Bard College Student Handbook

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.