The College Curriculum

The liberal arts education that is reflected in Kenyon’s mission and values necessitates that students not only experience the breadth of knowledge offered across the college (through our diversification requirements described above) but also engage deeply in at least one specific field. Therefore, we require all students to select a major course of study — a curriculum established by a department or program that focuses on depth. Additionally, Kenyon provides students with other opportunities to focus their education through minors or concentrations. Below is a description of the Kenyon curriculum through its major requirement and optional minor and concentration programs.

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The Kenyon academic experience is based both in the exploration of the liberal arts and sciences as well as in the focused academic study of a well-designed major curriculum.  Kenyon offers 35 majors and all students are required to choose a major as a critical component of the Kenyon degree.

The major requirement is organized in one of the following ways:

An academic major in a disciplinary department or an interdisciplinary program

The major program constitutes focused academic work undertaken in a single department or interdisciplinary program. This embodied Kenyon’s commitment to giving students a depth of understanding in at least one field.  The majors at Kenyon are diverse and take on different forms as constituted by each department, discipline, or interdisciplinary program. It is the responsibility of the department or program to determine the work necessary for the successful completion of the major. An outline of departmental or programmatic requirements may be found in the academic department and program curriculum pages in this catalog. The department or program may prescribe courses in other departments or disciplines as part of the major program. In order for the student to complete the declared major course of study, a minimum grade point average of 2.00 in the major department or program is required. All majors culminate in a capstone experience described below.

A joint major (combining a disciplinary major with an interdisciplinary program)

A joint major program combines an interdisciplinary program with a major from a participating disciplinary department. This combination provides a solid grounding in the methodology of a discipline while incorporating the thematic and integrative perspectives of an interdisciplinary program.  A joint major provides academic depth and breadth in a cohesive thematic curriculum. Joint majors are created through a cooperative agreement between departments and interdisciplinary programs and require the student to complete coursework in both the interdisciplinary concentration and the departmental major as specified in the cooperative agreement. To complete a joint major, the student will complete a single senior capstone project that fulfills the requirement for both departments and programs based on the format of the disciplinary department.

The synoptic major

In exceptional cases, however, a student may have a well-thought-out and strong interest in coherent studies that do not quite fit into existing programs. In such cases, it is possible for the student to propose a synoptic major. It is the responsibility of the student to initiate such a proposal, gather faculty advice, and write and justify the proposal for a synoptic program. The proposal must be approved no later than the end of the sophomore year.

Developing a synoptic major program will require the student to do considerable synthesis in thinking through how material from the selected courses fits together. Consultation with faculty (advisor or others) should initially consider whether one or more of the established programs could not meet the needs of the student. A meeting with one of the associate provosts at an early stage will most likely be useful. A synoptic major is likely to prove more demanding to carry out than a major chosen from existing programs. Therefore, a student proposing a synoptic major must have a cumulative GPA at or above the average GPA of Kenyon students.

A synoptic major program must be deep as well as broad. It must be coherent. The program must consist primarily of courses that are offered in the established programs, together with a limited number of individual-study courses when such courses are really needed. Normally, not more than 2.00 units/16 semester hours of a 8.00 units/72 semester-hour synoptic major program should consist of independent-study coursework. Faculty members from at least two of the departments in which the student will work must agree to serve on the advisory committee for the student's synoptic major. Since each department may designate the core course or courses it deems necessary for all synoptic majors choosing work in that department, the student's proposal for the synoptic major must also be approved by the chairs (or members designated by the chair) of the departments of the faculty advisors.

The final form of the student's proposal for the synoptic major program is the responsibility of the student and should be submitted to one of the associate provosts, who will engage with the student and the faculty advisors in a discussion and review of the proposal. Final approval of the program will be made by the associate provost in consultation with the chairs of the departments of the student's faculty advisors (or with senior members of the departments designated by the chairs).

Declaring a major

Students may declare a major at any time, but not later than September 30 of their junior year. The deadline for declaring a second major is April 1 of the junior year. Normally, students declare their majors as sophomores before spring break. To declare a major, students consult their academic advisor or an academic advisor in their proposed major and then submit a form available from the Registrar's Office webpage reflecting their plans for the major or joint major. Students who plan to participate in an off-campus study program must declare a major before submitting their off-campus study application due at the end of January of the sophomore year.

Students may opt to complete two academic majors, which some students call a “double major.” This requires completing all requirements for each major including required senior capstone experiences.

