2015-2016 University Catalog 
    Jul 20, 2024  
2015-2016 University Catalog archived

Requirements for the Degree

Changes in Catalog Information

Caution: The course offerings, requirements and policies of Washington and Lee University are under continual examination and revision. This catalog is not a contract; it merely presents the offerings, requirements and policies in effect at the time of publication and in no way guarantees that the offerings, requirements and policies will not change. The University specifically reserves the right to change requirements for any major during any particular year.

Whenever changes in course offerings or requirements occur, students are notified by the Office of the University Registrar via postings on the University Registrar website (registrar.wlu.edu). Changes to the current catalog requiring faculty approval are posted as they are approved. The individual student assumes full responsibility for compliance with all academic deadlines and requirements. Current course offerings are available on the University Registrar’s website. Current major and degree requirements may be obtained from the University Registrar; the Dean of The College; the Dean of the Ernest Williams II School of Commerce, Economics, and Politics; or from the head of the appropriate department.

Degree Requirements

Students enrolled in either The College or the Williams School must conform to a number of general requirements for degrees and to related regulations.

Foundation and Distribution Requirements 

Majors and Minors

The Baccalaureate Degree

The curriculum at Washington and Lee University permits students flexibility and individual responsibility in their choice of courses. With the help of a faculty adviser, students choose a series of courses that will lead them along one of several routes to a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science degree. The Board of Trustees awards degrees upon the recommendation of the faculty.

Liberal Education

The freedom to explore unfamiliar and dissimilar fields of study is a hallmark of a liberal arts education. Washington and Lee University offers nearly 700 distinct undergraduate courses each year. Students should broaden their experience by exploring these courses, whether or not they contribute directly to a major or minor. For a liberally educated person, no opportunity to learn should be considered a waste.

Students should plan on using elective, foundation, and distribution coursework to explore the curriculum. Courses outside majors and minors contribute significantly to the formation of the liberally educated person. Students earn a degree from Washington and Lee that is made up of study in elective credits, FDR requirements, and a major.

Beginning with the Class of 2019, students may choose up to three declarations, from the following array of options:
• one major
• one major, one minor
• one major, two minors
• two majors
• two majors, one minor

Rarely, exceptions to these options may be granted by the faculty.

Requirements for a Degree

A student qualifies for a degree by completing the following requirements of the faculty:

A candidate for any undergraduate degree must present a minimum of 113 credits with passing grades, including one credit for work done in four 100- and 200-level physical education skills courses.

To graduate, a student must achieve a cumulative grade-point average of at least 2.000 in all of the following three categories: in all work attempted at Washington and Lee; in all Washington and Lee work used to meet degree requirements;and in all work used to meet major requirements.

Permission to substitute courses in major requirements may be granted, in exceptional circumstances, by the department or interdisciplinary major or program advisory committee through its head.

All students must complete Foundation and Distribution Requirements, usually by the end of the sophomore year.

Residency Requirement

With the exceptions of some transfer students and all continuing education students, and in fulfilling all other requirements, degree candidates must study full-time with W&L faculty, typically on campus, for a minimum of six terms. Students who transfer to W&L with 50 credits or more may use one fall, winter, or spring term of approved study abroad in fulfillment of this requirement. Other transfers must study on campus for at least six terms. Continuing education students may fulfill this requirement as part-time students. Spring-term courses taught in other locations by W&L faculty count toward this requirement.

Unsuccessful Degree Candidates

The Committee on Courses and Degrees may make exceptions to the Residency Requirement in order to permit unsuccessful degree candidates to complete their degree requirements by taking no more than two term courses at another approved institution and, if required, by counting those grades in their cumulative grade-point average at Washington and Lee. Courses taken under such an exception during summer school are still subject to the restrictions listed under Summer School Credit  .


Applications for degrees must be filed with the University Registrar on or before the end of the official drop-add period (1st week) of fall term if the degree is to be taken in May, and by the end of the first week of spring term if the degree is to be taken in December. Late applications may be made only on payment of a penalty fee of $50 and will not be accepted after the end of the official drop-add period (1st week) of winter term for May candidates. 

Postponement or Withholding of Degree

In the case of any student against whom the state has preferred criminal charges, and for whom the University has not been able to complete disciplinary procedures, the faculty may postpone a decision as to whether a degree should be awarded. The Board of Trustees may also postpone or withhold approval of a degree (see Board of Trustees Policy on Withholding of Degrees  ).

