Finding Your Path: Curriculum Philosophies

Core Requirements*

All Arts & Sciences students are encouraged to develop certain key skills fundamental to higher learning and informed citizenship. You will take at least one course in each of the four categories listed below. With the exception of Social Contrasts, which may be taken pass/fail, students must take their core requirements courses for a letter grade, earning at least a C-.

College Writing 1

In Arts & Sciences, we believe that clear thinking happens through clear writing. Regardless of what you ultimately major in or which career path you embark upon, the ability to analyze evidence and to craft clear, compelling arguments will be critical. Your College Writing course, taken your first year, will hone your skills so that you can write effectively for a university audience.

Writing Intensive (WI) 

 After your first year, you will extend the skills mastered in College Writing 1 through a course designated Writing Intensive. WI courses combine advanced coursework preferably in your major with concentrated attention to writing about your discipline.

Applied Numeracy (AN)

“Numeracy” is as important as “literacy.” Courses designated AN exercise and extend your numeracy, enabling you to work flexibly with numbers, to be able to make sense of complex arrays of quantitative data, and to know when a statistical argument has force and when it should be challenged.

Social Contrasts (SC)

Courses in Social Contrasts help you think critically about the ways in which societies, including our own, are organized, coordinated, or divided. These courses address the logic and illogic of the social categories of race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Social Contrasts courses foreground the scrutiny of such social categories as the fundamental structural principle for investigation.

Area Requirements

Different disciplines have different ways of asking questions and of going about answering these questions. Because developing intellectual flexibility is a hallmark of a liberal arts education, all students will take at least three courses in three broad areas of study in the Humanities, Natural Sciences & Mathematics, and Social & Behavioral Sciences and three or four courses in a fourth area Language & Cultural Diversity depending on which track you choose to pursue.

The Humanities (HUM)

Through analysis and reasoned arguments, Humanities courses examine the human condition as it has been documented and expressed in both past and contemporary times. By being introduced to and engaging with other peoples’ attempts to understand and create meaning, we broaden and enrich our own lives. This area comprises courses from Literature (both in English and in other languages), Classics, History, Philosophy, and Religious Studies, as well as courses in the creative arts, such as Dance, Drama, Music, & Writing.

Natural Sciences & Mathematics (NSM)

Using objective and empirical observation and controlled experimentation, NSM courses seek to understand the natural and physical world. This area includes courses from Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Biology, Earth & Planetary Sciences, Math, and Physics, as well as some courses from departments such as Anthropology and Psychological & Brain Sciences.

Social & Behavioral Sciences (SSC)

SSC courses use both qualitative and quantitative observation to explore the social environment, relationships within society, and forms of human behavior. This area includes courses from Anthropology, Economics, Education, International & Area Studies, Political Science, and Psychological & Brain Sciences, as well as courses from other departments and programs, particularly our interdisciplinary “Studies” programs.

Language & Cultural Diversity (LCD)

In our increasingly global culture, the ability to appreciate and comprehend cultural commonalities and differences becomes increasingly important, and will impressively shape 21st-century leaders. In Arts & Sciences, there are two paths into the LCD area:

  • Language Path - Students pursuing this path take at least three sequenced courses in the same foreign language.

  • Culture Path - Students pursing this path take any four courses of at least three units each designated LCD, which may include one or two semesters of a foreign language.



To ensure that the broad exploration of the liberal arts curriculum remains coherent, we ask our students to complete at least three Integrations in at least two areas of study during their undergraduate careers. Integrations pull together courses in particularly useful or significant combinations, both large and small. For a detailed list of the Integrations below, visit the Course Listings website

Majors and Minors in Arts & Sciences 

One of the integrations will certainly be your major. All majors, minors, and programs include internal structure and coherence whereby courses build upon each other, reflect each other, and speak to each other in particularly meaningful ways, and they therefore all constitute an Integration.

Ampersand Programs 

These specially-designed first-year programs consist of year-long linked seminars, often interdisciplinary, that address a particular object of inquiry such as the Literary Culture of Modern Ireland, the Global Citizenship Program, or the “Text & Tradition” of the Western literary and philosophical canon.

Specially Designated Study Away Programs

This type of integration is led by Arts & Sciences faculty. These include the summer-long language and culture programs in places such as France, Senegal,and Spain, as well as summer-long thematic programs, such as the “Pluralism, Politics and Religion” program in Paris or the Shakespeare’s Globe program in London. Working with a WashU faculty member, students on these programs have a particularly rich experience as they combine topical study with cultural immersion.

Integrated Inquiries (IQs)

The final type comprises more than 20 Integrated Inquiries, called “IQs” for short, each of which explores an enduring question that educated, engaged, curious people often ask. Informed by our faculty’s longstanding history of interdisciplinary work, these IQs encourage students to explore questions from different disciplinary perspectives. Doing so provides a more nuanced and textured intellectual experience, one that befits the complex questions that have challenged great minds for decades, centuries, and even millennia.

* WI, AN, and SC courses may also fulfill the Area Requirements detailed below; thus, they may “double count.”