Academic Programs
Four-Year Curriculum

Build Upon a Solid Foundation

At other top universities, the curriculum is either unstructured or rigidly defined and focused on disseminating information. Minerva’s four-year curriculum is expressly designed to balance breadth of understanding with depth of expertise.

At Minerva, each semester builds on the previous one and every course offered is seminal — core to one of the majors, with interconnected subjects that span disciplines. There are no superfluous electives or “hobby” classes. Whether pursuing a single undergraduate degree, a double major or double concentration, or furthering your education with the concurrent Master’s in Applied Arts & Sciences, you will be challenged and inspired throughout your learning experience.

Tanna taking class
“The variety of courses keeps me excited. I’m always learning new things — topics I was not drawn to naturally, but am glad I have been exposed to.”
Sultanna Krispil
Class of 2019
Ottawa, Canada

Photo: Shaul Schwartz/Getty

Year 1: Foundation

Instead of basic introductory material, your first-year curriculum is devoted to the four Cornerstone courses. Collectively, these courses focus on developing the habits of mind and foundational concepts (HCs) that underlie four core competencies — thinking critically, thinking creatively, communicating effectively, and interacting effectively — that are a common foundation for every Minerva student.

The Cornerstones are structured to teach you to apply all four core competencies across multiple disciplines. For example, in your Formal Analyses course, which sits within Computational Sciences, you learn inductive logic. This concept, part of the critical thinking competency, is first introduced in readings and class activities about cloning, then subsequently applied to topics in artificial intelligence, the study of global pandemics, and whether money makes people happy. In this way, a single concept is explored across various fields — biology, computer science, public health, and psychology. Further, inductive logic may be invoked and graded in any other Cornerstone course, as well as the courses you take in future years.

Irrespective of the major you intend to pursue, the Cornerstone courses — 32 units in all — provide the breadth and depth of knowledge that will be your academic foundation for the three years to follow. From this base of understanding, you will construct a personalized course of study, with each semester building upon the previous ones.

Cornerstone Courses

Formal Analyses

Formal Analyses focuses on thinking critically. You will receive training in advanced logic, rational thought, statistics, computational thinking, and formal systems — all of which will help you formulate, analyze, and solve complex challenges.

Multimodal Communications

Multimodal Communications focuses on communicating effectively. You will learn to understand and convey information at a high level, gaining practical experience in public speaking, visual communication, design, debate, and artistic expression.

Empirical Analyses

Empirical Analyses focuses on thinking creatively. You will become familiar with the central methods used in the natural and social sciences, enabling you to frame problems effectively, develop and test hypotheses, and engage in informed conjecture.

Complex Systems

Complex Systems focuses on interacting effectively. You will explore how humans function as members of various systems, learning the concepts of multiple causality and multi-factor interactions, group project collaboration, negotiation, leadership, and formal debate.

Year 2: Direction

In your second year, you will work with your academic advisor to explore and then select a major, setting the direction for the major core courses you need to complete your degree. Each of the five majors — Arts & Humanities, Business, Computational Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences — has been designed to teach you the broad skills and concepts pertinent to that field, while enabling multiple paths to expertise via the concentrations within. This combination of breadth and depth provides a level of flexibility not possible with traditional majors, such as psychology or accounting.

Majors

Arts And Humanities

Computational Sciences

Business

Natural Sciences

Social Sciences

Course Load

The standard course load includes three major requirements and five electives. If you choose to major in Business, one of those electives becomes a major requirement. You also have the option to double-major, choosing two different tracks to pursue, or prepare for a double concentration within a major. If you choose to double major or double concentrate, you will only have one elective course in your second year.

Year 3: Focus

Your focus continues to narrow in year three when you select a concentration within your major. The concentrations, which enable more directed work in your chosen field, are more analogous to the majors found at other universities. However, unlike those narrow specializations, at Minerva you learn practical knowledge that can be applied across each major field and to emergent categories within them.

For example, in Computational Sciences, the Data Science and Statistics concentration teaches you to analyze, design, and exploit the infrastructure and technologies required to harness massive amounts of data. These capabilities — extracting and exploiting insights hidden within “big data” — are broadly relevant to nearly every major organization in the world and are the basis for numerous growing industries.

Work on your Capstone project — the culmination of your studies — also begins in the Focus year. In a pair of two-unit courses, you will define your vision for this original work, which serves as a bridge to your professional life after Minerva.

Course Load
The standard third-year course load includes three concentration requirements, three electives, and the half-time Capstone courses. If you choose to major in Business, one of your electives becomes a major requirement. Should you double major, each of the three electives become a concentration requirement. Additionally, if you opt to pursue the concurrent Master’s degree, you will take two, half-time Research Methods courses.

Year 4: Synthesis

Your final year at Minerva centers on completing your self-directed Capstone project. By envisioning, planning, and producing an integrated application of your skills and interests, you are able to create something that is both personally compelling and truly novel to your field. Whether you choose to write an original screenplay, the code for a disruptive technology, or the business plan for a bold social venture, the idea and implementation are yours to lead. The key requirement is that it be a novel contribution to the field.

This effort is complemented by two Tutorial courses and a final elective. The Tutorials are collaborative, student-driven explorations of specific topics. In concert with two other classmates who share your interests, you work with your professor to select the subject matter and specific readings.

Course Load
The extent of your course load in the final year depends entirely on what you have chosen to pursue. Arts & Sciences majors are required to complete two Tutorial courses, two Capstone courses, a single elective, and the Capstone Manifest. If you major in Business, the Tutorial courses are replaced by electives.

Should you choose to earn the concurrent Master’s degree, you will be required to take an additional 22 units — two Master’s seminars, two team Master’s project courses, a second elective course, and the Manifest units for your team Master’s project.

students at the residence hall
“The goal of Minerva’s curriculum isn’t memorization or the study of factual information; we study academic content so we can develop fluid and adaptable skills. Content is not an end in itself, but a medium through which we learn to develop our minds.”
Tyler Pincus
Class of 2019
New Jersey, United States

Photo: Bob Miller

Manifest

The Capstone is completed and presented during Manifest, a month-long term that takes place in San Francisco, following the spring semester of year four. During this celebratory conclusion to your Minerva experience, you present your Capstone work to an audience of faculty, fellow students, and members of the broader community. Your Capstone project will then be evaluated according to the standards relevant to your chosen field. A successful Capstone will effectively propel you into the next stage of your professional life.