Nov. 27, 1995
Vol. 15, No. 6

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    Students finding success in M.L.A. program

    Graduate program for adult, part-time students a U of C first The Master of Liberal Arts degree program, launched in 1992 by the Center for Continuing Studies, entered its fourth year this quarter with 115 students plus a waiting list.

    "The program is doing very well, and I'm really excited about it," said Director Raymond Ciacci (A.M.'84, Ph.D.'90). "People come from all walks of life -- attorneys, physicians, police officers, accountants, actors. Many of them say they joined the program for their own intellectual growth, but I've found that it seems to do other things as well, including helping students build self-esteem and get promotions, for example."

    The M.L.A. degree is the first graduate degree program specially tailored for adult, part-time students offered by the University. The program draws on the University's long experience with continuing education and such programs as the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences. Classes are offered during evening hours at the University's Downtown Center.

    Ciacci credits the program's success in part to its top-notch faculty. For example, first-year students are taught by James Redfield, the Howard L. Willett Professor in the Committee on Social Thought, and David Bevington, the Phyllis Fay Horton Professor in the Humanities.

    Building on the University's strengths in general education, the M.L.A. program offers a core curriculum to provide students with a common vocabulary necessary for intense intellectual debate.

    "This program isn't by any means a recycling of the undergraduate curriculum -- it's a program that provides the structure for students to pursue an organized course of liberal education, and the granting of a degree serves as formal recognition of this effort," Ciacci said.

    To satisfy this objective, students progress through three levels of courses. The first tier includes core courses in the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. These acquaint students with the contrasting perspectives and methodological approaches of different disciplines through close reading of primary texts that are exemplars of each field.

    The second level, consisting of five courses, adds an international component plus more historical and contemporary applications of principles learned in the initial set of courses. These second-level courses draw from major ongoing research programs at the University.

    In the third level, the students identify an area of particular interest for further study, and students nearing graduation begin preparing for a final seminar in which each student makes a scholarly presentation.

    Students are expected to be able to complete the nine-course requirement for the M.L.A. in three years. Ciacci said the program graduated its first class of 10 students in June 1995.

    "We now have over a hundred students in the M.L.A. program -- many times more than what we had at the program's inception," Ciacci said. "I think it's safe to say the program is an unqualified success for Continuing Studies and, most of all, for the adult students, who can continue their education in a meaningful way without sacrificing -- and, in many cases, while greatly enhancing -- their careers."

    For more information on the M.L.A. program, call the Center for Continuing Studies at 702-1726.