2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog 
    Apr 21, 2024  
2023-2024 Undergraduate Catalog

Liberal Arts


The core of Emerson College’s mission is to challenge students to think and communicate with clarity, substance, and insight. The requirement for all Emerson students to ground themselves in the liberal arts is to ensure exposure to sufficient curricular breadth and an appropriate range of practical knowledge, as well as strong critical thinking, analytic writing, and verbal skills. Whether for the successful professional or involved citizen, life’s challenges are to a great extent unpredictable and unique. This is all the more true in the world of the 21st century where professionals may change careers more often than their parents changed jobs, and where increasing globalization confronts us with the exciting, but also daunting, challenges of rapid economic and political change. Narrowly conceived recipes for facing these challenges will not work. What is needed instead is a practical instinct born of broad exposure to the liberal arts, grounded in communication skills, and tempered by an orientation toward applications of knowledge in the real world.

Liberal Arts Requirements

Liberal Arts Curriculum and Requirements

All Emerson students complete substantive studies in one field of communication or the arts. This in-depth work is balanced by a Liberal Arts Curriculum, which demands that students pursue breadth and variety in their studies, particularly in the liberal arts. Courses that Emerson students take in the Liberal Arts Curriculum are grouped in three categories. Firstly, in the “Foundations” courses, students receive a solid grounding in critical thinking, writing, and speaking skills as applied to a range of important historical and contemporary topics. Secondly, in the “Perspectives” courses, students are introduced to a variety of liberal arts disciplines beyond their major in service of broadening their knowledge and adaptability. Finally, students may choose from a variety of Liberal Arts minors to enrich their educational experience and complement coursework in their majors.

Goals of the Liberal Arts Curriculum at Emerson College

The Liberal Arts curriculum aims to provide students with a:

  • First-year curriculum that supports the development of core communication (written and oral), information literacy, and critical and creative thinking skills (College Outcomes: Create; Communicate; Critically Think)

  • Foundation in the major Liberal Arts traditions (i.e., arts and humanities, social and behavioral sciences, literature and language, and natural sciences and quantitative reasoning) (College Outcomes: Create; Communicate; Collaborate; Critically Think)

  • Set core of competencies associated with ethical conduct, interdisciplinary analysis, and respect for diversity of experience and opinion (College Outcomes: Communicate; Collaborate; Critically Think; Civically Engage)

  • Sequenced Liberal Arts curriculum that supports and connects to students’ educational experiences in communication and the arts (College Outcomes: Create; Communicate; Collaborate; Critically Think)

Liberal Arts Requirements: The following Liberal Arts Curriculum is required of all students pursuing the following degrees: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Music (offered in association with the Longy School of Music in Cambridge). Twelve credits in the Foundations curriculum (CC 100 , WR 101 , WR 121 ) and forty-eight credits distributed across the Perspectives curriculum are required, unless waivers apply.

I. Foundations

The Foundations curriculum introduces Emerson students to the intellectual life of the academy and its responsibilities to the wider world. Courses cultivate the habits of thought, methods of inquiry, and means of presentation that will enable first-year students to understand and participate in deliberations about the academic, professional, and public issues they will encounter in their undergraduate education and beyond. The Foundations courses have unique and overlapping emphases: the First Year Oral Communication course (CC 100) focuses on the rhetorical arts and skills of communication, with specific attention toward presentational speaking; and First-Year Writing courses (WR 101/121) focus on the rhetoric of inquiry in written and multimodal communication.

Oral Communication (4 credits)

CC 100 - Fundamentals of Speech Communication  is designed to introduce basic concepts, theories, and principles of oral communication applied to speaking situations. The goal is to develop competence in oral communication through performance and critical analysis of student skills in a variety of speaking formats. By the end of the course, successful students will be able to:

  1. Understand, analyze, reflect, and apply communication principles in diverse oral communication speaking situations.

  2. Understand and adapt messages to diverse audiences considering factors such as race; gender; ethnicity; religion; economic, social, and family circumstances; geography; language; age; health disparities; disabilities, etc.

  3. Develop, organize, and deliver informative presentations individually and in small groups.

  4. Develop, organize, and deliver persuasive presentations.

  5. Develop, organize, and deliver impromptu presentations.

  6. Conduct, analyze, and use research to support ideas.

  7. Transfer and apply acquired skills to personal and professional lives in non-presentational situations.

Written Communication (8 credits)

This two-course writing sequence is designed to enable students to write competently and effectively. WR 101  - Introduction to College Writing focuses on cultural analysis that appears in academic work and in the public intellectual sphere. WR 121  - Research Writing explores how rhetorical situations call on writers to do research and how writers draw on various types of writing to present the results of their research.

