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Departmental Learning Goals

Every department and program has decennial and five-year self-studies with an expectation that they identify goals for student learning and explore measurement of learning outcomes. Our office supports departments and programs in this review to ensure that assessment is effective and results are meaningful and useful to faculty in the governance of the curriculum.

  • Ability to study interdisciplinarily and multidisciplinarily
  • Use close reading as evidence for argument
  • Write a critical research paper
  • Ability to study blackness/race intersectionally (that is, in regard to gender, class, nation, sexuality)
  • Ability to study blackness/race in regard to the Diaspora
  • Experience studying closely classic texts or figures or historical periods or movements
  • Experience considering the aesthetic and theoretical principles undergirding 19th-, 20th- and 21st-century African American culture

American studies at Smith is an interdisciplinary program that studies the history, culture and society of the diverse peoples who inhabit the contested and complex geographical, political and cultural space(s) named "America." The program brings together faculty and students from a variety of academic fields, including history, English, music, art, film and media studies, indigenous studies, Asian American studies, African American studies, politics, education, women and gender studies, critical disability studies, material culture and museum studies. Thoughtfully choosing among and combining these approaches, we seek a complex and nuanced understanding of American culture that will enable students to become deliberative, critically engaged participants in the United States and the world.

Students majoring in American studies are expected to:

  • Interpret culture critically, attentive to the politics and aesthetics of cultural forms, and to the social construction of taste, pleasure, desire and anxiety.
  • To understand how power shapes and disguises common‐sense or taken‐for‐granted practices, assumptions and modes of expression.
  • Understand how to read ideologically.
  • Study history in order to understand the origins of present systems, values, desires.
  • Become attentive to the different reading and interpretive strategies required of different cultural forms: textual, visual, auditory, material objects, technologies, built environments and more.
  • Engage theory, through reading and writing about theoretical texts.
  • Approach problems and questions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
  • Conduct original, contextualized and independent research, which requires the student to:
    • Identify and locate primary sources for cultural analysis.
    • Navigate archives effectively.
    • Describe—in terms of content and form—primary sources.
    • Interpret primary sources by reading them for indications of their expression of broad cultural values, anxieties and desires.
    • Formulate a research question in light of issues currently debated in the field and learn how to conduct independent research.
    • Identify and locate scholarly and critical materials relevant to research questions.
    • Understand and critique scholarly and critical arguments in the field.
    • Situate research in ongoing debates in the field.
    • Communicate persuasive and well‐grounded arguments orally and in writing.

Goals for Majors in Anthropology

Students should have:

  • an understanding of the breadth of the subfields of cultural anthropology and/or archeology
  • knowledge of the research methods used by anthropologists
  • an understanding of the concept of culture and how cultural processes work in the production of meaning
  • knowledge of the theoretical foundations of the discipline
  • knowledge of the ethical implications of research
  • the ability to apply 1–5 to real-world situations both inside and outside of academia

Student Learning Outcomes

All majors in anthropology are expected to demonstrate:

  • The ability to communicate in writing and in oral presentations in classrooms and other settings
  • The ability to conduct library or document based research
  • The ability to read and interpret professional publications in anthropology
  • Understanding of the links among anthropological data, method and theory
  • Understanding of the possible impacts of anthropological knowledge on broader questions of policy, political participation, and the allocation of diverse tangible and intangible resources

All graduating Art majors and minors will:

  • develop familiarity with original works of art and/or architecture and with research tools appropriate for the discipline, including print scholarship, online databases, and various reference materials; 
  • communicate their ideas effectively in written, oral and (as appropriate) material form, including public presentations that rely upon the display of visual images or artwork;
  • engage a range of disciplines in their work, in the spirit of a liberal arts education.

Art Studio and Architecture majors and minors will:

  • demonstrate fluency in practices or techniques in the current field of practice for at least one medium (e.g, painting, installation, photography, digital media); 
  • demonstrate proficiency in an extensive and pertinent vocabulary for describing their own work and the art historical antecedents with which it shares relationships; 
  • demonstrate familiarity with professional practices and global perspectives within the cultural landscape of contemporary art;

Assessment (majors and minors): Students will be assessed through periodic faculty and peer critiques of their work and reviews of their written and oral abilities.

Assessment (majors only): Students will create a body of work for final exhibition that results from deep engagement in the process of making and demonstrates an awareness of the contemporary and historical context in which the work exists. This work will be evaluated through peer, faculty, and external critique. 

Students will also complete the major with a professional-level, documented portfolio of their work, including both visual and written materials.

Art History majors and minors will:

  • learn to read original objects, architectural settings, and written scholarship analytically and synthetically;
  • demonstrate familiarity with the different ways that spaces, monuments, and objects have intersected with lived and imagined experiences throughout history and the world over;
  • demonstrate expertise in self-directed research, including fluency with a range of methodologies and debates across the discipline.

Assessment: Students will be assessed in classes, through faculty reviews of their written and oral abilities.

Students will also complete a capstone research seminar that results in a sustained piece of original research, presented in oral form and a paper of ca. 15 pages, to be evaluated by the faculty.

  • Be an active learner/researcher; be able to recognize and define important questions and know how to go about finding the answers.
  • Be familiar with basic concepts from physics and astronomy, including gravity, the nature of light and physical characteristics of matter, and be able to use them as the basis for critical reasoning.
  •  Be skilled at quantitative problem solving incorporating hypothesis formation, data analysis, error analysis, conceptual modeling, numerical computation and hypothesis testing through quantitative comparison between observation and theoretical concepts.
  • Be familiar with scientific instrumentation used by professional astronomers.
  • Be familiar with digital imaging as a source of scientific data, including techniques of acquisition, reduction and analysis.
  • Demonstrate use of critical thinking skills in well-organized, logical and scientifically sound oral and written scientific reports.
  • Be able to critically evaluate representations of science in the media, both in writing and in speaking.
  • Be able to communicate science effectively to the general public and the media.
  • Be aware of and prepared for the variety of opportunities and career paths that are open to students who have majored in astronomy.

All graduating biochemistry majors should be able to:

  • Summarize, explain and critically evaluate published scientific literature. This includes being able to identify the “big picture” ideas, what was known in the field prior to the work being described, and what new information the experiments contribute to the field.
  • Write and orally present biochemical content clearly.
  • Interpret and analyze data, employing rigorous quantitative skills when necessary.
  • Describe the process of scientific research. Be able to recognize and implement critical elements of experimental design (such as proper control experiments), recognize what conclusions can (and cannot) be reasonably be drawn from a given set of experimental results, and understand how to conduct research responsibly.
  • Locate and use valid, peer-reviewed sources when doing research.
  • Demonstrate a command of essential biochemistry content including knowledge of:
    • The structure and function of proteins, nucleic acids, carbohydrates, and lipids
    • Enzyme kinetics and inhibition
    • Metabolic pathways, including their chemical reactions, regulation and energetic driving forces
    • Replication, transcription, translation, gene expression and DNA repair mechanisms
    • The different levels of biological organization from single cells to whole organisms
    • How to carry out and explain the basis of important biochemical techniques

The biological sciences form the foundation of a number of academic disciplines at Smith, including biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, landscape studies and environmental science and policy. The major in biological sciences itself spans organisms from bacteria through plants and animals, levels of organization from molecules and cells through ecosystems, and modern research methods in both the laboratory and the field.

