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University Academic Programs

University Academic Programs

Common Curriculum

Official Common Curriculum requirements are outlined in the DU Undergraduate Bulletin .

The Common Curriculum provides students with a well-rounded education, creates context for major or minor course of study and introduces students to new areas of interest. The Common Curriculum is grounded in a breadth of experiences and ways of inquiry congruent with the University's goal of providing an outstanding educational experience that empowers students to integrate and apply knowledge from across the disciplines and imagine new possibilities for themselves, their communities, and their world. Consistent with the University's mission, the Common Curriculum promotes learning by engaging with students in advancing scholarly inquiry, cultivating critical and creative thought, and generating knowledge.

Common Curriculum courses contribute to an intellectually vibrant campus community and create in turn a challenging, inclusive, ethical, and liberating learning environment. From students' initial First-Year Seminar to the culminating Advanced Seminar, the curriculum encourages connections across modes of learning. By engaging in course work across diverse experiences and areas of knowledge, DU students cultivate critical thought and creative thought, preparing them for leadership and citizenship in our global society.

An undergraduate at the University typically takes 52 to 60 credits in the Common Curriculum:

First-Year Seminar 4 credits
Writing and Rhetoric 8 credits
Language 4-12 credits
Ways of Knowing 32 credits
Advanced Seminar 4 credits
Total Credits 52-60 credits

Because certain programs have slightly different requirements to the Common Curriculum and because AP/IB/transfer courses from other universities and colleges may change the distribution of the requirements for individual students, always consult a staff academic advisor in the Office of Academic Advising regarding Common Curriculum planning for courses at the University and abroad.

Student Learning Outcomes

  The Natural & Physical World Society & Culture
First Year Seminar
  • Students who successfully complete the FSEM will be able to:
    • Engage in critical inquiry in the examination of concepts, texts, or artifacts, and
    • Effectively communicate the results of such inquiry
First-Year Writing & Rhetoric
  • Demonstrate the ability to compose for a variety of rhetorical situations
  • Demonstrate the ability to write within multiple research traditions
Foreign Language
  • Demonstrate basic proficiency in a language of choice in the following skills: writing, speaking, listening, and reading
  • Demonstrate proficiency in learning about a culture associated with a language of choice
Ways of Knowing - Analytical Inquiry
  • Apply formal reasoning, mathematics, or computational science approaches to problem solving
  • Understand and communicate connections between different areas of logic, mathematics, or computational science, or their relevance to other disciplines
  • Demonstrate the ability to create in written, oral, or any other performance medium or interpret texts, ideas, or cultural artifacts
  • Identify and analyze the connections between texts, ideas, or cultural artifacts and the human experience
Ways of Knowing - Scientific Inquiry
  • Apply knowledge of scientific practice to evaluate evidence for scientific claims.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of science as an iterative process of knowledge generation with inherent strengths and limitations.
  • Demonstrate skills for using and interpreting qualitative and quantitative information.
  • Describe basic principles of human functioning and conduct in social and cultural contexts
  • Describe and explain how social scientific methods are used to understand the underlying principles of human functioning
Advanced Seminar
  • Demonstrate the ability to integrate and apply context from multiple perspectives to an appropriate intellectual topic or issue
  • Write effectively, providing appropriate evidence and reasoning for assertions

areas of inquiry

First-Year Seminar

1 course (4 credits)

Students begin their first year with an introduction to the intellectual life of the University by exploring a specifically selected topic by the First-Year Seminar (FSEM) instructor. Offered in Fall quarter, the small class size provides an in-depth academic experience that is rigorous and engaging. In addition to learning to develop self-motivated academic passion, students can expect to hone the academic skills essential for successful college work. Each seminar focuses on one or more of the following academic skills:

  • Writing
  • Critical reading and thinking
  • Discussion
  • Argumentation and debate
  • Information literacy

This program enables students to engage with faculty in the exploration of challenging topics and lays the groundwork for extraordinary academic and personal growth.

Writing & Rhetoric

2 courses (8 credits)

Being able to convey written information and ideas in ways that are compelling to specific audiences is essential both in college and beyond. Beginning in the winter quarter of their first year, students take two sequenced writing courses, usually WRIT 1122 and WRIT 1133. Together, these courses teach strategies for writing to well-educated readers in diverse academic and nonacademic situations. Students learn rhetorical principles, the analyses and use of readings and source materials, and techniques for generating, revising and editing texts for specific situations. They also learn to present and justify positions and to produce researched writing in various scholarly traditions, including:

  • textual/interpretive (the analysis of texts or artifacts such as images or events);
  • qualitative (analyses based on observations or interviews);
  • or quantitative (information gained through measurement)

In each course, students complete several writing exercises and, through sustained practice and systematic instructor guidance, they complete at least four polished papers, totaling some 20-25 pages. By the end of the two-course sequence, students have completed at least 40-50 pages of polished writing. These courses lay the foundation for writing in further Common Curriculum courses (including the Advanced Seminar), writing in students' majors and writing in professional and civic life after graduation.


1-3 courses (4-12 credits)

Studying culture through language at the university level is crucial in our globalized world, and courses in this area reflect that belief. Students who have completed academic secondary education in a language other than English are exempt from this language requirement. The registrar determines if a student's transcripts qualify him or her for an exemption. All other incoming students who know or have studied one of the languages offered at DU are required to take our language placement test prior to class registration to place them properly in that language's curriculum. Placement exams are administered through the Center for World Languages and Cultures.