Emerson’s strategic learning objectives state that our graduates should be ready to create, communicate, collaborate, critically think, and be civically engaged. In alignment with those SLOs, by the end of the semester students will be able to:

  • Understand the principle of discourse variation by examining how different forms of the essay-academic, literary, popular-enable writers to create authorial stances, position themselves in relation to texts, readers, and the wider culture, and come to terms with significant issues through analysis and interpretation.
  • Work with a range of texts to understand how writers negotiate linguistic, cultural, and political differences in a society divided along the lines of class, race, gender, sexuality, language, nationality, and so on. Understand the writer’s responsibility to participate in conversations about diversity and to hold themselves accountable for their position and how it influences the conversation.
  • Identify and work with rhetorical strategies that are typical of the reasoning in academic and intellectual writing, such as putting issues in context, stating propositions, giving reasons, evaluating evidence, justifying assumptions, negotiating differences, and pointing out implications.
  • Recognize that writing is a process by learning to write peer reviews that offer useful suggestions for other students’ work in progress and to design effective revision strategies by reflecting critically on work in progress.

Emerson’s strategic learning objectives state that our graduates should be ready to create, communicate, collaborate, critically think, and be civically engaged. In alignment with those SLOs and WR 101’s commitment to conversations about diversity and an emphasis on negotiating cultural, linguistic, and political differences, by the end of the semester students will be able to:

  • Analyze rhetorical situations in order to identify the type of research needed to establish credibility and the genre best suited to the writer’s aims and the outcome of the research.
  • Analyze research findings in order to determine what discourses are dominant and what voices are marginalized or missing from the conversation.
  • Enhance their repertoire of genres of writing and their rhetorical awareness of the affordances of different genres, as well as use this genre knowledge when they encounter new and unfamiliar writing situations.
  • Develop flexibility as a writer, to understand how writers use research, choose genres, and invent rhetorical stances in academic contexts and in the public sphere.

II. Perspectives

The Perspectives curriculum guarantees that students will discover a variety of liberal arts disciplines beyond their major. Through exposure to the major liberal arts traditions, they emerge with an understanding of the different kinds of questions and methods that each of these knowledge communities engage in, as well as tools to develop critically informed perspectives that are appreciative of diversity and conducive to becoming ethical, informed, and active participants in society. Students are given a great deal of flexibility to choose individual courses that particularly interest or challenge them, and even to build clusters of courses that promise the greatest degree of integration with their major.

Students work closely with an advisor to maximize the educational benefits of the unique combination of courses that they choose to fulfill the requirements. Students are required to complete one or two course(s) in each Perspective, but no more than one course in their major field of study may be used to satisfy the requirements except for the Global and US Diversity Perspectives which can be used to satisfy any other College requirements.

The Perspectives curriculum aims to strengthen students’ ability to:

  • Exercise critical and flexible thinking in engaging primary texts, whether they be readings, data, art works, or visual texts;

  • Recognize an information need and to locate, evaluate, and ethically use that information;

  • Apply relevant concepts, theories, and methods of the particular subject area in analyzing topical issues or contemporary life;

  • Produce written-and, where appropriate, oral and/or visual-analyses of scholarly, creative, and cultural texts using appropriate evidence and documentation.

Aesthetic Perspective (4 credits)

Courses in this perspective foster critical and intellectual engagement with creative works by examining them in historical, aesthetic, philosophical, cultural, and/or sociopolitical contexts, with a concern for contemporary interpretations.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Develop an appreciation for art through a variety of in-depth encounters that may include field trips, comparative exercises, and surveying reactions to art throughout history.

  2. Consider both the functional and theoretical processes of aesthetic endeavors.

  3. Examine how subjective experiences affect respective perceptions of and reactions to a variety of art.

  4. Build verbal and written skills through assignments and readings that investigate aesthetics in practice and theory.

  5. Develop critical faculties in regards to the arts, enhancing their ability to make personal and qualitative judgments of such.

Diversity and Justice (8 credits)

Courses in this perspective emphasize multicultural understanding, global perspectives, and the values of social justice and responsibility as crucial preparation for life and work in the contemporary world. Students may fulfill the Diversity and Justice Perspectives simultaneously with any other requirement. 

Choose from the following, selecting one course from the Global Diversity and Justice listing and one course from the U.S. Diversity and Justice Listing.

