Bard College Catalogue

The Bard College Catalogue contains detailed descriptions of the College's undergraduate programs and courses, curriculum, admission and financial aid procedures, student activities and services, history, campus facilities, affiliated institutions including graduate programs, and faculty and administration.

Bard College Catalogue 2017-18

Bard College Catalogue 2017-18

The Curriculum

The undergraduate curriculum creates a flexible system of courses that gives ­coherence, breadth, and depth to the four years of study and helps students become knowledgeable across academic boundaries and able to think critically within a ­discipline or mode of thought. 
The pillars of the Bard education are the structure of the first year, including First-Year Seminar; the program- and concentration-based approach to study; Moderation; the concept of distribution by modes of thought; and the Senior Project. Students move from the Lower College (first and second years), which focuses on general education and introduces the content and methodology of the academic and artistic areas in which students may specialize, to the Upper College (third and fourth years), which involves advanced study of particular subjects and more independent work.

Structure of the First Year

All first-year students participate in a common curriculum—the Language and Thinking Program, First-Year Seminar: The Common Course, Citizen Science—and take elective courses.
  • The Language and Thinking Program is an intensive introduction to the liberal arts and sciences with a particular focus on writing. It is attended by all incoming Bard students during the last three weeks of August. Students read extensively, work on a variety of writing and other projects, and meet throughout the day in small groups and in one-on-one conferences with faculty. The work aims to -cultivate habits of thoughtful reading and discussion, clear articulation, accurate self-critique, and productive -collaboration. Satisfactory completion of the program is required. Students failing to meet this requirement will be asked to take one year’s academic leave.

  • The First-Year Seminar: “What Is Freedom? Dialogues Ancient and Modern” To raise the question “What is freedom?” could hardly be more necessary today. Why have so many people in so many times and places identified freedom as a self-evident value, yet excluded many around them from its benefits? How have different civilizations defined freedom at different times? What does freedom mean in a democracy, an empire, a totalitarian regime? How do we understand the difference between “freedom to” and “freedom from,” between rights and responsibilities? These are just some of the questions addressed in the First-Year Seminar. In the fall semester, we ask: “What is political freedom?” Texts include works by thinkers such as Plato, Gandhi, and Hannah Arendt. In the spring, we consider “What is personal freedom?” in the company of authors such as Aristotle, James Joyce, and Malcolm X. By studying these texts, discussing their ideas in small seminars, and writing critical papers on them, students establish a foundation for their learning experience at the College and acquire a shared basis for conversation with fellow students, faculty members, and the world beyond.

  • Citizen Science, a two-and-a-half-week program that takes place during the January intersession, seeks to promote scientific literacy and introduce first-year students to methods of evaluating scientific evidence. Students are challenged to engage with the complexities of scientific inquiry and its complicated relationship to society. Teaching occurs in three distinct classroom modules: laboratory experimentation, computer-based strategies, and problem-based learning. In recent years the program has focused on the critical theme of -infectious disease and the impact that infectious disease outbreaks and subsequent management can have on global society. Satisfactory completion of the program is required for graduation from the College.

  • Under the First-Year Advising system, all students are assigned an academic adviser, with whom they meet at strategic points during each semester: before registration; two weeks into the semester, when course selection is final; shortly before midterm; two weeks after midterm; and just prior to registration for the next semester. The advising system is intended to help students begin the process of selecting a program in which to major, meet the requirements of that program, prepare for professional study or other activities outside of or after college, and satisfy other interests.

  • First-Year Electives allow students to explore fields in which they know they are interested and to experiment with unfamiliar areas of study. Students select three elective courses in each semester of the first year (the fourth course is the First-Year Seminar).

Program and Concentration Approach to Study

A liberal arts education offers students both breadth and depth of learning. At Bard, the primary sources of breadth are the First-Year Seminar and the distribution requirements. The primary source of depth is the requirement that each student major in a stand-alone academic program, possibly in conjunction with a non-stand-alone­ field of study, or concentration, or with another program in a joint major.