Students in biological sciences master fundamental concepts in introductory courses with associated laboratories or fieldwork. In those courses, students conduct research projects, an emphasis on research that recurs in the upper-level courses that follow. As they choose those courses, they select a track to focus their learning in specific areas (cells, physiology and development; genetics, evolution and molecular biology; biodiversity, ecology and conservation) or instead choose a broad integrative approach that can include an option to prepare to teach at the secondary-school level.

Learning Objectives for the Biological Sciences

  • Broad knowledge of the field of biology and its foundational concepts
  • Deeper knowledge, fluency and ability to creatively engage in a subdiscipline of biology
  • Use of interdisciplinary fields to support an enhanced understanding of the life sciences 
  • Critical thinking and rigorous evaluation of primary scientific research 
  • Evaluation and understanding of one’s own learning process
  • Demonstrated ability using the scientific method, empirical approaches and the generation of original knowledge    
  • Competency in employing standard quantitative and statistical approaches to organize, analyze and interpret scientific data
  • Effective communication of scientific information to academic and general audiences
Ethical Conduct and Civic Engagement 
  • An understanding of science and research ethical considerations
  • Building identity and confidence within the field of the life sciences
  • Understanding and participation in public and stakeholder concerns related to science policy with evidence based approaches 

With a rich array of courses and access to extensive research resources, students in biological sciences graduate with the knowledge and experience they need to begin careers in research, academia, the health professions, the biotech and pharmaceutical industries, conservation, wildlife management, secondary education and many other endeavors.

  • Ability to “tell a good story” about chemistry
  • Read/write a scientific paper
  • Design experiments
  • Interpret data
  • Transfer knowledge between discrete course units
  • Authentic engagement with learning/exploration
  • Information literacy (chemistry-specific)
  • Thirty-four different desired areas of content mastery

The Department of Classical Languages and Literatures regards its principal mission as instruction of students in the languages and literatures of Ancient Greece and Rome. We believe that the study of Greek and Latin provides students with a rigorous intellectual training that is transferable to other areas of learning and life. We practice the deep study of language on texts—literary, historical and philosophical—that we admire for the directness and vigor with which they confront central issues of the human condition: love and death, freedom and tyranny, justice and injustice. A sustained confrontation with classical texts not only heightens a student’s sensitivity to literature and involves her in a valuable cultural odyssey, but also prepares her for a life of thoughtful and engaged citizenship in the world of the 21st century.

Students majoring in classics or classical studies should be able to:

  • Translate with accuracy and understanding Latin and/or Greek texts from a variety of historical periods and genres.

  • Appreciate literary texts (epic, tragedy, elegy, oratory, history or philosophy) in relation to their historical frameworks, both diachronic (texts in dialogue with one another across a literary tradition) and synchronic (texts responding to specific historical conditions).

  • Have a working knowledge of the basic tools and resources, both print and electronic, for conducting research about ancient Greek and Roman culture.

  • Write clear, cogent interpretive arguments that demonstrate an ability to evaluate and engage critically with both primary sources and secondary literature.

  • Communicate ideas clearly and effectively in oral argument.

  • Develop an historical awareness of the enduring influence of the classics in the arts and culture of subsequent periods up to the present day.

World literatures is about crossing borders: exploring the ways different languages shape the perceptions and thought patterns of the people who speak them, the ways writers in one location read others distant in time or place, the ways cultural movements link up poets and artists from different countries, the ways regional identities play against national unities, the ways people scattered throughout the world celebrate their origins and redefine their culture.

World literatures graduates use their languages and writing skills in many fields: as translators, journalists, speechwriters and editors; in international business and art sales; in counseling, law and transnational activism. They come to share a common theoretical language but they appreciate difference—in cultures, in ideas, in themselves—and they learn how to seek it out.

Students also study broad theoretical questions: What exactly is poetic language? How does the psyche take up (and disturb) language and other symbolic systems? How do political changes lead to aesthetic revolutions—and to new theories of the literary? What are the pleasures of a text?

Learning Goals

Students will become sophisticated readers of texts whether literary or not. As such they will be able to: 

  • Identify rhetorical devices from the highly ornate to the “dormant” metaphor
  • Identify the tone of a work—satiric, epic, tragic, etc.
  • Distinguish levels of meaning within a work

Students will be able to think comparatively and express their thoughts in cogent prose. As such they will be able to:

  • Compare literary passages by identifying their formal features
  • Situate a given text in its historical and comparative context
  • Build a coherent argument
  • Use theoretical writings to underpin their readings of a text
  • Reflect on what literature is and compare it to other type of discourses
  • Correctly cite sources

Foreign Language Literacy

All world literatures students are expected to achieve a level of literacy in their second language commensurate with the resources available in the Five Colleges. Their ability in a non-English language will prepare them to:

  • Engage with a variety of texts in the original language
  • Develop a sensitivity to issues of translation in working with works in translation
  • Have a practical familiarity with appropriate language resources in their second language
  • Develop their awareness of and sensitivity to different cultural contexts


As dedicated readers, students will be able to:

  • Formulate a research question
  • Identify authoritative editions of primary texts and know how to cite them
  • Be able to locate and evaluate print and digital scholarly resources

  • Understanding of what constitutes a computer system, how they have evolved historicallyand, broadly, how they work.
  • Mastery of at least one high-level programming language, as evidenced by the ability to structure, test and debug a long program. The facility to pick up a new language quickly.
  • A grasp of the theoretical power and limitations of computing devices as revealed through models of computation.
  • The ability to read and understand a technical paper in one of the three areas above.
  • The ability to explain technical concepts in computer science to non-technical peers.

The major is designed to instill a broad view of dance in preparation for a professional career or further study while promoting liberal arts learning capacities. Students complete courses in dance history; anthropology and aesthetics; composition and creative process; kinesiological and somatic aspects of dance; dance production; and dance technique, movement vocabulary and performance. A dancer’s instrument is her body and it must be trained consistently; technique courses are therefore a core component of the curriculum.

The capacities for the major in dance overlap and are integrated throughout the curriculum. In this section we individuate these capacities into subsets of the discipline.

Dance Technique. By graduation, dance majors have engaged deeply with the physical practice of dance and possess the embodied knowledge and physical training that enables them to perform and generate a variety of technical dance skills. These courses focus on the practice and analysis of movement. They promote the development of physical skills and physical intelligence (the ability to efficiently solve movement and performance-related tasks/problems). Students generate and analyze physical data through courses in technique and improvisation movement. Their understanding of expressive human movement is the bedrock of their studies and interwoven in all creative and theoretical research in dance. 

