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Distribution Requirements

  • Seven total courses (four distribution courses plus three electives) and 40 hours of CEL-1.
  • Distributions: Choose four out of five.
    • Arts, Design, and Media: acting, directing, and theatrical production: architecture; art education and book arts; choreography and dance; poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction writing; analog and digital media arts: graphic design, film, video, photography, installation, and performance art; analog and digital music; drawing, painting, and sculpture, etc.
    • Culture, Humanities, and Languages: art history; comparative literature; cultural studies; foreign languages; literary analysis and criticism; mythology; philosophy; the analysis of popular culture; religious studies and semiotics, etc.
    • Mind, Brain, and Information: psychology ,cognitive-oriented): neuroscience, computer science, philosophy, linguistics, animal behavior, anthropology, education, and mathematics/statistics, etc.
    • Physical and Biological Sciences: chemistry, environmental sciences, physics, mathematics, astronomy, anthropology, health sciences, and engineering, etc.
    • Power, Community, and Social Justice: philosophy, sociology, history, psychology (social, counseling, and culturally oriented), economics, anthropology, legal studies, politics, etc.

Arts, Design, and Media (ADM)

Courses meeting distribution in this area explore creativity and works of the imagination, the broader context of artistic practices, the roles and responsibilities of makers and audiences, and students' development of their own original artistic voices. In any ADM-designated course, students will ask some of the following questions:

How can making art change how we think about ourselves? What does art tell us about culture, power, meanings and ideas, politics, and faith? What is the relationship between form and content, medium, meaning, and function? How do artists find the right form for expressing their vision? How do different arts--dance and choreography, music, poetry, fiction, drawing, painting, sculpture, film, video, photography, digital art, design, architecture, theatre; and all hybrid and emerging forms of art--treat light, shadow, weight, movement, gesture, stillness, sound, silence, bodies, voices, rhythms, spaces, objects, and time? How do audiences shape the performance, sharing, and exhibiting of art? What is the nature of the creative process? How can we embrace the solitary aspects of creativity as well as collaboration's exciting potential? What is the relationship between conceptualization and improvisation? What new possibilities do emergent technologies hold for the arts today? How can tradition and newness do battle or work together in the art we make? How can what we learn from making art be applied to other fields such as education, history, philosophy, science, religious studies, social change? How can the arts explore and reveal untold or unwritten histories and experiences? How can analyzing, evaluating, and reflecting on art shape our ways of being, thinking, seeing, making, and envisioning the future? How does art document, produce, and transform culture? How does art change the world?

Some of the artistic modes included in this distribution are: acting, directing, and theatrical production; architecture, art education and book arts; choreography and dance; poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction writing; analog and digital media arts: graphic design, film, video, photography, installation, and performance art; analog and digital music; drawing, painting, and sculpture.

Culture, Humanities, and Languages (CHL)

Courses meeting distribution requirements in this area examine and interpret the texts and the artifacts (created works, performances, rituals) through which humans, historically and currently, have sought to make meaning of their experience and expressed their feelings, beliefs and values. In any CHL-designated course, students will ask some of the following questions:

What does it mean to be a human being in the 21st century? How have people now and in the past thought about the purpose and meaning of life? What are the forms and limits of human knowledge, experience, memory, and belief? What is the nature of the self and how is it related to the values of society and the natural world? How have the various dimensions of human difference--such as class, gender, religion, race, or ethnicity--shaped ideas about identity and privilege, now and in the past? How do collective and individual identities change through time and space? How does language define and shape our experience, and what kinds of languages have people used to achieve or express their personal, political, and artistic aspirations? How can learning other languages and encountering literature and art in their original language transform our sense of self? What is a good life or a just society? What is the religious impulse and how has it been expressed throughout the world? How does mythology reflect, organize, or shape human social life? How does understanding the practices and history of an art form enable our understanding of actual and potential future societies? What makes a work of art--a poem, novel, painting, performance, or film--significant, moving, transformative, or beautiful? How can we critically articulate our responses to the many kinds of texts we encounter? How can deep study of the humanities, of cultural traditions, and of languages enrich our lives, help us to understand other people, and contribute to the betterment of the world around us?

Courses in CHL may come from a variety of disciplines including art history, comparative literature, cultural studies, foreign languages, literary analysis and criticism, mythology, philosophy, the analysis of popular culture, religious studies and semiotics.

Mind, Brain, and Information (MBI)

Courses meeting the MBI distribution are devoted to the study of the mind and brain, individual and social behavior, language and communication, and computers and digital technologies. In any MBI-designated course, students will ask some of the following questions:

How do our experiences shape our brain and how does our brain shape experience? What is memory? How do narratives about past events reflect meaning for these experiences? What biological processes underlie the emotions, and do people from other cultures have the same emotions I do? Do people who speak different languages think differently? What is the best way to teach math and reading to kids? How do learning and "instinct" affect the behavior of animals? What can we discover by studying birdsong, squirrel whistles, dog barking, and the bleats of sheep? Can computers tell us anything about the nature of evolution? How are sex, gender, and sexual orientation shaped by the interaction of the brain and social environment? How do children's developing minds and brains affect how they interact in and with the world? Are religion and morality purely cultural inventions or did evolution somehow wire them into the human brain? What is consciousness and how can a brain produce it? What are the possible biological bases for psychopathology? How do new technologies and media affect human reception and processing of information--and the nature of knowledge itself? What can computational models teach us about biological and cultural systems? How can computers help us to tell stories and to make new kinds of art? How can technology be used to improve education? Do new technologies and forms of knowledge challenge or even blur the boundaries between human, animal, and machine?

