From First-Year Seminar to Senior Seminar, our Gen Ed program leads you into a comprehensive understanding of how academic disciplines engage central human questions and problems. You’ll gain a wide range of skills and capacities for leadership, service and lifelong learning.
Components of General Education
- FIRST YEAR SEMINAR (FYS)
All incoming first-year students are required to take a 2-credit FYS in their first semester at Hope as introduction to college-level learning through collaborative exploration of an intellectually important topic. A student’s FYS instructor also serves as their academic advisor until they choose a major.
- EXPOSITORY WRITING (EW)
Expository Writing develops your ability to reflect critically, logically and speculatively, and to express your reflections clearly and concisely in writing. The 4 required credits are fulfilled at Hope through English 113. Multiple sections are offered each semester and occasionally during summer terms.
For descriptions of current courses, see the Engl 113 special topics listed on the English Department website.
- HEALTH DYNAMICS (HD)
Physical health and fitness have been part of liberal education since the time of the ancient Greeks. The purpose of Health Dynamics (always offered as Kin 140) is to help you understand the principles of proper diet and exercise and to establish habits and skills that will enable you to reach and maintain good health and fitness for life.
The Health Dynamics coordinator is Dr. Brian Rider of the Department of Kinesiology.
- THE ARTS (FA1 and FA2)
The arts offer unique ways of knowing, bringing you face to face with yourself and with what lies beyond you. Four-credit arts courses involve experiencing and exploring the arts; 1-credit and 2-credit arts courses involve you directly and creatively in the experience of an art form.
The general education arts requirement has two required components:
- Fine Arts I courses focus on the nature, importance and history of the arts. One 4-credit FA1 course fulfills this component.
- Fine Arts II courses deepen understanding of the arts through doing. Two credits (one 2-credit FA2 course or two FA2 1-credit courses) are required for this component. If you take two 1-credit courses, you do not need to take them in the same semester.
For full descriptions of FA1 and FA2 courses, see the catalog listings of the departments of Art and Art History, Dance, Music and Theatre. Creative writing courses offered by the English Department also fulfill FA2.
Private music lessons and ensembles are open to all students. More information about auditioning for these courses is available online.
See the catalog for a full description of the Fine Arts requirements.
- CULTURAL HERITAGE (CH1 and CH2)
Cultural Heritage courses open up a dialogue with history and with classic literary and philosophical works. You will develop your ability to read and write critically, imaginatively and reflectively as you learn from the past to better understand yourself, others and the world. You will consider perennial questions of human life as you see how others have thought about them during various eras of cultural and intellectual history.
Cultural Heritage I courses study the ancient and medieval periods, up to 1500 C.E., and Cultural Heritage II courses study the modern period, after 1500 C.E. The required 4 credits each of CH1 and CH2 give an overview of the Western cultural legacy and its relations with the rest of the world.
Fulfilling Cultural Heritage also requires a combination of courses that include all three disciplines of literature, history and philosophy. Covering three disciplines with two courses is made possible with interdisciplinary courses, IDS 171–178.
- MATHEMATICS (MA1/MA2) AND NATURAL SCIENCE (NSL/NS2)
Mathematical and scientific thinking are central to the liberal arts and to responsible citizenship. The required 10 credits must include:
- Mathematics: one MA1 or MA2 course
- Natural Science with Lab: one NSL course
- Remaining credits completed by any math or science course
GEMS (General Education Math and Science) courses are designed for non-math and non-science majors.
- RELIGIOUS STUDIES (RL1 and RL2)
As one of the liberal arts, religion examines central questions of identity. Hope College religion courses also provide students with a college-level understanding of the historic Christian faith — the context for Hope’s mission of pursuing excellence through all of the liberal arts.
The religious studies requirement consists of two courses:
- One 2-credit RL1 course, always offered as Rel 100, meant to introduce the academic study of religion through a topic of contemporary relevance
- One 4-credit RL2 course, chosen from among the 200-level religion courses, which are devoted to central topics in religious studies. A 300-level religion course may be taken instead of an RL2 course with the permission of the instructor.
Rel 100 is a half-semester course offered either first-half or last-half, and each half of the semester is 7 weeks long.
Visit the Department of Religion website for additional information about courses.
