Eight Educative Goals - A Graduation Requirement

To insure a degree of consistency regarding what is meant by an education at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, the Committee on Academic Affairs (COAA) issued a statement meant to clarify and reaffirm the core principles of the eight goals and the procedures by which students demonstrate that they have addressed them.

To ensure that students receive an education based on multiple perspectives and experiences, all Hobart and William Smith students must complete a course of study that includes:

  • Addressing each of the institution's eight educational goals and objectives
  • Passing a First-Year Seminar
  • Completing any potential faculty-mandated writing requirements
  • Passing 32 courses (including achieving a minimum grade and GPA standards)
  • Completing a major and a minor or a second major.  Of the major and minor (or second major), one must be DISCIPLINARY, the other INTERDISCIPLINARY…

[The Curriculum,]

  1. The essential skills that serve as a foundation for effective communication. These include the ability to read and listen critically and the ability to speak and write effectively.

  2. The essential skills that serve as a foundation for critical thinking and argumentation. These include the ability to articulate a question, to identify and gain access to appropriate information, to organize evidence, and to construct a complex written argument.

  3. The ability to reason quantitatively.
    Quantitative reasoning involves an understanding of magnitude and proportion, the ability to visualize those abstractions, and the ability to apply them to a problem. Courses in the natural sciences, and the social sciences that require students to work with numbers; to recognize trends, patterns and relationships represented by those numbers; and to express conclusions drawn from such evidence, address this goal.

  4. The experience of scientific inquiry and an understanding of the nature of scientific knowledge.
    The understanding of scientific knowledge, in both its promise and limitations, is best achieved through the direct experience of investigative, scientific inquiry. Such scientific inquiry involves the development and experimental testing of competing hypotheses.

  5. An understanding of artistic expression based in the experience of a fine or performing art.
    Artistic expression can be experienced in courses in studio art, music, dance, theatre, and creative writing in which students engage directly in performance or creative effort.

  6. An intellectually grounded foundation for the understanding of differences and inequalities of gender, race, and class.
    An intellectually grounded foundation for the understanding of the differences and inequalities of gender, race and class can develop from courses that explore the historical development and social construction of difference, illuminate and allow the visualization of the experience of difference, and/or provide a framework for critique of historical and/or contemporary differences of privilege and the experience of peoples of different genders, races and classes. Students will generally address this goal through a combination of courses.

  7. A critical knowledge of the multiplicity of world cultures, as expressed for example, in their languages, histories, literatures, philosophies, religious and cultural traditions, social and economic structures, and modes of artistic expression.
    Courses in history, literature, language, the arts and the social sciences that study and explore the multiplicity of world cultures address this goal, as does the experience of a different culture in an off-campus program. "Critical knowledge" refers to a broad understanding that allows students to understand the global complexity of the world and their place in it; this can include but is not limited to a critique of cultures. Students will generally address this goal through a combination of courses.

  8. An intellectually grounded foundation for ethical judgment and action.
    An intellectually grounded foundation for ethical judgment and action derives from a deep, historically informed examination of the beliefs and values deeply embedded in our views and experience. Courses that examine values, ethics, social action, social policy, social justice, and the responsibilities of citizens in contemporary society address this goal. Students will generally address this goal through a combination of courses.

The eight goals are addressed through formal course work in the context of many different programs of study. Students must work with a faculty adviser to design a program of study that both meets their interests and addresses these curricular objectives. Only courses in which students received a passing grade can be considered as evidence for having addressed a goal. After finishing the course work necessary to address a goal, students must complete a Goal Certification form, which must be signed by the adviser. (Note that no form is necessary for Goals 1 and 2.)

In petitioning for certification in a goal, students must explain to the faculty adviser how they have addressed that goal. The eight goals and comments on the types of course work that may address them are described in greater detail below. Note that the goals can be divided into three groups.

Goals 1 and 2 are foundational; they will be part of any major.
Goals 3, 4, and 5 speak to specific types of experiences, and the necessity of a breadth of experiences.
Goals 6, 7, and 8 are higher order goals involving the application of learning to important problems. These goals are more likely to be met in the context of an entire major or minor, or by a combination of courses.

History of the HWS Goals Curriculum

In the Spring of 1996, the faculty and the Board of Trustees voted to approve new curriculum and graduation requirements which featured requirements for interdisciplinary and disciplinary study as well as the move away from distribution requirements in favor of 12 goals.

