St. Olaf CollegeAcademic CatalogSt. Olaf College

Table of Contents
An Education for the 21st Century: Academic Life
Graduation Requirements and Curricular Advice
» Requirements & Degrees
» General Requirements
» Comprehensive Requirements
Academic Regulations and Procedures
International and Off-Campus Studies
Special Programs
Admissions and Financial Aid
Life Outside the Classroom
Facts and Figures
College Calendar

Registrar's Office
Admin 224
1520 St. Olaf Avenue
Northfield, MN 55057



Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.

Requirements for B.A. Degree Candidates

Comprehensive Graduation Requirements (General Education)

General Education requirements constitute the “core” degree requirements of the curriculum. Courses are described in this catalog and in the Catalog Supplement; courses fulfilling a given General Education requirement are indicated in the Class and Lab Schedule.

Note that St. Olaf’s General Education curriculum does not work by a distribution system (so many courses in certain disciplines); rather, it identifies an area of learning for General Education and sets out a series of guidelines which inform the construction of courses. Departments and programs submit their course proposals to a General Education committee, which judges whether a course fulfills a requirement. Because the college’s expectations for General Education are distinctive and characteristic of this college alone, students must be particularly careful as they plan off-campus and transfer work. The Registrar’s Office determines how transfer work can apply to St. Olaf’s General Education requirements; advisers of off-campus programs determine whether a non-St. Olaf course applies to the General Education requirements. See TRANSFERRING TO ST. OLAF.

Some courses in the St. Olaf curriculum count for more than one graduation requirement at the same time. A course taken for Studies in Natural Science may also be the first course in the chemistry major. A course taught in the Department of English may simultaneously satisfy requirements for Literary Studies and Multicultural Studies. Writing in Context courses usually fulfill more than one requirement. In addition, students may complete requirements with courses taken on international and off-campus programs.

A typical course of study may have proportions like these:

General Education: 14-16 full course credits
Major: 8-10 full course credits
Electives: 10-12 full course credits
Total for graduation: 35 full course credits

Depending upon Advanced Placement examination results, choice of foreign language, prior preparation in languages and mathematics, choice of a major and a second major or teaching certification, the proportions will vary.

Of courses taken to meet General Education requirements, only .25 credit courses may be taken on an S/U basis. Full or .50 credit courses taken S/U do not fulfill General Education requirements.

An independent study or an independent research credit does not fulfill a General Education requirement for the degree (except as a course in writing [WRI]).

Foundation Studies

1. First-Year Writing [FYW] — 1 course

Objective: To equip students for effective writing in the liberal arts and introduce writing as a means
of learning.

Requirement: Satisfactory completion of General Education 111 in the first year of study. Students who initially transfer 15 or more courses to St. Olaf are exempt from this requirement.

Placement: Students who need to improve their writing skills complete English 107: Introduction to Academic Writing, or English 110: Critical Skills 110: Critical Skills in Composition, in the first semester of the first year, then complete a General Education 111 in the second semester of the first year. All other students may enroll directly in a General Education 111 section.

2. Writing in context Courses [WRI] — 4 courses

Objective: To sustain and improve writing skills.

Requirement: Satisfactory completion of four courses across the curriculum designated as Writing in Context courses.

3. Foreign Language [FOL] — 0-4 courses

Objective: To develop non-English language proficiency to an intermediate level, deepen understanding of language as a human phenomenon and generate insights into a culture other than one’s own.

Requirement: All St. Olaf students must satisfy the foreign language requirement. This may be done through satisfactory completion of the fourth college semester course (numbered 232 or higher) taught in the French, German or Spanish languages; or satisfactory completion of the third college semester course (numbered 231 or higher) taught in the Chinese, Greek, Latin, Japanese, Norwegian or Russian languages, or demonstration of equivalent proficiency.

Placement: The college provides placement examinations for new students. On the basis of examination results and the admissions record, the college assists with initial placement in a first-, second-, third- or fourth-semester course. All students are advised to begin foreign language study in the first semester of the first year and to continue their language study in each subsequent semester until the requirement is completed. In cases where a student’s schedule of courses makes that impossible, the student should consult with his or her adviser.

