Please note: The information displayed here is current as of Sunday, July 3, 2022, but the official Course Catalog should be used for all official planning.

2020-2021 Course Catalog


This catalog was created on Sunday, July 3, 2022.

Structure of the Curriculum

The structure of the Lawrence curriculum

The curriculum of the university is structured in three parts. For the Bachelor of Arts degree, students take about one-third of their coursework in general education, another third in their major course of study, and a final third in elective areas of study. Bachelor of Music students take about one-third of their courses in general education and the remaining two-thirds in music-related study. All courses of study begin with Freshman Studies and culminate in a Senior Experience.

Divisions within the university

Lawrence University has organized its academic departments into divisions referenced in the degree requirements. The divisions are as follows:

  • Humanities: Chinese and Japanese, Classics, English, French and Francophone Studies, German, History, Philosophy, Religious Studies, Russian, and Spanish.
  • Natural sciences: Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, Geosciences, Mathematics and Computer Science, and Physics.
  • Social sciences: Anthropology, Economics, Education Studies, Government, and Psychology.
  • Fine arts: Art History, Music, Studio Art, and Theatre Arts.

Interdisciplinary programs, which include Biomedical Ethics, Cognitive Science, East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, Gender Studies, Global Studies, Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Latin American Studies, Linguistics, Museum Studies, and Neuroscience, are non-divisional. University courses are offered outside the auspices of any specific department or program. Non-divisional and university courses may be assigned divisional affiliations when appropriate.

Freshman Studies

Entering students are enrolled in Freshman Studies, a two-course sequence specifically designed to acquaint students with the modes of inquiry characteristic of intellectual discourse at Lawrence and to improve their reading, writing, and speaking skills. The program does more than develop these basic academic skills, however. While studying distinctive works suggested by all academic divisions, students engage in critical analysis and discussion of important ideas that are timelessly relevant. Freshman Studies is both an introduction to the liberal arts and a foundation for a Lawrence education.

Transfer students may have one or both terms of Freshman Studies waived based on the amount and nature of the credit accepted from other colleges and universities towards a Lawrence degree. Transfer students required to take one term of Freshman Studies will be placed in a section of FRST 201: Studies in the Liberal Arts in their first term on campus (or, in the very rare case of a Spring term transfer, the following Fall). This course will satisfy their Freshman Studies requirement for the degrees offered at Lawrence.

General education requirements

General education ensures that Lawrence students gain familiarity with different academic disciplines and the modes of thought and expression appropriate to each, that they develop an understanding of global and domestic diversity and their impact on contemporary life, and that they develop competencies in writing/speaking, quantitative reasoning, and world languages. All of the requirements below apply to the Bachelor of Arts degree and the B.A./B.Mus. double degree. The Bachelor of Music degree has fewer general education requirements as described under Degree Requirements in the catalog.


The purpose of the distribution requirement is to ensure that students graduating from Lawrence experience the breadth of study central to a liberal arts education. For that reason, students in the Bachelor of Arts degree program are required to take at least one course in each division: humanities, natural sciences (with laboratory), social sciences, and fine arts (see "Divisions within the university"). This requirement cannot be satisfied with examination credit (AP, IB, or A-levels).

Humanities: In the humanities, students learn to engage in close readings of literary, cultural, historical, religious, or philosophical works and provide critical comments on those works. They also learn to place works in their historical, cultural, and/or literary contexts.

Natural sciences (with laboratory): In the natural sciences, students learn to use their understanding of a scientific concept to interpret a natural phenomenon and to draw reasonable conclusions from scientific data.

Social sciences: In the social sciences, students learn to define significant questions within the fields of anthropology, economics, education, government, or psychology and to explain how one would seek to answer those questions using methods from one or more of those fields.

Fine arts: In the fine arts, students learn to recognize and describe the concepts and/or methods involved in creating a piece of visual art, music, or theatre. They also learn to recognize and describe forms of artistic expression in their historical and cultural contexts and to create or interpret visual art, music, or theatre using methods introduced or practiced in the classroom or studio.


