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Academic Programs

Well over a century ago, Carleton started promising its students a “liberal and thorough” education. That goal is embodied still in the College’s requirements for graduation, which are designed to expose students to a wide variety of disciplines, as well as to allow them to concentrate on a major subject.

Graduation Requirements

To receive a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton, a student must earn at least 210 credits and a cumulative grade average of C (2.0) or better.

A good liberal arts education requires not only rigor and depth, but also sufficient breadth to expose students to a wide range of subjects and methods of studying them. The college seeks to insure that its students study one field in depth by requiring a major. It encourages students to acquaint themselves with the major divisions of knowledge and modes of inquiry by requiring them to complete a designated number of credits with grades of S or C- or better from each of four broad categories of courses known as distribution areas.

Students must also fulfill a writing requirement and a Recognition and Affirmation of Difference requirement, demonstrate proficiency in a second language, complete four terms of physical education, and complete a major and an integrative exercise within the major.

Finally, students must spend six academic terms in residence at Carleton, including their senior year (last three academic terms), and earn at least 108 credits while enrolled at Carleton.

Distribution Requirements

Arts and Literature (AL)—12 credits: Courses in this group are intended to develop students’ creative potential in the arts and/or to enhance their sensitivity to artistic expression. This requirement can be fulfilled with designated courses in Art and Art History, Dance, English, Music, Theater, Classical and Modern Literature and specific courses in Cinema and Media Studies.

Humanities (HU)—12 credits: These courses are primarily concerned with an encompassing analysis of the human condition and the foundations of different cultural or intellectual traditions. This requirement may be fulfilled with designated courses in History, Philosophy, and Religion.

Social Sciences (SS)—18 credits: The social sciences attempt to combine the formal and empirical methods of the natural sciences with a recognition that human beings are characterized by an inner intellectual and emotional life as well as externally observable regularities of behavior. This requirement can be fulfilled in designated courses in Economics, Educational Studies, Linguistics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, and Anthropology.

Mathematics and Natural Sciences (MS)—18 credits: The goal of this requirement is to acquaint students with mathematical analysis and different modes of scientific inquiry involved in our understanding of the physical universe. This requirement can be fulfilled with designated courses in Biology, Chemistry, Geology, Physics and Astronomy, Mathematics, Computer Science, and specific Psychology courses.

Writing Requirement: The ability to write well is particularly important in college, not only as a means of demonstrating mastery of material, but as part of the process of coming to that mastery. For many people, writing well is a life-long learning process. As students develop greater understanding of themselves, the world, and language, they become more adept at expressing precisely, and perhaps eloquently, what they have in mind. The Carleton Writing Requirement is meant to be a checkpoint on that journey, not the final destination. It is a measure of progress and assurance that Carleton students are on the right path, and that with continued learning, they will develop into fully competent writers by graduation.

To guide students as they begin to work on writing at the college level, the College has developed some general criteria for good writing at Carleton. Although individual assignments, genres, or disciplines may place more or less emphasis on each criterion, faculty agree that student writing should feature the following:

1. The rhetorical strategy should be appropriate for the audience and purpose.

2. If argument is a part of the rhetorical strategy, it should contain a thesis and develop that thesis with coherence, logic, and evidence.

3. Whatever the purpose, writing should be as clear, concise, and interesting as possible.

4. Narration, description, and reporting should contribute to analysis and synthesis. The parts of a paper should lead to a greater, connected whole.

5. Writing should be edited to address surface error, including irregularities in grammar, syntax, diction, and punctuation.

Students are required to 1) pass a Carleton designated writing rich course (WR) with a C- or better and 2) complete a writing portfolio to be reviewed by faculty after the third term, and no later than the sixth term.

Students with a score of “5” on the College Board’s Advanced Placement English or a score of “7” on the International Baccalaureate English Higher Level examination are only required to complete the writing portfolio.

Language Requirement:Language is the way that members of a culture organize and encode their thoughts, allowing them to communicate with each other. Moreover, language shapes one’s relationship with other people, and different languages will shape that relationship differently.

