The following departments housed in the College of Arts and Science offer coursework in discipline-based areas of study. Majors and/or minors are available in each one. Many departments offer a variety of specialized tracks for students who wish to hone in on a particular area of study. Please consult the homepage for each department for information on courses of study; current course offerings; faculty members; location; and contact information for all members of the department, including, faculty, staff, and graduate students.
Students wishing to explore the iterstices of two or more departments or disciplines should explore the interdisciplinary programs supported by the College of Arts and Science.
Arts and Science Departments
» Visit the Department of Anthropology website
ANTHROPOLOGY is the study of human biology, evolution, language, and culture. The faculty in anthropology at Vanderbilt is internationally prominent in the study of Latin America. Faculty and teaching fellows participate in ongoing archaeological and ethnographic research in Mexico, Central America, and South America.
Students majoring in anthropology take courses in several subfields of anthropology, each of which looks at humanity from a different perspective. These subfields include archaeology, the study of past cultures through their material remains; cultural anthropology, which examines the structure of the social group and the values and ideas that shape human conduct; linguistics, which explores the interrelations between language and culture; and physical anthropology, which examines topics such as human evolution and human biology. Anthropology students develop a broad understanding
of cultural development and diversity and are encouraged to synthesize findings on the nature of human ways of life. This preparation is useful in all professional careers.
» Visit the Department of Art website
COURSES in art are offered in a variety of media, which provide wide-ranging methods and perspectives. Our courses emphasize creative and critical approaches to learning.
Many students will use the program in art as a foundation for careers in which creativity and the visual are especially valued, as the basis for advanced training in professional schools (such as art, architecture, museum studies), and for employment in galleries, museums, commercial art, or design related fields. An important goal of the department is to help students become readers of the rich visual environment in our culture throughout their lives, as well as to encourage creative approaches to learning in all disciplines.
The Department of Art offers several opportunities for extracurricular activities in the arts. Recently a student-run art gallery opened. A new art club called Viral Student Group has begun. BLUEprint is an organization for students interested in entering the field of architecture. Our Space 204 arts laboratory has exhibitions and workshops all year long. Studio VU lecture series brings some of the most important artists working today to campus for lectures and one-on-one studio visits with students.
There are several campus organizations in the arts. The Sarratt Visual Arts Committee allows students to have a hand in curating and hanging exhibitions, as well as hosting art openings at the Sarratt Gallery. VISION sponsors lectures and discussions about the history of art as well as a roundtable of alumni majors, who discuss their current careers and how they arrived at them.
Since 1984 the department has supervised the awarding of the Margaret Stonewall Wooldridge Hamblet Award to an eligible senior student. The Hamblet Award provides the means for travel and independent art activity for one year, culminating in a one-person exhibition at Vanderbilt. Students wanting to participate in the spring competition must be graduating seniors who are studio art majors.
The Allan P. Deloach Memorial Prize in Photography was established in 2000 in memory of Allan Deloach (B.A. '63) by two of his colleagues at IBM. This cash award is open to any student who has taken a studio class in any discipline at Vanderbilt. Midsouth Ceramics awards are given to the top three ceramic projects in the annual open house, and the recently established Plaza Artists Materials award is given to four students each year. All competitions are judged by outside A&S professional artists.
» Visit the Department of Biological Sciences website
THE biological sciences encompass the study of living organisms and life processes at all levels: ecosystems, populations, individual organisms, tissues, cells, subcellular structures, and molecules. The Department of Biological Sciences offers courses that address all of these levels and programs of study for undergraduates and for graduate students seeking the Ph.D.
For undergraduates, the department offers three majors and a minor. All three majors have honors tracks. The Biological Sciences (BioSci) major is designed for the student seeking a broad base in the biological sciences, though it is a highly flexible program that allows a certain amount of specialization in upper-level courses. The Molecular and Cellular Biology (MCB) major is designed for students with an interest in developing an in-depth understanding of how living systems function at the molecular and cellular levels, with upper-level course options ranging in content from biophysics and biochemistry to developmental biology, and to molecular aspects of evolution and of toxicology. The Ecology, Evolution, and Organismal Biology (EEOB) major is designed for students with an interest in ecology, evolutionary biology, environmental biology, and conservation biology. The department also offers a minor in biological sciences for students majoring in other disciplines. Interested students should consult the appropriate director of undergraduate studies.
The department offers undergraduates opportunities for engaging in faculty-led research projects for course credit. Students may receive an introduction to the workings of a scientific laboratory through an internship, or a more intensive, hands-on experience in directed or independent laboratory research. Students on the honors track of any of the three majors carry out a major honors research project and write an honors thesis. More information about the majors and minor offered by the department, the honors track of each major, and research opportunities open to undergraduates is available at our website: http://as.vanderbilt.edu/biosci.
