Jul 21, 2024  
Course Catalog 2020-2021 
Course Catalog 2020-2021 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Connections Curriculum


The Wheaton Connections Curriculum (for students who entered Wheaton prior to Fall 2020) consists of five parts:

  • Foundations, to assure sophisticated skills in writing and quantitative analysis, and a knowledgeable approach to the broader world.

  • Divisional Requirements, to ensure breadth of understanding across disciplines.

  • Connections, to provide a broad view of the world of knowledge, through pairs or sets of courses connected across disciplinary boundaries.

  • The Major, and an optional Minor, to ensure students engage in an in-depth exploration of their interests; a capstone experience completes a student’s immersion in the major discipline.

  • Electives, to allow students to expand their intellectual and creative interests.


During their first two years, all students at Wheaton take courses that provide a foundation for further exploration and for the major. The schedule of courses identifies courses that fulfill these requirements by using a letter code in the last column of the course listing. The six areas that comprise the Foundations requirement are as follows.

First-Year Seminar

The First-Year Seminar (FYS) is designed for, and required of, new students at the beginning of their college studies. It offers students the opportunity to learn in small classes through reading and regular discussion, writing and critical engagement with controversial ideas. Sections are taught by faculty representing every part of the college’s liberal arts curriculum.

Each section focuses on a topic from current events or history or within one of the traditional areas of academic study which has generated controversy among the scholars, policy makers and others who have grappled with it. They can also expect to develop a range of academic skills, including critical reading and thinking, writing and oral presentation, library research and the use of electronic technology for their learning.

Section topics and descriptions vary from year to year. Recent sections have covered topics in the arts, ecology, international relations, social and public policy, personal development, the sciences and history. Students typically are placed in a FYS section in June before registering for other first-semester courses. The instructor of their FYS section is normally their faculty advisor until declaring a major.


Unless exempted on the basis of Advanced Placement test scores or Wheaton’s English placement procedure, all students complete a section of English 101 in the first year. The course is taught in small groups on a variety of topics; the instructional emphasis is on developing writing skills. Across all levels of their major, students will encounter increasing emphasis on writing within the discipline.

Foreign Language

Language study is an exploration of language itself, and of the relationship between linguistic experience and culture.  Each student completes at least two semesters of study in a single language at a level appropriate to the student’s proficiency. Advanced language courses may also fulfill the arts and humanities requirement. Wheaton offers language instruction in Chinese, French, German, Ancient Greek, Italian, Latin, Russian, Japanese, Arabic and Spanish. Students are encouraged to include language courses early in their course of study, as this may open other opportunities, such as study abroad or work in major fields (international relations, art history or philosophy). If an incoming student has been placed into English 060 and Wheaton does not offer advanced courses in that student’s first language, the student has the option of using the combination of English 101 and two semesters of 060 to fulfill the foreign language requirements, provided that the student has completed both semesters of English 060 by the end of their sophomore year. Consult with the English Department or Academic Advising.

Quantitative Analysis

Students must complete one course that emphasizes quantitative analysis. Courses with the QA designation include courses in math, computer science and logic, and some statistical methods courses. Math courses are designed both for students planning to continue in math or use math in other areas and for students who do not expect to study math in depth. Some math courses also are linked with other courses (in art or English literature, for example) and can count toward the Connections requirement.

Beyond the West

Recognizing that most students will have had substantial exposure to the perspectives of Western societies (Europe and English-speaking North America), students must complete at least one course that focuses on an aspect of non-Western societies. These courses are offered in several different departments, and may serve other parts of the curriculum, such as Connections or the major. Because the Wheaton curriculum emphasizes issues of race, gender and global perspectives throughout the curriculum, a Foundations course in history, culture or issues that have been traditionally excluded from Western inquiry will enhance a student’s entire academic career.


Courses across the curriculum ensure that the education of Wheaton students emphasizes the study of race/ethnicity and its intersections with gender, class, sexuality, religion and technology in the United States and globally.

Division Requirements

All students are expected to take one course from each of the academic divisions, which are Arts and Humanities, Natural Science and Social Science.

The Major

Wheaton’s major and minor offerings are expansive, encompassing more than 100 options. Some, such as biology, are located within an academic department; others, like environmental studies, are interdepartmental programs. In either case, you will find the requirements for established majors and minors outlined on each program’s web page as well as in the “Courses of Instruction” section of this publication.

You also may propose an independent major in which you determine and define the focus of study. These are normally designed with the guidance of faculty advisors and combine courses from two or more departments. These majors require the approval of the provost, and must be declared by the end of the fifth semester. (Contact Academic Advising for more information.)

