In keeping with the University’s educational mission, all undergraduates are required to complete a program of study that emphasizes the values of what historically has been known as a liberal education - namely, learning to read, write and think critically and acquiring a basic understanding of human society in all its dimensions. The courses and experiences included in this program of study provide a solid and broad education that will equip students to compete in and adapt to the rapidly changing contemporary world while complementing more focused study in the major.
The University Curriculum is the vehicle through which SMU ensures that all undergraduates meet the general education requirements stipulated by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, specifically, “Through general education, students encounter the basic content and methodology of the principle areas of knowledge: humanities and fine arts, social and behavioral sciences, and natural sciences and mathematics. Courses in each of these specific areas introduce a breadth of knowledge and reinforce cognitive skills and effective learning opportunities for each student. Therefore, it is important that courses selected by students do not focus on skills, techniques and procedures specific to that student’s occupation or profession. Such courses may also include interdisciplinary courses.”
The University Curriculum
The motto of Southern Methodist University, Veritas Liberabit Vos (“the truth shall set you free”), epitomizes the ideals of an SMU education and is the fundamental principle for the University Curriculum. The wisdom to acquire and critically reflect on existing knowledge and the insight and capacity to create new knowledge - the hallmarks of an educated person - exemplify the characteristics SMU seeks to instill in its students.
The University Curriculum constitutes roughly one-third of the baccalaureate degree plan for all SMU students. It consists of three main coursework components plus a number of specified Proficiencies and Experiences. The heart of the University Curriculum is its Foundations, Breadth and Depth requirements. UC-2016 Foundations requirement consists of Discernment and Discourse (DISC), Personal Responsibility and Wellness (PRW), Quantitative Foundations (QF), Second Language (SL) and Ways of Knowing (KNW). The Breadth requirement consists of Creativity and Aesthetics (CA), Historical Contexts (HC), Individuals, Institutions and Cultures (IIC), Language and Literature (LL), Philosophical and Religious Inquiry and Ethics (PRIE), Science and Engineering (SE) and Technology and Mathematics (TM). The Depth requirement consists of History, Social and Behavioral Sciences (HSBS), Humanities and Fine Arts (HFA), and Natural and Applied Sciences (NAS).
UC requirements can be met through any part of the student’s undergraduate career, including work in the major or minor, elective courses or approved activities. The number of courses and/or credit hours required to complete the University Curriculum will vary according to the individual student’s academic background, preparation, major and curricular choices. The list of UC courses will vary by term, especially with respect to identified and approved UC Proficiencies and Experiences courses, and will be listed on the Office of the Registrar Web page. Each student has access to a regularly updated and individualized Degree Progress Report that charts their progress and identifies courses the student can use to meet the various requirements. Students are advised to work closely with divisional/departmental and University advisers in navigating the UC requirements and planning their coursework each term.
Summary of University Curriculum Requirements
University Curriculum Foundations
A university education must provide students in all majors with the tools to embark on a lifetime of learning. UC Foundations courses assure that students read and write critically, possess basic quantitative reasoning skills, understand the concepts of lifelong personal responsibility and wellness, and explore how different academic disciplines define and create knowledge. Because these skills are essential for a successful college experience, Foundations courses should be completed within a student’s first four terms of enrollment.
Discernment and Discourse (3-9 credits, typically 6)
The University Curriculum emphasizes academic reading, writing and oral expression in the Discernment and Discourse sequence. The Discernment and Discourse sequence introduces students to academic thought and communication in seminars that allow students to work closely with faculty in small classes. All seminars share the goal of assisting students in the development of critical reading, expository and analytical writing, oral communication, and research protocols.
Most students will satisfy this requirement by taking DISC 1312 in the fall and DISC 1313 in the spring. Students scoring lower than a 580 on the SAT-R or lower than 21 on the ACT English section will begin in DISC 1311 . Students scoring at or above 580 (SAT-R) or at or above 21 (ACT English) will begin in DISC 1312 . Students scoring a 4 or 5 on the Advanced Placement English Language/English Literature Test and students scoring 5, 6 or 7 on the IB English A Literature higher-level exam will place out of DISC 1312 and begin with DISC 1313 . All SMU students (first-year and transfers) must take at least one college-level writing course after graduating from high school. Transfer students with a combination of AP/IB credit and one college-level writing course after graduating high school will need to take DISC 1313 at SMU. No student can fulfill the Discernment and Discourse requirement solely with AP/IB credit.
