(While the statement that follows reflects graduation requirements prior to changes made in distribution requirements in effect for the class entering in 2012, the relationship of graduation requirements to the College's Statement of Purpose remains an underlying principle. Note, as well, that the changes effective in 2012 apply to distribution requirements -- not to the other graduation requirements.)
The graduation requirements for Davidson College are meant to reflect our ambitions for students, as explained within our Statement of Purpose: “As a liberal arts college, Davidson emphasizes those studies, disciplines, and activities that are mentally, spiritually, and physically liberating…. While Davidson prepares many of its students for graduate and professional study, it intends to teach all students to think clearly, to make relevant and valid judgments, to discriminate among values, and to communicate freely with others in the realm of ideas.” The specific graduation requirements are aimed at promoting both breadth and depth within the Davidson academic experience.
1. Thirty-two courses
Like other schools of its type, quality, and rigor, Davidson expects students normally to study four courses per semester, resulting in a 32-course graduation requirement.
2. Composition (Writing) requirement
The faculty believe that all students, regardless of eventual major or professional interest, should learn the techniques and value of effective writing and communication. To that end, each student in the first year must pass a Davidson course designated as writing intensive, in which critical thinking, writing techniques, and the integrity of scholarship are emphasized. Given the importance of good writing in all disciplines, the Writing Program includes courses with diverse topics, including courses that are part of the Humanities Program, but all focus sharply and principally on the skills of writing and communication.
3. Foreign Language requirement
With only a minority of the world’s population having English as a native language, the College believes that all students should have command of a second language. Our third-semester foreign language requirement is aimed at having students reach an acceptable intermediate proficiency in a second language. Concurrently, the courses pursued toward this goal will introduce students to the cultures and heritages of those countries in which the language is spoken.
4. Cultural Diversity requirement
The cultural diversity requirement is aimed at having students appreciate a culture other than the dominant cultures of the United States or Europe. Each student must take a course designated by the faculty as having a significant component or focus directed at the cultural experience of a group differing from that of the dominant culture of the United States or Europe.
5. Physical Education
The physical education requirement is aimed at promoting healthy and appropriate life-style choices for students. Also, the PE 101 (or Davidson 101) class introduces students to issues of sexuality, diversity, alcohol and drugs, and campus resources.
6. Distribution requirements (for Class of 2015 and earlier -- those entering before 2012):
A. Literature (1 course)
B. Fine Arts (1 course)
C. History (1 course)
D. Religion and Philosophy (2 courses, with at least one Religion)
E. Natural Science and Mathematics (3 courses, with lab science and mathematics included)
F. Social Sciences (2 courses)
Generally tied to academic departments, the distribution requirements introduce a Davidson student to the challenge and excitement of different academic areas and disciplines (literature, fine arts, history, religion and philosophy, natural sciences and mathematics, and social sciences); contribute to an understanding of different methods of intellectual inquiry; encourage multi-dimensional approaches to issues and problem-solving; and often lead to a choice of major and other academic opportunities.
Specific distribution requirements include:
A. Literature: Literature gives us the opportunity to explore imagined worlds and thus enrich our own. The requirement in literature exposes students to such worlds created artfully in language, whether English or other.
B. Fine Arts: The fine and performing arts are an essential component of human life, expressing ideas and sentiments that are difficult if not impossible to put into words. All students must take one course in which they may create, perform, or think and write critically in the arts.
C. History: Understanding the varieties and evolution of past human experience is vital for any liberally educated person; additionally, this requirement contributes to students' understanding of the methods historians employ in the study of past human events and cultures.
D. Religion and Philosophy: It is important that students develop humane instincts, form a principled ethical system, confront some of the foundational questions of human existence, and understand the effect religious and philosophical ideas have on the human experience. The faculty therefore requires students to take two courses in religion or philosophy. Given the heritage of the College, at least one of these courses must be in religion.
E. Natural Science and Mathematics: Expressive of the ancient, human quest for rationality, mathematics lies at the foundation of the advances in science and technology affecting our society. The study of mathematical reasoning enables students to appreciate its broad scope and penetrating techniques. Thus, a course in mathematics is required. Society increasingly depends on science and technology; therefore, students should learn how to ask scientific questions that can be answered through experimentation in the laboratory or in the field. Furthermore, science education research has shown that many students understand scientific principles best when studied in a hands-on environment. Thus, a laboratory science course is required. A third course in Natural Science and Mathematics is also required.
F. Social Sciences: Students should have an understanding of the domestic and international economic, political, and social problems that confront humankind. The study of the social sciences introduces students to these problems, to their analysis, and to the resolutions that these disciplines offer.
7. Major (with a minimum GPA of a 2.0 in the major) The faculty believe that each student should engage in the in-depth study of one academic area. While most students will have a discipline-specific major, students may design a focused interdisciplinary major through the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies.
8. To graduate, the student must also be of good character and conduct, as certified by the Dean of Students, and discharge all college financial obligations to the satisfaction of the Controller.