» Visit the Department of Chemistry website
THE Department of Chemistry seeks to provide a sound education in the fundamentals of modern chemistry as well as exposure to cutting-edge research and contemporary instrumentation in the field. This is accomplished by providing students with a solid background in the disciplines of organic, analytical, inorganic, biological, and physical chemistry. The core courses in these areas, which are supported by a variety of practical experimental experiences in the laboratory, provide students with the skills needed to think critically about chemistry. After these core courses, students delve deeper into an area of their choice. Recognizing the importance of research, which integrates and makes sense of our collective body of knowledge, we encourage students to participate in undergraduate research. The chemistry major at Vanderbilt University meets the guidelines for the American Chemical Society approved program of study in chemistry.
» Visit the Department of Communication Studies website
THE Department of Communication Studies offers a major in communication studies. The major includes courses in such areas as rhetorical criticism, argumentation and debate, analysis of film and mass media, and the history and criticism of public address.
The Vanderbilt University Varsity Debate Team competes at national and regional levels. A full program of intercollegiate debate is available for students who choose to participate in forensics.
Earth and Environmental Studies
» Visit the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences website
THE earth and environmental sciences are aimed at interpreting Earth's dynamic history—its age and origin as recorded in rocks and the landscape—and at understanding how geological processes affect modern environmental and ecological systems.
Among the natural sciences, ours is the quintessential interdisciplinary science, providing vital perspective on how Earth's physical and geochemical template simultaneously sustains and threatens life, and influences human interactions with Earth.
The Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences (EES) offers an undergraduate major leading to the B.A. degree. Students majoring in EES participate in field and laboratory work. The comparatively small size of the faculty and student body allows many opportunities for faculty-student interaction. Students use the major as preparation for graduate study, for careers in environmental studies and resource exploration (petroleum, minerals), or for related careers in such fields as land use planning, teaching, law, or engineering.
Research programs in the department, which in many cases involve students, employ field, analytical, and experimental methods. A wide variety of earth processes are investigated, ranging from the migration of fluids and generation of magmas in Earth's crust, to the evolution of rivers and landscapes, to the evolution of sedimentary and biological environments, to geological processes in the human environment. Study areas, in addition to Middle Tennessee, include the southwestern United States, Antarctica, the Pacific northwest, and the southern Appalachians.
For students with primary interests in environmental issues, there are three degree options. A student may major in EES or may construct an individualized interdisciplinary major. Alternatively, a student may major in another conventional discipline and augment that with an environmental science or environmental studies minor.
» Visit the Department of Economics website
THE Department of Economics offers an undergraduate major and minor in economics. Qualified economics majors may also elect to take graduate courses or participate in honors work.
The department participates with the Department of History in a concentration in economics and history. Other economics-related minors are discussed under Managerial Studies.
Economics 100 and 101 are prerequisites to all courses numbered above 200, except Economics 222 which only requires Economics 100.
» Visit the Department of English website
THE Department of English offers three distinct programs that allow students to individualize their studies while acquiring the breadth of knowledge and skills of the traditional English major. The curriculum provides courses in the history of British and American literature, in Anglophone literatures of other countries, in literary theory, and in expository as well as creative writing. These diverse courses reflect the interests of students and faculty and the expanding area of English literary study.
Students use the concentration in English as a foundation for a variety of careers where the analytic, reading, and writing skills gained are especially valued, and as preparation for postgraduate work in literature. The department also regards its goals as helping students become readers of literature and culture throughout their lives.
Programs in England, Scotland, Australia, and around the world offer opportunities for study and travel that enrich a student's education. The Gertrude Vanderbilt and Harold S. Vanderbilt Visiting Writers series annually sponsors public lectures, readings, and other occasions where English majors hear and meet celebrated poets, novelists, and critics. Many majors write for and serve on the editorial boards of various campus publications including the Hustler paper and the Vanderbilt Review, a distinguished collection of creative writing.
French and Italian
» Visit the Department of French and Italian website
THE Department of French and Italian offers a program of concentration in French. Students use courses in both French and Italian to satisfy some requirements of AXLE. All literature and civilization courses and most language courses are taught in French or Italian.
Many students participate in the Vanderbilt in France or the Vanderbilt in Italy program. Activities organized by the department or by the French or Italian Clubs include lectures by visiting professors, films, and symposia. Students are urged to apply for living space in the French or Italian section of McTyeire International House; activities organized there are open to all interested parties
Germanic and Slavic Languages
» Visit the Department of Germanic & Slavic Languages website
THE Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages offers programs of concentration in German language and literature, German studies, and Russian.
