humanities and to social ecology in contemporary Western cultures. Important topics, including climate change, industrial agriculture, energy and sustainability, and animal rights, will be examined. The impact of those questions in contemporary Western societies will be evaluated, with a specific, double focus on the United States and a Western European country such as Spain. The seminar will incorporate theoretical readings from disciplines such as philosophy, economics, psychology, ecology and other sciences; documentary as well as fiction films; literary texts; and a range of journalistic materials. In addition, students will be exposed to the world of environmental activism in Spain and the United States through the work of groups and associations aligned with the principles of social ecology. 

This course will explore the ethical foundations and parameters of individual choice through an in-depth examination of two contemporary cases: reproductive/genetic choice and school choice/segregation. We will begin with a theoretical discussion of choice, including its goals and its limits. Readings will range from Enlightenment understandings of autonomy to more contemporary and libertarian understandings of consumer preference. For our case studies, readings will be drawn from the following: From Chance to Choice, by Allen Buchanan, Dan Brok, Norm Daniels, and Daniel Wikler; Better than Human: The Promise and Perils of Enhancing Ourselves by Allen Buchanan; Choosing Tomorrow's Children: The Ethics of Selective Reproduction by Stephen Wilkinson; The Infertility Treadmill: Feminist Ethics, Personal Choice, and the Use of Reproductive Technologies by Karey Harwood; The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice are Undermining Education by Diane Ravitch; Five Miles Away, A World Apart: One City, Two Schools, and the Story of Educational Opportunity in Modern America by James Ryan; and In Brown's Wake: Legacies of America's Educational Landmark by Martha Minow. The course as a whole is fundamentally interdisciplinary, drawing on resources from philosophy, religious studies, sociology, education policy and science and technology. 

What are we scared of, what do we laugh at — and why? What roles may horror and humor play in contemporary western society? Are horror and humor always opposites to each other? This seminar will explore horror and humor as cultural, historical, ideological phenomena as well as individual feelings and emotional states. Through the analysis of films, literary texts and many other cultural products together with a variety of critical and theoretical readings ranging from psychology to anthropology and philosophy, the seminar will inquire into the sources of horror and humor, the forms they may take, the responses they may elicit, and how all of those may vary across cultures and historical periods. 

This interdisciplinary food studies course will take students from the French foundations of modern gastronomy (the invention of the restaurant, start of modern food writing, birth of the celebrity chef, etc.), to the fascinating paradoxes of food production, consumption and appreciation in our increasingly globalized world. Classroom sessions will be complemented by guest speakers, tastings and site visits (farms, markets, laboratories, production facilities, etc.). 

How do individuals, communities, and nations partner to achieve increased freedom of choice – the freedom to choose one’s preferred path to achieving one’s hopes and dreams? What is required for sustainable human development to occur, both in more – and less – industrialized societies? How can we know when we are “partnering-in-development” in a sufficiently healthy way so that increased freedom of choice is happening for all partners? Our premise is that poverty and hunger are not inevitable, but can be overcome only through a process of sensible, local, community-centered, and transparent development. We propose that ownership of the development strategies being planned, funded, implemented, and evaluated at the most local level is the only viable approach to sustainable human development. Our time will be invested in identifying the strategies most likely to lead to elevated freedom of choice for all partners seeking to break the poverty-hunger cycle so endemic in much of our world. Readings from: Dead Aid, The Aid Trap, Where Our Food Comes From, One Billion Hungry: Can we feed the world?, and Feeding a World of Ten Billion People

“Immigrant” and “migrant” are terms that are neither neutral nor self-evident. Instead, the spaces, contexts and semantics through which they surface reveal deep-seated anxieties that contradict both the “nation of immigrants” narratives that ground U.S. national history and our daily consumption of goods and services that are the direct products of globalized economies. Far from speaking for itself, the “immigrant issue” exists on a continuum that reveals cultural distress around issues of space and resources as well as wellbeing and identity. In this course, we will explore the themes of migration and immigration with a primary focus on cultural representations (films, media, news, literature, art and performance), while at the same time situating the U.S. experience globally by exploring current developments in other geographical and political contexts. 