Students must complete the elementary sequence of a language or take one four-credit course at their level if they place beyond the elementary sequence. Alternatively, students may choose to start a new language and complete their first-year sequence in that language. In these courses, students will learn linguistic skills in a language other than English in the setting of an internationalizing university that encourages multi-skill language learning. Students taking such courses also will be studying different expressions of culture through language, thereby learning both about a new culture and about themselves and their personal, social, and cultural backgrounds. Students will learn to appreciate human diversity as it is expressed linguistically and transculturally in a modern society.

The Department of Languages and Literatures offers study in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek (Classical), Hebrew, Italian, Japanese, Latin, Russian, and Spanish. In the modern languages, students acquire all four language skills - reading, writing, speaking, listening - in addition to learning about the cultures of the people who speak those languages.

Students should continue in languages they have already studied or begin the study of a new language as early as possible, which enables them to earn a minor in a language, if desired, an also prepares them for study abroad. Having a strong background in foreign language before studying abroad makes the experience more valuable and satisfying, both personally and academically.


Students are exempt from the language requirement in the following degree programs:

  • Bachelor of Science in Computer Engineering (BSCpE)
  • Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering (BSEE)
  • Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (BSME)

Bachelor of Music (BM) majors may choose between eight credits in one foreign language or eight credits in Scientific Inquiry: The Natural and Physical World (SI:NP). If they choose foreign language, they must take the placement exam.

Ways of Knowing

Analytical Inquiry: The Natural and Physical World

1 course (4 credits)

Mathematics, formal reasoning, and more recently, computational sciences are crucial foundations for many disciplines as they enable and support formal modes of inquiry, particularly for disciplines related to the natural and physical world. For example, today's physics and engineering knowledge would be impossible without accompanying advances in mathematics. Similarly, advances in the life sciences, like genomics, rely heavily on computational sciences. Students must take one course in this area, which is designed to provide all students, regardless of the student's major area of study, the basic knowledge of how to understand and use principles of mathematics and computational sciences as a formal means of inquiry in the natural and physical world.

Analytical Inquiry: Society and Culture

2 course minimum (8 credits)

Through these courses, students gain knowledge essential for today's global society, recognizing that human cultures are specific to time and place and that the practices and values of different societies vary widely. By gaining greater understanding of diverse cultural products, students will be better able to understand the world today and their own place in it.

Students take two courses in different subjects studied from the perspectives of the arts and humanities, exploring culture and society from different perspectives. In these courses, students learn how to analyze the products of human cultures, including works of art, music, literature, philosophy and history. Students engage critically with such works through exposure to the vocabulary, concepts and methods used to analyze those works. Students explore how ideas and creative expressions both shape and are shaped by human experiences. Students who are AHSS majors/minors may apply one AI:SC course (four credits) per major/minor program to partially satisfy both major/minor and Common Curriculum requirements if that course is listed as meeting the outcomes of a section of the Common Curriculum requirements. Non-music majors may take up to four one-credit ensembles toward this requirement.

Scientific Inquiry: The Natural and Physical World

3 sequential courses (12 credits)

Science and technology play increasing roles in the most profound challenges and the greatest opportunities that we face as global societies. Gaining knowledge of the practice and promise of science is the essential responsibility of each educated citizen. While science provides the most thoroughly tested tools for developing accurate knowledge of nature, developing technologies shape our daily living and provide opportunities to ask questions that were not imaginable by previous generations. Courses provide students with a three-quarter experience that builds knowledge and application of scientific approaches in one core area. The three-quarter format with accompanying laboratories allows in-depth explorations that have significant social implications and that encourage development of reasoning skills and reflective judgement. By working between classrooms and laboratory to understand the nature of science in the natural and physical world, students will apply scientific methods, analyze and interpret data, and justify conclusions where evidence is conflicting. Students will also explore the strengths and weaknesses of scientific knowledge and reflect on the connections between the natural sciences, developing technologies and other ways of knowing and constructing human experiences. Students in the BM program may choose between eight credits in the Language requirement or eight credits in the SI:NP requirements. Students in the BFA meet this requirement through eight credits taken in two sequential courses.

Scientific Inquiry: Society and Culture

2 course minimum (8 credits)

Knowledge of principles of human functioning and conduct in social and cultural contexts is essential for living in a culturally diverse and interdependent society. Understanding scientific approaches to discovering these principles enhances informed decisions for the public good and provides a way of thinking about problems and issues that complements other areas of inquiry and experiences. Through taking courses in this area, students learn about principles of human functioning and conduct in social and cultural contexts and come to understand how these are studied using scientific methods. Students take two courses in different subjects studied from the perspectives of the social sciences; they are thus exposed to varying approaches and level of analysis (e.g., physiological, evolutionary, mental, social, and cultural processes). Students who are AHSS majors/minors may apply one SI:SC course (four credits) per major/minor program to partially satisfy both major/minor and Common Curriculum requirements.

Advanced Seminar

1 course (4 credits)

While knowledge and professional skills found in a student's major and minor are important foundations for accomplishment, successful individuals also must be able to navigate a complex political, social, cultural and economic environment that challenges more traditionally limited concepts of higher education and competencies. To help students better understand the demands of contemporary life, instructors teach an advanced seminar based in their area of expertise and passion. The topic will be approached from multiple perspectives in a course designed for non-majors. Studying in this setting, students must demonstrate their ability to integrate different perspectives and synthesize diverse ideas through intensive writing on that topic. The course must be taken at the University of Denver. Students must complete all other Common Curriculum requirements before taking the Advanced Seminar.