Barnard's motto, Following the Way of Reason (Hepomene toi logismoi), signals the College’s continuing commitment to the intellectual breadth and analytical depth of the liberal arts tradition. Since the College’s founding in 1889, a Barnard education has been characterized by its distinctive combination of elements: a rigorous, broadly based framework of general education requirements; a focused inquiry into major subjects; and a range of electives. Together these elements allow for substantial personal choice. The exact structure of College requirements has varied over the past century in response to changes in society, education, and student needs. Today, degree candidates complete two first-year foundation courses, general education courses organized around different “ways of knowing,” a major, and electives, totaling 122 points (120 points for students entering before Autumn 2003). They also fulfill a physical education requirement reflecting the College’s view that physical well-being is an essential part of a healthy and productive life. (Of the 122 required points, 1 must be for PE. Transfer students who enter with 24 points of credit need 121 points, of which 1 is for PE.)
A Barnard education seeks to provide women with the tools and techniques needed to think critically and act effectively in the world today. It fosters a respect for learning, an aptitude for analysis, and a competence in the demanding disciplines of the liberal arts and sciences. By virtue of its special mission and location, Barnard strives to give its students insight into interconnected worlds of knowledge and experience.
The Barnard curriculum enables students to develop strength in language and literature, in social and historical analysis, in mathematics and the natural sciences, and in the arts and the humanities—ways of knowing that incorporate but also transcend traditional academic disciplines. Built around major methods for apprehending the world and organizing knowledge, the College’s basic requirements are designed to equip students to respond both critically and creatively to a rapidly changing world. Barnard students learn to employ a variety of analytical methods in order to engage new complexities of social evolution and scientific knowledge. The College dedicates itself to imparting to every student self-renewing intellectual resourcefulness, the mark of a liberal arts education.
The College faculty encourages each student to elect courses in a manner that ensures exposure to distinct forms and traditions of knowledge and to the human experience as lived in various parts of the world. Each student is encouraged to make selections that develop connections among the elements of the curriculum, that promote understanding of global issues, and that acknowledge both the diversity and the commonality of human endeavors in civilizations around the world and through time.
As a college for women, Barnard embraces its responsibility to address issues of gender in all their complexity and urgency, and is committed to an integrated curriculum that recognizes the importance of gender in all forms of human endeavor. The College encourages students to profit from the exceptional and varied opportunities to explore women’s histories, challenges, and achievements. Gender-related matters are incorporated into a wide range of additional courses across the academic disciplines.
Barnard also encourages students to take full advantage of the world city of New York—its international character and economic power; its prominence in science, medicine, and the arts; its cultural abundance; its diverse neighborhoods and peoples; its architectural richness. In their studies, their work, and their personal lives, Barnard students can avail themselves of the city’s unparalleled resources. As an extended campus, New York serves not only as a multidisciplinary research laboratory for coursework and guided field experiences, but also as the site for a vast array of internships and wide-ranging, city based student activities.
Barnard seeks to ensure that students become aware of, and knowledgeable about, their physical being. Students complete two courses that focus on physical activity, fitness, and well-being. The College also provides additional opportunities for students to exercise and to learn more about fundamental elements of good health and women’s health issues.
Two courses are required of all first-year students to ensure that their skills in reading, writing, and speaking continue to develop in ways that will support their learning throughout their years at Barnard. First-Year Foundation courses are deliberately kept small; they focus on individual participation and on methods of research, analysis, and revision.
Barnard's liberal arts philosophy takes as its starting point the idea that every student, whatever her level of academic achievement, can continue to improve her skills in writing, analysis, and argumentation. Therefore, all first-year students are required to take a one-semester writing course titled First-Year English (ENGL BC 1201 or BC 1204), designed to cultivate and develop expository writing and related tools of scholarship. Students choose to study one of three rubrics: I. Legacy of the Mediterranean features a curriculum of classic texts representing key intellectual moments that have shaped Western culture; II. Women and Culture features a more global curriculum exploring the role of women in literature and culture; or III. The Americas features a curriculum of texts that exemplifies the dynamic relationship between North, South, and Central American literatures. All three literary traditions are historicized in interdisciplinary contexts to foster better writing across the curriculum.
