General Education Curriculum

A liberal arts education is typically characterized by the development of broad intellectual and cultural interests and by the achievement of a significant body of skills and knowledge. It is the particular responsibility of a general education curriculum to address the first of these goals, the broadening of students' interests, while also laying the foundation for the acquisition of advanced skills and deeper knowledge within optional areas of concentration, normally defined as majors.

So it is at the University of Richmond, where a distinctive general education curriculum has been designed:

  • To provide a stimulating and challenging introduction to collegiate life through a first-year seminar courses
  • To establish the basic prerequisites of productive scholarship through a set of communication skills requirements
  • To familiarize students in a meaningful way with some of the major approaches to intellectual and cultural life through a series of fields of study requirements

This curriculum is offered by a faculty that sees general education as fundamental to its mission. Through its various general education courses, the faculty intends to incorporate each and every student into a community of learners who value and practice the life of the mind. Beginning with their general education courses and continuing through the courses in their major, their elective courses, and their various cocurricular and extracurricular learning experiences, University of Richmond students are expected to develop their ability to think critically and independently, to learn to tolerate ambiguity where true ambiguity exists, and to grow in their respect for and their ability to deal with the kinds of multiplicity that characterize our complex world. The common goal of the University's faculty is the education of independent, responsible, and contributing members of society.


First-Year Seminars
First-Year Seminars (FYS) provide entering students the excitement of engaged learning through a diverse array of seminar topics. With small classes, a variety of topics, and close contact with faculty, First-Year Seminars offer a hands-on introduction to academic inquiry. A wide variety of seminars will be offered each year, drawn from every school of the University. Each entering student will take a FYS 100 course in the fall and spring of the first year. Readmitted students must complete the First Year Seminar requirement within a year of their readmission. First-Year Seminars serve as an introduction to academic inquiry and the modes of expression that lie at the heart of a liberal arts education. They foster habits of mind fundamental to students' intellectual and academic development, including critical reading and thinking, sharing ideas and research through discussion, and the ability to write and think clearly and effectively. Integrating explorations of specific questions and topics with the development of skills, seminars aim to foster intellectual curiosity and students' ability to act on it.
Communication Skills

Ideas and experiences must be communicated if they are to be shared, scrutinized, and transformed into effective knowledge. Toward these ends, the faculty expects each student to develop skills in oral communication and a second language.

Oral Communication

Oral communication is another skill that is essential to both education and life. Students should be able to speak so that their ideas are expressed logically, lucidly, and effectively, and they should be able to provide relevant evidence whenever appropriate. In addition, students should be able to analyze the spoken discourse of others. The general education curriculum at the University of Richmond assists students in these regards by immediately immersing them into frequent and intensive oral exchanges and presentations in the First-Year Seminars and by offering relevant courses, such as Rhetoric and Communication Studies 101, through the Department of Rhetoric and Communication Studies. In addition, many faculty and departments have been increasing the oral communication components in their courses and seminars, with the goal of enhancing this fundamental skill. Their efforts are assisted by the University's Weinstein-Jecklin Speech Center. There is no required course that students must take to fulfill this portion of their general education.

Second Language (COM2)

A second language has become more and more important as the world for which students are preparing themselves has placed increasing demands upon them to understand the national and cultural perspectives of other language groups. The knowledge of a second language is critical for achieving such understanding as well as for exposing the learner to other cultures, in ancient or contemporary guise, that he or she may encounter after graduation. For these reasons, the faculty expects all students to demonstrate functional ability in listening, speaking, reading, and writing in a modern second language or in reading and writing in a classical language. These abilities are appraised either at entrance or through introductory and intermediate courses.

Fields of Study Overview
Fields of study courses introduce students to some of the primary fields or sets of related disciplines within which scholars group phenomena for study. These courses are intended to familiarize students with the kinds of questions raised by scholars within each of these groupings and with the methods by which scholars try to answer such questions. Although fields of study courses are typically offered by individual departments, they have nonetheless been designed and approved with general education as their primary objective. Thus, their scope exceeds the boundaries of singular disciplines insofar as they seek to give explicit attention to the perspectives, ways of thinking and methodological approaches of larger fields of inquiry. In order to give students a broad understanding as well as a basic foundation for further study in any of these fields, the faculty requires students to pass specially designated courses in each of six fields of study: historical studies, literary studies, natural science, social analysis, symbolic reasoning, and visual and performing arts.
Field of Study - Historical Studies (FSHT)

Historical studies examine events and actors of the recent or distant past within the context of the ideas, institutions, social norms, cultural practices, and physical environments out of which they arose. Courses with a historical perspective enable us to understand the values and institutions of disparate societies and cultures as they have developed over time.

