Master of Liberal Studies

Insatiable curiosity. Voracious reader. Critical thinker. Persuasive debater. 

Students in the Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) program develop their intellectual awareness by studying the great ideas of Western Civilization. Faculty fosters a sense of community within each cohort as students  experience the pleasure of learning for self-fulfillment and challenge of spirited classroom discussions.


You never stop asking, “Why?” A brilliant insight can come from a book, a painting or a conversation. A lively debate about ideas gets your heart pumping more than a double espresso. The nature of reality, identity and humanity are the lenses of your intellectual life. Creative expression helps you navigate new material. Rollins’ Master of Liberal Studies program is where you will find like minds and grow by integrating disparate ideas. You may even find a new path to a new career! 

We teach students new ways of thinking, not just new knowledge. Students update and curate their worldview through analysis of philosophy, history, art, literature, humanities, politics, religion, psychology and themselves. Critical thinking and communication skills honed in the MLS program prepare students for a rapidly changing job market by developing skills that are irreplaceable by technology. And, even when you complete your degree, you're never done learning. Our alums return for speakers, annual events, and book clubs. 

Each cohort begins the core curriculum in the fall. Class size is limited to maintain low student to faculty ratio, facilitate engaged classroom discussions and provide individualized attention. Admitted students may take electives or masterworks classes for credit prior to the fall semester.

Fall Application Deadlines:

Applications for the Master of Arts in Liberal Studies are accepted on an annual basis. The application deadlines for the Fall cohort are as follows:

  • Early Decision: March 1
  • Regular Decision Priority Date: June 1 (Applications will continued to be reviewed on a space available basis).

Click here for application instructions

Program Length:

48 credit hours


Click here for tuition and fees.

Click here to learn more about financial aid options.


Each cohort completes the core curriculum of 24 credits in lockstep, creating the opportunity for students to develop relationships with one another that facilitate classroom discussion in an atmosphere of trust. Students develop the same foundation of knowledge on which to build their individual interests and thesis project. The sense of community fostered by the lockstep core curriculum results in an active and engaged community of alumni who continue to share their intellectual interests after graduation.

The program requires a minimum of 48 credit hours. Courses typically meet one night per week, 6:45-9:15 p.m. and must be taken in the assigned sequence. Each course is four credit hours unless otherwise noted.

Core Courses (24 credits):

MLS 602          The Human Order

MLS 603          Religion and Western Culture

MLS 604          Origins of Modernity

MLS 605          Milestones of Modern Science

MLS 606          Masterpieces of Modern Literature

MLS 690          Thesis Project*

*Students must complete a minimum of 10 courses (40 hours) before enrolling for the Thesis Project

Elective Courses (24 credits):

In addition to the six core courses, student choose six elective courses (4 credits each) or an equivalent number of masterworks courses (2 credits each) to complete the program. Students may select these courses during the fall, spring, and summer terms. 

The elective courses diversify the curriculum by focusing on applying great texts to contemporary issues or comparing Western ideas with those of other cultures. Electives often are connected in theme or methodology with one or more of the core courses. Masterworks courses focus on one great work, person, genre, or idea. We also offer a variety of full- and half-semester courses including an annual trip abroad. Past trips have included: India, Italy, France, and Cuba.


All MLS students create a thesis project of their choice, applying and integrating what they’ve learned in a project that is unique to their interests and talents. The student and program director meet to identify a faculty member mentor to guide the student throughout the thesis project and defense, offering the student individualized attention and support throughout the process.


MLS 602: The Human Order [4]

In this course, students will explore the social and political thoughts of ancient Greece and Rome in the context of the culture in which those thoughts arose. This course also examines the cosmology and science of the ancient world, with an emphasis on the attempt to direct the powers of reason to the discovery of a natural order.

MLS 603: Religion and Western Culture [4]

The society that emerged from the ruins of the Roman Empire brought together classical, Germanic, and Christian elements to forge a new western European culture. This course traces the interaction of these strands through an examination of religion, social and political development, and changes in the arts. Students will examine the medieval synthesis in which religious concerns predominated, explore the factors that lead to its breakdown, and enhance their research skills at the graduate level.

MLS 604: The Origins of Modernity [4]

If ancient social and political thought can be characterized by the attempt to fashion a human order that reflected the order of the universe, modern thought must be characterized by the effort to establish order in the human community without the help of a divine being and without knowledge of a transcendent natural order. This course investigates the various ways in which modern social, aesthetic, and political thinkers endeavor to rest human society on purely secular foundations.

MLS 605: Milestones of Modern Science [4]

Science has always been concerned with the search for order, whether it be to explain the starry phenomena in the night sky; the diversity of substances like rocks, water, and wind; or the nature of our own origins. This course pursues the pathways of science since the 17th century, concentrating on some of the exceptional ideas in biology and physics, with excursions into chemistry and mathematics. We study how the accumulation of knowledge acquired by technical tools and extraordinary thinking fabricates a new view of the universe and indicates our place in it.

MLS 606: Masterpieces of Modern Literature [4]

This course explores the ways in which literature has come to question and define values in the modern world. As writers have endeavored to come to grips with the social, political, and spiritual dislocations of modern life, they have pursued themes of meaning, identity, community, and communication in order to examine the complexities and perplexities of the human condition.

MLS 690: Thesis Project [4]

The culmination of the degree program is the completion of a thesis project. Working under the direction of a faculty mentor and with the support of a second reader, students apply the knowledge they have acquired in the program in designing and executing a final project. The project may be a research study or a creative work supported by a critical or theoretical essay. For guidelines and approval procedure, click on Thesis (above).


faculty highlights

The Rollins MLS Program is taught by award-winning faculty who are thought leaders from across all departments and catalysts for insight and intellectual growth. 

