Bard College Student Handbook

Learning at Bard

The liberal arts and progressive curricular traditions coexist in the Bard education, uniting the goals of both the generalist and the specialist in a program of study that has made Bard a place of innovation in higher education and a force for the rebirth of intellectual thought in public life. The liberal arts tradition is evident in the First-Year Seminar and in elective general courses that ground students in the essentials of inquiry and analysis and present a serious encounter with the world of ideas. The progressive tradition runs through Bard’s tutorial system and interdisciplinary curriculum, emphasizing independent and creative thought and the skills required to express that thought with power and effect.

With a characteristic readiness to innovate, Bard continually rethinks its curriculum. Recent curricular changes have included new programs of study in the Experimental Humanities and in Environmental and Urban Studies; a greater emphasis on laboratory science and quantitative methodologies for the nonscientist; an expanded literature requirement that combines general knowledge with study of specific genres, periods, and writers; and concentrations in several interdivisional areas and in period, multiethnic, and human rights studies. An intensive-immersion language program allows students to gain fluency in a language through a semester of intensive study at Bard combined with study abroad. The program includes Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish. Bard has also developed an innovative cross-disciplinary language program that incorporates upper-level foreign language education into course work and tutorials in other fields.

The College enhances the undergraduate experience with compatible intellectual and artistic ventures that contribute to the larger public and cultural life of the nation. Bard’s network institutions and graduate programs expand undergraduate students’ opportunities to work with leading scholars and artists and lead to the integration of new areas of study. For example, in New York City Bard undergraduates are offered specialized study with leading experts in international affairs in the Bard Program on Globalization and International Affairs or, through the Bard Rockefeller Semester in Science, the opportunity to do graduate school–level research in the internationally distinguished laboratories of The Rockefeller University. Bard’s network model, unique in the field of higher education, equips students to play active, engaged roles not only for the sake of personal goals, but also in order to address the larger issues that face humanity in our time.

Education is a safeguard against the disappearance of liberty, but only if it invites rigorous scrutiny and open discussion of issues. The liberal arts and sciences, by strengthening free inquiry, build and protect the freedom to question old models, preserve the past, and initiate change. Through four years of study of a broad range of areas and a specific field of concentration, Bard students learn to utilize, criticize, and expand knowledge and skills. In doing so they discover that education is not preparation for life, but a lifelong enterprise in itself.