Liberal Arts Division

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Below are the academic policies within the Liberal Arts Division. For further inquiries please contact our office.

Advising

Liberal Arts offers “walk-in” advising in the Division Office (College Building 418) Monday – Friday 8:00 am – 3:30 pm. If there are questions the office staff cannot answer or that require input from a Liberal Arts department head, concentration coordinator or the Dean, the staff will help students make the appropriate contact. Many students also contact the Dean, heads and concentration coordinators directly. Concentrators should, ideally, meet with their concentration coordinator at least once a semester.

In addition, all sophomores will be assigned a Liberal Arts faculty member as their Liberal Arts advisor.

First-Year Program in Liberal Arts

Fall semester
A typical first-year Liberal Arts fall semester program consists of History of Art and Visual Culture I (HAVC-H101) and First Year Literature Seminar (LAS-E101). There are no waivers for these courses.

Spring semester
A typical first-year Liberal Arts spring semester program consists of History of Art and Visual Culture 2 (HAVC-H102) and Topics in History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (HPSS-S101), which is a gateway course to all further study in HPSS. There are no waivers for these courses. Students who successfully complete Fundamentals of Writing in the fall will receive Liberal Arts elective credit and will take LAS-E101 in the spring, along with HAVC-H102. Their HPSS-S101 first-year requirement course will then be taken the following fall.

All first-year students must be registered for fifteen credits in both fall and spring unless they have permission to take a reduced course load from the Dean of Experimental & Foundation Studies.

During Wintersession, courses may be taken without prerequisite.

Below are the possible first-year Liberal Arts course configurations:

Fall Wintersession Spring
HAVC-H101, LAS-E101 Studio and/or Liberal Arts elective HAVC-H102, HPSS-S101

Liberal Arts Requirements

1. History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC) – 12 credits required

  1. HAVC-H101 History of Art and Visual Culture 1 3 credits (Required for graduation for all undergraduates, including transfers. There are no waivers for HAVC-H101.)
  2. HAVC-H102 History of Art and Visual Culture 2 (Topics), or equivalent 3 credits (Required for graduation for all undergraduates, including transfers. There are no waivers for HAVC-H102 except for transfer students who have taken an equivalent college course.)
  3. HAVC Elective 3 credits
  4. HAVC Elective 3 credits

Please note: Courses designated as LAEL do not count toward HAVC credit, with the exception of the LAEL studio history courses specifically approved for HAVC credit for majors.

2. Literary Arts and Studies (LAS) – 9 credits required

  1. LAS-E101 First Year Literature Seminar credits (Required for graduation for all undergraduates, including transfers. There are no waivers for LAS-E101 except for transfer students who have taken an equivalent college course.)
  2. LAS Elective 3 credits
  3. LAS Elective 3 credits

Please note: Courses designated as LAEL do not count toward LAS credit.

3. History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (HPSS) – 9 credits required

HPSS courses may include anthropology, economics, geography, history, linguistics, philosophy, political science, psychology, religious studies, and sociology.

  1. HPSS-S101 Topics in History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences 3 credits (Required for graduation for all undergraduates, including transfers. There are no waivers for HPSS-S101 except for transfer students who have taken an equivalent college course.)
  2. HPSS Elective 3 credits
  3. HPSS Elective 3 credits

Please note: Courses designated as LAEL do not count toward HPSS credit.

4. Liberal Arts Electives – 12 credits required

Liberal Arts elective courses may include HAVC, LAS, HPSS, LAEL, language, math, music theory, and science.

  1. Liberal Arts Elective 3 credits
  2. Liberal Arts Elective 3 credits
  3. Liberal Arts Elective 3 credits
  4. Liberal Arts Elective 3 credits

Total Liberal Arts credits granted upon completion of requirements: 42 credits

RISD Liberal Arts Requirements for Brown|RISD Dual Degree Students

(beginning with cohort entering in Academic Year 2018-2019)

Current Dual Degree students may either continue with the former RISD Liberal Arts Distribution Requirements or switch to the new requirements.

Because they are completing a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts, the RISD Liberal Arts requirements for Brown | RISD Dual Degree students are modified for greater flexibility. With the exception of HAVC H101 taken in the first year, Brown | RISD Dual Degree students may satisfy these requirements by taking courses either at RISD or Brown (including courses for their Brown concentration) at any time during the Program; however, note that courses taken at Brown for a RISD Liberal Arts requirement must be approved by the RISD Liberal Arts Division as satisfying that requirement.

