The following descriptions are written by each department and program with first-year students in mind and offer valuable course selection and planning advice. You should make use of these descriptions in conjunction with the complete department and program descriptions http://catalog.williams.edu/.
Africana Studies is an exciting interdisciplinary program introducing students to the rich experiences of Diaspora and New World peoples of African descent. Music, dance, and art enliven the traditional disciplines, as does a strong emphasis on experiential and service learning. First and second year students are encouraged to take our Introductory class (Africana 200), offered in both the fall and the spring, as well as some of our exciting course offerings, including Race(ing) Sports: Issues, Themes and Representations of Black Athletes, Race Gender and the Alien Body: Octavia Butler’s Science Fiction, Time and Blackness, Transforming the New World and the Old: The Haitian and French Revolutions, Rastafari: Dread, Politics, Agency.
For additional information http://africana-studies.williams.edu/
America is a bundle of myths and ideas, and being an American has always meant more than U.S. citizenship. The American Studies program aims to develop an understanding of the range and complexity of U.S. cultures, past and present, through the critical, interdisciplinary study of social and political struggles, race and ethnicity, the natural and built environment, the many forms of artistic and cultural expression in the US, and the critical theories and methods that illuminate these topics. For example, American Studies 101 examines essays, novels, autobiographies, poems, photographs, films, music, visual art, cityscapes, federal policies, mass movements, historical documents, and legal texts in order to grapple with questions of power and imagination, struggle and social change, empire, nation and borders, inequality, assimilation, aesthetic form, and the role of the U.S. and its products in the world. In engaging such topics, and how they fit together, students also learn some of the distinctive ways of thinking that define American Studies as a field.
For additional information http://web.williams.edu/amst/
The Department of Anthropology and Sociology aims to help students understand the nature and meaning of social life. We do this by providing an integrated examination of the intersection of culture, history, biography, and social structure in both Western and non-Western societies. Anthropology explores the full range of human experience by investigating and comparing culture and society across time and space, from tribal and peasant communities to ancient civilizations and complex, stratified societies like our own. Sociology studies the social and institutional matrices of contemporary industrial and post-industrial societies and the dilemmas facing the individual in our epoch.
The Department offers separate majors in Anthropology and in Sociology, along with a diverse array of courses in both disciplines. Committed to the unity of the social sciences, the two wings of the Department offer joint core courses (designated ANSO).
For additional information http://web.williams.edu/AnthSoc/
Arabic is at the forefront of current international affairs, the liturgical language of Muslims across the world, and an official language of 25 countries–each with a rich and varied culture. Students who enjoy challenge and discovery will be rewarded by studying al-lugha al-`arabiyya.
Williams offers beginning, intermediate and advanced courses in Arabic that provide strong coverage of Modern Standard variety of the language. Beginners start with Arabic 101(F)-102(S) (a full-year course), and can continue with second- and third-year Arabic, as well as topical courses at the intermediate and advanced level.
The interdisciplinary major in Arabic Studies is now one of the most popular foreign language and culture majors at the college. Majors take at least four semesters of Arabic language, plus five additional courses in language, literature, history, religion, art, or other areas of Arabic culture. The Arabic Studies Program also sponsors formal and informal activities meant to provide different perspectives on the language and its culture. Students can attend a weekly Arabic language table, as well as special activities like Arab-themed dinners, poetry readings and talent shows, concerts, workshops, and movies. Learning Arabic also opens the door to study abroad in the Arab world: in recent years our students have studied in many countries including Morocco, Kuwait, Oman, Jordan, Israel, and Egypt, among others.
For additional information http://cflang.williams.edu/arabic/
The Williams Art Department is essentially two departments in one—you can study art in its historical context in the art history wing (ArtH), and you can create artwork in the studio wing (ArtS). Our art history wing is located in Lawrence Hall, sharing space with the Williams College Museum of Art, and our state-of-the-art studio facilities, including a student gallery and student workspaces, are housed in Spencer. No other small liberal arts college has such a large department with such diverse offerings of courses; we encourage students at any level of previous experience to explore our broad curriculum and find the course that suits them. And you don’t need to become a major to take advanced courses in the Department. ArtH 101-102 and ArtS 100 are great foundation courses for any course you may want to take in future years. But start early! There is something for everyone in the Art Department, and many students expecting to take different paths find their home here.
For additional information http://art.williams.edu/
The Department of Asian Studies offers courses that focus on Asia in a wide range of disciplines, including anthropology, art history, economics, history, linguistics, literature, music, political science, religion, and sociology as well as Asian languages. The Asian Studies major is one among three distinct majors (Chinese, Japanese, and Asian Studies) offered within the Department. The Asian Studies major is an eleven-course interdisciplinary major encompassing the languages, cultures, societies, and historical development of the peoples of China, Japan, and other Asian nations. Basic requirements include four semesters of an Asian language (usually Chinese or Japanese), a three-course qualification in one of the disciplines represented within Asian Studies, and three electives. Additionally, students are required to take one course that explicitly compares at least two countries in Asia, or a course on a country that is different from their country of primary focus.
Students considering an Asian Studies major are urged to begin the study of an Asian language in their first year. There are opportunities for study abroad in the junior year as well as scholarships and graduate teaching fellowships in Asia. Members of the Asian Studies faculty will be happy to talk with first-year students at any time.
For additional information http://asian-studies.williams.edu/
Courses in Astronomy are available to anyone who is interested in studying the universe and in learning to follow new astronomical discoveries as they are made. The introductory courses begin on two levels: a non-science-major level (ASTR 101(F), 102(S), 104(S)) and a science-major level with physics and mathematics pre- or co-requisites (ASTR 111(F)). ASTR 101(F) Stars: From Suns to Black Holes and ASTR 102(S) Our Solar System and Others and, in alternate years, ASTR 104(S) The Milky Way Galaxy and the Universe Beyond, are broad survey courses. These courses are most appropriate for students without a great deal of mathematical background and for those not intending to major in the sciences or mathematics. ASTR 111(F) Introduction to Astrophysics is intended for prospective science or mathematics majors and for those with some exposure to physics and calculus. ASTR 111(F) is required for both the Astronomy and Astrophysics majors (described below). All introductory astronomy courses include observing with the telescopes atop the Thompson Physical Lab building as well as five afternoon lab sessions per semester.