At Carleton we think that a liberally educated student should understand the way language is embedded within cultural practices and worldviews. To this end, we expect students to cross linguistic borders, experiencing another language “from the inside.” In addition to the primary benefits a degree of competency in a language can offer (including basic communication, the ability to read foreign texts, and interaction with those of a different culture), the study of a foreign language provides students with a fuller understanding of the role played by their own native tongue. Also, crucially, it requires each student to experience the challenges of dealing with other cultures and peoples on their own terms. Language learning at Carleton, therefore, advances and supports the stated values and goals of the College’s Mission Statement.

The four basic language skills for most modern languages (reading, speaking, aural comprehension, and writing) are mutually reinforcing as well as individually valuable, although the emphasis will vary among different language sections and individual teaching styles. In special cases, students’ strengths (in speaking, for instance) might make up for weaknesses in reading and writing, and vice versa.

The requirement aims to assure that students will acquire a usable level of competence in a second language. This competence is demonstrated either (a) through satisfactory completion of a fourth-level language course (fifth-level in Arabic, Japanese or Chinese) or (b) through acceptable performance on a standardized or departmentally designed examination. Fluent speakers of second languages, may ask to be tested for fulfillment of the requirement or, in the case of languages not offered at Carleton, may ask that testing be arranged. Students whose native language is other than English may fulfill this requirement by demonstrating competence in their native language, as well as English.

Entering students may fulfill the requirement by satisfactory performance on a College Board Advanced Placement or Achievement test, International Baccalaureate Higher Level examination or on another placement examination most appropriate for the particular language. Students who have not taken such a test before entering the college should take the language placement examination either during the summer prior to matriculation or during their first week at Carleton. Students beginning their study of language, as well as those who need more study to complete the requirement, should enroll in language in their first year.

Students who complete language courses equivalent to courses 101 through 204 (205 in Arabic/Chinese/Japanese) at domestic post-secondary institutions after being enrolled at Carleton may take the appropriate placement or proficiency examinations to gain advanced standing or exemption. Credit toward the degree is typically not awarded, however.

Language study at Carleton aims at far more than the satisfaction of the requirement. Students are encouraged to increase their proficiency through advanced courses and study abroad and to apply their language skills in their academic work in other areas. With this foundation, language will enrich their studies at Carleton and enable graduates to become contributing members of the multi-cultural world.

Recognition and Affirmation of Difference Requirement (RAD): One six-credit course. Carleton College values cultural diversity in its faculty, its students and its curriculum. Because we live in a multi-cultural world, we seek to educate students to recognize and appreciate the many ways in which each of us is shaped by gender, sexual orientation, class, race, culture, religion, and ethnicity. This requires more than just exposure to cultural differences; it requires that we examine such differences critically, being attentive to the special challenges that each of us faces in understanding those whose lives are shaped by cultures other than our own. It is hoped that such reflection will afford each of us a critical perspective on the cultures with which we are most familiar and help us to appreciate the elements common to human beings across all cultures. Even if no single course can fully satisfy these goals, we hope that the RAD course will serve as a foundation for ongoing exploration of difference. Accordingly, RAD courses 1) are centrally concerned with issues and/or theories of gender, sexual orientation, class, race, culture, religion, or ethnicity as these may be found anywhere in the world, and 2) require reflection on the challenges and benefits of dialogue across differences.

Physical Education: Four terms of Physical Education activity are to be taken by each student. Only one activity per term may count toward this requirement. The Physical Education program includes a variety of activity courses, designed to appeal to students. We believe that physical activity can contribute to students’ health and well-being now and in the future.

A Major Field of Study: Carleton students choose a major during the third term of their sophomore year. The number of credits required of students in major fields varies by department. Grades earned in required courses in the major department must be “C-” or better. Successful completion of an “integrative exercise” (see below), typically during the senior year, is also a requisite for graduation. With the permission of the Academic Standing Committee, double majors are allowed.