Global Diversity and Justice (4 credits)

Global Diversity courses foster global engagement through a critical examination of the multiple perspectives and experiences within diverse cultures and societies in their historical, contemporary, and transnational contexts.Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Critically reflect on one’s place in and knowledge of the world with sources, methodologies, ways of knowing, and voices that have been historically erased or suppressed, while also making the workings of suppression and resistance visible. 

  2. Analyze how economic, geo-political, historical and/or socio-cultural processes inform past and contemporary perspectives and struggles.

  3. Investigate how identities and practices are shaped both on their own terms and through diasporic transnational, regional, cross-geographic and globalized forms of (often unequal) exchange.

US Diversity and Justice (4 credits)

US Diversity courses foster an understanding of the connections between: (1) the multiple voices, experiences, and contributions made by historically underrepresented groups; and (2) economic, cultural, and sociopolitical power and inequality in the United States.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Consider the multiple voices, experiences, and contributions of groups historically underrepresented in the US and the enduring legacies of such underrepresentation.

  2. Examine how systems of oppression and modes of resistance operate at individual and structural levels.

  3. Interrogate the intersections among distinct yet overlapping forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, anti-semitism, and ableism.

Ethics and Values Perspective (4 credits)

Courses in this perspective challenge students to articulate the foundations of their beliefs and judgments, and those of others, by subjecting these value commitments to critical analysis. Critical analysis affords the possibility of making more mature and informed judgments. 

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Identify more clearly assumptions about matters of value.

  2. Increase ability to make reasoned arguments leading to value judgments.

  3. Improve understanding of how value commitments determine the way we see ourselves and the world.

  4. Sharpen ability to identify and critically assess systems of reasoning concerning matters of value.

History and Politics Perspective (4 credits)

Courses in this perspective foster an understanding of the context and content of historical, political, and societal actions and events. This perspective likewise provides students with insights regarding the documenting and study of diverse histories and cultures and the evolution of political systems across time.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Critically examine multiple perspectives and experiences of diverse cultures and societies.

  2. Locate and critically evaluate primary and secondary source material.

  3. Demonstrate an understanding of the importance of context in the analysis of sociopolitical and historical systems, events, and movement.

  4. Describe and apply contemporary theoretical frameworks and methodologies in the analysis of sociopolitical and historical systems, events, and movements.

  5. Recognize the value of social justice and diversity as a democratic and intellectual strength.

Interdisciplinary Perspective (4 credits)

All first-years and all first-year transfer students are required to complete a First-Year Seminar (one 100-level course) in the first year of study at Emerson for their Interdisciplinary Perspective (See First Year Seminar Program for details). Students choose from a variety of IN interdisciplinary course sections and topics that will satisfy this requirement.  Transfer students who are sophomores or above shall complete one IN course at the 200-level or above; IN 498 does not satisfy this requirement. Interdisciplinary courses are listed in the course description section below.

Studies in this perspective challenge students to understand and appraise the role of interdisciplinary knowledge in arts, culture, and/or human affairs by exploring how at least two disciplinary approaches can be brought together to address a topic in a given area.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Recognize the historical and cultural context of different theoretical approaches to the specific topic or subject matter of the course.

  2. Critically engage scholarly, creative, and cultural texts-including primary materials-using a range of modes of representation.

  3. Produce written critical analyses of these texts using appropriate evidence and documentation.

Literary Perspective (4 credits)

Courses in this perspective foster a critical, intellectual, and emotional engagement with literature that stimulates reflection on how literary texts use language to communicate about fundamental human concerns.

Scientific Perspective (4 credits)

In this perspective, students explore existing knowledge in particular natural or physical domains, experience science as an approach to acquiring more reliable knowledge of the natural world, and identify how science pertains to their own lives.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Identify and explain the key information that comprises the content of the course.

  2. Critically evaluate scientific information and apply the scientific method.

  3. Accurately communicate scientific information in a way that reflects understanding of the impact and relevance of science in our daily lives.

Social and Psychological Perspective (4 credits)

Courses in this perspective examine the social and/or psychological process and mechanisms that influence human behavior. Students will learn to appreciate that people’s actions and thoughts reflect factors intrinsic to the person (such as personality, values, and motives) as well as social influences inherent in situations, groups, institutions, communities, and societies.

Student Learning Outcomes:

  1. Compare and contrast individual- and social-level determinants of human behavior using a depth of knowledge regarding theoretical foundations of how human behaviors and thoughts reflect personal as well as social and cultural influences.

  2. Explain and apply the empirical evidence underlying the theoretical frameworks that form the foundations of the specific field of study.

  3. Consider the relationships between theoretical foundations and real-world applications including the ability to apply their knowledge of human behavior to understand themselves and others.