By emphasizing the critical analysis of sources and the interrelationships among ideas, institutions, social structures, and events within one or more interpretive frameworks, these courses foster students' awareness of the methods and perspectives for understanding past societies and cultures in historical context. Courses that focus narrowly on the history of a discipline, that only use chronology as an organizational structure, or that do not stress the context in which ideas and events occurred fall outside the category of historical studies.

Field of Study - Literary Studies (FSLT)

The field of literary studies concerns itself with verbal texts read as structures of meaning. While language is a practical tool for thought and communication of many sorts, the particular focus of literary studies is on linguistic creations as meaningful in themselves and not purely as documents that record meaning outside themselves.

Courses satisfying the literary studies requirement are centrally concerned with the textual analysis of primary works. They consider a variety of interpretive frameworks and attend to one or more collateral areas of investigation, including the study of the process by which texts are created and received, the historical and cultural contexts in which they are created and received, and their relationships to each other and to other fields of experience and analysis. The field of literary studies brings its perspectives and methods to bear on imaginative and nonimaginative works alike.

Field of Study - Natural Science (FSNB, FSNC, FSNP)

The field of natural science is concerned with the physical universe from subatomic to cosmic levels of organization, including inanimate as well as living systems, their structure, diversity, interaction, and evolution. Based upon the generation and testing of hypotheses, scientific inquiry is restricted to the study of repeatable, measurable, and verifiable phenomena. Within this field, knowledge may be gained either by controlled experiment or diligent observation, depending upon the phenomena being studied. Similarly, some of the field's methodologies rely upon quantitative analysis, while others are primarily qualitative.

The natural science requirement is designed to enhance students' appreciation of the beauty of science as well as their understanding of the challenges of doing science. Students gain experience in the formulation and testing of hypotheses and are introduced to scientific methodology. The natural science requirement consists of a single laboratory course selected from the three areas of science represented at the University of Richmond, namely, chemistry, physics, and the biological sciences.

Field of Study - Social Analysis (FSSA)

Social analysis is the systematic study of individual and social human behavior. This field of study involves a systematic theoretical and empirical examination of the patterns of human behavior within or across various societies and cultures.

Courses satisfying this requirement focus on human behavior. They teach students to analyze individual and group behavior by using a variety of theoretical and empirical frameworks. All courses in this field of study must include the reading of or involve students in research on patterns of human behavior. Courses that employ social contextual analysis for purposes of providing a frame of reference for the study of other phenomena, such as literary texts, works of art, etc., do not fulfill this requirement.

Field of Study - Symbolic Reasoning (FSSR)

As a field of study, symbolic reasoning is distinguished by its attention to internal logical consistency and by its wide external applicability. This field of study emphasizes symbolic problem solving, a process that includes translating problems into terms that are amenable to treatment within a symbolic system; understanding consistent rules by which the information relevant to the problem may be processed in order to obtain a solution; recognizing important underlying principles that govern the application of these rules; and judging both the appropriateness of known solution methods to a particular problem and the quality or reasonableness of the solution obtained.

Courses in this field of study aim to develop in students the skills to obtain valid solutions using one or more symbolic systems, the ingenuity to translate new problems into appropriate terms for such systems, and the persistence to carry a solution method through to completion. The focus of a symbolic reasoning course should be on understanding the symbolic system and how it can be used to develop problem-solving tools rather than on the tools themselves. Applications of these tools, while a welcome addition, should not be the primary objective of the course.

Field of Study - Visual and Performing Arts (FSVP)

The field of visual and performing arts considers questions having to do with the forms, traditions, meaning, and historical contexts of works in visual and performance media and explores issues of method, process, and personal resources in the media.

