2009-2010 University Catalog 
    Jun 23, 2018  
2009-2010 University Catalog archived

Foundation and Distribution Requirements


Required for all undergraduate degree candidates who enter Fall 2007 and later.

The goals of a liberal arts education include both breadth of knowledge (foundation and distribution) and competency in a specialized discipline or field of knowledge (the major). The Foundation and Distribution Requirements seek to expose students to various modes of thought and to the variety of ideas and values in today’s world. Students need to demonstrate particular proficiencies to assure their education and have a reasonable degree of choice in making course selections to meet these requirements and to pursue their major course of study. Requirements can be satisfied either by W&L course work, by students’ placement examinations, or by transfer credit approved by the faculty. No single course may satisfy more than one Foundation and Distribution Requirement.

Foundation Requirements

Foundation requirements prepare students with the skills they need to pursue the full variety of college-level academic disciplines available to them at W&L.

Writing (FW)
3 credits or competency

The ability to write clearly, persuasively, and elegantly is a skill necessary for all college-level academic work. In the writing courses, students

  • are introduced to rhetorical conventions governing appropriateness and persuasiveness in writing;
  • learn the conventions of standard English;
  • learn to choose words more precisely, to write clear sentences and effective paragraphs;
  • argue a workable thesis;
  • integrate the work of others into their own work through proper citation techniques; and
  • increase their confidence with written language.

The English Department assesses the proficiency of entering students by a placement examination. The most proficient are exempt from the writing requirement. Successful completion of either English 101  or 105  satisfies this requirement.

Foreign Language (FL)
up to 16 credits or competency

Competency in languages, other than English, and familiarity with cultures of nations or regions, other than the United States, are necessary elements of a college education in our increasingly international and interconnected world. In foreign language courses, students

  • acquire oral and written skills in at least one foreign language;
  • begin to define the differences between their own culture and a foreign culture;
  • acquire basic tools that will provide access to broader cultural knowledge; and
  • gain a deeper and more thorough knowledge of their own language and culture.

Entering students who demonstrate, on placement tests administered by the language departments or through transfer or advanced placement credit, that they are qualified to enter third-year language courses have met this foreign language requirement. Native speakers of a language other than English who wish to be exempted from this requirement may present to the appropriate W&L language department or the Committee on Courses and Degrees evidence of their ability.

All others meet the requirement by completing satisfactorily one of the following courses— Chinese 262 , French 162  or 172 , German 262  or 263 , Greek 202 , Italian 162 , 163 , Japanese 262 , Latin 202 , Portuguese 163 , Russian 262  or 263 , or Spanish 162  or 164 .

Mathematics/Computer Science (FM)
1 course

A solid foundation in analytical, quantitative, and computational modes of thinking and problem solving, obtained through modeling real-world problems in the precise languages of mathematics or computer science, is a cornerstone of many disciplines throughout the curriculum. In these foundation courses, students

  • acquire problem-solving skills and strategies for obtaining mathematical or computer solutions for a variety of problems;
  • achieve an understanding of how theoretical results and concepts can be developed and then used for problem solving or for further investigation;
  • gain appreciation of how complex systems are formed from simpler systems;
  • examine and employ mathematical and/or algorithmic processes; and
  • compare the efficiency and elegance of alternate solutions.

The following courses may be used to meet
this requirement when completed successfully.

Computer Science 101 , 111 , 121 
Mathematics 101 , 121 

Physical Education (FP)
swimming proficiency and 1 credit (4 skills courses)

Washington and Lee University expects students to achieve a level of health and fitness through participation in a variety of skill- and sports-based courses. In physical education courses, students

  • improve physical fitness and dexterity;
  • develop skills in various sports and activities; and
  • acquire knowledge or skills useful in the pursuit of physical fitness, recreation, and overall health after college.

A student is required to pass a proficiency test in swimming and to complete successfully four terms of physical education activity classes selected from Physical Education 101 through 215. (See Physical Education  for additional information.)