1. History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC) – 12 credits required (four 3 credit courses)

  1. HAVC-H101 History of Art and Visual Culture 1: 3 credits (Required for graduation for all undergraduates. There are no waivers for HAVC-H101.)
  2. HAVC Electives: 9 credits

Please note:  RISD courses designated as LAEL do not count toward HAVC credit, with the exception of the LAEL studio history courses specifically approved for HAVC credit for majors.

2. Liberal Arts Coursework – 30 credits required (ten 3 credit courses)

These 30 credits are comprised of courses approved by the RISD Liberal Arts Division as satisfying  Literary Arts and Studies (LAS), History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (HPSS),  or Liberal Arts Electives (LAEL).  HPSS courses may include anthropology, economics, geography, history, linguistics, philosophy, political science, psychology, religious studies, and sociology. Liberal Arts elective courses may include RISD LAEL or SCI courses or any course in the humanities, social sciences, or natural sciences at Brown. Courses in business are typically not accepted unless they are taught from a liberal arts perspective (e.g. sociology of business). Engineering courses are also not usually accepted.

Please note:  Some RISD majors require a specific LAEL course to complete the major.  BRDD students in these majors must fulfill the departmental LAEL requirement in order to fulfill departmental distribution requirements.

BRDD First-Year Program and Liberal Arts

Fall semester

A typical first-year Liberal Arts fall semester program consists of History of Art and Visual Culture I (HAVC-H101) at RISD and a First Year Seminar (FYS) at Brown. All students will select their top choices from possible FYS courses compatible with the Foundation curriculum during the summer. Students who are STEM-intending and in need of introductory math course requirements may make alternative arrangements to take a math course in the fall and a FYS in the spring.

Spring semester

BRDD students take two liberal arts courses in the spring semester. These courses can be taken from either school.

All first-year students must be registered for fifteen credits in both fall and spring unless they have permission to take a reduced course load from the Dean of Experimental & Foundation Studies.

During Wintersession, any RISD course (either liberal arts or studio) may be taken without prerequisite.

Taking Liberal Arts Courses through Study Abroad

RISD currently provides opportunities for students to study a semester abroad at 45 participating institutions in 26 countries. See http://gpp.risd.edu for more details. Liberal arts courses taken through these or other personally arranged programs may be used as transfer credits to satisfy RISD’s Liberal Arts requirements if they satisfy the Liberal Arts transfer guidelines:

1. The course must be on a liberal arts subject and taught from the point of view of one of the liberal arts disciplines. If you are uncertain whether a course you are interested in taking can receive RISD Liberal Arts credit, check with the Liberal Arts staff.

Credits in Liberal Arts are granted for courses in the humanities (history, art history and criticism, literary studies and writing, classics, philosophy, religious studies, theater studies, performance studies); the natural sciences; foreign languages; mathematics and computer science; and the social sciences (anthropology, economics, geography, political science, psychology, sociology, etc.), as well as for interdisciplinary courses involving any of those disciplines (e.g., area studies, women’s studies). Among courses not considered part of the Liberal Arts curriculum are courses in athletics, dance, instruction in musical instruments and/or musical performance, methods and practicum courses in education, business and secretarial training, computer applications, extracurricular activities and work or “life” experiences. Courses in education and business are acceptable if they are taught from a humanities or social science point of view. Non-visual art studio courses (e.g., music, dance) and academic courses not satisfying the above can now be counted as “non-major electives.” See your Department Head for permission.

2. The course must be worth at least three standard U.S. credits or meet at least 36 hours over the term. If you are uncertain about this, check with the Liberal Arts staff.

3. Transfer credits are accepted only from accredited colleges and universities.

4. Credits from schools on the quarter system (rather than semester system) will be converted as follows:5 quarter credits = 3 semester credits. Credits will first be assigned towards the departmental distribution requirements. Any remaining credits will then be assigned to the Liberal Arts elective requirement.

5. Credits are transferable only for courses in which a grade of “C” or better has been earned. “P” in a Pass/Fail system or other such notations are interpreted as “C” or better. Transfer credits are not calculated in the RISD GPA.

6. RISD must receive official transcripts from each school attended. Credits are transferable only from the institutions where credits were earned. For example: A transcript from MIT can only be used for credits earned at that college and not credits earned at other institutions which appear on the MIT transcript as transfer credits.

Transfer Credits

Credits in Liberal Arts are granted for courses in the humanities (history, art history and criticism, literary studies and writing, classics, philosophy, religious studies, theater studies, performance studies); the natural sciences; foreign languages; mathematics and computer science; and the social sciences (anthropology, economics, geography, political science, psychology, sociology, etc.), as well as for interdisciplinary courses involving any of those disciplines (e.g., area studies, women’s studies).

