Please note: The information displayed here is current as of Wednesday, June 29, 2022, but the official Course Catalog should be used for all official planning.

2020-2021 Course Catalog


This catalog was created on Wednesday, June 29, 2022.

The Liberal Arts Education

Liberal learning

Liberal education is transformative education. It transforms individuals with intellectual and creative potential into persons ready for lives of accomplishment and fulfillment. Through liberal learning, students develop their intellect, capacity for creativity, and self-direction. Liberal learning is based on principles of open and free inquiry, a devotion to excellence, and engagement with exciting and interesting fields of knowledge. Liberal learning aims to develop analytical thinking abilities, communication skills, quantitative reasoning, and creativity. It is creativity—the capacity to create what did not exist before—that helps set us free and makes liberal education a liberating education.

Liberal learning frees us from the restraints of time and place, enabling us to grow, to change, and to respond to the new, the unforeseen, the unexpected. To be liberally educated is to live imaginatively in worlds not our own and to examine values not of our making.

A liberal education tests our ability to investigate and understand the nature of an organism, the applications of a theorem, the behavior of a crowd, the principles of a political system, the meaning of a poem, the causes of an event, the consequences of an argument, or the composition of a symphony.

Liberal education promotes diversity, skepticism, and debate. It views the world as changing, not fixed. It asks not only what, but why. It insists that we make judgments rather than have opinions; that we treat ideas seriously, not casually; that we be committed instead of indifferent.

Above all, however, a liberal education enables us to be self-directed—to choose for ourselves what we want to be and what we want to create. Lawrence students use their education for many careers—law, public service, health professions, business, teaching, science and technology, creative writing, theatre, the social sciences, and art. The liberal education that Lawrence provides is a solid foundation for all of these careers—and many more. At Lawrence, we help you learn how to learn things you have not experienced before and create what is new, and these abilities will help you in anything you choose to do in life.

What makes Lawrence special?

Lawrence University places a priority on preparing students for a life of personal fulfillment and professional accomplishment and a lifetime of learning. It is the job of all Lawrentians to learn by availing themselves of those things that are unique to Lawrence.

Engaged learning

Engaged Learning is that which characterizes a Lawrence education and distinguishes Lawrentians. Although students may have encountered engaged learning experiences elsewhere, at Lawrence it is the foremost attribute of every subject and every class we offer. By actively engaging in challenging and meaningful learning experiences with faculty and with one another, students will be prepared to adapt and succeed in an ever-changing world. Those who prefer to passively absorb information passed from teacher to student will find Lawrence to be a poor fit. Those who prefer instead to explore, debate, create, research, practice, and perform in collaboration with others—to be an active participant in the learning experience—will find Lawrence to be an exhilarating community in which to live and thrive.

Freshman Studies

From the moment they arrive at Lawrence, new students have something in common with every other new student on campus: Freshman Studies. The cornerstone of the Lawrence curriculum for more than sixty years, each Freshman Studies class consists of no more than 15 students who explore a multidisciplinary list of books, musical works, art, and films in discussions facilitated by a professor. Students are asked not to summarize or memorize but to think deeply and critically about each topic. The Freshman Studies course is required of all incoming students and establishes the expectation for all other classes to come, regardless of discipline. Those expectations include advance preparation, critical thinking, active class participation, and disciplined writing. The fact that all new students simultaneously work through the same syllabus ensures that all share the excitement of liberal learning and that discussions continue well beyond the classroom. 

Chandler Senior Experience

Every Lawrence student's course of study culminates in a Senior Experience, a capstone seminar, project, exhibition, performance, or portfolio in which the student integrates learning in the major with their broader liberal arts interests as they establish their independence as a scholar or creative artist. The Chandler Senior Experience Fund provides financial support for distinctive or ambitious Senior Experience projects, and every student is eligible to apply for this funding.


Each year, more than a thousand Lawrence students flock to the sanctuary and serenity of Björklunden, a 425-acre estate in Door County on the shore of Lake Michigan that serves as Lawrence’s “northern campus.” Björklunden is a place where students are encouraged to leave old assumptions behind and barriers are removed in order for students and faculty to learn from each other. Björklunden’s natural setting is the perfect backdrop for engaged learning opportunities.

Community engagement

Keenly interested in their local and global communities, the active citizens at Lawrence reach beyond volunteerism when it is intertwined with education. Lawrence believes community engagement is an essential ingredient in a liberal arts education and an opportunity for students to connect learning in the classroom, studio, and laboratory with real-world experiences in Appleton, the Fox Cities, and around the world.

Multi-interested students

Typical is not a word one associates with Lawrentians. However, one characteristic is typical of most students arriving at Lawrence: their wide variety of interests. The Lawrence curriculum is well-suited to such students because it encourages the exploration and development of several interests, rather than focusing on just one. Lawrence’s undergraduate liberal arts college is uniquely and fully integrated with a nationally renowned conservatory of music, a place where gifted musicians might be inspired to tackle physics and math majors may compose music for the jazz ensemble. Athletics are also seen as part of the educational experience as a complement to, and enhancement of, a well-rounded liberal arts education, and Lawrence takes pride in its scholar-athlete tradition.

A residential community

Lawrence is by design a residential college. All students live on campus because we believe that a small residential community with abundant opportunities for personal interaction outside the classroom provides the proper environment for a liberal arts education. Juniors can learn from first-years, science majors from art majors, and student athletes from student musicians. Located aside downtown Appleton on the banks of the Fox River, the Lawrence campus has become the cultural and intellectual heart of a vibrant, modern Midwestern city.

At the core of everything we do is a deep commitment to our mission to educate young adults in the liberal arts and sciences: developing intellect, talent, knowledge, and understanding; cultivating judgment and values; and preparing students for lives of service, achievement, leadership, personal fulfillment, and lifelong learning.

Academic freedom

The Lawrence University Faculty adopted the following statement on February 7, 2017:

Lawrence University, a liberal arts college and conservatory of music, is dedicated to the development of intellect and talent, the pursuit of knowledge and understanding, and the cultivation of critical literacy and sound judgment. To that end, members of the Lawrence community are free to engage in, speak on, and write about scholarly research and creative activity without fear of censorship or retaliation. In the classroom, laboratory, and studio, teachers must be free to teach and students free to learn; we must be free to challenge each other’s beliefs, to explore new ideas and critically examine old ones, and to listen to others without disruption. Knowledge, skill, understanding, and creative expression are acquired through interactions that are often complex and even controversial. Although these interactions may at times cause discomfort, they may not be obstructed. Intellectually honest and vibrant communities engage in complex interactions and the ability, hereby protected, to exchange ideas in a spirit of mutual respect is essential to our educational mission.

Lawrence University faculty, as well as invited speakers and performers, may express their views publicly. However, the University may restrict speech that is defamatory of character, harassing, or infringes a protected right to privacy or confidentiality.