By Shelby Longland, ‘13

If most University of Richmond students spend four years on campus, receive their diploma and then move on to a different school, job or location, then Leslie Crudele, ‘12 and GC‘13, is not like the rest of her peers.

Crudele, a native of Orlando, Fla., came to the University in 2009 as an undergraduate student. Even before she began her first year, Crudele earned numerous college credits on her transcript thanks to many Advanced Placement (AP) courses. These high school credits, coupled with her rigorous course schedule each semester, allowed Crudele to graduate in just three years. She received a Bachelor of Arts in International Studies with a minor in French in May 2012.

After receiving her diploma, Crudele knew she wanted to pursue a master’s degree and continue her international studies education. When she researched graduate programs across the country in international studies, however, she wasn’t inspired. Most of the programs had a strict curriculum with concentrations that didn’t fit her interests.

Crudele also acknowledged how much she had loved her time in Richmond and at the University and decided she didn’t want to leave just yet. This led her to research the University of Richmond School of Professional and Continuing Studies Master of Liberal Arts (MLA) degree. She was pleasantly surprised with what she found and decided to apply and enroll.

She discovered that although the MLA degree isn’t specifically international studies-based, the program is extremely flexible. Students have the ability to tailor their degree to their specific interests. All of the students meet with the graduate studies coordinator who helps students, as Crudele puts it, “craft the program to their tastes.” 

Although she is only in her first semester of the program, Crudele is happy that she chose SPCS for her degree. She is still able to benefit from the numerous resources that the University offers, but can study different subjects in a unique manner.

This semester, Crudele is taking three of her core courses, all of which “challenge her preconceived notions.” The classes only meet once a week, and her homework consists mostly of reading. Her schedule in the MLA program is very different from her undergraduate semesters when each class met at least twice a week, and she had numerous written homework assignments to complete each session.

Crudele notes that her classes are mostly discussion-based. The professor is “much more likely to guide the discussion than to dominate it,” she says. This leads to a dynamic atmosphere in which all of the students feel comfortable and are eager to talk. Also, since many of her classmates are older and have significant life experiences, they are able to bring their backgrounds and knowledge into the class discussions. These firsthand stories gives a new perspective to the subject.

After graduating from the MLA program, Crudele is not sure exactly where her degree will take her. She hopes, however, to work either for the State Department or a multinational corporation where she can put her Richmond education to good use.

For Richmond undergraduate students who have enjoyed their time at the University, Crudele would highly recommend they consider the SPCS Master of Liberal Arts degree. Since the program is flexible, it can be tailored and applied to any interest. For her, the program has offered the best of both worlds: she is progressing with her education and future, yet is still part of the Richmond community that she loves so much.