Please note: The information displayed here is current as of Monday, May 27, 2019, but the official Course Catalog should be used for all official planning.

2017-2018 Course Catalog


This catalog was created on Monday, May 27, 2019.

Structure of the Curriculum

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

Interdisciplinary programs such as Biomedical Ethics, Cognitive Science, East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, Ethnic Studies, Film Studies, Gender Studies, Global Studies, Latin American Studies, and Linguistics are non-divisional. 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 Lawrence degrees.

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.


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 are required to take at least one course in each division: humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and fine arts (see "Divisions within the university").  This requirement cannot be satisfied with examination credit (AP, IB, or A-levels).


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 with a global perspective focusing on an area outside Europe and the United States (courses listed with a “G” designation in the class schedule) and one course exploring dimensions of diversity in contemporary American society (courses listed with a “D” designation in the class schedule).


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.


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 theory/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.

Elective areas of study

Many students supplement their majors with focused study in a second major, minor or interdisciplinary area; with certification to teach in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade education; or with preparation for professional study in business, law, or health careers (described under “postgraduate options” in Planning an Academic Program). Students may also take university courses on topics of interest, pursue various options for student-initiated courses, and gain firsthand experience in an off-campus program in the U.S. or abroad.

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 of the university.

Interdisciplinary areas allow students to cross departmental or disciplinary boundaries and address issues from several perspectives. Those students who satisfy the requirements of an interdisciplinary area may have the area listed on their transcripts along with their declared majors.

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 in most subjects (with a major in the subject area and a major or minor for any additional area) and at the elementary and secondary level (preK–12) in music, art, world languages, and English as a second language. Students may student-teach 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 department faculty at their earliest opportunity.

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.

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.

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, but the proposal must be approved by both departments or programs as satisfying the requirement.

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