Quantitative Reasoning Perspective (4 credits)

Courses in this perspective challenge students to reason logically to conclusions; read mathematics with understanding and communicate mathematical ideas with clarity and coherence; calculate mathematical equations with the appropriate methods and formula; and use mathematics and statistics to solve practical, real-world problems.

Student Learning Outcomes:

1.      Reason logically to conclusions.

2.      Read mathematics with understanding.

3.      Communicate mathematical ideas with clarity and coherence.

4.      Calculate mathematical equations with the appropriate methods and formulas.

5.      Use mathematics and statistics to solve practical, real-world problems.

Students who earn an SAT math score of 560 or above, an ACT math score of 24 or above, or who complete four years of high school math with grades of C or better will have this requirement waived.

World Languages Perspective (8 credits)

Courses in this perspective teach students to express themselves in the target language using a range of lexical items and grammatical constructions, demonstrate a growing ability to comprehend information and ideas as well as a variety of textual productions, and obtain an appreciation and understanding of the culture affiliated with the target language.

Students must demonstrate qualification (i.e., the completion of an Elementary II-level course) in a single foreign language or in American Sign Language. Bilingual students or students who complete three years of high school study in any one foreign language will have the World Languages requirement waived.

Emerson College Course Offerings (4 credits each)

Global Pathways Program: France (8 credits):

This summer education abroad program provides students with an immersive experience in French language and culture, set in the idyllic Provencal town of Aix-en-Provence, France. Students have the opportunity to pursue any level of French instruction at the beginner or intermediate levels at the international school IS-Aix. Depending on the level taken, students will receive 4 credits for either LF 101 , LF 102 , LF 201 , or LF 202  (Pass/Fail only). Students live with French families and take a 4-credit companion course, CC 290 - Communication and Cultural Immersion: Paris, France . Additional summer tuition.

Modern Language Studies Abroad (MLSA) (4 credits): In partnership with MLSA, Emerson students have the opportunity for summer study in Spanish at the beginner or intermediate levels in either Costa Rica or Madrid. Depending on the level taken, students will receive credit for either LS 101 , LS 102 , LS 201 , or LS 202 . Additional summer tuition.

Kasteel Well Foreign Language Instruction (0 or 4 credits): LF 101 - Elementary French I  is offered for credit every semester as part of the Emerson tuition. In partnership with the language school of the University of Nijmegen (Radboud), the Emerson European Center at Kasteel Well offers Castle students the opportunity to take non-credit bearing courses, for a fee, in Italian (beginning) and Spanish (beginning and intermediate).

Emerson LA Course- LS 205 - Spanish in the Workplace  in the Workplace (4 credits): Interested students studying for a semester at Emerson LA have the opportunity to take LS 205 - Spanish in the Workplace  in the Workplace as part of the Emerson tuition.

ProArts Consortium (3 credits): Through cross-registration with partner institutions in the ProArts Consortium, students can register, as part of the Emerson tuition, for the following foreign language courses offered at the beginner and intermediate levels (depending upon availability):

Berklee College of Music: French, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish

New England Conservatory: French, German, Italian

Emerson International Institutional Agreements: A variety of opportunities for language study are available through institutional partnerships around the world developed by Emerson’s Office of Internationalization and Global Engagement (IGE). Students enroll in a full-time course load, including the language study, as part of the Emerson tuition.

Non-credit Bearing Courses:

Blanquerna University-Ramon Llull in Spain offers free Catalan and Spanish courses to all international exchange students. These courses also offer ECTS credits (2 ECTS for each course and each semester of matriculation).

III. Liberal Arts Minors

While not a requirement, study for a minor is an exciting way for students to enrich their educational experience and complement coursework in their majors. Students who declare a minor will be afforded opportunities for increasingly more challenging and sophisticated work in the chosen disciplinary or interdisciplinary field. They will receive formal recognition for study in the minor on their transcript. Each Liberal Arts minor consists of four or five courses (16-20 credits) and requires completion of core and elective courses from a list of specified options.

Students may declare one or more of the following Liberal Arts minors. A description of the minors may be found below and course descriptions for non-Institute minors may be found in the hosting department indicated.

African American and Africana Studies
Art History (Department of Visual and Media Arts)
Digital Media and Culture
Environmental Studies
Global and Postcolonial Studies
Health and Society
Latin American and Latinx Studies
Literature (Department of Writing, Literature and Publishing)
Music History and Culture (Department of Performing Arts)
Peace and Social Justice
Political Science
Psychoanalysis as Cultural Criticism
Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies