Doctor of Liberal Studies

The College of Professional & Liberal Studies at the University of Memphis is pleased to offer a Doctor of Liberal Studies (DLS) degree. The University of Memphis becomes only the third school in the nation to offer this terminal degree which allows participants to design their own interdisciplinary doctoral program focused on areas of interest to the student. 

For more information on this exciting new program, please contact College of Professional & Liberal Studies at 901.678.2716 or cplsgrad@memphis.edu.

Program Details

Because each DLS student follows a unique course of study (see examples), students work with academic advisors to develop a curriculum proposal that satisfies both the interdisciplinary intent of the DLS program and the Graduate School's requirements for graduation. Students may choose to create a campus or online course of study. 

Every DLS student is required to complete and submit a Coordinated Study grid before being admitted to the program. The Coordinated Study grid is a planning document that students use to identify the classes that will constitute their degree. Students may combine courses from any two or more disciplines with guidance and approval from an academic advisor. Please contact your advisor for any questions about the Coordinated Study grid.

Students will complete twenty-one (21) hours of College of Professional & Liberal Studies core requirements, and thirty-three (33) hours for the Coordinated Study. No more than 18 credit hours may come from any single department, and a maximum of 12 credits of Experiential Learning Credit can be applied to the degree. All courses must be at the Graduate level and at least 27 hours must be at the 7000-level or above.  Each student completes a Coordinated Study grid before starting the program by selecting from two or more disciplines. That grid serves as a working agreement between the student and the College of Professional & Liberal Studies. The Coordinated Study grid must also identify at least three alternative courses that could be taken in the event that any of the student's primary course selections are not offered during the term of the student's enrollment.

At the time of admission to the DLS program, the students advisor approves the course of study as reflected on the Coordinated Study Grid that accompanies the application essay. Students then enroll each semester in available courses from the approved plan in a sequence of study. Within two weeks after the start of the final semester, students will submit a final program proposal that reiterates the student's academic goals (if necessary, reflecting any changes that have developed since admission) and identifies the Coordinated Study courses actually completed. Major deviations from the original approved plan require department pre-approval and will be addressed at the time of registration each semester.

Students enrolled in the DLS degree will earn a total of 54 hours of post-master's coursework at the 7000 and/or 8000 course level, successfully complete comprehensive exams and defend the Dissertation/Capstone Project. The 54 hours include two segments: the DLS Core and the Coordinated Study.

The DLS Core is required of all students, and consists of twenty-one (21) designated credit hours:

UNIV 8000 - Foundations in Liberal Studies (3 hours)
UNIV 8100 - Research in Interdisciplinary Studies (3 hours)
UNIV 8200 - Liberal Studies Seminar (3 hours)
UNIV 8111 - Data-Based Decision Making (3 hours)
UNIV 8990 - Prospectus Design (3 hours)
UNIV 9000 - Dissertation / Capstone Project (6 hours)

Applying for Admission to the Program

Applications for the Fall semester must be received by August 1; Spring semester by December 1; and Summer term by May 1.

All applicants must have earned a Master's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. college or university, with a cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 3.25 on a 4.0 scale in all earned graduate coursework. International Master's degrees will be evaluated on an individual basis. Applicants are selected on a competitive basis, so admission is not guaranteed to all applicants who meet only the minimum requirements and the college will not comment on the reasons for individual applicant's admission or lack thereof. Since all College of Professional & Liberal Studies Graduate Programs aim to produce lifelong learners and competitive members of the workforce, applicants' submitted materials are scrutinized not only for content and but also for presentation, organization, professionalism, and compliance with the program's specific application instructions, which are listed below.

For those wishing to apply for the Graduate Teaching Assistantships with the DLS program, please contact Dr. Colin Chapell at colin.chapell@memphis.edu. These competitive assistantships will provide tuition plus a $12,000 annual stipend (dispersed in eight payments throughout the academic year). GTA responsibilities will include teaching undergraduate courses commensurate with qualifications as well as other administrative responsibilities.

To apply for this program, you will need to complete an application, which will require the following documents:

    • Personal Statement: Include a professional 1-2 page statement explaining why the DLS is the most appropriate degree for you.You may include a summary of your professional work experience along with a detailed statement of educational and professional goals.
    • CV/Resume: Please include your most updated CV/Resume with your application.
    • Recommendation Letters: Applicants must submit at least three official letters of recommendation, preferably from a previous instructor who can attest to the student's capacity for graduate work OR a professional supervisor who can attest to your work ethic. All recommendation letters must meet College of Professional & Liberal Studies requirements or they will not be accepted.
    • Coordinated Study Grid: Applicants must submit a completed Coordinated Study grid detailing the intended course of study. These are courses you believe will support your interdiscplinary prorgam of study. Please note that your Coordinated Study cannot replicate an existing degree at the university. The Graduate Catalog lists all graduate level courses.
    • Writing Sample: Applicants must submit an original research-based writing sample of 20-30 pages in length produced within the last 10 years.

For technical questions regarding the application, please contact UM Graduate School Customer Support with the following information:

  • Your name
  • Current program or program of interest
  • Your UID from UofM and/or UniCAS ID number if available

Phone: 901.678.3685
Email: graduateadmissions@memphis.edu 

For questions regarding admission requirements, please contact the College of Professional & Liberal Studies Graduate Programs: cplsgrad@memphis.edu 

The DLS program does not require the GRE for admission. However, if you have taken the GRE or any similar entrance exam, please submit your scores in your application.

Applicants may also be required an interview for this program. If deemed necessary, the interview will be scheduled as a component of the application process prior to the acceptance. Interviews are conducted in person or by video conference.

Only after your application is completed and all required documents are submitted will a final decision be made on the application. Please note that the Graduate School will notify applicants once a decision has been reached.