Departments

Anthropology

The field of anthropology promotes a holistic understanding of social life by offering complex accounts of human histories, societies, and cultures. Anthropologists do ethnographic, archival, and archaeological research on various aspects of individual and collective experience in all time periods and parts of the world. Because field experience is essential to the discipline, the department sponsors multiple opportunities for students to carry out anthropological field work under professional conditions. Options include the major, two interdepartmental majors (geography-anthropology, sociology-anthropology), and a correlate sequence. More

Art

The department offers majors or correlates in art history and studio art. Enriched by a comprehensive college art museum, both majors culminate in a one-semester senior thesis or independent studio project.  Art 105-106 (Introduction to the History of Art)—required for majors and encouraged for all Vassar students—opens with monuments of the ancient world and ends with today’s global video as professors in the department  present their areas of  special expertise. Upper level courses offer work in architectural and museum studies as well as art history and criticism. Academic credits may also be earned through study abroad and field work or internships in the New York museums, galleries, and auction houses. Art 102-103 (Drawing I), the introductory studio course, opens the way for students with a range of drawing experience to advanced classes in drawing, painting, sculpture, photography, printmaking, color, computer animation and video. An architecture sequence of introductory, intermediate, and advanced drawing and design classes is also offered.  More

Biology

The department offers courses in all aspects of the biological sciences from molecular biology through ecology and behavior, and from microorganisms through botany and zoology. Coursework includes laboratory and field experience, and independent study (which often involves working directly with a faculty member in his or her area of research). Students have access to modern technology and instrumentation: a scanning electron microscope, tissue culture laboratories, a cell and molecular biology laboratory suite, a large greenhouse, a vivarium, and the Vassar Farm with a 416-acre ecological preserve and a field station for environmental studies. Options include the major, two interdepartmental majors (biochemistry and neuroscience and behavior), and four correlate sequences. Independent research is a prerequisite for departmental honors. More

Chemistry

The department offers lecture and laboratory experiences in all major areas of chemistry — general, organic, physical, inorganic, biochemical, analytical — and in many special topics of chemistry, such as structural, polymer, protein, organometallic, computational, and environmental. The department offers a degree accredited by the American Chemical Society. Independent research in chemistry is encouraged at all levels to provide students with the opportunity to work directly with a faculty member and to gain experience using sophisticated instrumentation, such as a Bruker Avance 300-MHz NMR, Agilent quadrupole time-of-flight (Q-TOF) LC-MS, and a Bruker APEX-DUO dual source (Mo and Cu) CCD X-ray diffractometer, as well as ICP/AE, GC/MS, FTIR, Raman, UV/Vis, XRF, circular dichroism and fluorescence spectroscopy.  Options include the major, an interdepartmental major (biochemistry), and a correlate sequence. A senior thesis based on a research project is required. More

Chinese and Japanese

The department offers two majors — Chinese and Japanese — with numerous courses in language, literature, and culture, taught either in English or in the language of study, depending on the course level and the nature of the material. The Chinese program offers five year/levels of language courses providing options for students with or without previous knowledge of the language and to students choosing either the traditional or simplified scripts.  The Japanese program offers four year/levels of language courses. Students are  encouraged to study abroad in China or Japan. The department also offers correlate sequences in both Chinese and Japanese. More

Cognitive Science

Vassar has the oldest degree-granting undergraduate cognitive science program in the nation. The program's key elements are sustained exposure to an integrated multidisciplinary perspective through core courses on perception and action, language, knowledge and cognition, and research methods; development of specialized expertise in a research area or methodology through electives; and completion of a senior research project or thesis. The program draws on faculty and resources of the departments of biology, computer science, linguistics (anthropology), psychology, and philosophy. More

Computer Science

The program is grounded in theoretical foundations, coupled with experience in implementation, providing a sound background for graduate study as well as work in the profession. Courses in areas such as artificial intelligence, language processing, and graphics fit into the broader liberal arts education. The department maintains its own computer science library as well as two labs with Sun workstations and a variety of Macintosh computers. Through the Undergraduate Research Summer Institute, the Ford Scholars program, and other research programs, faculty and students participate in international research within various fields of computer science. Options include the major and a correlate sequence. More

Dance

The department offers a range of courses in movement, ballet, modern dance, jazz, and choreography. The Vassar Repertory Dance Theatre, a performing company of ballet, modern, and jazz dancers, is a credited course offering experienced dance students opportunities to perform in a variety of professional repertory as well as present their own choreography in the dance theater and off campus. Dance is an elective, non-major course of study. More

Drama

The department provides for the study of the history of drama and theater from the Greeks through the 20th century, including considerable emphasis on non-Western drama and nonliterary theatrical traditions, as well as work in acting, directing, design, and playwriting. This study of theater history is multidisciplinary and requires students to engage politics, social sciences, and philosophy, as well as other art forms. More