A program is a sequenced course of study designed by faculty (and sometimes by students in conjunction with faculty) to focus on a particular area of knowledge or a ­particular approach to an area. The course of study begins at the introductory level and moves in progressive stages toward the development of the ability to think and/or create, innovatively and reflectively, by means of the formal structures that the discipline provides. A concentration is a cluster of related courses on a clearly defined topic. A student may moderate into a concentration, but only in tandem with his or her moderation into a program.
With a curriculum based on programs rather than more traditionally defined departments, the faculty are encouraged to rethink boundaries between divisions and ­disciplines and to examine the content of their courses in terms of how the courses interact with one another. This more flexible framework allows students to create interdisciplinary plans of study. Many programs and concentrations, such as Asian Studies and Human Rights, are interdisciplinary in nature and can take advantage of the faculty and offerings of the entire College. For example, the Asian Studies Program may draw from courses in history, literature, art history, and economics.

The requirements for Moderation and graduation differ from program to program and are summarized in the individual descriptions that appear in this catalogue. All students must declare a major in a program in order to moderate from the Lower College to the Upper College and become a candidate for the bachelor of arts degree. A student who decides to pursue a double major—say, physics and philosophy—must satisfy the requirements of both programs and complete two Senior Projects. A student who pursues a joint major moderates into two programs, ideally in a joint Moderation, and completes course requirements for both programs and a single, unified Senior Project. A student who pursues study in a concentration must also moderate into a program, fulfill all course requirements, and produce a Senior Project that combines the interdisciplinary theories and methods of the concentration with the disciplinary theories and methods of the program.


Moderation is undertaken in the second semester of the sophomore year. Through this process students make the transition from the Lower College to the Upper College and establish their major in a program. (Transfer students entering with the equivalent of two full years of credit should, if possible, moderate during the first semester of residence, but in no case later than the second.) Students prepare two Moderation papers, the first assessing their curriculum, performance, and experience in the first two years, and the second identifying their goals and proposed study plan for the final two years. All students also submit a sample of work they have done in the program—for example, a long paper written for a course. The work is reviewed by a board of three faculty members, who evaluate the student’s past performance, commitment, and preparedness in the field; make suggestions for the transition from the Lower to the Upper College; and approve, deny, or defer promotion of the student to the Upper College.

Distribution Requirements

The distribution requirements at Bard are a formal statement of the College’s desire to achieve an equilibrium between breadth and depth, between communication across disciplinary boundaries and rigor within a mode of thought. In order to introduce the student to a variety of intellectual and artistic experiences and to foster encounters with faculty members trained in a broad range of disciplines, each student is required to take one course in each of the 10 categories listed below. No more than two requirements may be fulfilled within a single disciplinary program. High school Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses may not be used to satisfy the requirements. Non-native speakers of English are exempted from the Foreign Language, Literature, and Culture requirement.
  • Practicing Arts (PA): The Practicing Arts requirement emphasizes making or performing as an educational process. Courses develop students’ creative and imaginative faculties by focusing upon a set of artistic skills or working methods. Fields of study include dance, theater, music performance and composition, film production, creative writing, and the visual arts. Students learn through experiential practices in order to cultivate the self as a primary agent of expression, cultural reflection, and creativity.
  • Analysis of Art (AA): The Analysis of Art requirement teaches students to interpret both the form and content of creative works, including visual and performing arts. The requirement further aims to help students understand how works of visual art, music, film, theater, and dance shape, or are shaped by, social, political, and historical circumstances and contexts.
  • Meaning, Being, and Value (MBV): This distribution area addresses how humans conceptualize the nature of knowledge and belief, construct systems of value, and interpret the nature of what is real. Such courses may also focus on questions pertaining to the human moral condition, human society and culture, and humanity’s place in the cosmos, or on the ways in which civilizations have dealt with those questions. All MBV courses pay special attention to analysis and interpretation of texts and practices, and seek to cultivate skills of argument development and the open-minded consideration of counterargument.
  • Historical Analysis (HA): A course focused on analysis of change over time in society, or the distinctiveness of a past era, using written or physical evidence. The course should alert students to the differences and similarities of contemporary experience from past modes of life, as well as suggest that present categories of experience are themselves shaped historically and can be analyzed by imaginatively investigating past institutions, texts, and worldviews.
  • Social Analysis (SA): Courses in this area approach the study of people and society at a variety of levels of analysis ranging from the individual to large social institutions and structures. Consideration is given to how people relate to and are shaped by social structures, divisions, and groups, such as politics, economics, family, and culture, as well as their past experiences and immediate situations. The goal of this requirement is to understand one’s own or others’ place within a wider social world, and thus these courses are central to discussions about citizenship, ethics, and the possibilities and limits of social change.
  • Laboratory Science (LS): In courses satisfying the LS requirement, students actively participate in data collection and analysis using technology and methodology appropriate to the particular field of study. Students develop analytical, modeling, and quantitative skills in the process of comparing theory and data, as well as an understanding of statistical and other uncertainties in the process of constructing and interpreting scientific evidence.
  • Mathematics and Computing (MC): Courses satisfying this requirement challenge students to model and reason about the world logically and quantitatively, explicitly grappling with ambiguity and precision. Students learn and practice discipline-specific techniques and, in doing so, represent and communicate ideas through mathematical arguments, computer programs, or data analysis.
  • Foreign Languages and Literatures (FL): The study of another language involves not just the process of internalizing new linguistic forms but also attention to the various cultural manifestations of that language. The goal of this requirement is to gain a critical appreciation of non-Anglophone languages and to question the assumption of an underlying uniformity across cultures and literary traditions. To satisfy this requirement, students may take any course in a foreign language, in a foreign literature, or in the theory and practice of translation.
  • Literary Analysis in English (LA): What distinguishes poetry, fiction, or drama from other kinds of discourse? These courses investigate the relationship between form and content, inviting students to explore not only the “what” or “why” of literary representation but also the “how.” The goal is to engage critically the multiple ways in which language shapes thought and makes meaning by considering the cultural, historical, and formal dimensions of literary texts.
  • Difference and Justice (DJ): Courses fulfilling this requirement have a primary focus on the study of difference in the context of larger social dynamics such as globalization, nationalism, and social justice. They address differences that may include but are not limited to ability/disability, age, body size, citizenship status, class, color, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, geography, nationality, political affiliation, religion, race, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background, and engage critically with issues of difference, diversity, inequality, and inclusivity.