The Astrophysics major, joint between the Astronomy and Physics Departments, is designed for students who plan to go on to graduate school in astronomy/astrophysics, physics, or planetary science as well as for students planning other careers for which a science background is useful. Prospective Astrophysics majors who have not had advanced-placement physics should plan to take PHYS 141(F) or 151(F) and MATH 140 in the fall, followed by PHYS 142(S), if needed, and MATH 150/151 in the spring. ASTR 111(F) could be taken in the fall of the sophomore year, though exceptionally motivated students often choose to take it in the fall of their first year along with physics and math. Students entering with advanced placement physics and/or math should especially consider taking ASTR 111 in the fall of their first year, and are encouraged to consult early with members of the Astronomy and Physics Departments about the best route through the major.
The Astronomy major, a major solely within the Astronomy Department, can be elected by those interested in Astronomy, but not intending to take the physics and math in the Astrophysics major. It is especially valuable for those interested in secondary-school teaching or science journalism or as a double major along with Chemistry, Geosciences, or other fields. Prospective Astronomy majors should normally take ASTR 111(F) and MATH 140 in the fall of the first or second year. MATH 150/151 would then follow in the spring. The required physics courses (131(F) or 141(F), and 142(S) or 151(F)) would be taken either in the first year or in the sophomore year. First-year students unsure about choosing between the Astronomy major and the Astrophysics major should normally take PHYS 141 or 151 and MATH 104 in the fall, followed by PHYS 142, if needed, and MATH 105 in the spring. ASTR 111 can be postponed to the fall of the sophomore year, though exceptionally motivated students often choose to take ASTR 111 in the fall of their first year along with physics and math. Students entering with advanced placement in physics and/or math are encouraged to consult early with members of the Astronomy Department about the best route through the major.
For additional information http://astro.williams.edu
The Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Program is designed to provide students with an opportunity to explore living systems in molecular terms. Biochemistry and molecular biology are at the interface between the chemical and biological methods of looking at nature; therefore, the program draws heavily from these disciplines. While chemistry is concerned with the relationship between molecular structure and reactions, and biology focuses on cells and organisms, biochemistry and molecular biology probe the details of the structures and interactions of molecules in living systems in order to provide the foundation for a better understanding of biological molecules both individually and as members of more complex structures.
For additional information http://bimo.williams.edu/
The Bioinformatics, Genomics, and Proteomics curriculum involves faculty from the Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Mathematics/Statistics, and Physics departments and was designed to provide students with an understanding of these revolutionary new areas of investigation. There are many routes into this interdisciplinary field, so taking introductory courses in the related disciplines will open doors to the BIGP focused courses. Students interested in graduate work in bioinformatics, genomics, and proteomics should take the BIGP courses and their prerequisites. Interested students are also encouraged to participate in independent research with members of the advisory faculty as they explore the development of these new fields.
For additional information http://bigp.williams.edu/
The Biology curriculum is designed to provide broad coverage of all major subdivisions of the discipline, including environmental biology and behavior, physiology, cell biology, molecular biology and biochemistry.
The normal route for most first-year students, whether or not they intend to major in biology, is to take BIOL 101(F) The Cell and 102(S) The Organism. Students who plan to major in biology, or think they may be interested in doing so, should plan to take BIOL 101(F), 102(S) during the first year. Since both of these courses are required for the major, delaying these introductory courses until sophomore year can result in a situation where students have not satisfied the necessary prerequisites to upper level courses. There are also four 200-level biology courses that are of potential interest to first-year students. BIOL 220(S) Field Botany and Plant Natural History has no pre-requisites. BIOL 203(F) Ecology, BIOL 204(S) Animal Behavior can be taken by students with strong backgrounds in science with the permission of the instructor. BIOL 212(F) Neuroscience has as its prerequisite either BIOL 101 or PSYC 101 (which cannot be satisfied by AP placement); first-year students who place out of BIOL 101 by the First Days exam may seek the permission of the instructor to enroll in this course. First-year students wishing to enroll in this course should be aware that the pace, level, and expectations for the student will be geared towards sophomores.
Although first-year students should normally enroll in BIOL 101(F) and 102(S), students with unusually strong backgrounds in biology may be permitted to elect a sophomore level course in lieu of BIOL 101(F) and/or BIOL 102(S) upon successful completion of a Biology Placement Exam given during First Days. Note, however, that students placed out of BIOL 101(F) and/or BIOL 102(S) do not receive credit towards the biology major for those courses; they must still take nine courses at Williams to fulfill major requirements.
For additional information http://biology.williams.edu/
Through a variety of individual courses and sequential programs, the Chemistry Department provides the opportunity for students to explore the nature and significance of chemistry while learning the fundamental concepts of the discipline. All of the introductory courses provide a foundation for further study as well as concentration in the subspecialties – organic, physical, inorganic, materials science, and biochemistry.
All students begin the major with any one of the department’s three gateway, fall semester-only classes. The Chemistry Department faculty determines which course is the correct match for each student using a combination of a required Placement Survey followed by a consultation meeting. All students are advised to initially enroll in 153(F) Concepts of Chemistry, which is the gateway course taken by most first year students. Following the Placement Survey, the Department will adjust some students’ enrollment into either CHEM 151(F) Introductory Chemistry or 155(F) Principles of Modern Chemistry. Each of the gateway courses includes a 4-hour weekly laboratory section.
For additional information http://chemistry.williams.edu/choosing-first-year-courses/
The Chinese program offers five levels of instruction designed to enable the student to become proficient in understanding, speaking, reading, and writing modern Chinese (Mandarin). Several courses on Chinese literature and culture in translation, which require no knowledge of Chinese, are also offered, so are introductory courses in Classical Chinese, Chinese Linguistics, Cantonese, and Taiwanese. We also have an active Chinese Table and sponsor various extracurricular activities each year, so as to give students a chance for contact with the language and culture outside the classroom.
We offer an eleven-course major in Chinese, requirements for which include eight semesters of modern Chinese language; one semester of Classical Chinese; one course in Chinese literature, film, or culture in translation. Additionally, students are required to take one course that explicitly compares at least two countries in Asia, or a course on a country that is different from their country of primary focus.
We encourage students to spend one or both semesters of their junior year in one of several approved foreign study programs in China or Taiwan. Students interested in learning Chinese are urged to begin their study of the language during their first year, so they will be able to gain the benefit of the full four-year curriculum. Students with prior knowledge of Chinese will be tested upon arrival on campus in the fall and may be able to place into second year or higher, as appropriate.
For additional information http://asian-studies.williams.edu/chinese/
Classical Studies at Williams includes a wide range of courses in the languages, literatures, history, and cultures of the ancient Mediterranean. We offer courses in both Greek (CLGR) and Latin (CLLA) from the beginning to the advanced level, and we offer courses in the literature, history, and archaeology/material culture of the Greek and Roman worlds (CLAS) that do not require any knowledge of Greek or Latin. A number of the latter examine the Greco-Roman world of the ancient Near East or explore the intersections of Greek, Roman, and Jewish culture and aspects of early Christianity. The Classics program also incorporates courses offered by other departments, including Art, Philosophy, Religion, and History. Whether or not you are considering a major in Classics, all of these courses strengthen any liberal arts education and help build a foundation for study in many other departments.
We strongly encourage first-years not to delay continuing their study of Latin or Greek or starting one of these languages, especially if you want to study abroad in your junior year.
The classical civilization courses taught in translation are valuable for helping you to decide on or to prepare for a Classics major. They also strengthen other majors: departments and programs like English, Comparative Literature, and Philosophy actively encourage their majors to develop a background in Classics; our courses in history and archaeology satisfy a period requirement for the History major; these courses are electives for majors in Art, Religion, Anthropology, Theatre, and Comparative Literature or for the concentrations in Jewish Studies, Women, Gender and Sexuality, and Leadership Studies.
For additional information http://web.williams.edu/Classics/
Cognitive science is concerned with how humans, animals, and computers acquire, represent, manipulate, and use information. As an interdisciplinary field it combines research and theory from three central disciplines (computer science, cognitive psychology, and philosophy), two closely related disciplines (linguistics and neuroscience), and several more distantly related disciplines (e.g., biology, math, and anthropology).
Complex issues of cognition are not easily addressed using traditional intra-disciplinary tools. Cognitive researchers in any discipline typically employ a collection of analytic and modeling tools from across traditional disciplinary boundaries. Thus, the methods and research agenda of cognitive science are broader than those of any of the fields that have traditionally contributed to cognitive science. The COGS Program at Williams is designed to offer a coherent program of study in cognitive science and provide students with the broad interdisciplinary foundation needed to approach issues of cognition.
For additional information http://cogsci.williams.edu/
You know what literature is. Or do you?
You have taken English in high school, devoured novels by your favorite author, discussed and debated your favorite films. Now at Williams you have a chance to take your interest in literature into exciting new territory, with courses in Comparative Literature. The Program in Comparative Literature will allow you to study literature from around the world and explore how texts of all sorts work within the cultures and times that produced them.
Williams has a thriving interdisciplinary program in Comparative Literature that brings together faculty and courses from many different departments. Our courses will allow you to interpret works originally produced in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Spanish and other languages, but translated into English. These courses cover familiar genres and media like prose, poetry, and film, but also touch on a wide range of other texts–animation, theater, pop music, even video games–that you may not have thought of as “literature.”
The Program also offers a major that exposes students to literary theory and literary practices across multiple language traditions. The major has two tracks, one that involves choosing a specialty language and taking literature courses taught in that language, and a second track that involves studying a broader range of traditions through courses taught in English. Whichever track you choose, you will be able to develop your own individualized course of study, which can incorporate courses offered by other departments and programs, as well as study abroad in almost any place you can think of.
For additional information http://cflang.williams.edu/comparative-literature/
The goal of the major is to provide an understanding of algorithmic problem solving as well as the conceptual organization of computers and complex programs running on them. Emphasis is placed on the fundamental principles of computer science, building upon the mathematical and theoretical ideas underlying these principles.
The introductory and core courses build a broad and solid base for understanding computer science. The more advanced courses allow students to sample a variety of specialized areas including graphics, artificial intelligence, computer architecture, networks, compiler design, and operating systems. Independent study and honors work provide opportunities for students to study and conduct research on topics of special interest.
The department offers a choice of four introductory courses; Computer Science 102 The Socio-Techno Web, 107 Creating Games, 109 The Art and Science of Computer Graphics, and Computer Science 134 Introduction to Computer Science.
Computer Science 134 provides an introduction to computer science with a focus on developing computer programming skills. These skills are essential to most upper-level courses in the department. As a result, Computer Science 134 together with Computer Science 136, are required as a prerequisite to most advanced courses in the department.
Those students intending to take several Computer Science courses are urged to take 134 early. Those students interested in learning more about exciting new ideas in computer science, but not necessarily interested in developing extensive programming skills, should consider Computer Science 102 The Socio-Techno Web, 107 Creating Games, or 109 The Art and Science of Computer Graphics.
For additional information http://www.cs.williams.edu/
Qualified students with the talent and energy for working independently may undertake a contract major—a coherent study of an interdisciplinary subject not covered by a regularly offered major. The purpose of the Contract Major is to allow highly motivated students to follow a course of study outside the boundaries of established majors. In offering the option of a Contract Major, Williams College encourages students to draw upon the wealth of coursework offered at the college to develop a major that corresponds to their particular interests and goals.
For additional information http://dean.williams.edu/academic-advising-info/contract-major/
The Critical Languages Program offers the possibility of studying languages not offered on a regular basis at the college and is designed to complement coursework in other areas. The Program originated in part from requests by a more diverse student body, faculty’s interests in emerging regional issues, and from the ever-pressing need to respond to the pluralistic realities of today’s world. Currently, students can study elementary Hebrew, Hindi, Korean and Swahili in a self-instructional mode under the tutorial supervision of qualified native speakers and in consultation with senior language specialists from other institutions.
