The Five Parts of the Core

First-Year Seminars
Expository Writing Program
Foreign Language
Foundations of Contemporary Culture
Foundations of Scientific Inquiry


The First-Year Seminars

The first-year seminars (FYS), open only to entering CAS students, aim to put you into contact with leading thinkers, introduce you to important subjects, challenge you intellectually through rigorous standards of analysis and oral and written argumentation, and prepare you to conduct you own research. First-year seminars stress demanding readings and writing assignments that introduce students to an essential research skill—such as a literature review, quantitative reasoning, critical use of primary sources, the identification of a research problem, critical analysis of texts, or confrontations with works of art. In addition to participating actively in class discussions, students are often expected to give oral presentations in class. A final paper will typically, though not always, have gone through one or more revisions, perhaps revised with the benefit of in-class comments. In other first-year seminars, the focus may be on individual or group projects.

Seminars are capped at 16 to 18 students. The students from two first-year seminars are grouped together into an advising “cohort” of 32 to 36 students, who meet as a group with their CAS adviser several times during the freshman year.

The selection of seminars changes from year to year. Students may find the most up-to-date offerings and descriptions on the First-Year Seminar website.


Expository Writing Program

It is difficult to exaggerate the value of clear and effective writing.  Virtually all your college courses require you to write papers or reports, but courses offered by the Expository Writing Program are opportunities to concentrate intensely on the process of writing.  The Expository Writing Program assumes that writing is not merely a useful skill but also a way of learning and knowing. Its courses focus on the examination of evidence, the development of ideas, and the clear expression of those ideas in a variety of different kinds of essays. In these writing courses, students routinely move from exploration to argument as they read and make use of various texts—written, visual, experiential—to create a spectrum of persuasive essays. Examined texts become more complex, and the writing tasks more difficult, as students grapple with intriguing questions that lead to richer ideas and more interesting forms of expression. The essays students write become more formal and argumentative as the semester’s work progresses. Additional information, requirements and course descriptions appear on the Expository Writing Program website.

Foreign Language

The study of foreign languages is an integral part of a liberal arts education. It nurtures an awareness of the diversity of human culture and serves the practical need for language skills in fields such as government, business, and research. NYU is a particularly exciting setting for language study because of its location in a great cosmopolitan city, its international student body, its many renowned language programs and centers, and its rapidly expanding opportunities for study abroad.

To fulfill the foreign language component of the College Core Curriculum, students must show or attain proficiency in a foreign language through the intermediate level. Ordinarily, this is accomplished by the successful completion of two years of language study in the College, through the second semester of a regular intermediate-level language sequence (see list of courses below). Some languages are also taught in intensive courses, allowing students to complete the equivalent of two years of study in a single year.

After two years of college language study or the equivalent demonstrated proficiency, students should have gained a broad competence in a language, but true fluency of written or oral expression will not usually have been developed at this point. For this reason, all students are encouraged to continue their language study beyond the intermediate level. In particular, students studying modern languages are encouraged to immerse themselves in the living culture of a language by studying, traveling, or working abroad. Students of all languages, ancient or modern, are encouraged to continue their studies with elective courses in literature at the advanced level.

Exemptions: Students may fulfill the foreign language component of the College Core Curriculum by presenting outstanding scores on the SAT Subject Test or Advanced Placement Test in a foreign language, or by passing a departmental proficiency examination. For further information on language placement and exemption, and for Advanced Placement Test equivalencies, consult your advisor or the College of Arts and Science Bulletin (available online from the CAS website).

Students whose secondary schooling was in a language other than English and other than a language offered in the College, or who complete the International Writing Workshop sequence (EXPOS-UA 4, International Writing Workshop I; and EXPOS-UA 9, International Writing Workshop II), are exempt from the foreign language requirement. Also exempt are students in the B.S./B.S. program.

In addition to the foreign languages courses offered for academic credit, the College offers opportunities for students of modern languages to practice their skills in real-world situations outside the classroom.  NYU Speaking Freely is a free, non-credit program that allows students to practice their speaking and aural comprehension skills and to explore the linguistically diverse cultures of New York City. For more information about this popular program, contact the Office of the Associate Dean for Students, Silver Center, Room 909.


Foreign Language Courses

Listed below are courses covering the second semester of the intermediate level of language study. Intensive courses, which allow students to complete the equivalent of two years of study in a single year, are also listed where available. Completion of any of the following courses will fulfill the foreign language requirement. Please consult the individual departmental listings for information on prerequisite courses.

