Program Structure & Requirements

Fountain in front of building

Structure of the Program

Our program is part-time, to accommodate the needs of busy adults.

  • Evening classes are offered once a week on the Stanford campus (usually 7:00-9:30pm).
  • Most students take one class per quarter.
  • The program is completed in four or five years.
  • Small seminars (most are limited to 20 or fewer students) make for greater individual attention.
  • Seminars are taught by Stanford faculty.

Degree Requirements

Students in the MLA Program complete a minimum of 50 units of coursework, exploring a range of subjects rather than focusing narrowly on a single topic. This approach provides the broad perspective that will lead the student to an interdisciplinary master's thesis, an in-depth study of a single subject, which serves as the culmination of graduate study.

Students have a minimum of four years and a maximum of five years to complete the program.



Foundation Sequence12
Intro to Graduate Studies4
7 Seminars28
Master's Thesis6

Core Curriculum

Students begin the program by taking the core curriculum.

The first year, the incoming cohort looks together at the broad framework of history, literature, philosophy, political science, geography, economics, art, and the sciences in our sequence of three Foundations courses, which lay the groundwork for interdisciplinary study.

During the first quarter of the second year, students take Introduction to Interdisciplinary Graduate Study, in which they participate in a collaborative seminar, conduct library and archival research, write a critical graduate paper, and present the results of their research.


After completing the core curriculum, students take seven graduate seminars, which provide the opportunity to participate in small group settings for discussions, debate, and intellectual exploration. These can be fulfilled by MLA seminars for all seven courses, or by taking six MLA seminars and one Stanford departmental graduate seminar. Each seminar requires a significant seminar paper.

The seminars offered are different every year, though some seminars are repeated every two or three years. They include offerings from various disciplines, including anthropology, classics, cultural studies, history, literature, music, environmental science, history of science, diversity studies, political science, philosophy, and psychology. Between two and four seminars are offered each quarter.

Master's Thesis

The MLA Program culminates in the master's thesis. After completing core and seminar work, students write a 75- to 100-page thesis, which evolves out of work they’ve pursued during their MLA seminars. The thesis is undertaken with the prior approval of the MLA Program; a Stanford faculty member with relevant experience advises each student.

While writing the thesis, students meet regularly with a work-in-progress group, which offers peer critiques, motivation, and advice under the direction of the Associate Dean and the MLA Writing Consultant. Each student presents the penultimate draft of the thesis to a colloquium of MLA faculty and students, in preparation for revising and submitting the final draft.

Academic Advising

Students in the MLA Program receive individual attention and supportive academic advising throughout their time at Stanford.

Pre-thesis Advising

Incoming students are assigned a faculty adviser who is part of the MLA Faculty Advisory Committee. Students are encouraged to consult with their adviser prior to enrolling in courses. First-year students also meet with the Associate Dean and Director at the beginning of their first year, and at its completion.

Thesis Advising

After their thesis topics have been approved by the MLA Advisory Committee, students are assigned a Stanford faculty member with relevant expertise, who will work closely with them on the further development and research of the thesis.

Writing Consultation

The MLA Writing Instructor is able to assist students with individual writing concerns.

Program Advising

Throughout their time in the Program, students have the support and guidance of the Associate Dean in academic concerns, and the Associate Director in business matters.

Stanford campus