The Bachelor of Arts Degree

The candidate for the degree of Bachelor of Arts must, before graduation, complete the requirements of the faculty, as listed above under The Baccalaureate Degree.

The Bachelor of Arts degree is given with majors in the following disciplines:

Art History 
Computer Science 
East Asian Languages and Literatures 
Environmental Studies 
Independent Work
Journalism and Mass Communications 
Medieval and Renaissance Studies 
Romance Languages major, with a French emphasis, leading to a BA degree 
Romance Languages major, with a Spanish emphasis, leading to a BA degree 
Russian Area Studies 
Sociology and Anthropology 
Strategic Communication  
Studio Art 

The Bachelor of Science Degree

The degree of Bachelor of Science is conferred upon those students who have completed a course of study with emphasis (at least 50 credits total) in the fields of the natural sciences, mathematics, and computer science, and who have fulfilled the above requirements of the faculty. The degree is designed for those who are attracted by scientific work, whether or not their plans involve its direct application, and for those who intend to pursue graduate study in certain scientific fields. Students must fulfill the 50-credit requirement even when the major specifically lists fewer credits.

Students should seek advice from a member of the appropriate departments in planning their schedules.

The Bachelor of Science degree is given with majors in the following disciplines:

Computer Science 
Independent Work

Bachelor of Science With Special Attainments in Commerce

The Bachelor of Science degree with Special Attainments in Commerce is given with the following group majors:

Accounting and Business Administration 
Business Administration 
Public Accounting  

All modifications in these three Bachelor of Science programs must be approved by the Williams School faculty and the Committee on Courses and Degrees.

Additional Bachelor’s Degree

One of the many requirements for receiving a degree (minimum 113 credits) is to complete at least one major leading to that degree. Any additional majors completed are a “bonus” added to that same degree. For example, a student may earn a Bachelor of Science degree, with majors in chemistry and art, or a Bachelor of Arts degree, with majors in music and business administration. The University Registrar must be informed of the student’s preference as to school and major for official listings.

Students who will graduate prior to June 1, 2018 and who have already received either the B.A. or the B.S. degree may wish to obtain the other bachelor’s degree. In order to receive the other degree, the student must fulfill the requirements of each of the two degrees, either separately or concurrently, and must present a minimum of 27 credits more than the baccalaureate requirement for one degree for that year. In other words, the minimum requirement to earn both a B.A. and a B.S. degree is 140 credits. Students may not receive two B.A. degrees or two B.S. degrees.

Students who will graduate after June 1, 2018 are limited to receiving only one degree.

As always, a student must achieve a cumulative grade-point average of at least 2.000 in the following categories: in all work attempted at Washington and Lee; in all Washington and Lee work used to meet degree requirements; and in all work used to meet major requirements.

Foundation and Distribution Requirements

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.

Successful completion of WRIT 100   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—Arabic  162  or  164 , Chinese 262 , French 162  or 164 , German 262  or 263 , Greek 202 , Italian 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 , 102 , 111 , 121 
Mathematics 101 102 , 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, after completion of which a single credit and composite grade will be awarded. (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.

Africana Studies 130 
Classics 221 , 223 , 224 ,241 287 , 326 
East Asian Languages and Literatures  175 , 180  (when appropriate)
Environmental Studies 207 
French 280 , 281 , 282 , 283 
Greek 302 
History  —all courses below the 400 level except HIST 190, 230, 234, 238 and 322
Journalism & Mass Communications 303 
Latin American and Caribbean Studies 101 
Medieval and Renaissance Studies 110 
Philosophy  —all courses below the 400 level except PHIL 335
Politics 270  
Poverty Studies 101  103 , 241  243  , 296  (when appropriate)
Religion  —all courses below the 400 level except REL 222, 272, 299, and 399
Sociology & Anthropology 221 , 224 , 256 , 285 
Spanish 210 , 211 , 212 , 214 ,270 , 308  
Women’s and Gender Studies 120 235  

