General Education Program, Carnegie Mellon University
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General Education requirements for current Dietrich College students

The Dietrich College General Education Program allows you to combine required courses that teach key analytical skills with a wide range of elective courses.

You are commonly expected to complete five required courses, by the end of your first year, in the following subject areas:

  • computing skills,
  • statistics,
  • academic writing,
  • social analysis through the medium of world history, and
  • Freshman Seminar.

These courses are designed to complement one another in helping you develop foundational skills essential to effective learning throughout your college career and beyond. The courses on statistics, academic writing, and world history equip you to identify and assess contending arguments and interpretations and to generate your own arguments and interpretations in these fields. The Freshman Seminar enables you to build on these skills by exploring more narrowly defined topics in a small-group setting. And collectively, these courses help you develop a broad, historically informed appreciation of the humanities and social sciences and thoughtful, ethical ways of engaging and evaluating the workings of the world and your place within it.

During your four years of study, you are also expected to complete a series of elective courses in General Education. The range of courses from which you can choose is very wide. These options are designed to help you to maintain and enhance your intellectual breadth in ways that are more closely tailored to your particular interests and concerns. In your first two years, you can use elective courses to explore potential majors as well as additional lines of interest that you might want to pursue as an additional major or a minor. In your third and fourth years, you can use them to enhance your knowledge of disciplines beyond your chosen major(s) and minor(s). And, throughout your studies, you can use them to enhance your intellectual growth by creating stimulating comparisons and synergies from disparate fields of study.

How many General Education credits do you need?

  • Communicating: Language and Interpretations, 18 units. Courses in this category give special attention to the study of language as interpretation, expression and argument within and across multiple discourses. Students examine language for its internal logics and structures. They also explore its rhetorical, historical, cultural, or philosophical dimensions, assessing how it functions while expanding their writing skills and sharpening their analytical abilities.

  • Reflecting: Societies and Cultures, 18 units. This category emphasizes the study of history, society, and culture from local and global perspectives. Courses investigate contemporary societies and those of the past, along with their rich array of cultural products, artifacts, and ideas. They encourage a comparative and reflective approach to the understanding of the past and what it can bring to the constitution of present social relations and cultural outlooks.

  • Modeling: Mathematics and Experiments, 27 units. Courses in this category stress the interplay of mathematical (formal) theories and experimental work. Some courses investigate the internal structure of theories, whereas others use them as models for producing real-world knowledge. Such models may be drawn from a variety of disciplines including the natural sciences, but also, for example, psychology and computer science. The interactions between theorizing and experimenting (observing) can be understood within an intellectual framework that invites comparative assessment.

  • Deciding: Social Sciences and Values, 18 units. The theme of this category is the exploration of cognitive, behavioral and ethical dimensions of decision-making on both the individual and social level. Making decisions requires a broad understanding of human rationality and social interaction. Some courses examine also the critical collection and analysis of data for achieving such an understanding, whereas others emphasize the historical development of policies and values, which form the matrix for decision-making.

  • Creating: Designs and Productions, 18 units. In the arts, the humanities, the sciences, and in engineering, it is essential to produce artifacts: ex., a painting, a poem, a musical performance, a piece of technology, the design of an experiment, or the proof of a mathematical theorem. Courses may center on the students' creation of artifacts, but they may also analyze such creations by exploring creative processes at work within and across disciplines. Such explorations should be informed by a deep understanding of contexts of production and reception.

  • Plus, 18 additional units from any of the above categories.

  • University Requirement: Computing at Carnegie Mellon.

  • Freshman Seminar: must be taken in the first year.

General Education Requirements Timeline

The five courses required by the College General Education Program must be completed by the end of the second semester of all Dietrich College students’ freshman year.

Reasoning with Data, 36-200
You must complete this course by the end of your first year.

First Year Writing (FYW) Requirement – 76-101, 76-102 (By Invitation only), 76-106, 76-107, 76-108 (Reading and Writing for an Academic Context—76-100)

Undergraduate students are required to complete at least one writing course by the end of their first year. This requirement can be completed in two different ways:

  • OPTION 1: Enroll in one of two full-semester courses (9 units each)
    • 76-101: Interpretation and Argument
    • 76-102: Advanced First-Year Writing (by invitation only
  • OPTION 2: Enroll in two of three half semester “mini” courses (4.5 units each)
    • 76-106: Writing About Literature, Art and Culture
    • 76-107: Writing About Data
    • 76-108: Writing About Public Problems
*For Dietrich Students, OPTION 2 minis must be completed back-to-back within a single semester.

Global Histories, 79-104
Students must complete this course by the end of their first year unless they take Reading and Writing for an Academic Context (76-100) during their first year. In this case, they should consult with an advisor from the Academic Advisory Center about when to take Global Histories.


Freshman Seminar—Course numbers vary
Students must complete this course by the end of their first year unless they take Reading and Writing for an Academic Context (76-100) during their first year. In this case, they should consult with an advisor from the Academic Advisory Center about when to take Global Histories.


Computing @ Carnegie Mellon—99-101
This computing skills course is required by the university. It is a three-unit mini-course. Students must complete it by the end of their first semester.


Continuing Your General Education
Elective Courses

General Education classes are used to explore new ideas and expand students’ vision of what the University has to offer. There is a great deal of choice in the General Education curriculum, so students should look for courses that will help follow their interests in diverse academic disciplines.
  • Courses taken in the first two years can be especially helpful in introducing students to prospective majors and new lines of interest that they may wish to pursue as a minor, additional major, or set of electives.
  • Courses taken in the third and fourth years give students the opportunity to expand their knowledge into disciplines beyond their major, to explore ideas and learn skills that will help them become a strong learner and a broad thinker, both as a person and in their chosen field of study.
Therefore, students should plan to distribute General Education requirements so that they take at least half by the end of their sophomore year, while leaving plenty of opportunities to explore General Education choices in their junior and senior years.

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