Master of Arts in Liberal Arts

We are currently accepting applications for the spring, summer, and fall 2024 terms.

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Students earning the Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (MALA) degree ask and respond to fundamental questions about themselves and the world by reading and discussing great books. Whether you are right out of college, concluding a successful career, or somewhere in between, this program welcomes sustained reflection and discussion with a community of enthusiastic learners. Start your degree in fall, spring, or summer and enroll on campus or online through the low residency program.

The Reading List

From Homer to Heidegger, Lycurgus to Lobachevsky, Job to Jung, the reading list is the heart of the MALA.

View the Reading List

The Segments

The Masters of Arts in Liberal Arts program is organized into five semester-long segments: Politics & Society, History, Philosophy & Theology, Literature, and Mathematics & Natural Science. Students are required to take four segments, but can opt to take all five, and they can choose to graduate with a focus on one of the segments.*

There are six paths to the degree:

  • Master of Arts in the Liberal Arts
  • Master of Arts in the Liberal Arts with a focus on literature
  • Master of Arts in the Liberal Arts with a focus on philosophy and theology
  • Master of Arts in the Liberal Arts with a focus on politics and society
  • Master of Arts in the Liberal Arts with a focus on history*
  • Master of Arts in the Liberal Arts with a focus on mathematics and natural sciences*

Explore the Segments

* Please note that all segments are not necessarily available each semester. Because of this, a focus on mathematics and natural science or history may not always be possible in sequential academic sessions. To learn more, please contact Brendan Boyle, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, Annapolis or Edward Walpin, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, Santa Fe.

The Classes

All classes are 20 or fewer students in order to nurture a collaborative learning environment, creating space for every voice around the table to listen and be heard. Each semester contains three classes within your selected segment, so you will take a seminar, tutorial, and preceptorial class.




The heart of the curriculum is the seminar, in which a group of students engages in a discussion initiated by a tutor’s opening question about the assigned reading. From Homer to Hannah Arendt, the seminar spans 3,000 years of human thought.


In the tutorial, students focus more intensively on smaller assignments, from mathematical proofs to short literary texts to dense arguments of philosophy or political theory. The tutorial interacts with and enhances the readings in the seminar. The two classes together allow for deep and meaningful reflection on the texts of each segment.


The preceptorial engages in the study of a single book or topic. Preceptorials cover a very wide range of subjects, from a close and sustained reading of a Platonic dialogue to an examination of a Dostoevsky novel to the study and translation of ancient Greek to an examination of the technology and philosophy of computation. They are designed to complement the work in the seminar and tutorial. Preceptorial offerings are typically determined a semester in advance, and there is not a set reading list as the texts selected depend on the topic. Check in with the Graduate Institute today to discuss upcoming selections.

Flexible Schedules That Fit Your Life

The MALA requires four semesters of study on either campus in Annapolis and Santa Fe. Students can spend all four semesters on one campus or time on both campuses.

You can start in the fall, spring, or summer semesters. Complete this degree in two years (two fall and two spring terms), in one year (fall, spring, and two summers), in four summers, or part time over several years including any combination of fall, spring, and summer terms.

With classes held in the evenings, the degree is ideal for people working full time. Many teachers will complete the degree by taking classes over four summer semesters.

Students can also complete each of our graduate degree programs online through our low residency program. They will experience a deeply personal education rooted in the St. John’s tradition of great books and thoughtful exploration alongside their fellow students and our experienced tutors, from anywhere in the world. There are no prerecorded lessons, no lectures, no asynchronous instruction, and no overenrolled classes.

The online classes for the low residency program will be offered at different times based on our campus time zones, so you may want to consider selecting the campus and class times that work best for your schedule. The low residency program will also require you to visit campus for two long weekends, so consider whether you would enjoy spending your weekends watching a sailboat race before walking the historic streets of Annapolis or hiking in the Rocky Mountains before visiting the world-famous art district in the beautiful city of Santa Fe. Contact Graduate Admissions (gradadmissions(at) for more information.

You can also schedule an online conversation with program leadership or book a class observation.