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, dance, 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 and Art History   - all courses below the 400 level except ARTH 395 and ARTS 327, 328, 329
Business Administration 125 
Classics 200 , 288 
Dance 120 , 215 , 220 233 , 235 , 240 , 330 , 340 
East Asian Languages and Literatures 215 
English 202 , 203 , 204 , 205 , 206 , 207 , 215 , 305  306 , 307 , 308 , 309 
Film Studies 195 , 250 255 , 285 
German 332 
Music  - all courses below the 400 level except MUS 102, 108 through 116, 195, 361, 362, 365, and the applied music courses
Sociology & Anthropology 243 
Theater  - all courses below the 400 level except THTR 109, 209, 226, 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 , 403  (when approved)
Classics 201 , 203 , 204 , 208 , 210 , 215 , 295  
English  - all courses below the 400 level except ENGL 201, 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 215, 305, 306, 307, 308, 309, 311, 370, 385, and 388
Film Studies 196 233 236 
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 
Italian 295  (when approved), 403  (when approved)
Japanese 312 
Journalism and Mass Communications 318  
Latin  - all 300-level courses
Latin American and Caribbean Studies 256 , 257 
Literature in Translation  - all courses
Medieval and Renaissance Studies 110A
Religion 273 
Russian 315 , 316 , 395 
Spanish  220, 240, and all 300-level courses except 392, 393

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  with 113 , 140 , 150 , 160 , 165 , 220  with 221 , 230 , 241  
Chemistry 100 , 106 , 110 , 150 , 155 , 160 
Geology 100 , 101 , 105 , 198 
Music 102 
Physics 102 , 111  with 113 , 112  with 114 , 150 , 151 , 195  (when appropriate)
Sociology & Anthropology 211  

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  107  ,180 , 195  (when appropriate), 231 , 235 , 240 , 240S , 246 , 267 
Chemistry  156 , 165 ,
Computer Science 112 , 250 , 251 , 341 
Digital Humanities 110  
Engineering 267  
Environmental Studies 212 
Geology 104 , 141 , 144 , 150 , 155 , 197 
Mathematics 118 , 122 , 171 , 221  
Neuroscience 120 
Physics  120 ,125  195  (when appropriate), 270 
Psychology 111 , 112 , 118 , 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. All Politics  courses below the 400 level except POL 245, 246, 251, 270, 272; LEGL 230
  3. Psychology 113 , 114 , 120 , 213 , 214 , 215 , 296 , 300 ; Sociology & Anthropology 266  
  4. Classics 338 ; Economics 136  ; Religion 136  , 222 ; Sociology & Anthropology 101 , 102 180  when approved),( 181  (when approved),202 , 206 , 207 , 225 , 228 , 230  (HIST 230), 234  (HIST 234 ), 238 240 , (HIST 238 ), 245  (POL 245 ), 246  (POL 246 ), 251  (POL 251 ), 252 , 255 , 260  265 , 270 , 272  (POL 272 ), 277  , 280 , 281 288 , 289 , 291  (when approved),  377  
  5. Environmental Studies 110 ; Journalism  180  (when appropriate), 242 ; Sociology & Anthropology 267  

Majors and Minors

The Major

The “major” is defined as a group of no fewer than 30 credits and typically no more than 50 credits required and/or optional credits designated by a department or an individual and subject to the approval of the Committee on Courses and Degrees. The “major subject” is the group of courses within the specific discipline(s) named by the major and submitted to satisfy degree requirements for the major (e.g., economics courses satisfying requirements of the economics major).

Once a major is declared, it must be completed or removed prior to graduation.

Permission to substitute courses in major requirements may be granted, in exceptional circumstances, by the department or interdisciplinary major advisory committee through its head.

The requirements for majors are described in the appropriate section of the >>> Degrees, Majors, and Minors   section.

Students may major in more than one area by completing the requirements of each area. Those who find additional majors more attractive should recognize the costs in constrained breadth of education (i.e., fewer electives) and consider the option of a secondary emphasis, perhaps in the form of a minor or other group of courses, without fulfilling formally the requirements of additional majors. Students in classes prior to 2019 (graduating before June 1, 2018) are limited to no more than three majors.

Beginning with the Class of 2019, students may choose up to three declarations, from the following array of options:

  • one major
  • one major, one minor
  • one major, two minors
  • two majors
  • two majors, one minor

Rarely, exceptions to these options may be granted by the faculty.

One of the many requirements for receiving the degree is to complete at least a major leading to that degree. Any additional majors completed are a “bonus” added to that same degree. For example, a student may earn a Bachelor of Science degree, with majors in chemistry and art, or a Bachelor of Arts degree, with majors in music and business administration. The University Registrar must be informed of the student’s preference as to school and major for official listings. The first major listed by the student is used in determining both the degree to be received and the order of march at Commencement.