Distribution Requirements

Distribution requirements offer the opportunity for students to explore a wide range of academic disciplines in the liberal arts and sciences. Course work in these areas exposes students to the varied modes of thought, types of questions, methodological approaches, forms of scholarly and creative expression, and fields of knowledge represented by the many academic disciplines at W&L. Such breadth of academic experience prepares students to make informed choices about their advanced course work and their major field of study.

Arts and Humanities
at least 12 credits from 4 courses, with at least 1 course in each of the following three groups (HU, HA, HL)

In the humanities, students learn about the spectrum of human experience and expression, with a focus on fundamental questions about value and purpose which ask “What does it mean to be human?” Through a full range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches, students develop the analytic skills to approach these questions for themselves and gain a critical appreciation of the great variety of answers to these questions across time, place, and cultures.

Humanities (HU)
at least 3 credits

Courses in a variety of disciplines focus on aspects of human experience and on methods of addressing the basic questions of meaning in humanistic study. Courses in history, philosophy, religion, or other departments or interdepartmental programs may fulfill this requirement. For example:

In History, students

  • learn about the past while practicing the methods of studying history;
  • read primary sources and secondary texts critically; and
  • find, use, and evaluate historical evidence in order to reach conclusions and make historical arguments.

In Philosophy, students

  • learn about political and ethical theory or about fundamental questions in metaphysics or epistemology;
  • develop abstract reasoning skills, including the ability both to identify faulty reasoning and to make sound arguments; and
  • develop the ability to scrutinize their assumptions about reality, the right and the good, and the sort of life they ought to live. 

In Religion, students

  • learn about the thought, beliefs, institutions, worship, and ethical implications of one or more of the historic or living religious traditions;
  • examine the interaction of religion with other social and cultural forms; and
  • learn to think about religious ways of life sympathetically, yet critically.

The following courses may be used to meet this requirement when completed successfully.

African-American Studies 130 
Anthropology 224 , 285 
Classics 221 , 224 , 300 
East Asian Languages and Literatures 200 
French 280 , 281 , 282 
German 325 
Greek 302 
History —all courses below the 400 level except HIST 190, 234, 238 and 322 
Interdepartmental 341 , 342 
Latin American and Caribbean Studies 101 
Medieval and Renaissance Studies 110 
Philosophy —all courses below the 400 level
Poverty Studies 101  , 103  
Religion- all courses below the 400 level except REL 200, 222, 272, 295, 299, and 399
Sociology 221 
Spanish 210  , 211  , 212   
Women's Studies 120 

Fine Arts (HA)
at least 3 credits

Study in the history and forms of the creative, visual, and performing arts—and the opportunities to develop artistic, musical, or creative talents—is the central element of an education that prepares students for a lifetime of enjoyment and participation in cultural activities. Courses in studio and performing arts, creative writing, art, music, theater, or other departments or interdepartmental programs fulfill this requirement. In fine arts courses, students

  • acquire historical knowledge about artistic, musical and theatrical traditions;
  • study works representative of both historical and contemporary traditions;
  • receive training to develop their own abilities in the visual, musical, literary, and theatrical arts;
  • acquire skills to analyze past and contemporary art, music and theater; and
  • learn ways to express personal creativity and employ their imaginations.

The following courses may be used to meet this requirement when completed successfully.

Art —all courses below the 400 level except Art History 395 and Studio Art 327, 328, 329, 396
Classics 200 , 287 , 288 
Dance 120 , 215 220 , 240 , 330 , 340 
English 203 , 204 , 205 , 307 , 308 , 309 
Music —all courses below the 400 level except MUS 101, 108 through 117, 195, 361, 362, and the applied music courses
Theater —all courses below the 400 level except THTR 109, 209, 309, 397

Literature (HL)
at least 3 credits

Literary study aims to understand the human condition and experience as expressed by the individual imagination through language. Through such study, students acquire an aesthetic interest to pursue throughout their lifetimes. Courses may focus on literature written in English, in a foreign language, or in translation. In literature courses, students

  • acquire knowledge about the cultural and historical context of literature;
  • learn to analyze various literary forms and complex and difficult language;
  • learn to read with imagination; and
  • respond critically to literature orally and in writing.

