Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Courses by Semester

2016 First Fall Session: August 22–October 12

Dates to Remember

August 22: Classes begin
August 24: Last day to drop for tuition/fees refund
August 24: Last day to drop/add
Sept. 16: Last day to withdraw without academic penalty
October 12: Last day of classes

Passion of the Western Mind

MLS610   CRN 84161


Click here for syllabus.

Click here for the course's book list.

There are many big stories in the history of western civilization, stories that unfold over centuries and across many periods of western history. This is one of them. It has to do with the formation of an enduring world view that connects human beings in intimate ways to the universe and proves a sense of meaning to human existence. This worldview also furnishes a direction and goal for human activity. Or, to put it another way, gives human existence purpose.

This worldview in its essential elements takes shape in the world of ancient Greece in the late 5th and 4th centuries BC and it lasts for nearly 2000 years in one form or another. We might thus see it as "the western outlook." But for a number of reasons, this worldview collapses—ends up being impossible to sustain by the late 17th century. This collapse produces part 2 of our big story—the quest for a new, equally satisfying worldview with an equally compelling picture of human meaning and purpose. The quest has gone on now for 300 years without success. These are the stories we will explore in this class.

Stephen Ruzicka (Ph.D., University of Chicago) is an esteemed historian and professor with a career in publishing and teaching spanning more than 35 years. Dr. Ruzicka has taught history at UNCG since 1980, and his research specializations include Ancient History, Classics, Early Christian Literature, and World History. A contributor to various academic journals and publications, his most recent book is Trouble in the West: The Persian Empire and Egypt, 525-332 B.C.

The Contemporary World

MLS610   CRN 81771


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This course will examine contemporary global issues with a focus on the post-World War II period, from the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan in August 1945, to the complex, high-tech, evolving world of today. We will, as much as possible, view changes in the postwar period from the point of view of those undergoing them, including students in this course. Everyone has an "historical consciousness," an understanding of the way the world became what it is today. The main purpose of this course is to introduce students to alternative ways of interpreting history by weighing the merits of differing points of view. We will examine the world by regions, with a number of themes in mind: the Cold War; the rise and fall of communism; nationalism; de-colonization/neo-colonialism; the international economy; racial, ethnic, and religious conflict; the rise of terrorism; gender; class; and environmental issues. You should take from the course the skills to critically appraise varying historical arguments and to clearly express your own interpretation.

Ann Saab (Ph.D., Harvard) is Professor Emeritus of History at UNCG. She has served as Associate Dean of the UNCG Graduate School and Head of the History Department. Her research interests focus on cross-cultural understanding and misunderstandings.

Systems Thinking

MLS620   CRN 86510


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The purpose of this course is to familiarize you with the theories behind systems thinking and the practical methods of synthesis and analysis that have developed alongside systems thinking’s theoretical constructions. The course is designed as an online seminar with a praxeological element. In the course you will develop case studies based on systems methods of investigation. You also will be engaging in reading, in-depth discussion, and writing on the nature of systems thinking, its orientation, range of applicability, and worldview. The primary goal of the course is for you to become competent in applying the tools of systems thinking to real world systemic problems in order to enact genuine, lasting change.

Bennett H. Ramsey (Ph.D., M.Div., Untion Theological Seminary in New York) Dr Ramsey is Associater Professor of Religious Studies at UNCG. His current research interests are in spirituality and politics..

Reason to Relativity: Revolutions in Scientific Thought

MLS630    CRN 84163


Click here for TENTATIVE syllabus.

For centuries Aristotle's interpretation of the physical world stood as the gold standard. It shaped how generations of scholars and scientists saw and described their own world—until Newton arrived on the scene. Much later, Einstein filled in the gaps that Newton's vision didn't adequately explain. Today, Einstein's theories are being simultaneously verified and challenged by the next generation of scientists. This dynamic process has had its ups and downs since Aristotle's time—both revolutionary and evolutionary—while the search for truth goes valiantly on. Our goal is to view discoveries and revelations in the context of both their historical and scientific importance and discover what prompted great minds to take these leaps forward.

Bob Miller (Ph.D., Illinois Institute of Technology) is Professor Emeritus of Chemistry. As Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences he was instrumental in the founding of the MALS program in 1985.

2016 Fall Ten Week Classes: September 12–November 22

Dates to Remember

September 12: Classes begin
September 14: Last day to drop/add
October 12-13: Fall break
October 14: Last day to withdraw without academic penalty
November 22: Last day of classes

Clue: Detective and Mystery Fiction

MLS610    CRN 84162


Click here for syllabus.

Who done it, how, and why? Those are the questions that pull us into the mystery. In Clue: Detective and Mystery Fiction, you’ll have a chance to answer those questions about mystery fiction itself. How does the mystery writer draw us in and capture us as readers? And as you investigate the hows and whys of the genre, you’ll have a chance to get acquainted (or reacquainted) with the greatest detectives—Auguste Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, Hercule Poirot—and some of the most intriguing mysteries in fiction, including Poe’s "Murders in the Rue Morgue," Conan Doyle’s "Silver Blaze," Agatha Christie’s The Murder of Roger Ackroyd, and Dorothy Sayer’s Oxford classic, Gaudy Night. Along the way, you will investigate crimes that have horrified the public (Jack the Ripper) and learn about forensic techniques as well. Come join us online for this "ripping good time" in literary investigation.

