Integrated Liberal Studies (ILS) is an interdisciplinary program offering courses devoted to Western history, philosophy, politics, art, literature, and culture. As an alternative to scattered electives, ILS offers a set of related courses specially tailored to meet the breadth requirements of the College of Letters & Science. ILS draws exemplary, dynamic faculty from departments across campus to create courses that challenge students with a rigorous program of interdisciplinary study emphasizing critical thinking and judgment rather than passive absorption of information. Although these courses may be taken as single electives, the purpose of the program is to counter the fragmentation of undergraduate education by providing a common ground of learning.

Because ILS courses are interdisciplinary, students are encouraged to make connections between the various subject areas. They study the relations between literature and the arts; science, technology, and philosophy; and political, economic, and social thought. The content of the curriculum has been developed in the belief that historical perspective is required for a full understanding of contemporary issues. Courses numbered 201–206 progress from historical to contemporary topics, in each of the three breadth areas. Together, these courses provide a comprehensive introduction to the achievements of Western culture. Those numbered 251–372 cover interdisciplinary special topics in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities, from "Art and Political Activism" to "Vietnam: Music, Media, and Mayhem." ILS also includes a course (ILS 200 Critical Thinking and Expression) in critical thinking and expression to sharpen communication and research skills necessary for college work. This course satisfies the university's Communications B requirement. ILS 400 Capstone Integration Seminar, a senior capstone seminar addressing an interdisciplinary topic, is required in order to complete the ILS certificate.


The ILS program is affiliated with the Bradley Learning Community, a residence hall. ILS faculty participate in activities and offer courses taught in the residence hall.

 ILS is open to all UW undergraduate students in any college. There are no requirements or prerequisites to declare the certificate.

Declaring an ILS certificate may be accomplished any time during the year and does not need to be added to UW–Madison admission forms. To declare an ILS certificate students can stop by the Meiklejohn House (228 North Chater Street) and talk to the advisor or administrator to fill out their declaration form. For more information, please see the program website or send an email to

18 credits from:

at least 3 credits from:3
Genres of Western Religious Writing
Contemporary Physical Sciences
Contemporary Life Sciences
Literature and Society
Literature and Science
Pre-Copernican Astronomy and Cosmology in Crosscultural Perspective
Special Topics in Integrated Liberal Studies
Directed Study
Directed Study
Peer Montoring for First-Year Liberal Education Seminar
Peer Mentor Seminar
Interdisciplinary Studies in the Arts and Humanities
Interdisciplinary Studies in the Social Sciences
Global Cultures Capstone Seminar
Research in Integrated Liberal Studies
Undergraduate Honors Thesis
Undergraduate Honors Thesis
Undergraduate Thesis
Undergraduate Thesis
ILS 400 Capstone Integration Seminar3
Additional credits:12
Any ILS course from above or: 1
Principles of Environmental Science
CRC First-Year Seminar: Foundations of a Liberal Arts Education
Ways of Knowing
Ways of Knowing in the Sciences
Bradley Roundtable Seminar
Creativity and the Civic-Minded Culture
Directed Study
Directed Study
Critical Thinking and Expression
Western Culture: Science, Technology, Philosophy I
Western Culture: Science, Technology, Philosophy II
Western Culture: Literature and the Arts I
Western Culture: Literature and the Arts II
Western Culture: Political, Economic, and Social Thought I
Western Culture: Political, Economic, and Social Thought II
History of Western Culture II
Introduction to Global Cultures
Total Credits18

Up to 6 credits from Freshman Interest Group (FIG) courses may apply to the certificate. Consult the undergraduate advisor for more information about applying these courses to the program.

 Residence & Quality of Work

2.000 GPA on all certificate-approved courses

6 credits in the certificate, in residence

Learning Outcomes

Integrated Liberal Studies is an interdisciplinary liberal education core curriculum and ever-changing set of special topics courses focused onWestern history, philosophy, politics, art, literature, and culture. The aim of ILS is to provide an integrated understanding of the great themes of human inquiry and expression in scientific, political, economic, and social thought, as well as literature and the arts. The program is an excellent, more cohesive alternative to completing breadth requirements through unrelated and fragmented introductory courses. ILS offers instead a coherent set of integrated courses that fulfill all breadth requirements, and combines core survey courses with smaller, seminar-style topics courses. There are minimal prerequisites for all ILS courses and most courses are open to freshmen. ILS is something of a "small liberal arts experience within a great University," an academic home where you can meet friends with similar interests taking a common set of courses. ILS holds a variety of student activities and events to sustain its community of learning. Our close relationships with the Bradley Learning Community and Chadbourne Residential College also mean that you could make ILS part of a complete living-learning experience.


