Shaping Lives and Empowering the Community

Jul 23, 2021

New Masters of Professional Studies

The discussion with Mitra Emad, associate professor in anthropology, was held on a sunny morning in UMD’s Kathryn A. Martin library. Students perused the stacks of books. The wooden tables gleamed, and the Chihuly glass sculpture in the atrium reflected the bright light.

It was a fitting setting for conversations about the new Masters of Professional Studies in Multidisciplinary Research & Creativity (MPS). Emad, who co-designed the curriculum with with David Syring, professor of anthropology and now the director of the MPS program, says the new degree, “will give students the confidence and skills to be able to make changes in their lives.”

The new master's degree was developed for Duluth community members and UMD students who are interested in furthering their careers. Enrollees will be encouraged to pursue individual interests or passions.

David Syring and Mitra Emad

Emad, along with Syring, designed this program in the fall of 2019 hoping to reach a variety of individuals, not only in the Duluth community, but also all over the country, and the world. Emad says, “This is a program that provides intellectual stimulation, opportunities to advance in a career, and even provides an opportunity to move into another career.”

Students will choose which courses they need to take. Syring says, "Students can complete a number of possible final projects, one of which could be to design and put into practice a project plan (such as a development plan for a museum). But students may also create art, poetry, or photography exhibits; design a yoga course to to be delivered for a local nonprofit focused on kids programming; create videos to assist the deaf community in learning about end-of-life options; design a conflict resolution workshop for student leaders; and a number of other possibilities."

Students take three core classes (Theories and Methods of Graduate Studies, International Perspectives, and Community Engagement), and then consult with program faculty to build their course of study by drawing on disciplines that are relevant to their questions and interests. The course of study is customized to the student's individual professional goals. Faculty and learners work intensively one-on-one to plan meaningful programs for each student.

Launching MPS

In 2019, the program name changed from Masters of Liberal Studies (MLS) to MPS to emphasize wider interests than just liberal studies. The hope in changing the name was to appeal to Duluth area community members, undergraduate students, and others all over the world. 

MPS launched its program in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, that did not stop Emad and Syring from creating this special opportunity. Emad says, “I really wanted this program to reach the community.” The program (with 30 total credits) is designed to be completed in 2-3 years. Emad says the design is rigorous and flexible, “The vision is something that I think can stay for a long time.”


In spring 2021, the Board of Regents approved a new tuition structure for professional masters' programs, such as MPS. Whether a student is a resident or nonresident of the state of Minnesota, the cost for MPS is $703.50/credit. All University of Minnesota employees can take advantage of the Regents Scholarship program for a substantial cost reduction on tuition. University for Seniors participants can also study in the MPS program for a very low cost. UMD has a unique program to offer to professionals regardless of the state of origin.

The MPS program builds on UMD's strength. It offers high-quality programing that meets the needs of a changing world.

Tuition information:

For more information contact: Dr. David Syring, director of graduate studies, [email protected], or Andrea Sande, graduate program coordinator, [email protected].

The UMD MPS Program

This story was written by Maija Johnson, who is majoring in journalism. Maija works with Cheryl Reitan in University Marketing and Public Relations