Interdisciplinary Studies

Admission Requirements | Program Requirements | Graduate Courses

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Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies

The Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) is an interdisciplinary approach to university studies. The program combines the development of critical thinking, writing, and research abilities with the study of specialized knowledge in two complementary disciplines. Students pursuing the MAIS degree choose program emphases and design unique curricula in consultation with the MAIS graduate program coordinator.
The MAIS degree is designed for persons who wish to continue their liberal education at the graduate level or add breadth to a more specialized undergraduate degree. The communication skills, critical thinking skills, and interdisciplinary methodology gained in the program are not only valuable in themselves but attractive to a wide range of employers as well. For more information, visit the program’s website.

Admission Requirements

All applicants to the M.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies program must have a baccalaureate degree from a regionally or internationally accredited institution. Applicants must submit all of the necessary materials to be considered for admission (see below).

Regular Admission

Applicants will be considered for regular admission if they have achieved a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or better in a previous baccalaureate or graduate degree, or if they have achieved a GPA of 3.0 or better in their last 30 hours of coursework. The quality of the applicant’s submitted materials will be a major factor in the admissions decision.

Conditional Admission

Applicants will be considered for conditional admission if they have achieved a cumulative GPA between 2.7 and 3.0 in a previous baccalaureate or graduate degree, or if they have achieved a GPA between 2.7 and 3.0 in their last 60 hours of coursework. The quality of the applicants submitted materials will be a major factor in the admissions decision.
Conditionally admitted students must maintain a GPA of 3.0 in their first 9 hours of coursework in order to remain in the program. Conditionally admitted students may also be subject to other conditions for enrollment, such as (but not limited to) required courses during the first 9 hours of study, as specified by the admissions committee. Conditionally admitted students who achieve a 3.0 or better GPA and fulfill any specified conditions in the appropriate timeline will be moved to regular status.

Special Conditional Admission

Applicants with a GPA between 2.0 and 2.69 who demonstrate extraordinary potential for achievement may petition the M.A. admission committee via a letter to the committee for special consideration. The petition should include evidence regarding two or more of the following criteria:

  • Amount of time lapsed since the previous degree
  • Extraordinary circumstances related to the low overall GPA
  • Professional or other experience that would show potential for success in graduate school and/or in disciplines of study selected
  • Professional accomplishment that demonstrate the applicant’s abilities with respect to time management or focused, intensive study

Applicants whose petitions are approved by the admissions committee will be subject to the same requirements and restrictions as listed above for conditionally admitted students.
All applicants must submit to the Graduate School all of the below documents

  • Transcripts from all previous institutions
  • Two academic reference letters addressing the candidate’s potential for success in graduate study (academic references are preferred, but letters from professional/work context may be used if the candidate has not retained academic references).
  • Written statements of intent: The statement should be approximately 750-1200 words and it should describe the applicant’s academic (and, if relevant, professional) background and academic preparation, specific interests for two disciplines of study, and interdisciplinary goals with the MAIS program.
  • A writing sample: an academic paper, ideally between 5-10 pages in length. Applicants who do not have a representative academic paper may submit instead an essay of 1500-1800 words, responding to either question 1 or 2 below.

1. If you could have produced any scholarly or artistic work in one of your chosen disciplines of study, what would it be?  (i.e., a well-known work of art, novel, treatise, piece of scholarly criticism, etc.) Explain why.

2. Which course in your academic career to date has been the most important for your intellectual or artistic/creative development? Explain why.

The writing sample must include a title page with the following information: applicant’s name, date of original paper, and explanation of which option was chosen (e.g., “paper from History 4327, 2014” or “Essay Option #2”)
In addition to the above, some applicants may be required to submit additional materials or to participate in further evaluation procedures based on the discipline(s) of study selected in MAIS. Applicants who are considering study in artistic disciplines are especially encouraged to inquire about specific requirements based on individual circumstances before completing the application. Contact the graduate coordinator for more information. These additional elements may include:

  • Portfolio of art work
  • Samples of creative writing
  • Audition before a faculty member (e.g., for music)
Transfer Work

No more than nine credit hours of appropriate graduate course work taken at another institution may be transferred into the program. The MAIS graduate coordinator will determine whether or not graduate courses taken at UALR prior to admission to the program will count toward the 36 hours required.

Program Requirements

The MAIS degree requires 36 credit hours of graduate course work, 40%, (15 hours) of which can be at the 5000 level. The requirements are as follows:

Core Courses

IDST 7310 Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies: Three hours
IDST 7390 Interdisciplinary Studies Colloquium: Three hours
Courses in one ALS or SSC discipline: 15 hours
Courses in one or two other disciplines: Nine hours
IDST 8310 and IDST 8320 Thesis/Final Project: Six consecutive hours
Courses for the primary area in MAIS come from a discipline within the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences (ALS) or the College of Social Sciences and Communication (SSC), and will include research methodology and practice in the discipline. Please see the MAIS program website for details about which disciplines are available. Note that individual departments enforce prerequisite requirements for course work and may have other restrictions.
Students are encouraged to check with the department(s) in which they are interested for details on graduate-level course offerings. The nine hours of the secondary area are to be chosen from graduate course offerings in one (or two) other complementary disciplines. Any of the ALS and SSC departments listed above can provide the secondary nine-hour segment. These nine hours may, with permission of the program coordinator, be outside ALS and SCC.

Program Options

The MAIS degree allows the student to design a curriculum that includes a variety of graduate level courses. The combination of a primary discipline with one or two adjunct areas allows for greater breadth and the ability to focus on a particular problem or a subject that does not fit within traditional academic disciplines. Interested students should contact the MAIS coordinator to discuss the many options within the program.

Graduate Assistantships

A limited number of graduate assistantships are available. Refer to the Graduate School website for general information about Graduate Assistantships and the MAIS website for further details.


Graduation Requirements

The MAIS degree requires successful completion of an approved program of study (as outlined in “Program Requirements”) and a final project or thesis, including a formal oral defense.


Courses in Interdisciplinary Studies

IDST 7310 Introduction to Interdisciplinary Studies
This course will help students refine their abilities to read and think critically, to understand and make effective arguments, to study and practice research techniques, and to communicate effectively in writing. Students will study interdisciplinary processes and formulate an interdisciplinary research project. A sampling of texts from various disciplines will be considered from an interdisciplinary perspective. The course is only offered in the fall.
IDST 7390 Interdisciplinary Studies Colloquium
Prerequisite: IDST 7310. The colloquium has a general course topic and focuses on interdisciplinary reading, writing, and research. The course helps students to sharpen their abilities to communicate effectively across disciplines by sharing data, research methods, and writing techniques. Students will participate in active dialogue in the classroom by presenting and interdisciplinary research project on the selected class topic. MAIS students should enroll after completing IDST 7310 and 9 hours of graduate credit. Students outside the program may enroll only with consent of instructor. This course will be offered each spring.
IDST 7396 Special Topics in Interdisciplinary Studies
Discussion, directed readings, research, writing on selected issues in interdisciplinary studies. Topics vary each semester. May be repeated once with new topic.
IDST 8310, 8320 Interdisciplinary Studies Thesis/Final Project
Students will complete six hours of consecutive thesis/final project coursework as agreed upon by the student, the program coordinator, and the student’s thesis/final project committee.