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Academic Requirements

In this Section

Students in the Class of 2009


The Foundation Curriculum strives to make all Clarkson University students well-rounded individuals. Accordingly, the Foundation Curriculum tries to ensure that all Clarkson University students become aware of their historical and cultural heritage and cultivate an appreciation of literature and the fine arts, as well as an understanding of economic, political, and social systems. Students learn to speak and write clearly, understand how to use computer and library resources, and develop a knowledge of mathematics and science. Also, it provides students with an awareness of self and exposes them to ethical and valuational perspectives in an increasingly technological world. Foundation Curriculum requirements are:

1 course in Engineering 1 course in Business 6 courses in Liberal Arts
2 courses in Mathematics 2 courses in Science  

LS195 and LS196 (Great Ideas I and II) plus four elective courses fulfill the requirements in Liberal Arts. The four elective courses must include at least two of the three designators: Hum (Humanities), Soc (Social Sciences), and H/S (Interdisciplinary). Liberal Arts courses and the designator attached to each are listed in the Coursespublication. Engineering and Engineering & Management majors should consult their departmental advisors for additional information on the Liberal Arts requirements. All Foundation Curriculum courses must be selected from approved lists published in Courses.



A Clarkson education prepares each student for today’s world and tomorrow’s challenges. All Clarkson students who enter with the Class of 2010 and later1 are required to meet the learning expectations of the Clarkson Common Experience, which integrates each student’s learning in a major field of study with learning expectations that broaden the student’s understanding of our modern world. Each Clarkson graduate achieves objectives in fundamental academic abilities, in personal and social development, and in prescribed areas of knowledge.

Note: The Clarkson Common Experience graduation requirements apply to student cohorts as follows:

  • For all students who first began enrollment at Clarkson with freshman standing in Fall 2006 or later.
  • For all students who first began enrollment at Clarkson with sophomore standing in Fall 2007 or later.
  • For all students who first began enrollment at Clarkson with junior standing in Fall 2008 or later.
  • For all students who first began enrollment at Clarkson with senior standing in Fall 2009 or later.

Learning Expectations of the Common Experience

Each Clarkson graduate will achieve academic abilities that include:

  • mastery of a major field of study,
  • effective communication in oral, written and technological forms,
  • critical and imaginative thinking, and
  • problem solving skills using both quantitative and qualitative reasoning where appropriate.

Each graduate is also expected to experience personal and social development that includes:

  • an increased understanding of and insight into his or her own behavior,
  • an appreciation of the need for self-motivated, life-long learning,
  • an increased social awareness and interpersonal competence, including an appreciation for the value of experiencing diversity, and
  • an understanding of and recognition of the need for personal, societal and professional ethics.

Knowledge is the essence of a university education, and each Clarkson graduate is expected to become knowledgeable beyond his or her major field in these areas:

  • the nature of cultures and societies,
  • contemporary and global issues,
  • the imaginative arts and their role in society,
  • science and technology, including their relationship to society and their impact on the environment,
  • economic and organizational concepts and decision-making, and
  • methods for studying and explaining individual and group behavior.

The Clarkson Common Experience

The Clarkson Common Experience provides a common set of learning expectations and outcomes for all Clarkson students. To achieve these outcomes, each student is required to complete a set of courses and a professional experience. Coursework consists of required and elective courses both from within a student’s major field and from across the spectrum of all disciplines in the university. Embodied in the Common Experience are four components that serve as common threads:

  • learning to communicate effectively,
  • developing an appreciation for diversity in both working and living environments,
  • recognizing the importance of personal, societal, and professional ethics, and
  • understanding how technology can be used to serve humanity.

Each of these components is introduced early in the curriculum, reinforced in subsequent courses, and included in upper division courses.

The Communication Component:To develop excellent communication skills, Clarkson requires communication-intensive coursework, first in the Clarkson seminar, then across the curriculum and in the major. Courses designated as communication intensive are assigned points on a scale of one or two (C1 or C2) to indicate the extent of communication experience in that course. Beyond the Clarkson Seminar, students must obtain six more "communication points," at least two of them within the major at the 300/400 level. Communication points can be obtained by taking designated courses, or, with approval, through co-curricular experiences. Depending on initial abilities and background, students may also be required to enroll in a course that provides writing instruction and support for the Clarkson Seminar. Students for whom English is a second language must also meet the ESL requirements as described below.

The Diversity Component:From the moment they arrive on campus, Clarkson students prepare for the culturally diverse environments they will inevitably experience in their future careers. The First-Year Seminar helps students respect and learn from Clarkson’s diverse community. In the Clarkson Seminar, students will be urged to question their own assumptions and to consider different worldviews. Later in their academic coursework, students will gain a deeper understanding of cultural diversity within and among societies, recognizing how it influences their own actions and affects the lives of those around them. The professional requirement in the major prepares students to enter the global workforce by helping them understand the importance of diversity in the workplace.

