Core Curriculum (For Students Admitted Prior to Fall 2015)


Not What to Know, but How to Know

At Millsaps, your college education centers on a set of courses designed to prepare you for the challenges of college and career. We call these courses our "Core Curriculum" because they represent the heart of your education in the Liberal Arts abilities.

The Mission of the Core Curriculum

The purpose of the Core Curriculum is to provide the Millsaps student with a firm foundation in the Liberal Arts Abilities, those habits of mind the college considers essential in the development of mature scholars and productive citizens. Specifically, the Core fosters reasoning, communication, historical consciousness, and social and cultural awareness. Designed by faculty from all divisions and based on the methods of every academic discipline, the Core Curriculum introduces our students to the tools of scholarly inquiry needed for success at Millsaps College and in life at large.

Liberal Arts Abilities

The word "liberal" in liberal arts and liberal education means "free."  Liberal education is that of free men and women, of citizens.  Liberal education gives you knowledge and the habits of thinking and reasoning to carry out the responsibilities of an adult citizen in an era of change. Secondly, a liberal education is a process that frees or liberates those who undertake it.

What does it free you from? The limiting chains of ignorance, incompetence, false opinions, illusion, prejudice.

What does it free you for? Knowledge and the development of your powers of reflection, judgment, discovery, and vision - powers which allow you to be competent and fully aware in your thinking and acting.

A liberal education gives you knowledge and transforms your powers as a person and contributes to your whole life.


The Millsaps Core Curriculum fosters four liberal arts abilities that are basic to the kind of education that liberates one's intellect, understanding, and vision:

Reasoning—The ability to analyze and synthesize arguments, to question assumptions, to evaluate evidence, to argue positions, to draw conclusions, and to raise new questions; varieties of reasoning include:

  • Quantitative—the ability to use mathematical reasoning as a tool of analysis and as a means of conveying information;
  • Scientific—the ability to understand and to use the scientific method;
  • Ethical—the ability to analyze the principles and assumptions of moral claims and to make informed and reasoned moral arguments;
  • Aesthetic—the ability to analyze visual, performing, or literary art.

Communication—The ability to express ideas, arguments, and information coherently and persuasively orally and in writing.

Historical Consciousness—The ability to understand the achievements, problems, and perspectives of the past and to recognize their influence upon the course of events.

Social & Cultural Awareness—The ability to engage perspectives other than one's own.

Deceptively simple, these four abilities cover a remarkable range of human inquiry. They are interconnected and infuse the Millsaps education in every academic field. By completing our Core, you will increase your proficiency in the Liberal Arts abilities.


Core 1: Freshman/Transfer Seminar in Critical Thinking and Academic Literacy

The Purpose of Core 1
Core 1 is designed to introduce students to the Millsaps academic community by exploring a faculty-selected topic of scholarly interest. Course activities give students an opportunity to practice and strengthen their critical thinking skills, as well as to read and produce (through written, oral, and, in some cases, visual means) the products of scholarly study. The Core 1 Seminar focuses most strongly on the Reasoning and Communication abilities, but individual topics may lend themselves as well to developing both Historical Consciousness and Social & Cultural Awareness. Core 1 is met by a freshman student taking IDST 1000 or a transfer student taking IDST 1050.

The Core 1 Seminar
In your Core 1 seminar, you will encounter a variety of interesting, important, and controversial issues within the context of your instructor's chosen theme. You will be challenged to think for yourself in ways that draw upon your personal experience, the experiences of those in your class, and the evidence you read, produce, or observe. There is a strong emphasis on writing and revising your writing in this course because the process of revision is important for clarifying your thinking.

Because Core 1 is conducted as a seminar, the pedagogy is interactive, with students taking an active role in every class. Each section focuses on a particular topic, the selected readings designed to provide a foundation for your own inquiry into the topic at hand. These materials are not taught as introductions to the disciplines, but as ways to help you discover how to answer your own human questions. No faculty member is a full expert on the multi-disciplinary content of the course or even the topic they've chosen to explore. Rather, the role of the Core 1 instructor is to help you in learning how to learn and how to reason.