Earth Science and Geography

The department combines the perspectives of the natural and social sciences. With the entire earth as a laboratory, earth science students investigate issues of climate change, hydrology, and pollution, oceanography, sustainable agriculture, earthquakes, and other natural disasters, sedimentology, and environmental planning. Geography students explore such topics as environmental perception and conservation, urban design and land-use planning, global economic change, migration and population patterns, regional studies, cartography, and geographic information systems. Both earth science and geography faculty also teach in various multidisciplinary programs, such as environmental studies, international studies, urban studies, and women's studies. Options include majors as well as correlate sequences in each discipline, and two interdepartmental majors, anthropology-geography and earth science and society. For a major in geography, a senior seminar and thesis are required. For geology, senior research is a prerequisite for departmental honors. More

Economics

The department offers students a wide range of courses encompassing economic theory, econometrics and statistics, various aspects of applied economics, and a sequence of courses in political economy. Faculty and students routinely collaborate on research projects. Majors often serve as research assistants to faculty during the academic year, and summer research opportunities are supported by the Ford Scholars program. Teaching is conducted in Blodgett Hall in "smart" classrooms where faculty and students have access to the latest technology. Options include the major and three correlate sequences. A senior seminar or a senior exercise is required. More

Education

The department offers a broad array of courses for students planning to earn teaching credentials as well as those with a broader interest in the role that education plays in society.  Students can earn teaching credentials in elementary and secondary education along with a degree in another discipline.  Those who complete the correlate in educational studies explore issues such as education policy, peace education, and international education.  Off-campus opportunities include programs in Ireland and Costa Rica.  Students also receive hands-on experience working with children at the Vassar laboratory nursery school, the Vassar Farm, and local K-12 schools.  They are also encouraged to participate in the Vassar College Urban Education Initiative, which sponsors a number of programs in the Poughkeepsie area. More

English

The department offers courses that explore literary forms, literary periods and movements, literary theory and criticism, and creative writing.  English majors are required to take two courses in literature written before 1800, one course in literature written before 1900, and one course that focuses on issues of race, gender, sexuality, or ethnicity.  A thesis is not required, but is an option for those wishing to pursue independent work in their senior year.  In addition to the major, the department offers seven correlate sequences. More

Film

The film major includes the study of the history and theory of cinema and covers international cinemas, genres, authors, numerous aspects of advanced theory, and cultural studies. In production, students work in 16mm filmmaking, dramatic writing, video production, animation, digital media, and screenwriting. More

French and Francophone Studies

The department offers numerous language, culture, literature, and film courses taught in French. Enhancing study are multimedia classrooms and access to daily newscasts from France. Majors are encouraged to spend one or two semesters of their junior year in France with the Vassar-Wesleyan Program in Paris or in other French-speaking countries. Options include the major and a correlate sequence. More

German Studies

German majors may concentrate either in German literature or German studies, choosing from course offerings in language, literature, and civilization. Options include junior year abroad at such universities as Universität Hamburg and Ruprecht-Karls Universität Heidelberg, and independent, faculty-guided study. In addition, the department offers a correlate sequence. A senior thesis is a prerequisite for departmental honors. More

Greek and Roman Studies 

The department offers an exploration of the ancient Mediterranean world with an emphasis on the cultures of Greece and Rome. At the heart of this exploration are the languages of the Greeks and the Romans, their literature, their history, their art and archaeology, their philosophy, their religion, their politics, their relations with the other peoples of the Mediterranean, and their reception and interpretation by later cultures. In addition to the major, the department offers a correlate sequence.  More

Hispanic Studies

The department offers an innovative and multidisciplinary curriculum with courses in the language, literatures, and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. In addition to formal coursework, the department sponsors several activities, such as a Hispanic film series and a weekly Spanish table in the dining center for informal practice in conversation.  The department publishes Puro Cuento, a student literary and art magazine in Spanish, and offers prizes in creative and essay writing. In conjunction with Wesleyan University, Vassar sponsors a junior year abroad program in Madrid taught completely in Spanish and encompassing disciplines ranging from art history to political science. Options include the major and a correlate sequence. A senior thesis is a prerequisite for departmental honors. With the exception of a course in translation, all courses are taught in Spanish. More

History

The department educates students to be active historians and encourages them to engage the library's rich collection of primary sources. Students take courses in African, Asian, European, Latin American, and United States history, as well as a course in pre-1800 history and two seminars. Student work culminates in a senior thesis incorporating analytical, writing, and research skills and often involving field work in local archives, such as the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park, or summer research in the U.S. or abroad. The department also offers a correlate sequence. More

Italian

The department offers numerous language, literature, and film courses taught in the language of study. Students of Italian are encouraged to spend one or two semesters of their junior year in Italy with the Vassar-Wellesley-Wesleyan Program in Bologna, or in other Italian locations. The department also endorses an independent summer program at the University of Siena, Italy. Options include the major and a correlate sequence. A senior project is a prerequisite for honors. More

