Humanities (MA)

Consulting With Your Adviser

You should seek an advisor as soon as possible after beginning the program. You may seek advice from the graduate coordinator, the chair or any faculty member in the program about who might be the most appropriate adviser for you. Your adviser will work with you to plan your graduate program, discuss any problems you might encounter and serve as a liaison with the Division of Graduate Studies. 



As you take additional classes in the program and get to know members of the faculty, you will naturally turn to several of them for advice, and it may turn out that someone other than your original adviser is the best person to sponsor your thesis or other culminating project. You should always feel free to consult the graduate coordinator, the chair or any faculty member in the program about your progress toward the degree. 



Graduate work in the humanities can be an intellectual adventure of incomparable value, but handling the nuances of administrative forms and formalities can be frustrating to the student who tries to go it alone. See your adviser regularly, and tell him or her of any change in your graduate study plans before you take action. A half-hour consultation can save you a month of frustration. 


Your choice of how best to complete the degree depends on your reasons for pursuing it in the first place. Some students see this degree as a step toward acceptance into a competitive Ph.D. degree program and an eventual academic career, while others pursue it to enhance a career in K – 12 teaching or in another professional field. Still, others see it primarily as an opportunity for personal intellectual development. We believe that all of these motivations are equally valid, and we strongly urge you to consult an adviser well before you actually have to make the decision.

The Graduate Approved Program (GAP)

After completing 12 units of graduate studies, and at least one semester before you intend to file for graduation, you must file an ATC (Advancement to Candidacy) Approved Program (GAP) with the Division of Graduate Studies. The ATC lists all the courses completed, in progress or planned for the Master’s degree, your language proficiency or auxiliary skill and the culminating experience you have chosen (thesis or comprehensive exam).

You should work closely with your adviser to ensure that everything you intend to list on the GAP has the approval of the department. Do not list any additional courses beyond the minimum necessary for the degree. 

The form must be signed by the graduate coordinator and the department chair.

Check the University Calendar for GAP deadlines, normally in late September for spring graduation and mid-April for summer or fall. If you change your plan of study after you have filed your GAP, you must file a GAP substitution form.

Culminating Experience

The Proposal for Culminating Experience Form (also available in ADM 254) includes a summary of your plans for the culminating experience and the signatures of the members of your committee. You should file it in the semester before you enroll in an 898, 895 or 896. Check the University Calendar for the exact deadlines, normally in late September for spring graduation and mid-April for summer or fall graduation.

If you change your plans for your final project, thesis topic or any of the members of your committee, you must file a new Proposal for Culminating Experience. When you are thinking about a possible culminating experience project, remember that faculty members are experts in particular fields of study, and that if you propose a project in an area in which no one on our faculty has the appropriate expertise, you will have difficulty in assembling your committee. This is why it is so important to seek faculty advice and commitments to your project at an early stage, and to be in touch with the members of your committee — especially your committee chair/first reader — at every stage of your work. 


For more information visit the Division of Graduate Studies website.

Sponsored Study (Humanities 898 or 896)

Because the term sponsored study emphasizes the collaborative intellectual relationship between a faculty member and a graduate student, it is the School of Humanities and Liberal Studies’ preferred term for the culminating experience that the University requires for the completion of the M.A. degree. As you take courses toward the degree, you should be planning ahead for your sponsored study, considering not only the topic or specific texts on which you would like to work, but also who your sponsor will be and whether to do a thesis or a comprehensive examination.



The advantage of sponsored study is that the length, scope and organization of your final project are worked out in the course of your work with your first reader and the other members of your committee.

Grading of Sponsored Study

The M.A. thesis (898) is graded credit/no credit. The comprehensive written and oral examination on directed study (896) is graded with a letter grade. If you need to extend your enrollment in any of these courses beyond one semester, and if in your sponsor’s judgment you have made reasonable progress, you will be given a grade of SP (satisfactory progress), which will be changed to the appropriate CR/NC or letter grade upon completion of all requirements for the degree.

See the requirements for more details on thesis writing and oral defense.