General Education Rationale and Requirements

Centre College’s flexible graduation requirements and individualized mentoring by faculty members will prepare you to choose courses that build upon your existing strengths and talents, while also taking you to new levels of achievement. The curriculum prepares Centre graduates for lives of meaningful work and sustained curiosity. By the time you graduate, you will have taken a set of courses unique to you that will empower you to engage with, to learn from, and to contribute to your chosen communities—and the world beyond them.

The General Education Curriculum is designed to complement, not compete with, your major. Only three general education courses (two first-year seminars and a collaborative interdisciplinary capstone) will take place at specific moments during your academic journey. With guidance from your advisor, you will decide how and when to pursue the other course requirements.

In your two first-year seminar courses you will meet other first-year students, embrace your new role in the Centre College community, and build on your existing skills in writing and in oral communication. Generally, you will also take courses in a second language and in math during your first two years. You will explore the three main academic divisions of the College: the Arts and Humanities, Social Studies, and Science and Mathematics, selecting courses that interest you from a wide menu of options. The Centre curriculum will also challenge you to experience new aspects of the world, focusing on concrete applications of your academic pursuits through areas such as Arts Engagement, Global Engagement, Community-Based Learning, Mentored Research, or Internships. You will join others in analyzing sustainability and difference and equity, two pressing areas of social responsibility. Lastly, as a capstone, you will complete an interdisciplinary seminar during your junior or senior year. This seminar will push you to draw upon your major and other experiences to think critically and creatively about complex issues in the world today while working as part of a team. You may fulfill many of your general education requirements as you complete the requirements for your major or minor, and you may often fulfill multiple general education requirements while studying away or abroad for a long term. Whenever possible, we work to offer you great variety in this curriculum and also to reward you for the experiences you want to have while at Centre, whether those be in you major or minor or in your work off campus.

Centre College’s motto is doctrina lux mentis, Latin for “learning is the light of the mind.” We use this motto to remind us of our collective mission. As a Centre College student, you will join a community of scholars who value learning as an endeavor that not only illuminates the mind but also shines the light of understanding on the world and all those within it. This motto gives its name to three of the core experiences in Centre’s General Education Curriculum: Doctrina Lux Mentis (DLM) I, II, and III. The first two DLM courses (110 and 120, called "The Craft of Writing" and "The Art of Speaking" respectively) are skill-enhancing seminar courses taken in your first year, one in the fall and one in the spring, whereas DLM III (called "Interdisciplinary Collaboration") serves as the capstone experience in your junior or senior year.

DLM Courses I (110) and II (120)

DLM I and II courses are small-group learning environments that engage first-year students in intensive educational experiences to develop intellectual skills—to read critically, think logically, and communicate effectively. DLM I ("The Craft of Writing") emphasizes writing skills, while DLM II ("The Art of Speaking") emphasizes oral communication skills. Both courses include attention to imagination, creativity, reasoning, problem-solving, integration of ideas, and judgment—all skills essential to critical thinking and academic success.

Your DLM professors will come from across the campus and help you understand your own processes of learning and communicating better, whether that means helping you through multiple drafts of a paper, encouraging written reflection, mentoring you in leading a group discussion, or workshopping a formal presentation with you.

DLM courses may not count toward any major or minor.

Second Language Courses

You live in an interdependent, globalized world. The ability to understand and communicate in multiple languages serves as a key to help you understand the basic modes of thought, life, and expression of other cultures. Knowledge of other cultures will contribute in essential ways to your responsible engagement in this world. In your second language courses you will develop cross-cultural and linguistic skills that will aid you later in life.

If you place above the introductory level in second language on our placement test, you will take at least one additional college-level language course conducted in that language. If you do not yet have introductory second language skills—or you would prefer to start learning a new language—you must take at least the two-course introductory sequence in that language.

You can enroll in courses in the following languages at Centre (in alphabetical order): Arabic, French, German, ancient Greek, Japanese, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, and Spanish.

If you are an international student (meaning a permanent resident of a country other than the United States) and English is not a native language, you will generally automatically fulfill your second language requirement through your coursework in English.  You are certainly welcome to study an additional language during your time at Centre.