Composition and Creative Process. Creative research through choreography and dance repertory comprises a large part of the theory requirements for the major. This sequence of courses begins with the most basic study of dance composition—gesture, space, time, energy—and focuses on tools for finding and developing movement. The second- and third-level courses develop the fundamentals of formal choreography and expand work in the manipulation of spatial design, dynamics, phrasing, rhythm, content and music. The movement materials that a student explores are not limited to any specific genre. This sequence also includes 4-credit repertory courses at the intermediate and advanced levels, in which students, as dancers, are participants in the creative process and development of faculty and guest artists’ choreography.

Dance History, Anthropology and Aesthetics. Further study of dance is divided into dance aesthetics, dance anthropology and dance history. Students learn to conceptualize dance through these theoretical lenses and apply methods in dance history, anthropology and aesthetics in their own research. They also acquire an interdisciplinary understanding of dance scholarship through study of dance theory in dialogue with fields such as area studies, gender studies, African American studies and film studies. The theory curriculum promotes dance literacy through a broad perspective that highlights the practice of this art both in the United States and globally, as a concert form and also an expression of popular culture, in variety of social contexts and serving a vast array of artistic and cultural purposes.

Dance Science and Somatics. The science of movement, perception and intention underlie all aspects of dancing. Dance majors acquire skill in these areas through mindful, directed practice, feedback from their instructors, and from learning about anatomy, physiology, motor control and learning and the study of somatics. Although this material is covered specifically in the scientific foundations of dance, it is integrated into our technique courses as well. Emphasis is placed not only on functional alignment, coordination and the development of basic and higher level physical skills, it is also on the cognitive and emotional processes that clarify intention, expression, performance awareness, creative imagination and perceptual attunement both to one’s surroundings and one’s body.

By learning the science and somatic principles of dance, students are able to analyze movement and movement pedagogy, critically assessing how what they are doing can be deepened through the knowledge of the mind/body and how what they are doing might either be expanding their movement potential or potentially causing harm to their body. Dancers learn to critically assess the concept of body image, posture and fitness. They learn that movement intelligence is not about a body type or movement that looks a certain way, but the capacity to engage in the task of solving movement and performance problems or challenges. It is about the development of resilience and the ability to draw upon varied experiences to have an increased potential to adapt to emerging situations.

Music and Dance. The study of music for dance is the topic of a full theoretical course required for the major but also an important discussion in all choreography and repertory courses. Finding and accurately naming music-specific information as related to dance, particularly with respect to rhythm and phrasing, is an expected skill of all majors. Additionally they learn to recognize aspects of basic music theory and the cultural, cognitive and emotional effects of listening. Majors also grow an ethical and respectful approach to live and prerecorded music as the artistic expression and intellectual property of composers, accompanists and performers.

To develop linguistic and cultural fluency, students will:

  • Be able to use Chinese, Japanese or Korean to navigate a variety of social and professional situations appropriately and confidently.
  • Grasp of both language and culture will allow them to have nuanced discussions about social and cultural issues, as well as professional and academic topics that are of interest to them, in Chinese, Japanese or Korean.
  • Learn to analyze and interpret texts in an informed and critical way, both orally and in writing.
  • Be able to conduct research on topics of their choice utilizing primary and secondary sources.
  • Have an understanding of East Asian literature and culture—modern and premodern—that will lead them to develop historical and comparative perspectives on the world that go beyond simple East-West binaries.
  • Engage with the international community at Smith and abroad, learning to communicate respect and understanding across cultures, preparing for—and beginning—lives of ongoing influence in today’s global world.

Knowledge Areas

  • Develop a multidimensional understanding of the arts, beliefs, societies and traditions, including a historical dimension, of either one East Asian country or of a specific theme across East Asia as a region.
  • Achieve some awareness both of the particularity and the complexity of different East Asian cultures and societies and of historical and contemporary continuities within the region.
  • Develop a basic understanding of one East Asian culture through the logic of its principal language, as well as through a study of thought, history, society and arts.
  • Demonstrate a broader understanding of contemporary social, political, economic, and cultural developments and themes that are shaping and defining the region.
  • Achieve some experiential understanding of aspects of the culture and language of study.
  • Achieve some acquaintance with the approaches and fundamentals of methodologies associated with the social sciences and humanities.

Skills of Expression and Communication

  • At a minimum, achieve conversational competence as well as ability to read and write at the second-year level of an East Asian language.
  • Be able to express complex ideas and articulate arguments clearly in English, orally and in writing.
  • Apprehend complex thoughts and arguments presented by others in English, both orally and in writing.
  • Communicate in relevant and respectful ways in an academic environment.

Skills of Inquiry and Analysis

  • Explore analytically a text, argument, or social phenomenon in their field.
  • Integrate general and specialized knowledge to ask productive questions and solve problems in their field.
  • Design and carry out an independent, thesis-driven research project (the seminar).
  • Locate and use secondary sources judiciously in research in their field.

  • Understand and synthesize the basic concepts of economics
  • Use those economic concepts to solve problems, particularly in the realm of public policy
  • Consider different perspectives in the approach to solving problems
  • Develop critical thinking
  • Conduct independent research
  • Develop an ability for abstract reasoning based on tight, clear logic
  • Develop quantitative skills for data management and systematic empirical analysis
  • Develop a precise writing style
  • Develop a facility for effective oral presentation

  • Understand the field of education from an array of disciplinary perspectives, i.e., philosophical, historical, sociological, psychological, statistical and ethical.
  • Understand the role of cultural and human diversity in the design and practice of education.
  • Understand current theories of learning and how they shape principles of pedagogical practice across ages and subject matter.
  • Understand current theories of human development, from infancy through adolescence.
  • Understand the major factors that influence the design of learning environments.
  • Understand how education policy is shaped and how to change educational practice.
  • Develop applied and practical knowledge and skill to support the growth and success of beginning teachers. (These learning goals are elaborated in the description of our state approved teacher preparation programs.)

The Picker Engineering Program has adopted the seven student learning outcomes suggested by ABET. For each learning outcome, the engineering faculty have identified specific performance indicators that can be measured—there are two to four performance indicators for each learning outcome. The learning outcomes are as follows.

  • An ability to identify, formulate and solve complex engineering problems by applying principles of engineering, science and mathematics.
  • An ability to apply engineering design to produce solutions that meet specified needs with consideration of public health, safety and welfare, as well as global, cultural, social, environmental and economic factors.
  • An ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
  • An ability to recognize ethical and professional responsibilities in engineering situations and make informed judgments, which must consider the impact of engineering solutions in global, economic, environmental and societal contexts.
  • An ability to function effectively on a team whose members together provide leadership, create a collaborative and inclusive environment, establish goals, plan tasks and meet objectives.
  • An ability to develop and conduct appropriate experimentation, analyze and interpret data, and use engineering judgment to draw conclusions.
  • An ability to acquire and apply new knowledge as needed, using appropriate learning strategies.