For additional information http://cfllc.williams.edu/critical-languages/
The purpose of the Dance Department is to educate students in the physical disciplines, cultural traditions, and expressive possibilities of dance. We provide the opportunity to study and experience dance as technique, composition, history, theory, and performance in the context of a liberal arts education. Our five ensembles study and perform throughout the academic year at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance and at venues on and off campus. Participation in these ensembles is through audition as well as by invitation of the directors.
Our department regularly offers workshops, master classes, artist residencies, internships, performances, field trips, and collaborations that reflect the vital role of dance in our community. Our courses can be taken for academic credit and/or physical education credit.
Artists and companies who have been in residence include: New York City Ballet members, Ronald K. Brown and Evidence, H.T. Chen & Dancers, Dianne Walker, Anouk van Dijk, Danis “La Mora” Perez and Francisco Mora Catlett, Compagnie Heddy Maalem, Obo Addy and Okropong, Liz Lerman, ZviDance, and Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company.
For additional information http://dance.williams.edu/
You might think economics is all about making money. Economics is useful in business and finance, to be sure–but there’s a lot more to it than that. Economics covers a diverse, wide-ranging set of topics, many of them intimately connected to public policy. Central to the study of economics is a set of analytical tools that can be used to understand real-world issues. It is as much a way of thinking as it is a field of study.
Roughly one out of six Williams students majors in Economics, making it one of the most popular majors. Many classes in the department are welcoming to non-majors. In fact, approximately 60% of Williams students take our introductory microeconomics class. Many of these go on to take at least one elective, even if they don’t become economics majors.
The economics major consists of nine courses, including five core classes in microeconomics (the study of individual and firm behavior), macroeconomics (how the national and global economies work), and econometrics (statistical tools specific to economics). Economics majors and non-majors also take a variety of lower-level and upper-level electives, including tutorials and senior seminars, which typically involve a significant research and writing component. Electives encompass a diverse range of topics, such as poverty, gender, the environment, taxation, trade, economic history, econometrics, and economic theory. Many classes offered to the Center for Development Economics, a master’s program for professionals from developing countries, are cross-listed as electives for undergraduate students.
For additional information http://econ.williams.edu/
The study of English allows students to explore the critical role language and literature play in the shaping of human culture and social experience. Department courses cover a wide range of literary traditions, and acquaint students with a range of genres and cultural practices, including poetry, prose, drama, film, and mixed and emerging media.
60% or more of all Williams students take a 100-level English course during their first year, all of which satisfy part of the Writing Requirement. Taught as discussion classes, and with enrollments limited to 19 students per section,100-level English courses seek to develop students’ skills as close readers of literary texts and other works of imagination. All 100-level English courses develop analytical writing skills while introducing students to a variety of topics in the field of literary studies.
100-level English courses serve as the prerequisite for most other courses in the English Department. Students planning to take other English courses during their time at Williams should take a 100-level course in their first year.
First-year students who have received a 5 on the Literature Advanced Placement exam, or a 6 or 7 on the Higher Level International Baccalaureate, are not required to take a 100-level course as a prerequisite to more advanced work in the department. Such students may instead choose their first English course from among the department’s 200-level offerings, including a cluster of “Gateway” courses especially designed for first- and second-year students considering majoring in English. Although students with a 5 or better on the AP exam or an IB 6 or 7 are not excluded from taking 100-level English courses, please be aware that students with a lower score will be given first preference for 100-level courses. If you are having trouble finding an English course, please speak with the department assistant during First Days.
For additional information http://english.williams.edu/all-courses/
Our world is facing increasingly complex and serious environmental problems. These issues require citizens, organizations, and governments to grasp scientific concepts, address conflicting human values, and make difficult economic, political and ethical choices. The curricular options in Environmental Studies—the major and concentration—are designed to prepare students to effectively address these questions by integrating perspectives and methodologies from the natural sciences, the social sciences, and the arts and humanities. In addition to the eleven course major, the program offers a six course concentration (designed to complement a major in a different discipline), and a seven course concentration in Maritime Studies, which builds on the course work completed through the Williams-Mystic Maritime Studies Program.
The Environmental Studies major has a “core” of six courses. All majors and concentrators are required to take ENVI 101 (Nature and Society) and ENVI 102 (Environmental Science). Incoming students with a strong interest in Environmental Studies should consider taking ENVI 101 during their first semester at Williams. (ENVI 101 is offered only in the fall semester of each year.) This gateway course is required because it provides an excellent overview of the most critical environmental issues, bringing together scientific, political, ethical and cultural perspectives. First year students planning to major or concentrate in Environmental Studies are encouraged, but not required, to take one or both of these 100-level courses in their first year. In addition to the six course core, each Environmental Studies major develops a 5-course specialization within the program, such as climate change, environmental chemistry, agriculture, or environmental design, in consultation with a faculty advisor.
ENVI students are encouraged to examine environmental issues in the vicinity of Berkshire County, other regions of the US, and the world. Many of our courses also include an experiential component so that students can learn the complexities of environmental issues first-hand. The Center for Environmental Studies (CES) manages the 2600-acre Hopkins Memorial Forest and the Environmental Analysis Laboratory in the Morley Science Laboratory. CES also sponsors a range of activities, events, and programs, including the Friday noon Log Lunch speaker series and a summer internship program.
Students interested in the program are encouraged to consult with members of the Environmental Studies Program and to contact the Environmental Studies Director or Associate Director.
For additional information http://ces.williams.edu/
The aim of the Williams Experiential Education Initiative, begun in 2002, is to infuse the college curriculum with experiential learning. The Initiative taps into the innovative spirit of Williams faculty, students and staff. Faculty select from the variety of experiential learning methodologies the tools they deem most suited to the learning goals of their courses.
As a result, the current curriculum features many vehicles for students to “learn by doing” including teaching in local and New York City schools, consulting for local governments and non-profits, mentoring at-risk youth, providing volunteer income tax assistance to low income working people, and conducting time-sensitive social policy research in South Africa.
The Center for Learning in Action supports the development of experiential courses and modules, helping faculty design and implement them and helping students find appropriate courses and projects.
A complete description of each experiential course and when it is offered may be found in the relevant department’s section of the College’s Course Catalog or Winter Study Program (WSP) offerings on the Registrar’s website.
