2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog 
    May 23, 2024  
2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog

Marlboro Institute For Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies

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The Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies is a center for innovative teaching and scholarship in the Liberal Arts that draws upon the diversity of Emerson’s faculty and students and the different disciplinary, intellectual, and creative interests they represent. Its mission is to promote the interdisciplinary study of the Liberal Arts, to support faculty development and collaboration leading to curricular innovation, and to advance students’ theoretical and ethical understanding of communication and the arts. In all its endeavors, the Institute seeks to foster global and multicultural perspectives.

The Institute is home to a number of programs, including the Marlboro Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) Major, the Honors Program, the Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI), a variety of elective Liberal Arts minors, and the First-Year Seminar Program.

First-Year Seminars in Interdisciplinary Studies

The Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies offers a selection of seminars designed specifically for first-year students. These courses are designed to provide students with a rich and exciting introduction to various areas of study. All first-year courses are small in size and emphasize critical reading, writing, and speaking skills. These courses also emphasize topics, assignments, reflection pieces, and instructional approaches that are geared toward the academic demands of the first year and reflect emerging perspectives in the interdisciplinary study of the liberal arts.

All incoming first-year students (including transfer students in their first year) are required to take a First-Year Seminar during their first year of study at Emerson. The First-Year Seminar simultaneously fulfills the Interdisciplinary Perspective requirement. Transfer students who are sophomores or above are required to take an upper-level interdisciplinary studies course (200-level and above) in fulfillment of the Interdisciplinary Perspective (only IN 498  does not count). Although some variation may exist from year to year, a listing of first-year seminars normally offered by the Institute, as well as upper-level interdisciplinary courses (200-level and above), may be found below under Interdisciplinary Studies Courses.

Student Learning Outcomes:

1.     Demonstrate a disposition to question, explore, and inquire.

2.     Communicate clearly in written, oral and visual presentations and in interpersonal interactions.

3.     Identify, evaluate, and use evidence in discussion, exploration, and analysis.

4.     Exhibit an awareness of the importance of context and opposing perspectives in the analysis of issues and the construction of arguments.

5.     Demonstrate engaged learning skills such as self-direction, time management, and adaptation in response to challenge and feedback.


  • Students will engage with different schools of thought and bring them to bear on the world of ideas, inclusive of contestation between dominant and marginal perspectives;

  • Students will develop competencies in critical thinking, analytic reasoning, and textual comprehension about power structures, social action, and cultural diversity from an interdisciplinary perspective;

  • Students will exercise their ability to form a position and defend it with evidence; to communicate and express their ideas; and to consider divergent perspectives.

Honors Program

The Emerson College Honors Program is an intellectual and creative community that provides a four-year interdisciplinary and collaborative learning experience for undergraduate students of exceptional ability. The program integrates an intellectually challenging liberal arts core curriculum with specialized study in professional fields of communication and the arts through interdisciplinary seminars, collaborative research projects, and faculty-directed independent study. For additional information, please visit emerson.edu/honors-program.

The faculty of the Honors Program is committed to the following goals:

  • Introduce students to the interdisciplinary study of literature and cultural theory, while addressing issues of power, social action, and cultural diversity in various multicultural contexts and developing strong writing skills

  • Introduce students to the arts, humanities, and behavioral and social sciences from an interdisciplinary perspective, with an emphasis on critical thought, modes of inquiry, and research methods, as well as consideration of the ethics of acquiring and producing knowledge

  • Facilitate the completion of an Honors thesis that integrates students’ theoretical and practical skills. This project prepares students for leadership in fields of advanced study and professional disciplines in a global environment

  • Engage in critical thinking and promote leadership through community service projects

The Honors Program has the following student learning objectives:

  1. Students will demonstrate critical writing skills about power, social action, and cultural diversity from an interdisciplinary perspective.

  2. Students will analyze intersections between the science and philosophy disciplines.

  3. Students will synthesize theory and their craft into a research-driven Honors thesis.

Emerson Prison Initiative (EPI)

EPI’s mission is to democratize access to tertiary education for those who have been historically marginalized or otherwise unable to attend college. EPI provides a rigorous liberal arts education to individuals incarcerated at MCI-Concord Massachusetts, where students matriculate into a cohort-based IDIP BA in Media, Literature, and Culture. EPI IDIP students complete all Emerson Foundations and Perspectives requirements as well as all courses for the major that are drawn from Visual and Media Arts; Writing, Literature and Publishing; and the Marlboro Institute curriculum.

Emerson College students interested in getting involved with EPI and its work may do so through the Emerson Prison Initiative co-curricular, IN 347  .

Marlboro Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) Major, B.S./B.A.

Students pursuing an academic major through the Marlboro Institute complete an Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) program of their own design around a coherent idea or set of questions. It is crafted to uphold Marlboro’s distinctive educational promise that students can craft their own education, engage in self-directed inquiry, and bring a big idea to life from conception to execution. Students will combine liberal arts courses with professional and studies courses from across the College in a program of their own design that culminates in a senior capstone project centered on a coherent idea or solution to a problem that sparks their interest and that integrates learning across their chosen disciplines. Building on Emerson’s strong foundation in the liberal arts, the IDS Major provides the support students need to carve their own interdisciplinary paths and to design and name their own unique program of study in close collaboration with faculty across the College. It emphasizes the values of self-directed learning, project-based inquiry, and creative and critical thinking desired by students and employers alike. Optional Directed Study, co-curricular and internship experiences are offered through MI 299  and MI 499 .

IDS students are supported through a four-year curriculum tailored to self-designed and project-based inquiry. Required lower-level courses (MI 190  and MI 290 ) are oriented to intellectual exploration and academic flexibility, while required upper-level courses (MI 390  and MI 490 ) are designed to support students as they execute their self-designed majors, culminating in a yearlong capstone experience in the senior year. Optional co-curricular and internship experiences are offered through MI 299  and MI 499 .

Most IDS majors will earn a Bachelor of Arts. If the majority of a student’s IDS coursework (7 or more courses) is from programs within the School of Communication that award a Bachelor of Science, the student will earn a Bachelor of Science.

In most cases, transfer students will be required to complete a minimum of four semesters at Emerson College. A minimum of 20 credits for the IDS Major must be taken at Emerson. Students must take (at minimum) MI390, MI490-1, and MI490-2, plus at least two IDS Major courses (more are recommended) to meet the 20 credit floor. Only in exceptional circumstances (with the permission of the Dean) could a student graduate in 3 semesters.

Students from another program at Emerson who wish to transfer into IDS should be admitted no later than the first semester of their junior year and will be required to take MI390, MI490-1, and MI490-2 (plus other course electives in their IDS Major).

Current and Graduated IDS Program Titles

  • Animal Behavior and Communications*

  • Arts Management*

  • Building the Broadway Musical*

  • Business and Communication*

  • Creative Vision Through Sound Production and Lyricism*

  • Creative Writing and Philosophy

  • Cultural Studies

  • Economics and Media Studies

  • Environ Studies, Interactive Technology, & Dance

  • Inclusive Digital Content*

  • Latin American Studies and Film

  • Narrative Writing Across Disciplines

  • Nonprofit Communication for Social Change and Equity

  • Philosophy and Political Science

  • Podcasting & Business

  • Queer Creative Writing and Identity*

  • Race, Gender, and Social Justice

  • Sociology, Food Studies, and Business

  • Theater and Anthropology

  • Writing for Modern Media*

* indicates there is currently an Emerson student enrolled in this program during the 2023-2024 academic year


    Bachelor of ArtsBachelor of ScienceMinor

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