Independent Work Major

Students, who have achieved a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.750 by the end of the sophomore year and who believe they would benefit educationally from a major not outlined in this catalog, may prepare a proposal for a major of independent work, for approval by the Committee on Courses and Degrees. The Dean of The College has guidelines and models for preparing such a proposal. Working with faculty advisers from at least two disciplines, the student should develop a clear and coherent plan of study that promises benefits unobtainable from an established major. Such a major may be used for either the Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degree. The program should consist of 30 to 50 credits and must be the only major the student is pursuing. An “independent work major” program application should be submitted to the Committee on Courses and Degrees prior to the beginning of the junior year, but in no case later than October 15 of the junior year. Once approval is granted, any subsequent changes must be approved by the Committee on Courses and Degrees.

Students majoring in independent work are allowed to apply for an honors program. The major will be noted on transcripts as, for example, “Independent Work (International Affairs).” Additional information on the process of developing a proposal is available at go.wlu.edu/independent-work-major.

The Minor

A minor is defined as a group of at least six courses designated by a department or program and approved by the faculty. Students are not required to declare a minor and may declare no more than two minors. A minor may not be declared until at least one major has been declared. Once a minor is declared, it must be completed or officially removed prior to graduation. A student must achieve a cumulative grade-point average of at least 2.000 in the work of the minor. The requirements for minors are described in the appropriate section of the >>> Degrees, Majors, and Minors   section. Students should review the requirements of each minor carefully for restrictions on using credits for more than one curricular area of study.

The following minors are available:

Africana Studies 
Animal Biology 
Art History 
Computer Science 
Creative Writing 
East Asian Studies 
Education Policy 
Environmental Studies 
Film and Visual Culture 
Latin American and Caribbean Studies 
Mass Communications 
Molecular/Cell Biology  
Museum Studies 
Poverty and Human Capability Studies 
Quantitative Biology 
Russian Language and Culture 
Studio Art 
Women’s and Gender Studies  

Honors in the Major

In order to encourage independent work and scholarly investigation by students and to foster their intellectual curiosity, a number of departments have established programs leading to a degree “with honors” in the major. Such programs provide an enhancement of the regular program for departmental majors and also for interdepartmental and independent majors. Featuring a special profundity and intensity, and characterized by a close rapport between student and mentor, the honors programs are designed as an enrichment opportunity for students who demonstrate superior aptitude and self-discipline in the pursuit of their major study.

Descriptions of the honors programs of individual departments may be obtained from the department heads. Interested students should make inquiry by the time of declaration of major, in order to identify any special admission requirements or related standards that have been set  by the department for its particular honors program.

Admission Into Honors Work

A prospective honors student applies in writing to the departmental head or major adviser. In general, application must be made by May 1 of the junior year; in certain departments, earlier application is required (often to accommodate special course work in the junior year).

In all departments, admission into honors work is subject to availability of advisory staff and assessment of the individual’s ability to profit significantly from the program’s special demands.

Minimum eligibility for honors candidacy is a 3.000 cumulative grade-point average by the time of enrollment in the honors thesis courses (numbered in the 490s). Many departments have established additional eligibility requirements for their own honors programs, such as special academic standing within the department, and these criteria must also be met.

Requirements for Honors in the Major

All honors programs require an honors thesis during the senior year, involving six credits (no more, no less) of independent work, such as a significant report based upon field or laboratory research, a creative accomplishment in the arts, or a comparable scholarly undertaking, demonstrating more than simply a mastery of subject matter.

The student must begin work on the thesis at the start of the fall term of the senior year. Background work on the thesis topic normally is expected to be in progress by the end of the junior year, and the subject and approach for the thesis should already be established before the start of the senior year’s thesis work. Work on the thesis is to be accompanied by periodic conferences with the adviser and the submitting of interim reports showing the progress achieved to that point. (Only under extraordinary circumstances—not general practice—may the thesis work be assigned entirely to a single term, and in such an instance the student must be prepared to begin intensive work on the thesis itself by the first week of the term, the subject and approach already having been established in preliminary study.)

The final finished version of the thesis is due by May 1 (or by the end of the Winter term in certain departments). A permanent copy of the thesis must be deposited in the Leyburn Library.

