For more information about our curriculum, visit the Academics section of our Web site.


2016-2018 CATALOGUE

To browse the 2016-2018 Catalogue online as a PDF, click here.

2014-2016 CATALOGUE

To browse the 2014-2016 Catalogue online as a PDF, click here.

2012-2014 CATALOGUE

To browse the 2012-2014 Catalogue online as a PDF, click here.

2010-2012 CATALOGUE

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2008-2010 CATALOGUE

To browse the 2008-2010 Catalogue online as a PDF, click here.

2006-2008 CATALOGUE

The 2006-2008 Catalogue is still available online as a PDF. To browse it, click here.


If you have questions or comments about the new online Catalogue, please send us your feedback.



Explore, Collaborate, Act is the animating principle that unifies the HWS curriculum.  Academic work at HWS is integrated in all that we do, including our remarkable Global Education program, our rich integration of service learning into and beyond our academic offerings, our longstanding focus on thinking and working across traditional disciplines, and the close work of research and creativity that connects faculty and students. Moreover, this principle also defines the distinctive role of the Colleges in the 21st century, expressing what we aspire our students to embody, an ethos that focuses student progress through college and beyond.  In the broadest sense, Explore, Collaborate, Act articulates what we—students and faculty alike—do at the Colleges, highlighting our vibrant interconnections and interdisciplinarity. 

The curriculum of the Colleges emphasizes the breadth of critical thinking and communication found across disciplines, as well as specific modes of analytical reasoning, communicating, and critical thinking within disciplines. Over the course of their studies at the Colleges, students develop the ability to examine and evaluate facts and phenomena, discern patterns and arguments, and understand and form connections between ideas, issues, and values.  The ability to share one’s discoveries, interpretations, or analyses is essential to becoming a creative and critical thinker and communicator.  Our curriculum embodies the fundamental mission of a liberal arts education to develop, in all of its elements, each student’s capacity for analytical, expressive, empathetic, critical, and effective reasoning and communication, which can be carried forward into life, work, and the world.

The instructional program is presented in two semesters, and students typically take four courses each semester. All programs of study for the degree of Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science are designed to be completed in four years. Most students graduate in the traditional four-year period, although individual programs allow for five years. The first year, either the second or third year, and the senior year must be spent in residence.

Degree Requirements

The faculty of Hobart and William Smith Colleges have established the following requirements for the degrees of Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science beginning with the Classes of 2000. To qualify for the degree, a candidate must have:

1) Passed 32 academic courses or their equivalent with a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 (C). At least 28 of these courses must be passed with a grade of C- or higher. At least 30 of these courses must be full-credit courses;

2) Spent three years in residence: the first year, the second or third year, and the senior year. Normally, the senior year is defined as one complete academic year taken in sequence (fall and spring semesters);

3) Passed a First-Year Seminar with a grade of C- or higher;

4) Completed the requirements for an academic major, including a capstone course or experience, and an academic minor (or second major).

5) Completed any faculty-mandated writing requirement(s);

6) Completed a course of study, designed in consultation with a faculty adviser, which addresses each of the following skills, areas of knowledge, and qualities of mind and character. These are referred to as the eight educational goals of our general curriculum; two of the goals are integrated across the four-year curriculum, and six are aspirational goals satisfied through the completion of specific coursework that addresses each goal.

The Eight Goals

The Integrated Goals of Critical Thinking and Communication

Critical thinking and communication comprise the foundation of any liberal arts education.  The ability to articulate a question, identify and gain access to appropriate information, organize and present evidence, and construct complex, elegant, and persuasive arguments in written and oral forms are integral to the Colleges’ vision to “Explore, Collaborate, and Act.” 