The Ethics and Values Component:Through a repeated emphasis on ethics and values, Clarkson promotes in its students the profound reflection necessary to sustain personal, academic, professional and civic integrity. Students are expected to view this process not just as an academic issue, but as critical for all aspects of their lives, including community activities, sports, student organizations, and work. Issues of personal ethics and values are addressed beginning with the First-Year Seminar. Social and cultural values are discussed as part of the Clarkson Seminar. Several courses in the knowledge areas emphasize social and cultural values or philosophical and ethical issues. In the Professional requirement, students identify ethical problems in situations typically encountered within their professions and analyze these issues from different ethical perspectives.

The Technology Component: All Clarkson students are expected to understand the basis of our modern technological society and to gain an appreciation for both the potential benefits and limitations of technology. Students will be introduced to the basic knowledge necessary for understanding technology through two courses in mathematics and two courses in the natural sciences, including at least one with a laboratory component. A required technology course reinforces this knowledge by demonstrating how technology may be used to serve humanity. The interrelation of science, technology and society is studied in one of the knowledge areas.

Requirements of the Clarkson Common Experience

FY100 First-Year Seminar

First-Year Seminar treats personal and social adjustment topics as well as Clarkson values, ethics and diversity. [Fall semester] [Required only for first-year students.]

UNIV190 The Clarkson Seminar

The Clarkson Seminar creates learning communities which focus on questioning received wisdom. The seminar introduces students to the role of values and ethics in culture and society. The objectives are to develop students’ reasoning abilities through critical analysis of the received beliefs and assumptions of their own societies and cultural traditions, and to develop students’ communication abilities through writing and discussion. [Fall semester]

Knowledge Areas and University Courses

Students must achieve learning outcomes in six broad areas of knowledge listed below. The knowledge area requirement is met by completing five individual courses including at least one University Course that unites two areas of knowledge. Together, these courses must cover all of the following areas of knowledge:

Cultures and Societies
Contemporary and Global Issues
Imaginative Arts
Science, Technology, and Society
Economics and Organizations
Individual and Group Behavior

All students must take at least one University course after the first year. University Courses will address learning outcomes in two of the six areas of knowledge. University courses are multidisciplinary, and students observe and participate in the interaction of disciplines.

Mathematics, Science and Technology Courses

Students must achieve learning outcomes in basic mathematics, science and technology by completing five courses in these areas. Students develop quantitative literacy through the study of mathematics, including probability and statistics. Students must take two courses in mathematics as specified by the major. Students develop an understanding of the principles of science and technology through two natural science courses, at least one of which must have an integrated laboratory component. Students gain an understanding of how technology is developed through a course that addresses the theme of technology serving humanity.


Clarkson places a strong emphasis on developing students’ abilities to communicate effectively in a variety of contexts using diverse forms of communication. Students must select coursework and possibly extracurricular activities that carry a total of at least six communication points. Courses and activities with a communication component will carry either one or two points. At least two points must come from within the student’s major discipline in a 300/400 level course.

Major Field of Study

A significant characteristic of the Common Experience is the integration of requirements from both outside and within a major field of study. Each student pursues a degree program in a major field and completes a set of prescribed courses to demonstrate mastery of that field. As part of these courses, students meet outcomes of the Common Experience as described below.

Information Technology Expertise:Students will gain expertise in using information technology and computational software appropriate to their major field of study.

Communications:Students must complete coursework in the major field at the 300 or 400 level that includes discipline-specific communication for a total of at least two communications points.

Professional Requirement:The Professional Requirement incorporates learning outcomes involving professionalism, ethics and diversity. These outcomes include understanding the concepts of professionalism, professional responsibility, and professional ethics, and knowing how the student’s professional community promotes, supports and enforces these concepts. Students should

develop an appreciation for the value of diversity in the workplace.

Professional Experience:All students participate in a project-based professional experience following the first-year such as co-op, internship, directed research, or community project clearly related to the student’s professional goals.


Students in the Class of 2009 (Foundation Curriculum)

  1. At least 120 credit hours.
  2. At least a 2.000 cumulative average.
  3. At least a 2.000 cumulative average in major field of study for the Class of 2004 or later.
  4. Satisfy all departmental course requirements.
  5. All students entering as first-year students must take First-Year Seminar or equivalent.
  6. Develop effective writing skills. To help students develop writing and thinking skills, Clarkson has a Writing Across the Curriculum program in which students write regularly in writing-intensive courses both within the major and their elective courses. Students for whom English is a second language must take an English language placement examination upon entering Clarkson, fulfill all requirements dictated by the examination’s results, and pass any ESL course satisfactorily before taking Great Ideas or other writing-intensive courses.
  7. Meet Foundation Curriculum requirements.