Students planning to fulfill the foreign language requirement with transfer courses from other institutions should be aware of St. Olaf’s requirement of intermediate proficiency in one foreign language. Questions regarding the transfer of foreign language courses to St. Olaf should be directed in advance to the registrar.
Proficiency reports from persons not known to St. Olaf must be based on documented exposure or training by the student in a foreign language equivalent in length to three or four college semesters, or demonstration of a sufficient length of time in a non-English speaking culture to give credence to a proficiency report. As a rule, proficiency reports from persons outside of St. Olaf are not acted upon until the student arranges for a final proficiency exam by persons and methods agreed to by members of the foreign language faculty, the registrar and, if deemed necessary, the dean of the college. Such exams may involve an expense charged to the student.

A student experiencing foreign language difficulty should first consult the instructor of the foreign language course and also his/her academic adviser; these faculty may also refer the student to the Academic Support Center. Students for whom English is a second language should consult the registrar or the director of academic advising.

For students with learning disabilities specific to foreign language, there is an alternate way to satisfy the foreign language requirement, as approved by the St. Olaf faculty on October 16, 1974:

“After completion of the work in a foreign language course at St. Olaf College, the student who receives a D or F or no credit may petition to satisfy all (in the case of an F or no credit in a Language 111 course) or any remaining portion of the requirement by taking Foreign Culture and Civilization or Literature in English Translation.”

Alternatives to this requirement are rarely considered. In most cases, they can be initiated by the student only upon completion of a course as explained above. Criteria for granting permission for an alternative include, but are not limited to, strict adherence to language course requirements and class attendance, plus evidence of having worked with a tutor assigned by the Academic Support Center. In a limited number of cases involving students with specific learning disabilities as detailed in Public Law 94-142 (the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975), Section 5(b)(4), a faculty member or a student may initiate the procedure to request an alternative to the foreign language requirement before the student completes the course, as detailed in guidelines approved by the faculty on May 10, 1988.

4. Oral Communication [ORC] — 1 course

Objective: To develop oral communication competence and confidence.

Requirement: A course that incorporates specific instruction, practice and feedback, designated as ORC.

5. Mathematical Reasoning [MAR] — 1 course

Objective: To develop an understanding of mathematics and mathematical problem-solving.

Requirement: Satisfactory completion of a course approved for Mathematical Reasoning credit.

Placement: The college provides a placement examination for new students. On the basis of examination results and the admissions record, most students are advised to complete the requirement in the first year. In some instances, however, students are advised to complete the requirement later. The college assists with placement.

6. Physical Activity [PHA] — 2 one-quarter (.25) credit physical activity courses or a .50 credit physical education course.

Objective: To enhance knowledge of present and long-term physical well-being.

Requirement: Two different one-quarter (.25 credit) activity courses providing participation in structured physical activity in Physical Education or Dance or a .50 credit course in Physical Education. Participants in a recognized intercollegiate sport or dance company may register and receive credit for one of the two required .25 credit courses. Credit for intercollegiate sport or dance company participation cannot be earned as an elective. It can be earned only once as part of the PHA requirement.

It is strongly recommended that both PHA requirements be completed before the senior year. The following regulations are often misunderstood:

  1. Students not appearing on the first class day of a physical activity course are normally dropped from the course by the instructor. In this event, the student must still drop the course at the Registrar’s Office by the posted drop deadline. The instructor does not assume this responsibility.
  2. Only one physical activity course credit may be earned by students as a result of participation in an approved intercollegiate sport. This credit must be entered as Physical Education 171-194 at the registration preceding the sport/participation term. Credit cannot be claimed after the term in which participation took place. An intercollegiate physical education (.25) credit can only be used within the two quarter-credit physical education graduation requirement. An intercollegiate physical education (.25) credit cannot be used as an elective for the purpose of earning a credit toward the 35 full-credit course requirement for graduation. It can only be used once as one-half of the two-course PHA requirement.
  3. Dance 101 and 104 are .5 credit courses, but each earns only one PHA credit and cannot be counted for both (.25) PHA requirements.
  4. Students may register initially for only one physical activity. On a space-available basis a second physical activity may be added with a signed drop/add slip within the drop/add dates published on the Registrar’s Office website.
  5. After the Physical Activity (PHA) requirement has been completed, students may repeat Physical Activities (all those coded department 59) under the following conditions:
    • The PHA requirement is completed with two different PE activities.
    • Students repeating a PE must wait until the first day of classes to register the repeated activity to allow all current students to register for the PHA requirement.
    • Students may only register on a “space available” (open courses) basis.
    • PE activities may only be repeated four times.

Core Studies

1. Historical Studies in Western Culture [HWC] — 2 courses

Objective: To develop historical perspective on and critical appreciation of the major traditions, institutions and achievements of Western culture.

Requirement: Two courses which may be taken in a variety of departments.

