REQUIREMENTS FOR THE BACHELOR OF ARTS DEGREE
Williams College offers a course of study leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts. The course requirements prescribe both the number of courses to be completed and the minimum grade level to be achieved; the curriculum also requires that each student explore several fields of knowledge and concentrate in one. The full requirements for the degree include meeting the minimum academic standards stated below, residing at the College, fulfilling the distribution requirement, completing a major, and completing the physical education requirement.
The academic year is divided into two regular semesters and a Winter Study Period. The student takes four courses in each semester and during January pursues a single program of study on a pass-fail basis.
Winter Study Period, which began in 1967, is intended to provide students and faculty with a dramatically different educational experience. The differences are in the nature of the courses, the nature of the learning experience, and the change of educational pace and format from the fall and spring semesters. These differences apply to the faculty and students in several ways: faculty can try out courses with new subjects and techniques that might, if successful, be used later in the regular terms; they can explore subjects not amenable to inclusion in regular courses; and they can investigate fields outside their usual areas of expertise. In their academic work, which is graded Honors, Pass, Perfunctory Pass, or Fail, students can explore new fields at low risk, concentrate on one subject that requires a great deal of time, develop individual research projects, or work in a different milieu (as interns, for example, or on trips outside Williamstown). In addition, Winter Study offers students an opportunity for more independence and initiative in a less formal setting, more opportunity to participate in cultural events, and an occasion to get to know one another better.
To be eligible for the Bachelor of Arts degree a student must pass 32 semester courses (at least 29 of which must be regularly graded A-E, including 19 with grades of C- or better), pass four Winter Study Projects, fulfill the four-part distribution requirement, complete all requirements for the major including an average of C minus or higher, and complete the physical education requirement. A student may not repeat a course for which degree credit has been awarded.
The distribution requirement falls into four parts. Please note that courses used to fulfill these requirements must be regularly graded.
1) DIVISIONAL REQUIREMENT-designed to ensure that in their course of study at Williams, students take an appropriately diverse distribution of courses across the full range of the curriculum.
For the purposes of the requirement, courses are grouped into three divisions: Division I, Languages and the Arts; Division II, Social Studies; and Division III, Science and Mathematics. A full listing of the subjects in each division appears below.
Students must complete at least three graded semester courses in each division. Two in each division must be completed by the end of the sophomore year. No more than two of the courses used to satisfy the requirement may have the same course prefix. The courses must be taken at Williams or at programs under the direction of Williams College Faculty.
Courses that fulfill the distribution requirement in Division I are designed to help students become better able to respond to the arts sensitively and intelligently by learning the language, whether verbal, visual, or musical, of a significant field of artistic expression. Students learn how to develop the capacity for critical discussion, to increase awareness of the esthetic and moral issues raised by works of art, and to grow in self-awareness and creativity.
Courses which fulfill the Division II requirement consider the institutions and social structures that human beings have created, whether knowingly or unknowingly, and which in turn markedly affect their lives. These courses are intended to help the students recognize, analyze, and evaluate these human structures in order that they may better understand themselves and the social world in which they live.
Courses which fulfill the Division III requirement are intended to provide some of the factual and methodological knowledge needed to be an informed citizen in a world deeply influenced by scientific thought and technological accomplishment, and to cultivate skill in exact and quantitative reasoning.
Courses with the following designations receive divisional distribution credit as indicated:
DIVISION I. Languages and the Arts
Please note: Any Environmental Studies course that is also cross-listed with another subject carries distribution credit of that subject. Other Environmental Studies courses may fulfill distribution requirements as indicated under individual course listings.
Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford University tutorial courses (WIOX) may be used toward fulfilling the divisional distribution requirement; a student may earn a maximum of three distribution requirements, with no more than one from each division, for the year. All tutorial courses in the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford University (WIOX) meet the Williams College `W' designation, except for those in studio arts, mathematics, and the sciences. Courses at the Williams-Mystic Program may also be used toward fulfilling the distribution requirement as appropriate.
2) THE EXPLORING DIVERSITY INITIATIVE REQUIREMENT.Williams College is committed to creating and maintaining a curriculum, faculty, and student body that reflects and explores a diverse, globalized world and the multi-cultural character of the United States. Courses designated “(D)” in the College Bulletin are a part of the College’s Exploring Diversity Initiative (EDI); they represent our dedication to study groups, cultures, and societies as they interact with, and challenge, each other. Through such
Courses that comprise the Exploring Diversity Initiative may fall under a variety of categories, including (but not limited to) the following:
All students are required to complete ONE course that is part of the Exploring Diversity Initiative. Although this course, which may be counted toward the divisional distribution requirement, may be completed any semester before graduation, students are urged to complete the course by the end of the sophomore year.
Click here for a list of courses offered in 2016-2017 that meet the requirement.
