2011-2012 Undergraduate Catalog

THE ACADEMIC PROGRAM

REQUIREMENTS FOR THE A.B. DEGREE
FOR STUDENTS WHO MATRICULATED IN THE FALL, 2011)

Thirty-two units of work are required for the A.B. degree. These must include:

  • One Emily Balch Seminar.
  • One unit to meet the Quantitative and Mathematical Reasoning Requirement (preceded by the successful completion of the Quantitative Readiness Assessment or Quantitative Readiness Seminar)
  • Two units to satisfy the Foreign Language Requirement.
  • Four units to meet the Distribution Requirement.
  • A major subject sequence.
  • Elective units of work to complete an undergraduate program.

In addition, all students must complete eight half-semesters of physical education, successfully complete a swim proficiency requirement and meet the residency requirement.

Emily Balch Seminar Requirement

The aim of the Emily Balch Seminar is to engage students in careful examination of fundamental issues and debates. By encouraging focused discussion and cogent writing, the seminars help prepare students for a modern world that demands critical thinking both within and outside of the frameworks of particular disciplines. Students must attain a grade of 2.0 or higher in the seminar in order to satisfy this requirement.

Quantitative and Mathematical Reasoning Requirement

Each student must demonstrate the application of the quantitative skills needed to succeed in her professional and personal life as well as many social and natural science courses by either a) a satisfactory score on the Quantitative Readiness Assessment offered before the start of the freshman year, or b) completing a Quantitative Readiness Seminar with a grade of 2.0 or higher during the freshman year.

In addition, each student must complete, with a grade of 2.0 or higher, before the start of her senior year, one course which makes significant use of at least one of the following: mathematical reasoning and analysis, statistical analysis, quantitative analysis of data or computational modeling. Courses that satisfy this requirement are designated "QM" in course catalogs and guides.

A student cannot use the same course to meet both the QM and distribution requirements. A student may use credits transferred from other institutions to satisfy these requirements only with prior approval.

Foreign Language Requirement

Before the start of the senior year, each student must complete, with a grade of 2.0 or higher, two units of foreign language. Courses that fulfill this requirement must be taught in the foreign language; they cannot be taught in translation. Students may fulfill the requirement by completing two sequential semester-long courses in one language, either at the elementary level or, depending on the result of their language placement test, at the intermediate level. A student who is prepared for advanced work may complete the requirement instead with two advanced free-standing semester-long courses in the foreign language(s) in which she is proficient. Non-native speakers of English may choose to satisfy all or part of this requirement by coursework in English literature.

Distribution Requirement

The student's course of study in the major provides the opportunity to acquire a depth of disciplinary knowledge. In order to ensure exposure to a broad range of frameworks of knowledge and modes of analysis, the College has a distribution requirement that directs the student to engage in studies across a variety of fields, exposes her to emerging areas of scholarship, and prepares her to live in a global society and within diverse communities. The aim of this distribution requirement is to provide a structure to ensure a robust intellectual complement to the student's disciplinary work in the major.

Before the start of the senior year, each student must have completed, with grades of 2.0 or higher, one unit in each of the following Approaches to Inquiry:

1. Scientific Investigation (SI): understanding the natural world by testing hypotheses against observational evidence.
These are courses in which the student engages in the observational and analytical practices that aim at producing causal understandings of the natural world. They engage students in the process of making observations or measurements and evaluating their consistency with models, hypotheses or other accounts of the natural world. In most, but not all, cases this will involve participation in a laboratory experience and will go beyond describing the process of model testing or the knowledge that comes from scientific investigation.

2. Critical Interpretation (CI): critically interpreting works, such as texts, objects, artistic creations and performances, through a process of close-reading.

These courses engage students in the practice of interpreting the meanings of texts, objects, artistic creations, or performances (whether one's own or the work of others) through "close-reading" of those works.

3. Cross-Cultural Analysis (CC): analyzing the variety of societal systems and patterns of behavior across space.
These courses encourage the student's engagement with communities and cultures removed from her own. Using the tools, methodologies and practices that inform our scholarship, students will develop a clearer and richer sense of what it means to analyze or interpret a human life or community within a "culture." A central goal is to overcome the tendency to think that our own culture is the only one that matters.

4. Inquiry into the Past (IP): inquiring into the development and transformation of human experience over time.
These courses encourage the student to engage intellectually with peoples, communities, and polities existing in a different historical context. Using the tools, methodologies and practices that inform our scholarship, students will develop a clearer and richer sense of what it means to analyze or interpret a human life or community in the past. The aim is to have students view cultures, peoples, polities, events, and institutions on their own terms, rather than through the lens of the present.

These Approaches are not confined to any particular department or discipline. Each course that satisfies the distribution requirement will focus on one (or possibly two) of these Approaches. The distribution classifications can be found in the course guide, and students should work with their deans and advisers to craft their course plan. Although some courses may be classified as representing more than one Approach to Inquiry, a student may use any given course to satisfy only one of the four Approaches.

Only one course within the major department may be used to satisfy both the distribution requirement and the requirements of the major. No more than one course in any given department may be used to satisfy distribution requirements.

Students will normally satisfy these requirements with courses taken while in residence at Bryn Mawr during the academic year. Students may use credits transferred from other institutions to satisfy these requirements only with prior approval. AP, A level, or IB credits may not be used to satisfy the distribution requirement, although they would allow a student to place into a more advanced course representing the same Approach.