Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
 

Maureen Lafferty

Maureen Lafferty
Here, the process is as
important as the
outcome. It's like the
difference between a
meal you cook with
your friends and a meal
that you go out to eat
at a restaurant. They
could both be excellent
meals, but the one
you cooked is more
satisfying. It matters
that you made it.

Maureen has spent the past 13 years at L.L. Bean, the last four as an Organization Development Consultant. Before choosing the MALS program, she had looked at MBA programs in Organizational Design, but found them too narrow. "I'd already learned a lot about how organizations work. What I wanted to find out is what's behind the ways that organizations act." Maureen focused her program on questions of how businesses confront their social responsibility, incorporating coursework in ethics, environmental sociology, world religions, and economics.

Each of my independent studies had a distinct flavor, depending on who was involved. They all started out in a conversation, with the professor asking me about who I am, what my overall plans are for my master's program, what I want to get from the course we're going to do together. Some professors followed up with a pretty formal syllabus that spelled out the course readings and assignments; others waited to see how things went, changing paths as my own interest in the subject shifted and clarified, as I grew more sure of how this course could fit into the rest of my master's program.

No matter how differently they directed the independent studies, all of my professors were the same in the sense that not one of them let me off the hook. They kept asking me hard questions, the kind that forced me to identify what most made me wonder about the subject we were studying, what I really wanted to figure out. They insisted that this education had to come from me.

To be honest, after I took a few independent studies, the in-class courses were a lot easier. There were times - and my husband could tell you all about them - when I wished that I was in a traditional graduate program, where I could just sit back in class and be spoon-fed what somebody told me. But the MALS program showed me how different going to school can be when you're not reading books or writing papers because the professor has told you to. When you're learning something because you want to use it, because you want to put it to your own purposes.

When I started at Skidmore, I was afraid that my program might wander too widely. I'm the kind of person who could have a great time studying almost anything. What I've really appreciated about the MALS program is how it has let me hold on to that breadth, while keeping me contained enough to feel like I've really accomplished something. When I'm at the end of my program, I won't just be finished. I'll have completed something.

This program isn't about being in school for two, or three, or four years and then having a degree at the end of it. Here, the process is as important as the outcome. Now that I'm finishing my master's, I realize that I've really created this degree. I haven't simply "earned" a degree that somebody else will present me with at graduation - I've worked closely with some wonderful, smart people and we've built this education together. It's like the difference between a meal you cook with your friends and a meal that you go out to eat at a restaurant. They could both be excellent meals, but the one you cooked is more satisfying. It matters that you made it.

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