Courses satisfying this requirement are centrally concerned with the roles of creation and interpretation in the study of art. They develop in students an enhanced understanding of art both by fostering their intellectual appreciation of works of art and by involving them in the creative process. These courses are suffused with the notion that the arts are a powerful and profound influence on human perception and understanding.


In addition to the fundamental educational experiences represented by these requirements, the faculty recognizes that thoughtful reflection upon an even wider range of topics and issues such as those that pertain to gender, race, ethics, international perspectives, and other matters, is an important component in the education of Richmond students. While some of these topics and issues may be addressed in one or another course in the general education curriculum, the faculty feels strongly that they are best treated - sometimes focally, sometimes incidentally - within many different courses, outside as well as inside that curriculum. By addressing them in a variety of ways, from a variety of viewpoints, and with a variety of voices across the entire curriculum, the faculty as a whole will ensure that students are aware of the many complex and serious ways in which these issues touch their lives and the lives of others.

Note: Courses meeting general education requirements are approved by the General Education Committee and denoted with the appropriate code following the course description in this catalog, as well as in the schedule of classes, published each semester on BannerWeb. A course will only meet the general education requirement if approved and the corresponding code is noted on the schedule of classes for the semester in which the class is completed. The codes are as follows:

FYS - First-Year Seminar
COM2 - Communication Skills - Second Language
FSHT - Field of Study: Historical Studies
FSLT - Field of Study: Literary Studies
FSNB - Field of Study: Natural Science, Biological Sciences
FSNC - Field of Study: Natural Science, Chemistry
FSNP - Field of Study: Natural Science, Physics
FSSA - Field of Study: Social Analysis
FSSR - Field of Study: Symbolic Reasoning
FSVP - Field of Study: Visual and Performing Arts

Summary of General Education Requirements

Courses used to satisfy the First-Year Seminars and the communication skills requirement of the general education requirements may not be used to meet the fields of study requirements for the degree. The First-Year Seminars must be taken in the first year of matriculation.
First-Year Seminars

A student may satisfy this requirement by passing two FYS 100 seminar courses. The same seminar topic may not be repeated more than once for credit.

First Year Seminar Policy for Students Transferring to Richmond

Students who are admitted to the University of Richmond as transfer students with 6.82 or more transferable units are exempt from the First Year Seminars.

Students transferring with less than 6.82 units*, excluding credit for advanced standing, must meet the following First-Year Seminar requirement(s)

  • 1-3.13 transferable units: must take two First Year Seminars during the first two semesters of enrollment.
  • 3.14-6.81 transferable units: must take one First Year Seminar during the first semester of enrollment. May take an additional First Year Seminar in the second term of enrollment, if desired.
*Note: Students are only accepted as transfer students with less than 6.82 transferable units on an exception basis. These students must demonstrate exceptional qualifications.
Communication Skills II - Second Language

A student may satisfy this requirement in a modern or classical language by meeting one of the following alternatives:

  1. Passing the intermediate (221 or 202) level of one language (credit varies from 1-2 units depending on the intensity of the courses).
  2. Presenting a score of 3, 4, or 5 on a modern language Advanced Placement exam taken prior to initial enrollment (student would receive an exemption, but no credit, for a score of 3; the credit varies for a score of 4 or 5); presenting a score of 4 or 5 on the Latin Advanced Placement exam (carries 1 unit of credit).
  3. Presenting a score of 5, 6, or 7 on an IB Higher Level exam in a modern language (credit varies).
  4. Presenting an acceptable score on the SAT-II Subject Test - Language taken prior to initial enrollment (carries no credit).
  5. Achieving an acceptable score on a departmental placement exam (carries no credit).
  6. For nonnative English speakers, submission of TOEFL scores for admission (carries no credit).
Fields of Study

A student may satisfy the fields of study requirements by passing one approved course in each of the areas of historical studies, literary studies, social analysis, symbolic reasoning, visual and performing arts, and the natural sciences. Such courses must have been approved by the General Education Committee and the faculties of the schools of Arts and Sciences, Robins School of Business, and Jepson School of Leadership Studies as meeting these requirements.

Courses meeting general education requirements are designated in this catalog following the course description, as well as in the list of classes on the website. All courses used to meet general education requirements must be passed with a grade of D- (.7) or higher.