Among the traditional disciplines that contribute to MBI are psychology, neuroscience, computer science, philosophy, linguistics, animal behavior, anthropology, education, and mathematics/statistics.

Physical and Biological Sciences (PBS)

Courses meeting distribution in this area concern the exploration of physical and biological phenomena. Courses are designed to empower students to effect positive change through analysis, hypothesis-testing, problem-solving, theory-building, exploration, representation, and experimentation, as they learn to use scientific theories and methods to observe, investigate, understand, describe and predict physical and biological phenomena. In any PBS-designated course, students will ask some of the following questions:

How do diseases spread and what are their effects on populations? What do hormones do for us? How can the human immune system be studied? How do toxic waste, urbanization, and pollution affect biodiversity, water resources, and human health? What can the study of artifacts and biological remains tell us about previous populations' diets and lifestyles? What can compost teach us? How do chemical structures shape the world we see and live in? What is a living organism? What is a species, and how does speciation occur? What recurring patterns and rules can we observe in the natural world? What can geology tell us about our environment? What can astronomy tell us about the earth's history and future? How can theoretical physics transform our understanding of ourselves, of human possibility, and the worlds we live in? What alternative energy sources are sustainable and feasible? How does energy use structure communities and politics? What can the study of fermentation tell us about the nature of life and time? How do we observe and measure phenomena? What is a meaningful comparison? What qualitative, quantitative or descriptive modes can be used to represent what we learn? How can we correctly identify cause and effect? How can past observations be used to make predictions? How are scientific advances politicized? How does scientific knowledge interact with popular culture? How can work in science influence our approaches to other fields, like education, history, religious studies, literature, anthropology, psychology, and the arts? How can scientists make the world a better place?

Among the contributing traditional disciplines are chemistry, environmental sciences, physics, mathematics, astronomy, anthropology, health sciences, and engineering.

Power, Community, and Social Justice (PCSJ)

Courses meeting distribution in this area examine the social and political dimensions of a broad range of human activities, including how the ways that events, periods, or groups are described and understood, can affect communities and individuals. In any PCSJ-designated course, students will ask some of the following questions:

How have human communities thought about ethics, citizenship, and the nation? How does the movement of people, goods, and ideas across and within national borders shape global and local identities? How can we learn to listen to others and honor points of view and experiences that differ from our own? How can we make certain that everyone in a community feels welcome and respected? How can we historicize and reexamine common cultural categories--child, adult, sister, brother, parent, homosexual, revolutionary, criminal, immigrant, "other," researcher and expert--in order to reimagine and shape the future? How do systems of inequality and privilege come about and persist? What is law and how do legal systems structure human relationships, polities, and commerce? How does access to resources or lack of it inform political action? How do contemporary environmental conditions affect different economic, social, and cultural groups? How do wars come about? Under what circumstances do racial categories emerge, and what impact have they had on human history, institutions, and experiences? How do racial categories intersect with other culturally constructed identities like gender, sexuality, and class? How are communities defined, by whom, and why, and how do they change over time? How do communities and individuals survive and respond to long histories of violence? What are the psychological and spiritual effects of violence, difference, and marginalization? How historically and in the present, have people come together in tolerance and understanding?

This distribution incorporates studies of philosophy, sociology, history, psychology, economics, anthropology, legal studies, and politics.


In addition to a minimum of seven faculty-evaluated courses, students in Division I must carry out one or more Campus Engaged Learning (CEL-1) activity totaling a minimum of 40 hours, approximately equal to course contact hours. The appropriate activity will be determined in consultation with the tutorial advisor and activity sponsor. The student will document the fulfillment of the campus engaged learning and include a reflection on it in the Division I retrospective essay.

At Hampshire College, the projects we undertake outside of the classroom matter. Faculty, staff, and students are expected to know how to work collaboratively toward the achievement of shared goals, and to contribute to our community in unexpected, imaginative ways. The campus engaged learning (CEL-1) activity enables first-year students to experience this essential part of Hampshire's ethos very early on, integrating them into campus life and fostering provocative connections between students' curricular coursework and their participation in active community-building in other campus settings. Students can choose activities that draw upon their interests and talents and/or allow them to experiment in new ways. While the campus engaged learning requirement principally challenges students to become engaged, creative citizens of Hampshire's campus community, it also requires that they reflect critically on that engagement, documenting their campus engaged learning work along the way, and writing thoughtfully about their experience.

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