Jul 14, 2024  
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog 
2019-2020 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

General Education

What is General Education?

The general education curriculum at UMass Boston gives you multiple opportunities to build and improve upon your academic foundation. You will be exposed to the fundamental ideas and intellectual activities that students and faculty across campus and around the world – in the arts, the humanities, business, and the social and natural sciences – utilize in scholarship. The UMass Boston general education program introduces students to subject matter and skills from across the university, and does so in ways that provide students with a strong foundation for success in future courses and in their career.

Specific general education requirements are defined by your primary school or college and degree type. See Graduation Requirements Second Baccalaureate Degrees , and Primary College  policies for additional rules pertaining to general education.

Goals and Principles

The objective of the UMass Boston General Education Program is to provide you with a strong foundation for success in future courses and in your career. There is not a set group of courses that you must take. Instead, the flexible approach to general education is built around building skills in:

  • critical analysis and logical thought
  • verbal and quantitative reasoning
  • human diversity and
  • principal approaches to knowledge in the areas of:
    • mathematics/technology and natural sciences
    • social and behavioral sciences
    • arts and humanities
    • world languages and cultures

Courses that focus on these learning outcomes have been approved by the faculty as general education courses (in specific areas). Overall, your general education courses should comprise about one-third of your total courses at UMass Boston.


Curriculum Requirements

Think of the general education program as consisting of three main parts: a first-year experience, a middle phase, and a capstone experience.

The first-year experience is designed to introduce you to university study and to provide you with important and fundamental tools to succeed in upper-level coursework. If you enter the university with no college credit or as a transfer student with fewer than 30 credits, you should build a first-year experience that includes:

  • Two courses in writing and composition (English 101, English 102)
  • First Year Seminar (a “100-levelG” course) or Science Gateway Seminar (a “187/188S” course)
  • One math/quantitative reasoning course

Depending on your schedule, intended major, and other interests, some distribution courses may also be done during the first year.

The middle phase spans the second and third years of your undergraduate career. During this phase, you should declare a major (if you didn’t do so during the first year). In addition to major coursework, you should also:

  • Take an intermediate seminar (a “200-level G” course)
  • Complete the diversity requirement
  • Complete most, if not all, of the areas of knowledge requirements:
    • Arts (AR)
    • Humanities (HU)
    • Social and Behavioral Sciences (SB)
    • Natural Sciences (NS)
    • Mathematics/Technology (MT)
    • World Languages (WL)
    • World Cultures (WC)
    • Foreign Language Proficiency (only for BA students)
  • Demonstrate writing proficiency by completing the Writing Proficiency Requirement or, for College of Management students, complete BC290.

In the last phase, during your final year, you are expected to devote significant attention to a capstone experience in your major. You may also be doing research with a faculty member, participating in an internship or independent study, or completing major coursework. Given the strong focus on the major at this point, most if not all of the distribution courses should be completed before the senior year.

Summary of General Education Requirements by School/College and Degree Type

School/College Degree Type
College of Advancing and Professional Studies BA  
College of Education and Human Development BA  
College of Liberal Arts BS  | BA  
College of Management BS  
College of Nursing and Health Sciences BS  
College of Science and Mathematics  BS  | BA  
McCormack Graduate School of Policy and Global Studies BA  
School for the Environment   BS  | BA  


First Year and Intermediate Seminars

In these seminars, you will deepen your ability to think and write critically. These courses are part of the General Education curriculum and emphasize inquiry from a disciplinary perspective. They will teach you how to:

  • develop appropriate questions
  • evaluate evidence
  • form a reasoned conclusion or judgment


Quantitative Reasoning

A solid ability in quantitative reasoning is vital to functioning in our data-drenched society. At UMass Boston, students are expected to learn the ability to reason quantitatively and to use formal systems to solve problems of quantitative relationships involving numbers, symbols, patterns, data, and graphs. Through the quantitative reasoning requirement in our general education program, students will improve their capacity to:

  • pose problems that involve quantitative relationships in real-world data by means of numerical, symbolic, and visual representations;
  • solve problems, deduce consequences, formulate alternatives, and make predictions;
  • apply appropriate technologies; and
  • communicate and critique quantitative arguments orally and in writing.

