Planning Your Coursework (MAIS)

The Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies (MAIS) degree is highly flexible, allowing each student to plan their own set of courses to a large degree. This does require a fair amount of planning, however, to ensure that you take classes that truly support your personal and professional goals, give you the most satisfaction, and allow you to explore your chosen subject area in a cohesive and thoughtful way. This page is designed to help you engage in this planning process, preferably early in your program, and create a set of courses that meet your goals.

Table of Contents

Click on any link below to go directly to that section.

Degree Requirements

Selecting Your Courses: Some Approaches

Online vs. Campus Courses

Transfer Credits

Extramural Registration (“Domestic Study Away”)

Directed Study in Maine Studies

IDS Courses

Undergraduate Courses

Certificate Option

Sample Course Plans

Registering for Courses

Dropping Courses/Leave of Absence/Withdrawing


Degree Requirements

The requirements for the MA in Interdisciplinary Studies, Maine Studies track, are as follows (cr. = credit hours):

  • MES 501 – Maine Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach – 3 cr.
  • MES 601 – A Sense of Place: Maine and Regional Identity (formerly MES 520 or IDS 500) – 3 cr.
  • IDS 699 – Master Project – 3-6 cr. (completed at the end of the program; minimum 1 cr. and maximum 3 cr./semester)
  • INT 601 – Responsible Conduct of Research (required for students writing a thesis or doing human subjects research) – 1 cr.
  • The remaining 18-21 credits are electives; at least 9 elective credits must be Maine-related courses.

Selecting Your Courses: Some Approaches

The MA in Interdisciplinary Studies is essentially a self-designed degree, meaning that students have great flexibility in the courses they can take. Within the Maine Studies track, there are only three required courses (MES 501 and 601, plus IDS 699), which means that all of the remaining courses are electives. (Note: there is one more required course, INT 601, a 1-credit course, for those students who do a thesis or master’s project involving “human subjects research.”) At least half of your courses should have substantial Maine content, although they do not have to be Maine Studies courses with the MES prefix.

Because there are so many options, it might be helpful to think about coursework in terms of your career goals as one approach. For example, many Maine Studies students are interested in the field of education, and some are already teachers. For them, taking classes from UMaine’s College of Education & Human Development might be logical. Other students are librarians or in other careers based around information technology. For them, taking elective courses in education technology, digital media, or other areas might make sense. One option might be courses from the Digital Curation Certificate (see below).

Outside of career goals, there are also personal interests to consider. We have had many students interested in history, for example. A number of these have taken elective courses offered by the Department of History at UMaine, and even at USM. We have also had students interested in the arts or media; for them courses from Art or New Media have proven useful. Recent students have also been interested in issues such as climate change, indigenous rights, and cultural tourism. While not all of these topics have available online graduate courses at the University of Maine, some do, and there are related courses that might allow you to explore such issues in a research paper.

Finding courses that meet your needs and interest should involve one or more of the following strategies:

  1. Going over the UMaine Graduate Catalog, focusing on courses offered by departments in your areas of interest. This link will take you directly to a full listing of current courses in the catalog, listed alphabetically be department. There is also a search function.
  2. Reviewing the list of online courses maintained by UMaine Online. This list includes both undergraduate and graduate courses, so you have to do some scrolling, but it is updated on a regular basis. Also check out 400-level courses, as you can take some as part of your graduate program—there is a bit of confusion as to how many, but six credits is a safe bet (see below).
  3. When it comes to registering each semester, use MaineStreet, UMaine’s system for searching for courses (sign in to the UMS Portal and then click on the MaineStreet icon). The University of Maine System also has created a new website for searching for courses across the whole system. These systems are designed to help you register each semester, not to plan your whole academic degree.
  4. Finally, you can speak with the Maine Studies coordinator, individual faculty, or an advisor at UMaine Online to help you figure things out. Of these, the MES coordinator will have the most information about which MES courses are likely to be offered in the next 2-3 years, and how your overall list of courses might work. Instructors will have a good idea about what they will be teaching in the future. Online advisors can check to see which courses in other departments are offered on a regular basis, although they can’t guarantee when.

Using a combination of approaches is the best way to ensure that you have a good understanding of what courses are available to you, from which departments, and when they might be offered during your planned academic career.

