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 and an integrative exercise within the major. It encourages students to acquaint themselves with the major divisions of knowledge and modes of inquiry by requiring them to complete six credits with grades of S or C- or better from each of six curricular exploration areas.

Students must also complete an Argument and Inquiry seminar and fulfill requirements in writing, quantitative reasoning, global citizenship (international studies, intercultural domestic studies, and demonstrate proficiency in a second language), and complete four terms of physical education. Successful completion of all course and credit requirements requires grades of C- or better in each course.

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 enrolled at Carleton.

General Education: (AI, Curricular Exploration, Global Citizenship, Writing, QRE and PE)

Argument and Inquiry Seminars (AI) – 6 credits All first-year non-transfer students must take an Argument and Inquiry (AI) seminar in their first term. Each fall term, the College offers over thirty AI seminars designed to introduce students to a liberal arts approach to learning and to develop the critical and creative skills they will need to thrive in academic work at Carleton. Offered in many different subject areas across the curriculum, AI courses share certain structural elements and a set of common goals. AI courses are small, discussion-based seminars, and carry the WR (writing rich) designation. Designed to foster students’ intellectual independence, these courses develop habits of critical thinking, clarify how scholars ask questions, and teach students how to find and evaluate information in reading and research and to use it effectively and ethically in constructing arguments. Encouraging students to become collaborative learners and active members of Carleton’s learning and living community, AI seminars strengthen students’ habits of cooperation with peers and offer opportunities and tools for critical reading, deliberative discussion, and effective college-level writing.

Curricular Exploration Requirements – 36 credits; 6 credits in each of 6 areas

Arts Practice (ARP) The act of imagining and creating art is an important way of understanding and knowing art and the creative process. At least six credits are required in courses in which students develop an appreciation of artistic creative practice through experience.

Formal or Statistical Reasoning (FSR) The development of logical systems, formal models, abstract mathematical reasoning, and statistical reasoning has been foundational to intellectual development in many disciplines. At least six credits are required in courses that focus on methods of formal reasoning including mathematics, logic, and the design and analysis of algorithms or statistical reasoning.

Humanistic Inquiry (HI) At least six credits are required in courses in which students are introduced to humanistic inquiry with an emphasis in its historical, cultural, ethical, and/or intellectual contexts.

Literary/Artistic Analysis (LA) At least six credits are required in courses in which there is an emphasis on analysis of literature or the visual and performing arts.

Science with Lab (LS) Modern citizenship requires an understanding of the processes and methods of the natural sciences. At least six credits are required in courses that focus on developing an appreciation of the scientific study of the natural world. Courses must include a lab component to qualify. In the case of a student using a six-credit course/two-credit lab pair to satisfy the LS requirement, a grade of C- or better must be earned in each paired course.

Social Inquiry (SI) The study of human and social behavior and how these are shaped by, and shape, socially constructed institutions is essential to a liberal education. At least six credits are required in courses that focus on the variety of disciplinary approaches to the study of individuals and societies.

Global Citizenship

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 successful completion of a fourth-level language course (fifth-level in Arabic, Chinese or Japanese) 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.

International Studies (IS) – 6 credits Courses that meet the IS requirement contain a geographic scope broader than the United States and by pedagogy and/or content develop in students an understanding of other perspectives on global, comparative, and historical subjects. Courses mostly focused on the United States but with a notable comparative or transnational component may satisfy the requirement.

Intercultural Domestic Studies (IDS) – 6 credits Courses that meet the IDS requirement focus on the United States. Course content addresses the role of identity and status in shaping the experiences of American society. Scope of instruction can be historical and comparative and include opportunities for reflection.

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 successfully complete 1) the AI seminar (WR1), 2) six credits of additional coursework designated WR2 and 3) successfully complete a writing portfolio to be reviewed by faculty after the third term, and no later than the sixth term.

Quantitative Reasoning Encounter (QRE) – Three courses

Students will complete three courses that have been designated as providing quantitative reasoning encounters (QRE). Quantitative reasoning – the inclination and ability to interpret, assess, and use quantitative information in one’s scholarly work, civic activities, and personal life – is recognized by the College as a vital part of a liberal education for each student. Through multiple exposures to examples of quantitative reasoning a student will better appreciate the ways that quantitative evidence is developed and used. Courses offering meaningful opportunities for this exposure will be designated as quantitative reasoning encounters.