Mathematics is a universal language, a creative practice, and a way of interpreting the world around us; it empowers deeper understanding of any discipline, problem, or endeavor.  Therefore, all Centre students will take a mathematics course. Your course placement will be determined by the results of your placement test.


Student performance in writing will be evaluated at the end of the first long term of enrollment. At that time, students whose writing is judged to be competent will have satisfied the writing requirement. Students whose writing is judged to fall short of competency will be required to submit a satisfactory three-page portfolio to the Committee on Student Writing by the end of the spring term of the first year or earn a grade of C- or higher in ENG 170 (Topics in Writing) by the end of the sophomore year.

Exploration (E)

In your coursework you will explore many different disciplines, inspiring a lifetime of learning about the human understanding of the world, an understanding that you will begin contributing to yourself. You will work closely with your faculty advisor to select a wide range of courses, especially in your first and second years, because many students uncover unexpected interests and even new career directions in these first two years. The Exploration requirement has very few restrictions, provided that you complete six courses from six different disciplines: two each from each of the three divisions, Arts & Humanities (Division 1), Social Studies (Division 2), and Science & Mathematics (Division 3). Courses that satisfy this requirement are tagged “E1”, "E2", and "E3" in the schedule of classes.

In Exploration courses you will continue to build intellectual confidence, self-efficacy, and learning skills as you expand your knowledge. You will practice reading carefully and critically, speaking with clarity and confidence, and writing persuasively and thoughtfully; these courses will stimulate your curiosity, empathy, critical-thinking, problem-solving, and leadership abilities.

Exploration courses may count toward majors and minors, but they may also be elective courses. Except for a few courses requiring basic math competency, these courses have no prerequisites.

Arts & Humanities (two courses in two different disciplines): In exploring the Arts & Humanities you will engage with works of creative and intellectual expression. The Arts and Humanities provide methods for exploring the varied expression of human experience and the means of participating in that expression. Through the use of diverse forms of communication, exposure to multiple perspectives, and engagement of the imagination, you will develop the capacity for creativity, risk-taking, problem-solving, personal insight, and empathy.

Social Studies (two courses in two different disciplines): In Social Studies courses you will engage actively and empathetically with significant social issues from various points of view. The study of different cultures and communities— contemporary, historical, or prehistorical—develops your capacity to understand the points of view, sentiments, and intentions of others. Through the exploration and study of multiple peoples and perspectives, you will learn to appreciate the multiplicity of human worldviews, to explore your own identity, to identify and challenge injustice, and to work towards a more equitable society.

Sciences & Mathematics (two courses in two different disciplines, including at least one laboratory course): In your Science & Mathematics exploration courses, you will learn about the natural world and explore the universe through observation, modeling, experimentation, programming, and data analysis as you build your analytical and problem-solving skills. In addition to the required mathematics course, students may further deepen their mathematical knowledge and skills through mathematics exploration courses.

Connection Courses

The value of a Centre education is not simply in building intellectual breadth and academic skills; rather, its value manifests itself through the responsible application of your education to benefit society, which in turn brings purpose, meaning, and fulfillment to your life. Through Connection courses, students practice applying their knowledge and skills in meaningful and practical ways, addressing complex societal problems and grappling with important questions such as: How will I serve my community? How will my leadership remove systemic barriers to equity and inclusion? How will I protect the sustainability of the planet and its people?

You will take focused on four areas that are explicitly designed to connect theory with practice. At least two of these courses will be explicitly experiential, while another two will engage directly with the topics of human difference and equity and environmental sustainability.

All Connection courses (Experiential, Difference and Equity, and Sustainability) may count towards majors or minors except INT 400.

While a single course may not fulfill both the Exploration and Experiential requirements, a single course may meet an Exploration requirement and either the Difference and Equity requirement or the Sustainability requirement.


Experiential Learning

Experiential Learning courses in this Connection category give you practice in actively engaging with people, materials, and ideas with the aim of contributing to a greater social endeavor. Centre College offers many Experiential Learning opportunities to help you apply and extend your knowledge and skills through academically rigorous, hands-on learning activities. You will complete at least two courses (for a total of at least 4 credits) from two of the following five areas: Arts Engagement, Global Engagement, Community-Based Learning, Mentored Research, and Internships, as described below.