Students in the Class of 2010 and Beyond (Clarkson Common Experience)

  1. At least 120 credit hours.
  2. At least a 2.000 cumulative average.
  3. At least a 2.000 cumulative average in the major field of study.
  4. Meet the requirements of the Clarkson Common Experience.
  5. Meet the requirements for a degree program as determined by the offering department or school.
  6. A student entering as a first-semester freshman must have been in residence for at least four
  7. semesters, including the final undergraduate semester; or, if entering with advanced standing, have
  8. completed at least half the remaining upper-level undergraduate work in residence at Clarkson.

The program must include a minimum of two semesters (30 cr. hrs.) including the final under-graduate semester.

Further information regarding graduation requirements may be found in Section III–U of the Clarkson Regulations or by contacting Student Administrative Services.

EAP Requirement

Students for whom English is a second language must take an English language placement examination upon entering Clarkson. Based on the outcome of this examination, a student may be required to complete one or more English for Academic Purposes (EAP, formerly ESL) courses prior to enrolling in the Clarkson Seminar or any course assigned one or two communications points.


Grades are reported in accordance with the following system: A, B+, B, C+, C, D+, D, F (4, 3.5, 3, 2.5, 2, 1.5, 1, 0 quality points). Therefore, a student who passes a 3-hour course with an A will earn 3 x 4 or 12 quality points; a B, 3 x 3 or 9 quality points, etc. The quality-point average is determined by dividing the total number of earned quality points by the total number of credit hours taken at Clarkson on a traditional basis (A, B+, B, ... ). Selected courses may be taken on the Pass/No Credit system where P=passed, quality-point average not affected; NC (no credit) on student’s record for D+, D, or F grade in courses taken as Pass/No Credit; P=passed (certain designated graduate courses), quality-point average not affected.

Academic Standing

  1.  Academic Warning.A full-time undergraduate student in Good Standing whose current semester Quality-Point Average (QPA) falls below 2.000 shall be placed on Academic Warning. To be removed from Academic Warning, back to Good Standing, a student needs to complete at least 12 credit hours with a current semester QPA of at least 2.000.
  2. Academic Probation.A full-time undergraduate student on Academic Warning who fails to complete at least 12 credit hours with a current semester QPA of at least 2.000 will be placed on Academic Probation. To be removed from Academic Probation, back to Academic Warning, a student needs to complete at least 12 credit hours with a current semester QPA of at least 2.000.
  3. Academic Separation.A full-time undergraduate student on Academic Probation who fails to complete at least 12 credit hours with a current semester QPA of at least 2.000 will be separated from the University. Any undergraduate student who fails to attain a current semester QPA of at least 1.0 shall also be Separated from the University.
  4. To be continued, if Separated, an undergraduate student must apply by e-mailing their letter of request, from their Clarkson e-mail account, to the Continuance and Readmission Review Committee at the following e-mail address: registrar@clarkson.eduThe student may also send their letter of request to the Continuance and Readmission Review Committee, c/o Student Administrative Services, Box 5575, Clarkson University, Potsdam, NY  13699-5575 or by fax (315-268-2321). The letter should state why the University should continue the student, the program(s) of study the student wishes to be continued in, and any other information the student feels pertinent to the situation. All cases of continuance require concurrent approval of the department chair or program director and of the University’s Continuance and Readmission Committee. If continued, a student’s academic standing will be Academic Probation.
  5. The academic standing acquired at the end of any semester shall take effect at the beginning of the next summer school or semester in which the student enrolls.
    Further information may be found by contacting Student Administrative Services.


To qualify for the Dean’s List during any semester, a full-time undergraduate student must receive no failures and earn a semester quality-point average of at least 3.250. A 3.800 semester quality-point average or better qualifies a student for the Presidential Scholar List. Both lists require a student to be enrolled for at least 14 credit hours in a prescribed curriculum of which 12 or more credit hours are graded in the traditional manner (not graded on a pass/no credit basis).


At graduation, a student will receive the bachelor’s degree "with distinction" if his or her cumulative quality-point average is at least 3.250, and "with great distinction" if it is at least 3.750. A more detailed and complete explanation of all academic and graduation requirements at Clarkson appears on the Web at


  • A single Clarkson bachelor’s degree with a double major is awarded when the student satisfies all curricular requirements for two Clarkson bachelor’s degree programs, but does not qualify for a second degree or a dual degree.
  • A student can be awarded two Clarkson bachelor’s degrees. A student qualifies for a second Clarkson bachelor’s degree if he or she satisfies all degree requirements for two different Clarkson bachelor’s degree programs and has a minimum of 150 credit hours, including at least 30 credit hours unique to each program. The two degrees are awarded at the same commencement when the requirements for both degree programs are completed at the same time.


A wide range of typical courses is listed in all departments, but not all courses are offered each year. Descriptions of courses and semesters in which specific courses are offered are accessible in PeopleSoft and are published annually in Courses, available from the Office of Undergraduate Admission or Student Administrative Services. It is also available electronically at For more information, call SAS at 315–268–6451.

Course credit is also available for Independent Study and Special Projects.