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George Mason University
2002-03 University Catalog

University General Education Requirements

University-Wide General Education Category Goals And Requirements

A. Foundation Requirements:

Written Communication

Goal: Courses emphasize written communication as a way of thinking and discovering ideas and meanings, as well as expressing them. Students must develop basic writing skills at the freshman level in English 101 (100 for ESL students) and build on those skills in English 302. In addition, at least one course in a student's major must be "writing-intensive."

Required: English 101 (or 100), 302, and an approved writing-intensive course in the major.

Oral Communication

Goal: Students develop the ability to use oral communication as a way of thinking and learning as well as sharing ideas with others. Courses in oral communication will provide students with the ability to express themselves in public or group settings. Students should gain an understanding of the cultural, psychological, political and practical significance of communication, with special emphasis on the role of communication in a free society. Through oral presentations, group discussions, and critically assessing public messages, students will come to understand various modes of communication, and will improve their oral communication skills. They should also learn how to support and defend their positions, how to respond to different communication situations, and how to clearly organize and develop ideas. By developing an understanding of the importance of communication in society, students will also learn to respect the freedom of expression of all members of the community.

Required: One approved course; increased emphasis on oral communication in appropriate General Education courses.

Quantitative Reasoning

Goal: Student will develop the ability to use and critically evaluate numerical information, and to create and critique logical arguments using quantitative reasoning. Courses in the "Quantitative Reasoning" category are intended to give students the capability to reason quantitatively through exposure and practice grounded in important problems and ideas. To ensure skills, a basic proficiency established through a test is required before attempting courses that satisfy this requirement. Students who demonstrate a higher proficiency level may choose among an approved set of courses that develop quantitative reasoning, while those with basic proficiency are only required to satisfy this requirement with the particular course Math 106, designed to advance students to the higher proficiency level.

Required: Math 106; or if the student has achieved an appropriate placement score on quantitative skills, one of the following: Math 108, 110, 111, 113, 115, 125 or IT/STAT 250. (Students are assumed to have achieved satisfactory completion of the high school math required for admission.)

Information Technology

Goal: Students will be expected to:

  1. possess a command of basic software and hardware concepts, terminology and functions, and file/data structures, and will be expected to

  2. use appropriate electronic tools in order to do the following:
    1. Data organization and search, e.g., databases, web browsers, search engines;
    2. data analysis, e.g., spreadsheets, GIS, Statistical software;
    3. data presentation and communication, e.g., text, electronic slides, web pages, graphs, presentation software, HTML, word processing, e-mail.

  3. In addition, students are required to have classroom experience in, knowledge of, and appreciation for fundamental ethical issues relating to IT and our changing world. These issues may include, but are not limited to, computer security, privacy laws, public policy issues and professional codes of ethics, intellectual property issues, copyright, security, and financial data.

Required: Passing one approved three-credit course to meet all IT requirements, or completion of an appropriate combination of courses, proficiency examinations and/or modules.

B. Core Requirements


Goal: Courses in the literature category foster understanding and appreciation of the aesthetic, cultural, historical, and intellectual aspects of major literary works through critical analysis. Students will identify, analyze, write about, and discuss aspects of theme, plot, central idea, narrative, audience, perspective, figurative language, and the relationship between structure and ideas.

Required: One approved course.


Goal: Students develop an understanding of the aesthetic and intellectual components of the arts through either critical analysis of major artistic works or through creative work of their own. Courses in the arts category are intended to give students knowledge and understanding of the arts through critical and/or historical analysis, theory, and/or practice. Arts courses provide distinctive modes of thought, ways of working, and avenues for student achievement, and establish a foundation for ongoing intellectual and artistic development. Some courses will emphasize the development of artistic technique, problem solving and the creative/interdisciplinary process, and others will focus on developing aesthetic sensibility and understanding historical and cultural contexts.

Required: One approved course.

Natural Science

Goal: Courses in this category are intended to provide students with an understanding of natural science. The critical approach of the scientific method, the relation of theory and experiment, the use of quantitative and qualitative information, and the development and elaboration of major ideas in science are addressed.

Required: Two approved science courses; a course offering an overview of the principles of physics, chemistry and life sciences will be one of the two courses required of some students. At least one course will have laboratory experience.

U.S. History

Goal: Course enables students to develop an understanding of the institutions and traditions of our society from its founding documents, values, and institutionsonward to the present. Attention to the processes of historical analysis will be fundamental to the course.

Required: One required course.

Western Civilization

Goal: Course covers the period of western civilization from the Greek and Roman civilizations to the contemporary era. Students will develop awareness and understanding of a major civilization that has influenced thought, culture and politics in the United States and in the world.

Required: One required course.

Global Understanding

Goal: Courses in the "Global Understanding" category examine some of the principal global issues and concerns that shape our world today. After completing a course from this category, students will be able to analyze (that is, identify the causes and consequences of change in) significant global issues. While some courses may deal with a specific global problem, institution, or issue, others may focus on a specific area or region outside the contemporary Western world by incorporating specific comparisons of several cultures. All courses in this category help students develop an understanding of global issues as well as an awareness of how these issues are perceived and dealt with in different cultural and historical traditions and, where relevant, by different formal and informal institutions throughout the world. That is, these courses stress the interconnectedness, difference, and diversity that are central to understanding and operating in a global society.

Required: One approved course.

Social and Behavioral Sciences

Goal: Courses in this category are intended to provide students with an understanding of the social and behavioral sciences. Students will be engaged in reasoning using the methods of the social and behavioral sciences, including the scientific method, the use of quantitative and qualitative information, and the analysis of empirical observations in relation to theory. The development of major ideas in social science is also addressed in this category.

Required: One approved course.

C. Synthesis Requirement


Goal: Students will engage in the connection of meaning and the synthesis of knowledge. Synthesis courses may link issues in the student's major to wider intellectual and community concerns. Other courses might be interdisciplinary. This course may be a capstone course in the major. This component also requires students to demonstrate advanced skills in oral and written presentation before a faculty panel. This demonstration will build not only on the communication and synthesis experience of the third year, but also on the recurrent attention to these skills in the whole General Education program, from the foundation courses onward.

Required: One approved upper-division course.