In this seminar, we will examine the nature of music and the diverse roles and functions it plays in human social experience from a global perspective. Music entertains and inspires; it also serves to record history, to express religious belief, to celebrate culture, to protest social and political injustice, to heal the sick, to teach the young, to market products, even to indoctrinate and torture. Music reaches into and intersects with so many aspects of our lives. The purpose of this seminar is to gain an understanding of the historical, social, cultural, and political contexts of music making, and to explore the ways in which traditions, values, belief systems, and patterns of social change are encoded and made manifest in musical practices. Through videos, readings and listening to both recorded and live music from diverse world regions, we will examine music in relationship to its repertoire of purposes, particularly in the formation, expression, and contestation of social identity; in religious belief, observation, and experience; and in narrative and dramatic performance, public ceremonies, and sporting events. This interdisciplinary approach can deepen insight into the nature of music, its roles and functions, and the nature of the humans who make it, use it, enjoy it, and move to it. Assessment will include journal writings and a final research project.

This seminar will examine critical points of convergence between science, medicine, and the arts. Each of the three modules will consider a variety of approaches to literature and film that will draw on discussions of topics ranging from the sciences to sociology. The aim will be to develop the students’ understanding of the symbiotic relationship between technological and scientific change, and the necessary artistic process of imagining a changed world. Readings from: E. T. A. Hoffmann, Mary Shelley, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Sigmund Freud, Arthur Schnitzler, Virginia Woolf, Henry James, Tony Kushner and Michael Cunningham. Secondary sources will be used each week to introduce students to the possibilities and techniques of interdisciplinary study, with class time devoted to the skills needed for graduate writing and research.

Our reading assignments for this course will involve a number of well­-known women writers who deal with the ways in which gender, race, sexuality and class intersect and function in the construction of identity, and, in particular, female identity. In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the production of identity was often chronicled by writers of fiction who showed that it was haunted by the threat of what was seen by many individuals in power (scientists, social theorists, physicians, politicians, husbands) as an innate disposition toward madness — a propensity that, according to them, posed a menace to the very fabric of civil society. We will see in the chronicles of our fictional and nonfictional texts how this "female malady" was as often imaginary as it was real, and when real, was often imposed upon women by its very diagnosticians. Primary readings will include, among other works, Charlotte Bronte, Jean Rhys, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Margaret Atwood, Sylvia Plath, Marge Piercy and Toni Morrison. Secondary readings will be in part determined by the interests of the class as a whole, and will be drawn from a range of disciplines, including psychology, history, philosophy, sociology and feminist and contemporary literary theory.

Optional Research Methods Course

Students take research methods courses from departments throughout the university, enrolling in courses that are appropriate to their unique areas of concentration: statistics, experimental or survey design, qualitative methods and literary theory are among the options.

Individualized Concentration

As part of your application, you’ll propose a six-course, 18-hour concentration on an interdisciplinary theme or topic. You will finalize your area of concentration once you have completed 15 credit hours in the program, working in consultation with your adviser. The concentration courses must come from at least three different academic disciplines, with no more than two courses from any one department. At least two courses in the concentration must be humanities or social science courses.

MALS students have a variety of options when selecting courses for your individualized plan: 

  • NC State courses: You can take courses from various departments and colleges at NC State. View graduate course offerings at NC State in the online Course Catalog, where you can search by discipline or by keyword (e.g. “sustainability” or “community development”).
  • Independent study: To explore a particular area of interest, you can work with an NC State faculty member who will supervise your work. Examples of independent study include extensive reading on a topic not available through an existing course, or engaging in a specific project or activity that has educational value for you. Your faculty supervisor will typically require some written work as part of your independent study.
  • Courses through other universities: You may take courses from other universities and have the credit count toward your MALS degree. However, be sure to check with your faculty adviser first. It is especially convenient to take courses from UNC-Chapel Hill, Duke, and North Carolina Central, at a cost equivalent to NC State courses. If this interests you, you should first research whether you are eligible to enroll in a specific course (for example, Duke MALS seminars are limited to Duke MALS students). If the course you wish to take is at Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, or North Carolina Central, you can register using the inter-institutional registration form available from the NC State Registration and Records Office.