How you meet the quantitative reasoning requirement depends on your college and degree program.

For students pursuing a BA degree:

  • You are strongly encouraged to take Math 114QR, Quantitative Reasoning, a course that is specifically designed to show students the relevance of mathematics to their lives. It assumes a low level of mathematics background and confidence.
  • Another option is to take or transfer in Math 115, College Algebra. This is a good choice if you intend to take Statistics, PreCalculus or Calculus.
  • You may also take or transfer in a Statistics course. If you place into and pass (or transfer in) one of the following statistics courses you will be waived from the quantitative reasoning requirement and you will receive math distribution credit.
    • Math 125
    • Sociology 350
    • Sociology 352
    • Psychology 270
    • Economics 205
    • Environmental Science 261
  • Students may also meet the Quantitative Reasoning requirement by placing into PreCalculus or higher (placement alone demonstrates proficiency) or by showing proficiency through Advanced Placement or CLEP testing. Scores on the mathematics placement test for the purpose of illustrating proficiency must be obtained through completion of the test in the testing center.

For students pursuing a BS degree:

  • Students in CLA and CSM must complete Calculus (Math 135, Math 140 or Math 145, or the equivalent transfer course) to meet the Quantitative Reasoning requirement. Students pursing a BS are strongly encouraged to enroll in appropriate math courses continuously until their math requirement is satisfied for their major.
  • Students in CM must complete Math 134 (or the equivalent transfer course).
  • Students in CNHS must complete Statistics (EHS students are required to take EHS 280, Statistics for Health Professionals).


Distribution Requirement

To develop a broad familiarity with the range of human knowledge, you must complete, or earn transfer credit for, certain courses in four broad areas of study:

  • Arts (AR) and Humanities (HU)
    • develop an informed appreciation of the arts and humanities, which encompass philosophy, literature, the fine arts, and the performing arts.
    • learn how people have come to understand and express artistic, aesthetic, moral, spiritual, and philosophical dimensions of the human condition.
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences (SB)
    • learn about the nature and development of human behavior and institutions through time
    • become aware of the complex and ambiguous nature of changing human experience
  • Natural Sciences (NS) and Mathematics/Technology (MT)
    • learn how the laws of the physical and biological world are derived through observation, theory, and experiment
    • expand your scientific knowledge and knowledge of powerful technologies
    • understand the importance of falsifiable hypotheses, the nature of scientific “truth,” and the impact of science on society
  • World Languages (WL) and World Cultures (WC)
    • learn how language and culture impose their own structurings of knowledge
    • pursue intensive study of unfamiliar cultures, or study a foreign language or foreign literature in translation

These two-letter codes are used to denote courses that have been approved by the faculty as distribution courses.  Only courses with these codes will meet distribution requirements.

Distribution requirements depend on degree program and college.


Diversity Requirement

Through meeting the diversity requirement, you will have an opportunity to learn about human diversity, including

  • how different patterns of behavior and thought evolve
  • how development of cultures is influenced by interactions among different social groups 


UMass Boston believes that explicit study of the diversity of the world’s peoples is an essential component of an undergraduate education. The university defines diversity broadly to include:

  • race
  • gender
  • culture (national origin, ethnicity, religion)
  • social class
  • age
  • sexual orientation
  • disability

Attention to cultural and social groups previously ignored or marginalized in curricula helps you acquire analytical tools and knowledge with which you can understand human diversity in our complex and changing world, and strengthens your academic preparation by exposing you to a rich body of scholarship from a wide range of disciplines.

Specific requirements of each college (click below for more information):

  • Students in the Colleges of Liberal Arts, Science and Mathematics, Education and Human Development, and Public and Community Service and the Schools for the Environment and Global Inclusion and Social Development
    • If you enter UMass Boston with fewer than 60 credits, you must take one course in United States diversity and one course in international diversity.
    • If you enter UMass Boston with 60 or more credits, you must take one course, which can be either United States or international diversity.
  • Students in the College of Management
    • You must complete one diversity course; it can have either a United States focus or an international focus. Note that the college also requires you to complete an “international management” course chosen from a list of courses that they have determined.
  • Students in the College of Nursing and Health Sciences
    • If you are in the EHS program, you will meet the diversity requirement by taking EHS 220 and EHS 260.
    • If you are in the nursing program, you will meet the diversity requirement automatically by taking courses required for the major.


