Starting September 2014, all Mount Holyoke students will fulfill revised requirements for graduation that were approved by the faculty this spring after two years of consideration.
The revised requirements are intended as a foundation on which academic breadth and depth can be built. They also provide opportunities for students to discover new academic areas of interest or to add a credential such as a second major, a minor, a Nexus, or a Five College certificate.
“The Academic Priorities Committee (APC) talked about graduation requirements for more than two years,” says Kathy Aidala, associate professor of physics and chair of the APC. “After seeking input from faculty, looking at other institutions, and many vigorous debates addressing a wide range of implementations, we brought a proposal to the faculty floor. The democratic process refined it into its final form.”
This academic year’s APC comprised five professors, the dean of faculty, dean of the College, and two students.
Joan Cocks, Professor of Politics on the Ford Foundation, says she proposed the new system “as a way to simplify degree requirements while offering structure and guidance to undergraduates in their first year and one half of study. This midpoint between an entirely open curriculum and a more intricate set of rules introduces students to the three divisions of academic knowledge, invites them to step into the larger world through language learning and multicultural coursework, provides them with an early seminar experience, and encourages them to exercise their bodies as well as their minds. It enables each upper-class student to choose whether to devote herself exclusively to a major course of study or to combine a major with any of a number of alternatives.”
The new requirements dovetail with the College’s overall learning goals, adds Karen Remmler, professor of gender studies and chair of German studies. “Students work toward their major within a liberal arts context that exemplifies the critical thinking, creativity, and global inclusiveness at the intersection of innovative learning across the disciplines and application in the field.
“At the same time, faculty can develop more intentional clusters across the curriculum, rather than teaching courses solely for distribution requirements,” Remmler adds. “And rather than take a requirement to ‘get it out of the way,’ students now have the option of building pathways leading to integrated learning goals.”
The new system also meshes with The Lynk, which directs students from goal setting and professional development to practical experience and their “launch” into the post-graduation world.
Tim Farnham, director of the Center for the Environment, says the new requirements should appeal to prospective students too. "The students now considering Mount Holyoke are subject to increasing requirements and testing in high school, and many are looking for freedom of choice in their college experience,” he says. “Moving to the [new requirements] is not a reduction in rigor; it is a call to the student and her advisor to consider carefully the liberal arts pathway that best suits the student's intellectual goals.”
The New Graduation Requirements
The new requirements are as follows:
One designated first-year seminar
- Students in the classes of 2015, 2016, and 2017 who did not take a first year seminar are exempt from this requirement.
- First-year seminars can also fulfill a distribution requirement (listed below).
One course in each of the following divisions that carries distribution designation in its course description in ISIS:
Humanities (Division I)
- Any one designated humanities course can fulfill this requirement. Course work in the language departments designated as fulfilling the language requirement cannot also fulfill a distribution requirement.
Math or Science (Division II)
- Any one designated math or science course can fill this requirement.
- There is no longer a laboratory requirement, but a student can choose to take a laboratory science course to fulfill this requirement.
Social Science (Division III)
- Any one designated social science course can fulfill this requirement.
One designated language course other than English (at the 100-level or above)
One course with a multicultural perspectives designation
- This course can also count for distribution in humanities, math/science, or social science (as long as it also carries a distribution designation).
Four physical education units (2 for transfers/FPs)
- This is a change from the previous requirement of 6 units (2 or 4 for transfers/FPs).