The purpose of the diversity requirements is to prepare students for an increasingly diverse American society and an increasingly interconnected world. Diversity requirements call for at least one course focusing on an area outside Europe and the United States or on a global perspective on a contemporary issue (courses listed with a “G” designation in the class schedule) and one course exploring dimensions of diversity that affect contemporary American society (courses listed with a “D” designation in the class schedule).

Global diversity: In global diversity (G) courses, students learn to describe important aspects of the political, economic, social, or cultural context of at least one region of the world outside Europe and the United States or, alternatively, to articulate a global and/or comparative perspective on a contemporary issue.

Dimensions of diversity: In dimensions of diversity (D) courses, students learn to discuss critically at least one dimension of diversity (such as race, ethnicity, gender, or sexuality) that is of importance in understanding contemporary society and to demonstrate an awareness of how diversity influences social life.


Competency requirements improve fundamental skills central to a liberal arts education and include courses designated as writing-intensive (W) or speaking-intensive (S), as emphasizing quantitative reasoning (Q), and as leading toward proficiency in a language other than English (at the 200 level or above). Alternative ways to satisfy the language proficiency requirement are described under Academic Procedures and Regulations.

Writing-intensive & speaking-intensive: In writing-intensive (W) and speaking-intensive (S) courses, students learn to articulate a coherent thesis and supporting argument, to incorporate feedback and revision into the writing or speaking process to improve critical thinking, and to demonstrate awareness of the conventions and traditions of the discipline in which the work is undertaken.

Quantitative reasoning: In quantitative reasoning (Q) courses, students learn to apply quantitative techniques (mathematical, graphical, algebraic, or statistical), algorithmic methods, or formal logical analysis to solve defined problems or bodies of problems.

Language proficiency: In modern language courses that satisfy the language proficiency requirement, students learn to listen, speak, read, and write at the American Council of Teachers of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) intermediate-mid level for French, German, Italian, or Spanish or intermediate-low level for Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, or Russian. In classical language courses that satisfy the requirement, students learn to read and comprehend extended passages in Latin or Ancient Greek. In all language courses, students express, interpret, and negotiate meaning in the target language using linguistic, social, and historical knowledge about the target culture(s) and people(s).


Liberal learning calls for depth as well as breadth of knowledge. The academic major gives students the opportunity to master a subject while providing the challenge and pleasure of learning something thoroughly. Students can choose to major in the academic area that best suits their interests or design their own major (see Student-initiated Courses and Programs). Students pursuing a Bachelor of Music degree also select an area of emphasis for the major in performance, music education, or composition (see Conservatory of Music). All major programs share a commitment to increasing knowledge and methodological sophistication in a specific area of study, and every major includes a Senior Experience (see below) as a capstone requirement.

The learning goals and requirements for majors are described under Areas of Study in the catalog.

Elective areas of study

Many students supplement the major with focused study in a minor or interdisciplinary area; certification to teach in pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade education; or preparation for professional study in business, law, health careers, or engineering. Students may participate in one or more terms of off-campus study, and they may choose from on-campus courses that emphasize community-based learning, incorporate travel, or deal with subjects beyond the purview of one department. Students may also initiate their own courses under the guidance of a Lawrence faculty member.

Minors and interdisciplinary areas

Minors provide an opportunity for students to do focused work in a field outside the major. Some students will combine majors and minors in closely related fields—biology and chemistry, for instance, or English and history—while others will use minors to explore subjects very different from their major areas of study. Minors are offered by almost all curricular departments and interdisciplinary programs of the university.

Interdisciplinary areas allow students to cross departmental or disciplinary boundaries and address issues from several perspectives. A student who satisfies the requirements of an interdisciplinary area may have the area listed on the transcript along with the declared major.

Majors, minors, and interdisciplinary areas are listed alphabetically under Areas of Study.