2. Multicultural Studies [MCS-G, MCS-D] — 2 courses

Objective: To develop an understanding and appreciation of global and domestic cultural diversity.

Requirement: One full-credit course focusing on culture outside of the Western tradition and one course that includes a component focusing on cultural diversity within the United States. The course and the component may be taken in a variety of departments.

3. Artistic and Literary Studies [ALS-A, ALS-L] — 2 courses

Objective: To develop appreciation and understanding of artistic and literary forms.

Requirement: One course focusing on artistic forms and one course focusing on literary forms. The courses may be taken in a variety of departments. Fractional courses totaling one full course credit may satisfy the Artistic Studies requirement if they are all in the same artistic form and are accredited for Artistic Studies.

4. Biblical and Theological Studies [BTS-B, BTS-T] — 2 courses

Objective: To introduce the Biblical tradition and to develop a critical and coherent understanding of Christian belief.

Requirement: An introductory Biblical studies course (Religion 121), taken during the first year, and one course in Christian theology. Students who initially transfer 15 or more courses to St. Olaf are only required to complete the Christian theology course.

5. Studies in Natural Science [NST, NSL] — 2 courses

Objective: To develop an understanding of scientific knowledge, the process of scientific discovery and the role of the sciences in society and culture.

Requirement: Two courses in different departments or interdisciplinary programs. At least one must be in biology, chemistry or physics, and at least one must be a laboratory course.

6. Studies in Human Behavior and Society [HBS] — 2 courses

Objective: To introduce concepts, theories and methods for the empirical understanding of individual and social human behavior.

Requirement: Two courses in different departments or programs.

Integrative Course

Ethical Issues and Normative Perspectives [EIN] — 1 course

Objective: To analyze ethical issues from a variety of perspectives that provide norms of justice and well-being and guide moral reasoning. One or more perspectives from the Christian theological tradition will be included.

Requirement: One upper level course (numbered 200 or higher) which may be taken in a variety of departments.

Prerequisite: Satisfactory completion of the Christian theology requirement or permission of instructor.


Minimum of eight courses in the major

One completed major is required for graduation. Students must declare a major no later than the time of registration for interim and semester II of their junior year by filling out a form available at the registrar’s office. Students are allowed to change this declaration or add a second major at a later date. Only this catalog defines the specific requirements for each departmental or interdisciplinary major. Depending on the department or interdisciplinary program, the number of courses required for a major ranges from eight to twelve courses, with some departments recommending course work in other departments. Departments and interdisciplinary programs may require comprehensive examinations or special research projects.

While the maximum course credits in any one department allowed toward the 35.00 full course credits graduation requirement may vary, 21 full course credits must be completed outside of the department or program certifying the major. If a student has a double major, courses taken in the second major count toward the 21 credits outside of the first major. In order for a student to be certified in a second or third major, 21 credits also must be taken outside of those majors as well.

Other regulations are:

  1. A minimum of six full course credits above C- (C or higher) must be completed in the major field.
  2. Only one full-course equivalent taken S/U may count toward the minimum requirements for a major.
  3. At least 50 percent of the minimum major must be taken through St. Olaf. Students should consult the registrar and the appropriate department chair or program director about counting toward a major courses taken at other colleges. The chairs should sign the student’s transfer of credit form (available from the Registrar’s Office) if work from other institutions is accepted in advance. Likewise, courses taken through St. Olaf off-campus programs should be approved by the chairs/directors and the off-campus program adviser in advance if credit toward a major is desired. (See TRANSFER COURSES, ALREADY ENROLLED ST. OLAF STUDENTS.)
  4. Certification of the completed major is done by the department chairs and interdisciplinary directors.
  5. Graduation requirements for majors within the Bachelor of Music degree may vary widely. Students should consult this catalog and the Music Department chair.

Multiple MAJORS

Attaining two or three majors within the confines of 35 courses often is difficult. The student should consult frequently with his/her adviser and the chairs or directors of the majoring departments and programs. Three regulations are important:

  1. 21 full course credits outside of the department certifying the major are required for graduation. Courses applied to an additional major, as well as Education Department courses attending a major, count toward the 21 “outside” credits. Twenty-one credits outside of each of the second or third majors are required in order to certify those majors as complete and recorded on the student’s transcript.
  2. A graduate may add an additional major to the St. Olaf record if no more than two courses from another institution are subsequently applied to the additional major.
  3. Certification of a completed major is the responsibility/prerogative of the department chairs or program directors, not the registrar.