2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog 
    Jul 19, 2018  
2017-2018 Undergraduate Catalog

General Requirements

General Education Program

The purpose of the General Education Program at Sweet Briar College is to provide all students with a common pattern of skills, experiences and knowledge. This prepares them to be informed and active members of the world community. The program goals include:

  • To help students develop strong skills in communication and quantitative reasoning
  • To provide experiences that enhance the academic program
  • To clarify the basis for a broad liberal arts background
  • To encourage students to reflect upon their goals and progress
  • To integrate the various aspects of a Sweet Briar education in a comprehensive program

Students benefit more from the college experience if they understand the value of a liberal arts curriculum and actively cultivate, in and outside the classroom, their intellectual, cultural, physical, social and creative potential to prepare for a life of continual growth, responsibility and fulfillment. Students will be more confident of their ability to express their ideas, more competent to make decisions based on their enhanced knowledge of themselves and the world, and thus better able to derive the maximum benefits from their Sweet Briar education.

Students begin the General Education Program during their first year and follow it throughout their college career. The program is designed so that every student progresses beyond the skills, experiences and knowledge with which she entered Sweet Briar. The requirements are not completely separate - in many cases these areas will overlap and will coincide with the major and minor requirements.

The General Education Program has four components:

1. First-year Writing Requirement

During their first semester at Sweet Briar College, unless exempted from the first-year writing requirement by means of transfer credit or Advanced Placement credit, all students will be placed in ENGL 100  or ENGL 104 , or, if they qualify after program review, in a 100-level writing-intensive literature course in the English program. Students exempted from the first-year writing requirement will be encouraged but not required to take a writing-intensive course in the fall. Students placed in ENGL 100  must enroll in ENGL 104  the following semester.

(3 credits)

  • Course designation is FYW
  • Required of all students not exempted (These courses do not apply to the 51-credit limit for courses in a single program.)

2. Skills Requirement

The knowledge of different academic disciplines is not sufficient to prepare a student to function successfully in the world outside of college. The college graduate must also possess the oral, written and quantitative skills with which to express ideas and interpret information. The difference between success and failure in the classroom, in the workplace and in our personal interactions is often the ability to communicate clearly and effectively.

Quantitative reasoning skills also are essential at the personal and professional level in a world that is increasingly technological and analytical. Because oral, written and quantitative reasoning skills are invaluable in any discipline, the teaching of these skills is a job that is shared by the whole faculty. Training and practice can make an enormous difference in our ability to make our meaning understood, and in our ability to understand what others are saying. This training should not end when a student completes her high school education or her first year of college. Development of these skills will continue throughout the college years, culminating whenever possible in the refinement of the skills in the major.

A course designated as “skills intensive” is one in which the skill itself is a focus of the class and not just one of the requirements. In a skill-intensive course, activities directly related to the skill should constitute a significant amount of class time. A course may fulfill more than one skill requirement. Courses that are skill-intensive may also fulfill “Knowledge Area” requirements and may fit within a chosen major or minor. Skill-intensive courses will be indicated as such in the Catalog and Schedule of Courses.

Skill requirements can be met by transfer courses that are equivalent to Sweet Briar courses as determined by the registrar’s office in consultation, as needed, with programs and the Instruction Committee. The criteria for acceptance of these courses are:

  1. By definition, the course must have a skills component that is an integral and substantial element of the course content.
  2. The skills component of such a course is essentially the same, regardless of the institution that offers it.

Oral Communications Requirement
To increase her proficiency in oral communications, a student is required to pass at least two oral-intensive courses (for a total of at least 6 credit hours), at least one of which must be taken for her major (or, in the case of multiple majors, for each of her majors). All oral-intensive courses must devote a significant amount of the classroom instruction to the development of oral skills. Effective oral communication in the classroom will vary and will require a range of simple to more complex skills according to different classroom environments.

Written Communications Requirement
To increase her proficiency in writing, a student is required to pass the first-year writing requirement (unless exempted) plus at least three other writing-intensive courses (for a total of at least 9 credit hours), including at least one course taken for her her major (or, in the case of multiple majors, for each of her majors). While grammar is an important part of writing, a writing-intensive course is not a class in remedial grammar, but rather one whose larger aim is to help the student express herself clearly and forcefully in her writing.