Special Majors: A student seeking a major not offered in the College’s established curriculum may propose a self-designed special major for approval by the Academic Standing Committee. All special majors involve close consultation with two faculty advisers. Students are expected to petition for special majors during the sixth term of their academic career. For additional information, see one of the Associate Deans of Students.

Integrative Exercises vary from department to department. Intended to help students relate the subjects they have studied in their major field, they sometimes take the form of comprehensive examinations covering the fundamentals of the discipline. In other departments, extensive research projects, papers or public lectures are required. A maximum of fifteen academic credits will be awarded for the integrative exercise. For more information, refer to the individual departmental listing or speak to the department chair.

Residence Requirements: Normally it takes four years to complete the work for graduation, of which at least six terms, including the senior year (last three academic terms), must be spent in residence at Carleton. Some exceptions to the senior residency rule may be given by the Academic Standing Committee.

Academic Regulations

Academic policies are published in the on-line handbook “Academic Regulations and Procedures” on the Dean of Students’ Web page. This is the publication of record in matters regarding academic policies.

Course Load: Carleton’s academic year is comprised of three 10-week-long terms. Students normally carry 18 credits per term. They may take as few as 12 and, on occasion, as many as 22, or, with special permission, 24, although such heavy course loads are discouraged. Students usually carry three courses each term. The standard course unit is six credits; for purposes of transfer evaluation six credits are comparable to three and one-third semester hours. Although all standard courses carry equal credit, laboratory courses at Carleton are equivalent to those in other colleges that grant five semester hours.

Examinations: Two and a half-hour-long written examinations are held at the end of each term for many courses. The Registrar sets the testing schedule.

Grades: Carleton’s grading system is as follows: A=Excellent work of consistently high quality, usually showing notable understanding, insight, creativity, or skill and few weaknesses; B=Good work of good quality, showing understanding, insight, creativity, or skill; C=Satisfactory work that is adequate, showing readiness to continue study in the field; D=Passing work that is minimally adequate, raising serious concern about readiness to continue in the field, creditable; F=Failing work that is clearly inadequate, unworthy of credit. In computing grade point averages A = 4.0, A- = 3.67, B+ = 3.33, B = 3.0, B- = 2.67, C+ = 2.33, C = 2.0, C- = 1.67, D+ = 1.33, D = 1.0, D- = .67, F = 0.

A student may elect to take up to 30 credits S/CR/NC (Satisfactory/Credit/No Credit) during the four years at Carleton, and only up to six credits in any one term. S = A through C-; CR = D+, D, D-; NC = F.

Courses dropped after the two week registration drop/add period are recorded on the transcript as “DRP”. This is a non-punitive notation.

Written Evaluations of Course Work: At the end of any course, a student may request a written evaluation from his or her instructor. The request must be granted if the course has an enrollment of 20 or fewer students.

Academic Progress: Carleton students are normally expected to complete their work in four years and may be dropped from the College if they have not earned at least 42 credits and a cumulative GPA of 1.8 at the end of three terms; 96 credits and a GPA of 1.9 at the end of six terms; and 150 credits and a GPA of 2.0 at the end of nine terms. (These are the lower limits allowed and do not indicate normal progress; that is closer to 54 credits, 108 credits and 162 credits, respectively.) For graduation, a minimum of 210 credits and a GPA of 2.0 is required. A student whose record in the judgment of the Academic Standing Committee indicates an inability to fulfill the College requirements for whatever reason may be suspended or dismissed at the end of fall or winter term as well as at the end of the academic year.

Summer Study: Carleton does not ordinarily give degree credit for courses taken elsewhere during the summer. Permission may be given, if there are convincing academic reasons, but it must be requested in advance from the Academic Standing Committee, and the department chair may specify at that time that credit will be granted only upon special examination after the completion of the course. Petition forms for the approval of credit for summer courses may be obtained in the Dean of Students Office.

Credit by Examination: Students can obtain credit for courses offered at Carleton, when appropriate material has been mastered independently of Carleton class instruction, by taking special examinations. During the school year, a petition for credit by examination must be submitted to the Registrar at least two weeks before the date of the examination; the credit earned is included in the 22-credit maximum allowed per term.