For these reasons, this class introduces you to a different kind of educational process that at the beginning may seem strange to you. Rather than being a class in which you learn information passively from an expert, this class will encourage you to become responsible for your own thinking and learning. As you progress in the course and in your undergraduate education at Millsaps, you will increasingly become your own teacher.

Requirements for Writing in Core 1
Core 1, like all Core courses, emphasizes the development of writing skills. Each section of Core 1 requires its students:

  • to produce at least four formal writing assignments; of these, at least two undergo revision and at least one is a timed, in-class assignment.
  • to begin their writing proficiency portfolio with four pieces of writing from the course, including the two revised essays, a timed piece, and a critical reflection on personal learning.



Core 2-5: Arts and Letters

Topics / Heritage

Four courses in the Millsaps Core Curriculum are taught by faculty from the Division of Arts and Letters. These courses are all multidisciplinary courses - combining history, literature, philosophy, religion and fine arts. You have a choice of two different ways of meeting this requirement. You may choose the Topics program, taking a Topics course each semester beginning in the fall of the freshman year and continuing through the spring of the sophomore year, or you may enroll in the Heritage program and complete the requirement in a single year. Heritage is an intensive course that is equivalent to two courses each semester. It can only be taken by freshmen, so the decision whether to follow the Topics or the Heritage path must be made at the time of your initial registration.

Topics Courses

Core 2: Topics of the Ancient World
This course is the first in a sequence of courses designed to engage your thinking about a particular historical period from multiple perspectives. Topics are selected for their appropriateness in bringing together various strands of thought from that period. Each course has a distinct focus - history, literature, philosophy, religion or fine arts. To insure a broad exposure to the liberal arts, students taking this approach must include at least three different focuses in their choice of Topics courses.

The first course in the Topics sequence covers the Ancient World, which for purposes of the Millsaps core extends from the beginning of recorded history to the fall of the Roman Empire, the birth of Mohammed, and the classical age in India. You will be given a broad range of topics from which to choose. These topics have included "Classical Drama," "Dawn of Reason," "Christians, Pagans and Jews," and "Ideas of Sacrifice." Multidisciplinary Topics courses do not attempt to survey an entire period, but rather to provide a window in the culture of an earlier time. In a course on the ancient world you may expect to learn about the rise of civilization, mythical worldviews, social hierarchies, and early forms of technology. Core 2 is met by a student taking IDST 1200.

Core 3: Topics of the Premodern World
The next course in this historical sequence centers on the Pre-modern World. It encompasses the period commonly know in the West as the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Topics from this period have included "Celt, Saxon & Viking," "Love and Knowledge," and "The Quest for the Holy Grail." In a Pre-modern World course, you may expect to learn about institutionalization of group identity, expansion of mythical worldviews, and further developments of agricultural systems and social hierarchies. Since this period includes the Crusades and the beginnings of global exploration, there will be ample opportunity to observe the effects of contact with other cultures, including the Americas, India, China, and Japan, on the development of Western civilization.  Core 3 is met by a student taking IDST 1300.

Core 4: Topics of the Modern World
The historical sequence which begins in the freshman year extends through the sophomore year starting with a course on the Modern World in the fall and concluding with a course on the Contemporary World in the spring. The modern period is characterized by the rise of science and the influence of thinkers such as Galileo, Newton, and Descartes, but it also includes writers, artists, inventors, statesmen, and religious leaders of various nationalities. Topics of the Modern World have included: "Passion and Persuasion in Nineteenth Century America," "The Age of Revolution," and "Religion and Cultural Encounter." Courses in the modern period introduce you to developments such as individualism, nationalism, industrialization, and colonialism. Because they are taught at the sophomore level, these courses present students with more complex thinking and writing assignments. Core 4 is met by a student taking IDST 2400.

