Friday, June 30, 2017

A Student Perspective on Foundations


As you’re planning courses and trying to figure out what classes to take, it’s good to keep in mind Barnard’s core curriculum, or Foundations. Foundations is a relatively new curriculum and began for students entering the Fall of 2016 or later. Often, you’ll hear that Foundations is designed to give both breadth and depth to the subjects, in addition to helping students explore new areas of study. There’s three main components of Foundations: First Year Experience, Distributional Requirements, and Modes of Thinking.

First Year Experience (FYE):
We’ve talked about your FYE A LOT already, but we’ll briefly go through it again really quick. FYE is made up of three course: P.E., First Year Writing, and First Year Seminar. All these courses must be taken during your first year at Barnard. For more info on First Year Seminar and First Year Writing, check out the blog post here.

Distributional Requirements:
Distributional Requirements are the different areas of study you have to take classes in at Barnard. They’re pretty general and cover a wide variety of subjects, so there’s a lot of classes you can take to fulfill them. There’s 4 areas of Distributional Requirements: Language, Arts/Humanities, Social Sciences, and Science. You need to take at least 2 classes that fall under each of these categories, so 2 semesters of the same language, 2 arts/humanities, 2 social sciences, and 2 science courses (with a lab science).

In my opinion, it should really say that you need 3 science courses, because you take 2 lecture courses and 1 lab course. The lab and lecture usually go together, that is, one of the lecture courses you take must have a lab component. This probably sounds a little confusing so I’ll give you an example of courses you could take to fulfill the science Distributional Requirement. Let’s say fall semester of your first-year you take Introduction to Psychology. Great, you have one lecture done. Then fall semester of your sophomore year you take Biology 1500 - Introduction to Organismal and Evolutionary Biology Lecture and Biology 1501- Introductory Lab to Organismal and Evolutionary Biology. You’ve completed a second science lecture and one science lab. With two science lectures and one science lab under your belt, you’re done with the Science Distributional Requirement. Keep in mind that if you’re majoring in a subject like biology or psychology or on the pre-medical track, you’ll need to complete additional science labs and lectures.

Modes of Thinking:
Modes of Thinking are the lenses through which you view a course’s material. There’s 6 Modes of Thinking: Thinking Locally about New York City, Thinking with Historical Perspective, Thinking through Global Inquiry, Thinking about Social Difference, Thinking Quantitatively and Empirically, and Thinking Technologically and Digitally. You know how your English teacher said something like “a book can have many different interpretations”? That’s how I understand the intention behind the Modes of Thinking. Course materials and reading can be viewed in many different ways, and a Mode of Thinking focuses on material using a specific viewpoint. Often you’ll find that a class will encompass a few Modes of Thinking, but you can only use a class to fulfill one Mode of Thinking, not two.

Speaking of how you use classes to fulfill requirements, let’s talk about double dipping. To graduate from Barnard you need to complete at least 122 credits. Within those 122 credits, you have your FYF, Distributional Requirements, Modes of Thinking, major requirements, and minor/elective credits. That sounds like a lot, but here’s the thing, you can double dip your courses. That means you can take a course and have it count for 2 of the previously listed categories, with the exception of FYF. Did you take European History since 1789? Cool, you can count it for both the Thinking with Historical Perspective Mode of Thinking and a Social Science Distribution Requirement. Are you mathematics major? Feel free to use a calculus course to count for the Thinking Quantitatively and Empirically Mode of Thinking and your major.

Want to see if a class you’re interested in counts for a Foundations Requirement? Use this handy list.


Foundations can seem daunting, but I promise you that it’s actually very manageable and easy to complete. In fact, you’ll fulfill a lot of the requirements naturally just by taking classes to figure out what you want to major in or even from your major itself. Also keep in mind that you don’t need to fulfill all your Foundations requirements before you can begin to take major classes. There’s also no need to complete Foundations all within your first year. Besides the fact that that’s pretty much impossible, you have time to fulfill requirements. My advice is to take classes not just because they fulfill requirements, but because they also genuinely interest you.