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University Graduation Requirements

To receive a baccalaureate, a student must satisfy requirements related to credits, grade point average, program of study, and courses. The university maintains some of these requirements in concordance with nationally recognized expectations of academic performance and achievement.Other requirements, such as the General Education program, have the additional purpose of identifying those elements which give coherence to an undergraduate education at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. Through the General Education program, the major courses of study, and the offering of elective courses, the University provides students with both breadth and depth of study. It is the university’s hope that, through these, students will gain an appreciation for the value of learning as a lifelong process.

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all requirements for graduation are fulfilled in timely fashion. To assist students in this, the Registrar’s Office provides a Degree Progress Report for each student, specifying all the university, college, and major requirements, and indicating whether the student has met the requirement and, if not, what the student must do to meet the requirement. The Report is available online through SPIRE. The Registrar’s Office certifies completion of university requirements and clears students for graduation; undergraduate deans and chief undergraduate advisers authorize this clearance for college and major requirements. The requirements for graduation, and the rationale for curricular requirements, are as follows.

1. A minimum of 120 credits (128-136 for Engineering majors), at least 45 of which must be earned in residence. For this purpose, residence credits are defined as being credits earned for work done while registered on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts or while enrolled in one of the university’s formal exchange programs. In addition, students generally must complete their final year in residence, residence in this sense meaning continuous enrollment and regular attendance in classes conducted on the Amherst campus.

2. A cumulative average of at least C (2.000) overall and in the major. The official grading system runs from A (4.000) through F (0.0) and includes such options as Incompletes, Withdrawals, Audits, and passes. A Pass/Fail option exists to encourage students to be venturesome in their choice of courses, but there are restrictions on how students may then use these courses.

3. General Education: The purpose of the General Education requirement is to stretch students’ minds, broaden their experiences, and prepare them for:
a) Their college experiences and subsequent professional training
b) Their careers and productive lives
c) Community engagement and informed citizenship
d) A diverse and rapidly changing world
e) A lifetime of learning

The General Education curriculum does this by engaging students in:
a) Fundamental questions, ideas, and methods of analysis in the humanities and fine arts, social sciences, mathematics, and natural and physical sciences;
b) The application and integration of these methods of analysis to real world problems and contexts;
c) Creative, analytical, quantitative, and critical thinking through inquiry, problem solving, and synthesis;
d) Pluralistic perspective-taking and awareness of the relationship among culture, self, and others;
e) Understanding and evaluating the consequences of one’s choices and the implications of one’s actions;
f) Opportunities to develop and practice the skills of critical thinking, reasoning, communication, and integration of knowledge and perspectives, including:
Communicating persuasively and effectively orally and in writing;

Working effectively and collaboratively (in groups, across perspectives);

Developing information and technological literacy

While acknowledging that these skills are developed throughout a person’s lifetime, and do not terminate with the completion of any set of courses, the university has determined that roughly one-third of the baccalaureate degree program should be devoted to the common General Education curriculum, and has established a set of course requirements in several different areas for this purpose, as described below. Courses that are included in the General Education program are listed with letter designations
in this Guide and in the official online Course Guides.

Writing: College Writing (CW) is taken during the freshman year. The Junior Year Writing requirement (which does not carry a letter designation) is completed as part of the requirements for the student’s major.

The Social World: Students must take courses in the curriculum areas of Arts and Literature, Historical Studies, and Social and Behavioral Sciences. The required distribution of sixteen credits in the curriculum areas is as follows: four credits in Literature (AL) or the Arts (AT); four credits in Historical Studies (HS); four credits in the Social and Behavioral Sciences (SB); and an additional four credits in any of the areas within the Social World (AL, AT, HS, or SB), or an Interdisciplinary (I) or Science Interdisciplinary (SI) course.

Social and Cultural Diversity: Two of the required Social World courses must include the study of diversity in human cultures and societies. One of these must focus on diversity in the United States (identified by including the letter “U” in the designation, i.e., ALU, ATU, HSU or SBU). The other must focus on diversity in global perspective (identified by the letter “G” in the designation, i.e., ALG, ATG, HSG or SBG). An Interdisciplinary course that also has a diversity designation (IU or IG) may also satisfy one of the Social and Cultural Diversity requirements. A Diversity requirement may also be satisfied by a course bearing only the “U” or “G” designation; this would be in addition to the sixteen-credit Social World requirement.

The Biological and Physical World: Eight credits are required, with at least four credits in a Biological Science (BS) and at least four credits in a Physical Science (PS). Science courses that have a laboratory component are given the additional (L) designation for informational purposes. A laboratory component is not necessary in order to fulfill the requirement.

Basic Math Skills: A student may be exempted from the Basic Math Skills requirement by achieving a sufficiently high score on the Basic Math Skills Exemption Exam. Students not exempted by examination score or transferable credit must take one Basic Math Skills (R1) course.

Analytic Reasoning: All students must take one course designated R2.

Note: Some advanced courses that presuppose knowledge of basic math skills may satisfy the R1 requirement. A list of these courses is available on a link at the bottom of the first page on the Undergraduate Registrar’s Office website. Some of these courses also have an R2 designation and can satisfy both the R1 and R2 requirements.

