Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Burns-Ardolino Appointed Director of Master of Arts in Liberal Studies Program

Dr. Wendy A. Burns-Ardolino has been appointed the second director of Clayton State University’s first graduate program, the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS).

Burns-Ardolino took over direction of the MALS on July 1, 2008 from Dr. Thomas Barnett, who remains department head of Communicative Arts and Integrative Studies but, “has passed the torch of the MALS program on to me,” according to Burns-Ardolino.

The new MALS director is a person of many accomplishments and skills. In addition to directing MALS, she is also an assistant professor of Integrative Studies at Clayton State, an expert on popular culture, and the author of a provocative new book, “Jiggle: (Re)Shaping American Women,” released by Lexington Books ( in December 2007. In “Jiggle,” Burns-Ardolino begins in the 1930s with a discussion of traditional foundation garments, and proceeds to analyze contemporary shapewear in terms of shaping women physically, culturally and socially. Burns-Ardolino will be appearing in Atlanta and Montreal later this fall in conjunction with her book.

The MALS program is, in its own way, as thought-provoking as “Jiggle,” in that it is designed to provide a solid overview in the liberal arts while also providing education in areas of specialization within the broader background of the liberal arts.

“We’re doing two things simultaneously,” says Burns-Ardolino. “First, showing what liberal arts can do and then tending to the students’ needs in areas of specialization they would choose.

“It’s both an interdisciplinary program and a program that provides 18 hours of concentration… that’s what makes it so valuable.”

Burns-Ardolino also points out that MALS has a liberal arts focus for people who want to pick and choose their coursework on topics they are interested in. However, she adds, most MALS students want to take the 18 hours in a specific area of interest.

The two main areas on interest within the MALS are currently History and English, and there are plans to further diversify the program, “as we go forward.” Burns-Ardolino lists Psychology, Sociology and Communications as three logical areas of interest for the MALS to expand in to.

“Doing something interdisciplinary like cultural studies or global studies, that could also potentially happen,” she adds. “We’re sitting exactly where we want to be in terms of the breadth of scope for the program. Our next step is to look at the student demographics.”

On the subject of where MALS is getting its students, Burns-Ardolino notes that the clearest audience is comprised of teachers in Clayton, Henry, Fayette and Fulton counties who need to continue their education and their professional development.

“Choosing a masters program like ours is really in keeping with their goals as educators,” she points out. “It will allow them to keep up their professional credentials and continue their education at the same time. Those are the folks that I see us reaching out to.”

Indeed, some of MALS most notable success stories to date have been secondary school teachers from the Southern Crescent. Anna Cox, who will become the University’s first masters graduate this fall, is a teacher at Clayton County’s Jonesboro High School, while Barbara James, winner of the first Clayton State Retirees Association scholarship, is a teacher at Fayette County’s Rising Starr Middle School.

“We’re building a graduate faculty that are the best teachers, the best researchers, and the best scholars,” says Burns-Ardolino with evident pride. “The students who come here to take our graduate programs will benefit from the faculty and their expertise. It’s a real honor for our faculty and a reason to come here.”

Two additional benefits to potential Clayton State graduate students include the University’s smaller size and the support for the graduate programs at the upper levels of the University’s administration, notably from the new dean of the School of Arts & Sciences, Dr. Nasser Momayezi. According to Burns-Ardolino, one of his major priorities is to diversify and grow the graduate programs.

“Because we are smaller than some universities, we have an intimacy that enables learning and that fosters one-on-one interaction,” she adds. “Larger institutions cannot offer that level of intimate research and study. That sets us apart.”

For more information on the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies at Clayton State, go to the MALS website at

A unit of the University System of Georgia, Clayton State University is an outstanding comprehensive metropolitan university located 15 miles southeast of downtown Atlanta.

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