Duke GLS is a flexible, self-designed master’s program grounded in the interdisciplinary liberal arts. With part-time and full-time options, we offer learners of all ages and backgrounds strong academic and professional development support and access to the scholars and resources of one of the finest universities in the world.
What is Liberal Studies?
Liberal Studies is a concept related to “liberal arts” -- a term to describe the fields of the arts, humanities, social sciences, and sciences that have historically grounded how scholarly knowledge has been organized. “Liberal arts” have at their core an idea of “liberation” and originally described the skills and knowledge required for someone to participate fully in the world as a free citizen. What defines Liberal Studies is not so much a particular body of knowledge as it is a more integrative, interdisciplinary approach to the construction of knowledge that can encompass the arts, humanities and sciences. Liberal Studies is about addressing issues not only within traditional fields and disciplines, but exploring in between those fields, around them and sometimes even beyond them into territory that is not yet well-cultivated. It is “liberal,” then, in the sense of representing a generous, unrestricted, “liberated” and "liberating" way of thinking not limited by the disciplinary boundaries that have characterized modern academia.
The first Graduate Liberal Studies programs were established in the mid-twentieth century as part of an effort to make lifelong learning accessible to a broad range of working people. Duke GLS, originally known as “MALS” (for our Master of Arts in Liberal Studies degree), was established in 1984 under the leadership of Graduate School dean Craufurd Goodwin and first director Bonnie Erickson as a part of this movement.
Our 30-hour master’s program consists of nine courses and a three-hour capstone project. Required components include our GLS Core Course (LS 750, “The Self in the World”), two Liberal Studies seminars, and the master’s project. We generally offer at least two Liberal Studies seminars in the evenings each fall, spring, and summer term. Beyond this, students may select their remaining six courses from among our own Liberal Studies seminars or from any course Duke offers at the 500-level or above. A full discussion of our degree requirements is here. The program may be completed full- or part-time.
Faculty and Staff
Our teaching and advising faculty includes GLS Director Anne Mitchell Whisnant, GLS Assistant Director Kent Wicker, and other scholars drawn from departments across the university. One additional full-time staff member, Lisa Robinson Bailey -- herself a GLS alum -- supports the program. Learn more about our core staff here.
Our diverse student body of about 70 students is a mix of part- and full-time, domestic and international, younger and older, working and not. They have undergraduate degrees in many different fields. We have always especially welcomed Duke employees to our program.
Professional Development Support
Our program offers intensive, personalized student support in the form of course advising and in-house writing instruction and skills development workshops. Additionally, GLS students have access to all of the professional development resources of both The Graduate School and Duke University.
Cost and Financial Aid
With the goal of keeping the program accessible, Duke GLS tuition is independently set from that of other Duke graduate programs. Information on the cost of attendance may be found here. Unlike many master’s programs, Duke GLS also offers some merit aid.
GLS has our own dedicated space in a cozy 1930s-era Cape Cod style house at 2114 Campus Drive. Here you will find staff offices, a seminar room, kitchen, student lounge, and two porches. Built in 1931, GLS House was one of a small neighborhood of houses originally designed for Duke faculty. Learn more about the history of GLS House here. PLEASE NOTE THAT DUE TO THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC, FROM MARCH 13, 2020 UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE, GLS HOUSE IS CLOSED. STAFF ARE WORKING REMOTELY.
We admit students in both fall and spring semesters. More information on applying to our program may be found here.