Online vs. Campus Courses

When most students apply to the MAIS degree, they select “Online” as the course delivery method. Most students in the Maine Studies track are actually living too far from the Orono campus to take their classes there, so this is the only real option. Fortunately, all MES graduate courses are online, as are many other graduate courses.

Occasionally, though, a student will find a course in another department that they wish to take, but it is only offered in person on the Orono campus. For campus-based classes there may be a couple of options:

  1. If the student is living close enough to the Orono campus to take the class there, they may do so with pre-approval of the Graduate School. This is usually best for classes that only meet once per week, which includes many graduate seminars.
  2. Sometimes an instructor or department might open the class to distance students, usually via Zoom or similar technology. Often such sections are already listed in MaineStreet. In some cases, a student might contact the instructor directly to ask if this is an option. If they are open to the idea, it will have to be approved by their department chair, as well as the Dean’s Office and the Graduate School. So planning well in advance is needed.

Transfer Credits

The Graduate School normally allows master’s students to transfer up to six credits of prior graduate coursework, as long as those courses were not used toward another degree. The track coordinator gives their recommendation about transfer credits when the student applies to the program. The university’s policies for transfer credits are explained in the Graduate School Policies and Regulations (section 4.5).

Approved transfer courses should have been applied to your degree when you first entered the MAIS program. However, once you have been enrolled for a few months, it is a good idea to check and see if they have been properly transferred. You can do this by checking your “Academic History” in MaineStreet to see if they are showing up under your “Graduate Career” at UMaine. They should be there as MES 500X courses. If not, check with the Graduate School or the MES Coordinator. Please do not wait until you are ready to graduate to do this!

Extramural Registration (Domestic Study Away)

During your MAIS degree, you might want to take one or two graduate classes from other institutions and apply them to your Program of Study. This requires pre-approval from the MES Coordinator and the Graduate School. The policies for so-called “extramural registration” are explained in the Graduate School Policies and Regulations, Section 4.5. There is also a form you need to complete, the “Domestic Study Away” form, which can be found HERE.

Directed Study in Maine Studies (MES 598)

At some point in your studies, you might wish to explore a subject in which there is no formal course offered at UMaine or another institution. This might lead you to think about a “directed study” course (also known as independent study). The course MES 598, Directed Study in Maine Studies, is designed for this purpose. Students registering for this course propose and carry out (with department permission) an independent reading, research, or project course with faculty oversight on a topic of their choosing.

Within Maine Studies, there are typically no more than 2-3 students per year who take such courses. Normally these students wish to explore a subject that might become the topic of their master’s project, but about which they need more information. The Maine Studies Coordinator serves as the “instructor of record” for the course, and works with the student to set course objectives, help them stay on track, and grade the final product(s).

The university places restrictions on faculty teaching independent study courses, and such courses require formal approval. Because an independent study course is challenging for both student and instructor, there are a number of guidelines and requirements to be met before an independent study course is approved. There is also a proposal form. This link will take you to a page with more information and the proposal form.

IDS Courses

Graduate courses with an IDS prefix are known as Interdisciplinary Studies, and may be used in the Program of Study for MAIS students. (In the past, two such courses were actually required.) IDS 500 is the general number for such courses, which are offered by various tracks in the MAIS degree. They are designed to help provide graduate students with an interdisciplinary perspective on a subject of interest.

In recent years the Maine Studies track has stopped using the IDS 500 designation for most of its courses. However, if you see any IDS 500 courses that interest you and you wish to use them in your Program of Study, you may do so. For more information about them you would have to contact the Graduate School. To find these courses in MaineStreet, just select “Graduate” and “IDS” when you do your course search.

You will also take 3-6 credits of the course IDS 699, Master Project, at the end of your degree program. This course is designed to allow you to complete your master’s project under the supervision of the MES Coordinator or another faculty member, often in small groups with other MAIS students. More information about this course can be found on the Master’s Project page of this website.

Undergraduate Courses

MAIS students are permitted to take some 400-level courses toward their graduate degree. The actual number is open to debate. In some places it says a maximum of six credits total, where in other places it suggests more. In the Maine Studies program, we take a conservative approach and set the maximum as six credits of 400-level courses. These should be approved in advance to ensure they will show up properly in your MaineStreet Academic History.