Transfer students who did not pass a satisfactory course at their previous institution are not required to take ENGL BC 1201, but must take ENGL BC 3103 or BC 3104 or a 3-point literature course from the Barnard English department offerings.
Students who complete a course satisfying this requirement should be able to attain at least one of the following outcomes:
First-year students take this one-semester course designed to develop the intellectual skills and styles central to subsequent academic work. This course emphasizes the enhancement of writing and communication skills and the group-discussion mode of intellectual inquiry and discourse.
Seminars center on major themes or issues, and participants read and discuss selected important philosophical, historical, literary, or scientific texts. Students and faculty engage in an extended consideration of a theme of general human concern, one that goes beyond departmental boundaries.
Transfer students are not required to take the First-Year Seminar.
Students who complete a course satisfying this requirement should be able to attain at least one of the following outcomes:
The aim of the General Education Requirements is to ensure that each Barnard graduate confronts and engages in central ways of knowing the world. These ways of knowing—divided into nine key areas,—include, but also bridge, the traditional disciplines of the liberal arts and sciences. Inquiry into these areas establishes the basis for a Barnard education. Each student studies, from analytical, quantitative, and artistic perspectives, the major means by which human knowledge has been constructed.
To allow for flexibility within this framework, a student chooses among the designated courses that fulfill each of the nine requirement areas. She will find some courses that offer a broad view of a field, exploring issues that help create an educated citizenry; other courses satisfy the purposes of general education by close scrutiny of critical methods and their specific application. Thus, each student will shape her own academic program, deliberately and distinctively, by electing a combination of wide-ranging introductory courses and more specialized upper level courses to fulfill the General Education Requirements. The areas included in the General Education Requirements are:
Courses used to fulfill these area requirements must be at least 3 points and may also be used to satisfy requirements for majors or minors. Students may not use Advanced Placement Credit to fulfill the area requirements unless specifically noted otherwise.
Designated courses may be listed in more than one area; students are free to choose which area requirement is satisfied, but may not use a single course to fulfill two or more areas.
A student’s choice of specific courses should be influenced by an intent to forge links among topics and ways of knowing, to find common themes across time and form, and to develop an internal coherence within her own set of courses used to fulfill the College’s General Education Requirements. A student should also be mindful that her choices of courses can, and should, expand and enrich her understanding of the world at large, of cultural diversity, and of issues of gender.
A comprehensive list of courses satisfying general education requirements for each area is on the Barnard website. The specific aims for each of these area requirements are set forth below:
Requirement: One course on the nature and demands of ethical reasoning and the ways in which individuals and communities articulate and embody their values both in reasoning and in practice. These courses recognize that contemporary and historical moral problems are often complex and unresolved.
Aim: In courses that satisfy this requirement, students consider attitudes, judgments, and choices of individuals and cultures concerning what is good and bad, right and wrong, just and unjust. How do larger social, religious, and ethnic contexts shape evaluative attitudes, decisions, and actions? How do we study ethical reason and practice within a complex and diverse global context? Are moral attitudes rooted in reason or emotion, or both? How may values be formed through narrative, ritual, and a range of other activities? What is the extent of moral agreement and disagreement across and within cultures and historical periods? Are deep conflicts of value susceptible to rational reflection and critical discussion? Courses on the history and politics of human rights, moral philosophy, religion, or the ethics of bioengineering fall under this rubric, but so might courses exploring post-liberal politics, environmentalism and animal rights, race, gender, and global equity.
Students who complete a course satisfying this requirement should be able to attain at least one of the following outcomes:
Requirement: One course that allows students to explore ways in which values shape thought, thought shapes values, and both guide human actions.