We want our students to read literary texts—from an array of traditions, historical periods, and genres—closely, critically, with an alertness to complexity and an openness to pleasure; and we wish them to realize and to articulate the power of those texts as sites for critical thinking, moral and intellectual exploration, and engagement with the world.

Accordingly, students who complete the major in English Language and Literature should be able to:

  • Understand and be familiar with major movements, authors and expressive traditions of British, American and world literatures in English.
  • Understand literature in relation to historical frameworks, both diachronic (literary history across time, texts in relation to prior texts) and synchronic (texts in their own time, in relation to the contexts that shape an era’s thought and expression).
  • Think cogently about the production of literary meaning, understanding the resources of form and genre and the intellectual power of major critical theories and interpretive methods.
  • Write clear, forceful interpretive arguments, which give voice to a complex understanding of literary texts and marshal evidence carefully and persuasively.
  • Conduct scholarly research in print and electronic formats, citing sources accurately and responsibly—and using that research to enter the critical debates and conversations that texts provoke.
  • Make effective use of oral communication and presentation techniques.
  • Combine, as their careers unfold, close reading, argumentative and evaluative skills, and research into their own longer works of literary analysis.

By the time they graduate, Environmental Science and Policy majors should be able to:

  • Understand interconnected earth, ecological, and human/societal phenomena and processes that influence human-environment interactions
  • Use systems thinking to understand how to plan and design social-ecological structures and policies
  • Recognize and address intersecting concerns of social and environmental justice
  • Integrate disciplinary knowledge and methods and identify underlying assumptions when approaching environmental problems
  • Collect, analyze and interpret relevant data and information 
  • Synthesize information and communicate effectively with diverse audiences and across differences
  • Work collaboratively to translate knowledge into meaningful environmental action

  • The ability to critically analyze works from a wide variety of moving image media (e.g., cinema, television, video art, streaming video, mobile apps, video games, GIFs) and artistic modes (e.g., narrative, documentary, experimental)
  • A keen awareness of moving images’ contexts (political, historical, cultural, technological, industrial and social) and how these evolve over the life of their circulation
  • Research skills that cover a range of types and levels—basic Internet research, in-depth scholarly research, archival research—and an understanding of how to use different kinds of research appropriately
  • An ability to make creative media, at least an introductory production level, with a critical eye and reflective mindset
  • Proficiency at sharing ideas effectively through three types of communication:
    • Written: majors will be able to write clearly and persuasively in a range of formats and for a range of audiences (e.g., blog posts, short response papers, conference abstracts, in-depth research papers)
    • Spoken: majors will be able to present ideas orally in a range of settings (e.g., one-on-one with the instructor, in small discussion groups, in large classroom discussions, through in-class presentations)
    • Media: beyond the form of creative media-making majors learns in their production classes, they will also learn to communicate scholarly ideas about media through media (e.g., by making websites, video essays, podcasts, GIS mapping projects)

  • As students learn and master the French language, they gain the ability to listen and speak articulately; read and analyze texts, cultural artifacts and digital media critically; and write clearly.

  • As they explore French and Francophone cultures, society, history, institutions and thought, they develop historical and comparative depth of perspective.

  • As they take courses in other departments and/or programs, they build an interdisciplinary framework to develop a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the French and Francophone world.

  • As they engage with communities beyond Smith through study, internships, volunteer and other work opportunities abroad, they become global citizens who value tolerance, appreciate diversity and thereby become prepared to face the challenges of living in a rapidly changing world.

Graduating geoscience majors:

  • Are able to integrate ideas and knowledge from a variety of areas within geosciences and other sciences and programs.
  • Can write well and speak clearly and coherently.
  • Are able to critically read and understand scientific literature.
  • Know how to define and address research problems individually and as part of a team.
  • Can collect and properly utilize geological data from the field and laboratory.
  • Know how to solve problems using geological data, including specimens and maps.
  • Are able to use resources and technology to access, display, and analyze data.
  • Can think creatively and reach conclusions based on a limited data-base.

Students majoring in the Department of German and Italian acquire the linguistic ability, cultural competency, research skills, and contextual knowledge to open up transnational perspectives and pursue their own personal lines of inquiry.

The specific learning goals of the major fall into three interrelated categories:

1. Language, Semantics and Rhetoric.

Our majors achieve proficiency in German or Italian (at the B2 level or higher).
Are able to function independently in German or Italian -speaking social and academic environments. Can identify how language is used and shaped for a variety of purposes and develop a critical relationship with media, including literature, film, the arts, scholarly writing, Internet resources and the press.

2. Transcultural CompetenceOu

Our majors develop and further “transcultural competence," that is, the ability to reflect critically on the world and oneself through the lens of another language and culture. To enable students to establish relevant, critical connections between German or Italian culture, their own culture and other academic fields, within the framework of contemporary intercultural society. To make them reflect on the processes and the challenges faced by any act of translation between languages. To make use of scholarly sources to inform and strengthen their own perspective.

3. Global Citizenship

Through study abroad and internships in Germany or in Italy, our majors  learn how to become global citizens and help build cosmopolitan communities. They learn to value and creatively include diversity in spite of the challenges it represents to community building. They are  equipped with the competence required to live in our increasingly more transnational 21st-century world, and to recognize their own transnational positionality.


Government majors should emerge from the program with an understanding of the factors that shape a variety of political systems and influence policy outcomes at both the domestic and international level. They should be able to assess critically political actions, and to be attentive to the social forces that shape the exercise of power. They should have frameworks within which to think about the purposes of politics, the aims and responsibilities of governments and the rights and duties of citizens. Consistent with the mission of a liberal arts college, the government department seeks to prepare its majors for a variety of postgraduate options, including law school and graduate study in political science.

Teaching students to:

  • Articulate arguments orally and in writing
  • Understand and engage in original research
  • To evaluate the validity of information
  • Become familiar with, and be able to understand, diverse perspectives on political issues, taking into account differences such as those based on ethnicity, race, gender and culture.

The Department of History at Smith College endeavors to cultivate a critical understanding of past and present human societies that will help students to become informed, thoughtful and engaged participants in the world. By offering our students the opportunity to discover historical inquiry as a meaningful part of their humanistic formation, history contributes directly to the highest intellectual mission of the college.

The study of history at Smith thus aims to prepare students to:

  • Locate, analyze, and craft their own understandings of the past from a wide range of primary sources.
  • Place such analyses in the context of historical and interdisciplinary scholarship.

These goals are achieved through developing knowledge and skills specific to the historical profession and humanistic scholarship. Students majoring in History are expected to:

  • Distinguish between primary and secondary sources and read them closely and critically.
  • Be familiar with major interpretative frameworks in the discipline of history and understand theoretical and methodological issues in historical debate.
  • Acquire experience in supervised and independent research.
  • Develop analytical and writing skills necessary for research and for presenting findings effectively.

The history curriculum ultimately helps students understand more clearly not only their place in contemporary society but also relationships between longer-term political, social, economic, intellectual and cultural currents in our increasingly globalized world.

