When Marlboro College was founded in Marlboro, Vermont, in 1946, it was built on the idea that students could craft their own education, engage in self-directed inquiry, and bring a big idea to life from conception to execution. Now, in the wake of a historic alliance, Marlboro’s legacy lives on at Emerson College.

The Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies at Emerson College continues to uphold these ideals, offering a liberal arts experience in an otherwise specialized environment. It enables creative, passionate students to examine the world across diverse disciplines, add depth and intellectual perspective to their studies, and even design their own major.


As a student in the Marlboro Institute, you will learn to form and communicate critical ideas and collaborate with a diverse community of creative peers. Through the Marlboro Interdisciplinary Studies major (IDS), you will be able to pursue your own self-designed major based on your specific academic interests. You will combine liberal arts courses with courses from other departments and lead a final project centered on a coherent idea or solution to a problem that sparks your interest. Some recent examples include:

> Arts Administration

> Asian Studies and Religion

> Humor and Post-colonial Narratives

> Multimedia Nonfiction Storytelling

> Philosophy and Political Science

> Studio News Production

Supported by an advisory team of faculty members who will provide guidance along the way, you’ll spend your first three years in a specialized curriculum defined by your area of interest and anchored in critical explorations of knowledge across the arts, humanities, sciences, and social sciences.

During your first year, you will engage in interdisciplinary modes of inquiry and start developing and researching emergent questions individually and collaboratively. In the sophomore seminar, the concept of project-based learning will be introduced.

You will begin preparing for your capstone project in the junior seminar by identifying a methodological approach for your research. Your senior year will culminate in a year-long capstone experience designed by you and your advisors. Throughout all four years, academic flexibility will remain at the core of the program and allow for intellectual exploration as you approach graduation.

In crafting your self-designed program, you will be able to draw from courses within the Marlboro Institute as well as those offered in all departments of the College. Particular areas of strength are interdisciplinary minors that connect arts and communication with liberal arts:

  • African American and Africana Studies
  • Art History
  • Digital Media and Culture
  • Economics
  • Environmental Studies
  • Global and Postcolonial Studies
  • Health and Society
  • History
  • Latin American and Latinx Studies
  • Literature
  • Music History and Culture
  • Peace and Social Justice
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science
  • Psychoanalysis as Cultural Criticism
  • Psychology

  • Religion
  • Science
  • Sociology and Anthropology
  • Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies