About Our Curriculum

As an Integral student you'll engage in small group discussions that explore the works of Western history's greatest thinkers, challenge your assumptions, and hone your intellect to a razor-sharp edge. Here is a description of what we study, our degree requirements, and what you can do when you finish.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successfully completing the Integral Program, students will have gained...

  • A capacity for disciplined examination and discussion of fundamental ideas and questions, as treated or suggested by some of the great written texts;
  • An acquaintance with variations in the kinds of degrees of knowledge attainable in different fields of inquiry, acquired through active use of the resources employed in those fields, e.g., experience, reflection, hypothesis, experiment, measurement and inference; and 
  • A basic general competence in reading and listening, and in the verbal and written formulation of judgments, distinctions, questions, and arguments. 


History's greatest thinkers are your teachers

Integral classes do not include the voices of critics and authorities — you read the original works of history's greatest thinkers and discussions are guided only by you, your fellow students and an Integral tutor. You'll encounter the insights and discoveries of Euclid, Sappho, Einstein, Freud, Shakespeare and more, sometimes in translation, sometimes in the original tongue.

The curriculum is divided into seminars, tutorials, and laboratories. The Seminar, the heart of the curriculum, will engage you in careful reading and probing discussion of seminal works of literature, history, economics, politics, philosophy and theology. The Tutorials are in 3 sequences (Mathematics, Language and Music) and require active participation in translating and analyzing texts, demonstrating mathematical proficiency and explaining natural phenomena. Laboratories offer hands-on experience in the physical sciences. Seniors use their accumulated learning to write a major essay and defend it before their fellow students and the Integral tutors.

Seminars begin with a question that invites and provokes inquisitive conversation — conversation that may continue long after the two-hour period is over.


Freshman Seminar

You'll discover and develop wonder, attentiveness, judgment, imagination, openness to new ideas, willingness to be refuted, patience, courage, collegiality, leadership, and general resourcefulness. You'll develop attentive reading habits, clarity of thought, generosity of spirit, and a willingness to boldly enter unfamiliar territory. Seminar is where you'll take the most responsibility for your own learning and thereby experience the College's mission in its purest form.

Freshman is the "Greek" year. Just as the writings of Homer, Plato, and Aristotle represent the foundation of Western thought, freshman seminar establishes a foundation for the following years of study. You'll begin with the Iliad and the Odyssey, continue with the poetry of Sappho, the dramas of Aeschylus and Sophocles and the works of Plato, and conclude with Aristotle. In freshman year you'll acquire habits in serious reading, inquiry, and conversation that will serve you well as you move through the Program.

Sophomore Seminar

Sophomore seminar spans the longest chronological period of all 4 academic years. You'll begin with selections from the Old Testament and classical Roman poetry and history and spend the rest of the year discovering authors who in various ways tried to join, assimilate and judge these 2 very different worlds. Even for the Roman writers the question of how to deal with a partly alien tradition (that of ancient Greece) was a central theme. The year's readings are unified by common classical and biblical roots and the accumulating record of responses to them.

Junior Seminar

The junior seminar draws primarily from the 17th and 18th centuries. In the fall, ethical and political inquiries mingle with metaphysical inquiries; in the spring, readings in these 2 inquiries are segregated, with metaphysics before spring break and ethical-political readings mostly after. The ethical and political inquiries will lead to your first encounter with American authors (Madison, Hamilton) and a reflection upon our own way of life.

Senior Seminar

Senior seminar readings are the most contemporary. You'll read great novels such as War and Peace, Faust, and The Brothers Karamazov and discover American literary giants such as Mark Twain, Flannery O'Connor, Emily Dickinson, and Wallace Stevens. You'll also explore challenging philosophical texts by Hegel, Nietzsche, Kierkegaard, Marx, and Heidegger, and explore the development of psychology in the works of William James, Freud, and Jung.


The Tutorials consist of 3 sequences of classes and require active participation in proving mathematical theorems, translating and analyzing texts, and observing and explaining natural phenomena.

The tutorial sequences are Mathematics, Language and Music. Your inquiries into these areas will result in a complex and nuanced understanding of the human experience and the world in which that experience takes place.