Mathematics & Statistics

The program offers a flexible major that enables students to tailor their course of study to meet a broad range of interests and needs, as well as a correlate sequence for students concentrating in other disciplines that make extensive use of mathematics. The department integrates technology into its teaching, and students have access to mathematical software in the department's computing laboratory. Intellectual life in the department centers around a biweekly colloquium that brings mathematicians from other institutions to campus to speak and meet with students. The annual Asprey Lecture in Mathematics has featured some of the most distinguished mathematicians in the world. Through the Undergraduate Research Summer Institute, students collaborate with faculty on mathematical research. A senior seminar is required. More

Music

The department encourages a balanced study of music as a liberal art, with a curriculum that includes introductory to advanced courses in history, theory, composition, and performance.  Students explore performance through private lessons, recitals, and ensemble work, and may choose to pursue a major or one of four music correlates.  Academic internships and research assistantships give students an opportunity to engage in peer tutoring in music history and theory and to work closely with faculty on music projects. Skinner Hall of Music houses most of the college’s collection of 65 Steinway pianos as well as practice rooms, an electronic music studio, jazz combo rooms, recital halls, and the Dickinson Library, one of the country’s finest college music libraries. The newest addition to the music facilities is a state-of-the-art listening classroom. Each year, over 70 concerts are presented in the Mary Anna Fox Martel Recital Hall.  More

Philosophy

Courses give students an understanding of major traditions in philosophy (ancient and modern, Eastern and Western, continental and analytic) while developing an ability for independent criticism and argumentation. Fundamental questions concerning the nature of knowledge, of existence, and of goodness are brought to bear on contemporary issues in politics, personal identity, language, and the arts. The senior thesis is an opportunity to pursue a special area of interest. Options include the major and several correlate sequences. More

Physical Education

The department offers lifetime sports classes at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels, as well as courses in athletic injury care, hiking and backpacking, and nutrition and exercise. Physical education is an elective, non-major course of study. More

Physics and Astronomy

The department offers majors in physics and astronomy as well as a correlate sequence in physics. Students have access to laboratories equipped with UNIX, Windows, and Apple workstations for work in observational astronomy and computational physics. Physics teaching labs are equipped with instrumentation in crystal structure, holography, and blackbody radiation. Physics faculty and students also have access to parallel supercomputers on campus and at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Opportunities also exist for research in physics education and physics teaching. In astronomy, students have access to 8'', 20'', and 32'' telescopes (the larger equipped with charge-coupled devices) and a spectrograph in the Class of 1951 Observatory. Students can participate in faculty research during the year or summer, or conduct summer internships at national laboratories such as Brookhaven in New York or Kitt Peak in Tucson. The department is also a member of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium which has a summer exchange program and student conferences during the year. More

Political Science

Politics, the pursuit and exercise of power, exists in many realms of social life — not just in government, but wherever human beings congregate and organize. Political science is the study of politics in its various forms and manifestations. The department offers a broad array of classes in the four central fields of the discipline — American politics, comparative politics, international politics, and political theory. Courses in each of these subfields are offered at the introductory, intermediate, and advanced seminar level. Options include the major, four correlate sequences, senior thesis, and independent study. Extramural options include internships in such settings as the United Nations, Capitol Hill, law offices and courts, and political campaigns. Junior year abroad may include destinations in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. More

Psychological Science

The department offers a wide range of courses in developmental psychology, personality, social psychology, perception, learning, memory and cognition, physiological psychology, and research methodology. Students often actively participate in faculty research and also engage in research through field work, internships and/or independent study. Options include the major in psychology, cognitive science, or the interdisciplinary major-neuroscience and behavior. More

Religion

The study of religion offers opportunities to learn how human thought, ceremonies, literature, architecture, art, community, and politics are woven into a cultural fabric. The department's approach to this elaborate weave is fundamentally interdisciplinary. Faculty members are trained in the history, sociology, textual interpretation, and philosophy of religion. The department encourages comparative and cross-cultural studies of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, the Americas, and Europe. Juniors are encouraged to study abroad. Options include the major and a correlate sequence. A senior thesis is not required. More

Russian Studies

The Russian program offers a broad range of courses in language, literature (both in the original and in translation), and culture. Students may participate in a number of study abroad programs, including those based in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Yaroslavl. Supplementing coursework are a native-speaking language fellow residing in one of the residence halls, a Russian lounge, Russian newspapers, a Russian club, and a Russian table at the dining center. The department also offers correlate sequences in language and literature as well as a teaching certification program. A senior thesis is a prerequisite for departmental honors. More

Sociology

The study of sociology at Vassar begins with an introduction to the classical thinkers in sociology in the context of contemporary materials. Students then go on to study a broad range of sociological issues through courses in criminology, media, medicine, science, race, gender, urbanism, research, and theory. Most students pursuing a major in sociology integrate field work into their programs of study and participate in a variety of projects in the local community and New York City, including work in prisons, homeless shelters, social service agencies, advertising agencies, and urban planning departments. A senior thesis is required. More