Remaining credits in the major are gained in regular course work, honors seminars, internships, directed individual study or tutorials, or a combination of these as prescribed in the department’s program. Many departments require a comprehensive examination (written and/or oral) and/or a formal oral presentation and defense of the completed thesis.

Upon successful completion of an approved honors program, the student is awarded a bachelor’s degree “with honors” in the major.

An honors program may prescribe no more than three-fourths of a normal course load for a student in the junior and senior years, so that adequate time for free electives is permitted.

Credits and Grades

Degree credits and grades for the thesis work will be awarded on completion of the thesis and any honors examinations, in the manner customary for completed projects and courses. These credits will be spread over the fall and winter terms of the senior year, under the rubric 493 (3-3), Honors Thesis.

A student’s continuing eligibility as an honors candidate will be determined by subjecting that student’s work to periodic review based on the level of work to that point.

A student who resigns or is dropped from an honors program will not ordinarily be readmitted; completed work would in such cases be translated by the student’s advisers into alternate course credits, with grades, appropriate to a regular major. In this manner, a student not successfully completing all the requirements for the honors citation might still be able to graduate with the class but without receiving an honors citation.

Interdisciplinary Majors

Environmental Studies

An understanding of environmental issues is a key component of a liberal arts education. At Washington and Lee we take an interdisciplinary approach to understanding the causes and consequences of environmental problems and the development and implementation of solutions to these environmental problems. Faculty and students from across the campus integrate natural sciences, social sciences, the humanities, and law through study, research, and a variety of cocurricular activities, including numerous public lectures, service-learning projects, monthly luncheon seminars, and outdoor activities. Students develop disciplinary expertise and an understanding of how insights from different disciplines must be integrated to address environmental problems. This process involves both academic experience and expansion of the students’ capacities as citizens, enabling them to become aware of the scientific, ethical, and policy issues they will face in their local communities, their professions, and in the global community.

Students may major in environmental studies, leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree. The major is designed to educate students in a broad class of issues related to the environment and to humanity’s place in the natural world, while supporting a wide variety of career choices (research, government, corporate, non-governmental organizations) and graduate school options.

Those majoring in other disciplines, who wish to focus their course of study with courses on environmental issues, may complete the interdisciplinary minor in environmental studies. Each course of study consists of a sequence of courses in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences, as well as specially designed environmental studies courses across the disciplines. Students should discuss their future interests with the director or other faculty to help refine their course selections. (See Environmental Studies major leading to BA degree )

All students have an opportunity to conduct research, interact with local communities, and work with government and industry representatives with respect to environmental problems in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. Also, in partnership with the Federal University of Amazonas and, the State University of North Fluminense, students may spend six months in Brazil, taking classes and working on research projects related to the environment.

In addition to the curriculum in environmental studies, Washington and Lee offers several cocurricular programs. The A. Paul Knight Memorial Program in Conservation provides financial support to students who undertake internships with nonprofit environmental and outdoor recreation programs. The Outing Club organizes several recreational and educational programs that enable students to become familiar with the local environment. Opportunities exist for internships with environmentally oriented consulting firms, government agencies, non-governmental organizations, and local environmental organizations and for working in the environmental area in public schools.

Work in environmental studies involves W&L faculty and courses in biology, business administration, chemistry, economics, English, ethics and philosophy, geology, law, politics, and sociology and anthropology. The collaborating professors in Brazil include Alexandre Rivas, Carlos Edwar Frietas (Universidade Federal do Amazonas), and, Carlos Rezende (Universidade Estadual do Norte Fluminense), and Fernando Pellon de Miranda (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro). More information is available on the program’s website at http://www.wlu.edu/environmental-studies-program.

Medieval and Renaissance Studies

The major in Medieval and Renaissance Studies allows students to engage in examinations of the history and culture of European society from the fall of the Roman Empire to the end of the 17th century. Majors develop an understanding of a broad range of topics and the ability to consider the era from a variety of perspectives. This interdisciplinary major includes the examination of art, economics, history, law, literature, music, philosophy, politics, religion and social structures, leading to a broadly based understanding of specific problems within the context of an entire society.

The requirements for the major are described in “Medieval and Renaissance Studies major leading to BA degree ” and involve faculty and courses in art history, English, French, German, history, music, physics, religion, and Spanish. More information is available on the program’s website at www.wlu/edu/medieval-and-renaissance-studies-program.