Students in the German program take a wide variety of courses in the language, culture, and literature of German-speaking countries. Additional courses in history of art, European studies, history, philosophy, political science, and humanities complement the offerings in the German department. The Vanderbilt in Germany programs at the University in Regensburg and in Berlin provide students with unique opportunities to study German language and culture in a native context. On the Vanderbilt campus, students often choose to live in the German hall at McTyeire International House where they practice German in everyday situations with an international group of undergraduate and graduate students from many disciplines. Delta Phi Alpha (the National German Honorary Society) offers opportunities for student-organized extracurricular events. Various lectures are presented by scholars of national and international renown each semester; symposia sponsored by the department are also open to our students. In a less formal setting, interested students and faculty gather weekly for Kaffeestunde. For further information see as.vanderbilt.edu/german.
The Russian program has a special commitment to undergraduate training in all aspects of Russian culture and language. Students choose from a wide variety of courses: the program offers survey sequences on nineteenth- and twentieth-century Russian literature and culture as well as such courses as Jews in Russian Culture, Stalin's Evil Empire, Russian Cinema, Crime and Punishment, and Short Russian Novels. The department offers majors in Russian and in Russian and European studies. Students can also minor in Russian or Russian area studies. Students considering majoring in Russian should consult with the director of undergraduate studies in Russian early in their studies to design an individual program. Many students find it beneficial to combine a Russian major with a second concentration in a related field. Students have the opportunity to spend a semester, a summer, or a May session studying in Russia.
» Visit the Department of History website
MORE than one hundred courses in the Department of History are available to Vanderbilt undergraduates. Some focus on a particular historical period, others on a particular region of the world, and still others on topics that may cross traditional chronological and geographical boundaries. The department is committed to the principle that in a changing world, the way we learn about the past must also change. It will continue to develop new courses for the twenty-first century, with an emphasis on those that recognize the interconnections among the various civilizations and regions of the globe.
Unless indicated otherwise in the course description, history courses have no prerequisite. Except for History 295, 297, 298a–298b, and 299, courses numbered below 300 are open to all majors and nonmajors. History 295 is limited to seniors and juniors who have previously taken History 200W. History 297, 298a–298b, and 299 are limited to students who have been admitted to the History Honors Program. Courses numbered 300 and higher may be taken by senior history majors with the approval of the instructor, the adviser, and the Graduate School.
Students will find that the study of history offers not only a strong foundation for a liberal education but also a means of understanding the contemporary world. The skills developed in gathering, assessing, and synthesizing information have wide application in many careers, including business and the professions.
The Department of History offers a major and minor in history and, in cooperation with the Department of Economics, a joint major in economics and history, which is described in this catalog under Economics and History. It also offers a joint major in English and history, which is described in this catalog under English and History.
History of Art
» Visit the Department of History of Art website
THE Department of History of Art treats critically the major fields in world art, from ancient through modern, and serves to connect the arts to the other humanities. Many students will use the program in history of art as a foundation for careers in which analytical reading and writing skills gained in the major are especially valued as the basis for advanced training in professional schools (such as architecture, law, medicine, journalism, and business), for postgraduate work in history of art, and for employment in galleries, museums, or design-related fields.
A major goal of the department is to help students become readers of visual images and material culture throughout their lives, as well as to encourage visual approaches to learning.
History of art majors participate in the activities of VUSAL and work closely with departmental advisers. VUSAL
sponsors events such as panels, lectures, debates, and other programs where majors meet and engage in discussions with historians of art and museum curators.
The department curriculum shares course work with departments and programs in complementary disciplines, including African American and Diaspora Studies, American Studies, Asian Studies, European Studies, Cinema & Media Arts, Latin
American Studies, and Women's and Gender Studies.
» Visit the Department of Mathematics website
THE Department of Mathematics offers an undergraduate major with a high degree of flexibility. A solid background in mathematics provides an excellent foundation for any quantitative discipline as well as many professions—many students go on to professional studies in law, medicine, or business.
» Visit the Department of Philosophy website
THE Department of Philosophy at Vanderbilt offers a wide range of courses relating philosophy to various dimensions of human concern. The department also emphasizes those philosophers and movements that have had significant, forming effect in Western culture.
Physics and Astronomy
» Visit the Department of Physics and Astronomy website
AS fundamental sciences, physics and astronomy continue to be driving intellectual forces in expanding our understanding of the universe, in discovering the scientific basis for new technologies, and in applying these technologies to research. In keeping with this crucial role, the Department of Physics and Astronomy offers courses dealing with both the cultural and intellectual aspects of the disciplines, a broadly based major program flexible enough to serve as preparation for graduate study in physics, applied physics, medical physics, astronomy or astrophysics, professional study in another area, or technical employment, and minor programs for students desiring to combine physics or astronomy with other majors. An honors program is available for qualified departmental majors.
