General Education

General Education Requirements for the Class of 2023 and beyond


1. One Concentration

In addition to the major, students successfully complete coursework in a second area of study, whether a General Education Concentration (GEC), a minor, or a second major.

A GEC consists of four courses chosen from a faculty-designed menu that is structured around a clearly articulated organizing principle. GECs are of two basic types: a) concentrations focusing on a particular issue or topic or area of inquiry identified by self-constituted groups of faculty in different disciplines; b) concentrations within a single discipline. Some GECs also include relevant co-curricular experiences such as significant community service, musical ensembles, summer research, or volunteer work that may be used in lieu of a course toward fulfillment of the concentration. Most co-curricular experiences, though counting toward a concentration, may not be counted toward the total credits needed for graduation. Some GECs allow or even encourage the use of one or two non-Bates courses, including courses taken abroad, if they are pre-approved by the GEC coordinator.

Regardless of how a student satisfies the requirement to have a second area of study, whether by completing a GEC, minor, or a second major, the name of the second area of study appears on the student’s transcript and is a permanent part of the student’s academic record.

Note: Requirements in both the major and the second area of study may be simultaneously satisfied by individual courses without restriction. However, some GECs, minors, and second majors are unavailable to students pursuing certain majors if the coursework is deemed too similar. Any such exclusions are detailed in the descriptions of majors, minors, and GECs in the college catalog.


2. Three Writing-Attentive Courses or Units

Students successfully complete three writing-attentive courses, one in their first-year [W1], one taken in the sophomore or junior year at the second level [W2], and one in their senior year at the third level [W3]. First-level courses [W1] are typically first-year seminars. The third-level writing-attentive requirement [W3] is usually fulfilled by completing a senior thesis. When appropriate, writing-attentive courses may also be used to fulfill any other degree requirements at Bates (major, minor, concentration, modes of inquiry).


3. Modes of Inquiry

To acknowledge the importance of the entire scope of the liberal arts and to ensure additional breadth of education beyond the major and the second area of study, students successfully complete five courses with distinct approaches to scholarly inquiry.

Courses that satisfy these requirements, which are labeled as such in the college catalog, significantly engage students with the particular mode of inquiry. In addition to providing opportunities for students to develop facility with the mode of inquiry, instructors may encourage students to critically evaluate the values, strengths, and limits of mode-specific methodology. Students can then reflect on the epistemological differences between varied approaches to constructing knowledge.

Analysis and Critique [AC]

What is it? This mode examines cultural products and processes to consider how and why meaning is created and contested, arguments are constructed, art is produced, and values are established.

What do students learn? Courses with this designation help students understand how forms of representation create and communicate meaning as they explore the workings of language, rhetoric, informal reasoning, and systems of belief. Students analyze, for example, aesthetic patterns, artistic traditions, philosophical argumentation, and rhetorical strategies to acquire the critical skills to identify and investigate the complex dynamics, norms, beliefs, and agencies at play within cultural products and processes.

Creative Process and Production [CP]

What is it? This mode provides the skills requisite for the creation and production process and experiments with ways to express, test, and/or give form to ideas.

What do students learn? Whether making art, composing music, writing creatively, producing film, envisioning the world in a new language, or performing in various ways, courses with this designation enable students to engage with and develop their ideas and imagination. Students enter into a dialogue with past and current practices, reexamining them and gaining an understanding of the fields from a maker’s, experimenter’s, or performer’s point of view.

Historical and Social Inquiry [HS]

What is it? This mode of inquiry explores the history and complexity of the individual, human societies, and social interaction, from the intimate to the global, across time and space.

What do students learn? Courses with this designation pay attention to the diverse tools scholars use to examine systematically the way in which humans experience, construct, and behave within the social worlds they inhabit, around the world and across the millennia. They often consider how social structures define and distribute wealth, power, and status among different human populations. As students investigate the bidirectional relationships between individuals and groups, groups and societies, and societies and nations, they note how contextual variables at each level of analysis influence how people understand themselves and others and foster an empathetic understanding of the human condition.

Scientific Reasoning [SR]

What is it? Scientific reasoning is an iterative process that uses empirical observations to develop and test theories about the natural world.

What do students learn? Courses with this designation teach students the utility of scientific reasoning when developing explanatory models that unify a broad range of systematic observations. Students explore the process of testing hypotheses and theories by comparing predictions to observations. Through activities that may include gathering, analyzing, and interpreting empirical measurements, students learn the value of reliable data for drawing scientific conclusions.

Quantitative and Formal Reasoning [QF]

What is it? Quantitative reasoning is the application of basic mathematics and statistics to interpret data, draw conclusions, and solve real-world problems. Formal reasoning involves developing, understanding, and manipulating symbols based on an explicit set of rules.

What do students learn? Courses with this designation sharpen students’ facility with numerical, logic, and other symbolic systems. By applying basic mathematics and analysis tools (e.g., graphing, simple statistics), students learn to extract meaning from real-world data. Experience with formal systems such as logic, computer programming, and mathematical proofs hones students’ ability to make valid deductions in abstract contexts and sound judgments in everyday life. Learning how and when to engage explicit rules for decision-making will enable students to formulate and assess quantitative arguments and logical constructions.

No double-dipping is allowed among AC, CP, HS, SR, and QF courses; these requirements must be met by five distinct courses. If an individual course is designated by two different modes of inquiry, the student may elect one mode or the other, but not both simultaneously. However, students may apply a total of up to two courses from the combined major and the second area of study toward fulfilling the mode of inquiry requirements.  Consequently, students must fulfill at least three modes of inquiry from courses outside the major and the second area of study.  Non-Bates courses can be applied to the Modes of Inquiry requirements if they are determined to be equivalent to a Bates course that is tagged with mode designations.