For additional information http://learning-in-action.williams.edu/courses-teaching/
Geoscience is a flexible, fascinating and practical field that can enrich an education or make a wonderful career choice. There is a national shortage of geoscientists, so prospects are great, starting salaries are high, and you can walk into a good job with a BA. Our graduates work as environmental consultants, in the energy industries, in climate modeling, mining, and resource exploration. But Geoscience can lead to many other career pathways, and our alumni include professors, pediatricians, politicians, teachers, tailors, financial analysts, energy executives, and journalists…to name just a few examples! What unifies them is a shared love of this planet and an educated understanding of what makes it work; and the ability to go out and live an informed and effective life, where they can make a difference.
In 2019-2020 we have four 100-level courses, all of which are open to first years and assume no previous geoscience background. You should choose whichever one appeals to you, depending on whether you are more excited by weather systems and climate change (100), how the Earth and life evolved together through time (101), how earthquakes and volcanos shape our planet (102), or the many facets of our oceans (104). Any 100-level course serves as a gateway to the major. All our professors work closely with students, and together we form a close-knit group taking joy in figuring out how the world works. Our students have opportunities that undergraduates seldom have, to do research in exciting places (recent locations include Ireland, the Caribbean, Colorado, the Yukon, Montana, and Madagascar). Students who enjoy lab work have analyzed samples from deep sea cores and have measured ancient organisms extracted from rock samples. Many present their work at national meetings, and meet today’s leading earth scientists. Come and join us! Take any of our 100-level classes.
For additional information http://web.williams.edu/Geoscience/
The College recommends that students develop fluency in at least one foreign language, and the best way to do this is to start in the first year. German offers exciting intensive language classes at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced level, which enable students to gain the proficiency needed for study abroad and for upper-level courses in German studies. The normal sequence for beginners is 101(F)-102(S) (a full-year course) that meets 5 times a week, 103(F), and 104(S). We are also offering a one-semester intensive beginner course in the spring, GERM 120(S). Our German students have the opportunity to practice their language skills by having weekly conversation meetings with Teaching Associates from Germany and Austria.
First-year students who have already studied German and who wish to continue should take the placement test administered during First Days and consult with the German Department in order to determine which course would be most appropriate for them.
The Department sponsors several extracurricular activities that are open to first-year students, including a bi-weekly Kaffeeklatsch and a bi-weekly German movie night, various festivals (such as an Austrian-German Film Festival) and celebrations (such as Oktoberfest and a Vienna Ball).
Every year a growing number of junior German students study in German-speaking countries, either by directly enrolling in a German or Austrian university or through an American program. Students must normally have completed two years of college-level German or the equivalent to study abroad in a German speaking country.
For additional information http://german.williams.edu/
The Global Studies Program features a cross-disciplinary and comparative curriculum. The program offers multiple tracks, on a region of the world or theme, around which students construct their global studies concentration.
For additional information http://global-studies.williams.edu/
The History curriculum and major encourage students to explore the many dimensions of the human past from a variety of perspectives. The History Department offers sixty to seventy courses each year, on the histories of various countries and regions–Africa, China, Europe, Japan, Latin America, the Middle East, South Asia, and the United States–as well as on transnational and comparative issues. All first-year students are welcome to take any of the first-year seminars or tutorials (100-level courses) or any of the broad surveys (200-level courses), and can also take advanced electives (300-level courses) with the instructor’s permission. First-year students who are considering a major in History are especially encouraged to take a first-year seminar or tutorial. These writing-intensive courses focus on specific topics of interest and are designed to familiarize students with the various ways in which historians study and try to understand the past. 200-level courses offer a survey of the history of a country, or of a particular region of the globe, over a long period of time. Both 100-level and 200-level courses serve as a strong basis from which to study the past at a more advanced level.
For additional information http://history.williams.edu
When a particularly able student wishes to study a subject not covered by the normal offerings of the college, arrangements may be made to undertake courses of independent study under faculty supervision.
This program is designed to facilitate and promote innovations in curricular offerings in relation both to interdisciplinary conceptual focus and experimental pedagogical form. It provides support for faculty and student efforts to develop a curriculum that creatively responds to intellectual needs and modes of teaching/learning that currently fall outside the conventional pattern.
Public health seeks to understand, and also to protect and improve, health at the level of a community or population. Communities make decisions and allocate resources that, intentionally or not, fundamentally shape human life. At its heart, the study of public health focuses on questions about relationships between science and society, and between reality and possibility: what effective public health policy is and how we can measure its effectiveness; what the relationship is, and ought to be, between research and policy; how we reconcile important moral and economic claims, or balance other values that compete with maximizing health; what counts as disease, over time and among cultures; how we think about cause and responsibility; what constitutes a healthy environment; how our fundamental beliefs determine our approaches to health decisions; and how such decisions ought to be made.
Public health offers a selective six-course concentration, which includes an intro course and a senior capstone taught within the program, three electives, and a statistics course. Students also propose an experiential learning component to the their concentration. The concentration can be combined with any major. Interested students must apply to the concentration in the spring of their sophomore year.
The Introduction to Public Health course (PHLH 201) is primarily geared at sophomores, but first-year students may take the course if space allows. Students hoping to concentrate in public health are encouraged to take statistics in their first year.
For additional information http://web.williams.edu/admin/registrar//catalog/depts/intr.pdf
The Japanese program offers five levels of instruction designed to enable the student to become proficient in understanding, speaking, reading, and writing modern Japanese. Courses on Japanese literature and culture in translation, which require no knowledge of Japanese, are also offered, so are general linguistics and Japanese film. We have an active Japanese Table and sponsor various extracurricular activities each year, so as to give students a chance for contact with the language and culture outside the classroom.
We offer an eleven-course major in Japanese, basic requirements for which include eight semesters of Japanese language, one course in Japanese literature or culture in translation, one elective with a substantial focus on Japan. Additionally, students are required to take one course that explicitly compares at least two countries in Asia, or a course on a country that is different from their country of primary focus.
We encourage students to spend one or both semesters of their junior year in one of several approved foreign study programs in Japan. Students interested in learning Japanese are urged to begin their study of the language during their first year, so that they will be able to gain the benefit of the full four-year curriculum. Students with prior knowledge of Japanese will be tested upon arrival on campus in the fall and may be able to place into second year or higher, as appropriate.