A distinguishing feature of the Vanderbilt undergraduate curriculum is the close coupling between teaching and research. At Vanderbilt, active research groups are studying the physics of elementary particles; nuclear structure and heavy-ion reactions; nonlinear interactions of lasers with materials at ultrafast time scales; the behavior of electrons, atoms, molecules, and photons near surfaces; the electric and magnetic properties of living systems; the structure and dynamics of biopolymers; unusual stars, young stars; equations of state in brown and white dwarfs; and cosmology. Most professors are engaged in research, and undergraduate students can participate in this research informally or through independent study or summer work.
The Society of Physics Students arranges informal discussions and field trips to scientific laboratories at other institutions.
» Visit the Department of Political Science website
THE Department of Political Science is oriented toward both teaching and research and has multiple missions. First, it offers a balanced curriculum for undergraduates and graduate students to study the art and science of politics. Second, it offers training for students preparing to become professionals in political science and other fields. Third, it exists as a research faculty seeking new knowledge about government and politics.
Many members of the faculty have national and international reputations in their fields of scholarship. These research and teaching interests vary widely, from political leadership to the comparison of new and old democratic governments, issues of political economy, and ethical questions about politics.
Political science majors may participate in independent study, directed study, selected topics seminars, first-year seminars, the Honors Program, and internships. Average class size is close to thirty—small classes make personal contact with the faculty relatively easy. Students participate in the governance of the department through the Undergraduate Political Science Association, and may qualify for membership in Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honorary society.
» Visit the Department of Psychology website
PSYCHOLOGY is the scientific study of brain, behavior, and cognitive processes. At Vanderbilt, the undergraduate program introduces students to the major areas of contemporary psychology: clinical science, human cognition and cognitive neuroscience, developmental psychology, neuroscience, and social psychology. Clinical science studies human personality, emotion, abnormal behavior, and therapeutic treatments. Human cognition and cognitive neuroscience includes the study of processes such as learning, remembering, perceiving environmental objects and events, and neural mechanisms underlying these processes. Developmental psychology examines human development from conception through adulthood, including cognitive, emotional, physical, and social aspects. Neuroscience studies the structure and function of the brain and how nerve cells process sensory information about the environment, mediate decisions, and control motor actions. Social psychology examines interpersonal and intergroup relations and the influence of social conditions on cognitive, emotional, and behavioral processes.
The Department of Psychology offers a general program of study for students who desire a broad background in contemporary psychology, a research concentration for students who plan graduate study in psychology or related disciplines, and a research with honors program. The department offers a wide variety of opportunities for undergraduates to gain research experience through active participation in faculty research projects. Such research experience is encouraged as a basic aspect of education in psychology.
» Visit the Department of Religious Studies website
THE Department of Religious Studies offers courses that explore religion in cultures around the world and courses that train students in the intellectual skills relevant to such inquiry. Religion is the actions and thoughts people have toward that which they consider sacred, spiritual, or divine. Religion has inspired the rise of entire civilizations lasting thousands of years and the innermost experience of individuals in solitude. Religious studies courses reflect this vast scope: they range from lecture courses that compare great world traditions, such as Christianity and Buddhism, to seminars that focus upon a single religious text, or upon a religious form, such as myth and ritual, or upon a method of inquiry such as textual criticism and other methods of interpretation.
Students majoring in religious studies have a dual focus: they study religious traditions and they acquire research methodologies such as textual criticism, history, and the social scientific study of religion. Many students complete double majors, combining religious studies with history, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, or art. Many study abroad in Asia, the Middle East, or Europe and use their research in their senior projects. Religious studies trains students to investigate world cultures and, by comparing cultures, understand theirs in depth. The multicultural and interdisciplinary character of religious studies makes it an excellent foundation to a liberal arts education.
» Visit the Department of Sociology website
SOCIOLOGY, the study of social relations, offers students a better understanding of their society and the consequences of social interaction. The department's courses cover a wide range of major sociological themes including arts, culture, religion; cities, states, and political economy; deviant behavior and social control; gender and sexuality; health and the life course; race, ethnicity, and immigration; social movements, politics, and power; and work, labor, and occupations. Undergraduate courses in sociology prepare students for graduate work or further their preparation for a career in law, medicine, business, the ministry, nursing, social work, civil service, or teaching.