The Mathematics Tutorial will give you insight into the fundamental nature and purpose of mathematics.

Sophomore Math

You'll develop the ability to take mathematical definitions and principles and use them to arrive at necessary conclusions. During your 4 years at Saint Mary's you'll study pure mathematics and learn the foundations of mathematical physics and astronomy. 

Freshman Mathematics: Greek Mathematics, Geometry and Astronomy

Euclidean figureYou'll begin freshman year with Euclid's Elements, including the geometrical books, his treatment of number and the relation between number and magnitude. The geometrical understanding you acquire through Euclid will lead directly into exploration of Ptolemy's Almagest, primarily his theories on the movement of heavenly bodies. The questions you encounter during freshman year will inform your entire 4-year experience in the Mathematics Tutorial.

Sophomore Mathematics: Astronomy, Conic Sections, Transition to Modern Mathematics

Sophomore Mathematics examines 2 of the most fundamental transitions in the tradition of astronomy and mathematics. During the first term you'll continue your studies of Ptolemy, eventually moving on to Copernicus's revision of Ptolemy. The rest of the year is devoted to Apollonius' presentation of the conic sections, followed by Descartes' Geometry. By the end of sophomore year students must demonstrate proficiency in basic algebra. 

Junior Mathematics: Newton and the history of the Calculus

The Junior Mathematics Tutorial pursues questions about the continuity of motion, the infinite and the infinitesimal, and the development of calculus. The year begins Newton's Principia with its sweeping vision of the mechanical motions of the universe, Cartesean figure and finishes with an historical introduction to the calculus. 

Senior Mathematics: Non-Euclidean Geometry, Relativity, Topics in Modern Mathematics

The first term of Senior Mathematics begins with non-Euclidean geometry and Lobachevsky's Geometrical Researches on the Theory of Parallels. In the second semester you'll study Einstein's special relativity and energy-mass papers. The year finishes with selections from modern philosophers of science and mathematics including Poincaré, Hilbert, and Feynman. 

In the Language Tutorial you'll develop an understanding of the nature of language in general and its use as a tool of discourse, be it written or spoken. 

Language TutorialStudents begin by studying a foreign language, ancient Greek, and the art of translation followed by a close analysis of your own native tongue in all of its written and spoken forms.

Freshman Language: Grammar

The freshman language tutorial uses the study of classical Greek as a basis for exploring the nature of language, its inner structure, and its relation to our experience of the world. Problems of interpretation and implication and of the limits of language are addressed through comparisons of translations and through exercises in the translation of rich and significant texts––sometimes passages of texts being read in the seminar or in a tutorial. Discussions of language by Plato and Aristotle are read in translation in order to raise initial and fundamental questions about the making of a theory of language. By the end of the freshman year you'll have new skills in Greek translation and improved writing skills overall. At least 5 papers are required during the course of the year, and students meet individually with their language tutor discuss problems in syntax, thought, organization, and style.

Sophomore Language: Logic 

The Sophomore Language Tutorial emphasizes questions of logic, especially its relationship to rhetoric and dialectic. You'll closely examine readings that not only explore the nature of language but also serve as significant examples of it. These include selections from the pre-Socratics, Plato's Phaedo, Theaetetus, Sophist and Phaedrus, and Aristotle's Categories, and Prior Analytics. You'll also deliver in-class "position papers" and lead class discussion on selected sections of the texts being studied. 3 or 4 written essays are required during the Sophomore Language Tutorial.

Junior Language: Rhetoric 

The Junior Language Tutorial pays special attention to rhetoric. You will examine the rhetorical and poetic fashioning of a wide range of poems, dramas, speeches, and essays in English, as well as a few select short and exemplary works of modern fiction.  You will start with Beowulf and finish with Meditation at Lagunitas, by Robert Hass, an Integral graduate and former U.S. Poet Laureate.  Topics: Invention, Figures of Thought and Speech, Diction and Character, and Prosody;  Logos, Ethos and Pathos in oratory and memoir; Poetic Syntax and Poetic Form in English and American English lyric; Style, Narrative and Plot in tall tale and short story.  Authors (or works): Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Quintilian, Beowulf, Chaucer, Spenser, Sydney, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Donne, Milton, Marvell, Dryden, Pope, Johnson, Blake, Wordsworth, Coleridge, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Percy Shelley, Keats, Emerson, Barrett Browning, Jefferson’s and Lincoln’s inaugurals, Poe, Whitman, Dickinson, Douglass’s Narrative, Hopkins, Yeats, HD, Stein’s Grammar, Eliot, Stevens, M.L.King, Malcolm X, LeGuin, O’Connor, et al.

