Foundations provides students with a diverse and ambitious curriculum that is uniquely Barnard, and prepares students for the future by adding depth and breadth to our curriculum. The curriculum emphasizes Technology and digital learning; International and global learning; Questioning, formulating, and experimenting. Woven through it all, the General Education Requirements—First-Year Experience, Distributional Requirements, Modes of Thinking, Senior Experience—is robust and adaptable to individual needs and interests. The First-Year Foundation courses launch you into this new intellectual community. Your major allows you to go progressively more in-depth with studies in a particular field, culminating in a capstone project or thesis. Meanwhile, Foundations will serve as a framework for you to understand the wider world. Electives round out the curriculum with opportunities to explore new topics.


How Does It Work?


First-Year Experience

Barnard students discover the benefits of Foundations from the start. The First-Year Experience includes two semesters of seminar classes: First-Year Writing, focusing on reading literary texts critically and writing effectively, and First-Year Seminar, emphasizing disciplinary and interdisciplinary content that challenges students to write and speak persuasively. These courses are only open to Barnard students and provide the first experience of a women's centered classroom. Students are able to choose from a variety of topics, including Reacting to the Past, a unique academic experience that originated at Barnard. First-year students are also required to take one course in Physical Education. 


Distribution Requirements

The Distributional Requirements are designed to expose students to a variety of disciplines, approaches, and skills that, together, form the whole of a liberal arts education. The requirements are designed to be flexible; students choose from a wide spectrum of courses and take two courses each in languages, arts and humanities, social sciences, and sciences (one of which includes a lab). The Distributional Requirements may, of course, be satisfied within the major.


Modes of Thinking

At the heart of Foundations are the unique Modes of Thinking—which reflect our institutional mission, and by construction, emphasize the dynamic process of thinking over the certainty of knowing. Modes of Thinking include one course each in:

  • Thinking Locally–New York City—where students examine the community and environment in which they find themselves as residents of New York City to better understand the significance of local context.
  • Thinking through Global Inquiry—where students consider communities, places, and experiences beyond their immediate location, expanding their perspectives on the world and their place in it.
  • Thinking about Social Difference—where students examine how difference is defined, lived, and challenged, and the disparities of power and resources in all their manifestations.
  • Thinking with Historical Perspective—where students examine the ways in which historical context shapes and conditions the world, challenging them to see the past with fresh eyes.
  • Thinking Quantitatively and Empirically—where students are exposed to numbers, data, graphs, and mathematical methods, in order to better understand quantitative and empirical approaches to thinking and problem solving.
  • Thinking Technologically and Digitally—where students discover new ways of learning that open up innovative fields of study, including computational science and coding, digital arts and humanities, geographic information systems, and digital design.