For additional information http://asian-studies.williams.edu/japanese/
Jewish Studies is the academic field concerned with the experiences and cultures of Jewish people across a wide temporal and geographical range. Williams offers a variety of courses in Jewish Studies at the introductory and advanced levels. Students who might be interested in concentrating in Jewish Studies or who simply want to learn more about Judaism are encouraged to take one of the two introductory courses (JWST 101 or JWST 201). In addition to courses listed in the Williams Course Catalog with the prefix “JWST (Jewish Studies)”, departments and programs across the college offer many other courses that incorporate topics relevant to the study of Judaism and Jews. For more information on the requirements for the Jewish Studies concentration and Jewish studies at Williams in general, see the department website. First-year students who are interested in this area of study should also refer to the list of relevant courses included in the Courses of Instruction.
For additional information http://jewish-studies.williams.edu/
The Justice & Law program focuses attention on justice in theory and practice: law’s changing place in social institutions, our many differing ideas about justice, power and equality; actions versus ideas, and coercion versus legitimate authority. Squarely within the liberal arts tradition, this program provides a way to think and argue critically about how we should, and do, think about and enact justice. JLST 101, open to first-year students, is taught in the fall.
For additional information http://justice.williams.edu/
The Latina/o Studies program offers a concentration and an opportunity for students to do an honors thesis. Latina/o Studies focuses on people who come from or whose ancestors come from Latin America and the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, including Mexican-Americans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, Colombians, Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and many others. The concentration works well with all majors and consists of five courses: an introductory course, three electives, and a senior seminar. We have courses in history, religion, urban studies, ethnography, popular culture, visual arts, film and media studies, literature and more! Each semester faculty invite speakers, performers, and artists to visit and contribute to our courses. The Honors Program provides a wonderful opportunity for students to explore an area of interest to them in depth. Our courses and our concentration invite students from all backgrounds. Several of our courses are designed especially for first-year students. We strongly encourage first-year students to take LATS 105 Latina/o Identities: Constructions, Contestations, and Expressions. This introductory course provides an important foundation for other courses and for the concentration. Our Spanish for Heritage Speakers, LATS 209, is also an excellent choice for first-year students. Several of our other 200-level courses are also appropriate for first year students including: LATS 208 Introduction to Latina/o Literatures; LATS 240 Latina/o Language and Literature; LATS 203 Chicana/o Film and Video; and LATS 286 Latina/o History.
For additional information http://latino-studies.williams.edu/
The Program in Leadership Studies offers a concentration comprising two tracks: a traditional track of five semester courses plus a Winter Study course and an American foreign policy track of six semester courses. Leadership Studies explores the complex relationships between leaders and followers, with special attention to the ways leaders emerge; how potential leaders offer competing and conflicting visions of the future; the motives, values, and characteristics of leaders and followers; how leadership manifests itself in different cultural, historical, and situational contexts and domains; constraints on leadership; and ethical issues that arise in the exercise of authority and power.
First-year students are invited to take LEAD 125(F) Visionaries, Pragmatists, and Demagogues: An Introduction to Leadership Studies and LEAD 127(S) America First? The Trump Era and the Future of World Politics. Other concentration courses open to first-year students include PSCI 203(F,S) Introduction to Political Theory and Leadership Studies core courses at the 100- or 200-level.
For additional information http://leadership-studies.williams.edu/
Earth’s oceans are vast, covering almost three-quarters of the planet. They provide us with food, house mineral resources, carry international shipping, and help control climate. The program in Maritime Studies offers students the opportunity to investigate the oceans from a wide variety of perspectives, including literature, science, history, and legal policy. Candidates for the concentration in Maritime Studies must complete a minimum of seven courses, including the semester at our maritime campus Williams-Mystic.
First-year students are invited to take GEOS 104(S) Oceanography as an introduction to the Maritime Studies program. GEOS 104(S) also serves as an introductory course for the department of Geosciences.
For additional information http://mystic.williams.edu/
Materials Science is an interdisciplinary field which combines microscopic physics and chemistry in order to understand and control the properties of materials such as plastics, semiconductors, metals, liquid crystals, and biomaterials.
For additional information http://web.williams.edu/admin/registrar//catalog/depts/mats.pdf
The Department of Mathematics and Statistics looks forward to seeing you in our many courses. Below is some information to help you choose where to start, but of course, you should consult Courses of Instruction for more complete descriptions. Feel free to consult with any member of the Department if you have any questions about your placement. Please also use the guide available on the Registrar’s website under the First Year Info link and please make sure you complete the Math/Stat Placement Form online in PeopleSoft.
For additional information http://math.williams.edu/
The Music Department welcomes first year students in a broad range of music history, performance, ethnomusicology, and theory courses. For more complete course descriptions, students should consult the Williams College Online Catalog or the Williams College Bulletin.
For additional information http://music.williams.edu/
The Neuroscience Program exposes students to a rapidly growing interdisciplinary field concerned with the relationship between brain, mind, and behavior. It consists of introductory courses in Biology and Psychology, two required Neuroscience courses, and three electives. You will find a detailed description of the program in Courses of Instruction.
Students interested in neuroscience are encouraged to take Biology 101 and/or Psychology 101 during their first year and to take Neuroscience (BIOL 212/PSYC 212/NSCI 201) in the fall of the sophomore year. Please note that Neuroscience is only offered during the fall semester.
For additional information http://neuroscience.williams.edu/
For additional information
Who am I? What can I know? Are there objective ethical standards? Is the mind different from the brain? Is there a God? What are the limits to rationality? The Philosophy curriculum will help you examine these and other questions.
As you may have discovered on our website, the Philosophy Department offers a variety of courses in the history of philosophy and in contemporary work in the field. All of the members of the department have a strong commitment to developing our students’ skills in interpreting arguments and formulating reasoned responses both orally and in writing. For this reason, most classes—including the introductory ones—are kept small enough to allow for extensive discussion. Tutorials are a central part of the philosophy curriculum and offer students the opportunity to meet weekly with a professor and one other student to present papers and commentaries on each other’s work. Many of us find this format excellent for engaging philosophical texts and improving skills in writing and oral argument.
