Aug 14, 2022  
2018-2019 SUNY Potsdam Academic Catalog 
2018-2019 SUNY Potsdam Academic Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

General Education Program

A liberal arts education consists of three components: general education, which provides a structured breadth of knowledge and development of skills; the major, which promotes specialized, in-depth knowledge and hones and expands the skills necessary to use that knowledge; and the free electives, which broaden areas of personal interest. Though separate components, they reinforce each other in developing a student who has specialized knowledge and skills yet who is also cognizant of the broader perspective and is confident and effective in confronting issues outside the areas of specialization. Further, the General Education Program assists and complements the major by providing a liberal context for the pursuit of that specialized study.

Students should expect to face accelerating change, complexity, and fresh challenges after college. Coping with the future will require constant learning. No amount of information or facts acquired at college will suffice. Hence contemporary students need to learn how to learn. Learning how to learn implies the development of skills and abilities. Therefore, the General Education Program emphasizes the development of the knowledge, skills and abilities that characterize the Potsdam graduate (

Students matriculating at SUNY Potsdam or another regionally accredited institution of higher learning will complete the requirements of the General Education Program that went into effect that year. The Program defines learning in terms of what general education seeks to accomplish - the knowledge, skills and experiences our students are encouraged to gain.

General Education Components and Requirements

As students’ progress from the General Education Foundation (GEF) courses to the Modes of Inquiry and College Requirements courses, they are challenged to gradually develop increasingly sophisticated skills, to expand the bases of knowledge, and to engage in experiential and applied learning.

Before registering for the first semester of classes, each student will review General Education Program requirements with their academic advisor. Details on the General Education Program can be found on the General Education at, which outlines the components of the program and their objectives, the requirements and other relevant information.

The following General Education requirements apply to all students matriculating in Fall 2006 or later.

The General Education Foundations (GEF)

(9-13 credit hours)

The GEF strengthen verbal and quantitative skills along with critical thinking and information literacy. Students will build upon these skills in succeeding years.

  1. Communication Experience: (2 courses)
    1. [FW] First-Year Writing (1 course, 4 credits). The FW course teaches the composition of sound and effective written arguments suitable for academic contexts. The course encourages student writers to think critically as they develop logical, complex arguments, and to develop a repertoire of skills in invention, drafting, revision, and editing.
    2. [FS] Speaking, Reasoning and Research (1 course, minimum 1 credit). The FS course encourages speaking, critical thinking, information literacy and writing skills development. The subject matter through which these skills are addressed will depend upon the course.
  2. Quantitative Experience: (1 course)
    1. [FM] First-Year Mathematics (1 course, 3 credits). The FM course introduces quantitative methods and strengthens reasoning skills needed to respond with greater sophistication in a complex technological world. Students will show competence in the following quantitative reasoning skills: arithmetic, algebra, geometry, data analysis, and quantitative reasoning.
  3. Critical Thinking Experience: (1 course)
    1. [FC] Critical Thinking (1 course, minimum of 1 credit). The FC course introduces the standards of good reasoning and strengthens basic reasoning skill. Major course objectives shall include oral and written practice to develop the abilities to identify the main question, problem, or claim in discourse, and think through it critically according to the standards of good reasoning; model the critical thinking process or patterns in the humanities, natural sciences, or social sciences; and self-consciously apply the standards of critical thinking. A FC course may combine with a Mode of Inquiry course.

The Modes of Inquiry

(23-26 credit hours)

This component of the General Education Program serves to provide breadth of knowledge within the liberal arts and to strengthen and expand those skills acquired in the General Education Foundations. It provides a context for the application of specialized learning which occurs in the major and minor programs. The Modes of Inquiry are defined by the various methods, ways of knowing or perspectives, which are available to perceive, understand and interpret a complex world. They reveal to the observant learner that disciplines, which are very much different in terms of, content or subject matter can share approaches to knowledge which are quite similar.

The Modes of Inquiry requirement is to be completed after the first year, so that GEF experiences can be applied, although modes courses may also be taken in the first year. Details on the Modes of Inquiry can be found on the General Education at

No more than two courses (8 credits) from any one department or area may be used in the Modes of Inquiry requirement.