Academic Honors: Students are graduated with “Distinction in a Major” if they achieve distinction in the departmental integrative exercise and a cumulative grade point average of 3.50 in all departmental courses taken in the major. Outstanding seniors in the field of music performance will be selected by Music faculty for the “Honors in Music Performance” award.

Students who have outstanding records in all course work will earn the Bachelor of Arts degree with honors, either cum laude (for a GPA of 3.25 or better), magna cum laude (3.50 or better), or summa cum laude (3.90 or better).

The honor of “Dean’s List” may be earned by first-year students, sophomores and juniors whose previous academic year’s GPA places them in the top 10 percent of their class. Eligibility for Dean’s List assumes three terms of academic work, the bulk of which is done at Carleton. Students on non-Carleton off-campus programs for one term are eligible for Dean’s List if their off-campus grades are comparable to those they maintained at Carleton. Students off campus for two or more terms on a non-Carleton program are not eligible in that year. Students on leave for a term are not eligible in that year. This honor is recognized at Opening Convocation in September of the following year.

Certificate of Advanced Study in Foreign Language and Literature or Foreign Language and Area Studies: With the Certificate of Advanced Study in Foreign Language and Literature or Area Studies the College recognizes satisfactory completion of the equivalent of a minor field of specialization in the indicated language. To achieve the certificate, students must complete with a grade of C- or better six courses in the chosen language or area studies group beyond 103 (204 in Asian Languages). Although courses for the certificate may be taken on an S/CR/NC basis, “D” or “CR” level work will not be sufficient to satisfy course requirements. Students who place out of 204 must still complete the six-course requirement. Courses that count toward the certificate and their distribution are indicated in the descriptions of the respective language department offerings in the Catalog. In order to be certified as having fulfilled the requirements, students must submit an application listing courses completed and intended no later than fall of the senior year. Applications are available in the department offices.

Courses of Instruction

The following pages list courses offered at the College. They also contain general information about various departmental programs and their requirements for a major. In addition to departmental listings, offerings are organized by area studies, special courses of study, and by concentrations, interdisciplinary programs which complement, strengthen and build on departmental offerings. Opportunities for Carleton off-campus programs follow.

Courses are numbered with the following general scheme:

  • 000-189 Introductory
  • 200-289 Intermediate
  • 290 Independent Reading
  • 291 Independent Study
  • 292 Independent Research
  • 293 Internship
  • 298 Junior Colloquium
  • 300-389 Advanced
  • 390 Independent Reading
  • 391 Independent Study
  • 392 Independent Research
  • 393 Internship
  • 395 Advanced Seminar
  • 397 Senior Tutorial
  • 398 Senior Colloquium
  • 399 Senior Thesis
  • 400 Integrative Exercise

Independent Study, Reading and Research: A student may pursue independent study, independent research or independent reading in more than one term. Course credit for these various independent study options is determined by arrangement with the instructor before registration, and may be for one to six credits. Although not noted separately under departmental course listings, independent study options are available across the curriculum. Forms are available in the Registrar’s Office and on-line on the Registrar’s Office Web page. Independent study in any form, including internships, does not count toward distribution requirements.

Independent Study: All departments offer “Independent Study,” in which a student may work on a special project of his or her own planning under the supervision of a faculty member in the department. Ordinarily, this work is not on the introductory level. By registration time for the term in which the study is done, the student is expected to obtain a faculty supervisor in the chosen field of concentration and, with his or her assistance and approval, determine the nature and purpose of the study and the number of credits to be assigned.

Independent Reading: Offered within departments or on a cross-disciplinary basis, this program is not to be confused with the advanced research done in independent study. The emphasis in independent reading is on topics or areas not currently offered in Carleton’s curriculum. Faculty who have developed these reading courses provide students with such aids as a detailed syllabus which includes recommended readings and problems or questions to serve as study guides.