As a side note, some courses at UMaine are offered with both graduate and undergraduate sections. Some Maine Studies courses are offered this way, e.g., MES 350/520, Maine Women. Please be sure that if you are registering for such courses you ALWAYS select the graduate section. If you do not, the course might not be accepted toward your MAIS degree. This is because faculty usually have students in their graduate sections do more or different work, and taking the course at the graduate level guarantees that you are doing graduate-level work. Be careful: this has come back to haunt some students when they thought they were set to graduate!

Certificate Option

Depending on your interests and career goals, you might find it useful to complete a graduate certificate in another area as part of your degree. The flexibility of the MAIS program and the Maine Studies track makes this possible. This would involve applying to a certificate and including this in your Program of Study. It would then need the approval of your committee and the Graduate School, and acceptance into the graduate certificate program you are interested in.

Note: Combining a graduate certificate with the MAIS degree might need special approval from the Graduate School and the filing of an Exception to Regulation form. We are currently seeking to formalize this as a pre-approved option for Maine Studies students.

A few of the graduate certificates that might interest you include (click on the links for more information):

UMaine Online maintains a current list of online graduate certificates and degrees. For more information about them you can contact the Division of Lifelong Learning or the Graduate School, or the individual programs listed.

Sample Course Plans

To give you an idea of what a course plan might look like for a particular student, we have created several examples. Each is based on a hypothetical student and assumes the availability of all courses listed. Obviously these are just a few options, but they should help give you an idea of the many ways to create a course plan that meets your particular goals, interests and abilities. Your plan will reflect your own interests and goals, and the courses available. Note: All courses are three credits unless otherwise noted.

Maine History Buff

This student has a strong interest in Maine history and wants a slate of courses that allows them to delve deeply into this topic. They plan to write a traditional thesis-like paper on some aspect of the state’s history.

  • MES 501 – Maine Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach [required]
  • MES 601 – A Sense of Place: Maine and Regional Identity [required]
  • MES 540 – Maine and the Northeast Borderlands
  • MES 520 – French Exploration & Settlement of Maine
  • MES 598 – Directed Study in Maine Studies [history topic] – 3 cr.
  • HTY 599 – Special Topics in History [online section]*
  • HTY 609 – Seminar in New England-Quebec Atlantic Provinces History [online section]*
  • HTY 6XX – Additional History Seminar [online section]*
  • INT 601 – Responsible Conduct of Research [required for thesis students] – 1 cr.
  • IDS 699 – Master Project [thesis-like project on history subject] – 5 cr.

*Enrollment in HTY graduate courses requires permission of instructors.

Maine Cultural Explorer

This student has a broad interest in Maine’s cultural and social history and diversity.

  • MES 501 – Maine Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach [required]
  • MES 601 – A Sense of Place: Maine and Regional Identity [required]
  • MES 520 – Maine Women
  • MES 520 – The U.S. Folk Experience
  • MES 520 – French Exploration & Settlement of Maine
  • MES 530 – Maine Politics and Public Policy
  • ANT 500 – Advanced Social Theory
  • NAS 401 – Advanced Topics in Native American Studies
  • IDS 699 – Master Project [website on some aspect of Maine culture] – 6 cr.

Creative Environmentalist

This student wants to combine their interest in Maine’s environment with digital arts.

  • MES 501 – Maine Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach [required]
  • MES 601 – A Sense of Place: Maine and Regional Identity [required]
  • MES 520 – Folklore and Environmental Policy
  • EES 590 – Special Topics in Ecology and Environmental Science
  • IMD 500 – Creative Concept Development
  • IMD 520 – Topics in Media Production
  • PPMP 612 – Sustainable Communities
  • SMS 500 – Marine Biology
  • IDS 699 – Master Project [media arts project on Maine’s environment] – 6 cr.

*Enrollment in non-MES graduate courses might require permission of instructors.

Techie Teacher

This student is already employed as a high school teacher, but wants to learn more about instructional technology. They also want to help their students create their own media-based projects about Maine subjects. The EDU courses fulfill the Certificate in Instructional Design [note: this combination of MAIS and Certificate has not yet been formally approved]. 

  • MES 501 – Maine Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach [required]
  • MES 601 – A Sense of Place: Maine and Regional Identity [required]
  • MES 540 – Maine and the Northeast Borderlands
  • EDT 520 – Digital Age Teaching and Learning Methods
  • EDT 540 – Instructional Design and Project Management*
  • EDT 541 – Advanced Instructional Design*
  • EDT 542 – Supporting Technology Integration through Professional Development & Coaching*
  • EDT 543 – Practicum in Instructional Design*
  • IDS 699 – Master Project [proposed curriculum or design project] – 6 cr

*Enrollment in EDU graduate courses may require permission of instructors.