Arts Engagement (A) courses engage you in applying principles, refining skills, and mastering techniques through arts projects in areas like Creative Writing, Music, Studio Art, and Theatre. These courses hone your self-awareness, tap into your creativity, and develop your appreciation of artistic processes, risk-taking, and empathy. Courses that satisfy this requirement are tagged “A” in the schedule of classes.

Global Engagement (G) courses help you to explore cultures, life experiences, and worldviews different from your own. In these courses you will explore the world as an interrelated system. You may earn credit for this category by participating in study abroad courses. Courses that satisfy this requirement are tagged “G” in the schedule of classes.

Community-Based Learning (C) courses include field-based learning experiences where students and community partners support and learn from one another. These courses create unique opportunities for you to participate in, learn about, and serve communities beyond campus. Courses that satisfy this requirement are tagged “C” in the schedule of classes. 

Mentored Research allows you to construct new knowledge in your disciplinary field of interest.  Guided by a mentor, you will apply and test the theories and procedures common to your discipline, providing new insight as you gather evidence about an unanswered question, contested issue, or under-recognized thought leader in your field. Such work may inspire you to become a research scholar as a career goal, but at minimum it will provide keen insight into the ethical conduct of research and a researcher’s responsibility to reflect on their own biases, and that of other researchers, as they interpret evidence and formulate their own conclusions. Courses that satisfy this requirement are tagged "R" in the schedule of classes. All disciplines at Centre may offer a course numbered 402, “Research Participation,” all of which count toward this requirement.

Internships allow you to connect skills and knowledge from the classroom with career exploration. Academic-credit internships (listed as INT 400 in the course catalogue) provide two levels of supervision: by a Centre faculty member and by an on-site supervisor.  To successfully earn your credits, you must complete a substantive academic component (determined with your faculty supervisor) and conduct yourself with professionalism throughout your internship.  Internships are available after you have completed your first year at Centre. Please consult the Center for Career and Professional Development for more information.

Difference & Equity (D)  

Difference & Equity general education courses will help prepare you for effective and empathetic leadership and service in diverse communities within and beyond Centre. In your Difference and & Equity course you will critique forms of systemic oppression and marginalization based on difference, identify how these structures enable and constrain agency and inform visions of equity and justice, engage with diverse lived experiences, and examine the ways in which your place in the social world relates to systems of power.

Identity differences span a network of factors (listed alphabetically), including age, citizenship status, class, disability, ethnicity, faith background, gender expression, gender identity, geographic region, national origin, neurodiversity, race, and sexual orientation. This requirement ensures that every student will take at least one course that focuses explicitly on the structural challenges and opportunities faced by particular individuals and groups. Courses that satisfy this requirement are tagged “D” in the schedule of classes.

Sustainability (S)

Sustainability is a core value of Centre College. Your sustainability course will help you and your peers envision local and global environmental solutions for the 21st century and beyond. You will be introduced to thinking about environmental sustainability in ways that highlight the interdependence of social, economic, and ecological relationships in our communities. A course focused on environmental sustainability will examine how individuals, communities, and global societies can meet human needs without compromising the interconnected environmental systems upon which future generations depend. You will also analyze your own choices and behaviors in the context of environmental opportunities and constraints. Courses that satisfy this requirement are tagged “S” in the schedule of classes.

Interdisciplinary Collaboration: DLM III (DLM 310)

This capstone course will challenge you to work with students from different disciplines, as you think critically about some of the world’s most pressing issues together. These interdisciplinary, upper-level courses are taken in the junior or senior year. They call upon the application of knowledge and skills developed during your broad exploration of the Centre curriculum, including your major or minor. You will work together with a group of student-scholars from across the College in this course, closing your Centre career by returning to Centre’s motto, doctrina lux mentis—learning, the light of the mind. This capstone experience will help you move on from Centre with confidence, preparing you to move from Centre, out.

DLM courses may not count toward and major or minor.