Spanish and Portuguese
» Visit the Department of Spanish and Portuguese website
THE Department of Spanish and Portuguese offers a wide range of courses in the language, culture, and literature of Spain and Spanish America and is well known for its program in Portuguese and Brazilian studies. Two courses in Catalan are also offered.
The department offers programs of concentration in both Spanish and Spanish and Portuguese. Spanish majors take courses in language, literature, linguistics, and culture. Interdisciplinary majors are available in Spanish and European Studies or in Spanish, Portuguese, and European Studies. Qualified Spanish majors may elect to take graduate courses in their senior year or participate in honors work. Minors in Spanish and in Portuguese are also offered.
The department serves majors from the Center for Latin American Studies and the Max Kade Center for European and German Studies. On the graduate level, the department offers the master of arts in both Spanish and Portuguese, a doctoral program in Spanish, and a combination doctoral degree in Spanish/Portuguese.
Many students participate in Vanderbilt programs in Barcelona, Palma de Mallorca, Argentina, Chile, the Dominican Republic, and Brazil. Activities organized by the department include lectures, films, and symposia. The department has a chapter of the national honor society Sigma Delta Pi for students of Spanish. Students are encouraged to apply for living space in the Spanish Hall of McTyeire International House.
» Visit the Department of Theatre website
VANDERBILT'S Department of Theatre offers a vital center of innovative scholarship, teaching, creative expression, and exploration. The study of theatre introduces students to a major form of literature and performing arts, thereby developing a familiarity with one of the greatest cultural heritages and an understanding of human behavior and civilization as it is reflected through the ages. Theatre uniquely shapes perceptions about life into an active experience. Because this process encourages critical thought and discussion, the department provides a singular and important aspect of a liberal arts education through its production season and course work.
Viewed as a practical extension of the department's curriculum, plays are produced in Neely Auditorium, a laboratory where students learn to form creative expressions as well as to evaluate and to critique them.
On one level, the Department of Theatre helps the general liberal arts student develop reasoned standards of criticism and an understanding of the intimate correlation between the theatre and the society which it reflects, preparing Vanderbilt graduates for successful careers in theatre as well as other fields of interest. For its majors and minors, the department provides a more detailed and specialized study of the major components of theatrical endeavor, allowing opportunities for the practical application of course work in the productions staged at the theatre. In many cases, the department helps to prepare students with professional aspirations as either artists or teachers in their specialized area of interest.
Work in the productions at Vanderbilt reflects the instruction that occurs in the classroom at Neely Auditorium. Because the academic endeavors require hands-on, project-oriented teaching, students can expect small-to-medium class enrollments and numerous opportunities for exposure to faculty instruction outside of the classroom. The department's curriculum includes courses in acting, directing, design, technology, dramatic literature, theatre history and criticism, and playwriting. Students can either major or minor in theatre at Vanderbilt. The major consists of a minimum of 33 hours that include courses in acting, directing, dramatic literature, theatre history/ criticism, design, technology, and stagecraft. For the minor, students select one of three more narrowly focused tracks (dramatic literature/theatre history, acting/directing, or design/ technology) and complete 18 hours of course work.
Students may also learn about theatre by studying with Coe Artists, distinguished guest-artist professionals brought to campus each year to benefit majors, minors, and those with a serious interest in theatre. Weeklong master classes are taught by playwrights, actors, designers, and directors from the professional world of theatre, television, and film. Previous Coe Artists have included such celebrated artists as Karl Malden, Olympia Dukakis, Fiona Shaw, Eva Marie Saint, the Living Theatre, and Actors from the London Stage. The Department of Theatre also offers a month-long program of study of theatre in London during the May session. Students have the opportunity to witness a variety of theatrical experiences, as well as hear professional artists speak as guest lecturers.
Theatre majors and minors from Vanderbilt have entered a wide variety of professions and post-graduate opportunities after they graduate. Those seeking employment in the fields of theatre, film, radio, or television have secured positions at appropriate graduate schools or internships with professional companies immediately following their study at Vanderbilt. Many distinguished professional theatre companies across the nation, television networks in New York, and the film industry in Los Angeles include Vanderbilt University Theatre alumni as writers, actors, designers, technicians, dramaturgs, and stage managers. In addition, many Vanderbilt theatre students have secured teaching assignments at either the college/university level (once they have completed appropriate post-graduate education) or the elementary/secondary education level.
The practice of theatre requires individuals to participate through a variety of means: to collaborate with all other members of a production team; to express elements of abstract thought in both oral and written form; and to develop the critical ability to assess and analyze aesthetic choices. As a result of these experiences, recent graduates have also pursued careers in such widely diverse fields as law, medicine, psychology, and business.