Joseph Rosenblum (Ph.D., Duke University) grew up in Connecticut in a family where the greatest sin was raising one's voice, though buying retail ran a close second. In 1990, he won second prize in the Oxford University Press English Detective Fiction contest with a story about a thief who leaves Shakespearean quotations in lieu of the objects he steals.

2016 Second Fall Session: October 13–December 8

Dates to Remember

October 13: Classes begin
October 15: Last day to drop for tuition/fees refund
October 17: Last day to drop/add
November 9: Last day to drop without academic penalty
December 8: Last day of classes

Design Thinking

MLS610    CRN 81765


Click here for syllabus.

Design Thinking
Graduate Course Description
Dr. Charlie Headington
Master of Liberal Studies

Design Thinking is a human-centered approach to problem-solving and innovation. It solves complex problems like a failing business, an outdated curriculum, inaccessible health services, launching a new product, switching to sustainable practices, and starting a new enterprise. It is being used by teachers, business people, designers, social entrepreneurs and activists for developing meaningful and useful responses to contemporary challenges.

Design thinking is unique among methods of innovation by putting the user first. A New York Times article described design thinking thusly, “You look at problems first through the prism of user’s needs, research those needs with real people and then build prototype products quickly.” Thus empathy or an empathetic understanding of the users is paramount.

In other works, DT upends normal innovation by putting the user in the foreground. They, the users, continue to collaborate with the designers until the product or service is just right for their needs. That insures the user’s satisfaction and the designer’s success.

The process used in this course moves from Inspiration to Ideation to Implementation. And you’ll be introduced to a set of tools that put these concepts in motion. Your main text will remain a trustworthy guide in this course and future innovations.

During these seven weeks you’ll move from user’s needs to entertaining diverse solutions, choosing and developing the best, and finally launching one. You’ll be immersed in design thinking, all the time being in dialogue with others and your professor. Your goal is to bring your project to the implementation stage. There are no formal papers.

Text The Field Guide to Human-Centered Design by IDEO. org (978-0-9914063-1-9)

Charlie Headington (Ph.D., University of Chicago) teaches a variety of courses at UNCG and in the community. Most of them encourage people to examine themselves and society, and make constructive changes in how they think and live. He likes to garden, walk, cook, be with his family, and learn Italian.

Voices from Latin America

MLS610    CRN 85338


Click here for syllabus.

"Voices from Latin America: The Modern Period" aims to educate students about contemporary Latin American society and culture from the perspective of historical memory. After brief explorations of Latin America's modern history and historiography, the course delves into the study of historical memories of the Cold War period in two Latin American countries: Chile and Guatemala. The course looks at the relation between history and memory through documentary films, a classic novel, and some scholarly sources. For the final project students will have the opportunity to create an electronic portfolio based on one of the Latin American countries using the online service

John C. Chasteen, Born in Blood in Fire, 3rd edition (WWNorton, 2011)
James A. Wood, Problems in Modern Latin American History, 4th edition (Rowman and Littlefield, 2014).
Gabriel Garcia Marquez, One Hundred Years of Solitude, any paperback edition will do (recommend Harper Perennial reprint edition of 2006 translated by Gregory Rabassa).

James A. Wood (Ph.D., University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) is professor of Latin American history. He teaches courses in Latin American history, modern world history, and historical research methods at NC A&T University. His book, The Society of Equality: Popular Republicanism and Democracy in Santiago de Chile, 1818-1851, earned honorable mention from SECOLAS’s Alfred B. Thomas Award Committee in 2012. Wood’s most recent publication is a new edition of the popular reader, Problems in Modern Latin American History: Sources and Interpretations, 4th edition.

The Global Economy

MLS620    CRN 81776


Click here for TENTATIVE syllabus.

For the past decade or so, “globalization” has been the media buzzword used to describe changes in the U.S. and world economies, perhaps second in recent years only to “the New Economy” in frequency of use. For the most part, this discussion of globalization has focused on changes that seem apparent in contrast to the period following WWII. According to one popular version of this story, in the 1970s the barriers to cross-border trade and financial transactions began to come down. By the late 1990s, as one commentator put it, we lived on the cusp of a “borderless world” where people, information, equipment and ideas would flow freely. In this context, it was imagined, the world would prosper as never before.

During the post-war period, global cross-border trade and financial transactions were a fraction of what they are today. For many developed countries, the increased trade of the past few decades has meant a decline in the importance of manufacturing, as production of everything from cars to shoes has moved to places where labor was relatively cheap. For a few developing countries, this has meant increased investment from rich developed nations. But for many—especially countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, to say nothing of the ex-manufacturing sectors of the developed world—so called “globalization” has bought few, if any, of the beneficial effects once imagined. Or so it would seem.

This course begins where the theory of the global economy and its reality meet. In general, the course highlights the theory of free trade, since it is on the back of this theory that the promise of globalization—or we might say, economic liberalization—rests. As we will see, the most recent episode of economic liberalization is but a small part of the whole story, although our recent experiences can tell us a good deal about how free trade might or might not work, and for whose benefit. The course is divided into eight basic units, each exploring an important topic for understanding the global economy.

Jeff Sarbaum (Ph.D., SUNY Binghamton) is Lecturer of Economics at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro. He has specialized in experimental, labor international and urban economics and is an award-winning economics teacher.