Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) - The Committee's Page


Our first words to you as GLS Final Project Committee members are: Thank you! You have committed a significant chunk of your valuable time to helping one of our students reach the final milestone of his or her academic journey to the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS) degree. We very much appreciate that commitment and, hopefully, this web page will make your task simpler.



In order to ascertain whether or not you will agree to work with a student on his or her final project, it is a good idea to assess the student's experience and capability in his or her chosen topic. For example, if a student approaches you with the idea to write a collection of short fictional stories, it is appropriate to ask the student for a writing sample of fiction in order to inform your decision. Similarly, if the student wishes to write a scholarly paper, you should discuss his or her experience with research and critical reading in the topic and review an example of the student's scholarly writing.

Please keep in mind that as a director, you guide the scope of the project. According to GLS final project guidelines, a scholarly paper must meet a minimum of 40 pages. A creative work's scope has no set page minimum, since the project is informed by the form of the proposed project; however, a rule of thumb for a written creative project (a collection of poems, short stories or essays; a novel or hybrid work, etc.) would likely be about the same-at least 40 pages of creative content-and must also include an artist's statement that meets a 15 page minimum. We encourage you to get in touch with us (Program Director Patricia Turrisi and Assistant Director Ashley Hudson - contact information at with any questions about the proposed project in order to aid your decision.


Once committed, we recommend as your first step that you become familiar with what we expect from the student. A careful read of our web page titled "MALS Final Project Instructions" located at will provide this familiarization.



Director and Reader

Director - Working with the student with a primary role of an advisory consultant ensuring the fluency and quality of the final project as well as expediting the timely completion of the project by establishing a project timetable.
Reader - Provides feedback and approval of the project as and when requested. The level of involvement of the reader is a matter of negotiation between the student, director, and reader. On one hand, some may wait until the student has written an acceptable, or even final, draft of the project before forwarding a copy of the draft to the reader for his or her feedback and approval. On the other hand, some may choose to involve the reader from the very outset of the planning and drafting process.

Student and Committee

Committees for Final Projects are due on the first day of class of the semester that the student intends to graduate. Once turned-in and approved, both the student and the committee are responsible one to the other for completing revisions and tasks competently and on-time. The project timetable mentioned above should be met; if not, it should be revised as needed and the revision met.

Artistic or Scholarly??

It's a good idea, even before you accept the director responsiblities, to ascertain not only the subject of the final project, but also its scope and direction. Two paths are possible:

Artistic (Creative)

The final project can be, e.g., a personal memoir; a collection of short fiction, poetry, or personal essays; a travel narrative; a family history; a documentary or narrative film; a series of original musical compositions; an original dance performance; or an exhibition of original paintings or photographs, etc., This list is not intended to limit the possibilities, but rather to illustrate them.

In the case of a artistic work, a written analysis is required. Such a written analysis most likely would assume the form of an "artist's statement," in which the student provides a profile of his or her background in the project medium; describes various factors and influences that figured into the focus of the project; reconstructs various stages in the completion of the project; discusses any special challenges involved in the completion of the project; assesses the personal significance, meaning, and value of the project; and speculates, as relevant, on any future exhibition or performative venues for the project. Note: This "artist's statement" must be formatted in the same manner as a scholarly thesis.

Scholarly (research):

A written work advancing an original point of view as a result of research. Most traditional disciplines require such a work as the capstone experience of the academic journey to the degree. This work must meet all the usual requirements for a formal thesis. Specific guidance as to format will be found in the MALS Final Project Formatting Requirements Manual.

Stepping Out

Final Project Proposal (w/form)

This document is due very early in the semester. It comes first to you and then a week later, to the GLS Program Director. When submitted to the Program Director, it must be accompanied with the required form signed by you and the reader(s). By signing it, you have agreed that the proposal is reasonable and valid and that you will act as the student's project director (or reader). For details on how it's to be structured, please see Section IV of the web page. Note: If distance or other factors make the signature an issue, an approval email to the GLS Program Director will suffice as a signature on the form.

Obviously, a clear and coherent proposal is a necessary prelude to a successful final project. However, probably the most important part of the proposal is the timeline to completion. A reasonable timeline, developed using the deadline dates published in Section IX of this web page by the GLS Program must be developed and followed as well as circumstances permit.Timely submission of the final project proposal, with its covering form, is required.


