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About the Program

The Integral Program - A Different Way to Learn

The Integral Program — part of the Saint Mary's College experience for over 50 years — uses questioning, conversation, and a classic liberal arts approach to engage students in a unique and profound educational experience. Our students discover the interconnected nature of a broad spectrum of fields, learning to think mathematically, scientifically, poetically and philosophically. You'll not only study ways of thinking, you'll explore the nature of thought itself. Each Integral class learns to converse on multiple levels, ask precise and incisive questions, and give intuitive, informed responses.

A College-within-the-College

The Integral Program is a special community with its own curriculum, requirements, faculty and degree. The demands of the Program differ significantly from those of more conventional departments and majors. Transfer into the Integral Program after the first semester is nearly impossible due to the unique nature of its curriculum, which proceeds in a purposeful, chronological manner through all 4 undergraduate years. Integral students do have the option of taking at least 6 elective courses in other fields of interest. The Program attracts talented and committed students from any and all backgrounds, but is not and has never been an honors program.


Listen to a podcast or view videos on the Program

Tutors and students talk about what they think is unique and valuable about the Program

theosmall.jpg tedsmall.jpg alexsmall.jpg joellesmall.jpg
Tutor Theo Carlile Tutor Ted Tsukahara Senior Alex Branch Senior Joelle Maude Playlist on different aspects of the Program


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. Integral classes do not include the voices of critics and authorities — 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 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 (Mathematic, 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.



altSeminars begin with a question that invites and provokes inquisitive conversation — conversation that may continue long after the 2 -hour period is over. 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 Seminar

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.


In the Language Tutorial students study a foreign language and the art of translation. By exploring a foreign tongue (including 2 years of Greek) and your own native tongue you'll develop an understanding of the nature of language in general and its use as a tool of discourse.

language.jpgFreshman Language: Grammar

During the Freshman Language Tutorial you'll study ancient Greek grammar, examine English grammar and reflect on general questions of how language works. You'll study the nature and function of parts of speech, phrases and clauses, and receive an introduction to Eastern languages by learning written and spoken Chinese. You'll end the year by translating substantial passages from Freshman Seminar readings, such as Sappho's poetry, Aristotle's On Interpretation, Plato's Cratylus and the New Testament. 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, andPrior 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 and (philosophical) grammar. You'll investigate semantics in Augustine and the Stoics; hermeneutics and interpretation in Shakespeare's sonnets; and the opposition of styles in Pope, Wordsworth and selected short stories. Students also investigate problems in translating classical Chinese texts. The year concludes with modern treatments of languages in Saussure and Chomsky and the logic and language of Wittgenstein.

Senior Language: Dialectic

The Senior Language Tutorial explores the art of dialectic, its ancient and modern uses and its inherent limitations. You'll read Plato's Philebus and Parmenides, related passages in Aristotle'sNicomachean Ethics and Metaphysics, Thomas Aquinas' On the Principles of Nature and On Being and Essence, Kant's Critique of Pure Reason and Hegel's Encyclopaedia Logic.


0000.jpgThe Mathematics Tutorial will give you insight into the fundamental nature and purpose of mathematics. 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

You'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'sAlmagest, 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: Calculus, Mathematic Theory

The Junior Mathematics Tutorial pursues questions about the continuity of motion, the infinite and the infinitesimal, and the development of calculus. The year begins with DecartesGeometry, moves on to Newton's Principia and overall creates a sweeping vision of the mechanical motions of the universe.

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

The first term of Senior Mathematics begins with non-Euclidean geometry and Lobachevsky'sGeometrical Researches on the Theory of Parallels. In the second semester you'll study Einstein's special relativity and energy-mass papers. At the end of both terms each tutor leads inquiries into a range of specific topics, including general relativity, Poincaré, Kant on space and time, Einstein's Geometry and Experience or Hawking's Einstein's Dream.



The Sophomore Music Tutorial develops an understanding of music through attentive listening, close study of musical theory and analysis of musical works, 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.




0006.jpgThe Laboratory is a two-year program in which 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: Biology, Chemistry

The 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 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

0019.jpgThe 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.

What Results?

What Degree Do the Students Earn?

The Integral Program offers its own bachelor's degree, which is granted upon successful completion of the eight seminars, eight mathematics tutorials, eight language tutorials, 4 laboratories, music tutorial and senior essay. Completion of the first 2 years of the Integral Program fulfills the College's general education requirements, with the exception of English and 2 January Term courses. Each Integral course is a prerequisite for later courses, making it impossible to join the Program later than freshman year. In extraordinary cases a remedial course in January Term may be taken to allow a freshman to enter the Program in February.

Some Integral students pursue an additional major or minor, which must be chosen from a limited selection of programs and usually requires carrying more than a 4 -course load. Integral students usually begin pre-professional studies after graduation.

What can You Do with an Integral Degree?

Integral students have the ability and the confidence to think clearly, incisively and creatively, work independently, read carefully and analytically, and express themselves coherently. They're versed in a wide range of literary and technical topics, and are at home in fields involving language, mathematics, science and more. The Program's unique educational experience results in a strong foundation for graduate work and professional careers. Our graduates are successful in a broad spectrum of occupations, including business, medicine, education, law and any other vocation that values careful thinking and powerful discourse.

What are Some of Our Alumni Doing?

Five Alumni from the Class of '92

  • Carrie Coughlin always wanted to practice law, was advised to follow the Integral Liberal Arts Curriculum, received her J.D. from the University of Colorado at Denver and now is a Deputy District Attorney. "I am incredibly grateful; Integral was perfect for law school because we read so much and we argued everything."
  • Tracie Hajdukovich got into the Program because she didn't want to specialize and feel limited. She now works as Director of Marketing in the family business. She says her education prepared her to think about whatever comes across her desk. 
  • Denise Korte did a year of volunteer teaching in Harlem and after a variety of jobs has returned to teaching: 4th graders in South Central Los Angeles, where the school district is paying her to get her credential. "Integral is far beyond what you can do with it; to be successful at a job you have first to be a whole person. Integral helps; what you learn is always with you." 
  • Tom McDermott went to Forestry School for a year, taught English in Mexico for awhile, and works now in the Traffic Department of an automotive supplier, where he is one of few without an accounting or transportation degree. He is applying to pursue an M.A. in Spanish.
  • Maureen McWeeney took Chemistry and Biology after graduation, then breezed through the Masters in Public Health program at CSU Long Beach. She works as a breast cancer educator in an innovative pilot program. "My education is my best asset; I always want to understand things from their beginnings, to see the whole picture. I feel blessed by my education and have never had to envy anyone else's."

Go to the Alumni section to see other examples of what our graduates are doing


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