Our 100-level courses, which appeal especially to first-year students, cover a wide array of topics, including knowledge, freedom, God, personal identity, and ethical objectivity. They are discussion-oriented, writing-intensive seminars that are designed to develop skills that will aid you in many other courses. First-year students may also take some of our 200-level courses, including the history of ancient philosophy, the history of modern philosophy, and logic and language. Very few students take philosophy in high school; next year will provide a wonderful opportunity for you to enter into the true spirit of the liberal arts.
For additional information https://philosophy.williams.edu/
The physical education program is designed to promote physical and mental fitness, the acquisition of sport skills and knowledge, and the development of a positive attitude toward exercise and wellness. The department offers a wide variety of courses to meet the needs of all Williams students.
Four units of physical education is a degree requirement at Williams. The units must be completed by the end of one’s sophomore year and may be earned by taking a physical education activity class or participation in intercollegiate athletics or club sports. Two different activities must be taken to fulfill the requirement.
For additional information http://athletics.williams.edu/physical-education/
The Department of Physics offers courses designed to meet a number of different needs. Students whose primary interests lie outside the sciences can find intellectual adventure taking physics courses. PHYS 107, 108, and 109 introduce interesting applications of physics at a level appropriate for a non-science major. More mathematically inclined students often enjoy taking PHYS 141(F) and 142(S), introductory courses that can lead to more advanced physics courses. Students wanting a one-year survey of physics to supplement the study of another science, or as preparation for medical school, usually choose either PHYS 131(F), 132(S) or PHYS 141(F), 132(S). Students who place out of PHYS 141(F) may take PHYS 151(F), a small fall semester seminar covering the same topics as the spring course PHYS 142(S). Please note that students wishing to skip the first semester course PHYS 141 (F) must take the physics placement exam during First Days.
The Political Economy major seeks to surmount the often artificial barriers of specialization that characterize Political Science and Economics when taken in isolation. The major is designed to give students a sense of the ways in which economic and political forces interact in the creation of public policy.
Students must first take a number of introductory courses in economics and political science. An explicit merging of the two fields is then undertaken in three required Political Economy courses: POEC 250(F), POEC 401(F), and POEC 402(S). These courses are designed and jointly taught by political scientists and economists, i.e., two professors are simultaneously in the classroom.
For additional information http://political-economy.williams.edu/
Political Science courses at the 100- and 200- level are open to all first-year students.
Indeed, the 100-level courses admit first-years preferentially. For example PSCI 100(S) Asia and the World. In these classes we introduce politics in a general way through issues and events. Enroll early if you are interested.
Classes numbered in the 200s are of two types. We offer courses introductory to the traditional subfields in Political Science—American politics, international relations, political theory, and comparative politics. These courses are numbered 201 through 204. They are substantive courses on specific fields in Political Science and gateways to the major. Thus if you are interested in American politics, international relations, political theory, or comparative politics, or if you are entertaining the idea of majoring in Political Science, we urge you to consider taking one or two of our 200-level core courses during your first year. Classes numbered above 201-204 focus on specific topics within one of the subfields. For example, PSCI 232(S) Modern Political Thought is an elective in Political Theory.
For additional information http://political-science.williams.edu/
For additional information http://careers.williams.edu/grad-school/pre-health/
The Program in Teaching does not offer a major or concentration. Instead, educational guidance is offered to students seeking to explore the field of education. The Program is designed to enable students to study the ideas, questions, and practices involved in good teaching at all levels.
The Program seeks to promote and facilitate an exchange of ideas about teachers, learners, and schools, within and beyond the Williams campus. The Program offers a range of opportunities including courses on education, intensive supervised student teaching, workshops, advising, lecture series, and ongoing peer groups for those who teach. Students may participate in a variety of ways, ranging from taking one course to a sustained in-depth study of teaching and learning geared to those who want to become teachers or educational psychologists. We seek to connect students with one another, to bring in expert teachers to provide mentoring, and to create links across the curriculum so that students can see the vital connections between what they study (French, Algebra or Biology, for example) and the process of teaching those topics to elementary and high school students. The program is open to any student interested in education and offers opportunities for all levels of interest, including those who want to find out about certification and graduate study.
For additional information http://program-in-teaching.williams.edu/
Students interested in Psychology should enroll in PSYC 101, Introductory Psychology, during their first year. PSYC 101 is offered each semester with unlimited enrollment. This course provides an overview of the major areas of the field of psychology. It considers behavioral neuroscience, cognitive psychology, developmental psychology, social psychology, and psychological disorders and treatment. The course is offered as a lecture course, with laboratories related to each of the subfields, and is team-taught by faculty specializing in each subfield of the discipline.
Students who have taken introductory psychology in high school may be eligible to place out of PSYC 101 if they have received a score of 5 on the AP exam. If a student thinks he or she is eligible to place out of PSYC 101, a conference should be scheduled with the department chair during First Days. If granted permission, the student can enroll in a 200 level Psychology course, with the exception of PSYC 201 (see below). Please note that if a student earns AP placement for Psychology 101, he/she still needs nine (9) psychology courses to complete the major.
For additional information http://psychology.williams.edu/
Public health is a cross-disciplinary field and draws on theoretical and applied research in the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. The Public Health Program at Williams consists at least one introductory course devoted to the field as a whole (PHLH 201) and one course in statistics, supplemented by a myriad of electives that cover topical areas such as demography; environmental health; global health; individual and institutional decision-making; maternal, child, and reproductive health; science and medicine; and bioethics. It also includes field experience and a capstone course that provides opportunities to reflect upon and synthesize the practical with the theoretical aspects of the education and to learn to work collaboratively to address pressing concerns in population health.
For additional information http://public-health.williams.edu/
The Religion Department offers students a range of ways to learn about both the study of religion and specific religious traditions. Courses in our department are designed to perform of two related functions: to expose the student to the methods and issues involved in the study of religion as a phenomenon of psychological, sociological, and cultural/historical dimensions; and to expose students to the beliefs, practices, and values of specific religions.
Our classes challenge students to reflect deeply on vital questions about ultimate authority, the meaning of life, truth, death, the good, the supernatural, the special destinies of particular human groups, and other matters of profound concern.