3) QUANTITATIVE/FORMAL REASONING REQUIREMENT is intended to help students become adept at reasoning mathematically and abstractly. The ability to apply a formal method to reach conclusions, to use numbers comfortably, and to employ the research tools necessary to analyze data lessen barriers to carrying out professional and economic roles. Prior to the senior year, all students must pass a Quantitative/Formal Reasoning (QFR) course- those marked with a "(Q)." Students requiring extra assistance (as assessed during First Days) are normally placed into Mathematics 100/101/102, which is to be taken before fulfilling the QFR requirement.
The hallmarks of a QFR course are the representation of facts in a language of mathematical symbols and the use of formal rules to obtain a determinate answer. Primary evaluation in these courses is based on multistep mathematical, statistical, or logical inference (as opposed to descriptive answers). Click here for a list of courses offered in 2016-2017 that meet the requirement.
4) WRITING REQUIREMENT-All students are required to take two writing-intensive courses: one by the end of sophomore year, and one by the end of the junior year. Students will benefit most from the writing-intensive courses by taking them early in their college careers, and are therefore strongly encouraged to complete the requirement by the end of the sophomore year.
The goal of the writing-intensive course requirement is to improve student writing proficiency across disciplines. Students in these courses should expect to receive guidance on style, argumentation, and other significant aspects of writing, as well as evaluation and criticism of their writing throughout the semester. This may be achieved through a variety of approaches: brief assignments spaced over the semester, sequenced assignments leading to a longer final paper, etc. Writing-intensive courses may also include multiple drafts, conferences, peer review, or class discussions designed to improve writing skills. A course with a single long paper due at the end of the semester, but with no required or structured means of addressing writing issues, would not be considered writing intensive.
Writing-intensive courses require a minimum of 20 pages of writing and have a maximum enrollment of 19 to allow the instructor to devote appropriate attention to writing over the course of the semester.
All tutorial courses in the Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford University (WIOX) meet the Williams College `W' designation, except for those in the studio arts, mathematics, and the sciences.
Click here for a list of courses offered in 2016-2017 that meet the requirement.
The Major Requirement is designed to assure that all Williams undergraduates will have the experience of disciplined and cumulative study, carried on over an extended period of time, in some important field of intellectual inquiry. Juniors are required to declare a major and the selection is normally made at the time of registration in the spring of the sophomore year.
Majors are offered in the following fields:
GENERAL STRUCTURE OF MAJORS
1) A student ordinarily must elect at least nine semester courses in his or her major field. A major may also require an additional course and/or one Winter Study Project during the junior or senior year.
A student may also fulfill the minimum requirements for a major by taking eight semester courses in the major field and two semester courses, approved by a major advisor, in associated fields. In interdepartmental majors, such as Political Economy, a larger number of courses may be required.
2) A prescribed sequence of courses, supplemented by parallel courses, and including a major seminar, is required in some major fields. Other majors ask the student to plan a sequence of elective courses, including advanced work building on elementary courses in the field, and ending in a one- or two- semester faculty-organized course or project in the senior year. All majors provide a system of counseling to help students plan programs reflecting individual interests as well as disciplined and cumulative patterns of inquiry.
Courses in many major programs require prerequisite courses in related areas. A full description of the detailed structure of each major is found under the heading of that major.
Students who wish to undertake the coherent study of an interdisciplinary subject not covered by a regularly offered major may propose to be contract majors. Procedures for arranging a contract major and for honors work in such a major are described in the section, "Courses of Instruction." Students interested in this option should begin consulting with the Dean's Office and with potential faculty advisors early in the sophomore year. A student completing a contract major may not do so in conjunction with a second major. For further details, click here
A student may complete two majors with the permission of both majors and the Committee on Academic Standing. Although a student may be granted permission to use a course from one major to fulfill a particular requirement in the other, the student nevertheless must take the minimum number of courses in each field without counting any course twice. A student may be a candidate for Honors in either or both of the majors, but a course for Honors in one major may not be used for an Honors course in the other.
The Physical Education requirement provides students the opportunity of establishing and maintaining a general level of fitness and well-being; of developing abilities in carry-over activities; of discovering and extending their own physical capabilities; and of developing skills in activities with survival implications, such as swimming.
Students who begin college at Williams must spend a minimum of six semesters in residence at Williams. Students transferring to Williams from other institutions must spend a minimum of four semesters in residence at Williams, and those entering as sophomores are expected to spend six semesters in residence. Students are considered to be in residence if they are taking a program of study under the direction of the Williams College Faculty. Students must be in residence for both semesters of the final year.
The degree requirements must be completed within eight semesters, including any semesters for which a student receives credit while not in residence at Williams. Thus, semesters spent away on exchange or other approved programs at other colleges are included in the eight semesters.
Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate
At the discretion of the appropriate departments or programs, students presenting satisfactory scores in Advanced Placement tests or International Baccalaureate higher level examinations may be placed in advanced courses not regularly open to them and/or may receive course credit toward the major or concentration. Therefore, if granted, this credit may be used as a prerequisite or in partial fulfillment of the major or concentration requirements. AP and IB credit, however, may not be used to reduce the normal course load of any semester, to make up a deficiency incurred at Williams, or to satisfy the Distribution Requirement.
Degree Credit Based on A-Level Examination Grades
Upon petition from the student, the Committee on Academic Standing may award two course credits toward the Williams degree for each grade of A or B received on an A-Level Examination in a liberal arts discipline. These credits may be used to accelerate graduation but may not be used to lower the course load during a semester in residence.
Normally, the student must have completed at least one full year of study at Williams and have met minimum academic standards before the CAS would consider the petition. The petition must include certification that all degree requirements, including a major, can be fulfilled if the credit is awarded.
Certificate in Foreign Languages
Certificates are awarded in Arabic, French, German, Russian and Spanish. The certificate confirms a particular degree of proficiency, cultural literacy and experience with the language in the context of the student's college education. Seven or eight courses are required, depending on the language. Please see the individual programs for details and specific requirements.
Combined Program in Liberal Arts and Engineering
The 3-2 program enables a qualified student to combine a liberal arts education at Williams with undergraduate professional training in engineering. The student studies at Williams for 3 years, completing 24 courses and 3 Winter Study Projects. He or she then transfers to The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University for 2 years of engineering courses. Upon successful completion of this 5-year program, the student receives a Bachelor of Arts degree from Williams and a Bachelor of Science degree from Columbia.
Co-ordinate Programs Offering Concentrations
In addition to majoring in a field, a student may choose to concentrate elective courses on a single topic or area. Normally, a student declares a concentration at the time of registration in the spring of the sophomore year. Concentrations are offered in the following programs:
Descriptions of these programs appear under the appropriate heading in this publication. If the co-ordinate program courses are directly related to the major, a student may be allowed to reduce the number of courses required to complete the major.
A number of programs do not offer concentrations formally, but do provide students with the opportunity to work in areas that cut across departmental and program lines. These are: Asian American Studies, Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Proteomics; History of Science; Materials Science Studies; and Performance Studies. They are listed in this publication in alphabetical order.
These programs provide guidance only and do not appear on transcripts.
A limited number of students may register at Bennington College or Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts for courses not offered by Williams. Interested students should contact the Registrar's Office about arrangements.
Experiential Education at Williams
Internships and Research Opportunities:
Williams awards the degree with honors to those students who have demonstrated imagination, initiative, and intellectual independence within the major. The Honors Program requires two or three courses constituting a clearly interrelated pattern of study, whether in the form of a thesis, specialization within the major, or interdisciplinary study with courses from other programs or departments. At least one of the courses must be in addition to the minimum number required for the major; one may be a Winter Study Project. A student who is completing two majors may be a candidate for honors in either or both of the majors, but a course for honors in one major may not be used as an honors course in the other. Some programs also award honors for their concentrations.
Individual departments and programs describe special criteria, procedures, and patterns of study for honors in the "Courses of Instruction" section. Students should consult with their departments on their honors options prior to the senior year. Before the student has begun the last of the required course units, the department or program determines whether the student is admitted to honors candidacy. The degree is awarded with Honors or Highest Honors at the end of the senior year if, in the judgment of the department, its criteria of excellence have been met.
When a particularly able student wishes to study a subject not covered by the normal offerings of the College, arrangements may be made to undertake courses of independent study under faculty supervision. Such arrangements are made with the appropriate department at the time of registration.
Study Away from Williams
The College encourages students to think about the option of study away as they begin the process of considering major fields and course requirements during the sophomore year.
When a student decides to accept an offer of admission from a program, he or she must notify the Dean’s Office. The Committee on Academic Standing will grant formal approval after that with a letter specifying how many credits a student must earn to equal a semester or year of credit at Williams. Students need to read the Pre-Departure Webinar, take the quiz and meet all the guidelines provided. Upon return to Williams, students must complete a program evaluation in order to receive credit.
The Tutorial Program offers Williams students a distinctive opportunity to take a heightened form of responsibility for their own intellectual development. No student is required to take a tutorial course, but any student with the appropriate qualifications and interests is invited to do so.
Tutorials at the 100/200 level are designed primarily for first-year students and sophomores; they are usually given enrollment preference for such courses, though interested juniors and seniors are often welcome. Tutorials at the 300/400 level are designed primarily for juniors and seniors (and, often, for majors in the discipline); first-year students and sophomores are welcome to apply, but are urged to consult the instructor before registering.
