Last week, Binghamton University approved a new master of arts in applied liberal studies (MAALS) graduate program, which will provide students with the knowledge to apply degrees in the liberal arts to professional workplaces.
The classes in the program are meant to help students with undergraduate degrees in liberal arts develop the abilities that are most sought after by employers, such as communication and leadership. MAALS, which will be housed in BU’s Graduate School, will be a three-semester program with one summer session.
Students will take six core classes in topics such as information technology, finance and research design. They will also be required to participate in two internships, one local and one beyond the greater Binghamton area, in addition to a capstone project in which they will assemble a report reflecting on their time in the program. The program directors predict that once they receive their degree, most MAALS students will look for jobs in either the private sector or the nonprofit world relevant to their graduate studies.
Susan Strehle, the dean of the Graduate School, said she believes that the internship aspect of the program will help give students a leg up when they are looking for a job.
“[An on-campus internship] would provide help for campus offices and also vet these students, while sharpening their skills,” Strehle said. “Then they’ll do a second internship elsewhere, get great letters of recommendation and get interesting professional jobs. That will be our best selling point. One year in six classes, a summer internship and another in fall puts a student on the job market in January, a year and a half in without too much student debt and the ability to get a job that is a jump up from what they could have with a bachelor’s degree.”
The MAALS program will be the first of its kind that is targeted specifically toward traditional students, and will focus on improving interdisciplinary professional skills. Beau Brammer is the administrative director for the Graduate School and has been helping develop MAALS since he began working at the University seven months ago.
“This program is intentionally not geared toward one profession,” Brammer said. “It is meant to be more broad because the majority of graduates are not going to be working in the same job for 25 years, so therefore, we want to make them marketable to the most amount of options.”
The University has begun advertising the program and recruiting BU students to fill the 25 spots currently available. Applicants must submit their transcript, résumé, letters of recommendation, a personal statement and a 500-800 word writing sample from their undergraduate work. GRE scores are optional.
The program is programmed and championed by President Harvey Stenger, who has often talked about finding a way to fill the gap between a liberal-arts education and the job market. It originally was part of the 4-1-1 plan in his Road Map to Premier initiative. The goal of 4-1-1 is for graduate students to have four years of undergraduate learning, one year of graduate coursework and one year of an internship, which together will provide them with the necessary experience and knowledge to succeed in the workforce.
A survey was then taken of 5,000 Harpur College of Arts and Sciences juniors and seniors to assess the level of interest in the program, and Brammer said he took a variety of aspects into consideration when building MAALS.
“I asked myself, ‘How can we meet the desires of students with the needs of the marketplace?’ This program was the answer I came up with,” Brammer said. “We are combining the liberal-arts skills that employers are looking for with professional background and experience. We are filling a niche in liberal-arts education at the graduate level that tries to rethink it from a 21st-century perspective and prepares students for a globalized marketplace.”