Core 5: Topics of the Contemporary World 
The concluding course in this sequence takes you into the twentieth century. It is the most difficult period to characterize because we are still living through it, but it is also one that particularly challenges us to look critically at ourselves. Topics of the Contemporary World have included "Ritual Masks: Religious Meaning, Social Function," "Advertising and the Rise of Consumer Culture," and "French Film: The French (Out) Look." Typically these courses include films and videos as well as more traditional sources of information. The cross-cultural dimension present in all of the courses in this sequence is particularly prominent in the contemporary period. Core 5 is met by a student taking IDST 2500.


Heritage of the West in World Perspective

Core 2-5: Heritage of the West in World Perspective
Heritage provides an alternative to the sequence of Topics courses. It is a full-year multidisciplinary course extending from prehistory to the present. Team-taught by faculty from several departments, Heritage focuses on major developments in Western culture while incorporating pivotal events and seminal ideas from other cultures. Comparisons with Eurasia, Africa and the Americas help to define the origin and nature of Western civilization while fostering an appreciation for cultural diversity and global interdependence.

If you choose the Heritage option, you will attend four large group sessions and three small group sessions per week. The entire class meets together for the large group sessions, which consist of lectures or visual and musical presentations by members of the Heritage staff. These sessions help you organize, interpret, and gain perspective on the readings. The small group sessions are devoted primarily to discussion. The purpose is to give you an opportunity to express opinions, challenge judgments, debate issues, and pursue questions raised by the readings and the lectures. In addition to discussion, there is a substantial amount of writing associated with this course.

The first semester of Heritage covers the same historical period as the first two courses in the Topics sequence, while the second semester is equivalent to the sophomore Topics courses. These two approaches to the study of culture, Heritage and Topics, are academically equivalent. Heritage has the advantage of providing a connected narrative for the entire period from prehistory to the present, while each Topics courses is limited to a single subject explored in greater depth. Students who choose Heritage will have fewer electives in their freshman year, but more electives in their sophomore year. Whichever option you select, you are assured a rich intellectual experience covering a broad expanse of history and incorporating many different perspectives.

Heritage is met by a student taking both IDST 1118 and IDST 1128.



Core 6-9: Science and Mathematics

Four courses in the Millsaps core are taught primarily by faculty from the Science Division. To meet this requirement you must take at least one course in the social and behavioral sciences, one course in the natural sciences with a lab, and one course in the social and behavioral sciences, one course in the natural sciences with a lab, and one course in mathematics. The fourth course may be an additional mathematics course, another natural science course, or a computer science course. All of the science courses approved to meet core requirements are intended to foster the development of liberal arts abilities. You may expect a greater emphasis on quantitative reasoning and scientific method in these courses, yet every core science course (with the possible exception of mathematics) includes some writing.

Core 6: Social and Behavioral Sciences
In this segment of the core curriculum, you will be introduced to the content and methodology of the social and behavioral sciences. You will also enhance your critical thinking ability, your global and multicultural awareness, and your valuing and decision-making skills. You may meet this requirement by taking a multidisciplinary Topics course organized around a central theme or problem such as leadership, human growth and development, or civil rights. Alternatively, you may take an introductory course in a discipline such as psychology, sociology, anthropology or political science.

Lessons in Leadership, for instance, is a multidisciplinary course which combines classic texts from history, biography, drama, and philosophy with case studies from business to provide insight into the basic principles of leadership. Topics in Sexuality and Love applies biological, psychological, and sociological perspectives to issues of love, intimacy, and marriage. Introduction to Psychology is a course designed to familiarize students with the principal areas of psychology while teaching them to evaluate competing explanations of behavior. Historically, the classes (only one required) that a student can take to meet the Core 6 requirement are as follows:

  • ECON 1000: Principles of Economics
  • EDUC 1000: Human Development in Cross Cultural Perspective
  • EDUC 2000: Problems in Human Creativity
  • EDUC 3250: Get Creative - Approaches to Developing Creativity
  • IDST 1600/1610/1620/1630/1640/1650/1660: Topics in the Social and Behavioral Sciences
  • PLSC 1000: Introduction to American Government
  • PSYC 1000: Introduction to Psychology
  • PSYC 1100: Love and Sexuality
  • SOAN 1000: Introduction to Sociology
  • SOAN 1100: Introduction to Anthropology
  • SOAN 1110: Introduction to Archaeology and World Prehistory