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The Senior Capstone experience is a hallmark of the Kenyon degree. It provides students the opportunity to see the culmination of their academic work and all that they have achieved within their major. Each disciplinary department or interdisciplinary program has designed a specific capstone experience that is meaningful for that field.  Programs may require credited coursework, work that is not credited, or a combination of the two for completion of their Senior Capstone. In general, the purpose of the senior capstone is to promote coherence within the major program for each student and, particularly, to offer all students the opportunity to articulate that coherence for themself. Although each Senior Capstone is determined by the goals of the individual department or program and therefore may vary on that basis, a collegiate aim of the Senior Capstone is to encourage the student to achieve the following:

  • Develop and demonstrate the ability to think and read critically, and to distinguish the essential from the trivial.
  • Explore and refine individual interests through independent research or creative projects.
  • Develop and demonstrate writing ability by the completion of a meaningful piece of newly written work.
  • Develop and demonstrate speaking ability--through public presentations, roundtable discussions or symposia with peers, or through oral exams, etc.
  • Develop and demonstrate the ability to synthesize prior work, and to use and critique methodologies pertinent to the discipline through exams, written papers, or special projects.
  • Grapple with new ideas.
  • Collaborate with others — faculty members and peers — at various stages of the Senior Capstone.

Each department must regularly inform all of its majors of the nature and purpose of the Senior Capstone and must discuss the capstone with its senior majors prior to its administration or due date(s). A student who fails the Senior Capstone will be given another opportunity to pass it before the Commencement in his or her senior year. Failure on the second opportunity means that the student may not graduate or participate in the Commencement ceremonies that year. The student will be given an opportunity to satisfactorily complete the Senior Capstone after Commencement at a time mutually agreeable to the student and department.

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In addition to the required academic major students may also pursue an optional minor or concentration in a field in which they have an additional strong intellectual interest.  Minors and concentrations are curated clusters of courses shaped by faculty in departments and programs — not as in-depth as a major — but intended to demonstrate an engaged experience with the field. At Kenyon, we use the term minors when this cluster of courses comes from a disciplinary program and we use the term concentration when the cluster of courses is in an interdisciplinary program. Students may choose to complete a minor course of study or a concentration. 

Policies for minors

Students declare a minor course of study by completing a form on the Office of the Registrar's website.

  • A minor consists of a minimum of 2.00 units/16 semester hours and a maximum of 3.50 units/28 semester hours. A minimum of 2.00 units/16 semester hours must be from within the discipline itself.
  • Courses that count toward a student's major requirements may not also count toward the minor, nor may a student undertake both a major and minor in the same discipline.
  • Neither the College nor a department will plan course availability in a given year so as to enable a particular student or students to complete a minor. Students may not be given preferential admission to a course on the basis of their minor.
  • Students' transcripts will note majors (at least one required), concentrations (optional), and minors (optional).
  • Specific information and requirements regarding minors may be found under the section of the department or discipline in question.

Timeline for declaring a minor

Although coursework may begin prior to the declaration, students can declare a minor only after they have declared a major. To elect a minor, students submit a form available on the Office of the Registrar's webpage. Students who wish to elect a minor must do so before November 30 of their senior year.

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Policies for concentrations

  • A concentration will require a minimum of 2.50 units/20 semester hours and up to a maximum of 4.00 units/32 semester hours of prescribed academic credit.
  • Academic coursework undertaken for such a program may consist of work offered by departments and other concentrations, as well as coursework offered by the concentration.
  • Directors of concentrations certify students' successful completion of their programs to the registrar, who will note completion on the students' records.

Timeline for declaring a concentration

Although coursework may begin prior to the declaration, students can declare a concentration only after they have declared a major. To elect a concentration, students must submit a form available from the Office of the Registrar's webpage. Students who wish to elect a concentration must do so before November 30 of their senior year.

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The degree with college honors

Students may receive the Bachelor of Arts degree with collegiate honors (cum laude, magna cum laude, summa cum laude) by attaining a cumulative grade point average in the following ranges:

  • cum laude 3.50-3.69
  • magna cum laude 3.70-3.89
  • summa cum laude 3.90 and above

Students in full-time residence at Kenyon for only four semesters will be considered for honors by the Committee on Academic Standards. The student's Kenyon grade average shall be the prime determinant. However, the committee will also examine the student's record at other institutions and may alter the degree of honors indicated by the Kenyon average.