You can meet all of the Letters & Science distribution requirements for a BA degree through ILS. However, ILS is a flexible program: you can take as many ILS courses as you like. Some students make ILS the core of their first two years of study; others take ILS courses alongside their major throughout their undergraduate studies. The "first tier" courses (numbered 201-206) are organized historically and together offer a comprehensive view of the achievements of the mind in science, social thought, and the humanities. The "second tier" courses (numbered 251-372) deal with contemporary issues in science, social science, and the humanities. In addition to these classes, ILS also offers its own writing course, Critical Thinking and Expression (ILS 200), which sharpens analysis and composition skills.


Students can receive a certificate showing that they have completed an integrated liberal education program that becomes part of their transcript. ILS also offers several scholarships of various amounts to dedicated students within the program.

The ILS Certificate

Integrated Liberal Studies is a certificate program. Students must complete 18 credits of ILS courses (approximately six total classes), including 6 credits in courses numbered 230 and above, one of which must be the capstone seminar (ILS 400). Upon satisfying these requirements, students will receive a certificate of completion: their transcripts will note they completed a program of interdisciplinary liberal studies in addition to their major(s). If you would like to work toward the ILS certificate, please stop by the ILS office in the Meiklejohn House, located at 228 N. Charter Street, and fill out the certificate declaration. Filling out the declaration does not obligate you to complete the certificate, but it does ensure notation on your transcript when you complete the  requirements. Click here to view the declaration form.

Advisor Contact

Richard Avramenko, ILS Chair

Career informaton

The Integrated Liberal Studies Program encourages certificate students to begin working on their career exploration and preparation soon after arriving on campus. We partner with the L&S Career Services office to help you leverage the academic skills learned in your major and liberal arts degree, explore and try out different career paths, participate in internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers).

Letters & Science graduates are in high demand by employers and graduate programs. It is important to us that our students are career ready at the time of graduation, and we are committed to your success.

Career Resources:


Affiliated Faculty

Richard Avramenko, Chair (Political Science)

William Aylward (Classics)

Doug Bradley (ILS)

Aaron Brower (Social Work)

Florence Hsia (History of Science)

David Kleinman (Rural Sociology)

Jason Lopez (Comm Arts)

Laura McClure (Classics)

Cathy Middlecamp (Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies)

Steve Nadler (Philosophy)

Adam Nelson (Educational Policy Studies)

Lynn Nyhart (History of Science)

Zakir Paul (Political Science)

Shawn Peters (The Center for Educational Opportunity—CeO)

Patricia Rosenmeyer (Classics)

Howard Schweber (Political Science)

Kathi Sell (ILS)

Basil Tikoff (Geoscience)

Mike Vanden Heuvel (Theatre and Drama)

Craig Werner (Afro-American Studies)

John Zumbrunnen (Political Science)

"A small liberal arts college within a great university" 

ILS is not only a certificate, but a community on campus. The program strives to create a place where students can take multiple classes with the same group of Peers and develop lasting relationships. It's like a fig (first-year interest group) Throughout the entire undergraduate  experience. 