Tutorials place much greater weight than do regular courses-or even small seminars-on student participation. They aim to teach students how to develop and present arguments; listen carefully, and then refine their positions in the context of a challenging discussion; and respond quickly and cogently to critiques of their work. Tutorials place particular emphasis on developing analytical skills, writing abilities, and the talents of engaging in rigorous conversation and oral debate.
The ways in which particular tutorials are conducted vary across the disciplines, but here is a description of how most tutorials at Williams are organized. Tutorials are usually limited to ten students. At the start of term, the instructor divides the students into pairs. Each pair meets weekly with the instructor for roughly one hour. Many tutorial courses begin and end the term with a group seminar, and in a few departments, instructors hold weekly group meetings of all tutorial members to provide background information designed to facilitate the students' independent work. But the heart of every tutorial course is the weekly meeting of the two students with the instructor.
At these weekly meetings, one student delivers a prepared essay or presentation (e.g., an analysis of a text or work of art, a discussion of a problem set, a report on laboratory exercises, etc.) pertaining to the assignment for that week, while the other student-and then the instructor-offer a critique. In the following week, students switch roles. Typically, students write five or six essays (usually in the range of 4-7 pages) during the term, and offer five or six critiques of their partners' work.
Since the program's inception in 1988, students have ranked tutorials among the most demanding-and rewarding-courses they have taken at Williams. While not designed to be more difficult than other courses, tutorials are nonetheless challenging, with frequent writing assignments and the expectation that students will be well prepared to participate actively and effectively in weekly discussions. At the same time, students have consistently placed tutorials among the most enriching and consequential courses they have taken. They have appreciated the close attention to their writing and argumentation skills; the opportunity to be held accountable, in a detailed way, for the extended implications of their ideas; the chance to develop their oral abilities as they engage in debate; and the close intellectual bonds tutorials build between teachers and students, and students with each other. Many students have formed important advising and mentoring relationships with their tutorial teachers.
Registration information: Students pre-register for tutorials as they would for any other course (but should first check the description for prerequisites and to see if permission of the instructor is required). Because of limited enrollments and the special logistical arrangements involved in organizing tutorials, students may not drop a tutorial after 4:00 PM on the day before the first scheduled day of organizational meetings each semester. It is therefore important that students determine, before the start of the term, their interest in and commitment to the course. If they are uncertain whether they wish to take the tutorial, they should consult with the instructor.
More information: Click here for a list of tutorials offered in 2016-2017. Students may obtain detailed information about particular tutorials from the course descriptions and the instructors. (All tutorials have a "T" after the course number.) For general information, advice, or suggestions about the program, please contact the Bojana Mladenovic, the Tutorial Program Director.
Williams-Exeter Programme at Oxford University
Williams offers a year-long programme of studies at Oxford University in cooperation with Exeter College, Oxford. Based at Ephraim Williams House, Williams' study center at Oxford, the Programme is designed to offer the fullest possible integration of the students into the intellectual and social life of one of the world's great universities. It makes full use of the Oxford tutorial system and the Oxford three-term calendar is followed.
Interested students should consult the Dean's Office. Click here for a more complete description of the programme.
Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program
The William-Mystic Seaport Maritime Studies Program offers students a unique opportunity to explore the ocean, to travel the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coasts, and to undertake original research of their own design in the humanities and sciences. A term at Williams-Mystic satisfies both a semester’s credit and one winter study requirement, as well as intensive writing course credit. Four Williams courses are offered as an integrated, multidisciplinary curriculum in the semester-long program at Mystic Seaport, in Mystic, Connecticut: Maritime History, Literature of the Sea, Marine Policy, and either Marine Ecology or Oceanography (see the American Maritime Studies section in this catalog). Williams College faculty members teach all four courses. Travel includes an offshore voyage on the open ocean sailing aboard a tall ship, a field seminar along the Pacific Coast, and a Louisiana field seminar, all of which are cross-disciplinary and inter-disciplinary exercises. Students live in historic, cooperative, coed houses at Mystic Seaport, the world’s largest maritime museum, and have full access to world-class maritime collections, a maritime library, well-equipped laboratory, and diverse coastal habitats (where field research can be undertaken in a wide variety of environments, ranging from tidepools and salt marshes to sandy beaches and estuaries). Students also participate in maritime skills under professional instruction, with choices such as blacksmithing, climbing aloft and setting square sails, music of the sea, or small boat handling and sailing. Williams-Mystic seeks candidates who are willing to try new things and work in a compelling academic environment. No sailing experience necessary, and all majors are welcome—a typical semester at Williams-Mystic is represented by 12 to 14 different majors spanning the sciences and humanities. Sophomores, juniors, and seniors can attend. Interested students should contact Williams-Mystic at email@example.com, call (860-572-5359), or visit the website (www.williams.edu/williamsmystic). Williams College students may study away for full year and also attend the Williams-Mystic program for a semester in the sophomore, junior or senior year.