What Are Liberal Studies Seminars?

Liberal Studies (LS) seminars offer the opportunity to engage with others in face-to-face discussion about timeless questions or issues of current urgency.  Each week for 13 weeks, students meet for seminar-style dialogue, typically informed by weekly readings or viewings, under the guidance of a Duke professor. 

This structured conversation represents the heart of the Duke Graduate Liberal Studies experience.  Coming together in person for an informed discussion with people from diverse backgrounds takes us out of our virtual worlds into real-world listening and engagement with others.  This process helps deepen and strengthen the understanding of all who participate. 

Such interdisciplinary seminars -- including the GLS core course, The Self in the World -- are designed to stimulate the ability to think clearly, analyze problems thoroughly and view issues in their wider contexts.  They share the following characteristics:

  • They are designed exclusively for GLS students, and taught by members of the Duke University faculty.
  • They cut across the disciplinary boundaries among the humanities, social sciences and/or physical sciences. While organized around a topic or issue from one discipline, each course is general enough to demand consideration from other perspectives.
  • They are capped at a maximum enrollment of 15 in order to facilitate participation and discussion.
  • They require significant amounts of reading and regular written assignments. Some required readings may be available through a course Sakai site or e-reserves in the library; others may need to be purchased by the student.

GLS offers two or three seminars on a variety of topics each term, including Summer Term 1, as well as a summer study away opportunity.  All LS seminars meet in the evenings.   They may meet anywhere on campus, but many of our seminars are held in the seminar room at GLS House.  

Students are required to take at least three LS seminars (including the core course) to earn the MALS degree. Many students find these interdisciplinary courses so engaging that they register only for LS seminars.  Other students use some or all of their six electives to take graduate courses in other programs and departments across the Duke campus.

A searchable listing of recent, current and upcoming LS Seminars can be found here.  Registration information for both LS and other graduate courses is available on the Registration page.