Aim: To introduce ways of thinking, both past and present, about the formation of human values, their role in guiding action, and their susceptibility to rational reflection and critical discussion. This requirement allows students to discover how established disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences—as well as newer interdisciplinary fields—approach a wide range of value-related issues. Courses may address such questions as: What does it mean to follow “the way of reason”? What are the sources of human values? How do we arrive at our conceptions of virtue and obligation, and how do such conceptions shape our notions of a good life and a just society? How have questions about values emerged in different traditions at different times? Other possible subjects include the intersecting ethical dilemmas of private and public life, the relation between moral thought and moral action, and issues of human rights, cultural diversity, and global equity.
Requirement: One course that prepares students to analyze societies and social categories using systematic theoretical and empirical inquiry. These courses must critically and constructively evaluate social structures and practices.
Aim: Social analysis investigates and explains the form and function of social institutions, including the categories on which they are based, their informal and formal operations, and their effects. It is especially concerned with how institutions vary across time and place, how they are shaped by individual and group behaviors, and how power is distributed across different groups. Students will study individuals, groups, or institutions, or the relations among them. They will engage empirical evidence from a variety of sources, such as interviews, oral histories, cultural artifacts, surveys, field observation, experiments, texts and official records. They will learn strategies to make sense of these data such as causal reasoning, hypotheses testing, and critical analyses of the meanings and measures of empirical categories. Fundamentally, social analysis questions “what is” and contemplates what could or should be.
Requirement: One course that acquaints students with the central concepts and methods of the social sciences, while also critically examining social structures and processes, and the roles of groups and individuals within them.
Aim: To introduce various ways of analyzing social structures and processes, and to explore how these institutions and processes both shape and are shaped by group and individual behavior. Courses will focus on a variety of institutions and processes, from the family, to the nation-state, to the international economy. All courses will address fundamental questions such as: How are individual and collective human behavior linked to the cultural, economic, and political context in which they occur? How is power distributed across different groups and among individuals? How do social systems develop and change? How can we come to better understand societal dynamics through a variety of quantitative and qualitative methods?
Requirement: One course enabling students to study times and traditions of the past, to learn theories and methods of historical analysis, and to discover how different concepts of history shape our understanding of both past and present.
Aim: To emphasize the importance of historical knowledge for understanding various aspects of human experience and activity, and to develop the skills necessary to conduct or evaluate historical research. Coursework will demonstrate how history is not a simple record of past events, but an interpretation of the past shaped by the theories, methods, and data used to construct it. Among the questions to be raised are: Whose past is remembered? How is it remembered? To serve what purposes?
Requirement: One course that compares two or more cultures from the perspectives of the humanities and/or social sciences.
Aim: To study the diversity and the commonality of human experience, and to examine and question personal cultural assumptions and values in relation to others’. Through comparative methods, courses will explore the beliefs, ideologies, and practices of different peoples in different parts of the world, across time, and through migrations. Courses may include comparison of cultures from two or more geographical areas or from two or more cultures within one area, and may approach the subject matter using anthropological, historical, social, and/or humanistic perspectives.
Requirement: Two courses with laboratory in one science chosen from among: astronomy, biology, chemistry, environmental science, physics, or psychology. Acceptable courses must meet for at least three hours of lecture and three hours of laboratory each week. Note: students may combine a course in Physics with an appropriate course in Astronomy.
Aim: To develop intellectual curiosity about the natural world and the processes of scientific experimentation; to convey an understanding of what is known or can be known about the natural world; to introduce basic methods of analyzing and synthesizing the sources of scientific information; and to create scientifically literate citizens who can engage productively in problem solving. Students are expected to master the tools of science and current understanding in one area, and are encouraged to explore the limitations of existing theories and to learn how to ask strategic questions. Laboratory exercises introduce students to techniques of scientific investigation as they make observations, carry out experimental procedures, and learn how results and analyses are communicated in specific visual, quantitative, and written forms.
Note: Students may fulfill part of this requirement with scores of 4 or 5 on Advanced Placement Examinations in biology, environmental science, and physics (or their International Baccalaureate equivalents).
The following courses meet these requirements.