Pedro J. Bernal
Associate Professor of Chemistry. B.S., Ph.D., University of Tennessee. Specializations: physical and general chemistry, and the philosophy of science.

J. Thomas Cook
Professor of Philosophy. B.A., Johns Hopkins University; M.A., Ph.D., Vanderbilt University. Specializations: history of philosophy, philosophy of mind, and metaphysical issues such as the nature of self and human freedom.

Todd French
Assistant Professor of Religion, B.A., Lipscomb University; M.Div., Union Theological Seminary; Th.M., Princeton Theological Seminary; Ph.D. Columbia University. Specializations: church history, social theory, syriac hagiography, and the history of western cultures.

Susan Libby
Professor of Art History (1998;2004); B.A., M.A., Ph.D., University of Maryland. Specializations: European and American art and theory from the 18th to 20th centuries.

Jana Matthews
Associate Professor of English (2010;2016); B.A., Brigham Young University; M.A., University of Colorado-Boulder; Ph.D., Duke University. Specializations: medieval British literature and culture, law and literature, medieval manuscript studies, middle Scots literature, early modern British literature, and theories of subjectivity, kingship, authorship, and authority.

Julia Maskivker
Assistant Professor of Political Science (2009;2009); B.A., Universidad Torcuato Di Tella (Buenos Aires); M.A., M.Phil., Ph.D., Columbia University. Specializations: analytic ethical and political theory and philosophy, theories of justice, theories of social citizenship, welfare state philosophy, and modern political thought.

Leslie Poole
Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies (2015;2016); B.S., Ph.D., University of Florida, M.L.S., Rollins College. Specializations: environmental history, women environmentalists, Florida environment and history, American history.

Alberto Prieto-Calixto
Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures (1999;2005); B.A., University of Valladolid (Spain); M.A., Arizona State University; Ph.D., Vanderbilt University. Specializations: 16th- and 17th-century Hispanic literature, civilization and cultures of Hispanic countries, and Spanish film.

Paul Reich
Associate Professor of English (2005;2015); B.A., Rollins College; M.A., Ph.D., Purdue University. Specializations: African-American literature of the American west, 19th- and 20th-century American literature, composition, and business and technical writing.

Scott M. Rubarth
George D. and Harriet W. Cornell Scholar in Classical Studies and Associate Professor of Classical Philosophy. B.A., Los Angeles Baptist College; B.A., M.A., San Diego State University; Ph.D., University of Toronto. Specializations: ancient Greek philosophy, stoicism, perception, and gender in antiquity.

Gail D.Sinclair
Executive Director and Scholar in Residence of the Winter Park Institute at Rollins. B.A. and M.A., University of Missouri, Kansas City; Ph.D., University of South Florida. Specializations: 19th and 20th-century American literature, feminism, comparative women’s literature, film.



The Rollins MLS program prepares students for the rapidly changing job market by teaching students to think broadly, deeply and critically. As technology and artificial intelligence make more and more jobs obsolete, the value of graduate level liberal arts education is increasing. MLS students develop critical thinking, ideation, and communication skills desired by employers across industries. Students learn to see patterns and communicate creative insights. They gain the perspective of thousands of years of wisdom and apply it to contemporary issues. The adaptability, empathy and problem-solving skills learned in
the MLS program are applicable to leadership roles in the public, private and non-profit sectors alike.

Many MLS students are established professionals (lawyers, physicians, teachers, executives), and many others are well advanced on their chosen career path.  If they remain on their established career track, they do so with enhanced writing, critical thinking, and communication skills, and with an enriched understanding and appreciation of their place in history, culture and the natural world. Some younger alums find a career direction in education, the arts (including arts and museum administration), the non-profit sector or publishing.  A number of MLS graduates have secured employment at various community colleges teaching Humanities and/or Philosophy. 

MLS Student Profiles

  • Educators interested in teaching community college
  • Critical thinkers of all professional and artistic backgrounds seeking to broaden their knowledge and deepen their analytical skills
  • Knowledge workers looking to develop creative thinking skills that cannot be duplicated by technology, to prevent professional skills from becoming obsolete
  • Military veterans pursuing advanced degree for professional development

Graduates have gone on to pursue advanced degrees at:

Barry University – Law

California Institute of Integral Studies – Integral studies

Florida Atlantic University – Contemporary studies

Florida State University – Interdisciplinary humanities

Georgetown University – Humanities

Kent State University – Communication studies

Union Institute – Humanities

University of Central Florida – Sociology

University of Florida – Anthropology, English, environmental horticulture, history

University of Wales, Lampeter – History, theology 

Warnborough University – Humanities

University of South Florida - Philosophy

Many graduates have found employment at various community colleges’ teaching Humanities and/or Philosophy.

don't just take our word for it!

"Bombarded by breaking news, blogs and tweets ?  Pull up a chair next to the great thinkers of civilization and gain a longer view. Rollins’ MLS program helped me put events of modern times into perspective."

- Kathy Cardwell, MLS '92

"The MLS program provides a baseline of information about how our civilization has evolved intellectually, culturally, and spiritually. I’m more curious now than I have ever been about the world around me and what lies ahead."

- Ginny Justice, MLS '11

"A common thread in all your studies will be a focus on critical thinking, on effective communication, and on the ability to adapt to and process new ideas..."

- Matthew Williamson, MLS '17


 MLS - A Global Immersion: A Journey to Cuba 2019 

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