The Harvard Extension School has announced four new concentrations in its Master of Liberal Arts (A.L.M.) Program beginning with the 2009-10 academic year. The new concentrations are international relations, legal studies, visual arts, and clinical psychology. The concentrations were selected upon careful consideration of Extension School course offerings, the number of Harvard instructors teaching these courses, and repeated requests from students to create the concentrations.
“Some of these concentrations are distinctive at Harvard, since they are being structured as liberal arts fields and not as professional programs,” says Sue Weaver Schopf, associate dean of University Extension and director of the A.L.M. Programs. “As such, they will engage with history, theory, criticism, and current research topics within an interdisciplinary context. We expect them to have a broad appeal because of this.”
International relations has been one of the most frequently requested concentrations as the world continues to face many critical issues. The burgeoning field investigates the relationships among the world’s governments, international political economy, international law, and multinational corporations, and global issues such as poverty, genocide, and the environment.
With a wide range of courses to support it, the interdisciplinary field of legal studies will introduce students to legal theory, history, ethics, and the impact of legal issues on a variety of fields and institutions — from museum law to mental health law. Inquiries for this concentration have come in from law enforcement personnel, paralegals, and individuals working for various advocacy groups. “Some might use this concentration to test the waters before applying to law school,” says Schopf, “but many people are simply interested in learning more about how the law functions within diverse segments of society, how concepts of justice have evolved, and the rhetoric of legal discourse.”
A retooling of the previously offered A.L.M. concentrations in history of art and architecture and studio arts and film, the new combined concentration in visual arts will offer students more courses and a wider pool of instructors from which to choose. Students will be able to select from art and architectural history (both ancient and modern), film studies, digital media, photography, and other aspects of visual culture for their research. This concentration will provide a stepping stone for further graduate study or advancement opportunities to those involved in various activities within the arts community, and thus will attract a range of students from aspiring Ph.D. applicants to gallery owners, museum docents, and practicing artists.
Clinical psychology, another frequently requested concentration, is a field that emphasizes research on psychopathology, empirically based assessment, and psychological intervention, applying the knowledge gleaned from academic research directly to individuals in distress. This concentration includes a “field placement” course that would have both a classroom and a laboratory-based or human services-based component, requiring 150 hours in a Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences or Harvard Medical School laboratory/research facility; social services agency; or hospital setting. While graduates would not be eligible for psychology licensure in the commonwealth based on an A.L.M. degree, the field placement experience would enhance the likelihood of securing in-field employment, as well as admission to further graduate study.
“We are responding to a particularly serious issue in our society at this time,” says Schopf. “With more than 360,000 veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with head injuries and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, the health care industry is in need of persons with basic clinical training for a host of midlevel jobs in Veterans Affairs hospitals, nursing homes, drug treatment centers, and other therapeutic settings. We believe that this new concentration can assist in qualifying people for such work. It will also be useful to family members of veterans, who seek a better understanding of the psychological implications of such injuries.”
The A.L.M. Program will continue to offer its 15 traditional fields of concentration as well; but, says Schopf, “We also want to keep the curriculum fresh and responsive to emerging areas of study and changing needs within our society.”
The Harvard Extension School also announced that its Environmental Management Program will change its name to Sustainability and Environmental Management Program in 2009-10.