Astronomy: ASTR BC 1753–1754 , or ASTR C 1403–1404 with the lab ASTR C 1903–1904. The following combinations can be used for one semester of the requirement: ASTR C1610 with C1903, ASTR C1420 with C1904, ASTR C1836 with C1904.
Biology: BC 1001–1002, or BC 1500, 1501, 1502, and 1503
Chemistry: BC 2001 and BC 2002, BC 2001 and BC 3230 with BC 3328, C 1403–C 1404 with C 1500 and one additional laboratory course, e.g., BC 2102, BC 3328, BC 3338, or C 3543
Environmental Science: Any combination of two of EESC BC 1001, BC 1002, V 1011, S 1011, V 1001, V 2100, V 2200, V 2300/(EEEB W 2002). Students may also complete the lab science requirement by combining the Columbia SEE-U summer program with BC 1002, V 1011, V 1001, V 2100, or V 2200
Physics: BC 2001, 2002, 3001 (any two); F, V, or W 1201–1202 with 1291–1292
Psychology: BC 1001 + BC 1010, BC 1106 + BC 1107 (Group A), BC 1109 + BC 1110 (Group B), BC 1114 + BC 1115 (Group A), BC 1118 + BC 1119 (Group B), BC 1124 + BC 1125 (Group C), BC 1128 + BC 1129 (Group C), BC 1137 + BC 1138 (Group C). Note: BC 1001 + BC 1010 can be combined with another lab/lecture combination from any group; otherwise, the two labs must be from two different letter groups: see Requirements for Major on the Psychology Department website.
Requirement: One course in which students learn methods and approaches used in mathematics and related fields involving quantitative expression and logical reasoning.
Aim: To provide a productive acquaintance with at least one means of quantitative and deductive reasoning and to develop an ability to apply this knowledge to the analysis of new problems. Coursework will emphasize how quantitative analysis and deductive reasoning function as creative, elegant, and powerful ways of thinking and as effective sets of conceptual tools and procedures with widespread applications.
Note: Students may fulfill this requirement by securing Advanced Placement Credit in mathematics, chemistry, computer science, physics, or statistics (or their International Baccalaureate equivalents or equivalent transfer credit).
Astronomy: BC 1753, BC 1754, C 1420, C 1403 (some sections only), C 1404 (some sections only), C1836
Biology: BC 3386
Chemistry: BC 1002, BC 2001, C 1403, C 1404
Computer Science: Any 3 point course carrying degree credit
Economics: BC 2411, BC 1007
Environmental Science: BC 3025 Hydrology or BC 3017 Environmental Data Analysis, EESC V 2100 Climate
Mathematics: Any course carrying degree credit except W 1003 College Algebra
Philosophy: V 1401, V 3411
Physics: Any course of 3 points or more
Political Science: BC 3345
Psychology: BC 1101
Sociology: BC 3211, V 3212, W 3010, W 3020
Statistics: Any course of 3 points or more
Urban Studies: V 2200, V 3200
Requirement: Competence in one ancient or modern language other than English, demonstrated by completion of, minimally, the fourth sequential semester of college-level study, and preferably, a more advanced course with greater emphasis on literary and cultural traditions.
Aim: To provide basic linguistic competence in at least one language other than English, in order to familiarize students with the language, literature, and culture of at least one non-English speaking people. Students are encouraged to develop their language skills to a level that permits them to live and function in another country; to enable them to conduct research, whatever their field; and to prepare them to work effectively in an increasingly global and multicultural society. In becoming familiar with the form and structure of another language, students consider how languages function as tools for communication. Students are encouraged to apply their language skills in courses that fulfill other general education requirement areas.
Requirement: One course in literature in any language, in the original or in translation; or in comparative literature.
Aim: To develop the skills needed for an informed and aesthetically rewarding reading of literary texts from various times, places, and traditions. Coursework will address the methods and theories by which readers produce meanings and interpretations, and will investigate the pertinence of material such as the authors’ biographies or their cultural contexts to literary analysis. Students will study rhetorical strategies employed in literature, becoming more adept at grasping the underlying assumptions and appeal of various forms of discourse.
