Liberal Arts Core Curriculum
Colgate’s Core program is a defining feature of its liberal arts curriculum. The Core Curriculum at Colgate takes seriously the faculty’s mission to engage students in the fullness of a liberal arts education: to learn, reflect, and live with an expanding awareness of one’s responsibility to self, community, and the larger world. As such, Colgate’s Core Curriculum aims to prepare students for rich and fulfilling lives in a context of rapid change here and around the globe.
CORE 151 Legacies of the Ancient World
This course explores ancient texts that articulate perennial issues, such as the nature of the human and the divine; virtue and the good life; the true, the just, and the beautiful; the difference between subjective opinion and objective knowledge. These texts exemplify basic modes of speech, literary forms, and patterns of thinking that establish the terminology of academic and intellectual discourse and critical thought across many different societies: epic, rhetoric, tragedy, poetry, epistemology, science, democracy, rationality, the soul, spirit, law, grace. Such terms have shaped the patterns of life, norms, and prejudices that human communities have continually challenged, criticized, and refashioned throughout history. To highlight both the dialogue and conflicts between the texts and the traditions they embody, this course, taught by a multidisciplinary staff and in an interdisciplinary manner, focuses on both the historical contexts of these texts and the ongoing retellings and reinterpretations of them through time. The course includes texts from the ancient Mediterranean world that have given rise to some of the philosophical, political, religious, and artistic traditions associated with “The West,” emphasizing that Western traditions were not formed in a vacuum but developed in dialogue and conflict with other traditions. Common to all sections of this component are classic works such as Homer, the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Plato, and a Roman text. Complementary texts or visual materials from the ancient period, in and beyond the Western world, and/or response texts from the medieval or contemporary periods are added by faculty in individual sections.
CORE 152 Challenges of Modernity
Modernity is a crucial element of the intellectual legacy to which we are heirs. A matrix of intellectual, social, and material forces that have transformed the world over the last quarter millennium, modernity has introduced new problems and possibilities into human life. Within modernity, issues of meaning, identity, and morality have been critiqued in distinctive ways. People of different social classes, racial groups, ethnic backgrounds, genders and sexual identities have contributed to an increasingly rich public discourse. The human psyche has been problematized, and the dynamic character of the world, both natural and social, has been explored. Urbanization and technological development have transformed the patterns of everyday life. Imperialism has had a complex and lasting impact on the entire globe. The human capability to ameliorate social and physical ills has increased exponentially, and yet so has the human capacity for mass destruction and exploitation. In this course, taught by an interdisciplinary staff, students explore texts from a variety of media that engage with the ideas and phenomena central to modernity. To ensure a substantially common experience for students, the staff each year chooses texts to be taught in all sections of the course. This component of the Core Curriculum encourages students to think broadly and critically about the world that they inhabit, asking them to see their contemporary concerns in the perspective of the long-standing discourses of modernity.
Communities and Identities
Courses in the Communities and Identities (CI) component are designed to provide a textured understanding of identities, cultures, and human experiences in particular communities and regions of the world. They seek to examine critically the multiple forms of social life that contribute to the world’s cultural diversity, and to analyze the ways in which any one society functions as a unified whole and yet encompasses multiple, sometimes conflicting identities (based, for example, on gender, race, status, class, sexual identities, religion, and language). As investigations into a particular place and its extensions, they consider cultures and communities in their own right, with their own practices, histories, beliefs, and values, their own instantiations of modernity, and lastly, with their own capacities to produce and shape complex identities. Furthermore, because many of the societies that are the subject of study have had significant and enduring encounters with imperial powers or other forms of domination, these courses examine the tensions and permutations, asymmetries and alliances that such relationships have produced. Multidisciplinary in focus and materials, these courses explore the complex identities of persons through study of their geography, history, politics, and economics as well as their languages, literature, film, art, music, and religions. Students develop a comparative, historical frame of reference between the community being studied and the communities to which they belong.
