Master of Arts Student Handbook

The Master of Arts in Hispanic Cultural Studies is a freestanding, one-year course of study that aims to provide students with a rigorous foundation on the critical issues attendant to the cultural production of Latin America and the Iberian Peninsula. The Master of Arts program may be undertaken as a preparatory degree to apply subsequently to doctoral programs in the field or as a terminal degree by those interested in pursuing careers in education, publishing, government, journalism, literary translation, or non-profit organizations. The program aims to attune students to key theoretical issues and to orient them toward cultural studies, as opposed to exclusively literary studies, from a transatlantic and interdisciplinary perspective.

The curriculum of the Master of Arts in Hispanic Cultural Studies comprises eight graduate courses at the 4000 level or higher. A minimum of two electives must be taken outside the department in related disciplines. The remaining elective courses consist of departmental offerings taught by the faculty of the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures (LAIC) and the Department of Spanish and Latin American Cultures at Barnard College. Interested students may also elect to take a yearlong course on the methodologies of teaching Spanish language and culture: "Theory & Practice of Second Language Teaching" (SPPO GR6001-02).  Most graduate-level seminars offered in the department are taught in Spanish and all requirements are in that language as well. MA Students will be supervised and advised by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) upon their arrival on campus. Every student must meet with the DGS before registering to decide on the courses best suited to his or her particular career goals.

Applicants are admitted as full-time students only and are expected to fulfill all requirements of the program in one academic year. The Master’s Essay must be completed and submitted for evaluation to the student’s adviser and to the Director of Graduate Studies by June 30th.

There is no financial aid from either the department or the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to pursue the MA in Hispanic Studies. For information about the costs associated with this program see the Cost of Attendance page. Every effort will be made to offer students a residential lease through Columbia housing, yet such accommodations are not guaranteed.

Students enrolled in the Master of Arts in Hispanic Cultural Studies must complete a total of eight course units in one academic year (2 Residence Units are required for the degree), with a minimum grade of B-. Normally a student takes four courses during the fall semester and four in the spring.  Master’s students can register in any seminar taught in the department at the graduate level (4000 level or higher). The total number of credits for 8 courses is generally 32 and the minimum number of credits required for the MA degree is 30.

A minimum of two courses must be taken outside the department in related disciplines, such as Anthropology, History, Women Studies, Art History, Music, Education (at Teacher’s College), among others. A maximum of two electives per semester may be taken outside the department, and a total of four external electives may be pursued throughout the course of the Master’s program, all with prior approval from the DGS. For the departmental electives, students choose among any of the graduate-level courses taught at LAIC. Please be aware that courses taken P/F and courses taken for R credit do not count toward the degree.

Any student who does not comply with the announced deadlines for exams and papers will have the grade for the written exercise in question lowered. Exceptions will only be made in the case of a medical emergency. For the sake of equity, students cannot make special arrangements with their professors regarding the timetable for submission of final exams or papers, except in medical emergencies. Incomplete grades may not be carried from semester to semester, except in emergency circumstances. Students who have completed all work for a course and have not received a final grade for the course one month after the due date of the final paper are urged to notify the Director of Graduate Studies and the Director of Academic Administration as soon as possible. Incomplete grades that are not removed by the submission of a qualitative grade by the instructor within one month of the due date of the final paper will be changed to a final grade of “F.”

Curricular Itinerary

A typical course of study for the Master of Arts in Hispanic Cultural Studies is as follows:



1.  Departmental elective (4000 level or higher)

2.  Departmental elective

3.  Departmental elective

4.  Elective outside the department



1.  SPAN G9811: Supervised Individual Research

2.  Departmental elective

3.  Departmental elective

4.  Elective outside the department

The primary adviser for MA students is the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Before registration, students discuss with the DGS the elective seminars they wish to pursue, both within and outside the department. By the end of the fall semester, students should propose a faculty adviser and will meet with the DGS to discuss that selection. The adviser may be a professor with whom the student has already worked in a class, or a professor whose research profile is in dialogue with the student’s interests. The adviser will help the student to select the spring semester seminars and to define the Master’s thesis topic. Students work closely with the faculty adviser during the spring semester to complete the Master’s Essay.

During the spring semester, students devote time to the preparation of a Master’s Essay that fulfills the research component for the Master’s degree. To fulfill this requirement they expand and rewrite an essay that they wrote in the fall or propose a new topic for the exercise. In the latter instance, they must receive approval for the topic from the Director of Graduate Studies.

The Master’s Essay is written in the context of an independent study that carries the course designation SPAN G9811 (Supervised Individual Research). The Master’s Essay must be completed and submitted for evaluation to the student’s adviser and to the Director of Graduate Studies by June 30th. The essay should be approximately 9,000-10,000 words in length (including notes and documentation), it is written in Spanish, and is evaluated by the student’s adviser and a second faculty member chosen by the DGS.

The Master's Essay Discussion

The Master's Essay is prepared under the direction of the MA adviser, who determines when the document is ready to proceed to the discussion with the second reader. The date of the discussion is determined in consultation with the DGS two weeks in advance. The student will distribute copies of the Master's essay to the readers at least one week before the scheduled date.

The Master's essay discussion is an hour-long oral exercise in which the student confers with both faculty members. Upon the completion of the discussion, the advisor and the second reader will jointly decide on the grade to be assigned for the thesis as part of the MA in Hispanic Studies degree.