“The University of Wisconsin needs programs like ILS to give students the indispensable liberal arts experience and I am happy that it was part of my experience here on campus." Brett Tietz (2015 ILS graduate)

“I love that the history and literature I learn in my ILS courses makes me a better conversationalist.” Paul Sutherland (2015 ILS graduate)

“I love ILS because there is so much to learn.  Through ILS I was able to trace the history of science from natural philosophy all the way up to Newtonian physics, and the impact of science on the contemporary art & literature.  I really enjoyed being able to study the humanities, and the insights these classes have provided me on the interaction between science and culture.  The program was a great way for me to study things that I am interested in, but are unrelated to my major, such as astronomy, geology, philosophy, literature, art history, geopolitics.”  Brad Glasco (2015 ILS graduate)

“The main goal of ILS is to get its students to recognize how different subjects of knowledge connect with one another. Our student-led class in our ILS capstone attempted to accomplish this goal through the topic of tattoos. By reading articles and books on tattoos, witnessing a classmate receive a tattoo, interviewing veteran tattoo artists in the field, debating case studies, and discussing stigmas and stereotypes of tattoos, we wove together knowledge from history, psychology, sociology, criminology, philosophy, and art. My views about tattoos, and people who choose to get them, will be forever better informed. I will always remember my classmates and this capstone!” Ryan Fleming (2015 ILS graduate) 

“Virtually every ILS class threatens to fundamentally change the way you see the world." Eric Schmidt, political science major

“Some of the best professors on campus teach ILS classes, and they love the program as much as the students!  How many other programs offer Aristophanes, Nietzsche and Jon Stewart in the same class?” Jeff Landow, English major

Meiklejohn Travel Award 

Up to $1500

Named for Alexander Meiklejohn, founder of the University of Wisconsin Experimental College (1927–32), the forerunner to the ILS program, this prize is intended to help support an ILS student in a university-sponsored or an independent program of education-centered travel or study abroad, taking place during the summer or academic year (or in the United States if the destination is remote from the student’s home or the campus).


  • Enrolled in the ILS certificate program.
  • “Consideration is given to the student’s need, extra-curricular activities and academic standing.”
  • Must be a full-time undergraduate student.


  • A two-page, double-spaced typewritten statement of your project, outlining your interests, goals, and itinerary.
  • You should provide evidence that the travel proposal has been reviewed and endorsed by an appropriate faculty member.
  • The travel should take place during the summer or academic year immediately following the award; in your application, please specify.
  • This project may be directed by a faculty member for directed study credit, be part of a study abroad course for credit or noncredit, or be a noncredit self-directed trip. Indicate in your submission which of these options you will be using.
  • The grantee will submit a report on the project upon returning and present an ILS Travelogue at an ILS student event in the fall semester

Pooley Prize 

Up to $2,000 each (based on available funds)

Named for Professor Robert Pooley, the first chair of the Integrated Liberal Studies program (1948), this prize is:

  • given annually to one outstanding male ILS student and one outstanding female ILS student
  • on the basis of academic achievement (GPA of at least 3.0 for the 3 preceding semesters),
  • evidence of good character,
  • student leadership in the ILS program, including involvement in extracurricular activities, and
  • available for travel purposes relating to their ILS courses.

Eligibility: Open to all students who have either completed or are about to complete the ILS certificate program this year.


  • A double-spaced typewritten essay on your educational philosophy and goals (at least one page must be devoted to a narrative of your transcripts). The transcript narrative should tell why you took the elective courses you did, what you learned, what you liked or disliked, expectations met or exceeded, hopes realized, disappointments, and so on. Also discuss your participation in the life of the ILS program.
  • Two reference letters from faculty in ILS providing evidence of your participation in and contributions to the life of the ILS program, your scholarship, and your character.

Ruth Knatz Award

Up to $5,000 (based on available funds)

Named for Ruth Knatz Gross Wisnewsky and given by her husband, Edward Wisnewsky, this prize will be given only to a truly outstanding student who:

  • is majoring in at least one humanities discipline (including history and history of science, but not social science or science); this means you may be double-majoring in one non-humanities major, but the other must be a humanities major
  • gives promise of making a valuable contribution to the humanities
  • has done exemplary work in 15 ILS credits (6 credits above 250)
  • has achieved junior or senior standing,
  • will be travelling with the purpose of strengthening their ILS course and academic purpose, and
  • has signed up for the certificate and plans to complete the ILS certificate program.


  • Three letters of recommendation, two from ILS faculty and one from faculty in your major, addressing your current contributions to the humanities and your potential for future contributions
  • A brief (4–5 pages, double-spaced) essay on why you love the humanities; how the study of the humanities has changed your life; and how you hope to share what you’ve discovered with others.

The winner will present a talk in a symposium at ILS titled “The Promise of the Humanities.”