An Overview of the Foundations Curriculum

An Overview of the Foundations Curriculum

A key component of a liberal arts education is a flexible and unique curriculum. Here at Barnard, our curriculum is called Foundations. Fun fact: my class (the Class of 2020) will be the first class to graduate under this curriculum. Foundations provides the structure that guides our academic time here at Barnard: we have the freedom to choose the classes we want to take, but we also have requirements to ensure that we are exploring different areas and challenging ourselves. The requirements are then, at the same time, rigorous and flexible. Foundations is divided into three parts: the First Year Experience, the Distributional Requirements and the Modes of Thinking.

During your first year, you will take two courses that provide invalubale skills for the next three years of college. In First-Year Writing, you will learn how to craft effective writing and to speak persuasively. In First-Year Seminar, you will learn how to read college level texts and how to productively discuss them in a group setting. Both of these classes are capped at 16 Barnard students and are roundtable discussions, so you will have a seminar experience immediately. Although every first-year student will take these classes, they are taught within different disciplines (to clarify: each course is structured the same, but you get to choose which one sounds the most interesting to you). The professors who teach these courses come from different academic departments of Barnard and are often some of the most “famous” and beloved professors here! Lastly, you will also take either a PE or dance class during your first year.

The second component of Foundations is the Distributional Requirements. These courses are pretty typical of any liberal arts curriculum. To fulfill these you will need to take: 2 semesters of science (including 1 lab), 2 semesters of arts/humanities, 2 semesters of a language and 2 semesters of social sciences. It is possible to “double-count” classes, meaning one class could fulfill up to two requirements. This allows students to explore new subject areas and step outside their comfort zone, but also still be taking courses they’re truly interested in and/or courses that will fulfill their major requirements. As a rising junior, I only have two requirements left to fulfill outside of my major!

The last component of Foundations is quintessential Barnard: The Modes of Thinking. There are six Modes of Thinking: Historically, Locally, Social Difference, Quantitatively, Technologically and Globally. These courses challenge you to view the world through different lenses. For Thinking Locally, you have to take a class about New York. Options include: Dance in NYC, The Environment of the Hudson, The History of Harlem, and Governing NYC. Thinking Technologically sets Barnard apart as one of the only colleges in the nation to have a technology requirement. Barnard recognizes that women are far too underrepresented in the tech world, so it is imperative for us to have experience with technology in an academic setting. But don’t worry, you won’t have to take something intensive like Computer Science! I took a class in the Political Science department that covered with technology within the social sciences.

Choosing a college is a tough. There are so many factors that play into a student's decision, but I strongly believe that choosing a school with a curriculum that's right for you is essential. Here at Barnard, we understand that while it is important to push students to think outside of their comfort zone, it is also important to let students explore their own passions. Foundations is unique in the sense that it encourages students to challenge themselves and to take classes in multiple areas, while still recognizing that you are in charge of your college career and should be able to shape it in the way that is best for you.

- Pilar Ferreira '20

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