An interdisciplinary major in neuroscience leading to a Bachelor of Science degree is available to interested students. The central theme of neuroscience is an understanding of the structure and function of the brain and how it is involved in controlling behavior. Thus, the area draws heavily from biology, chemistry, psychology, mathematics and the computational sciences. The major in neuroscience is intended to prepare students to pursue graduate studies in the biomedical sciences, including graduate training in neuroscience, biology and psychology, as well as the health professions.

The requirements for a major in neuroscience are described in “Neuroscience major leading to BS degree ”, but generally involve courses from the departments of biology, chemistry, computer science, physics and engineering, and psychology. An essential element of the neuroscience program at Washington and Lee is the opportunity for the student to become involved in laboratory research with a faculty member. While the areas of research may differ from year to year, they generally include neurochemical research on development and function of sensory systems, involvement of the brain in learning, attention and memory, effects of teratogenic agents on vertebrate brain development, reproductive neuroendocrinology, evaluation of electrical activity recorded from human brains, computer modeling, artificial intelligence and animal behavior.

The core neuroscience faculty come from biology, psychology, and physics and engineering, with affiliate faculty in biology and computer science. Further information concerning the major can be obtained from the website at http://www.wlu.edu/neuroscience-program.

Russian Area Studies

The Russian Area Studies major is interdisciplinary and offers instruction in Russian language and literature, both in Russian and in translation. Students may also take courses focusing directly on Russia, or containing significant Russian content, in the disciplines of anthropology, art, history, politics and sociology. The requirements for the major are described in “Russian Area Studies major leading to BA degree ” . Students should begin Russian language instruction as early as possible, preferably in the first year, since third-year language proficiency is required for the major. Language courses are taught by two core faculty members, who are assisted by a visiting Russian scholar.

Majors are encouraged to study the Russian language in Russia for a spring term or a longer period. When there is sufficient student demand and faculty resources permit, a course is offered during the spring term at a Russian university. Other features of the Russian Area Studies program include: a state-of-the-art language laboratory, computer-aided language instruction, various library collections for faculty and student research, guest lectures, Russian-language lunches, a Russian film series and daily television transmission from Russia. Further information is available from the website at http://www.wlu.edu/russian-area-studies-program.

Interdisciplinary Programs

A “program” is an interdisciplinary group of courses with a common theme. Most interdisciplinary programs offer a minor; however, some also offer a major. The current programs are Africana Studies, East Asian Studies, Environmental Studies, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Poverty and Human Capability Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Africana Studies

Africana Studies is an interdisciplinary program that focuses on the experiences of Africans and Africans in the Diaspora. This program incorporates courses that have long been an integral part of the Washington and Lee curriculum and includes such areas as  art, history, music, literature, politics, and sociology. A minor in Africana Studies requires students to complete at least seven 3-credit courses (see Africana Studies Minor ). Students who complete this minor will develop a broad understanding of some of the key events, personalities, and issues that have shaped and continue to shape the experiences of Africans, African-Americans, and other African-descended peoples in the greater Diaspora.

East Asian Studies

The Program in East Asian Studies is interdisciplinary, involving seven departments of the University. It includes course work in Chinese or Japanese language, as well as courses in a wide variety of fields to introduce the student to the cultures and societies of East Asia. For the EAS minor, students focus their formal study on either China or Japan.

East Asian Studies students are strongly encouraged to participate in Washington and Lee’s study and exchange programs in China and Japan or in another approved study abroad program. Information and applications for these programs are available through the Center for International Education. Currently, a Washington and Lee spring term language program is offered in Kanazawa, Japan; no prior study of Japanese is required for this program. A similar program in Chinese is offered in alternate years at East China Normal University in Shanghai. Spring term non-language programs may also be offered in China and Japan, pending faculty availability. Please speak with program faculty for additional information on opportunities for study abroad in Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and China.

The program draws faculty from art, East Asian languages and literatures, economics, history, politics, and religion. Further information may be obtained from the website at www.wlu.edu/x12359.xml.

Environmental Studies

(see “Interdisciplinary Majors”)

Latin American and Caribbean Studies

The interdisciplinary Program in Latin American and Caribbean Studies allows students to explore the diverse concepts of civilization, culture, and society as applied to the region of Latin America and the Caribbean. The program curriculum draws from the disciplines of history, culture, literature, business, economics, politics, and sociology to aid students in their examination of the region shaped by the meeting of Amerindian, African, and European peoples. Students begin with a multidisciplinary approach towards the study of the region in the introductory course (LACS 101) and work towards interdisciplinary synthesis and analysis in the program’s capstone course (LACS 396). The program also engenders a lively research community on campus and hosts colloquia, conferences, speakers, films, and related activities in the Casa Hispánica.