Critical and creative thinking, and their expression through the media of writing and speaking, are understood to develop over the course of a student’s learning experience:

  • The First-Year Experience (FYE) introduces students to critical thinking and communication skills through introductory courses in disciplines across the curriculum.  At the center of the FYE is the writing-intensive First-Year Seminar, which introduces students to the intellectual community of the Colleges and provides academic mentorship.  The First-Year Seminar introduces and integrates within the seminar many of the Colleges’ academic resources.
  • The writing-enriched curriculum* (WEC) builds on the FYE by further developing the key writing and thinking abilities characteristic of a student’s major, as well as the ability to recognize key features of the major’s discourse.  WEC is built upon several premises: that writing can be flexibly defined as an articulation of thinking in a variety of forms; that writing is continually developed in new contexts and genres, rather than a skill to be mastered; and that writing instruction is the shared responsibility of faculty in all departments and programs.
  • The senior capstone experience is both a continuation and culmination of the student’s development in critical thinking and communication.  Specific to each major, the capstone experience demands substantial understanding of the discipline’s central questions and literacy in its modes of reasoning and communication. 

*The writing-enriched curriculum is a new curricular initiative for HWS.  Development of WEC at the institution began in 2016.  Over the next three years, WEC will be implemented across the institution in three cohorts of departments and programs. 

Aspirational Goals of the Curriculum

Along with our integrated goals of critical thinking and communication, the aspirational goals of the curriculum expose students to modes of critical, analytic, and creative thinking and communications found across fields of study; these goals thus underscore the imperative of a liberal arts education to provide a breadth of knowledge and the means to express that knowledge effectively.

The ability to reason quantitatively.  The ability to reason quantitatively is necessary for using and interpreting quantitative data or mathematical arguments in decision making.  Quantitative reasoning fosters numerical literacy, and is best developed by working with numerical evidence to evaluate trends, patterns, and claims or by using mathematical concepts to create or assess complex arguments. 

An experiential understanding of scientific inquiryAn experiential understanding of scientific inquiry provides the intellectual foundation for evaluating scientific claims about the natural world.  Scientific inquiry involves posing and answering questions by testing hypotheses through observational studies, experimental testing, or modeling.  Understanding the processes by which knowledge is gained in the natural sciences is best developed through the direct experience of the investigative inquiry that characterizes scientific practice, grounded in laboratory, field, or classroom experiences. 

A critical and experiential understanding of artistic process.  A critical and experiential understanding of artistic process emerges from engagements with art that are both expressive and reflective.  The understanding of artistic expression may be cultivated through studies that are entirely performance-centered, studio-based, or workshop-based, as well as through studies that integrate performance or creative activity with topics related to the art form.

A critical understanding of social inequalities.  A critical understanding of social inequalities will draw on evidence to analyze how wealth, power, and privilege are distributed unequally in human societies based on factors including, though not limited to, gender, race, class, religion, sexuality, age, disability, indigeneity, nationality, ethnicity, or language.  This understanding can be fostered by examining the historical background, social conditions, and intersections of different forms of inequality; by acquiring a deeper understanding of the lives of individuals and groups who experience inequality; by scrutinizing ideologies and social constructions for justifying inequality; or by critically assessing past and present collective strategies for reducing social inequality.

A critical understanding of cultural difference.  A critical understanding of cultural difference is necessary for thoughtful, cooperative, and productive communication in a global community.  Global citizenship requires the ability to understand how and why human thought, expression, and action are constituted by differences of historical background, social context, cultural heritage, and linguistic tradition.  This understanding can be cultivated through the critical study of a cultural heritage that is substantively different from one’s own, or through the study of cross-cultural interaction and cultural change.

An intellectual foundation for ethical judgment as a basis for socially responsible action.  An intellectual foundation for ethical judgment as a basis for socially responsible action requires the ability to think and argue rigorously about questions of how things should be.  This foundation ideally incorporates a historically informed examination of one’s values and an understanding of the role of particular circumstances in the context of ethical judgment and action.  These skills can be developed by studying professional ethics, public service, social justice, human rights, environmental responsibility, and other topics that raise questions of how to engage in responsible action.