Core 7: Natural Science with Lab
The scientific method has profoundly affected the way we understand the natural world, while applications of scientific knowledge to technology have radically changed the way we live. To introduce you to scientific thinking and some of the ways science has affected our lived, you will take at least one course in the natural sciences with a laboratory component. It may be a multidisciplinary course focused on a particular topic or an introductory course in a scientific discipline.

Students with an interest in biology, for instance, may take Cell Biology for a general introduction to the discipline or Human Evolution for a more topical approach. Those with a preference for chemistry have a choice of General Chemistry or Chemistry and Society, while similar choices are available in other disciplines. Introductory courses in the sciences place primary emphasis on mastery of basic concepts, while Topics courses give greater attention to applications of scientific knowledge.

The laboratory component of these courses provides hands-on experience of scientific inquiry utilizing up-to-date scientific equipment. Students may expect to gain proficiency in experimental design, data collection and interpretation. Historically, the classes (only one required) that a student can take to meet the Core 7 requirement are as follows:

  • BIOL 1000: Introductory Cell Biology with Lab
  • BIOL 1010: General Botany with Lab
  • BIOL 1020: General Zoology with Lab
  • BIOL 1710: Human Evolution
  • BIOL 1730: Explore the Natural World
  • BIOL 3210: Counts when called Field Ecology of Hawaii
  • CHEM 1211 and CHEM 1213: General Inorganic Chemistry with Lab I
  • CHEM 1221 and CHEM 1223: General Inorganic Chemistry with Lab II
  • ENVS 1000: Environmental Issues
  • ENVS 1100/GEOL 1100: Environmental Science
  • GEOL 1000: The Physical Earth
  • GEOL 1200: Geosystems
  • GEOL 1300: Human and Natural Disasters
  • GEOL 2000: Plate Techtonics and Earth History
  • GEOL 2200: Minerals and Rocks
  • GEOL 3500: Field Study in Geology (Counts when called Field Ecology of Hawaii)
  • IDST 1700/1710/1720/1730: Topics in the Natural Science with Lab
  • PHYS 1201 and PHYS 1203: College Physics with Lab I
  • PHYS 1211 and PHYS1213: College Physics with Lab II
  • PHYS 2003 and PHYS 2001: General Physics with Lab I
  • PHYS 2013 and PHYS 2011: General Physics with Lab II

Core 8: Mathematics
Mathematics has been called the "language of science." It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful tools of understanding developed in the modern era. No educated person can afford to be without a basic understanding of mathematics. For this reason you are required to complete at least one college-level course in mathematics.

The math subscore on the ACT (or SAT) examination is a good indicator of your level of preparation for each mathematics course at the level of Calculus or below. To determine the mathematics course with which you should begin, compare your most recent ACT mathematics subscore with the prerequisites listed for each mathematics course at the Department of Mathematics website.

If you are pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree, any course in mathematics at Millsaps will suffice to meet this requirement. If you are planning to major in one of the natural sciences or want to earn a Bachelor of Science degree, you will need to complete the mathematics sequence through Analytical Geometry and Calculus I. Those pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration degree may satisfy the mathematics requirement with Elementary Statistics and Survey of Calculus.