Students majoring in history demonstrate their skills and knowledge in the following ways:

a) Taking HST 150 and satisfying the history major’s distribution requirements (geographical, chronological and thematic).

b) Taking a research seminar and writing a major research essay (or completing a major semester-long research project that may include both writing and digital components), which engages both primary and secondary sources and demonstrates command of major interpretative frameworks in history.

c) Honors students write a thesis based on independent research in primary and secondary sources and defend it publicly.

The program in Jewish studies expects students to graduate with an understanding of the religious, historical, political and cultural forces that have shaped Jewish civilization for more than 3,000 years. This includes the ability to:

  • Frame questions and situate core texts and ideas in their appropriate intellectual, social and cultural contexts.
  • Analyze and critique religious, historical, philosophical, political, literary and artistic texts, ideas and materials pertaining to Jewish experiences through the ages.
  • Acquire knowledge of the diversity of Jewish culture through time and space, with a specific understanding of the interactions between Jews and co-territorial cultures, peoples, empires and states.
  • Think about the ways in which Jewish studies contributes to, broadens and challenges important conceptual approaches in humanistic studies, engaging with questions related to such issues as nationalism and transnationalism, diaspora and globalization, multilingualism and translation, majority-minority relations, race, gender and sexuality, etc.
  • Attain beginning competency in a Jewish language.
  • Be confident thinkers, analysts and creators of culture.

The LALS Program has four primary goals for its students:

  • To understand Latin America and Latinos in the United States through the lenses of literature, the arts and the social sciences.
  • To investigate the specific historical conditions that have shaped—and continue to shape—these societies.
  • To develop communication skills in Spanish and/or Portuguese.
  • To further knowledge of the unique ways in which visual culture, literature, artistic production, history, politics and economics intertwine for present­-day people who consider themselves Latin Americans.

These goals focus our curriculum to prepare majors to successfully attain essential capacities, with particular strengths in developing historical and comparative perspectives through the study of the development of societies, cultures and philosophies; the study of languages; and the understanding of multi­- and interdisciplinary approaches. Likewise, the program curriculum fosters the development of informed global citizens with its fundamental commitment to engaging with communities beyond Smith, domestically and internationally, and its attention to the regional and global challenges of ethnic and racial diversity, as well as gender, environmental and social justice.

The curriculum is attentive to the development of critical and analytical thinking skills and the cultivation of the skills necessary to convey information and understanding. Students develop close reading, clear speaking and writing skills, most explicitly but not exclusively in literature and history courses. Course offerings in the humanities create opportunities for creative expression, in written as well as visual media and performance, and those in the social sciences develop the necessary skills to evaluate and present evidence accurately, verbally and in writing. Community­-based research courses and public scholarship -oriented research projects provide opportunities for students to work collaboratively and to reflect critically on the collaborative process.

  • Given a problem, to recognize its mathematical aspects and to produce an abstract mathematical model for the problem.
  • Basic mathematical skills (through discrete math, the calculus course, and linear algebra).
  • To write mathematics effectively:
    • Math track: To understand and write mathematical proofs.
    • Stats track: To write a professional-level technical report.
  • To speak mathematics or statistical terms effectively in oral presentations.
  • To use technology appropriately to learn and understand mathematics.

  • Acquire an understanding of the unity and of the diversity of European civilization in the Middle Ages as expressed in art, history, literature, music and religion.
  • Demonstrate ability to conduct academic work across and forge intellectual connections between the approaches and subject matters in the different disciplines that make up the program.
  • Achieve linguistic proficiency in a medieval language.
  • Demonstrate the ability to conduct research and to express ideas clearly and cogently in both written and spoken language.

 The Program in Middle East Studies expects students to graduate with an understanding of the histories, cultures, politics, economics and languages that define the lived experiences of the peoples of the Middle East from the emergence of Islam (7th century CE) to the present. This includes equipping students with the knowledge and skills to: 

  • Frame questions and situate core texts and ideas in their appropriate intellectual, social, material and cultural contexts.
  • Analyze and critique texts, ideas and materials produced in or pertaining to the Middle East from the rise of Islam to the present.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the diversity of Middle Eastern experiences through time and space, including an understanding of the interactions between the Middle East and other cultures, peoples, empires, economies and states.
  • Situate the Middle East in global flows of ideas, material cultures, technologies, and political, economic and social forms.
  • Understand how such global flows have shaped the Middle East and how the Middle East has influenced global movements of people, ideas and material forms across time and space.
  • Think critically, speak and write critically about the ways in which the interdisciplinary field of Middle East studies contributes to, broadens and challenges important theoretical, methodological, analytic and conceptual approaches applied to the study of the Middle East in the humanities and social sciences.
  • Apply knowledge of the Middle East to contemporary issues as informed and engaged citizens.
  • Attain beginning competency in a Middle Eastern language.

  • Be able to read and to think conceptually and critically about a musical performance, a musical composition or score, a theoretical analysis, an historical inquiry, a cultural study, a musical institution.
  • Have an understanding of the nature of an array of musical practices and of the nature of the various relationships among performance, improvisation, composition, and written and oral reflection about music.
  • Have a vocabulary of specific pieces or repertories of music, a knowledge of the traditions from which they derive, and the ability to form analytical statements about them.
  • Be able to do research in libraries, archives, private collection, oral histories, and online; to discriminate between serious and trivial sources of information; to cite sources with ethical appropriateness.
  • Have the ability to write cogently and coherently about musical matters: performances, compositions, essays, books and films.

Neuroscience is the study of nervous systems, touching diverse fields such as biology, psychology, biochemistry, philosophy and computer science. Students of neuroscience are also diverse. For example, some students are primarily interested in questions of how consciousness arises from the human brain, while others become fascinated with the inner workings of individual nerve cells, and still others with the development of these complex neural systems. Neuroscience students at Smith receive excellent preparation for a wide range of careers including research, medicine, biotechnology, pharmacology and a variety of other careers. The breadth of neuroscience encourages learning about many areas of science.

Students who major in neuroscience graduate with deep knowledge of neuroscience and several well-developed skills. They learn fundamental principles about the nervous system at multiple levels of analysis, from molecular and cellular aspects through systems, behavioral and cognitive levels. They receive extensive training in scientific writing, data analysis and public speaking, including presentations in classes and often also at regional and national scientific meetings. All of our students engage in research-based laboratory work, either through research projects in our upper-level laboratory courses, or in many cases through one-on-one mentoring in a faculty research laboratory. Finally, students begin to read primary research papers in our sophomore methods course and then continue to develop their skills in analyzing and critiquing current articles in our upper-level courses and seminars. They graduate from Smith with the skills and understanding that prepares them for the next steps in their careers.

We encourage our students to read philosophical texts from an array of traditions, historical periods and genres, closely and critically, in order to develop an awareness of complexity and nuance, and we wish them to use those texts, orally and in writing, as sites for their own critical thinking, moral and intellectual exploration, and engagement with the world in which they live.