Addressing the six aspirational goals

Students must work with a faculty adviser to design a program of study that both meets their interests and addresses the six aspirational goals and objectives—this is a graduation requirement.  The six aspirational goals are addressed only through formal course work.  Courses that address goals are categorized as either partially or substantially addressing a goal, depending on the content of each course.  To “complete” a goal for graduation, students must successfully complete either one course that substantially addresses an aspirational goal or two courses that partially address an aspirational goal.  Many courses at HWS address more than one aspirational goal.  To complete the graduation requirements related to the six aspirational goals, each student must address each of the six goals, and must complete at least five unique courses to satisfy the goals. This does not mean goal courses need to be unique from courses counted towards majors and minors, rather in the list of courses that a student completes towards the six aspirational goals, there must be a minimum of five unique courses.  Course lists that address each goal are available online, and each course that counts either partially or substantially towards a particular goal will be indicated in PeopleSoft under “Course Attributes.”

Writing Requirement

Students may be required to enroll in writing courses at two points in their studies. First-year students needing special attention for their writing skills may be required to enroll in, and pass with a grade of C- or better, WRRH 100 Writer’s Seminar during the fall semester. First-Year Seminar instructors may require a student enrolled in their seminar to take a supplemental writing class during the student’s first year. Courses that satisfy this requirement are any 100-level rhetoric course.


The major provides the means by which students acquire knowledge in depth of a discipline, interdisciplinary program, or individually designed area of study.

The typical departmental major at the Colleges requires eight to 12 courses in the major department, and additional courses from related departments. The total number and sequence of courses needed to complete the major are determined by the department or program. All departments and programs require a capstone course or experience, typically completed in a student’s senior (or junior) year, to complete a major. While most majors have established capstone courses or experiences, a few majors will be adding their capstones in the Fall of 2016.  These capstones will be added to the online catalog this fall.  Regardless, all incoming first-years are expected to complete a capstone at the time of graduation. Students should consult departmental or program offerings in this catalogue or discuss requirements with the department chair or program coordinator. In the case of individual majors (see below), the student should consult with his or her adviser and the Individual Majors Committee.

Students must declare a major before they register for classes during the second semester of their sophomore year. Failure to submit a declaration of major form by the deadline set by the Deans and the Registrar will result in the student being blocked from registration. In addition, students are responsible for ensuring that prerequisites for the major are met as they plan their schedules. Some students choose to do two majors rather than a major and a minor, but this is not a requirement.  Of the courses required for a major, six must be unique to that major (cannot be counted toward another major or minor.)

Individual Major

The Individual Majors program provides students the opportunity to design an individually tailored major when the focus of study lies outside an established department or program-based major, and/or combines multiple disciplines. To create an Individual Majors proposal, the student works closely with a faculty adviser and designs a specific curriculum of study (including a capstone experience), articulating the focus and goals of the major. The student’s proposal and adviser’s recommendation is submitted to the Individual Majors Committee, which reviews the proposal. Once an Individual Major is approved, any subsequent changes to the student’s curriculum or major must be approved by the Individual Majors Committee and the student’s adviser. While most Individual Majors earn a B.A., it is possible to create an Individual Major with a B.S.; this requires a minimum of 16 courses, all from within the natural sciences division.

All course work for the major must be passed with a grade of C- or better, including courses taken credit/no credit. The Individual Majors Committee takes the role of departmental/program chair for certifying the student’s completed program of study (senior audit).

The process of designing and submitting an Individual Major requires a substantial time commitment. Students who are interested in pursuing an Individual Major are encouraged to begin the process in their sophomore year by contacting a faculty adviser, reviewing the Individual Majors proposal form, and contacting the Individual Majors Committee.


A minor also allows students to focus on a particular area of study, though to a lesser extent than a major. Minors ordinarily consist of at least five courses. Students can file a declaration of minor at any time but should do so prior to the second semester of their third year. Declaration consists of completing a form that names the minor field, lists the courses that count toward the minor, and includes the signatures of the student and the department chair or program director of the minor department or field. Of the courses required for a minor, three must be unique to the minor (cannot be counted toward another major or minor).

