Master of Liberal Studies

The Master of Liberal Studies (MLS) program is based on the premise that studying the great ideas of Western civilization increases intellectual awareness and self-fulfillment.


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.

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; you may even find a path to a new career. And, even when you complete your degree, you're not done learning. Our alums return for speakers, annual events, and book clubs. 

Fall 2019 Application Deadlines:

Applications for the Master of Arts (M.A.) in Liberal Studies are accepted on an annual basis. Click here for application instructions

  • Early Decision Deadline - March 1, 2019
  • Regular Decision Deadline - May 15, 2019 (Late applications will be considered based on space available).

Program Length:

48 credit hours

Tuition Cost:

Based on 2018-19 tuition rates of $493 per credit hour, the total tuition cost for the program is approximately $23,664.


The student in each entering class pursue the core courses together, so they may achieve a common ground of knowledge and a strong sense of community. The program begins in the fall term each year, however, once a student is accepted into the program, they may take an elective or masterworks course as a degree-seeking student prior to the fall. All matriculated students must complete a thesis project prior to 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 or idea.


MLS 602: The Human Order [4]

The social and political philosophies of the ancient world reflect the effort to shape the human community according to a universal order in which human beings have a natural place and a natural purpose. In this course, students explore the social and political thought of ancient Greece and Rome in the context of the culture in which that thought arose. The 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 liberal studies seminar, students apply the knowledge they have acquired in the program in designing and executing a final project. 100 The project may be a research study or a creative work supported by a critical or theoretical essay. For guidelines and approval procedure, please see page 93.


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

Edward H. Cohen
William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor of English. B.A., University of Maryland; M.A., University of Iowa; Ph.D., University of New Mexico. Specializations: Victorian studies.

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.

Hoyt L. Edge
Hugh F. and Jeannette G. McKean Professor of Philosophy. B.A., Stetson University; M.A., Ph.D., Vanderbilt University. Specializations: philosophy of psychology, American philosophy, parapsychology, and cognitive anthropology.

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.

Patricia A. Lancaster
Professor Emerita of French and Dean Emerita of the Hamilton Holt School. B.A., Coker College; M.A., Ph.D., Emory University. Specializations: humanities and French language, literature, and culture.

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.

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

Joseph V. Siry
Associate Professor of Environmental Studies. B.A., Emory University; M.A., Ph.D., University of California at Santa Barbara. Specializations: conservation history, the history of science and technology, energy conservation and resource use, international environmental politics, global ecology, wilderness field studies, and service learning.

Robert Smither
Professor of Psychology. B.A., Indiana University; M.A., California State University at San Francisco; Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University. Specializations: industrial and organizational psychology, leadership, existential and humanistic psychology, and personality theory.


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.

thesis project

Students may enroll in MLS 690 Thesis Project after they have completed 10 courses (40 semester hours).

The thesis project focuses on a significant question which integrates ideas studied during the course of the MLS program. Projects may take the form of traditional research studies that utilize primary and secondary sources, or they may be nontraditional studies, such as creative or applied works. Studies of a non-traditional nature must be supplemented by an essay that sets forth their critical bases and connects them with a concept or argument developed in the program.

All matriculated students must complete a thesis project prior to graduation. The exact nature of that project is determined by the student in consultation with the director and a faculty mentor. The thesis project must be carefully designed and researched, and it must reflect the philosophy of the MLS program and relate to the courses the student has taken.

Because the thesis project is a time-consuming enterprise, students should consider selecting their topics and consulting with prospective mentors well in advance of the term in which they intend to graduate. Each summer, the director meets with all students who are eligible to graduate during the coming academic year, and together they identify an appropriate thesis project and a faculty member who might serve as a mentor.

The student and the faculty mentor work together to design a detailed thesis project proposal and to select a second faculty reader for the thesis. After the mentor and student have completed the thesis proposal, the second reader will review it. He or she may suggest changes to the proposal and must sign the final proposal to indicate approval. The second reader will have an initial meeting with the student and mentor, review the student’s progress on the first two chapters (or equivalent), read the final draft, and join the student and mentor for a final meeting that will be called the defense.

Thesis project proposals must be submitted to the director by August 1 for fall term or October 15 for the spring term. Students and their mentors will be notified prior to the beginning of the term if the thesis project proposal is acceptable or if changes are required. After a proposal has been approved, substantive changes can be made only if the director consents.

Students who finish all classes but who have not completed the thesis requirement by the end of the summer after taking MLS 690 must register and pay for MLS 691 Thesis Extension (at the billing rate of two credits) in the fall. Continuous enrollment in MLS 691, during the fall and spring terms only, is expected until the thesis is completed. It is the student’s responsibility to submit the required registration and payment for MLS 691, as applicable, each term. Thesis students seeking an exception to the continuous-enrollment policy may request up to a one-year leave of absence from the program. This appeal must be submitted in writing and approved by the director of the MLS program in order to be in effect. The director reserves the right to have students who prolong the thesis requirement to reregister for the Thesis and resubmit a thesis proposal. In all cases, students must complete the thesis requirement by the seventh year in the MLS program.

Thesis proposal form


Application for Graduation
All students completing their coursework must apply for graduation by completing the Intent to Graduate Form accessed through FoxLink. After you log in, select the Holt Student tab and look for the Graduation block in the center channel. Follow the online instructions.  This is a requirement even if you do not intend to participate in the annual ceremony.