Accordingly, students who complete the major in philosophy should be able to:

  • Understand and be familiar with major movements, authors, and philosophical traditions across the world.
  • Understand philosophy in relation to historical frameworks, both diachronic (contemporary texts in relation to prior texts) and synchronic (texts in their own time, in relation to the contexts that shape an era’s thought and expression).
  • Write clear, forceful interpretive arguments, which give voice to a complex understanding of philosophical texts, and marshal evidence carefully and persuasively.
  • Conduct scholarly research in print and electronic formats, citing sources accurately and responsibly—and using that research to enter the critical debates and conversations that texts provoke.
  • Make effective use of oral communication and presentation techniques.

Here is a small but representative sample of the kinds of questions raised in Smith philosophy classes which help students to achieve these goals:

  • What does it mean to be a cosmopolitan person—a global citizen?
  • In the United States and some other countries the gap between the super rich and everyone else has been growing in recent decades. Does this matter? Why (not)?
  • Which (if any) of your behaviors can be explained by appeal to biology?
  • What is the fundamental nature of reality? Is three one? Why should we care?
  • Does privacy matter only if you “have something to hide”?
  • A prison's warden has asked that you, a physician, participate in the execution of a death row prisoner by lethal injection. You are aware that the American Medical Association’s ethical guidelines prohibit doctors’ involvement in executions. You also know that if you decline to participate, the prisoner is at risk of greater suffering. What do you decide, and why?

Smith College physics majors graduate with a combination of disciplinary knowledge and skills that prepares them for graduate work in physics or other STEM fields, medical school, teaching, science policy and a variety of other career options.


The primary areas of knowledge covered by our major are mechanics, electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics and thermal physics. Students will gain a good introductory knowledge of electronics, special relativity, optics, fluids and error analysis. In addition to these physical topics, our students need to master a variety of mathematical topics required in these fields.


At least as important as disciplinary knowledge are the skills required for a degree in physics. These include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Good problem-solving technique, including identification of physical principles, good use of diagrams, clear mathematical derivations, proper use of units, and physical analysis and assessment of results.
  • Ability to convey knowledge and observations in both oral and written forms.
  • Use of computer-based numerical and analytical methods to solve complex physical problems.
  • Gain insight through the use of experimental design, instrumentation and methods that reveal signal and reduce noise in messy data.
  • Data analysis, including the use of plotting software and basic statistical analysis to draw conclusions and infer significance.

The Education Track

Students who choose the education track in the physics major may learn some topics at a more introductory level in some areas than it would be for a regular major, but they should still gain facility with all of the topics listed above, except, in some cases, thermal physics. They should also get a good working knowledge of the main ideas to emerge from physics education research. They should become proficient in all the skills listed above as well as tutoring and providing in-class help to students.

Psychology department faculty affirmed the following learning goals for our majors. Students will:

  • Develop a knowledge base of psychology, becoming familiar with the important theories, findings and historical perspectives in the field.
  • Become critical consumers of research and learn to think critically about behavior, brain and mental processes; understand the relations among theories, observations and conclusions; and weigh evidence in evaluating particular theories or approaches.
  • Develop research and quantitative fluency, including the ability to develop hypotheses, design studies, and understand, analyze and represent data.
  • Develop requisite writing and communication skills within the discipline.
  • Understand the ethics and philosophy of science.
  • Develop multicultural fluency, including the ability to view issues from different cultural perspectives and to ask pertinent questions about cultural influences.

To make sense of the complexity of religion one needs to consider a wide range of sources and to do so in a wide variety of ways. Scholars of religion are best served by being both multi-disciplinary and multi-methodological, drawing on paradigms from a host of academic disciplines—from the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences—and wisely choosing and using the right method for each source examined.

To this end, we want our students to learn something of the history of the academic study of religion as well as its many theories and methods, and also to be able to put this knowledge to use in their own research. This is our aim in Approaches to the Study of Religion (REL 200), which is a requirement for all our majors. We also encourage our majors to count one class toward their major that is taken outside of the Department of Religion yet is relevant to their course of study. This allows students to integrate insights from another department, and thus develop sophisticated methodologies tailored to their interests.

Students in our department should develop an understanding of religion that has both breadth and depth. They should learn the fundamentals and nuances of multiple religious traditions as a way to grasp the range of religious ideas and practices, and they should also develop a deep understanding of one religion, or one religious concept or ritual, as a way to grasp the particularities that religion can engender and the logic of these forms. Hence, we stipulate a breadth requirement, which obliges students to take courses across religious traditions, and a depth requirement, which has students develop a concentration. These requirements offer students complementary ways of understanding religion in its richness and diversity.

One way to access the depth of a religious tradition is through a departmental seminar, which is a requirement for all majors. Seminars offer students the opportunity to learn intensively. Students read primary and secondary sources, develop arguments about these materials in class discussion and in writing, and then conduct independent research as a way to explore a particular facet of religion in detail. Students who want to do additional specialized research can work with our faculty to develop either a special studies project or an honors thesis.

Another way to access the depth of a religious tradition is to read texts of that tradition in their original language, whether classical or modern, canonical or vernacular. To encourage this, we credit students who complete an advanced language class in which they read religious texts. Language study of this kind is especially beneficial for students who want to continue their studies at the graduate level. In fact, many of our students have gone on to get advanced degrees and have illustrious careers in religious studies or the ministry, as well as in a plethora of other fields.

We have designed the our curriculum to instill a range of skills in our students. We help them cultivate a methodologically sophisticated understanding of religion that is both broad and deep. To this end, our courses help students to understand religion’s role in history and current events; to consider religion’s claims to authority critically yet sensitively; to reflect on religion’s relationship to ethics and moral systems; to recognize religious diversity and develop a culturally sensitive and global orientation; and much more. In addition, our courses inculcate skills that are of fundamental importance to a liberal arts education: critical reading, cogent writing, and how to craft arguments, pursue independent research, engage in public speaking and dialogue, and synthesize the resources of multiple disciplines to pose and answer questions about complex phenomena.


Students in REEES are expected to learn to think critically about the histories, cultures, religions, politics and economies of the region of the former Soviet Union, as well the often competing ideas and interests that have shaped these histories and cultures for the past thousand years.

Language competency:

  • Students are expected to be able to function independently in a Russian or East European-speaking milieu. While currently only Russian is offered at Smith, students who wish to focus their studies on Eastern Europe may do so through pursuing language training through the Five College Center for the Study of World Languages, summer study, etc. Linguistic competency is evaluated on the basis of nationally accepted testing practices.