Sample Concentrations

Here are just a few examples of concentrations that recent MALS students designed:

  • ENG 515: Rhetoric of Science and Technology
  • HI 582: Darwinism in Science and Society
  • MA 433: History of Mathematics
  • PHI 498: Special Topics: Philosophical Issues in Environmental Ethics
  • PA 550: Environmental Policy
  • MLS 501: Technology and Society
  • ECG 515: Environmental and Resource Policy
  • PA 507: The Public Policy Process
  • PA 553: Disaster, Crisis, Emergency Management and Policy
  • PS 437: U.S. National Security Policy
  • SOC 440: Social Change
  • MLS 501: Poverty and Hunger
  • HI 546: Civil War and Reconstruction
  • HI 554: History of U.S. Foreign Relations, 1900-present
  • ENG 555: American Romantic Period
  • ENG 575: Southern Writers
  • PS 506: United States Constitutional Law
  • PS 507: Civil Liberties in the United States
  • LAR 511: Community Design Policy
  • LAR 577: Sustainable Design
  • SOC 513: Community Organization and Development
  • SOC 533: The Community
  • SW 413: African American Families:  History, Tradition and Community
  • PA 520: Seminar in Urban Management
  • ANT 508: Culture and Personality
  • ANT 550: Environmental Anthropology
  • SOC 509: Population Problems
  • SW 506: Human Behavior and the Social Environment:  Individuals, Families and Groups
  • PSY 511: Advanced Social Psychology
  • PSY 504: Evolutionary Psychology


Final Project

Your MALS studies culminate with a project related to your concentration. The final project can take a diversity of forms—long paper, video production, community engagement, educational program, creative writing, website, handbook, or business plan, for instance.  Students not doing a long research or analytical paper should write a 12-15 page critical introduction to their project, explaining why it has been undertaken, how it has been carried out, what the results and their implications are, and how it might be continued, elaborated, or modified in future. Three hours of credit will be given for completing the culminating project.  A final presentation of the project must be given before graduation. See our guidelines for MLS 676 for more details.

Women in Leadership
Criminal Psychology
Military Ethics
Education in the African-American Community

Frequently Asked Questions


In the MALS program, you design an individualized plan of study to explore your interests in a meaningful way. You integrate diverse academic fields to tackle the issues, questions, problems and trends most relevant to your life and career. This interdisciplinary approach broadens your perspective, deepens your understanding and sharpens your thinking. The intellectual journey is worthwhile in itself, but many of our students also derive professional advantages from their MALS education.

An interdisciplinary MALS education cultivates skills valuable to employers in today’s workplace, such as the ability to think critically and analytically. The MALS program will improve your communication, research and problem-solving skills and broaden your horizons. In addition, many of our students tailor their course of study to complement their current job responsibilities or professional aspirations.

Prospective students must submit an online application for admission to the Graduate School, along with the application materials listed on the Admission Requirements page. The application deadline is March 15.  After submitting these materials, you will be contacted to schedule a required on-campus interview with the MALS Program Director. 

GRE scores are not required. Admission requirements include an undergraduate baccalaureate degree and the submission of the application materials listed on the Admission Requirements page.

Class times vary widely at NC State. We take special care to schedule our MALS seminars in the evening to accommodate working students' schedules.

You may take many courses online, but cannot complete the entire degree online. Some courses are available online; others are not. MALS seminars are only offered on campus, ensuring that you get the full benefit of the classroom experience.

The MALS program requires 30 hours of coursework, or 10 three-hour courses, completed at your own pace. By taking just one course each fall and spring semester, a student could finish the program in five years. By taking additional courses during the year, during Maymester or during the summer, you can finish sooner. Some full-time students have completed the degree in as little as one- and- a- half years.  The Graduate School set a limit of six years for completion of a master’s degree at NC State.

Certainly. At least nine credits can be transferred from another university or from PBS (non-degree) courses taken at NC State. Courses must be at least 500-level, fit into your degree requirements, and have a final grade of at least a “B.” Check with your adviser to see if your credits are applicable.

Based on current rates for the 2017-18 academic year, the total cost for tuition and fees ranges from about $2,500 to $5,500 per semester, depending on how many courses a student takes. To see a full breakdown of costs, visit the Student Services website.

Absolutely. Many of our students (and alumni) are professional staff members at NC State who are earning their master’s degrees at a fraction of the cost. 

Yes. You can take a course through the non-degree PBS program. We recommend that you try one of our MALS seminars.

You can take courses from various departments at NC State, participate in independent study with a NC State faculty member or take courses from other universities and have the credit counted toward the NC State MALS degree. You’ll work closely with your faculty adviser to ensure your plans are workable. Please see the degree requirements for more detailed information about how to find courses for your program.

Your diploma will read "Master of Arts.” On résumés and professional networking sites such as LinkedIn, many MALS students provide their concentration title, to offer more information about the nature of their graduate education.