The goal of the requirement is to increase students’ appreciation for the power of QR and to enhance their ability to evaluate, construct, and communicate arguments using quantitative information. A course designated as a “Quantitative Reasoning Encounter” (QRE) will include at least one substantial assignment or module designed to enhance one or more of the following QR skills:

  1. Possessing the habit of mind to consider what numerical evidence might add to the analysis of a problem;
  2. Identifying appropriate quantitative or numerical evidence to address a question;
  3. Locating or collecting numerical or quantitative data;
  4. Interpreting numerical evidence properly including recognizing the limitations of methods and sources used;
  5. Effectively communicating arguments that involve numerical or quantitative evidence.

Since an example of work demonstrating an ability to employ quantitative or numerical evidence in arguments is an element of the Writing Portfolio, students are strongly advised to take QRE courses early in their academic careers.

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. For a course to count toward the major, a grade of C- or better must be earned; these courses cannot be taken on an elective S/CR/NC basis. Departments may make exceptions for extra-departmental courses if appropriate. 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.

The following majors are available at Carleton: African/African-American Studies, American Studies, Art History, Art (Studio), Asian Studies, Biology, Chemistry, Cinema & Media Studies, Classics, Computer Science, Economics, English, Environmental & Technology Studies, French & Francophone Studies, Geology, German, History, Latin American Studies, Linguistics, Mathematics, Mathematics: Statistics,  Music, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Political Science/IR, Psychology, Religion, Russian, Sociology/Anthropology, Spanish, Theater Arts, Women’s and Gender Studies.

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. Departments may award a minimum of three and a maximum of fifteen academic credits 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 Campus Handbook 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 2.0 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 the student cannot otherwise graduate in twelve terms, 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 may be earned during the summer on approved off-campus study programs.

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 in the class of 2014 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). Beginning with the class of 2015, honors will be awarded to students with a grade point average in the top 2 percent of their graduating class (summa cum laude), those in the remainder of the top 15 percent (magna cum laude), and those in the remainder of the top 30 percent (cum laude).

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 on the department Web site.

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
  • 100 Argument and Inquiry Seminar
  • 200-289 Intermediate
  • 290 Independent Reading
  • 291 Independent Study
  • 292 Independent Research
  • 298 Junior Colloquium
  • 300-389 Advanced
  • 390 Independent Reading
  • 391 Independent Study
  • 392 Independent Research
  • 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 Argument and Inquiry, Curricular Exploration, Writing, Quantitative Reasoning Encounter, or Global Citizenship 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. In some cases, it can be an academic follow-up to an internship experience. 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.

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 Interest: While we do not offer a program in these areas, the following link will allow you to search for pertinent courses in Academic Civic Engagement: Applied (SPECINTAPPACAD); Book Studies (SPECINTBOOKSTD); Studies in Ethics (SPECINTETHICS) ; Health Issues (SPECINTHEALTH) ; Legal Studies (SPECINTLEGAL); Philosophy of Science (SPECINTPHILSCI); Social Thought (SPECINTSOCTHGHT); or Sustainability Theoretical (SPECINTTHEOACAD) Sustainability (SPECINTSUSTAIN):

Concentrations: A concentration is an integrated interdisciplinary program of study that provides structure for exploring fields that do not have a single methodological or content base in a traditional discipline. Concentrations promote communities of learning beyond the major and encourage students to make connections across disciplines. They may also provide an opportunity for students to bring focus to their choice of electives. Concentrations may strengthen and complement a student’s major by extending its content and 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.

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
  • 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.

Requirement Codes as indicated on each course description or in schedule of courses

Pertains to students matriculating Fall 2010 and thereafter:

  • AI = Argument and Inquiry Seminar (6 credits required)
  • ARP = Arts Practice (6 credits required)
  • FSR = Formal or Statistical Reasoning (6 credits required)
  • HI = Humanistic Inquiry (6 credits required)
  • IDS = Intercultural Domestic Studies (6 credits required)
  • IS = International Studies (6 credits required)
  • LA = Literary/Artistic Analysis (6 credits required)
  • LS = Science with Lab (6 credits required)
  • NE = No Exploration Credit
  • QRE = Quantitative Reasoning Encounter (3 courses required)
  • SI = Social Inquiry (6 credits required)
  • WR1 = Designates the Writing Component of an AI Seminar
  • WR2 = Second Writing Rich Course (6 credits required)

Pertains to students who matriculated prior to Fall 2010 (see 2009-2010 Carleton College Catalog)

  • 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
  • WR = Writing Rich
  • ND = No Distribution Credit