Scientific Perspectives on the World
All people routinely face important decisions about their own lives and about issues of broader social significance that require scientific literacy. In order to make thoughtful decisions about such matters, it is necessary to have a solid understanding of how scientific knowledge is obtained and an appreciation for the complexities of applying scientific findings to broader issues. The courses in the Scientific Perspectives (SP) program are designed to address both of these needs, and are unified by two common purposes. First, these courses deepen students’ understanding of the methods used in scientific fields to acquire knowledge about the world. Each of the SP courses focuses on an area of scientific research to give students grounding in the interplay of scientific analysis, verification, and explanation. Second, the SP courses broaden students’ understanding of the relevance of scientific methods by helping students to apply scientific methods and findings to a broad range of issues. Specifically, these courses help students to connect their growing understanding of scientific methods either to a topic relevant to society and the human experience or to an area of knowledge or mode of inquiry outside the natural sciences and mathematics. In this way, SP courses are multi-disciplinary in focus. Because empirical methods and quantitative reasoning are used in a variety of disciplines, the topics of the SP courses span the study of the physical world, biological processes, human behavior, mathematical methods, and technological innovations. SP courses provide an illustration of the application of the scientific method through an active learning, problem-oriented experience for students.
Courses that may be crosslisted with Scientific Perspectives (e.g., COSC 100 /CORE 126S , and COSC 150 /CORE 142S ) may not be used to satisfy both the Areas of Inquiry and Core SP requirements. Check the course offerings posted online each term for additional Scientific Perspectives offerings as well as selected first-year seminars that may fulfill this requirement.
Living thoughtfully in the multicultural, globalized world of the 21st century requires critical engagement with complex phenomena and varied perspectives. Courses in this component provide the opportunity to analyze the conditions and consequences of human diversity in its local and transnational forms. To satisfy this requirement, each student will successfully complete a designated course that inquires into the ways that people seek to make sense of a diverse and increasingly interconnected world. Global Engagements (GE) courses come from departments and programs throughout the university. A number of Colgate study group directors’ courses have also been approved to satisfy this requirement. GE courses take a variety of forms. For instance, a course in this component might ask students to do one of the following:
- examine the consequences of globalization in one or more of its many forms,
- investigate issues or processes that have an impact that can be fully understood only by using a global perspective,
- experience the cross-cultural understanding that comes from intensive language learning or study group participation,
- cross boundaries by examining how diversity finds expression in human culture, or
- consider human diversity in dimensions such as race, class, and gender.
Ultimately, the GE requirement seeks to empower students to live responsibly in contexts that require an understanding of the complexity of human beings and their impact, whether in the United States or in the broader world.
A Global Engagements course may count toward a student’s major or minor; it may also fulfill an Areas of Inquiry requirement. Students are expected to take at least one CI or GE course that is not focused exclusively on the United States.
Global Engagements courses will be identified in the registration materials available each semester.
Distinction Seminar in the Liberal Arts Core
The goal of the distinction seminar is to complement honors work in departments and programs by giving select students the opportunity to reflect on the broader, interdisciplinary contexts of their honors projects. Through readings assigned by the seminar instructors, students explore the methodologies of their own and other disciplines. Each student writes a substantial interdisciplinary paper relevant to the student’s departmental honors work. This requirement may be satisfied in one of the following ways:
- by extending a departmental honors project to explore interdisciplinary perspectives on the project topic or to examine the social implications or historical foundations of the project;
- by self-consciously considering the generation and evaluation of knowledge in the major; or
- by collaborating with one or more members of the seminar to explore themes common to the students’ departmental projects.
To enroll in the distinction seminar, students must achieve a 3.33 (B+) or better GPA in the five Core components: Legacies of the Ancient World, Challenges of Modernity, Scientific Perspectives on the World, Communities and Identities, and Global Engagements. For students who repeat or complete multiple courses with a Common Core component, only the grade in the first course is considered. A cumulative grade for all Global Engagements courses completed is averaged in the Core GPA. To earn Distinction in the Liberal Arts Core, students must earn an A- or better in the distinction seminar, earn departmental honors with the completion of the department honors project, and achieve an overall GPA of 3.33 or better at the time of graduation.
The Liberal Arts Core Curriculum Prizes — awarded by the program to the authors of the best papers/projects done by a student in each of four components of the Liberal Arts Core Curriculum, as determined by a faculty committee. The winning papers/projects are evaluated on their scholarship, originality, and excellence.