The Aquinas Institute offers two online programs: a Liberal Arts Core for undergraduates and a Theology Curriculum for graduate students. Each consists of 12 courses.
The Liberal Arts Core, which is offered in collaboration with Wyoming Catholic College, initiates college-ready students into the great intellectual tradition of the Western world. Drawing from some of the greatest writings in Humanities, Philosophy, and Theology, this program provides an integrated experience of the Liberal Arts.
The Theology Curriculum immerses graduate-level students in Scripture, dogma, and morals through the writings of Church Fathers and the Summa theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas.
All of our programs are rooted in the reality that defined the Western world, namely the Catholic Church: her inspired Scripture, her sacred tradition, and her doctrinal teachings. An international faculty of faithful Catholics guides students through live discussions of the greatest books ever written so that students can communicate Catholic principles and integrate them into their lives. The Aquinas Institute designed its programs around two simple ideas: Great Books and Real-Time Conversations.
Anyone who has experienced the joy of learning can remember those few remarkable teachers who made all the difference. It was not just the information they conveyed to students. Even if someone watched these gifted teachers and told everyone what they said, that would not be the same as being in their classroom.
This is why it is important to read the Great Books. Certain remarkable people wrote in a way that touched the whole Western world, and students need to learn directly from these great authors. One could read a textbook that summarizes what Plato or Shakespeare, Augustine or Aquinas said, but that would not be the same as reading the actual texts of the greatest teachers of all time. Sometimes the great authors teach by how they phrase an idea, or by the way they organize their thought. Other times, they expose the true strength or weakness of their argument by letting us walk with them through the birth of their idea. But at all times, what a student misses when reading a textbook about Augustine rather than reading Augustine is Augustine himself. A textbook can teach about the great authors, but it can’t give us the authors themselves. If our first and last introduction to the great conversation of the centuries were a textbook, it would be like hiring someone to attend our family reunion and summarize everything said. It isn’t the same; it isn’t even similar.
Plus, reading the greatest books of all time gives students a confidence they could never gain elsewhere. Once you have wrestled with the mind of Aristotle or the theology of Aquinas, you will never be intimidated by anyone else. And the great secret behind classical education is that you can read these difficult books. Everyone can. You can’t do it alone—but that is why we read together.
The Liberal Arts Core is made possible through collaboration with Wyoming Catholic College
The intellectual tradition of the Western world could be described as a great conversation unfolding over the centuries. Within the Church, this conversation becomes, in addition, a conversation among saints. The Aquinas Institute believes that the best way to join this great conversation is precisely through conversation: real-time back-and-forth with teachers and fellow students. Many minds working on a great text together place that text back in its element as part of an exchange between real people.
In addition, live discussion contributes to a traditional liberal arts formation and, as it is acquired, allows it to be exercised with pleasure. The effort to put thought into words exposes fallacies, sparks new insights, and hones rhetorical skill. Hasty generalizations that seemed convincing in the abstract suddenly founder when forced into the framework of verbal expression. Constant practice persuading and being persuaded soon teaches students to frame their ideas convincingly.
Meanwhile, the need to respond helpfully and convincingly to others fosters the habit of attentive listening. Reading opinions in print, written by distant people of this or that political party, is not at all like a vigorous discussion between friends. One learns really to hear what was said rather than simply noticing who said it.
Real-time discussion about the most important things prepares students to articulate and model Catholic principles in any setting, career, or state in life. It instills in them that most civilized and yet rarest of arts, the art of substantive conversation.
The Aquinas Institute offers its Liberal Arts Core in collaboration with Wyoming Catholic College (WCC), which is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The courses in this program are therefore accredited through the Higher Learning Commission, and can be counted for credit toward degree programs at other universities around the world. The Aquinas Institute is offering these courses via an online medium in order to provide the richness that WCC courses offer:
- to those students who would like a sampling of the full program offered by WCC;
- to those students who need to take core classes for degree programs at other universities;
- and to those students who would like an integrated Liberal Arts experience at the level of a Certificate program.
To share the benefits of liberal education as widely as possible, WCC provides its courses to The Aquinas Institute and approves all teachers for the online courses. However, WCC’s principal mission is to offer a four-year, in-person, immersive education in which courses are not taken separately but as part of a whole. Consequently, courses taken through The Aquinas Institute will not count toward the Bachelor in Liberal Arts degree that WCC offers in person. Rather, if students find themselves drawn to the education offered through these courses, WCC will discount tuition for students who have taken the online program.
Students who want to pursue a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts should arrange a visit to WCC to discover how a complete liberal education depends on the shared life of a physical community.
The Aquinas Institute’s MA-level Theology Curriculum features courses comparable in credit hours and content to those offered at other graduate institutions. Students who complete the 12 courses will be issued a degree by the Aquinas Institute, together with a transcript suitable to demonstrate the rigor of the program and the credentials of the instructors. The Institute is working towards full accreditation for the MA program.