Teacher certification

Lawrence offers certification at the elementary level (with any major), at the secondary level (with a major in the subject area and major or minor for any additional area), and at all levels (preK–12) in music, art, world languages, and English as a second language. Students complete a semester of student teaching during the senior year or in a 13th term (without normal tuition charges) in the fall after graduation. Those interested in teacher certification should consult with the education or music education faculty at their earliest opportunity.

Pre-professional study

Students who plan to attend professional school in business, law, or health-related professions can receive guidance on the selection of courses and pursuit of internships to prepare for professional study. Students may also apply for one of Lawrence's cooperative degree programs in engineering, forestry and environmental science, law, or occupational therapy, or for preferred admission to a master's program in nursing. See the information under "postgraduate options" in Academic Planning and under Cooperative Degree Programs in the catalog.

Off-campus programs

Lawrence University encourages students to extend their programs of study by participating in the challenging educational and cultural experiences offered through our portfolio of off-campus programs. Lawrence operates two programs of its own, the London Centre and the Francophone Seminar in Senegal, and offers programs operated by other organizations such as the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) and the Institute for the International Education of Students (IES). These programs have been evaluated by the faculty and approved for Lawrence affiliation.

It is best to plan ahead for off-campus study when considering options for majors and minors. Interested students should make an appointment with the director of off-campus programs as early as the freshman year to explore the range of possibilities for including off-campus study in their degree program.

Community-based learning courses

Community-based learning (CBL) is one of the diverse pedagogies used to promote student academic achievement at Lawrence. The emphasis in CBL courses is on promoting the intellectual and character development of students through interaction with off-campus communities. In contrast with field trips, the off-campus experiences in CBL courses are deeply integrated with classroom learning, course assignments, and learning outcomes and involve significant participation in a community or interaction with community issues, concerns, or needs. CBL courses may be located nearby in the Fox Valley or at more distant sites such as London or Chicago.

Travel courses

Some courses include travel to remote destinations for place-based learning, research, and engagement with local peoples, cultures, and historic sites. These may be regular term courses that include travel during winter or spring break or December Term courses that take place at another location. Travel courses charge a program fee for travel expenses and have similar eligibility requirements to off-campus programs, except that some travel courses are also open to first-year students.

University courses

University courses (listed with the prefix UNIC) deal with subjects of interest and importance that are outside the purview of any given department. These include courses in additional languages, academic skills, or personal development, as well as interdisciplinary courses on contemporary concerns that cross traditional academic boundaries. Students from all disciplines may enroll in university courses.

Student-initiated courses

Student-initiated options for study are a long-standing feature of the Lawrence curriculum. Most often, students elect tutorials or independent study in order to pursue topics of interest in depth. Additional opportunities for individualized learning include academic internships, directed study, and writing for credit. Non-music majors may request private music lessons by audition or interview and with an additional fee. For more information, see the section on Student-initiated Courses and Programs.


Senior Experience

Senior Experience is the culmination of a Lawrence education, a way for students to integrate knowledge and skills developed through years of study, demonstrate proficiency in their major fields, and develop scholarly or artistic independence. Every graduating senior produces something significant — an independent or collaborative project, major seminar paper, portfolio, performance, or exhibition — to satisfy criteria for the major set by faculty of that department or program. The Senior Experience is thus unique to each student yet universal to students across the university.

Every major listed under Areas of Study includes a description of how students can satisfy the Senior Experience requirement for that department or program. Juniors should discuss with their academic advisors how they plan to fulfill the requirement for graduation. Students pursuing studies in more than one area can propose a Senior Experience that integrates two majors or incorporates student teaching, and the proposal must be approved by both departments or programs as satisfying the requirement. Students pursuing projects that are ambitious or distinctive should check the Senior Experience web page for possible sources of funding.

Senior Experience titles appear in the Commencement program. Graduating seniors are asked to submit their titles as part of the graduation application process.