All 200-level Religion courses are also open to first-year students with no prerequisites.
Next fall in particular, the Religion department is offering “REL 108-Technologies of Religious Experience” which would be ideally suited to first-years.
For additional information http://religion.williams.edu
At Williams, students can study all levels of French and Spanish language and literature, as well as elementary level Italian language. Students are strongly encouraged to begin or continue foreign-language study during their first and sophomore years so that they may later continue coursework at higher levels with our engaging faculty, immerse themselves in French, Spanish, Latin American and Italian cultures, and be prepared for study abroad during their junior year.
For additional information http://cfllc.williams.edu/languages-programs/
Studying Russian at Williams is a great way to learn a new language, to open up exciting possibilities for study abroad, and to become part of the close-knit community of Russian speakers on campus. Most students begin studying the Russian language in their first year at Williams, but the department also offers a variety of courses taught in English on Russian culture, society, and politics. Incoming students who have previous experience with the Russian language, either in school or at home, should consult with a Russian professor about which course will work best for them.
If you’re interested in studying abroad in Russia or the Former Soviet Union as a junior, taking RUSS 101-102 as a first-year student is a good idea, since the best study-abroad programs require at least two years of language study (RUSS 101-102 and RUSS 103, 104). However, if you’d like to wait until you’re a sophomore to begin studying Russian, it’s possible to get enough of the language under your belt for study abroad by following up RUSS 101-102 with a summer of intensive language study, which also counts towards the Russian major. In addition to the major, Russian offers a language certificate, which requires fewer courses and looks more or less like a minor in Russian.
If you’re simply curious about Russia and not that interested in studying the language, the department offers courses in English without any prerequisites, all of which are open to first-year students. These include seminars on the great Russian authors Dostoevsky and Tolstoy, surveys of Russian literature, and courses on topics ranging from contemporary Russian politics to gender and sexuality in Putin’s Russia. You can also take courses in the departments of History, Political Science, and Sociology that are cross-listed with Russian and count toward the Russian certificate and major.
If you take Russian at Williams, you’ll get to know your professors, the TA from Moscow, and other students in Russian courses well, since classes tend to be small. You’ll also have the chance to take part in a variety of extracurricular events, including a weekly Russian Table, a Russian Pot-Luck dinner in the fall, student talent show in the spring, nation-wide essay contest, public lectures, and field trips.
For additional information http://russian.williams.edu/
The Science and Technology Studies Program (SCST) aims at promoting the understanding of science and technology as human and social activities. A growing interdisciplinary subject, SCST involves a broad range of traditional perspectives—sociological, psychological, economic, philosophical, historical, etc. At Williams, SCST and Environmental Studies are closely related in terms of core and elective courses.
SCST 101(S) Science, Technology and Human Values, the introductory course for the SCST Program focuses on the nature, development, and limits of scientific and technological knowledge, practices, and institutions. The course provides an introduction to classic and contemporary perspectives and arguments used in current evaluation of science and technology.
For additional information http://sts.williams.edu
For additional information http://web.williams.edu/AnthSoc/
For additional information http://study-away.williams.edu/
The Department of Theatre is committed to the merging of embodied practice and scholarship in the fields of theatre and performance studies. Our program is dedicated to the study, practice, appreciation, and interpretation of theatre, performance, and other time-based arts, transferring what students learn in the classroom onto the stages of our production program and, in turn, bringing back to the classroom the knowledge and skills gained through hands-on experiences in our theatres.
Students who want to engage with the theatre and performance curriculum or may be considering a major in Theatre are encouraged to take THEA 101 The Art of Playing: An Introduction to Theatre in the fall semester of their first year at Williams. This course provides a combined studio and seminar-based introduction to the art of performance. No prior experience in theatre is required. Students wishing to enroll in THEA 103 Acting: Fundamentals should wait until their sophomore year to do so. Other courses may be open to first-year students with special interests.
All students are welcome on our stages. Our production program seeks to expose students to a wide, diverse, and eclectic range of performance innovation. In recent years, we’ve produced canonical works by Shakespeare, Lorca, Churchill, and Beckett, alongside newer pieces by contemporary writers Eisa Davis, Mona Mansour, and Sarah DeLappe. We also produce work written and directed by Williams students as part of our biannual Purple Valley Plays Festival. These theatre productions rely heavily upon the participation of students having a diverse range of backgrounds, interests, and levels of experience. First-year students always play a substantial part in productions—whether as actors, musicians, dancers, stagehands, or technicians—and are therefore enthusiastically encouraged to participate. Auditions are always open to all members of the College community.
For additional information http://theatre.williams.edu/
Adapted from the Oxford University style of education, the Williams tutorial is a remarkable academic experience you won’t find at most other colleges. Every week, the two students take turns developing independent work—an essay, a report on lab results, a piece of art—and critiquing it. With the support and guidance of their professor, they sharpen their critical thinking, improve their writing, develop ideas, and defend positions. The tutorial gives them a sense of ownership of the academic process that inspires ever-greater exploration.With 60 to 70 tutorials offered each year across the curriculum, more than half of all Williams students take at least one during their time here.
For additional information http://www.williams.edu/academics/tutorials/
Williams College offers a year-long program of study at Oxford University in collaboration with Exeter College (founded in 1314), one of the constituent colleges of the University. As Visiting Students at Exeter College, Williams students on the program are full undergraduate members of the University, eligible for access to virtually all of its facilities, libraries, and resources. The Williams-Exeter Programme provides students with a unique opportunity to participate fully in the intellectual and social life of one of the world’s great international universities.
For additional information http://study-away.williams.edu/williams-exeter-programme-at-oxford/
The Williams-Mystic program educates undergraduate students in a semester-long academic investigation of the sea that is accompanied by travel throughout the United States and original research opportunities.
For additional information http://mystic.williams.edu/academics/
Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies is an interdisciplinary program that includes courses from a wide range of departments and programs, all of which emphasize in some way the intellectual, political, social, and/or personal effects of thinking critically about gender and/or sexuality. First-year students interested in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies are encouraged to take WGSS 101 (F,S) and to consult the Course Bulletin for a complete list of courses offered. http://catalog.williams.edu/
For additional information http://wgss.williams.edu/