Depending on the timeline developed with the student, several versions of the final project may have been reviewed by this point. However, that may not be the case. To cover the case when no version reviews have taken place, we have the deadline titled "Due date for submission of first draft of GLS 598 final projects to final project directors for Spring 2014 graduates." This deadline is established at approximately the midpoint of the semester and is intended primarily as a reminder for the student and director to review progress. If the first draft doesn't yet exist, there may be problems. If the director (and/or the student) feel that progress is not sufficient to reasonably expect a completion in the current semester, the final project should be postponed until the next or later semester. Please note that postponement, especially from the first semester's attempt, is not unusual. There are, however, administrative requirements that must be completed to accomplish said postponement. Please ask the student to contact Rachel Gentry (910.962.3590 - for assistance in completing these actions.

The Ending

The Written

Once the final project director, the reader, and the student agree that the written product is very close, if not perfect, a properly formatted and signed "review copy" must be submitted to the GLS Director for review and approval. Achieving an acceptable review copy can be difficult and time consuming. Directors should advise the student to allow for ample time to format the project correctly following the guidelines in the formatting manual. Although it is the student's responsibility to ensure the written product is properly formatted, our final project deadlines specify that the director and the student ensure that the final project review copy meets all formatting requirements. This formatting review should take place about one week prior to the submission of the final project review copy to the GLS Director.

The usual deadline for submission of the review copy is three weeks before the end of classes in the semester of enrollment. As with the final project proposal, the signature requirement on the review copy title page can be met by an email from the committee member to the GLS Director indicating approval.

Sometime during the three weeks, the GLS Director will review the written work. This review will result in one of the three emails delinated below being sent to the student. The project director and the GLS Program Assistant will also receive copies.

  1. The email will indicate that there are no errors in the written work and the student may proceed to the oral final defense.
  2. The email will indicate that although there are errors in the written work, the student may proceed to the oral final defense if/when the specified errors are corrected.
  3. The email will indicate that there are many significant errors in the writted work. If reasonable, they will be specified in the email. In any case, the review copy will be returned and must be resubmitted after the specified errors have been corrected. The student may not go to the oral defense until the re-review has been done and the project is approved. Once approved, the student may proceed to the final defense.

In instances 1. and 2. above, once all errors are corrected, the student must prepare the three binding copies and bring these copies to the final defense for signature by the committee. In instance 3., the binding copies are also made, and signed at the oral defense, but not until final approval has been made.

The Oral


As the oral defense is essentially a guaranteed pass, the committee should not permit the student to go to the oral defense unless they are satisfied that a reasonable and proper oral defense will be made.

Location and Scheduling

After the written review copy has been submitted, but before it is approved, the student can and should coordinate possible dates/times of the oral defense with the committee. The GLS Program Assistant will, at the student's request, tentatively reserve the GLS Conference Room for the defense. If the written project is not approved by the date/time of the tentative reservation, a new date/time must be set.

When the written review copy is approved, the student, after coordinating with his committee, can arrange a room reservation with the GLS Program Assistant or make a previously tentative arrangement permanent.

All MALS oral defenses, unless the student expects more than 14 attendees, are held in Bear 110 (GLS Conference Room). If a committee member is a UNCW faculty person and wishes to arrange the defense in a room of his or her department, he or she should notify the GLS Program Assistant.

Defenses can, at need, be held in Jacksonville (normally Onslow County Extension students). The UNCW Extension Program Office (910.455.2310) is the appropriate point-of-contact. Room requests must identify any equipment needs.

Remote defenses are also possible for students or committee members. If one person (or a group of persons at one location) are remotely located, Skype is generally used to establish the remote participation. If there are more than one remote entities, arrangements can be made to use WebEx. As much advance notification as possible is desirable to enable appropriate room arrangements to be made.


Each committee member is asked to assess our program. There are two assessment tools. One is oriented to the "artistic" final project; the other towards the "scholarly" final project. The appropriate forms will be provided to committee members either at the oral defense or via email shortly thereafter. Committee members are asked to return the assessments to the GLS Program Director within 5 working days after the oral defense.

For specifics on the assessment process, please click on the Student Learning Outcomes Assessment Summary.


Click on "Testimonials" above to review submissions by Michelle Bliss and Ashley Hudson. Stay tuned -- more to follow.

Last Update: November 17, 2017