  1. [AC] and [AE] Aesthetic Understanding: Two courses selected from two distinct departments. The AC course must carry a minimum of three credits, and the AE course must carry a minimum of two credits. One course involves participation in the process of the creative or performing arts. The other course is a critical and discriminative approach to the arts.
  2. [SB, SP, LB] Scientific Inquiry: Two courses for a minimum total of six credit hours. Studies natural phenomena in the physical and biological sciences empirically and systematically. One course must be selected from each of these two general knowledge areas. At least one of these two courses must include a designated laboratory experience.
  3. [SA] Social Analysis: One course with a minimum of three credit hours. Systematically studies human behavior, human social interactions and relations, and contemporary social institutions and the practices, conventions, groupings and organizations, which most significantly structure social life in the world today.
  4. [PI] Philosophical Inquiry: One course with a minimum of three credit hours. Engages in critical and systematic reflection on the root nature of a subject matter in a way that explores the most basic questions about it. One or more areas addressed include the meaning and significance of human experience (ontological questions), the nature and meaning of knowledge (epistemological questions), moral and ethical values of contemporary significance (moral questions) and the nature and meaning of concepts fundamental to a given subject matter (analytical questions).
  5. [XC] Cross-Cultural Perspective: One course with a minimum of three credit hours. The comparative, holistic study of societies, civilizations, and cultural traditions not derived primarily from European civilization.
  6. One course, either [AH] or [WC] with a minimum of three credit hours.
    1. [AH] American History: Studies significant portions of the narrative of American History, focusing on the political, economical, social and cultural, including an examination of unity and diversity in American society.
    2. [WC] Western Civilization: Studies significant aspects of Western Civilization, defined as any civilization, constitutive of or derived primarily from European Civilization.
  7. [ML] Modern Language Proficiency: Given the importance of diverse languages in permitting communication and understanding in an increasingly globalized and interactive world, students must demonstrate proficiency in at least one modern language other than English. This requirement may be met by successfully completing a course numbered “103” in a SUNY Potsdam language sequence or its equivalent or by successfully completing any single 200-level language course within the Modern Languages Department.
    1. Students whose native language is not English, or who have at least four years of high school study of the same language, or who have earned a score of three or higher on an Advanced Placement language examination have already completed this requirement.
    2. Transfer students who have completed fewer than 45 credit hours of college-level coursework prior to matriculating at SUNY Potsdam are subject to the Modern Language Proficiency requirement. Transfer students who have completed 45 or more credit hours of college-level coursework prior to matriculating at SUNY Potsdam must complete one course in a given modern language sequence for every two semesters of full-time enrollment until graduation or until the proficiency has been met. For students whose attendance at SUNY Potsdam is on a part-time basis, one semester of language must be completed for every 30 academic credit hours enrolled until graduation or until the proficiency has been met. Placement and exemption procedures are the same as for all entering students, except that previous college-level work, as well as high school work, will be applied toward the requirement.

The College Requirements

Details on the College Requirements can be found on the General Education at

Writing-Intensive Course [WI]

This course strengthens and reinforces writing skills acquired in the General Education Foundations FW course and involves instruction in the nature of successful writing in the discipline in which the course is being offered. One course designated Writing-Intensive is required, and this course may be in the major or minor, a free elective, or a course which simultaneously meets a Modes of Inquiry requirement. Prerequisite: FW or equivalent.

Speaking-Intensive Course [SI]

This course strengthens and reinforces verbal skills acquired in the General Education Foundations FS course and involves oral presentations, which treat the subject matter of the course. One course designated Speaking-Intensive is required, and this course may be in the major or minor, a free elective, or a course that simultaneously meets a Modes of Inquiry requirement. Prerequisite: FS or equivalent.

Physical Education/Health and Wellness [PE/HW]

An understanding of the roles of physical conditioning, stress management, nutrition, physical fitness, leisure, and the benefits of exercise, directly influences an individual’s ability to lead a productive life. All courses that fulfill the PE/HW requirement will address these topics through activities designed to develop physical skills and a positive attitude toward health. The PE/HW requirement consists of two separate courses, ranging from two to six credits.

Transfer students who have not completed this requirement prior to entering SUNY Potsdam are required to take one PE/HW course for every 30 credits completed at SUNY Potsdam, until the two-course requirement is fulfilled.

General Education Transfer Credit Policies

SUNY Potsdam’s Transfer Coordinator in the Office of Admissions, determines and approves undergraduate transfer credit for satisfaction of General Education requirements. Credits will be accepted for course work completed with a final grade of 1.0/D or higher at regionally accredited institutions of higher education (community colleges, four-year colleges/universities and foreign universities), as well as successful completion of AP, CLEP, IB and military education.

Students transferring directly to Potsdam with a CUNY or SUNY associate degree, having completed 30 semester hours of general education including seven out of ten SUNY General Education requirements, will be exempt from any additional Potsdam General Education Foundations and Modes of Inquiry requirements not already satisfied. As defined by SUNY the seven out of ten General Education requirements must include Basic Communication and Mathematics. Potsdam’s Modern Language, Speaking and Writing Intensive and Physical Education/Health and Wellness requirements will be evaluated by the Transfer Coordinator on a course-by-course basis.

Transfer students entering SUNY Potsdam without having earned an associate degree, or transferring from a four-year college/university, will have their transfer work evaluated for satisfaction of General Education requirements on a course-by-course basis. Transfer students will not be required to repeat courses with essentially the same content, objectives and outcomes as courses contained within the General Education requirements.

Questions concerning the evaluation of transferred General Education credit can be directed to the Transfer Coordinator, Office of Admissions, Raymond 120.

Participation in Student Learning Assessment Activities

A meaningful and effective General Education Program is one which provides the conscientious student opportunities to acquire knowledge, skills and experiences toward well-defined objectives. These learning objectives are broadly defined in “The Potsdam Graduate” statement and are specifically addressed by the courses, which can be used to fulfill the various components of the General Education curriculum. Each component has an underlying rationale which guides the course content and the required exercises, together with criteria and objectives against which student learning can be assessed. Further, the components have been designed to encourage development of increasingly more sophisticated skills from the Freshman through the Senior years.

Measuring the learning outcomes of students at various stages in the program is an important activity from a number of perspectives. It provides students and academic advisers information concerning individual strengths and weaknesses, which can be used as a partial basis on which to plan appropriate courses in future semesters. Second, it provides an index of growth over the entire college experience. It is also of worth to faculty and administrators in evaluating the effectiveness of the General Education curriculum and revising it as deemed necessary to better serve the needs of current and future students. Finally, prospective employers and others expect institutions of higher learning to provide information, which documents the learning, which occurs in a baccalaureate degree program. From a number of perspectives, measuring learning progress is a valuable activity.

To provide learning outcomes information, students will be required to participate in occasional General Education tests, exercises and surveys aimed at assessing student progress and studying perceptions, attitudes and opinions regarding the program. Students may also be asked to participate in similar assessment activities in their major.