Arabic, Intermediate II (MEIS-UA 104)
Cantonese, Intermediate II (EAST-UA 413)
Chinese, Intermediate II (EAST-UA 204)
Chinese, Intermediate for Advanced Beginners (EAST-UA 232)
Filipino (Tagalog) , Intermediate II (SCA-UA 324)
French, Intermediate II (FREN-UA 12)
French, Intensive Intermediate (FREN-UA 20)
German, Intermediate II (GERM-UA 4)
German, Intensive Intermediate (GERM-UA 20)
Greek: Homer (CLASS-UA 10)
Greek, Modern, Intermediate II (HEL-UA 106)
Hebrew, Intermediate II (HBRJD-UA 4)
Hindi, Intermediate II (MEIS-UA 408)
Irish, Modern, Intermediate II (IRISH-UA 103)
Italian, Intermediate II (ITAL-UA 12)
Italian, Intensive Intermediate (ITAL-UA 20)
Japanese, Intermediate II (EAST-UA 250)
Korean, Intermediate II (EAST-UA 257)
Latin: Vergil (CLASS-UA 6)
Persian, Intermediate II (MEIS-UA 404)
Portuguese, Intermediate II (PORT-UA 4)
Portuguese, Intensive Intermediate for Spanish Speakers (PORT-UA 21)
Quechua, Intermediate II (SPAN-UA 84)
Russian, Intermediate II (RUSSN-UA 4)
Russian, Grammar and Composition II (RUSSN-UA 6)
Spanish, Intermediate II (SPAN-UA 4)
Spanish for Spanish Speakers (SPAN-UA 11)
Spanish, Intensive Intermediate (SPAN-UA 20)
Swahili, Intermediate II (SCA-UA 124)
Turkish, Intermediate II (MEIS-UA 504)
Urdu, Intermediate II (MEIS-UA 304)
Yiddish, Intermediate II (HBRJD-UA 17)

Each department offering language instruction in the College has designated a member of its faculty to coordinate its courses and policies. For more information on specific language classes, placement, or exemption, please contact the language coordinator, director of language programs, or director of undergraduate studies named in the individual departmental listings.

Thanks to an exchange arrangement with Columbia University, students may also enroll in the following languages, offered through the intermediate level and given at Columbia: Armenian, Bengali, Catalan, Czech (Elementary I and II are offered in the College; intermediate-level courses are offered at Columbia), Dutch, Finnish, Georgian, Hungarian, Indonesian, Kannada, Polish, Punjabi, Romanian, Sanskrit, Serbo-Croatian, Swahili, Swedish, Tamil, Modern Tibetan, Ukrainian, Vietnamese, Wolof, and Zulu. For information about these courses, visit the Office of Academic Affairs, Silver Center, 100 Washington Square East, Room 908 or click here for more information.

Foundations of Contemporary Culture

The Foundations of Contemporary Culture is the arts, humanities, and social sciences component of the College Core Curriculum.  Within each of its components, students are free to pursue their interests through their choice of classes. The structure of the FCC ensures that every student in the College gains a common core of skills and experiences in the liberal arts.

In addition to the information below, to learn more about FCC courses, we strongly recommend that you browse past and present syllabuses.

Texts and Ideas
Texts and Ideas is the name for a diverse group of humanities courses that study challenging, influential texts about big ideas: freedom, the nature of the soul, the place of humans in the natural and animal world, beauty, citizenship, morality, the imagination, the use of the past, and many more.  Some courses explore a single theme or a set of closely related ideas; others investigate the relationship between two periods of intellectual history, for example, selected writings in the philosophy and literature of ancient Greece and Rome and their reception in a later era.

Texts and Ideas courses also seek to refine students’ ability to write and speak about complex concepts and arguments with clarity, originality, and eloquence.  You will be challenged not only to master the content of some of the world’s most influential philosophical texts and works of literature, but to discuss how the ideas in these works have been debated, developed, appropriated, or rejected over time.