The degree with departmental or interdisciplinary honors

Students may apply to read for the degree with honors in a major. Applications should be made to the chair of the department or the director of the program. (Students who have developed a synoptic major, may apply to the Committee on Academic Standards if they propose to read for honors and should contact an associate provost about the procedures.) At any time, the department or program may deny the student the opportunity to continue in honors. Students reading for honors are usually required to pass a special examination administered by an outside examiner.

There are three classes of honors in a major: Honors, High Honors and Highest Honors. The class of honors that the student receives will be determined jointly by the outside examiner and the faculty of the student's major. A student who fails to achieve the degree with honors may be awarded the degree without honors, provided they successfully complete the equivalent of the Senior Capstone.

Collegiate standards for honors in the major

To undertake senior honors work in a major, a student must ordinarily have a minimum 3.33 grade point average overall. In addition, each department or program determines its own minimum requirements, whether a minimum grade point average or some comparable standard. These standards are listed in the sections for the various departments and programs in this catalog.

In cases where a department or program deems a student worthy to undertake honors but the student does not meet minimum standards, the student may petition the Academic Standards Committee for acceptance into the honors program. Ordinarily, such a petition will be submitted no later than April 15 of the junior year. The committee will consider at least the following criteria:

  • Is the student's proposal persuasive and is it supported enthusiastically by the department or program?
  • Are there extenuating circumstances around the lower grade point average? Is there upward movement in the grade point average from a poor start? Or are there extenuating circumstances in a particular semester?

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A student's year of graduation, or class, is determined by the registrar based on semesters of full-time study completed. The year of graduation will be set back as appropriate for students returning after having withdrawn, unless we receive the transcript with the evidence that they have earned credit as full-time students elsewhere. Students who fall behind the normal pace of 4.00 units/32 semester hours per year by 2.00 units/16 semester hours will have their year of graduation and class set back as appropriate. The class year will reflect the graduation ceremony in which the student will be eligible to participate.

Questions about a student's year of graduation should be addressed to the registrar.

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The Kenyon degree is based on work accomplished during four years of full-time academic work (See Residency under Requirements for the Degree). Early graduation is rare and infrequent, granted only in extenuating circumstances. Petitions for early graduation are submitted at least one year in advance of the proposed date of graduation. Detailed information about criteria and procedures is available from the Office of the Registrar.

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The following tables are a handy guide to the majors, minors, interdisciplinary majors, and concentrations available in the various academic departments.

Drawing from the options presented in the tables, students, in consultation with their faculty advisors, will develop and implement their chosen courses of study. In brief, the requirements and options are as follows:

  • All degree candidates must successfully complete a minimum of one major course of study including the Senior Capstone.
  • Students may choose to complete one or more minor.
  • Students may choose to complete one or more interdisciplinary concentrations.
Division Department Majors Minors
FINE ARTS Art and Art History Art History; Studio Art Studio Art; Art History
  Dance, Drama and Film Drama; Dance; Film Dance
n/a Music Music Music
HUMANITIES Classics Latin and Greek; Latin; Greek; Classical Civilization Classics
  English English English
  Modern Languages and Literatures Track I; Track II; Track III
in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish
Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Russian and Spanish
  Philosophy Philosophy Philosophy
  Religious Studies Religious Studies Religious Studies
NATURAL SCIENCES Biology Biology Biology
  Chemistry Chemistry  Chemistry
  Mathematics and Statistics Mathematics  Mathematics; Statistics
  Physics Physics Physics; Astronomy
  Psychology Psychology  
SOCIAL SCIENCES Anthropology Anthropology Anthropology
  Economics Economics  
  History History History
  Political Science Political Science  
  Sociology Sociology  
INTERDISCIPLINARY African Diaspora Studies   African Diaspora Studies
  American Studies American Studies American Studies
  Asian and Middle East Studies Joint major with Art History, Modern Languages & Literatures (Arabic, Chinese, Japanese), History, Religious Studies Asian Studies
Islamic Civilizations and Cultures
  Biochemistry Biochemistry  
  Environmental Science Environmental Science Environmental Science


  Integrated Program in Humane Studies   Integrated Program in Humane Studies


  International Studies International Studies (Multiple Tracks)


  Latina/o Studies   Latina/o Studies


  Law and Society   Law and Society


  Molecular Biology Molecular Biology


  Neuroscience Neuroscience Neuroscience


  Public Policy   Public Policy


  Scientific Computing   Scientific Computing


  Women's and Gender Studies Women's and Gender Studies Women's and Gender Studies


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