Students in the free-standing M.A. program choose an area of focus for their seminars and language courses in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. They are required to take at least one semester of Theory and Methods (usually in the first year, see below), and at least one semester of the MESAAS Research Colloquium (usually in the Fall of the second year, see below). They complete the program by writing a master’s thesis, usually defended in the third or fourth semester.

A standard program of study looks like this:

Students take one semester of Theory and Methods. Those primarily interested in modern social and cultural studies should take MDES GR5000 (Theory and Methods 1: Politics, Economy and Society),. Students who are primarily interested in literature and intellectual history should take MDES GR5001 (Theory and Methods 2: Literature and Textuality), offered only in the spring semester. By the end of the first year MA students are expected to have selected an advisor for their thesis. If they hope to finish the MA in 3 semesters they should make significant progress on the MA thesis during the summer after their first year.

Students who chose not to take Theory and Methods in their first year should enroll in MDES GR5000 (Theory and Methods 1: Politics, Economy, and Society), offered only in fall semester. All second-year students enroll in MDES GR6008 (the MESAAS Research Colloquium, for all second and third-year graduate students) during the fall semester. The colloquium provides a forum for peer discussion of the M.A. thesis, although the principal academic guidance comes from the thesis advisor. Some students take a supervised readings course to allow more intensive work on the thesis.

The M.A. thesis is submitted in the 3rd or 4th semester, depending on the timeline that the student and DGS have agreed upon. The thesis is defended before two faculty readers (the advisor and one additional). The first reader must be a member of the department. The thesis is usually about 30 to 40 pages in length (the size of a typical journal article), and often builds on a seminar paper written during the first year.

There are no grades for the M.A. thesis. Students are awarded either a “pass” or a “fail” on the strength of the written work and an oral defense. For students in the Ph.D. program, a pass may be awarded either with or without permission to continue to the M.Phil. A truly exceptional MA thesis, one considered to be of publishable quality, may be recommended for “distinction”. A digital copy of the thesis is to be deposited in the department.

Requirements : The free-standing M.A. degree requires thirty (30) points of courses taken for a letter grade (obtaining a grade of B or better), including either MDES GR5000 or MDES GR5001, and MDES GR6008. Students must also satisfy the M.A. language requirement, by passing an examination in a MESAAS language at the intermediate level or higher or by successfully completing a two-term MESAAS language course at the intermediate level or higher with a grade of at least B. Note that elementary-level and intermediate-level language classes, even when taken as part of the preparation for satisfying the language requirement, are not graduate-level (4000 or above) classes and therefore cannot be used to meet the requirement to take thirty (30) points of graduate courses. Completion of two Residence Units is required for granting the MA degree.

The Part-Time Free-Standing M.A.: Students registering part-time may take up to four academic years (eight semesters) to complete the degree requirements for the free-standing M.A. degree.

One-Year M.A.: On rare occasions, as when students enter the program with advanced language or research skills, it may be possible to complete the course work for the M.A. degree within just two semesters, and complete the Master’s thesis over the following summer. In such a case the student should signal their intention to the DGS from the outset, to make sure that all requirements can be met on schedule. For instance, it may be necessary to take both MDES GR5000 and MDES GR6008 in the first semester. A minimum of two residence units (semesters of full-time study) are required for the degree. Part-time students can meet this requirement by accumulating half and quarter residence units. (For more information on residence units, see here).

Advising: The Director of Graduate Studies is the advisor for all graduate students upon entering the program. Most students in the free-standing M.A. program go on to choose another faculty member as their advisor, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies, often in the course of their first semester and by no later than the end of their second. The advisor supervises the writing of the M.A. thesis, which should be underway during the summer after the first year.

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