Requirement: One course in architecture, art history, studio art, graphic design, dance, music, film, or theatre.
Aim: To build an understanding and appreciation of creative processes and forms of artistic expression. Courses will provide insight into the ways art is used to explore and enrich the world and the human condition. The requirement will enable students to cultivate their skills, to develop an understanding of the ways various arts communicate and are discussed, and to consider works of art in their complex social and historical contexts.
Degree Requirement: One Physical Education course is required for graduation. This course must be completed by the end of the first year. One point will be earned for this one course. One additional point of Physical Education may be counted towards the 122 points required for graduation. Transfer students must consult their transfer credit evaluation to see if a Physical Education class is needed.
Aim: To enable students to become aware of, and knowledgeable about, their physical being through participation in fitness and sports activities. Students are encouraged to enroll in additional activity and self-paced exercise courses toward the attainment of lifelong well-being.
Departments and programs establish majors to provide a structured, focused investigation of an academic discipline or area of interdisciplinary study. Often a major will require courses taken in cognate disciplines. Generally, there are three levels of study within each major: introductory survey courses; mid-level courses that cover more specialized subject matter and where attention is paid to the methodologies, including the writing styles and formats, of the discipline; and advanced-level seminars with an emphasis on independent research. The College has a long-standing commitment to preparing students sufficiently in a subject so that they may undertake a semester- or year-long project, usually during the senior year, on a topic related to their major.
All students complete the requirements of an approved major. Majors vary in the number of credits required. For students transferring credit from another college or university, a minimum of six semester courses must be completed while the student is in residence at Barnard. Only courses graded C– or higher will be credited toward the major.
A student registers her chosen major with the Office of the Registrar and with her major department or program, normally in the second term of her sophomore year. The major may be chosen from any listed in the Barnard Catalogue. A student may major in two fields by satisfying all the major requirements prescribed by each department, with no overlapping courses. A combined or special major may be designed in consultation with the Class Dean and chairs of the appropriate departments, and with the approval of the Committee on Programs and Academic Standing. Committee approval is not needed for a double major that comprises all the course requirements of two majors with one integrating senior project, but the form designated for such a double major must be filed with the Registrar and the two departments.
Apart from fulfilling general education requirements and major requirements, a student completes the remainder of the 122-point requirement with elective courses, either within or outside the major department, subject to the approval of the appropriate adviser.
No more than 18 points of studio, performing arts, or professional school courses (including film) may be credited toward the A.B. degree. Of these, a maximum of four arts studio courses may be credited. A maximum of six courses in instrumental instruction may be credited (except for Music majors and minors, who may receive credit for eight, including piano instruction). A maximum of six studio courses in Theatre may be credited (except for Theatre majors who may receive credit for 24 points of studio).
One-point dance technique courses taken by non-dance majors for credit are also included in the existing 18-point maximum which may be credited toward the degree. A maximum of six courses in dance technique may be credited.
Exceptions to this rule are allowed only for courses in the major field or for courses taken in fulfillment of requirements for double and joint degree programs with professional schools of the University. A maximum of 24 points may be credited for studio or performance courses in the major field. A minimum of 90 points of traditional liberal arts courses is required for the student who majors in such a field; for all other majors, a minimum of 102 points of such courses is required.
The selection of a minor field of study is optional. A minor requires at least five courses (three of which must be qualifying Barnard or Columbia courses), each worth 3 or more points, and may be requested by any student having a major after she has completed a minimum of three courses in the minor field. Requirements depend on the minor chosen (see individual department curriculum statements); courses are selected in consultation with the department chair. Courses for the major and minor may not overlap (except by petition from the minor department's chair, in cases where the minor requires more than 18 points, the major requires more than 40 points, the overlapping courses are required for both major and minor, and the request is for no more than two overlapping courses). Minor courses may also be used in satisfaction of general education requirements. To qualify for the minor, a course must be letter-graded A+ to C-.