In addition to the traditional mathematics sequence extending from Statistics through Calculus, Millsaps also offers a multidisciplinary Topics course that meets this requirement. Topics in Mathematics is intended to develop a student's capacity for logical thinking utilizing mathematical concepts. The content may focus on a specific subject or may survey several topics in mathematics. Possible topics include mathematics and society, logic and problem solving, and models in business and the social sciences. Historically, the classes (only one required) that a student can take to meet the Core 8 requirement are as follows:

  • MATH 1000: Topics in Mathematics
  • MATH 1130: Elementary Functions
  • MATH 1150: Elementary Statistics
  • MATH 1210: Survey of Calculus
  • MATH 1220: Analytical Geometry/Calculus I
  • MATH 2230: Analytical Geometry/Calculus II
  • MATH 2240: Analytical Geometry/Calculus III
  • MATH 2310: Introduction to Advanced Mathematics

Core 9: Mathematics, Natural Science or Computer Science
To complete the science and mathematics division of the core, you have a choice of taking another mathematics course at the level of calculus or above, another natural science course with or without a lab, or a computer science course that includes programming languages. Most of the courses which meet the requirements of Core 7 or 8 also meet this requirement. In addition there are multidisciplinary Topics courses specifically designed for Core 9. These include "Environmental Topics of the 20th Century," a course which examines controversial issues in the areas of atmospheric pollution, population growth, and energy resources; and "Dinosauria," a course utilizing geology, biology, mathematics and sociology to study the evolution and influence of the dinosaur. Historically, the classes (only one required) that a student can take to meet the Core 9 requirement are as follows:

  • Any of the classes listed above under Core 7
  • ASTR 1000: Introduction to Astronomy
  • BIOL 3210: Counts when called Field Ecology of Hawaii
  • CSCI 1000: Problem Solving with Computer Software
  • CSCI 1010: Computer Science I
  • CSCI 1020: Computer Science II
  • GEOL 3500: Field Study in Geology (counts when called Field Ecology of Hawaii)
  • IDST 1900: Topics in Science, Mathematics, and Computer Science
  • MATH 1210: Survey of Calculus
  • MATH 1220: Analytical Geometry/Calculus I
  • MATH 2230: Analytical Geometry/Calculus II
  • MATH 2240: Analytical Geometry/Calculus III
  • MATH 2310: Introduction to Advanced Mathematics


Understanding the Natural World Exploration


In the Exploration of the Natural World, students will learn, use, and interpret scientific knowledge of the natural world through experimentation with and observation of its processes and relationships, through 4-credit hours of lab or field coursework (normally introductory level) in the natural sciences. Students will experience scientific methods through formation, testing, and refinement of hypotheses, models, and theories.



Students will:

  • Understand how scientific inquiry is based on investigation of evidence from the natural world, and how scientific knowledge and understanding evolves based on new evidence.
  • Recognize the scope and limits of scientific inquiry.
  • Participate in scientific inquiry and communicate the elements of the process, by making careful and systematic observations, developing and testing a hypothesis, analyzing evidence, and interpreting results.



A lab or field course in the natural sciences that has been approved by the Core Council.



  • BIOL 1001 and BIOL 1003: Introduction to Cell Biology with Laboratory
  • BIOL 1011 and BIOL 1013: General Botany with Laboratory
  • BIOL 1021 and BIOL 1023: General Zoology with Laboratory
  • BIOL 1730: Explore the Natural World (includes a lab)
  • CHEM 1000: Nutrition (includes a lab)
  • CHEM 1213 and CHEM 1211: General Inorganic Chemistry I with Laboratory
  • CHEM 1223 and CHEM 1221: General Inorganic Chemistry II with Laboratory
  • GEOL 1000: The Physical Earth (includes a lab)
  • GEOL 1200: Geosystems (includes a lab)
  • GEOL 1300: Human and Natural Disasters (includes a lab)
  • GEOL 2000: Plate Tectonics and Earth History (includes a lab)
  • PHYS 1201 and PHYS 1203: College Physics I with Laboratory
  • PHYS 1211 and PHYS 1213: College Physics II with Laboratory
  • PHYS 2001 and PHYS 2003: General Physics I with Laboratory
  • PHYS 2011 and PHYS 2013: General Physics II with Laboratory



Core 10: Reflections on the Liberal Arts

The purpose of Core 10, "Reflections on the Liberal Arts," is to integrate the major with the multidisciplinary core and to help prepare you for life after graduation. For this reason it is reserved for the senior year. Most students will meet this "capstone" requirement with the senior seminar in their major. In this course you will write a reflective paper intended to draw upon your critical thinking skills and help you integrate your liberal arts experience. You will consider how your Millsaps experience has contributed to your growth and development as an educated person and how it has prepared you for the responsibilities of community and professional life. On completing this course, you will have finished the Millsaps core curriculum. You should be better prepared to meet the challenges of a dynamic and changing world, where the primary measure of success will be your ability to think creatively and act responsibly.