Students participating in the University Honors Program satisfy this requirement with DISC 2305 and DISC 2306 in the fall and spring of their first year. Each term, students must be enrolled in and may not drop Discernment and Discourse until they have completed the requirement. A minimum grade of C- is required to pass each course.
Quantitative Foundation (3 credits)
Quantitative reasoning refers to the ability to understand, evaluate and use quantitative information. Quantitative information takes many forms, and quantitative reasoning skills span a vast spectrum from basic numerical manipulations to advanced statistics and mathematics. One three-credit course is required to ensure that students possess these necessary skills. Students scoring a 4 or 5 on the Calculus AB, Calculus BC or Statistics Advanced Placement tests and students scoring 5, 6 or 7 on the IB Mathematics higher-level exam will place out of this requirement. Math placement testing is also available through SMU’s Mathematics Department examinations.
Personal Responsibility and Wellness (2 credits*)
All students complete this requirement by completing two one-credit courses. Taken during the first year, PRW1* introduces students to the University and explores three sets of issues: 1) the role of personal responsibility in coping with college and life’s other transitional periods; 2) challenges and opportunities such as managing time and stress, benefiting from diversity and autonomy, dealing with pitfalls related to alcohol and drugs, and exploring resources and activities on campus; and, 3) personal finance decisions while at SMU and later in life, including managing money, using credit cards and making major purchases.
In PRW2 (physical fitness courses), students work with instructors to establish personal goals and fitness plans for the term. A variety of individual and group fitness courses will be available, with each course containing core objectives and student-learning outcomes based on health-related fitness components. Grades will be given based on attendance, understanding of training/health principles and satisfactory improvement toward the goals that students set for themselves.
* During 2018-19 a pilot program is being conducted where alternatively a student can complete HDEV 1001 - First Year Experience , to satisfy the PRW1 requirement. HDEV 1001 is graded on a Credit/No Credit basis and does not carry term credit hours. HDEV 1001 enrollment is by invitation only.
Ways of Knowing (3-4 credits)
Ways of Knowing (KNW) courses are interdisciplinary courses that explore how natural scientists, social scientists, humanists, artists, engineers, and professionals in business and education address important issues. Sometimes taught collaboratively by faculty members from different departments and organized around a major topic or “big question,” KNW courses develop students’ understanding of the multiple approaches whereby different disciplines define, acquire and create knowledge, including the ethical considerations involved. Students are required to complete either one KNW or a departmental course that is tagged with Ways of Knowing. (*updated* 10/28/2019)
Second Language (4-8 credits)
SMU students fulfill the Second Language Foundation Requirement by demonstrating proficiency in reading, writing, speaking and understanding a second language at the Intermediate level, equal to the first-year’s study of language at the university level.
While students in their first year of college may receive credit for dual and/or transfer credit earned prior to matriculation at SMU, this credit will not satisfy SMU’s Second Language Foundation requirement.
At SMU, proficiency can be achieved in one of the following ways, after matriculation:
- Students placing into and successfully completing a course in the second semester level of a language (or above) will be able to satisfy their Second Language Requirement with that course. SMU offers Arabic, Chinese, Classical Greek, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, American Sign Language, and Spanish, as well as Biblical Hebrew and Biblical (Koine) Greek.
- Dependent on prior approval from the World Languages and Literature Department, students may complete language coursework at another accredited four-year institution.
- Placing into the fourth term or beyond on the SMU World Languages placement test and also earning an appropriate score on an SMU designated Second Language Proficiency Test. (You will need to pay a non-refundable registration fee for your proficiency test and take the test within one year of matriculation at SMU.)
- Taking two approved substitution courses if recommended by the Office of Disability Accommodations and Success Strategies (DASS).
- Achieving a score of Intermediate-Mid or above on the ACTFL OPI examination in a language not taught at SMU.