The Program in Latin American and Caribbean Studies offers a minor and complements several majors in a meaningful way, including those in Spanish, history, politics, sociology and anthropology, and economics, among others. Students who complete the minor gain the background necessary for careers in teaching, bilingual education, social work, government or international organizations, business, journalism, and specialized nonprofit organizations, and/or for graduate work in Latin American Studies and related disciplines.

The minor requires completion of seven courses, distributed among the areas of literature, humanities, and the social and natural sciences. Students are encouraged to study abroad and to pursue advanced course work in the target language. (For other program requirements, see “Latin American and Caribbean Studies minor  ”.)

Shepherd Program for the Interdisciplinary Study of Poverty and Human Capability

This program of study and community-based learning supplements any undergraduate major or course of study in the law school. Undergraduate students may take a minor, which includes introductory and advanced courses, volunteer and research opportunities in the Rockbridge County area, subsidized summer internships working with impoverished people and communities, and a variety of lectures and seminars presented by national and international visitors. Students who have completed or will complete an introductory course prior to a scheduled internship are eligible to apply for a summer internship working with agencies in rural or urban areas of the United States and in the developing world. Expenses are covered by the Shepherd Program. This internship program is  conducted in alliance with more than twenty Shepherd Consortium schools. Students choose work that helps them develop skills for their future employment, graduate studies, or civic involvement. They work in business, education, health care, law, social services, and community organizing. During the academic year, students participate in lectures, seminars and conferences sponsored by the Shepherd Program and engage in service to the local community promoted by the Shepherd Program, the Nabors Service League, the Bonner Program, the Campus Kitchen at Washington and Lee, and Washington and Lee’s Community-Academic Research Alliance (CARA).

Undergraduates integrate their course work in poverty studies and their co-curricular learning through service, leadership, and research with their major field of study. Students combine interdisciplinary study of poverty and human capability with discipline-based courses, independent studies, or honors theses in their majors, supplemented with related courses from other departments to receive a minor in Poverty and Human Capability Studies. See Poverty and Human Capability Studies minor .

Entering students may participate in Volunteer Venture, a pre-orientation program in regional communities that combines service and learning about poverty-related issues. Volunteer Venture is led by second-, third-, and fourth-year students who have completed the introductory course on poverty and human capability, and have been selected by staff and their peers for a leadership role.

Seniors and recent graduates may apply for the Elrod Fellowship for a one- or two-year opportunity for employment with a public-interest agency that serves disadvantaged populations in the Baltimore, Houston, and Washington, D.C. areas. Elrod Fellows are supported by alumni mentors and alumni-sponsored seminars for continuing education.

Made possible through an initial gift from Thomas (Class of 1952) and Nancy Shepherd and subsequent gifts from many additional donors, the Shepherd Program was established in 1997 and is a tangible means by which the University seeks to promote important aspects of its mission: to prepare its graduates for “responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.”

Women’s and Gender Studies

This interdisciplinary program focuses on women’s and gender issues, bridging traditional disciplines and fostering Washington and Lee’s liberal arts mission. Students begin formal study with an interdisciplinary introductory course (WGS 120  ), often co-taught by experts in diverse fields; they continue with course work from a range of majors in the humanities and social and natural sciences; and if they choose to complete the minor, they conclude with a capstone seminar or honors thesis. All of these opportunities involve sustained focus on the experiences, perspectives, and achievements of women, or considerable attention to the role of gender in the arts, science, and society.

Students who pursue the Women’s and Gender Studies minor  must also complete a traditional major; women’s and gender studies courses, independent studies, and the honors thesis may overlap with their major or Foundation and Distribution requirements. Participants will therefore bring special expertise back to their disciplines, enriching their work in their major fields and enlivening discussion in many classrooms across the university. Students discovering courses containing pertinent material and approaches that are not listed in Women’s and Gender Studies may petition the Women’s and Gender Studies Advisory Committee to count such courses towards their requirements. Finally, all students interested in Women’s and Gender Studies are invited to participate in relevant lectures, readings, colloquia, and other events sponsored by this program and others, and, further, to apply their heightened awareness of women’s and gender issues to every facet of campus life.