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.

Following a comprehensive, multiyear process, the faculty and the Board of Trustees voted to approve a new curriculum and graduation requirements in spring 2016. The new curriculum adopts the animating principle, “Explore, Collaborate, Act.”

This principle defines the distinctive role of the Colleges in the 21st century, expressing what we aspire our students to embody, an ethos that focuses their progress through college and beyond. In the broadest sense, Explore, Collaborate, Act articulates what we—students and faculty alike—do at the Colleges, highlighting our vibrant interconnections and interdisciplinarity.


Preparing Students to Lead Lives of Consequence.