University of Southern California

Undergraduate Education

General Education

All students who begin college in fall 2015 or later at USC (or who begin elsewhere in fall 2015 and then transfer to USC) must satisfy the 2015 General Education Program, which includes six Core Literacy and two Global Perspectives requirements. Together these provide training in the liberal arts — the critical skills necessary for a free person to function effectively, thoughtfully and productively in a complex world. This General Education program has been designed to nurture habits of thought essential for professional success and personal development, and to establish a background for lifelong learning.

Students must complete eight courses in the six Core Literacy categories:

Core Literacies

GE-A: The Arts (one course)
GE-B: Humanistic Inquiry (two courses)
GE-C: Social Analysis (two courses)
GE-D: Life Sciences (one course)
GE-E: Physical Sciences (one course)
GE-F: Quantitative Reasoning (one course)

Students must complete one course for each of the two Global Perspectives requirements:

Global Perspectives

GE-G: Citizenship in a Global Era (one course)
GE-H: Traditions and Historical Foundations (one course)

However, because a single course can satisfy both a Core Literacy and a Global Perspective requirement, students can satisfy all 10 requirements with eight appropriately chosen courses.

General Education Seminars

All entering freshmen must complete one General Education Seminar during their first year at USC. Each GE Seminar satisfies one of the Core Literacy requirements above. Students may count only one GE Seminar for degree credit.

General Education Requirements

Core Literacies

GE-A, The Arts
Courses in the Arts category address important questions about creative activity in the visual arts, literature, music, film, theatre or dance. Courses may be taught from a particular disciplinary perspective, but they must be addressed to a non-specialist audience. Reading and study focus on primary sources and their contexts. Courses may include an element of creative work included among at least four of the five learning objectives: the analysis, connectivity, context, engagement and making of artwork.

GE-B, Humanistic Inquiry
In these courses students reflect on what it means to be human through close study of human experience throughout time and across diverse cultures. Students cultivate a critical appreciation for various forms of human expression, including literature, language, philosophy and the arts, as well as develop an understanding of the contexts from which these forms emerge; they engage with lasting ideas and values that have animated humanity throughout the centuries for a more purposeful, more ethical, and intellectually richer life. Students learn to read and interpret actively and analytically, to think critically and creatively, and to write and speak persuasively; to evaluate ideas from multiple perspectives and to formulate informed opinions on complex issues of critical importance in today’s global world.

GE-C, Social Analysis
Courses in this area introduce students to analytical approaches and methods in the social sciences, quantitative and/or qualitative, using the resulting insights to understand our social world. Students learn to apply methods of social analysis from at least one social scientific discipline to the study of human behavior and experience in economic, political, cultural and/or social settings; to understand the nature of empirical evidence and assess the usefulness of qualitative and/or quantitative evidence in explaining specific social phenomena; and to demonstrate an understanding of the interplay between human action and organizations, institutions, and/or social and cultural settings.

GE-D, Life Sciences
Courses in this area examine aspects of living systems to provide a scientific understanding of a full range of living systems from molecules to ecosystems, prokaryotes to humans, past and present. These courses explore aspects of biological, evolutionary and/or environmental science with both descriptive and quantitative elements. Students learn to use and understand the scientific method to analyze ideas and obtain knowledge, with particular reference to quantitative methods; to appreciate the differences between scientific laws, theories, hypotheses and speculation; to think critically about historical and contemporary issues in science and technology; to draw conclusions from empirical scientific data and to communicate logically and clearly their experimental results and observations to others.

GE-E, Physical Sciences
Courses in this area teach the analysis of natural phenomena through quantitative description and synthesis. Students will learn to solve scientific problems and to understand the processes by which scientific knowledge is obtained, evaluated and placed in the context of societal relevance. Students learn about the methods underlying scientific inquiry and how to obtain accurate experimental results; they are trained in the formulation of empirically testable hypotheses to develop a basis for understanding the distinction between unsupported assertions and conclusions based on sound scientific reasoning. As a result, all students should acquire substantive knowledge in science and technology, understand the processes by which scientists investigate and answer scientific questions, and be able to articulate the basic principles used to explain natural phenomena.

GE-F, Quantitative Reasoning
Courses in this category engage students in the analysis and manipulation of data and information related to quantifiable objects, symbolic elements or logic in order to help them navigate the complexity and sophistication of the modern world. All Quantitative Reasoning courses, be they formal, abstract or empirical, are designed to increase the capacity of students to evaluate chains of formal reasoning and to assess the validity of mathematical, logical, or statistical inferences. Each course in this category aims to develop one or more of three sets of skills: formal reasoning (the use of formal logic or mathematics), abstract representation (the use of symbolic or diagrammatic representations), and empirical analysis (the use of statistical inference).

Global Perspectives

GE-G, Citizenship in a Global Era
Courses in this category enhance understanding of citizenship and moral agency within the context of today’s increasingly global society, exploring differences across communities and cultures. Courses can cover a diverse range of issues, such as political, legal, ethical or cultural aspects of U.S. society in a global context, or the ways in which other societies and cultures construct what it means to be a citizen and a moral agent. Courses in this category employ various disciplinary perspectives or methods, such as political, social or economic analyses, moral philosophy and social justice, cultural studies, and critical theory. However, all courses confront questions of social responsibility and citizenship in the context of political, social, legal or economic institutions during the present global era.

GE-H, Traditions and Historical Foundations
Courses in this area examine the historical and cultural foundations of contemporary and past societies by studying enduring and influential literary, political, economic, philosophical, legal, ethical or religious traditions. Courses can examine multiple aspects of a single culture (for example, the literary and philosophical heritage of classical Greece or imperial China) or trace the development of a fundamental idea or tradition across multiple cultures. Students learn to be familiar with intellectual traditions extending back to the Greeks and Romans, as well as the other great intellectual traditions from across the globe, to understand some of the major ways in which humans relate to the past in their present.