Cultural and cross-cultural competency:

  • Graduating students majoring in REEES are able to choose one of two tracks of study: language and literature or broader area studies. In either case, students are expected to develop a working knowledge of the history of Russia or Eastern Europe and the ways in which literature, the visual or performing arts, religion and other modes of human expression have reflected and shaped that history.
  • Students are expected to be aware of the intellectual, social and political questions that have influenced Russian, East European or other post-Soviet societies, and be able to contextualize these questions both regionally and cross-culturally.
  • Students also develop familiarity with non-Russian cultures and traditions of Eurasia and their global influence.
  • Students are expected to become critical thinkers and participants in ongoing conversations about the ways in which Russia and other post-Soviet societies in Eastern Europe and Central Asia contribute to and challenge broader conversations regarding nationalism, transnationalism and imperialism, relations between state and religion, globalization and human rights, majority and minority relations, race, gender, sexuality, etc.

Research competency:

  • Students are expected to develop the research skills necessary to explore key issues in cultures, religions, histories and politics of post-Soviet societies using a variety of primary and secondary sources.

Global citizenship competency:

Students are expected to use their linguistic, cultural and research skills to become informed and engaged citizens of the world

As a department, the main learning goals that we have for students are that they develop both critical sociological analysis and research skills. By “critical thinking skills” we mean that: a) students should be introduced to the sociological perspective and develop what C. Wright Mills called the “sociological imagination,” a critical faculty permitting one to connect personal experience with larger social and historical forces, and by “making the familiar strange,” or rendering problematic those habits and social rituals that seem “natural”; b) we want students to read, understand and learn to employ sociological theories; and c) we expect students to develop in-depth understanding of specific social phenomena in course electives that cover specific areas of sociological thinking, practice and analysis.

The research skills we want students to learn include: a) introducing them to different sociological methods and their application to theoretical and empirical questions; b) understanding introductory statistics and use of statistical software; c) becoming proficient in both quantitative research methods (by designing and implementing a survey questionnaire, and by carrying out basic statistical analysis of survey data) and qualitative research methods (by learning to conduct participant observation, focus groups, in-depth interviewing, discourse analysis and visual analysis); and d) developing the skills to evaluate and critique social research.

Spanish Major Learning Goals:

Upon graduation our students are able to think critically and to speak, read and write with accuracy at an advanced level in Spanish, and at a low-intermediate level or higher in Portuguese. They have the ability to negotiate diverse academic, professional and social situations in Spanish with high communicative capacity. To this end, most of our classes are held in the target language, as is all student work produced in these classes, including discussions, oral presentations and written work. Our majors are able to identify and analyze a range of forms and styles of cultural expression, including diverse literary genres, visual art, film, performance and drama. Majors graduate with the capacity to think historically, to identify and utilize a variety of literary and cultural theories, to interpret original creative works, as well as develop comparative and interdisciplinary analyses.

Portuguese and Brazilian Studies Major Learning Goals:

Upon graduation, our students are able to speak, read and write with accuracy at a high-intermediate to advanced level in Portuguese and to negotiate diverse academic, professional and social situations with effective communicative capacity. To this end, a number of core classes are held in the target language and engage students in a variety of communication activities, including informal conversation, discussion of authentic texts, presentations, personal essays and research papers. Beyond linguistic competency, majors graduate with a high degree of intercultural literacy, having studied aspects of Brazilian and Lusophone cultures and societies through a combination of humanities and social science perspectives.

  • Identify and work with a wide variety of data types (including, but not limited to, categorical, numerical, text, spatial and temporal) and formats (e.g. CSV, XML, JSON, relational databases, audio, video, etc.). 
  • Extract meaningful information from data sets that have a variety of sizes and formats.
  • Fit and interpret statistical models, including but not limited to linear regression models. Use models to make predictions, and evaluate the efficacy of those models and the accuracy of those predictions.
  • Understand the strengths and limits of different research methods for the collection, analysis and interpretation of data. Be able to design studies for various purposes.
  • Attend to and explain the role of uncertainty in inferential statistical procedures.
  • Read and understand data analyses used in research reports. Contribute to the data analysis portion of a research project in at least one applied discipline.
  • Compute with data in at least one high-level programming language, as evidenced by the ability to analyze a complex data set.
  • Work in multiple languages and computational environments.
  • Convey quantitative information in written, oral and graphical forms of communication to both technical and nontechnical audiences.
  • Assess the ethical implications to society of data-based research, analyses, and technology in an informed manner. Use resources, such as professional guidelines, institutional review boards, and published research, to inform ethical responsibilities.

  • Collaboration: producing work—creating meaning—together, that we could not produce alone.
  • Competence in one or more areas:
    • Dramaturgy (History, Literature, Criticism)
    • Design and Tech
    • Performance (Acting & Directing)
    • Playwriting
  • Describe, analyze, interpret and evaluate performative, visual and written texts.
  • Contextualize and interpret diverse theatrical works, practices and traditions.
  • Creative investigation: Engage intuitively, creatively and imaginatively in investigations and research across disciplines.
  • Develop, articulate and defend informed choices and judgments. Write and speak clearly and conceptually about theatre.
  • Apply discipline and process to enhance and increase students’ capacities.

Not every course that is cross-listed in the program or taught by SWG faculty will address all of these goals for the major in the Study of Women and Gender, but we expect that every graduating senior will have engaged these concepts and ways of thinking more than once during the course of the major. The goals of the major are to:

  • Understand the social construction of familiar or naturalized categories, while also acknowledging that these social constructions have real effects in subordinating groups and in marking bodies.
  • Understand and be able to apply the concept of intersectionality—a dynamic analysis of how the intersections of gender, race, class, sexuality, nationality, and other aspects of identity mutually and simultaneously constitute structures, social processes, ideologies and representations in the complex, multidimensional power hierarchies of society.
  • Analyze social change and understand agency and resistance.
  • Engage theory, read and write about theoretical texts, and recognize that theory emerges from different disciplinary locations.
  • Examine historical periods and beliefs different from the current moment.
  • Analyze forms of representation and discourse as they shape experience and shape our understanding of ourselves and of the world.
  • Approach problems and questions from a variety of disciplinary perspectives.
  • Engage in systemic analysis with attention to institutional and economic structures of power.
  • Understand theories of transnational, postcolonial and diasporic studies.
  • Understand feminist pedagogy and ethics of knowledge production.

Master’s Programs

The master’s program in biological sciences continues and enhances the undergraduate foundation of a number of academic disciplines, including biology, biochemistry, neuroscience, and environmental science and policy. This program focuses on modern methods in both laboratory and field research and requires students to design and implement a thesis demonstrating sophisticated experimental and conceptual approaches to substantive questions in the biological sciences.

Over the course of the program, students are expected to develop:

  • A deep knowledge of a life sciences subdiscipline through a faculty-mentored research project.
  • The ability to think critically and design rigorous experiments.
  • The ability to collect, organize and analyze data.
  • Laboratory and/or field research skills using sophisticated instrumentation.
  • Read, synthesize and critique primary research articles in their field.
  • Enhanced skills in writing and public speaking through presentations in classes, campus research symposia and at regional or national scientific meetings.

With a rich array of courses and access to extensive research resources, graduate students in biological sciences reinforce and expand their knowledge and the experience they need to continue successful careers in the life sciences.

