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Student's Perspective on Master of Liberal Arts Degree

Photo of Raine Spencer In January, the Master of Liberal Arts program will begin offering classes at Johns Hopkins University Montgomery County Campus. Classes will be held in the evenings and on Saturdays. Students may also choose to complete some of their coursework at the Homewood campus in Baltimore.

The next information session is 6:15-7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12.

Hopkins Happenings asked a recent graduate of the Master of Liberal Arts program to explain how she benefited from the experience. Lorraine Spencer, 52, completed the degree in 2011. She majored in English literature and Computer and Information Sciences as an undergraduate. She is currently an IT manager at the Hopkins University Office of Continuing Medical Education.

Q. Why did you decide to pursue a Master of Liberal Arts degree?
A. Truthfully, I was bored. My job is mentally challenging, but it's always the same kind of problem solving. I needed a change, to be challenged in a different way.

Q. How did the program help you grow personally?
A. I have so much more confidence now. I feel more fully myself, if that makes any sense. There just isn't any way to get through the program without learning more about who you are. And the other students are all so amazing -- smart, creative people who are just interested in everything. I've made so many friends and had so much fun. We really are a tight-knit community.

Q. How did the program help you grow professionally?

A. I didn’t go into the MLA program expecting any benefits professionally; after all, I had been in the IT profession for over 25 years. What could the Liberal Arts do for me in my field? To my surprise, the changes have been amazing—more self-knowledge, mental flexibility, renewed confidence, increased communication skills, exposure to new ways of thinking and new ideas. My work has benefited tremendously. I am a better programmer and a better manager. My department has certainly noticed the difference; I’ve seen promotions and salary increases I would never have gotten in the past.

Q. How do you use what you learned in the MLA program on a day-to-day basis?
A. In what I do, being able to step back and look at the big picture is invaluable. I find I can do that more easily now. I see connections that I would have missed before. I am more mentally flexible. My writing is better. And I find that because I take the time to really listen to my colleagues and co-workers, the solutions I deliver are more successful.

Q. What was your favorite MLA course? Why?
A. People ask that all the time and it is nearly impossible to pick. Which kid is your favorite? Among my favorites were a class in Russian literature that really made me think about some of life's larger questions, a science fiction film class that was pure fun from start to finish and gave me an excuse to watch a lot of wonderful films with my son, and a course on modern sainthood, From Jerusalem to Graceland, that included a private after-hours tour of the Walters Museum with the museum director, and an Elvis impersonator performing a private show for our class.

Q. What would you say to someone considering this program?
A. Take a look at the course descriptions. If you do, and find it hard to choose because they all sound so interesting, this is the place for you. You won't be bored. You'll work harder than you thought you would. You'll learn more than you expected. You'll meet people you can't imagine not having in your life. You'll have fun. At some point you will wonder why you got into this. And you will never regret that you did.