Undergraduate Academic & University Policies

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General Education

The general education portion of your degree will be structured to a significant extent by the Areas of Knowledge, which consist of three broad areas of study: Visual, Literary, and the Performing Arts (VLPA), Individuals and Societies (I&S), and Natural World (NW).

In addition, you must also complete coursework in these areas: English Composition, Additional Writing, Quantitative & Symbolic Reasoning, and Diversity. Some schools also require a foreign language.

What is General Education?

General Education requirements represent the foundation of a UW education and will support the advanced learning students will do the rest of their life. The objective is to introduce students to many new ideas, rather than training them in one specific subject, so that they are in a position to create linkages across a wide expanse of different topics and disciplines. Areas of Knowledge are meant to allow students to embrace the exploration of new ideas and work diligently to make connections, especially where none seem to exist.

English Composition courses emphasize how to organize and express your ideas effectively. In composition courses, you will refine your skills by rewriting your papers after receiving feedback on them.

Basic Skills

Writing (W)

  • 5 credits English Composition (C) with a minimum 2.0 grade required.
  • 10 credits in Writing-Intensive (W) courses required.

A 5-credit English Composition (C) with a minimum 2.0 grade and you will need to complete 10 credits of Writing-Intensive (W) courses. Writing courses can be found across disciplines and must require 10-15 pages of graded, out-of-class writing, in the form of a longer paper plus a revision or two or more short papers.

Quantitative and Symbolic Reasoning (QSR)

  • 5 credits of Quantitative/Symbolic Reasoning (QSR) required.

Courses that satisfy this requirement focus on mathematics and statistics, or on formal and symbolic argument. These methods will enhance your ability to assess the relationship between ideas and judge information more critically.

World Language

Students who have not completed their world language requirement as the time of admission are required to complete college-level study through the 102 level in a single World Language (or two years in high school) either through sequential years in high school or through the second-quarter level of college coursework prior to applying for graduation. (If you are a native speaker of a language other than English, you may already meet this requirement. Contact the Office of Admissions for more information.)

Diversity (DIV)

  • A minimum of 3 credits of Diversity (DIV) required.

Courses that meet the Diversity (DIV) requirement study diversity in the United States with focus on the sociocultural, political, and/or economic diversity of the human experience and help students develop an understanding of the complexities of living in increasingly diverse and interconnected societies.

Areas of Knowledge (AoK)

A  minimum of 180 college credits must be completed (with more required in some programs) and include academic credits in the following areas:

Visual, Literary & Performing Arts (VLPA)

  • A minimum of 10 credits of Visual, Literary, and Performing Arts (VLPA) required.

VLPA courses focus on questions of meaning and value in human life, as well as the effective expression of human experience. The term "art" is used here in a very broad sense and suggests practices and crafts of all kinds rather than simply Western studio traditions.

Individuals & Societies (I&S)

  • A minimum of 10 credits of Individuals & Societies (I&S) required.

I&S courses focus on the experimental study of human behavior both individually and socially. This includes the history, development, and dynamics of human behavior, as well as social and cultural institutions.

Natural World (NW)

  • A minimum of 10 credits of Natural World (NW) required.

NW courses focus on the experimental study of the physical world.

Other Transcript Designations

The S and R designations appear on your transcript. The S designations will signal to employers and professional and graduate programs that you have chosen community engaged learning experiences in your undergraduate education, while the R designation, indicates that you have chosen undergraduate research experiences in your undergraduate education.

Service (S)

Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) is defined as "experiential learning with community partners through the mutually beneficial exchange of creativity, knowledge and resources." CEL is considered a High Impact Educational Practice, and has been shown to improve deep learning and persistence in undergraduate students. CEL allows students to engage in educationally purposeful activities and reflection tied to experiences in community-engaged outreach, scholarship, service, teaching/learning, research, creative endeavors or other activity. Community-Engaged Learning (CEL) course(s) are designated by an S in the course schedule.

Research (R)

To qualify for an R designation, significant and sustained effort in the course must be dedicated to "authentic research/scholarship." Undergraduate research is defined as an original or creative contribution to the discipline, which can include encountering/uncovering new data which is incorporated into existing frameworks, discovering new insights or new data that alter the boundaries and/or contours of the field, drawing novel comparisons or making heretofore unrecognized connections within the field, and/or making new assessments of current knowledge/interpretations what is already known or accepted. Undergraduate Research course(s) are indicated by an R in the course schedule.

Special Topic Courses

Special Topic courses are curriculum practice courses to test interest in a course before seeking formal approval.