Baccalaureate Plan

Late in their third year, all students meet with their faculty adviser to complete a baccalaureate plan. This plan records a student’s progress in addressing the Colleges’ educational goals and objectives and progress toward completing a major and minor or second major, and identifies work to be done in the senior or baccalaureate year to complete all requirements. Submission of this plan is a requirement for admission to the senior year. Seniors may not declare additional majors or minors, unless required for graduation, after the Friday before Spring Break.

Independent Study

Students who have demonstrated a capacity for individual work at an advanced level may, with permission of the department chair, register for independent study.  Each department sets its own qualifications for such advanced work.

Independent study may grow out of a regular course, or it may deal with problems or fields not otherwise covered in regular course offerings. It may take one or a combination of several forms:

1) Extensive reading from a bibliography, ordinarily compiled in consultation with a faculty member, and a final examination;
2) An individual research topic approved by the department and culminating in a substantial course paper; or
3) A scientific experiment, a musical composition, an art project, a play, or some other individual work approved and supervised by the department.

In all cases, independent study is under the supervision of a faculty member, who guides the student in planning and carrying out the program.

Independent study is listed on the student’s record and confers credit.  Both full credit and half credit opportunities are available for independent study, depending on the scope and depth of work and hours committed to the independent study.

Credit Bearing Internships

Students may earn course credit for an internship experience in two ways:

  1. Half Credit Internship - Students may register for a half-credit (.50) internship INT 199.   The INT 199 credit-bearing internship course registration allows students to receive half credit for an approved internship. Internships must include a minimum of 120 on-site contact hours, and students must keep a journal of their experience for submission to their faculty adviser. Students may receive financial compensation for their internship, including wages.  A maximum of two INT 199 internships may count toward graduation requirements. Students should meet with their faculty adviser to discuss the internship, and to make sure all required documentation has been submitted and received. Once their adviser has approved the internship, students should bring the form to their dean for final approval. An evaluation from the site supervisor should be sent to the adviser after the internship is completed, and the adviser will submit a CR/NC grade. Any international student doing an INT 199 must have the signature of approval from the Director of International Students Affairs.
  2. Full Credit Internship - Some programs and departments offer a 499 full credit (1.00) internship course. Students may register for that credit with the permission of their department/program chair. Students may receive financial compensation for their internship, including wages.

Students are advised to be in close contact with their adviser as they plan their internship experience.

Course Equivalents

Normally, a student takes four courses per semester. However, students may develop imaginative alternative programs that substitute other forms of academic activity for one or more courses. Course equivalents have been undertaken in the form of internships at Geneva General Hospital, Rochester General Hospital, the Geneva Historical Society, radio stations and newspapers, and community service organizations. Students have also received course equivalents for volunteer research, and assistantships in law offices.

Course equivalents require the approval of the student’s faculty adviser and the Committee on Standards. Course equivalents, which are listed with their title on the student’s transcript, may count toward the major with the approval of the appropriate department chair. Course equivalents are not graded; they may be taken as credit/no credit only.

Degree Programs

Hobart and William Smith Colleges award two undergraduate degrees, the Bachelor of Arts and the Bachelor of Science. The Colleges award one graduate degree, the Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT). In addition, the Colleges participate in several joint degree programs leading to a Hobart or William Smith undergraduate degree and a specialized degree from another institution.

Bachelor Degrees
Graduating seniors in the humanities and social sciences are awarded the degree Bachelor of Arts. Students who major in biology, chemistry, geoscience, mathematics, physics or psychology may choose to receive the degree Bachelor of Science, provided they meet departmental requirements, and apply to receive approval from the chair of the major department. Individual Majors in scientific subjects may also receive the B.S. if their applications are approved by the Individual Majors Committee. At the discretion of each science department, certain courses not counted toward a normal major in that department may also not be counted toward the courses required for the B.S. Consultation with department chairs is advised.