Senior Language: Dialectic 

The Senior Language Tutorial explores the art of dialectic, its ancient and modern uses and its inherent limitations. In the Fall you will read selections from Parmenides of Elea, Hesiod, selections of the Qur’an, and the Upanishads; Plato’s Craytlus, Parmenides, Philebus; Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and Confucius, Analects; sections from Aristotle’s Metaphysics, the poetry of Basho, and Issa translated by Robert Hass. In the Spring you will read Plato’s Symposium, Endo’s Silence, Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations, Simone Weil and Flannery O’Connor. The term will end with Kant’s Perpetual Peace, Rawls’ The Law of Peoples, and selections from Habermas and Ratzinger.

In the Music Tutorial you will develop an understanding of music through attentive listening, close study of musical theory and analysis of musical works.

Music concertYou will begin with the most basic questions like "What is music?" Beginning with the Greeks, you will study how this question was answered by the great thinkers of the West and East. On the practical side you will learn how to read and analyze works by great composers including Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Palestrina, Stravinsky, and Schoenberg. You'll investigate the diatonic system, melody, counterpoint, harmony, and rhythm in both words and notes. During the lab component you'll construct and play musical instruments, compose music, and learn to sing. 


During the 2-year Laboratory program you'll learn through both reasoned discourse and hands-on observation and analysis. 

You'll use primary texts and replicated experiments to consider fundamental scientific questions throughout the ages, exploring the theories of Ptolemy, Copernicus, Kepler,Newton and Einstein. You'll follow the revolutionary thought and crucial experiments of scientists such as William Harvey in the 18th century and Watson and Crick in the 20th century. We do not believe that scientific studies and the humanities are distinct and autonomous learning domains — the integrity of scientific pursuits stems from all areas of intellectual life. Labs meet twice a week, with ample time for discussion and experiments.

Freshman Laboratory

Joe Casanova plots a gnomon shadow on the equitorial sundialThe freshman laboratory engages students in basic activities of science: the description of the appearances of the natural world, including the phenomena of change. Description through measurement confronts students with the problem of devising instruments and procedures; how to create a straight edge for measuring length, how to measure the angular for distances between stars, how to make a system of clay weights using a meter stick as balance beam, how to measure time with water clocks and shadows. Questions are raised about the meaning and nature of measurement and about what it is that is measured. The classification and naming of phenomena are studied through observations of trees, tidal animals, and birds, the last concluding 

Tutor Lester demonstrates a chemistry experiment

with an extensive report on a single species of bird based primarily on personal observation. Questions about the nature and bases of classification are raised: are species "natural" or are they human constructs? Questions about the nature of change are pursued in relation to time and to organic processes. Concurrently students begin to examine and to assess explanatory models in the work of Aristotle, Ptolemy, and Galen.

Junior Laboratory: Physics, Chemistry, Evolution, Genetics, Heredity

The discussion of the nature of scientific theory and the relation of theory to observation continues in the Junior Laboratory through readings in the foundations of modern mechanics, chemistry, and genetics accompanied by experiments that reproduce as far as possible the conditions under which basic discoveries in these sciences were made. The fall term focuses on the mathematization of physical phenomena. You'll begin with Galileo's work on strength and motion of matter, move on to the constitution of matter with readings from Black, Lavoisier, Dalton, Thompson, Gay-Lussac, Avogadro, Cannizzaro, Berzelius, Faraday, Mendeleev and others, and conclude with quantum theory. Spring term focuses on comparison of Neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory with physicochemical theories, beginning with Darwinian evolution and moving on to genetics with Mendel, Sutton, Morgan, Wilson, Dawkins and others.