Writing Proficiency Requirement

To graduate from UMass Boston, students must demonstrate the ability to evaluate different points of view, read critically, and write analytically by meeting the Writing Proficiency Requirement. It is one of our general education requirements for undergraduates. We assess your proficiency through a portfolio of your writing or an exam.

There are four evaluation periods per year:

  • October (portfolio only)
  • January (exam and portfolio)
  • March (portfolio only)
  • June (exam and portfolio)

What is the purpose of the Writing Proficiency Requirement?

You’ll need critical reading, reasoning, and writing skills to be successful in every class you take at UMass Boston. The purpose of the Writing Proficiency Requirement is to help you be better prepared for academic work in advanced courses where you will be expected to apply these essential communication skills.

When do I complete the Writing Proficiency Requirement?

You must complete the requirement by your junior year when you have between 60 and 75 credits. We recommend that you have your writing proficiency evaluated soon after you complete the Intermediate Seminar in your sophomore year. The Intermediate Seminar will give you stronger critical reading and writing skills and help prepare you to meet the Writing Proficiency Requirement.

Transfer Students

If you transfer or earn 75 or more credits at the end of your first semester as an undergraduate transfer student, you should attempt the WPE at the end of that semester.

What is the significance of 75 credits?

Your ability to reflect upon a problem, to organize your thinking and argue your point of view persuasively are skills required in upper level courses. Therefore, we require that you are proficient at writing by your junior year, so that you will be successful in your 300 and 400 level courses.

WPE Holds and Learning Contracts

If you reach 60 credits, without attempting a Writing Proficiency Evaluation (WPE) by the end of the next semester, a WPE Hold will be placed on your WISER account and you will be required to sign a learning contract. Read detailed information on WPE Holds and Learning Contracts.

Accommodations for students with disabilities

The University of Massachusetts Boston is committed to providing reasonable academic accommodations for all students with disabilities.  Students with disabilities who need accommodations on the Writing Proficiency Requirement (Timed-Essay Exam or Portfolio) must contact the Ross Center by writing to ross.center@umb.edu or by calling 617.287.7430 to request necessary accommodations. Students must be registered with the Ross Center for Disability Services, UL 211, before requesting accommodations for the Writing Proficiency Requirement.


Finding Courses that Meet General Education Requirements

General education categories (i.e. first year seminars, arts, world cultures, international diversity) all contain a variety of courses across academic disciplines. To find courses that will fulfill these categories, students can search for them using the course search functions in WISER or the online Course Listings. These tools will provide you with a list of courses which will count toward the specified general education category for a given semester. It is not a list of all courses approved for each category and the lists will change from semester to semester.

You can use the Course Listings links below to find a listing of general education courses being offered in the current and upcoming semesters. Students should always check WISER before attempting to register for any courses as the Course Listings is updated nightly.

Seminars Distribution Areas Diversity Areas
First Year Seminars Arts (AR) International Diversity
Intermediate Seminars Humanities (HU) United States Diversity
  Social and Behavioral Sciences (SB)  
  Mathematics/Technology (MT)  
  Natural Sciences (NS)  
  World Cultures (WC)  
  World Languages (WL)  

In WISER, you can use the “Course Attribute” and “Course Attribute Value” fields under the additional search criteria when searching for classes to find general education courses:

Seminars are found by choosing a course attribute of “Boston Seminars” and then choosing the seminar type for the course attribute value.

Distribution Area courses are found by choosing a course attribute of “Boston GenEd as of Fall 2002” and then choosing the distribute area for the course attribute value.

Diversity Area courses are found by choosing a course attribute of “Boston Diversity Area” and then choosing the diversity area for the course attribute value.