General Education Program, Carnegie Mellon University
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General Education requirements for current H&SS students

The H&SS 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

Beginning Your General Education
The five courses required by the College General Education Program must be completed by the end of the second semester of your freshman year.

Statistical Reasoning and Practice, 36-201
You must complete this course by the end of your first year.

Interpretation and Argument—76-101
(Reading and Writing for an Academic Context—76-100)
You are required to complete at least one writing course by the end of your first year. In most cases, this will be Interpretation and Argument (76-101). If you are placed in Reading and Writing for an Academic Context (76-100), you must complete Interpretation and Argument during the following semester. For example:
  • If you take Reading and Writing for an Academic Context (76-100) in the Fall semester of your first year, you must take Interpretation and Argument (76-101) in the Spring semester of your first year.
  • If you take Reading and Writing for an Academic Context (76-100) in the Spring semester of your first year, you must take Interpretation and Argument (76-101) in the Fall semester of your second year.

Global Histories , 79-104
You must complete this course by the end of your first year unless you take Reading and Writing for an Academic Context (76-100) during your first year. In this case, you should consult with an advisor from the Academic Advisory Center about when to take Global Histories. For example:
  • If you take Reading and Writing for an Academic Context (76-100) during the Fall semester of your first year, you should take Global Histories either in the spring semester of your first year or in the Fall semester of your second year, depending on the advice you receive from your advisor.
  • If you take Reading and Writing in an Academic Context (76-100) during the Spring semester of your first year, you should take Global Histories either in the Fall semester of your second year or in the Spring semester of your second year, again depending on the advice you receive from your advisor.

Freshman Seminar—Course numbers vary by department
You must complete a Freshman Seminar by the end of your first year.

Computer Skills Workshop—99-101, 102, or 103
This course is required by the university. It is a three-unit mini-course. You must complete it by the end of your first semester.

Continuing Your General Education

Elective Courses

Use General Education classes to explore new ideas and expand your vision of what the University has to offer. There is a great deal of choice in the Gen Ed, so you should look for courses that will help you follow interests in diverse academic disciplines.

  • Courses taken in the first two years can be especially helpful in introducing you to prospective majors and new lines of interest that you may wish to pursue as a minor, additional major, or set of electives.
  • Courses taken in the third and fourth years give you the opportunity to expand your knowledge into disciplines beyond your major, to explore ideas and learn skills that will help you become a strong learner and a broad thinker, both as a person and in your chosen field of study.

Plan, therefore, to distribute your General Education requirements so that you take at least half by the end of your sophomore year, while leaving yourself plenty of opportunities to explore General Education choices in your junior and senior years.

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