Internships: Credit or non-credit internships, paid or unpaid, are a form of independent study with field work activity. This type of experiential learning offers the student the opportunity to enhance and complement classroom learning by working in a social, business, political, cultural or community organization. The Career Center provides information on established programs or assists students with developing their own. Internships can be thought of as a testing tool. They provide first-hand knowledge which is valuable when a student makes decisions such as choosing a major, applying for a job, or planning graduate study. Credit may be awarded if a faculty member agrees that the internship augments or extends in significant ways an area of instruction. Credit internships may be paid or unpaid if they are off-campus. On-campus credit internships may not be paid. All credit internships are under the supervision of the Career Center and a faculty member.

Special Courses for First-Year Students: Special courses for first-year students are courses specifically designed with new students in mind and are distinguished from other courses in several ways: 1) they enroll only first-year students 2) they have limited enrollments, an emphasis on class participation, and an organization of material which keeps in mind the needs of entering students

First-Year Seminars at Carleton are designed to introduce students to the liberal arts approach to learning and to encourage critical thinking, intellectual independence, and initiative in a setting that invites individual participation. All are six credits and graded S/CR/NC.

History 110 courses are designed to give new students a first rigorous experience in history and the liberal arts. Each section is built around a major moment or problem of history chosen by the professor to exemplify the methods of historical inquiry and the analysis of conflicting interpretations of past events. All are six credits and are graded.

Advanced departmental seminars (395): are usually open only to departmental majors, or by consent of the instructor involved. Because the topics vary from year to year, some students are able to register for more than one departmental seminar during their college program.

Special Programs: Includes courses in Arabic, Judaic Studies and Linguistics.

Special Interest: While we do not offer a program in these areas, the following courses are available.

1) Studies in Ethics

  • BIOL 115 Bioethics
  • BIOL 116 Biotechnology, Health & Society
  • ENGL 272 A Journey in Journalism
  • HIST 130 Early Christian Thought
  • HIST 285 Topics in Historical Ethics
  • IDSC 263 Uses & Abuses-Behavior Research
  • PHIL 100 Nihilism and the Novel
  • PHIL 213 Ethics
  • PHIL 242 Environmental Ethics
  • POSC 259 Justice Among Nations
  • PSYC 371 Evolution &Developmental Trends-Cognition
  • RELG 249 Religion & American Public Life
  • RELG 319 Bioethics: Christian Approaches
  • THEA 275 Topics in Theater History

2) Health Issues

  • BIOL 116 Biotechnology, Health & Society
  • BIOL 232 Human Physiology
  • BIOL 310 Immunology
  • BIOL 370 Topics in Virology
  • BIOL 372 Topics: Exercise Biochemistry
  • BIOL 384 Oncogenes & Molecular Biology of Cancer
  • BIOL 385 Microbial Pathology
  • BIOL 386 Neurobiology
  • BIOL 388 Molecular Mechanism of Drug Action
  • CHIN 115 Taoist Way-Health & Longevity: Taichi
  • HIST 195 American Environmental History
  • PSYC 260 Health Psychology
  • PSYC 263 Sleep and Dreaming
  • PSYC 318 Psychopharmacology
  • PSYC 369 Behavioral Medicine
  • PSYC 376 Neural Plasticity
  • RELG 319 Bioethics: Christian Approaches
  • SOAN 262 Health & Illness
  • WGST 100 Politics of Women’s Health

3) Philosophy of Science

  • PHIL 210 Logic
  • PHIL 250 Philosophy of Physics
  • PHYS 120 Revolutions in Physics
  • PSYC 365 Science and Pseudoscience