Through the religious studies requirement, students develop greater ability to:
- Read religious texts with sympathetic imagination, understanding and discernment
- Reflect on their own religious convictions
- Interpret contemporary religious experience in light of past events, other traditions and their own experience
- Listen to and converse with those whose convictions differ from their own
- Be intellectually honest and courageous, respectful, humble and compassionate
See the catalog for a complete description of the Religious Studies requirement.
- SOCIAL SCIENCES (SS1/SS2)
The social sciences provide scientific approaches to understanding human behavior, social interaction, and economic and political institutions. They offer unique perspectives for exploring central questions of human identity and prepare you to engage constructively with your heritage, community, nation and world and to deal successfully with technology, social complexity and cultural diversity.
The Social Science requirement is met with two courses (a minimum of six credits), from two different social science departments (communication, economics, political science, psychology, sociology). One must be a four-credit class (SS1). The second course can be either an SS1 or a two-credit SS2 course. Students seeking teacher certification complete the Social Science I requirement by completing Education 220/221 and Education 500.
Four-credit, SS1 courses emphasize ways of knowing in the social sciences, teach principles of quantitative thinking, and contain a laboratory component.
See the catalog for a complete description of the Social Science requirement.
- SECOND (FOREIGN) LANGUAGE (FL2)
Conversational ability in a second language is an increasingly valuable skill in a society that is more and more international and multicultural. Competence in a second language deepens understanding of the cultures in which that language is spoken and continues to be a mark of an educated person.
Hope requires second-semester level competency or higher, which can be fulfilled by completing an FL2 course in one of the foreign languages offered by the Department of Modern and Classical Languages: Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Greek, Japanese, Latin, Russian or Spanish.
If you are placed into an upper-level language course and then successfully complete that course, you will be awarded additional credits for the lower-level courses you skipped, up to 16 credits. For example, if you have been placed into Fren 201 at Hope, when you successfully complete Fren 201, you will earn 4 credits for Fren 201, plus 8 additional credits for Fren 101 and Fren 102.
For further information see the recommendations for completing the second language requirement. For the complete description of the second language requirement, see the catalog.
- GLOBAL LEARNING (GLD and GLI)
In a globally interconnected society, the choices we make as individuals, groups and institutions affect the quality of life of all peoples and the planet we live on, both now and for future generations. In order to develop these connections into partnerships with global representation and reach, students will need the knowledge and skills to interact with and learn from people different from themselves, both within the United States and around the world.
The global learning requirement includes:
- One Global Learning Domestic (GLD) course
- One Global Learning International (GLI) course
Many courses throughout the general education program as well as many major programs are flagged for GLD or GLI.
- SENIOR SEMINAR (SRS)
The Senior Seminar is the capstone of the Hope College liberal arts experience. Senior Seminars raise questions of value and belief and provide opportunities to reflect on how Christianity can inform a philosophy for living. Students write a life view paper, a personal and disciplined articulation of their own views about meaning, purpose and values. Faculty members from across the college offer Senior Seminars on a wide variety of topics of interdisciplinary interest.
To find the courses that fulfill a requirement during a given term, go to the Registrar’s schedule of courses, choose that requirement from the “Attribute” section, and click the check box for “Show all subjects with selected attribute.”
Vision for General Education
General education carries on a tradition that goes back to the schools of ancient Greece and Rome and the first Christian universities. Purposeful lives in a complex world require broad knowledge and the various abilities developed in pursuing it. All knowledge is connected, and the well-educated person is able to steer by an understanding that puts it all together, gives it meaning and draws on the sciences, the humanities and the arts. (See more on Hope’s philosophy of education.)
Hope’s General Education curriculum is designed to give students flexibility in choosing coursework that will encompass the full spectrum of learning while helping them find areas of major interest and study important topics from the perspective of multiple disciplines. The First-Year Seminar introduces students to college-level approaches to learning through a topic of interdisciplinary interest. At the end, the Senior Seminar gives students an opportunity to reflect on basic human questions, on the historic Christian faith, and on all they have learned and how it fits into their sense of purpose and calling. In between, students have many choices about how to fulfill each component of Gen Ed in ways that complement their overall course of study.
- General Education as a Story
Hope College’s official literature about its mission ends with this statement:
“Hope graduates are educated to think about life’s most important issues with clarity, wisdom and a deep understanding of the foundational commitments of the historic Christian faith. They are prepared to communicate effectively, bridging boundaries that divide human communities. They are agents of hope who live faithfully into their vocations. Hope graduates make a difference in the world.”
