Appendix A.1 General Education (Baccalaureate Degree)

Policies and Rules for Undergraduate Students

The University Faculty Senate, at its meeting on April 30, 1985, adopted a comprehensive definition of General Education. This definition was revised in the General Education report adopted by the Senate on December 2, 1997, as follows (with the exception of updated information highlighted with bold below regarding First-Year Seminar requirements [now First-Year Engagement Program] as revised April 29, 2008, and Intercultural and International Competence requirements as revised April 27, 2004):

General Education encompasses the breadth of knowledge involving the major intellectual and aesthetic skills and achievements of humanity. This must include understanding and appreciation of the pluralistic nature of knowledge epitomized by the natural sciences, quantitative skills, social-behavioral sciences, humanities and arts. To achieve and share such an understanding and appreciation, skills in self-expression, quantitative analysis, information literacy, and collaborative interaction are necessary. General Education aids students in developing intellectual curiosity, strengthened ability to think, and a deeper sense of aesthetic appreciation. General Education, in essence, aims to cultivate a knowledgeable, informed, literate human being. In addition, the University Faculty Senate, at its meeting on December 2, 1997, mandated an integration of key competencies and emphasis on active learning (writing, speaking, quantitative skills, information and computer literacy, problem solving and critical thinking, team-work, and intercultural and international competence), as appropriate, in all General Education courses.

An effective General Education program enables students to:

  1. acquire knowledge through critical information gathering – including reading and listening, computer-assisted searching, and scientific experimentation and observation;
  2. analyze and evaluate, where appropriate in a quantitative manner, the acquired knowledge;
  3. integrate knowledge from a variety of sources and fields;
  4. make critical judgments in a logical and rational manner;
  5. develop the skills to maintain health, and understand the factors that impinge upon it;
  6. communicate effectively, both in writing and orally, and using the accepted methods for presentation, organization and debate particular to their disciplines;
  7. seek and share knowledge, independently and in collaboration with others;
  8. gain understanding of international interdependence and cultural diversity, and develop consideration for values, lifestyles, and traditions that may differ from their own;
  9. comprehend the role of aesthetic and creative activities expressing both imagination and experience.

Courses taken to meet General Education program requirements may not be taken under the Satisfactory-Unsatisfactory option.

General Education consists of 45 credits distributed among two General Education components: 1. Skills (15 credits) in writing/speaking and quantification and 2. Knowledge Domains (30 credits) in the natural sciences, arts, humanities, social and behavioral sciences, and health and physical activity. There are three additional requirements that may be completed as a part of either General Education courses or courses required in the major. These requirements, which every baccalaureate degree student must complete, are 3 credits of United States Cultures, 3 credits of International Cultures, and 3 credits of Writing Across the Curriculum course work.

In addition, all first-year baccalaureate students are required to complete a First-Year Engagement (FYE) program designed to actively involve students in learning, acquaint them with the learning tools and resources available at Penn State, and orient them to the scholarly community from the outset of their undergraduate studies in a way that will bridge to later experiences in their chosen majors. A student’s campus of enrollment determines whether or not he/she is required to complete a First-Year Seminar. Campuses that no longer require an FYS provide students with a First-Year Engagement experience. All students in a University Park college or in the Division of Undergraduate Studies at University Park must complete a First-Year Seminar (FYS) for 1 to 3 credits as part of the FYE program.

Students are advised that the Requirements for the Major of certain baccalaureate degree majors include courses that have been approved as General Education courses. In those cases, the appropriate choice of General Education courses will also satisfy the Requirements for the Major.

Courses to be Used for General Education

Skills (15 credits)

Writing/Speaking (9 credits)
Courses designated with the suffix GWS satisfy this component.

Quantification (6 credits)
Courses designated with the suffix GQ satisfy this component (3-6 credits are selected from mathematics, applied mathematics, and statistics; 3 credits may be selected from computer science or symbolic logic).

Knowledge Domains (30 credits)

Health and Physical Activity (3 credits)
Courses designated with the suffix GHA satisfy this component.

Natural Sciences (9 credits)
Courses designated with the suffix GN satisfy this component.

Arts (6 credits)
Courses designated with the suffix GA satisfy this component.

Humanities (6 credits)
Courses designated with the suffix GH satisfy this component.

Social and Behavioral Sciences (6 credits)
Courses designated with the suffix GS satisfy this component.

Students whose academic majors are in the areas of natural sciences, arts, humanities, and social and behavioral sciences may not meet the General Education Knowledge Domains components by taking courses in the department or program identical to that of the academic major. All General Education courses are to help students explore and integrate information beyond the special focuses of their majors.

A student may, in consultation with the adviser and the approval of the student’s college dean,

  • substitute 200 to 499 level courses.
  • develop a sequence of 9 credits in either the arts, humanities, or social and behavioral sciences by substituting 3 credits from one of the other two areas not in the student’s major field of study.
  • substitute 3 credits of study in a foreign/second language at the third or higher level for 3 credits in any of the categories of General Education, provided this will not lead to the complete elimination of any area of Knowledge Domain in the student’s General Education program.

NOTE: When a course is used to satisfy more than one requirement, the credits in the course can be counted only once.

General Education courses are identified in the University Course Descriptions and General Education sections of the Undergraduate Degree Programs Bulletin. They can also be found in the Schedule of Courses by the appropriate course designation.

Revised: 12/11/73
Revised Editorially: 8/23/11
Revised Editorially: 6/15/12