4) Social Thought

  • AMST 345 Theory & Practice American Studies
  • CHIN 357 Contemporary Social Issues
  • ECON 250 History of Economic Ideas
  • EUST 110 Introduction to European Studies: The Age of Cathedrals
  • HIST 130 Early Christian Thought
  • HIST 239 Britain c1485-1834, From Sceptered Isle to Satanic Mills
  • PHIL 232 Social and Political Philosophy
  • POSC 160 Political Philosophy
  • POSC 250 Ancient Political Philosophy
  • POSC 251 Modern Political Philosophy
  • POSC 258 Politics and Ambition
  • POSC 259 Justice Among Nations
  • POSC 350 Ancient Political Philosophy
  • POSC 350 Political Philosophy and the Book of Genesis
  • PSYC 252 Personality
  • PSYC 256 Social Behavior & Interpersonal Process
  • PSYC 371 Evolutionary Trends-Cognition
  • PSYC 382 Topics Social & Personality: Ending
  • PSYC 382 Social & Personality: Relationship
  • RELG 300 Issues in Study of Religion
  • SOAN 330 Sociological Thought & Theory
  • SOAN 331 Anthropological Thought & Theory
  • SOAN 332 Contemporary Social Theory
  • THEA 100 Performing Roles
  • THEA 225 Performing Shakespeare
  • THEA 252/352 African-American Theater
  • WGST 234 Feminist Theory
  • WGST 396 Transnational Feminisms

  5) Legal Studies

  • ECON 275 Law and Economics
  • HIST 238 Church, Papacy and Empire
  • POSC 206 The American Courts
  • POSC 271 Constitutional Law I
  • POSC 272 Constitutional Law II
  • POSC 311 Topics in Constitutional Law
  • RELG 249 Religion & American Public Life
  • RELG 363 Islamic Law
  • SOAN 221 Law and Society
  • SOAN 303 Criminology
  • THEA 221 Rhetoric: Persuasion & Debate

  6) Academic Civic Engagement: Applied

  • GEOL 210 Geomorphology
  • CGSC 385 Cognitive Development
  • PSYC 260 Health Psychology
  • RELG 130 Native American Religions
  • SPAN 204 Intermediate Spanish (Doleman)

Academic Civic Engagement: Theoretical

  • ECON 270 Economics of the Public Sector
  • ENTS 100 Science, Tech & Public Policy
  • HIST 182 Survey-South African History
  • HIST 220 African American History I
  • HIST 226 U. S. Consumer Culture
  • HIST 285 Topics in Historical Ethics
  • POSC 120 Comparative Political Regimes
  • POSC 201 National Policymaking
  • POSC 385 Comparative Democratic Institutions
  • SOAN 395 Public Sociology
  • SPAN 208 Coffee and News
  • SPAN 326 Writers in Exile
  • SPAN 356 Cuban Revolution-Literature
  • THEA 185 The Speaking Voice
  • THEA 352 African-American Theater

Concentrations: A concentration is an integrated interdisciplinary program which students may elect in addition to a major. Concentrations may strengthen and complement a major, by applying its methods to problems and issues that cut across the boundaries of academic disciplines, but a declared major in a particular department is not a prerequisite for acceptance into any concentration. Concentrations often bridge divisions necessarily created by a disciplinary focus and may promote communities of learning. By their nature, interdisciplinary endeavors of this sort are often problem-oriented, relating academic studies to the kinds of issues and opportunities one confronts outside the academy. Concentrations may also provide an opportunity for students to bring focus to the choice of electives and, in some cases, the fulfillment of distribution requirements. Carleton offers sixteen concentrations.

Full descriptions of the concentrations are included in the alphabetical listing of departments and programs. Concentrations offered for the current academic year are:

  • African/African American Studies
  • Archaeology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cognitive Science
  • Cross-Cultural Studies
  • East Asian Studies
  • Educational Studies
  • Environmental and Technology Studies
  • European Studies
  • French and Francophone Studies
  • Latin American Studies
  • Medieval and Renaissance Studies
  • Neuroscience
  • Political Economy
  • South Asian Studies
  • Women’s and Gender Studies

Courses at St. Olaf College: By special arrangement a limited number of students may take courses at St. Olaf College which are not offered at Carleton. Graded course credit will be granted; enrollment requires the permission of the instructor and the registrar at each institution.

Distribution Requirement Codes as indicated on each course description

  • AL = Arts and Literature (12 credits required)
  • HU = Humanities (12 credits required)
  • SS = Social Sciences (18 credits required)
  • MS = Mathematics and Natural Sciences (18 credits required)
  • RAD = Recognition and Affirmation of Difference