Among courses not considered part of the Liberal Arts curriculum are courses in athletics, dance, instruction in musical instruments and/or musical performance, methods and practicum courses in education, business and secretarial training, computer applications, extracurricular activities and work or “life” experiences. Courses in education and business are acceptable if they are taught from a humanities or social science point of view. Non-visual art studio courses (e.g., music, dance) and academic courses not satisfying the above can now be counted as “non-major electives.” See your Department Head for permission. One Liberal Arts course is equivalent to three credits.

I. Liberal Arts Requirements for Graduation (42 credits)
A. Distribution

  1. Twelve credits (four courses) in History of Art and Visual Culture (HAVC courses)
  2. Nine credits (three courses) in Literary Arts and Studies (LAS courses)
  3. Nine credits (three courses) in History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (HPSS courses)
  4. Twelve credits (four courses) in liberal arts electives; may include courses from any of the three areas above (HAVC, LAS and HPSS), courses identified as Liberal Arts Electives (LAEL) in the course catalog, or courses in any other appropriate area of Liberal Arts (humanities, social sciences, sciences).


B. Course requirements

  1. As part of the Literary Arts and Studies requirement (9 credits), the College requires that students satisfactorily complete LAS-E101 First Year Literature Seminar or its equivalent. There are no waivers for LAS-E101 except for transfer students who have taken an equivalent college course.
  2. As part of the History of Art and Visual Culture requirement (12 credits), the College requires that students satisfactorily complete HAVC-H101 History of Art and Visual Culture 1 and HAVC-H102 History of Art and Visual Culture 2 (Topics) or its equivalent. There are no waivers for HAVC-H101. Waivers for HAVC-H102 are determined by the HAVC Department Head.
  3. As part of the History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences requirement (9 credits), the College requires that students satisfactorily complete HPSS-S101 History, Philosophy, and the Social Sciences (Topics). There are no waivers for HPSS-S101 except for transfer students who have taken an equivalent college course.


II. Transfer Credits

A. Courses taken at other institutions

  1. Transfer credits are accepted only from regionally accredited, residential, non-profit colleges and universities.
  2. Online courses are accepted from only regionally accredited, residential, non-profit, 4-year colleges and universities.
  3. Credits from schools on the quarter system (rather than semester system) will be converted as follows: 5 quarter credits = 3 semester credits. Credits will first be assigned towards the departmental distribution requirements. Any remaining credits will then be assigned to the Liberal Arts elective requirement.
  4. Credits are transferable only for courses in which a grade of “C” or better has been earned. “P” in a Pass/Fail system or other such notations are interpreted as “C” or better. Transfer credits are not calculated in the RISD GPA.
  5. The Liberal Arts office must receive official transcripts from each school attended. Credits are transferable only from the institutions where credits were earned. For example: a transcript from MIT can only be used for credits earned at that college and not credits earned at other institutions which appear on the MIT transcript as transfer credits.


B. Advanced Placement/International Baccalaureate/Oxford-Cambridge “A” Levels (a maximum of 9 credits)

  1. Credit for Advanced Placement (AP) tests is granted on the basis of exam reports sent by the College Board Advanced Placement Program (PO Box 6671, Princeton, NJ 08541-6671; toll-free 888 225-5427). RISD may grant up to 9 credits for AP exam scores of 4 or 5. We accept the ENG LIT/COMP exam but not the ENG LANG/COMP exam. Also, the Liberal Arts Division does not grant credit for AP exams in studio art.
  2. Credit for participation in the International Baccalaureate Program or Oxford-Cambridge “A” levels is granted for coursework receiving a grade of “C” or better or Higher Level (HL) grades of 5, 6 and 7 and is contingent upon the receipt of an official transcript.


C. After matriculation, only 12 credits will be approved for transfer
Students must complete a Prior Approval Form before registering for any courses.

III. Review of Transfer Credits

Questions regarding transfer of Liberal Arts credits should be addressed to the Division of Liberal Arts, College Building, Room 418, located at 236 Benefit Street. Telephone: 401 454-6572 or 401 454-6570.

Why Business Courses Don’t Count Towards Liberal Arts Credits

Many students at RISD plan to go into the business of art and design after graduating from RISD, and to prepare for that goal there is often an interest and desire to take one or more courses in business as part of their professional preparation. Liberal Arts fully supports such student aspirations. However, for several reasons, business courses cannot count towards satisfying the RISD Liberal Arts graduation requirements.