The mission of the MFA program is to foster the study of choreography and performance from a critical perspective that holds dance as a mode of research, means of expression, tool for interpretation of the human experience and practice of engagement with the world.

The program promotes the acquisition of choreographic tools, performance techniques, creative process methods, dance production skills and teaching methods informed by theories about dance, the body, aesthetics, design, creativity and pedagogy. The curriculum positions choreography and performance as forms of critical inquiry.

The program nurtures pluralist aesthetics by supporting students in the exploration of their own artistic interests and the development of an original voice in choreography. It prompts students to articulate their artistic identity as much in their choreographic production as in the analysis and self-assessment of their work in speech and writing.

It offers technique training in modern and postmodern dance, improvisation and contemporary ballet. Moreover, it comprises specialists in choreographic methods, creative process research, design thinking, music/sound for dance, dancefilm and digital technology, theatrical production, kinesiology and somatic science, dance pedagogy, dance history, cultural studies, writing and qualitative research methods.

Composition, Creative Process and Dance Production. With choreography as its focus, students take four courses that foster the acquisition of thorough skills in creative process. Additionally, in their first year students give two public presentations of their choreography (the fall and spring grad events). In their second year, they work from summer to spring in the creation of an ambitious thesis project, leading to the presentation of the choreography in our state-of-the-art Theatre 14, with production support of professional level for lights, multimedia, sound, costumes, publicity and recording.

Performance. Live performance is at the heart of the MFA in dance and all graduate students in dance are expected to present mastery as performance artists. As performers, graduate students are cast in the choreography of faculty from Smith and the Five Colleges, having the opportunity to collaborate with their professors in the development of new work. The production of new choreography is a research-based, collaborative endeavor in which faculty and students work as creative partners.

Dance Pedagogy. Graduate students teach three technique courses per year, while receiving instruction in dance pedagogy in two required courses: Scientific Principles in the Teaching of Dance and The Pedagogy of Dance Technique. This combination of hands-on experience, coursework and mentoring is highly desirable in an master's program, as the MFA is a terminable degree in dance and many students pursue it with the goal of leading careers in academia.

Research and Theory. The program's emphasis is on dance research, theory and writing. Two required courses bolster this element of the curriculum: History and Literature of Dance: Research Methods and Landmarks and New Trends in Contemporary Dance. Additionally, two of the thesis’ components, Second Year Summer Research and Second Year Thesis: Production and Analysis, foreground research and writing through the completion of two in-depth papers that, combined, amount to 60 pages.

Each grad student in our program completes a competency-based matrix that was developed for coach education programs. Smith's ESS program is certified at the highest level—level 5—because we work so closely with these objectives.

  • Collaboration: producing work—creating meaning—together, that we could not produce alone.
  • Pre-professional excellence in playwriting.
  • Utilize beyond-theatrical (liberal arts) disciplines to enrich the scope of each play being.
  • Describe, analyze, interpret and evaluate performative, visual and written texts.
  • Contextualize and interpret diverse theatrical works, practices and traditions.
  • Creative investigation: Engage intuitively, creatively and imaginatively in investigations and research across disciplines.
  • Develop, articulate and defend informed choices and judgments. Write and speak clearly and conceptually about theatre.
  • Apply discipline and process to enhance and increase students’ capacities.

Becoming a competent clinical social worker is a lengthy and complex process requiring the acquisition of knowledge, skills, and experience including the development and deployment of a conscious and skillful use-of-self. The professional activities of social work students are guided by the application of professional knowledge that is grounded in relevant biological, psychological, and social knowledge and research. This includes but is not limited to knowledge and skills in relationship-building, data-gathering, assessment, interventions and evaluation of practice. The skillful use-of-self, the primary instrument of clinical social work, requires a certain set of attributes and abilities that enable students to engage successfully in the full spectrum of the experiences and the requirements of the curriculum.

The following standards (distinguished from academic standards such as grades, class attendance, etc.) describe those attributes and abilities necessary for students to have and to demonstrate throughout the entirety of the program study in which they are enrolled at the SCSSW. Students at the Smith College School for Social Work are expected to have and demonstrate these abilities and attributes at a level appropriate to their year in the program. Attention to these standards will be part of evaluations of students’ performances in all arenas of the program, including classroom, internship, and as members of the school community.

Professional and Ethical Commitment

  • Students must demonstrate their commitment to the broad scope of values, ethics, goals, and standards of the profession as outlined by NASW.

Diversity & Social Justice

  • Students must demonstrate an appreciation for the value of human diversity in all aspects of their professional interactions.
  • Students must demonstrate a commitment to engage the complexity of inequality and structural oppressions in all aspects of their professional interactions.

Self-Awareness & Self-Management

  • Students must demonstrate the ability to recognize and reflect upon their own values, attitudes, beliefs, biases, emotions, and past experiences, and be adept at examining and managing how these affect their thinking, behavior, and relationships in all aspects of their professional interactions.
  • Students must demonstrate a willingness and capacity to critically examine and modify their behaviors when they impede or contradict the values, ethics, and standards outlined by the profession and the School.


  • Students must demonstrate the capacity to understand the experience and perspectives of other individuals or groups and be able use this empathic connection as a basis for productive professional relationships.


  • Students must demonstrate the willingness and capacity to communicate effectively and respectfully in all their professional interactions.
  • Students must demonstrate a willingness and capacity to express their ideas and feelings clearly.
  • Students must demonstrate a willingness and capacity to be aware of the possible impact that personal communication on a social media platform (Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, etc.) could have in a professional setting.
  • Students must demonstrate a willingness and capacity to listen respectfully to others.
  • Students must have sufficient skills in spoken and written English to successfully engage in all components of the program.

Interpersonal Skills

  • Students must demonstrate the interpersonal skills needed to relate effectively and respectfully in all their professional interactions. These include but are not limited to: compassion, altruism, integrity, and respect for and consideration of others.

Organizational Awareness

  • Students must be able to interact respectfully and effectively with people in all capacities and hierarchical ranks within organizations that they encounter in the program.

Professional Behavior

  • Students must comport themselves within the scope of their role as social work students, adhering to the profession’s code of ethics and practicing within the scope of their developing competencies.
  • Students must demonstrate the willingness and capacity to critically analyze their level of competence, making active use of feedback from relevant sources.
  • Students must comport themselves as professionals in all arenas of the program. Professional comportment includes but is not limited to: timeliness, responsiveness, punctuality, reliability, and appropriate self-presentation.
  • Students must demonstrate the willingness and capacity to be aware of and abide by the ethics, laws and policies of all arenas of the program (e.g., HIPPA, ADA, FERPA, etc.).

  • Understand the role of cultural and human diversity in the design and practice of education.
  • Understand current theories of learning and how they shape principles of pedagogical practice across ages and subject matter.
  • Understand current theories of human development—infancy through adolescence.
  • Understand the major factors that influence the design of learning environments.
  • Develop applied and practical knowledge and skill to support the growth and success of beginning teachers. (These learning goals are elaborated in the description of our state approved teacher preparation programs.)