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MALS Programs- What do you think?


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Hi Everyone-

Has anyone here ever partook in a MALS program? Has it proven to be a degree that you can move forward to a PhD from? I'm looking specifically at the Columbia Medieval Studies one- I can't decide whether to focus primarily upon literature or history; so I'm thinking that the interdiscplinary approach this program takes might prove to be helpful. I would, however, like to go on to a Doctorate at some point, how do you think this will play out?

Thank you!


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This has been sort of the norm from professors with whom I have talked to about Medieval/Renaissance Studies programs (b/c I'm interested in pursuing the PhD after my MA in Romance Languages - assuming that's what I go with for this cycle) - they all tell me that you should get one of the degrees in a solid discipline. That is to say that you should have a solid command of say, a language, literature, maybe even art history, history etc. etc. for the Medieval Studies PhD, since that degree is normally highly interdisciplinary (also depending on the program and school) and it just makes you more marketable. I've also heard it the other way. Get the MA in Medieval Studies, and then your PhD in a more concrete discipline like (insert humanity here).

Nothing against the MALS, but I'm not sure how easy it would be to get a job with two extremely interdisciplinary degrees - not impossible I'm sure, but prob not the easiest thing to do either - and in a place like accademia, I'm guessing that you'll generally want to make things easier for the job search, not harder. If you are 100% sure you want to be in a Medieval Studies PhD, I would suggest you go for an MA in Literature, History, or whatever would complement your study of the Middle Ages the most. You could probably still do that with the MALS, I just think you may want to weigh all of your options first.

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Thank you!

That's what I was asking for- so that I could 'weigh all the options'.

I must say that I'm no longer overly concerned about making the job search easier. I was a student at Oxford for two years: one year as a Visiting Student and another matriculated into the MSt program reading for Old French; and a member at St Peter's College. I hated it. It was the worst experience of my life. As any student (and what I later found out, many Professors) who attend there will tell you- Oxford lives now on its brand and image- it is no longer the place to be. I stayed for the two years because it was 'Oxford'... in the end I realized that I hadn't learned a single thing- and I was on track to an Honors degree. Two days before my Viva, I left. Degree unfinished. I was so disenchanted with academia that I decided that I had no intention of actually working in it.

Two years out- and I'm beginning, for the first time, to really want to go back. I haven't even picked up a pop fiction book in that time- I came to hate reading and learning that much as a result of my Oxford Tutor, Dr. Tony Hunt. Now, I just want to go back to get a Doctorate just to prove to myself that I can, and hopefully discover why I liked learning, researching, and discussing in the first place.

I don't think, once I go for the PhD, that I will go into an interdisciplinary one- most likely History. The problem I have now is that my previous degrees are in English and French- far from History, and the programs I've looked at all demand at least a History minor. So, I'm thinking that the MALS programs might help with this problem.

Thank you for your advice! I'll chew on it for a few days. :)

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I would rethink your motivations for earning an advanced degree. If you're not completely certain that this is what you want to do for the rest of your life, you might be better served doing something else. Attrition rates are high, even among people who are determined and in love with their disciplines. To be anything less than certain means you're taking a huge risk with your time and money.

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minilop, go for it.

There has been a lot of debate on this issue. Most people look at it from a more "instrumental" perspective.

An MALS degree is not well recognized as the traditional one. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this

program, this degree brings about a lot of trouble when you want to find a job. But many people forget that

the establishment of such a program is precisely the backlash against the heavy industrialization and

professionalization of the academia. Hmm... I personally believe that the interdisciplinary programs are the

refuge the leftist intellectuals create for themselves. (Go check the faculty members of those programs)

I think I understand your painful experience and its consequences. Life is not easy - this is especially true for

romantics/idealists/perfectionists. (You may not be one of them but it's very likely that you are :P Sorry about

the psychoanalyzing ) MALS programs do provide you the opportunity to discover why you like learning in the

first place... This is what MALS programs are created for.

Some people say you will not be properly trained because MALS programs are not as tightly structured as the

traditional ones. I'd say that this looseness can be turned into a big advantage. You're allowed to structure

your courses around your own objectives. Properly structured, you can actually acquire a very strong background

in history. In this case, you are the trainer and trainee at the same time. The difference between the two is only that

you are more disciplined by others in a traditional MA program, while you need to discipline yourself in an MALS program.

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