Please note: This is NOT the most current catalog.

The St. Olaf Curriculum

The St. Olaf College curriculum engages students in a multidisciplinary, multicultural exploration of human knowledge and experience. The curriculum cultivates the basic skills students need to succeed in college and beyond and introduces students to the traditional liberal arts disciplines. The combination of general education, major, and elective courses helps students develop both breadth and depth in their college education.

At the same time, the curriculum provides opportunities for integrative study through general education courses that meet more than one requirement and through a variety of interdisciplinary majors and concentrations. This blend of traditional and innovative instruction nurtures a critical, creative, and flexible intelligence. The St. Olaf curriculum prepares students for the lifelong learning so essential to their continued personal and professional development.

General Education

A student’s General Education program includes three types of courses. (Note: For numerical purposes, the term “course” means a full (1.00) course credit, as distinguished from fractional course credits.)

Foundation studies focus on the development of basic verbal, mathematical, and physical skills. The requirements in this area include:

  • First-Year Writing, a course that equips students for effective writing in the liberal arts and introduces writing as a means of learning;
  • Four additional Writing in Context courses, available in a variety of disciplines;
  • Foreign language courses that permit students to develop an intermediate level of proficiency;
  • A course that develops oral communication competence and confidence, available in a variety of disciplines;
  • A course in mathematical reasoning;
  • Two different quarter-credit courses in physical activity or dance, or one .50 course in physical education.

Core studies introduce the different fields of knowledge and diverse ways of knowing that are at the heart of the liberal arts. Core requirements include:

Finally, an integrative ethics course based on Christian theology offers upper-division students an opportunity to apply a variety of normative perspectives to the analysis of a range of personal and social issues. Faculty from across the college offer advanced courses that systematically address questions of justice, morality, rights and responsibilities, often in the context of a student’s major.

These requirements support the college's mission in a variety of ways. For example, First-Year Writing introduces writing as a means of learning in the liberal arts. Students further explore the liberal arts in a variety of core courses. Courses in Biblical and theological study, together with the ethics course, support the college's concern to graduate theologically literate students. A global perspective is articulated in foreign language courses, in multicultural studies courses, and in international programs that meet general education requirements. Students are prepared for the world of work in foundation courses that emphasize communication and analytic skills and in integrative courses that promote flexibility of mind.

Taken as a whole, the general education requirements seek to foster the development of mind, body, and spirit that is at the heart of the college's mission.

Consult the Class and Lab Schedules published by the Office of the Registrar for specific information on the requirements that particular courses fulfill. For detailed information concerning the general education curriculum as a whole and individual requirements, consult