You should expect to complete Core 2-9 by the end of your sophomore year, when you will be required to declare a major. By selecting a major at this time, you will be able to plan your last two years to take advantage of the courses available in your major. You may continue to take courses outside of your major during the junior and senior year, possibly pursuing a second major or a minor, but the primary objective at this stage of your education is to achieve depth of understanding in a particular field of study.

The course that a student can take to meet the Core 10 requirement is Senior Seminar, coded with a departmental prefix.



Fine Arts Requirement for Degree

In addition to completing the requisite Core courses, students must demonstrate proficiency in the fine arts in one of the following ways:

Completing the Heritage curriculum, or completing one four-credit-hour class (or two two-credit-hour classes) of the following courses:

  • IDST topics course with a fine arts focus
  • Any ARTH or ARTS course, with the exception of ARTS 2600 and art internships.
  • THEA 1000, 1410/1420 (and the corresponding higher levels of 2410/2420, 3410/3420, and 4410/4420 as well as the same courses taken for different credit hours as 1411/1421, 1412/1422, or 1413/1423 provided that the student has experiences equal to 4 hours credit), 1500, 2100, 2300, 2750, 3010, 3020, or 3030.
  • MUSC 1002, 2000, 2102, 2122, 2142.


Demonstrating significant experience in creating art objects or demonstrating a prescribed level of competence in the performing arts by:

  • completing four semesters of private study of voice or an instrument, or completing four semesters of class piano, or
  • completing four semester hours in studio art, or
  • completing four semester hours in Singers or a music ensemble, or
  • completing significant participation in four faculty-directed Theatre Department productions.



Frank and Rachel Anne Laney Award

The Frank and Rachel Anne Laney Award recognizes the graduating senior who has written the finest essay reflecting on the value of a Millsaps liberal arts education.

In order to satisfy the Core 10 requirement, all graduating seniors must submit essays in which they reflect on the value of their liberal arts education. A faculty panel chooses ten finalists whose papers are published as a record of the seniors' reflections. The one winning essay is then selected each year for the Laney Award based upon its excellence in thought and expression. In order to pass down the wisdom of the graduating seniors, the winning paper will become required reading for incoming freshmen the following year.

The award was established in honor of Frank and Rachel Anne Laney as a tribute to their commitment to excellence in higher education. Dr. Laney was a professor of history for 34 years at Millsaps. During his tenure he served as Dean of the College from 1962-1969 and chaired the History Department from 1971-1984, during which time he was named Distinguished Professor of the Year. In 1987, he helped organize and lead the College's successful effort to secure a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter. Mrs. Laney was Frank's best friend and is loved by all who meet her. She is gracious and supportive to faculty and staff alike and attended nearly every event at Millsaps - student recitals, Singers and Players performances, football games, lecture events, and ceremonial occasions. In short, Dr. and Mrs. Laney worked tirelessly on behalf of the College.

Millsaps prides itself on being an institution that teaches students not what to think, but how to think - and we now have the Laney Award to honor and preserve our students' thoughts about the College and our philosophy of teaching and of the life well lived.

The Frank and Rachel Anne Laney Award is made possible through the generosity of the Phil Hardin Foundation.

See a list of recipients.


Core Offices

The Core Office will direct students to the appropriate faculty members for administrative solutions as needed to re-evaluate transcripts, to waive Core 1 or other Core courses, and to solve scheduling problems for Core classes. You may also contact the following faculty members by e-mail for specific problems: