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In order to provide students with as much flexibility as possible, Wellesley requires no specific courses except the First-Year Writing course.
However, to ensure that students gain insight and awareness in areas outside their major fields, the College requires that they elect nine units drawn from eight substantive and skill-based categories as part of the 32 units required for graduation. (Courses numbered 250/350, Research or Individual Study, or 360/370, Honors Research, do not satisfy this requirement.) Students who enter as first-year students must take six of these nine units at Wellesley, two units in each of the three groups of distribution areas described below. Transfer students and Davis Scholars who enter with eight units prior to Wellesley must take at least three units at Wellesley, one in each of the three areas, and students entering with 16 prior units may take the distribution requirements at Wellesley or use their prior units.
Courses assigned to two distribution areas may not be used to fulfill two distribution requirements. This limitation does not apply to overlay requirements (the writing requirement, the multicultural requirement, and the quantitative reasoning requirement).
GROUP 1: STUDENTS MUST COMPLETE THREE UNITS DRAWN FROM THE FOLLOWING TWO DISTRIBUTION AREAS. AT LEAST ONE UNIT MUST COME FROM EACH OF THESE TWO AREAS:
Language and Literature. Courses focus on: (1) the history, critical analysis, theory, and/or creation of literature, and (2) increasing mastery of the grammar, usage, and cultural context of languages studied beyond the elementary level. Courses in creative writing also fulfill this requirement. Normally, only one course fulfilling the language requirement in a given department will be designated as satisfying the distribution requirement in Language and Literature. Courses in language instruction at the Grade One level may not be used to satisfy this distribution requirement.
Visual Arts, Music, Theatre, Film, and Video. Courses in this area focus on: (1) the history, critical analysis, and/or theory of the visual and performing arts, and (2) practice in the creation and performance of these arts.
GROUP 2: STUDENTS MUST COMPLETE THREE UNITS DRAWN FROM THE FOLLOWING FOUR DISTRIBUTION AREAS. ONE UNIT MUST COME FROM THE SOCIAL AND BEHAVIORAL ANALYSIS CATEGORY; THE TWO ADDITIONAL UNITS MUST COME FROM TWO OF THE THREE OTHER CATEGORIES:
Social and Behavioral Analysis. Courses fulfilling this requirement introduce students to different theoretical and methodological approaches to the study of human societies and behaviors. These courses examine how individuals interact with and are influenced by social groups and institutions, including those associated with politics, economics, religion, family, health, education, and the arts; how and why particular forms of social organization emerge within groups or societies; and the nature of social change and conflict.
Epistemology and Cognition. Courses in this area examine the nature, sources, and limits of human knowledge. Some of these courses consider the standards for justifying knowledge about human beings and the world in which they live, as well as philosophical debates, both contemporary and historical, about the nature of such standards. Other courses explore aspects of intelligence—among them language, memory, perception, and learning and the cognitive, computational, and neural processes that underlie them.
Religion, Ethics, and Moral Philosophy. Courses meeting this requirement engage students in disciplined reflection on human conduct, the nature of values, the traditions of thought that have informed these values, and the religious traditions of the world. These courses will help students understand moral and political theory, ethical issues, and the role of religion in human life and society.
Historical Studies. Courses in this area develop students’ understanding of history in one, or both, of two ways: (1) by illuminating the distinctiveness of one or another part of the past, with the goal of bringing students to an appreciation of political, social, economic, or cultural configurations different from their own, and (2) by exploring the processes of historical change, through which one configuration of institutions, ideas, and behaviors is replaced by another.
GROUP 3: STUDENTS MUST COMPLETE THREE UNITS FROM THE FOLLOWING TWO DISTRIBUTION AREAS. AT LEAST ONE UNIT MUST COME FROM EACH OF THESE TWO AREAS, AND AT LEAST ONE UNIT MUST BE A LABORATORY COURSE:
Natural and Physical Science. This requirement is designed to give students a basic knowledge of the capabilities and limitations of the scientific method of inquiry. Courses in this area focus on understanding scientific concepts and emphasize the methods used to gather, interpret, and evaluate scientific data.
Mathematical Modeling and Problem Solving in the Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computer Science. Courses in this group help students develop skills needed: (1) to formulate, understand, and analyze mathematical models of natural phenomena, and/or (2) to formulate and solve complex problems requiring a logical progression through multiple mathematical or computational steps.