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Core Course

New students should plan to enroll in an MLAS Core Course as one of their first three courses. The Core Course is an interdisciplinary graduate seminar designed and required for MLAS students in the early phase of their graduate studies, examining a topic, theme, or event from multiple perspectives within the liberal arts.

As a premier academic and research institution, Vanderbilt University has an obligation to model, teach, and actively promote the responsible conduct of research in scholarship. Research integrity is fundamental to good research and crosses all disciplines and areas of focus. The Core Course is the principal way MLAS students are formally taught the concepts associated with integrity in scholarship because it engages topics such as research misconduct (including fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism); conflicts of interest; and data acquisition, management, sharing, and ownership.

An example of a Core Course would be an interdisciplinary seminar concentrating on the 1893 World’s Columbia Exposition in Chicago, an event that offers a multiplicity of subjects to study. From a literary standpoint, Frank Norris’ The Pit: A Story of Chicago and other works might be examined. From a sociological perspective, there was a large influx of farmers and immigrants into the city. From an economic perspective, the depression in the 1890’s led to massive social displacement, adversely affected many, providing an impetus to many social innovations, like Hull House and other social welfare programs. It was the age of Chicago-Boss politics and the Age of Muckraking in journalism. It was the beginning of the skyscraper and profound changes in many of the arts. Students in this Core Course would explore these and other topics subsumed under the theme of the Chicago Exposition.

Another example would be a Core Course on the Panama Canal, investigating the history, science, sociology, politics, and literature associated with the construction of the canal. In other words, rather than a strict emphasis on a single discipline, the Core Course sets out to introduce students to the interdisciplinary perspective of the MLAS program.

Practically, the Core Course also concentrates on the skills and information MLAS students will need to pursue graduate work at Vanderbilt: writing a critical and analytical graduate research paper, conducting library research, and contributing to the seminar discussion. By enrolling in this course early in their MLAS career, students will be familiarized with graduate-level research strategies, responsible conduct of research, and the research resources central to the liberal arts. An important aim of this course is focus on the range of current research methods and the writing skills necessary for graduate study.

Both academically and practically, the new MLAS student will be amply prepared for the subsequent coursework in the program after completing a Core Course. The course will be conducted by a noted Vanderbilt professor, and there may be guest speakers, as the occasion and course material allow.

Because of the interdisciplinary focus and innovative design of each Core Course , it is possible for MLAS students over the period of their studies to enroll in more than one Core Course. However, priority for enrollment will be given to MLAS students in the initial stages of their involvement in the program; others may enroll, provided there is available space in the course.