If that is the goal, how does the college propose to help you get there?
When you arrive at Hope, already well on your way, you pass through a First-Year Seminar. Your FYS may be about any topic under the sun, but they all share a common format. A seminar is an advanced form of instruction for those ready to take more initiative in their own education. The word “seminar” comes from the Latin word for seed. It is a sort of greenhouse for sprouting seeds that encourages you to express your interests and questions and to develop the skills of reflection, inquiry, and conversation needed for participating in a mature community of learning.
Through FYS, a Hope student enters the two main components of liberal arts education: general education and a major (or more than one, and maybe a minor or two). One part is about breadth and the other about depth, like a tree spreading its branches while it puts down roots.
General education takes you further into all of the basic kinds of knowledge that make up our common culture: the sciences, both natural and social; the arts; and the disciplines known as the humanities that deal with language, literature, history, philosophy and religion.
Your path through these areas of study also gives you a chance to develop fundamental ways of knowing:
- Through both numbers and words
- Through analytically breaking things down and synthetically grasping the whole picture
- Through critical distance and interpretive empathy
- In writing and in conversation
- With both clarity and imagination
- Drawing on the past and looking to the future
Along the way, the Christian tradition is both a particular object of study and a source of courage, honesty and care for every kind of study. In the Christian liberal arts tradition, God is like the sun: sometimes a focus of thought, but always the source of illumination for seeing everything else.
Another special focus in general education, dealt with in various disciplines, is the diversity of human cultures, the different ways under the sun that people live and think, both nearby and around the world.
Taking general education courses may feel at times like wandering through a maze of paths in the woods. There’s lots of interesting stuff to look at, but it’s hard to see where it all leads. At some point you’ll locate the particular path that will take you through the forest, and all of this hiking will also give you a valuable sense of the lay of the land. (You may even find a magic door in the woods that takes you off campus for more exploring.) Through general education, you come to a better understanding of your world and of yourself — body, mind, spirit, relationships — that will help you flourish in that world and succeed on your particular path of study and work.
As you near the end of your journey through Hope, your senior seminar is like finding yourself, along with a company of other seniors, in a clearing at the top of a hill. From there you can see both the forest you’ve come through and another one that you’re about to enter, as soon as you cross the river just ahead at the foot of the hill. It’s a chance to put together what you’ve learned up to this point and articulate your view of life. Many majors have similar “capstone” courses that synthesize what you’ve learned in that discipline, but senior seminars deal with basic questions that go beyond any one discipline. They are also meant to be particularly oriented to the light from above — in particular, to thinking about Christian faith and how it might illuminate life. Regardless of what you believe, however, the senior seminar helps you identify reference points, on the horizon or in the sky, that you can continue to steer by, and strengthens the skills of reading, writing and conversation that will help you keep them in view.
Now you will be better prepared to find your way and plant yourself as an agent of hope living faithfully into your vocation and making a difference in the world.
Through coursework selected from the arts, the humanities (including religion and foreign languages), the social sciences and the natural sciences, students gain familiarity with foundational kinds of knowledge and essential skills and habits of learning. Across the Gen Ed program, students will acquire college-level proficiency in these skills:
- Critical thinking
- Mathematical thinking
- Reading, listening and viewing with understanding, sensitivity and critical acumen
- Use of computer technology and library research facilities
- Written and oral communication
Gen Ed courses also lay a foundation for lifelong growth in these habits:
- Analytic, synthetic and systematic thinking
- Appreciation for tradition
- Curiosity and openness to new ideas
- Intellectual courage and honesty
- Moral and spiritual discernment and responsibility
Courses chosen from disciplines that include all of the academic divisions of the college enable a student to develop several kinds of foundation knowledge:
- How to think from multiple perspectives about what it means to be human — what it is to be embodied creatures living in a physical world, social creatures in a world of cultural diversity, seekers of knowledge and meaning, creative makers of technology and art, human beings who experience suffering and joy, and spiritual creatures made for relationship with God.
- Preparation for a changing world through understanding cultural inheritances, global perspectives and political, social, scientific and technological developments.
- Education for responsible freedom and effective service.
- Increased capacity for delight and participation in creative activity and the created world.
See the catalog for complete information about the Gen Ed program.