All Wheaton students elect a major by the end of the sophomore year. Visit Academic Advising for guidance in choosing a major, and plan to meet with a faculty advisor for the area in which you intend to study before formally declaring a major or minor to the Office of the Registrar.

The major provides an opportunity to select more focused and advanced work in a particular area of study. You should be prepared to declare a major by the end of your fourth semester (your sophomore year) and should meet with advisors in your sophomore year to do this.

Each major has slightly different requirements for completing it; these are outlined in the college catalog. Major advising sheets, detailing the requirements for all majors, minors and dual-degree programs, are available at the Filene Center, at the Office of the Registrar and on department websites. Alternatives to the standard major programs offered in each department, independent majors, are outlined below. The connection between your choice of major field and your choice of career field probably holds more possibilities than you are aware of. Career Services, located in the Filene Center, can help you understand better what the choice of major offers for your career interests. It is most important to pick a field in which you are interested and in which you know you will do comparatively well. And it is important to remember that many liberal arts graduates, by the time they are five years out of college, are working by choice in jobs or fields that have little obvious connection to their undergraduate major.


The college’s Connections program is part of the Connections General Education Curriculum taken by any student entering prior to the Fall semester of 2020. Students entering Wheaton College starting in the Fall of 2020 should refer to the Compass General Education Curriculum.​

Connections provides an exciting way to explore different areas of academic knowledge and multiple approaches to problems. The concept is simple but powerful and unique to Wheaton: organizing courses around a common theme. 

For example:

African Worlds links ANTH 225 - Peoples and Cultures of Africa  with ENG 245 - Childhood in African Fiction  and/or MUSC 212 - World Music: Africa and the Americas  and/or HIST 143 - Africans on Africa: A Survey  and/or POLS 203 - African Politics .

Genes in Context links COMP 242 - DNA  with PHIL 111 - Ethics .

All Wheaton students must complete one two or one three-course connection. Students are also invited to discover their own possible linked courses and to approach the faculty and propose a Student Initiated Connection.  In either case, the connected courses must represent different academic divisions: Arts and Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences.

Note that if the chosen Connections do not include courses from all three of the academic divisions students will be expected to take at least one course in the missing division(s). Faculty advisors help students plan accordingly.

Student-Initiated Connections

Students may propose a two or three-course Connection to the Committee on Educational Policy by following these steps:

The final date to submit the proposal in a given semester is the last day to drop a course without record deadline.  Refer to the College Calendar  for the specific date for this semester. 

A proposed two-course Connection must link courses from at least two different Areas; a three-course Connection must link courses from three Areas: History, Creative Arts, Humanities, Social Sciences, Natural Sciences, Math/CS.​

The faculty teaching each course in the Connection must approve the proposed Connection.

One course cannot be used in two Connections.

You cannot use English 101, Writing, or First Year Seminar in a Self-Initiated Connection. When including an Independent Study in your proposal, you must also submit a statement that includes a full description of the Independent Study, plus the reading list. It is the responsibility of the student to provide this and not the faculty member.

Note:  All courses taken for a Connection must be taken at Wheaton.

Guidelines for Student-initiated Connections.

The following principles codify the practice since 2010 of the Connections Subcommittee of the Educational Policy Committee.  

As you prepare a Student-Initiated Connection, stating the content that is common to two or three courses may be useful, but this alone does not justify a connection. Look for a meaningful, deeper connection between the courses. Similarly, merely stating that there is already an existing connection between courses similar to those in your proposal does not automatically justify the proposed connection or convince the committee of your connection.

Support your rationale for the proposed connection with specific examples in your essay. For example, which assignments in either course could be used to demonstrate the connection between courses?

Be sure to reflect on the connection in both directions. There is a synergy between courses that enhances the overall experience; the sum is greater that the individual parts. How is your view of one course influenced by the other? What more can you get out of taking “course A” once you have also taken “course B”—and vice versa?

If you are proposing to connect a course that contains a practicum experience, be sure not to neglect the remainder of the coursework; that is, the reading and discussion that you do in the classroom and away from your field placement site. While the experiential component may be the larger part of the course, do not disregard other course material.

If you are proposing to connect a math course, be sure to demonstrate that the math is more than just a tool to better understand the other course. For example, calculus is fundamental to the quantitative nature of economics. The math course in this case is nearly a prerequisite to the economics course. On the other hand, the use of statistics in an anthropology course connects two disciplines that are normally not associated in such a way. 

In sum, Connections should provide breadth across the liberal arts curriculum more than depth in a particular subject area. Strive to do more than simply show how a tool, idea, or concept learned in one course is applied in another.

Connections Descriptions and Courses