Info-Sharing Librarian

This student is interested in information: how to collect it, manage it, and share it with others. The first four DIG courses listed are used to obtain the Certificate in Digital Curation [this combined degree/certificate has been approved]. The internship is an additional elective.

  • MES 501 – Maine Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach [required]
  • MES 601 – A Sense of Place: Maine and Regional Identity [required]
  • MES 520 – Native American Folklore
  • DIG 500 – Introduction to Digital Curation
  • DIG 510 – Metadata
  • DIG 540 – Digital Collections and Exhibitions
  • DIG 550 – Digital Preservation
  • DIG 580 – Digital Curation Internship [e.g., at a local museum, historical society, library, etc.]
  • IDS 699 – Master Project [online exhibit or other Maine-related project] – 6 cr.

Mapping Enthusiast

This student wants to explore their interests in Maine’s environment and mapping. The SIE courses listed satisfy the Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems [this combination of MAIS and Certificate has not yet been formally approved].

  • MES 501 – Maine Studies: An Interdisciplinary Approach [required]
  • MES 601 – A Sense of Place: Maine and Regional Identity [required]
  • HTY 665 – Digital and Spatial History* [with Maine-based final project]
  • SIE 509 – Introduction to Geographic Information Systems [required for GIS certificate]
  • SIE 557 – Database System Applications [required for GIS certificate]
  • SIE 510 – GIS Applications [required for GIS certificate]
  • SIE 512 – Spatial Analysis [elective for GIS certificate]
  • SIE 525 – Information Systems Law [elective for GIS certificate]
  • IDS 699 – Master Project [map-based project on Maine’s environment] – 6 cr.

*Enrollment in non-MES graduate courses might require permission of instructors.

Registering for Courses

MAIS students can generally register themselves for courses using MaineStreet. However, there are a few exceptions. Let’s look at the normal procedure first.

The Graduate School has prepared a helpful page explaining the registration procedure. Here is the link. For students who are already in the MAIS degree and do not meet any of the criteria below, you can use this form to register.

Here are the exceptions:

  • You just entered the MAIS program and are registering for your first course(s). This requires the MES Coordinator to send an email to the Graduate School. Send your course request directly to the Coordinator, and they will forward it with their approval. This is just to ensure that you have consulted with them before registering the first time.
  • You are registering for a class that requires instructor or department permission, including courses in other departments. This will generally involve contacting the instructor first, getting an email with their permission, and sending this to the MES Coordinator or the Graduate School. Information on permissions will generally be found in the MaineStreet Course Schedule.
  • You are registering for MES 598, Directed Study, or IDS 699, Master Project. Both of these courses have a proposal form that you must complete on the Maine Studies website.
  • You have a financial or other Hold that must first be cleared. This information can generally be found in your own record in MaineStreet. Contact the Bursar’s Office or other office as needed to clear your hold first.

There might be other times when you need to go through the MES Coordinator or the Graduate School to register for classes. It is always best to contact them if you are having problems, so it can get sorted out before the semester starts.

Dropping Courses/Leave of Absence/Withdrawing

Dropping courses can also be done by the student through MaineStreet. However, if the course is your last/only one of the semester, you will need the approval of the MES Coordinator to do so, as it essentially means that you are taking a semester Leave of Absence. This can generally be done with a brief email to the Coordinator.

All MAIS students need to take at least one course per year to stay Active in the program; otherwise they may be declared Inactive. In addition, taking just one course per year means that you will not complete the MAIS degree within the university’s six-year time limit for master’s degrees. Two courses per year are really needed to complete the degree on time.

If you need to take a semester or two off, you should apply for a Leave of Absence. This will essentially stop the clock for your degree for up to one year. If you intend to Withdraw entirely from the MAIS degree, you should do so formally using a Withdrawal Form. This will ensure that the Program Coordinator and the Graduate School know of your plans and can change your status formally.

This page on the Graduate School’s website explains all procedures and gives links to needed forms.



Prepared by K. Ettenger, Maine Studies Coordinator, Fall 2021