Teacher Education Program
Hobart and William Smith Colleges offer an innovative Teacher Education Program embedded in the liberal arts. Through a series of seminars and field experiences that complement their regular academic schedules, students can earn New York State teacher certification. Normally, students apply toward the end of their first year, and if accepted, complete seminars and field experiences during their sophomore and junior years and finally student teach during one semester of their senior year.

The Ninth Semester Student-Teaching Option provides students increased flexibility in completing the Teacher Education Program. It permits students to apply as sophomores or can help students balance demanding academic schedules. If all other requirements are completed, students can complete their student teaching semester as a tuition- free ninth semester. More information is available in Department of Education section.

Master of Arts in Teaching
Hobart and William Smith Colleges offer a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) program. Only students enrolled at HWS in eligible teacher certification programs can be considered for admission to the MAT program. Eligible certification programs include Adolescent Education, Childhood Education, or dual Childhood Education/Students with Disabilities. The MAT program has not yet been expanded to include the three newer certification programs: Art, Music, and TESOL.

Students apply in two stages. Late in their first year they apply to join the Teacher Education Program. Students typically start in their sophomore year and complete teacher education seminars and field experiences, along with other requirements. In November of their junior year, eligible teacher education students may apply for admittance into the fifth year MAT program.

Admission to the program is competitive. In order to be considered, students must have an outstanding academic record, an outstanding record of performance in the teacher education program, and strong faculty recommendations.

Those who are admitted take a research preparation course in the spring of their senior year (Education 420). In the fall of their postgraduate year, they take a semester of student teaching along with an education seminar to guide their reflection on student teaching. In the spring semester they take five graduate credits. Course work includes graduate seminars in education, electives, and an MAT Project (a community-based, integrative research experience). For more information see the Department of Education section.

Joint Degree Programs

The Colleges have joint degree programs in engineering with the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Columbia University and with the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College.  In general, for these programs, students spend a total of three years at Hobart and William Smith and two years at the other institution, and in a total of five years, students receive a B.A. or B.S. from Hobart or William Smith and a bachelor's degree in engineering from the cooperating university.  In some cases, students can arrange to receive the degree from Hobart or William Smith at the end of the fourth year, and the degree in engineering from the partner institution at the end of the fifth year, while in other cases, students receive both degrees at the end of five years.

With the Columbia program, students generally spend three years at Hobart and William Smith, followed by two years at Columbia. With the Dartmouth program, students typically spend the first two years at Hobart and William Smith, the third year at Dartmouth, the senior year at HWS, followed by the fifth and final year at Dartmouth. In both cases, students complete a major at HWS, but the requirement for completing a minor can be met through six courses, three of which must be unique to the minor, through the engineering curriculum at the partner institution.

For more details on the joint degree programs in engineering, consult Professor Donald Spector, Department of Physics.

The Colleges have agreements with both Clarkson University and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) allowing students to complete the requirements for a Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree in one year rather than the usual two or more.

Admission to the “4-1” programs at Clarkson and RIT is available to students who include foundation courses in their undergraduate programs and meet prescribed admissions standards.

For more details, consult Professor Warren Hamilton of the Department of Economics.

HWS and the University of Rochester School of Nursing have established a 4+3 program that provides third-year students a guaranteed seat in either the one-year post-baccalaureate program leading to RN licensure or the three-year program leading to nurse practitioner certification.

For more details, contact the Health Professions Adviser, Salisbury Center for Career, Professional and Experiential Education.

Financial Aid for 3-2 Joint Degree Programs
Financial aid for the 3-2 joint degree program (in which the student spends three years at HWS followed by two years at Columbia University) is available during the first three years at Hobart and William Smith Colleges through the regular financial aid application process and deadlines. For the two years of study at the other institution, Hobart and William Smith will not process or award any sources of financial assistance. Students should contact the other institution directly to find out what, if any, sources of financial assistance are available.

Financial Aid for 2-1-1-1 Joint Degree Programs
Financial aid for the 2-1-1-1 program with Dartmouth is available for the first four years of study through Hobart and William Smith. Financial aid for the fifth year is processed through Dartmouth. Contact Dartmouth directly for application requirements and deadlines.



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