  1. The acquisition of those essential skills required as a foundation for effective communication, specifically: (a) the ability to read and listen critically, (b) the ability to speak and write effectively, (c) the ability to organize the presentation of arguments and points of view.
  2. The ability to reason quantitatively.
  3. The ability to organize the process of inquiry: to articulate a question; to identify and access appropriate information; to organize evidence, and to construct a complex written argument.
  4. An understanding of the nature of scientific inquiry and knowledge.
  5. Critical knowledge of Western cultural and social origins, as expressed (for example) in history, literature, philosophy, social and economic structures, and artistic expression.
  6. Critical knowledge of the multiplicity of world cultures, including: (a) knowledge of the relationships among these cultures and their relation to the West. (b) the individual experience of cross-cultural interaction.
  7. A foundation for the understanding of gender.
  8. Sufficient knowledge in a disciplinary or interdisciplinary area adequate to support advanced study (includes majors, minors, and fields of concentration).
  9. The ability to recognize relatedness and the unity and diversity of knowledge and inquiry.
  10. The experience of creative expression.
  11. An intellectually grounded foundation for ethical judgment and action.
  12. The development of cooperative and leadership skills and a sense of personal competency.

In 1998, the faculty opted to reduce 12 goals to the present list of eight.

Given the long tradition of interdisciplinary teaching at the Colleges, and the expansion of knowledge beyond the boundaries of traditional disciplinary departments or divisions, the faculty decided that requiring students to assemble a sampling of courses from our three divisions would not necessarily lead to meaningful breadth in a student's education. We resolved instead to specify more precisely what we expect a broadly educated person to know and be able to do. Since the faculty shared the expectation that students take more initiative in guiding their own education, we agreed to hand off to students the task of demonstrating that they had addressed (not to say "met" or "satisfied," since those terms implied a once-and-for-all-completion) the goals of the curriculum.

Within the first few years of implementing the new curriculum, three changes were made through Faculty Resolutions:

  1. Only courses and not other experiences could be counted to address the goals (April 1997);
  2. The first two goals would be considered sufficiently addressed once a student had completed a major (October 1999); and
  3. The goal petition forms were optional and no longer required for certification, and they were replaced by the Baccalaureate Plan in the junior year.

21st Century Practice

The ideal liberal arts experience at HWS comprises all eight of the curricular goals and can and should occur naturally within a student's four-year education.  A goal is certified by the academic adviser after the student has discussed his or her learning experiences with the adviser and only if progress toward meeting the curricular goal is demonstrated fully within that conversation.

The Goal Petition Process
After a student has taken a course, she or he has a conversation with the adviser and makes an argument that the coursework partially or fully addressed a particular goal. Some advisers require a written petition. In practice, that conversation has come to have certain expected parameters:

  1. Goals must be addressed by taking credit-bearing courses (formal academic work).
  2. The first two goals do not require certification, because it is assumed that faculty in every major do what is necessary to help students to read, write, speak, and listen to an adequate level of quality, and will assist the student in getting support as necessary from the CTL and elsewhere;
  3. That advisers can expect students to want to know before they enroll in a course if it can reasonably be expected to help them address a goal. Advisers need reliable sources of information as to what the student's experience in a course will be;
  4. Students should be required to make a case for having a course or courses address a goal. That means they should be able to speak intelligently about the contents of the course (or courses) and how engaging with that content contributed to their education; and
  5. The goals for mathematical reasoning, scientific inquiry, and artistic expression (3, 4, and 5) require that students reason quantitatively, inquire scientifically, and actively engage an art form, and not only study other people's reasoning, inquiry, and performance.

Data Resources for Faculty Advisers
[will be available to campus network users in November]

Department/Program Goals Data - contains the results of a campus-wide poll that asked faculty to specify the extent to which they believe their course(s) address the eight goals. The poll was conducted in the fall semester of 2007 and two reminders were sent out to departments in the Fall of 2009 if data had not been submitted.

Classes of 2007 Goals Data - contains a study of the courses students and advisers submitted to the Registrar for the graduating class of 2007 as having addressed the goals. COAA cautions advisers that the attached lists should not be considered sufficient either singly or together in deciding whether a course should be taken because of the likelihood that it will address a goal.

*This data is meant to serve as a resource for faculty and students when considering their academic interests and goals, but it is by no means meant to change the current practice. 




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