M.A. in Spanish

Fraser Hall at sunset

M.A. Degree Goals

  • Study the major cultural expression and literary movements from Spain and the Latin/o American region
  • Acquire the theoretical tools necessary to engage critically in literary and cultural analysis and research
  • Develop as a scholar, reflecting on the ties between cultural engagement, pedagogy, and research

More Information

Students will take a qualifying examination (Master’s exam) once they have passed or registered for the 30 hours of coursework (typically the fourth semester of the program). The exam assesses the students’ command of the Master’s Degree reading list (.pdf).


The examination includes a written exam over a two-day period, which evaluates your knowledge and understanding of the Master’s Reading list. Once grades are submitted, the advisor will hold a general conversation with the student on the strengths and weaknesses of the exam, and offers general guidance on students’ professional or academic plans following the M.A. During this conversation, the student also has the opportunity to comment on his/her own answers to the written exam.

The written examinations will be administered over a two-day period. The exams will be divided into four areas with one and a half hours allocated for each category. There are two questions for each area.

-  Medieval/Early Modern Spain

-  19th, 20th and 21st Centuries Spain

-  Colonial Through 19th Century Latin America

-  Contemporary Latin America (20th and 21st Centuries)

Students can opt out of ONE of the four areas by taking two courses in any one category, and passing them with a grade of B or above. In order to opt out, the student must inform the Director of Graduate Studies in writing (via email) anytime in the semester prior to taking the exams.

Procedures and Grading

The department offers the examination once each semester. Exams will be scheduled in the second week of November for the Fall semester, and in March, in the week before Spring Break.  Exams are usually scheduled in the conference or seminar room, and are typed in computers provided by the department. The Graduate Academic Advisor and Director of Graduate Studies will ensure that the exam adheres to any individual accommodations communicated through the AAC. The Graduate Studies Committee oversees the writing, administration and grading of the examination. Students must answer two questions per area as indicated in the exam.

All students will be notified of the written exam results within two weeks following the exam. If the student received a passing grade, the Graduate Director will inform the student of the time, date and location for the oral examination. Students will be notified of their grade within a week following their oral exam. All students will be notified of qualifying exam results, including comments from qualifying examination committee members, via letter sent through the University of Kansas email system no later than two weeks after the conclusion of the exam. The Director of Graduate Studies will send out confirmation of the exam to the committee and will inform the Graduate Academic Advisor who will submit the required forms to the graduate school for approval.

Qualifying Exams can be deemed a pass (satisfactory) or a failure. An outcome of satisfactory indicates that the student demonstrates an understanding of the majority of the texts and concepts in the M.A. reading list. An outcome of unsatisfactory indicates that the student failed to demonstrate an understanding of course texts and concepts. For more information about these three outcomes, students should consult with their faculty advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies.

Those who do not pass one section of the written exam may retake that section, but only if completed before the end of the current semester. Those who do not pass two or more sections will be asked to retake the entire exam. Students who fail the exam may take it a second time. If the student fails that section a second time, the Graduate Studies Committee will discuss if the student will be offered an alternative exam. At least 90 days must elapse between exams and a second attempt must be completed within six months of the failure.

After a failed exam, a student must meet with all members of the exam committee before retaking the exam. Failure of the exam for the second time will not result in an M.A. Students who fail the qualifying exams once retain their initial funding package. After the completion of a second exam, the student must meet with the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss their future in the program; those who fail the exam twice must either voluntarily leave the program or will be dismissed from the program.

Students who commence the exam but are unable to finish it for highly unusual or extenuating circumstances, such as documented medical issues or death in the family, should retake the exam within 90 days and will be given new questions. Students should inform the Director of Graduate Studies at the earliest possible time if an exam must be rescheduled.

Students will have an option as to which form of exam they choose to complete: the Master’s Portfolio Exam or the Master’s Qualifying Exam.

MA Portfolio

1. Introduction to the Portfolio and Personal Statement

To be completed in the student’s language of choice. As part of your general academic growth, you might be interested in working in the language you are least comfortable with.

A personal statement of a maximum of 6 pages in length that serves as a reflection on your learning experience and professional growth during the program.  Students should introduce their portfolio and explain how it is representative of their accomplishments and intellectual growth. 

Specificity is most encouraged, and the expectation is that students will include specific examples from their coursework in their narrative. Students may also choose to include experience gained through opportunities as a GRA, community outreach and teaching. Some of the questions that can guide your introduction and personal statement include:

  • How has the MA has contributed to your understanding of the field of Hispanic studies? What skills have you acquired or improved throughout the MA experience?
  • Were there any overarching themes throughout your classes and MA experiences more broadly? 
  • How would you describe the connections between your courses, and between content material that includes many national contexts, time periods, and perspectives? 
  • Has your work been particularly influenced by a specific theoretical angle, or do you find that you engage multiple theoretical approaches? Explain.
  • How do you intend to use the knowledge and skills you have gained in your future endeavors, both professional and personal? 

2. CV or Résumé

You should turn in a copy in English, and a copy in Spanish.

Includes education, work experience, awards, community outreach, grants and fellowships, language abilities, and experience abroad among other possible categories. Students are encouraged to seek assistance from KU University Career Center. Students are expected to make an appointment and visit the center, in addition to using their guidelines for the CV.

3. Teaching Statement

A 700-800 word teaching statement (must be in English) in which students articulate their pedagogical approach to the classroom.  This narrative will include their perspective about the teaching and learning processes, but also specific examples from their classroom experience.  Students should also demonstrate familiarity with current pedagogical methods, and should be able to articulate how they have employed these methods effectively in the classroom. Students are encouraged to draw from what they learned through SPAN 801.

In addition to their teaching statement, students have the option to include supplementary materials such as lesson plans or curriculum development they have completed during the program, including materials developed in courses, experiences as GTAs in Study abroad, or assessment work. 

For this component, students are encouraged to explore and/or seek assistance from KU’s Center for Teaching Excellence, which has various resources available for instructors, including Graduate Teaching Assistants.

4. Three Sample Works in Spanish

Students must include three examples of a paper/project you have completed during the MA program.  The papers should be at least 8-10 pages in length without bibliography. Each should center its analysis on one of the four areas of concentration in the MA program (Peninsular I or II, Latin America I or II). One of the three sample works should be a long seminar paper OR another research paper of similar length and scope developed in a 700-level course.

5. Culminating Project

This should be in the language most conducive to your specific project, and will be contingent, among other things, on the audience of your specific choice. 

The Culminating Project is developed by the student to demonstrate their intellectual growth throughout the program. The Culminating Project allows students to individually further explore questions of ongoing academic interest throughout their MA program.  Students may choose to complete one of the following Culminating Projects:

  1. Developing an article suitable for publication from a long seminar paper completed during the MA (it can be one of the three sample works included in section IV of the portfolio). To this end, students will submit both the original paper and their revised versions to their portfolio, as well as two possible journals that are a good ‘fit’ for their submission. (25-30 pages in length with abstract).


  1. Digital humanities project with abstract. A digital humanities project will enable public engagement with research in an accessible way.  For example, students can create a digital archive which brings to the forefront an under researched aspect of Hispanic culture.  For this project, and in addition to their advisor, students are encouraged to visit and reach out to KU’s Institute for Digital Research in the Humanities.


  1. Digital or hard-copy of a 3-4 days teaching unit with reflection.  This project will consist of an original lesson plan that is representative of YOUR teaching style and methods. It   must include lesson plans, classroom materials/content and sample assignments. In addition, students should submit a 2-4 page reflection explaining how these materials will facilitate student language learning and cultural competency.  Students should also include a discussion of teaching methods to be employed for the learning module or teaching unit. For this component, students are encouraged to explore and/or seek assistance from KU’s Center for Teaching Excellence.


Oral Exam

During the final semester of their MA program students will meet with their advisor for an exit interview where they will receive the feedback for their portfolio, its strengths and its areas for improvement.


Example M.A. Portfolio

An example M.A. portfolio has been made available on our website with permission from its original author and M.A. recipient Cesia Espinal-Moncada. Please visit the Example M.A. Portfolio page to download the document.