Upper-Division Integrative Experience: Students must enroll in an upper-division integrative experience during their advanced years of study. This experience provides a structured context for students to reflect on their own learning and explore the connections between the broad exposure provided by General Education and the more focused exposure of their major.

Note: These requirements are in effect for first-year students entering in fall 2010. More information is available at the General Education website: www.umass.edu/gened/.
Only one course in the student’s major department may be counted toward satisfaction of the following General Education requirements: AL, AT, HS, SB, BS, PS, or R2. If the student uses one course in the major department to fulfill one of these requirements, and that course does not have a Diversity designation (is not designated ALD, ATD, HSD, SBD or ID), the student may use a second course in the major department to fulfill one of the two diversity requirements. At least one diversity requirement must be fulfilled outside the major department.
No General Education requirement will be fulfilled by a course for which a “pass” grade (P) is recorded or which the student elected on a Pass/Fail basis (regardless of whether a grade or a P appears on the transcript).

4) College or School requirements, where applicable. See descriptions in the introductory sections of the Colleges and Schools.

5) A major, constituting intensive or specialized work in a particular department or program, provides depth in an undergraduate education. The number of credits required for a major varies widely, depending on the field of study. Every major requires the successful completion of at least 30 credits in a coherent and extensive set of courses with a particular discipline or focus; many require more. The university now offers 94 majors, including the Bachelor’s Degree with Individual Concentration (BDIC), a major that the student creates in conjunction with a faculty sponsor. Departmental major requirements may change yearly. Considerable majors information is available in this Guide under major field headings, and details can be requested directly from the specific department on campus.

University Graduation Requirements
Summary
1. 120 credits

2. A cumulative average of at least 2.000, overall and in the major

3. General Education requirements
a. Writing—2 courses: College Writing and Junior Year Writing course in major department
b. Social World—16 credits, with at least two courses having a Social and Cultural Diversity component: Literature or Arts (4 credits), Historical Studies (4 credits), Social and Behavioral Sciences (4 credits), and another 4 credits from any Social World area or an Interdisciplinary or Science Interdisciplinary course.
c. Biological and Physical Sciences—8 credits, with at least 4 credits in each area
d. Basic Math Skills—1 course, or exemption by exam
e. Analytic Reasoning—1 course

4. College requirements

5. An approved major

Graduation with Honors
All graduating seniors are eligible for Latin honors designations on their transcripts if their complete academic records show at least 54 calculable credits at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and meet one or more of the following criteria:
1. to receive degrees summa cum laude, students’ GPAs must place them among the top 5 percent of the graduating class of their school or college;

2. to receive degrees magna cum laude, students’ GPAs must place them among the top 10 percent but not among the top 5 percent of the graduating class of their school or college;

3. to receive degrees cum laude, students’ GPAs must place them among the top 25 percent but not among the top 10 percent of the graduating class of their school or college.

At the start of the fall semester, the Registrar’s Office will post on its website the GPA needed to secure a place in the top 5, 10, and 25 percent in each school or college, based on the average of the previous three years’ graduating classes.

Special honors are awarded through Commonwealth Honors College, the honors college at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. These honors recognize accomplishments beyond achievement of a high GPA, including completion of honors coursework and a capstone experience consisting of an honors thesis or project. Commonwealth College Honors are as follows:

Commonwealth College Honors is awarded upon successful completion of Commonwealth Honors College requirements with an overall GPA of 3.400 or higher, all required honors couses passed with a grade of B or higher, and completion of a 6-credit capstone experience with a grade of B or higher. This award is recognized by notation on the diploma: “Commonwealth College Honors.”

Commonwealth College Honors with Distinction is awarded upon successful completion of Commonwealth Honors College requirements with an overall GPA of 3.400 or higher, all required honors courses passed with a grade of B or higher, and completion of a 6-credit capstone experience with a grade of B+ or higher. This award is recognized by notation on the diploma: “Commonwealth College Honors with Distinction.”

Commonwealth College Honors with Great Distinction is awarded upon successful completion of Commonwealth Honors College requirements with an overall GPA of 3.600 or higher, all required honors courses passed with a grade of B or higher, and completion of a 6-credit capstone experience with a grade of A- or A. This award is recognized by notation on the diploma: “Commonwealth College Honors with Great Distinction.”

Commonwealth College Honors with Greatest Distinction is awarded upon successful completion of Commonwealth Honors College requirements with an overall GPA of 3.800 or higher, all required honors courses passed with a grade of B or higher, and completion of a 6-credit capstone experience with a grade of A- or A. This award is recognized by notation on the diploma: “Commonwealth College Honors with Greatest Distinction.”

Departmental Honors is awarded for completion of Comonwealth Honors College requirements with a four-or-more-course focus, including the capstone experience, in an approved Departmental Honors track.

Interdisciplinary Honors is awarded for completion of Commonwealth Honors College requirements with an interdisciplinary study plan. It acknowledges a student’s acquisiton of substantive knowledge and skills in multiple fields and the synthesis of that learning in the honors capstone experience.
More detailed information on honors college requirements is located in the Commonwealth Honors College section of this Guide.