First, our stated policy is that methods and practicum business courses are not considered part of the Liberal Arts curriculum. We accept most* courses in economics (which is a social science) and courses about business if they are taught from a humanities or social science point of view, e.g. the sociology of business, the history of business, business ethics. However, courses that focus on accounting, finance, business plans, management, entrepreneurship, etc. are not liberal arts. Here’s the full statement of our policy:

Credits in Liberal Arts are granted for courses in the humanities (history, art history and criticism, literary studies and writing, classics, philosophy, religious studies, theater studies, performance studies); the natural sciences; foreign languages; mathematics and computer science; and the social sciences (anthropology, economics, geography, political science, psychology, sociology, etc.), as well as for interdisciplinary courses involving any of those disciplines (e.g., area studies, women’s studies). Among courses not considered part of the Liberal Arts curriculum are courses in athletics, dance, instruction in musical instruments and/or musical performance, methods and practicum courses in education, business and secretarial training, computer applications, extra-curricular activities, and work or “life” experiences. Courses in education and business are acceptable if they are taught from a humanities or social science point of view. Non-visual art studio courses (e.g., music, dance) and academic courses not satisfying the above can now be counted as “non-major electives.” See your department head for permission. One Liberal Arts course is equivalent to three credits.

Second, our policy is in accord with the generally accepted conception of liberal arts as a field of study. For example, the online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines ‘liberal arts’ like this:

1. the medieval studies comprising the trivium and quadrivium
2. college or university studies (as language, philosophy, literature, abstract science) intended to provide chiefly general knowledge and to develop general intellectual capacities (as reason and judgment) as opposed to professional or vocational skills.

Business courses belong in the area of a “professional” curriculum; they are not usually considered part of the general knowledge that makes up the liberal arts, which includes the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. In a typical curriculum for a business major or in business school, the business curriculum is distinguished from the liberal studies curriculum. The purpose of the Liberal Arts requirements at RISD is to ensure that all RISD students graduate with some exposure to writing, critical thinking, literature, history of art and visual culture, and one or more of history, philosophy, and the social sciences. If we allow you to count a business course towards the liberal requirements, that will be one less course in one of the liberal arts disciplines that you will be taking.

Third, RISD’s conception of Liberal Arts requirements is, in part, in response to “standards” established by the accreditation agency that accredits RISD, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD). NASAD requires that all students graduating with a professional undergraduate degree in art or design graduate with

  • competency in their area of specialization (major)
  • a common body of knowledge and skills in art and design, which includes Art/Design History, Theory, and Criticism, and
  • knowledge and skills in General Studies, specifically
    • The ability to think, speak, and write clearly and effectively, and to communicate with precision, cogency, and rhetorical force.
    • An informed acquaintance with the mathematical and experimental methods of the physical and biological sciences and with the main forms of analysis and the historical and quantitative techniques needed for investigating the workings and developments of modern society.
    • An ability to address culture and history from a variety of perspectives.
    • Understanding of, and experience in thinking about, moral and ethical problems.
    • The ability to respect, understand, and evaluate work in a variety of disciplines.
    • The capacity to explain and defend views effectively and rationally.
    • Understanding of and experience in art forms other than the visual arts and design.

Each of these competency areas are assigned a certain percentage of the student’s overall program. Basically, the percentages break down like this:

Academic Area NASAD % Requirements NASAD Credit Requirements (based on 120 total) RISD Credit Requirements
major requirements 25 – 35% 30 – 42 typically 54 credits
supportive art & design
(e.g. Experimental and Foundation Studies
20 – 30% 24 – 36 typically 18 credits EFS + 12 credits NMSE = 30 total
liberal arts 35 – 50% 42 – 60 42
art & design history 10 – 15% 12 – 18 12
general studies 25 – 35% 30 – 42 9 in LAS and 9 in HPSS + 12 additional credits in either art & design history or general studies

Note that, with its requirement of 42 liberal arts credits, the RISD requirements are at the minimum of what NASAD recommends.

FAQ
If a business course can’t count as Liberal Arts, where can it fit in my RISD plan of study?Business courses can be taken under the heading of NMSE. Although the label for this category is Non-Major Studio Elective, it is specifically defined in the Course Announcement book to include non-studio courses: “Typically, studio courses taken outside of one’s major. However, up to six of the twelve credits may be in nonmajor electives that are neither Liberal Arts nor visual art or design studio, such as engineering or music or drama. Students must get the approval of their department head before registering for a course in the latter category.” (p. 12 Course Announcement Book 2012-2013)

It is also possible to graduate (and many students do) with more than the required 126 credits by taking two courses each Wintersession or extra courses in the summer. That will allow room for taking one or more business courses.

Talk to your major advisor about how to fit these important courses in your RISD plan of study, either as one of your major courses or as a non-major elective.

*Brown courses not accepted as Liberal Arts: Economics 0710 Financial Accounting, Engineering 0090 Management of Industrial and Nonprofit Organizations, Engineering 1010 The Entrepreneurial Process: Innovation in Practice.