Cultures and Contexts
Cultures and Contexts prepares students for life in a globalized world by introducing them to the ways humans see themselves as members of social, religious, national, and regional groups. Individual courses focus on political, social, or cultural collectives that are distinct from the dominant traditions of contemporary North America, such as central Asia, Russia, Korea, or ancient Egypt; some courses study diaspora formations and emergent traditions.  Primary texts are central to every course, with some faculty concentrating on historical documents, others on art, film, or literary texts.  Cultures and Contexts courses share a common aim to examine the ways cultures emerge and interact through trade, colonization, immigration, religious proselytization, and representation in various media; how groups define themselves through beliefs, values, and customs; and how the dominant perspective of Western modernity affects comprehension of the ways in which premodern or non-Western peoples experience and imagine their lives.

Societies and the Social Sciences
We live in a world molded by massive social, political, and economic transformations, and to be thoughtful, responsible citizens we need to understand them.  From the nineteenth century to today, drawing on earlier movements, thinkers have developed new methods for understanding the complexity of these phenomena by studying societal structures and human behavior. Societies and the Social Sciences is our name for a set of courses offered by social science departments across the Faculty of Arts and Science—Anthropology, Social and Cultural Analysis, Economics, Politics, History, Linguistics, Psychology, Religious Studies, and Sociology. Students fulfill the requirement by taking one of a list of designated courses or by majoring or minoring in the social sciences.

Expressive Culture
Art arouses pleasure, wonder, confusion, curiosity, and many other things.  How is art made, and for what purpose?  How do artworks convey meaning or feelings?  How does social context shape the making of art?  In Expressive Culture, students explore the complexities of artistic expression by focusing on one of five media: sounds, images, words, performance, or film. Each course introduces requisite historical, formal, and critical vocabularies; examines fundamental issues associated with interpretation of the arts; and investigates the complex relations between artistic activity and other facets of social and political life. Our teaching is fueled by our passion for fostering life-long appreciation of the arts, and New York City is the ideal place to experience them in all their variety.  Whenever possible, faculty draw on the rich cultural resources of the city around us.

Foundations of Scientific Inquiry

The Foundations of Scientific Inquiry (FSI) is the mathematics and natural science component of the College Core Curriculum. Rather than providing a routine coverage of facts, FSI courses stress the process and applications of quantitative and scientific thinking.  The design of these courses is based on the conviction that science is interesting, accessible, and important for all undergraduates.  FSI courses encourage students to approach science as a way of knowing, a quest to understand who we are and our place in the universe.  They also provide you with a foundation to make informed decisions—both personal and societal—as citizens of a world that is increasingly influenced by science and technology.  No matter what career path you choose, the study of science will enrich your critical thinking skills and expand your appreciation of the natural world.

Quantitative Reasoning
Mathematics is both a curiosity-driven endeavor and a powerful analytical tool.  Mathematics strives to deduce universal rules that govern numbers, geometry, and logic.  When applied to the analysis of data, mathematics allows us to derive conclusions, for example, about the likelihood of random events or the effectiveness of medical therapies.  In today’s data-driven world we are constantly bombarded with numbers, from projections of the national debt to the likelihood of catching the flu, so citizens of the 21st century need an ability to critically evaluate numerical information.  The Core’s Quantitative Reasoning courses provide you with the mathematical foundations and analytical skills to investigate, evaluate, and draw conclusions from numerical evidence.

Physical Science (formerly Natural Science I)
Natural Science I describes a range of courses that examine the foundations of the physical sciences—physics and chemistry.  At its core, the physical sciences seek to understand the role of matter and energy in explaining a broad range of phenomena, such as the large scale structure of the universe and the factors that affect the earth’s climate.  These investigations require the application of mathematical tools to quantify and predict our complex world.  Natural Science I courses examine questions at the cutting edge of scientific investigation:  What fundamental insights do scientists hope to gain from the Large Hadron Collider, the largest and most complex scientific experiment ever performed?  Why have astronomers propose the unseen existence of dark matter and dark energy?  What do investigations into the Earth’s historical climate reveal about the scope of global climate change in the 20th and 21st centuries?  Do renewable energy sources provide a feasible global alternative to fossil fuels?

Life Science (formerly Natural Science II)
Natural Science II encapsulates a variety of courses that examine  the broad diversity of life sciences—biology, neuroscience, and physical anthropology.  We are currently witnessing an explosion of information in the life sciences, stimulated by the development of new tools such as DNA technologies, computer databases, and brain scanners.  These new insights have thrust science into the forefront of social, ethical, and legal debates on such topics as stem cell research, the evidence for evolution, the preservation of biodiversity, and the neurological basis of decision making.  Each Natural Science II course uses a thematic approach to introduce students to the foundations and frontiers of scientific investigation in the life sciences.