University of Massachusetts Amherst

UMass Amherst: General Education

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Learning Objectives

 

Curriculum Areas and Designations

There are five curriculum areas in the General Education experience:

Basic Math and Analytic Reasoning
Biological and Physical World
Interdisciplinary
Social World
Social and Cultural Diversity
Writing

Each curriculum area has courses with different letter designations. Students are asked to take several courses with different designations in each area in order to foster an integrative experience.

For information on how to satisfy the requirements in the various curriculum areas, visit Fulfilling the Requirements.

The Gen Ed program also offers students the option of taking Interdisciplinary courses to satisfy certain requirements.

Note: Faculty members who wish to create a new Gen Ed course should refer to the more detailed information about the Curriculum Areas within the Teaching and Advising section.

 

Basic Math and Analytic Reasoning

Mathematics and a few other fields (statistics, computer science, logic, linguistics, etc.) have developed methods of analytic or formal reasoning that involve manipulating numbers or other symbols. Formal reasoning is a type of critical thinking, so this requirement complements the critical thinking skills taught in other Gen Ed courses.

There are two course designations in this area: R1 and R2.

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Biological and Physical World

Courses in the Biological and Physical World component are offered in all of the traditional sciences, the applied sciences, and a few other fields. These courses expose you to the method that science uses to develop knowledge about the world: formulating a hypothesis and then checking and improving it using data collected by experimentation or observation. This method is a type of critical thinking, and so these courses also hone those skills.

There are two course designations in this area:

  • BS (Biological Science)
  • PS (Physical Science)

A third option are courses designated SI (Science Interdisciplinary).

 

Interdisciplinary Option

Students are not required to take courses with an interdisciplinary designation, but may substitute them for other requirements, as listed in the curriculum areas above. Interdisciplinary courses are often experimental, issue-focused, and speak to the basic integrations of (many) fields of human study. Courses of this sort, which focus on topics and which often involve teams of interested faculty, may well be highpoints in the undergraduate experience.

There are two course designations in this option: I (Interdisciplinary) and SI (Science Interdisciplinary)

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Social World

The Social World component of Gen Ed includes courses in social sciences, history, literature, and the arts. These courses are taught in many different departments at UMass, so they take many different approaches. Despite the differences, they share the goal of helping you to arrive at a better understanding of yourself and other people. All of these courses involve writing and critical thinking.

There are four core designations in this area:

  • AL (Literature)
  • AT (Arts)
  • HS (Historical Studies)
  • SB (Social & Behavioral Sciences).

A fifth and sixth option are courses designated I (Interdisciplinary) or SI (Science Interdisciplinary).

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Social and Cultural Diversity

Understanding other people includes understanding people whose life experience may be a lot different from our own. Gen Ed has a diversity requirement to make sure that students choose some courses with this focus.

There are two course designations in this area:

  • U (Diversity: United States)
  • G (Diversity: Global)

Some courses are designated only U or G. Others may be combined with the Social World designations listed above and will appear on SPIRE as: ALU, ATU, HSU, SBU, IU, ALG, ATG, HSG, SBG, IG.

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Writing

The importance of writing well cannot be overstated; it is an essential skill in the modern world for one’s college experience, personal life, and professional career. The Gen Ed writing requirement seeks to enable students to write with greater clarity and logic, and with a confidence based on improved knowledge about the elements of prose style.

There is only one course designation in this area: CW. Contact the Writing Program with any questions regarding both first-year and junior-year writing requirments.

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