General Education Requirements

The goal of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences is to provide liberal arts and pre-professional education for undergraduate students that is grounded in scholarly excellence and offers students the knowledge, understanding, analytical tools, and communication skills they need to become perceptive, reflective, and intellectually self-conscious citizens in a diverse and rapidly changing world. The general education requirements are at the core of that goal.

A. Writing Requirements

Written communication remains the hallmark of our culture and is central to almost all disciplines and professions. The achievement of writing proficiency is a lifelong process, but it is especially important that undergraduate education accelerates and directs that process toward the achievement of levels of writing skills that will provide a base appropriate for professional or graduate education or for professional employment. The school requires that each student complete the following writing courses that span his or her undergraduate years*.

1. An Introductory Composition Course

This is a college-level composition course such as Seminar in Composition offered by the Department of English or one of the approved freshman seminars. Students who need to strengthen their writing in preparation for the introductory course may be required to take Workshop in Composition and in some cases Workshop Tutorial, or they may be advised to take Composition Tutorial.To fulfill this requirement, students must pass their introductory composition course with a grade of C- or better by the end of the first two terms of full-time enrollment. Students who score over 600 on the SAT Verbal Exam and a 5 on the Advanced Placement Exam may be exempted from the introductory composition requirement.

2.Two Writing-Intensive Courses

After completing an introductory composition course, each student must complete two courses that are designated as writing intensive (W-courses) or one W-Course and a second English composition course.Students must satisfy one element of this requirement within their major field of study.W-Courses are designed to teach writing within a discipline through writing assignments that are distributed across the entire term. Students should produce at least 20-24 pages of written work; a significant portion of this work should be substantially revised in response to instructor feedback and class discussion.

B. Quantitative and Formal Reasoning Requirement

All students are required to take and pass with a grade of C- or better at least one course in university-level mathematics (other than trigonometry) for which algebra is a prerequisite, or an approved course in statistics or mathematical or formal logic in a department of the Dietrich School.

Students who qualify for placement in an upper-level course in mathematics are exempt from this requirement*.

* Unless otherwise exempted, incoming freshmen are required to complete the University’s Writing and Mathematical Proficiency placement tests, which may determine the need for additional basic skills courses.

C. Requirements in the Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, and Arts

The requirements in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, and arts allow students to pursue their own interests while they explore contemporary and diverse views of a broad range of human cultures, modes of thought, and bodies of knowledge. Many of the courses which fulfill these requirements are truly courses in the disciplines that draw on the unique resources of a research university.

1. A Course in Literature

The student will be introduced to the techniques of literary analysis through a course that includes a range of literary texts. The course will have no prerequisites unless the literature is in a language other than English. If the course is also to count for W-course credit, the student must have satisfied the Composition requirement before enrolling in the literature course.

2. A Course in the Arts

This course introduces students to the modes of analysis appropriate to music, theatre, or the visual arts and might be a survey, genre, period, or artist course.

3. A Second Course in Literature, the Arts, or Creative Expression

This will be a second course in literature or the arts or a course in which students are given training in creative expression in writing, the theatrical arts, studio arts, filmmaking, photography, musical performance, musical composition, or dance.

4. A Course in Philosophy

The course will emphasize close reading, analysis, and evaluation of classic works of philosophy. This course may be offered in departments other than the Department of Philosophy or the Department of History and Philosophy of Science provided the readings consist principally of works of established importance and value that exhibit a philosophical approach and examine first principles in an intellectually probing manner.

5. A Social Science Course

A course that treats topics considered of fundamental importance in the social or behavioral sciences (including social psychology). Approved courses will introduce students to the subject matter and methodology of a particular discipline and will involve them in the modes of investigation, analysis, and judgment characteristically applied by practitioners.

6. A Course in Historical Change

A course dealing with a crucial human time sequence such as economic, political, social, and cultural change in a society or from one society to another; change in science and the idea of science; or change in literature and the arts. This course may be offered in departments other than the Department of History. The course will fulfill the integrative function of history by treating a particular set of changes, or a field of knowledge or expression, in terms of a wider society, which is itself changing.

7. Three Courses in the Natural Sciences

These will be courses that introduce students to scientific principles and concepts (rather than offering a simple codification of facts in a discipline or a history of a discipline). The courses may be interdisciplinary, involving faculty from at least two departments in their development and implementation, and no more than two courses may have the same department as the primary departmental sponsor of the course.

8. A Sequence of Two Courses in a Second Language

All students are required to complete with a grade of C- or better two terms of university-level study in a second language other than English. Exemptions will be granted to students who can demonstrate elementary proficiency in a second language through one of the following:

  1. Having completed three years of high school study of a second language with a grade of B or better in each course; 
  2. Passing a special proficiency examination;
  3. Transferring credits for two terms or more of approved university-level instruction in a second language with grades of C or better; 
  4. Having a native language other than English.

9. Three Foreign Culture/International Courses

Each student must complete three foreign culture/international courses chosen from at least two of the categories in the regional, comparative, or global classifications used for these courses. Regional courses can address a single culture or society in a particular country or focus on cultures or societies in any region of the world other than the United States; comparative courses utilize a comparative perspective in examining problems, issues, or topics that crosscut regional or national boundaries; and global courses focus on global processes by examining worldwide issues or topics comprehensively.

10. Non-Western Culture Requirement

At least one of the courses used to satisfy the international culture requirement or another general education requirement (e.g., historical change) must address a culture or cultures other than those of the Mediterranean, Central and Western Europe, and French- or English-speaking North America.

For a complete list of courses which fulfill the general education requirements of the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, please consult the Course Catalog (PDF).