Transfer students must complete the first-year writing requirement. In addition, transfer students are required to take one writing-intensive course for each year they attend Sweet Briar College. One of these courses must be in her major (or, in the case of multiple majors, in each of her majors).

Quantitative Reasoning Requirement
To increase her proficiency in using and analyzing quantitative information, a student is required to pass at least two courses (for a total of at least 6 credit hours) in which quantitative reasoning is itself a focus of the class. A significant amount of classroom instruction should be devoted to the training and practice of quantitative reasoning. While mathematics is an important part of quantitative reasoning, a course that targets quantitative reasoning is not a class in remedial mathematics. Quantitative reasoning includes the development of quantitative ability (arithmetic and data analysis), problem solving and logical reasoning.


Oral Communication (6 credits minimum)

  • Course designation is III.O
  • One course must be in each declared major

Written Communication [in addition to the first-year writing requirement] (9 credits minimum)

  • Course designation is III.W
  • One course must be in each declared major

Quantitative Reasoning (6 credits)

  • Course designation is III.Q

3. Physical Activity Requirement

It is through movement that the student explores her physical self, abilities and limits. The process of discovery is as important as the end product, and may be experienced through organized sports, skills and fitness activities, outdoor adventure or dance. A student must pass 2 credit hours of coursework in physical education, riding or dance, emphasizing physical movement. The requirement may also be met by certain non-credit experiences, with approval of the appropriate program. The non-credit experience must be completed during the undergraduate years. In order to fulfill one quarter of the requirement, it must be comparable to a .5 credit activities course at Sweet Briar. Examples of non-credit experiences are:

  • Coursework at the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS)
  • Outward Bound experience
  • Off-campus sports teams or competition
  • Master classes in dance
  • Workshops in movement (e.g. Alexander Technique, yoga)

(2 credits)
Course designation is IV.3

4. Knowledge Areas Requirement

A liberal arts education provides a breadth of knowledge spread throughout many disciplines. To this end, students will take courses in each of eight different areas that are grouped by similar approaches. The areas chosen follow closely the mission of the College, which specifies that students learn to be aware of the achievements of the past, learn an appreciation of the arts, understand the methods of science, and become responsible members of a world community that is diverse and constantly changing. Broad knowledge will prepare them for an evolving society and equip them to take leadership in its formation.


Understand the cultures of Europe and the U.S. through a study of the past. (3 credits)

  • Course designation is V.1
  • Uses historical methods of study which reveal patterns and meanings in European and U.S. cultures
  • Takes an historical approach to political, social or cultural events in either a broad or narrow time period

Develop critical insights and extend experiences through the study of literature. (3 credits)

  • Course designation is V.2
  • Includes a range of literary works, either a broad survey, or a narrow and intensive focus on a few examples
  • Examines both the form and the content of the work
  • Teaches students to develop and defend critical judgments about the work

Experience another culture through the study of a foreign language. (3-12 credits)

  • Course designation is V.3
  • Examines aspects of culture, society, or literature, ancient or modern, that is taught in a foreign language course numbered 202 or above

Understand the world beyond the cultures of Europe and the U.S. (6 credits)

  • Course designation is V.4
  • Introduces students to alternate world views through the examination of the cultures of Africa, Asia, Latin America or the Middle East

Understand how class, gender, ethnicity and ethical and religious values affect world views and decision making. (3 credits)

  • Course designation is V.5
  • Examines how concepts like race, class and gender are understood in cultures, religions and/or historical eras
  • Alternatively, encourages students to appreciate and apply ethical reasoning in various contexts

Understand creative expression through (a) the study and (b) the practice of the arts. (4-6 credits)

  • Course designations are V.6a and V.6b (Choose one course for 3 credits in “a” and one course for 1-3 credits in “b”)
  • Introduces students to different examples of excellence and examines the criteria for evaluation of an art form
  • V.6a discusses the ideas expressed in specific works of art.
  • V.6b teaches students to produce their own work in a specific art form, applying techniques and expressing ideas creatively.

