Preparing for Life: A Liberal Education

“What can you actually do with this program?” Bob Kulpa, a former student in the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) program, was recently faced with this question by a number of members of the association of Legal Administrators, Kulpa, controller with Adorna & Zeder, P.A., gave the following response from the perspective of successful 1998 MALS graduate.

“The MALS program, is not a traditional subject-specific graduate program; it cuts across the arbitrary boundaries of specialization. Although there are courses that are specified as MALS courses, a MALS student may take classes in any disciplines in the College of Arts and Sciences, and often courses offered elsewhere in University may be taken. My classes were primarily in the areas of English, sociology, physics, biology, and religious studies. My self-selected unifying theme was ‘life in the city,’ and as much as possible, I tried to use that theme to give consistency to the classes and the program.

“For my first class project, on the people of Sarasota, I traveled there to conduct research in the city’s archives and libraries and to hold pre-planned and impromptu interviews. In another project, I focused on late 19th and early 20th century ‘beautiful city’ movements in this country and in England, featuring Central Park in New York and Coral Cables in Miami-Dade County. My final work was a master’s thesis on the subject of ‘the city in text,’ more specifically, what writers of nonfiction have said about Miami over the last 25 years.

“Reading, writing, and test preparation were the work components of the program. The fun part took place in the classroom. My fellow classmates were mature adults, ranging in age from their early 20s to retirees. Because we were there by choice and were not desperate to get it over with, we had relaxed evening discussions about all sorts of things–the deeper the questions, the better the answers.

“It’s over, and I miss it. Although I did not start the MALS program with any career development goals in mind, the mix of people, thinking and ideas in which I participated made me a better, more rounded person and employee. My purpose for enrolling in the program and continuing with it year to year was to do something good for myself. It worked.”

Former Program Director Eugene Clasby adds, “A liberal education opens the door to new ways of thinking. It brings with it, not just more information, but ways of understanding that information and putting it to work in real life and a vocation. Increasingly, one of the central problems in the business and professional world is how to handle new information, what to do with it, how to use it how to understand its rhythms and patterns, how to make it make sense. A liberal education prepares students, through a rigorous course of inquiry and thought, to winnow information, evaluate it, array it in meaningful ways, and discern its pattern and symmetries. This sort of education develops in the individual mind the habit of skill of critical thinking. Perhaps the most important thing imparted by a liberal education is the sense of excitement and pleasure in learning for its own sake–that sense of discovery and new beginnings that seems so ethereal and yet is so essential to a step forward in any endeavor.”

For additional information regarding the MALS program, contact Daniel Pals at dpals@miami.edu, director of the MALS program.