The Structure of the First Year
All first-year students participate in a common curriculum—the Language and Thinking Program, First-Year Seminar, Citizen Science, and first-year advising—and also take elective courses.
Language and Thinking Program
First-year students arrive in August. They spend three weeks reading extensively in several genres, working on different writing projects, and meeting in small, dynamic discussion groups with the aim of learning to read and listen more thoughtfully, articulate ideas more clearly, and review their own work critically.
First-year seminar is a two-semester course that presents seminal intellectual, cultural, and artistic ideas in the context of a historical tradition. Class discussions and frequent writing assignments develop precise, analytical thinking. Core texts address a specific theme for the year; recent themes include “Quaestio mihi factus sum
: Self and Society in the Liberal Arts” and “What Is Enlightenment? The Science, Culture, and Politics of Reason.”
First-year students return to Bard in January for a first-of-its-kind course that focuses on a specific scientific issue—infectious disease, for example—and looks at it from different methodological and conceptual approaches. This technique leads to an understanding of the impact of science and mathematics on everyday life and how Bard students, regardless of major, can become constructive participants in the debate over and solutions to crucial global problems.
All first-year students are assigned an academic adviser, with whom they meet at strategic points during each semester. The advising system helps students begin the process of selecting a program in which to major, meeting the requirements of that program, preparing for professional study or other activities outside of or after college, and satisfying other interests.
Electives allow students to explore fields of interest and 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).