Understand how economic, political and legal systems shape the modern world. (3 credits)

  • Course designation is V.7
  • Examines contemporary economic and political institutional systems and their impact on the global community
  • Takes an analytical approach to specific political and economic problems at the national and/or international level

Understand the world through (a) scientific theory and (b) scientific experiment and observation. (7 credits)

  • Course designations are V.8a and V.8b. (Choose 2 courses for 6 credits in “a” and a 1-credit lab in “b”)
  • V.8b must be satisfied in conjunction with a Knowledge Area V.8a course in biology, chemistry, engineering, environmental science or physics.
  • V.8a introduces students to science through an examination of major ideas and discoveries by relating theories to the evidence upon which they are based.
  • V.8b teaches students to conduct a controlled experiment and to evaluate critically the design and the results of the experiment.

Faculty are encouraged to emphasize whenever possible the relationships between the different aspects of the General Education Program and their application across the curriculum, especially in the requirements for the respective majors. In this way the General Education Program and the major programs form a coherent, integrated educational experience.

Degree Requirements

Sweet Briar College is a student-centered college that values student participation in a significant constellation of learning experiences.

If you choose to study at Sweet Briar, you are electing to come to a college of liberal arts and sciences where earning its degree requires a certain depth and breadth in your selection of courses. Working with your academic advisor, you will plan your academic program to cover required skills, experiences and knowledge areas, as well as to fulfill your particular needs and interests.

Sweet Briar College confers three undergraduate degrees: the Bachelor of Arts, the Bachelor of Science and the Bachelor of Fine Arts. The Bachelor of Arts is available to all students; the Bachelor of Science or the Bachelor of Arts may be elected if your major is in the departments of biology, chemistry, computer science, engineering, environmental science, mathematics, physics or psychology. These programs list the specific requirements for each degree in the Sweet Briar Catalog. The Bachelor of Fine Arts is available to students admitted to the fine arts program.

All candidates for a degree must meet graduation requirements, complete the General Education Program requirements and satisfy specific requirements for a major program. Each student is responsible for knowing the College’s requirements and for planning an academic program to meet these requirements.

Graduation Requirements

To be eligible for a degree, a candidate must be enrolled as a full-time student (at least 12 academic credit hours) at Sweet Briar for a minimum of two years, including the senior year. Residence during the final year of the academic program is required except for students enrolled in a 3-2 program approved by the faculty. The degree program is normally completed in four years. With the permission of the Eligibility Committee, an exceptionally qualified student may complete her degree program in as few as three years.

Each candidate must complete a minimum of 120 credit hours, of which at least 60 credit hours must be earned at Sweet Briar. These credits include General Education requirements and requirements for the major. Students must also successfully complete FYS 100 , which is to be taken in the first semester at Sweet Briar.

No student may count more than 51 credit hours in a single program toward the minimum requirements for a Sweet Briar degree. Courses taken to satisfy the first-year writing requirement do not count toward this 51-hour maximum. No more than 5 credits of PHED and/or RDPR courses with the general education designation of IV.3 will count toward the degree. Additional IV.3 courses in these programs may be taken, but the credits above the maximum of 5 will not be applied toward the 120 credits required for a degree.

No more than 12 semester credit hours of internship/practicum credit may be counted toward a degree. No more than 18 semester credit hours of summer work may be counted toward a degree, with the exception of students who have earned an associate degree and transfer to Sweet Briar under an articulation agreement. These transfer students may have all associate degree summer courses transferred according to the College’s transfer credit policy. Transfer students for whom 18 or more summer credits are accepted will not be allowed to apply additional summer credits taken after they enroll at Sweet Briar.

A degree candidate must obtain both a minimum cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 2.00 (the equivalent of a “C” average) and a minimum 2.00 grade point average in her major(s) subject(s), including all courses taken in the program that can count towards the major(s), as well as all other courses which are applied to the major(s) requirements as stated in the Catalog. Each senior must pass the senior culminating exercise in her major(s) as designated by each program. This culminating exercise must be taken at Sweet Briar College.