Senior Project

The Senior Project is an original, individual, focused project growing out of the student’s cumulative academic experiences. Students have great flexibility in choosing the form of their project. For example, a social studies project might be a research project, a close textual analysis, a report of findings from fieldwork, or a photographic essay, while a science project might be a report on original experiments, an analysis of published research findings, or a contribution to theory. Preparation for the Senior Project begins in the junior year. Students consult with advisers, and pursue course work, tutorials, and seminars directed toward selecting a topic, choosing the form of the project, and becoming competent in the analytical and research methods required by the topic and form. Students in some programs design a Major Conference during their junior year, which may take the form of a seminar, tutorial, studio work, or field or laboratory work. One course each semester of the ­student’s final year is devoted to completing the Senior Project. The student submits the completed project to a board of three professors, who conduct a Senior Project Review. Written projects are filed in the library’s archives; select papers are available at Digital Commons, an online collection of scholarly work generated by the Bard community (

Academic Courses

Undergraduate courses are described in this catalogue under the four divisional headings and the interdivisional programs and concentrations heading. Courses that are required by, recommended for, or related to another program are cross-listed in the course descriptions. For example, Art History 286, El Greco to Goya, is cross-listed as a course in Latin American and Iberian Studies.

Courses numbered 100 through 199 are primarily, though not exclusively, for first-year students; 200-level courses are primarily for Lower College students; and 300- and 400-level courses are designed for Upper College students. Every semester, approximately 675 courses are offered as seminars, studio courses, lectures, tutorials, Senior Projects, and independent studies. The average class size is 16 in the Lower College and 12 in the Upper College.

Most courses in the Lower College meet twice weekly for 80 minutes each session, although instructors may vary the length and frequency of meetings according to their estimation of a class’s needs. Many seminars in the Upper College meet once a week for two hours and 20 minutes. Laboratory courses usually meet three times a week (two seminars or lectures and a laboratory session). Intro­ductory language courses customarily have four one-hour sessions each week, intensive language courses have five two-hour sessions, and immersion language courses have five three-hour sessions each week. Most tutorials meet once a week for one hour.
All courses carry 4 credits unless otherwise noted. There are several 2-credit seminars and intensive language courses carry 8 credits. A normal course load is 16 credits each semester. To register for more than 18 credits, a student must be certified by the registrar’s office as having had a 3.6 ­average or higher in the preceding semester and cumulatively. Exceptions must be approved by the dean of studies.