Students can fulfill the Second Language Foundation requirement prior to matriculation in one of the following ways:
- Presenting an appropriate score on a recognized second language proficiency exam (4 or 5 on AP exam; 5, 6, or 7 on IB HL exam; 640 or above on SAT II).
- Demonstrating an existing proficiency in a language other than English as documented by:
- Matriculation as an International Student from a non-English-dominant country AND providing high school transcripts from a non-English-medium high school;
- Successful completion of an ESL DISC course at SMU.
Please visit the Second Language site for more information.
University Curriculum Breadth Requirements (maximum of 22 credits)
Students are required to complete Breath courses in seven distinct areas of university study that reflect fundamental ideas associated with core academic disciplines: Creativity and Aesthetics (CA); Philosophical and Religious Inquiry and Ethics (PRIE); and Language and Literature (LL). Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics consists of the divisions of Pure and Applied Sciences (PAS) and Technology and Mathematics (TM). History, Social and Behavioral Sciences consists of the divisions of Historical Contexts (HC) and Individuals, Institutions and Cultures (IIC). Some courses may meet two different breadth requirements. Such double counting could, in principle, reduce the seven-course requirement to four. Some breadth courses also satisfy major and/or minor requirements. Breadth courses may satisfy Proficiency and Experiences requirements (see below). The maximum of 22 credits reflects that lab-based science courses may be four credits.
Creativity and Aesthetics (CA)
To develop an understanding of and appreciation for the creative impulse in a variety of artistic, cultural and historical contexts, graduates of SMU will be able to identify, explore and explain concepts fundamental to the visual, literary and performing arts through critical analysis, performance or the act of personal creation. Creativity and Aesthetics courses also seek to expose students to the fundamental role that creativity plays in maintaining a robust, adaptive and prosperous society. Students take one course from the Creativity and Aesthetics division.
Philosophical and Religious Inquiry and Ethics (PRIE)
Students often enter college asking questions such as who am I, why am I here, what constitutes a good life? Philosophical and religious inquiry helps them explore approaches humanity has taken to answer these and other questions. With the resurgence of religion worldwide such, exploration is timely. This inquiry also serves as the basis for thoughtful choice and action. Students must take one course from the Philosophical and Religious Inquiry and Ethics division.
Language and Literature (LL)
Students will demonstrate how symbolic systems communicate meaningfully within their language communities. Students will analyze and create meaningful texts such as analytical essays, literary works, computer code, logical proofs, musical compositions, and films. Students must take one course from the Language and Literature division.
Historical Contexts (HC)
To understand societies in the contemporary world and the forces that have shaped them, graduates of SMU will be able to identify and analyze problems, events and documents or artifacts from the past and know how to situate them in their appropriate social, political, economic, and cultural contexts. Students take one course from the Historical Contexts division.
Individuals, Institutions and Cultures (IIC)
To understand complex social systems, graduates of SMU will explore contemporary efforts to document and analyze the interaction of individuals, cultures and institutions that shape economic, political and social experiences. Students take one course from the Individuals, Institutions and Cultures division.
Science and Engineering (SE)
To be active, engaged citizens in a global society, graduates of SMU will be able to engage in scholarly discourse in science and engineering and to understand the implications of these disciplines. Students should be aware of the meaning and methods of science and engineering, and of the ways that both disciplines shaped and continue to shape the world around us.
Technology and Mathematics (TM)
Technology plays an increasingly important role in the lives of our students, which will only expand after graduation. Underlying most modern technologies are advances in mathematics. Students will discover the history, uses, and implications of mathematics and technology that shape our world. Students must take one course from the Technology and Mathematics division.
University Curriculum Depth Requirements (maximum of 10 credits)
The Depth courses provide more advanced knowledge or the application of fundamental ideas to other disciplinary areas. Students are required to complete three Depth courses in the three areas of Humanities and Fine Arts (HFA), History, Social and Behavioral Sciences (HSBS), and Natural and Applied Sciences (NAS).
Most students will fulfill at least one and often two Depth requirements with coursework required for their major. Some courses may meet the requirements of two different Depth areas. Such double counting could, in principle, reduce the three-course requirement to two. Depth courses may satisfy Proficiency and Experiences requirements. Students may use a second Science and Engineering (SE) Breadth course to satisfy the Natural and Applied Sciences (NAS) Depth requirement. Only one SE requirement (lecture and lab) can be met through AP credit. The maximum of 10 credits reflects that lab-based science courses may be four credits.
Proficiencies and Experiences
To prepare SMU graduates for both career development and lifelong learning, the University Curriculum requires all undergraduates to develop and refine writing, quantitative reasoning, oral communication and information literacy skills beyond the introductory level provided through Foundations courses. The University Curriculum also encourages all undergraduates to apply curricular knowledge to the diverse, global communities in which they will live and work. The four following UC Proficiencies and Experiences (P&E), required of all undergraduate students, may be met through credit-bearing coursework or approved, noncredit activities that have been identified as meeting that requirement:
The Human Diversity proficiency requirement challenges students to explore in a reflective way basic issues related to race, ethnicity, gender, or societal difference. This requirement may be satisfied by taking courses or participating in on- or off- campus projects that bring together aspects of human diversity in a creative and meaningful way. It is recommended that students complete this requirement in their first year.
Satisfying the Information Literacy proficiency requires students to engage in independent research; data generation and/or analysis; or identifying, evaluating and using material data beyond what is provided by the professor or covered in class.
Students will engage in substantial activities, inside or outside the classroom that develop oral communication skills, such as arguing a position, presenting spontaneous ideas, presenting reports and projects, or performing presentations and speeches fluently.
Building on the Discernment and Discourse sequence, students will enhance their writing ability by composing coherent, well-supported and carefully edited essays and reports suitable for a range of different audiences and purposes. Students must complete at least one Writing P&E.
All students must complete two additional P&Es through credit-bearing coursework or through non-credit activities that have been identified as meeting the P&E Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs). Students can select these two from a second Writing proficiency, a second Oral Community, or these three additional P&Es:
The Community Engagement experience requirement challenges students to engage in a reflective way in substantial community-based activities where communities are groups of people with a shared identity held together by ties of affinity or necessity not easily broken. This requirement may be satisfied by engaging in communities that are civic, religious, professional, familial, ethnic or otherwise constituted.
The Global Engagement experience requirement challenges students to participate in a reflective way by partaking in activities outside or inside the classroom or by engaging intellectually with cultures outside the U.S. or in immigrant communities inside the U.S. This requirement may be satisfied by taking courses or participating in on- and off-campus projects, which are sustained over time. Many SMU Abroad courses satisfy this requirement.
Building on the Quantitative Foundations requirement, students will enhance their mathematical or statistical abilities in activities that require substantial quantitative reasoning.
Students should see their adviser or the Office of the University Curriculum for approved non-credit activities that satisfy P&Es.
University Curriculum Protocols
- Credit earned by examination may be used to fulfill requirements in the Foundations and Breadth categories.
- With the exception of courses that are offered only with pass/fail grading, courses taken to fulfill UC requirements may not be taken pass/fail.
- Following SMU matriculation, students must meet Discernment and Discourse, Quantitative Foundation, Personal Responsibility and Wellness, and Ways of Knowing UC Foundations requirements through SMU coursework.
- PRW1 should be completed during the first 30 hours of undergraduate work.
- A minimum grade of C- is required in all DISC-sequence courses, and students must be enrolled in and may not drop Discernment and Discourse until they have completed the DISC requirement.
- Students may request consideration of a course transferred from another regionally accredited institution. All UC student requests for substitution must include concrete assessment evidence that the proposed alternative course or experience satisfies the specific Student Learning Outcomes associated with the requirement. The request form is then vetted by the student’s academic adviser and reviewed by SMU departments where appropriate before it is submitted to the associate dean for general education or the assistant dean for the University Curriculum for approval consideration. Appeals may be made to the Committee on Academic Petitions.
- Probation and suspension rules related to the Foundations components of the University Curriculum are found under “Academic Progress: University-wide Requirements” in the Academic Records and General and Enrollment Standards section of this catalog.
- SMU faculty, through the Council on General Education, are responsible for determining whether SMU courses meet Foundation, Breadth and Depth requirements.