The following courses may be used to meet this requirement when completed successfully.

Chinese 312 
Classics 201 , 203 , 204 , 208  , 215 
English —all courses below the 400 level except ENGL 101, 105, 201, 203, 204, 205, 307, 308, 309, 311, 385, 386, 387, and 388
French 273 , 274 , 331 , 332 , 341 , 342 , 343 , 344 , 397 
German 313 , 314 , 315 , 316 , 318 , 320 , 321  (when literary), 347 , 349 , 395 
Greek 301 , 303 , 306 , 309 , 395 
Japanese 312 
Latin  all 300-level courses
Latin American and Caribbean Studies 256 257 
Literature in Translation —all courses
Medieval and Renaissance Studies 110A
Religion 272 
Russian 315 , 316 
Spanish  207, 208, 220, 240, and all 300-level courses except 392

Sciences and Social Sciences

Natural and Physical Sciences at least 6 credits from 2 courses

One laboratory course (SL)

1 course

The advancement of human society depends on liberally educated citizens who understand the natural world and have informed views about the impact of scientific endeavors on the quality of life. Observing natural and physical phenomena, formulating hypotheses, and testing those hypotheses with empirical methods are the essential aspects by which knowledge in the experimental sciences is advanced. Courses in biology, chemistry, geology, physics, or other departments or interdepartmental programs may fulfill this requirement. In a laboratory science course, students

  • learn science as it is practiced in order to understand the operation of natural processes and phenomena;
  • learn the basic language and procedures of one of the sciences; and
  • formulate hypotheses, design experiments, and gather, analyze, and interpret data.

The following courses may be used to meet this requirement when completed successfully.

Biology 101 105 , 111 /113 , 120 , 220 /221 , 230 
Chemistry 100 , 106 , 111 , 120 
Geology 100 , 101 
Physics 111 /113 , 112 /114 133 150 , 151 

One additional course (with or without lab)(SC)
3 credits

By completing one additional course in science, mathematics, computer science, or select interdepartmental disciplines, students broaden and deepen their knowledge of the natural or physical world or further develop their ability to gather, analyze, and interpret quantitative information.

Any course listed in the FM or SL categories not used to fulfill those requirements may be used to fulfill this requirement. In addition, the following courses in the sciences, mathematics, and computer science are designated as fulfilling this requirement.

Biology 231 , 235 , 240 , 240S , 246 
Chemistry 112 , 133 , 155 165   191 195 , 196 
Computer Science 102 112 , 196 , 250 251 341 
Engineering 101 , 160 
Geology 104 , 141 , 144 , 150 , 155 , 197 , 205 , 247 
Mathematics 102 , 118 , 122 , 171 , 195 
Neuroscience 120 
Physics 115  , 120  ,270 
Psychology 111 , 112 , 150 

Social Sciences (SS)
at least 6 credits in 2 different areas

Learning about human behavior, both individually and collectively, and the social structures that have developed historically and regionally is the goal of the requirement in social science. Courses in anthropology, economics, politics, psychology, sociology, or other departments or interdepartmental programs may fulfill this requirement. In social science courses, students

  • acquire knowledge about human beings and their economic, political, and social institutions;
  • employ the analytical skills and methods of one or more of the social sciences; and
  • acquire knowledge and techniques to discuss and evaluate a variety of topics and problems in the social sciences.

A student must complete satisfactorily at least six credits chosen from the following, which must include courses from at least two of the following five areas.

  1. Economics 101 , 102 , 195 
  2. Politics  203 and all politics courses below the 400 level except Politics 245, 246, 251, 272, 281, and 374 
  3. Psychology 113 , 114 (SOC 114 ), 120   , 215 , 240  ,   
  4. Anthropology 101 , 205 , 207 , 210 , 230 , 238 (HIST 238 ), 252 ,   , 260 ; Classics 238 ; Religion 222 ; Sociology 102 , 200 (REL 200 ), 202 , 225  245  (POL 245 ), 246  (POL 246 ), 251  (POL 251 ) 272  (POL 272 ) ,  ,   , 
  5. Environmental Studies 110 ; Journalism 242