The Rochester Curriculum

The Rochester Curriculum promotes student choice.

Our students pursue a major and choose two clusters that interest them rather than follow a complex group of general education or foundation requirements. Clusters are three-course sequences within a division (Humanities, Natural Sciences, and Social Sciences) or department. Each student studies a major in one division and a cluster in each of the other two divisions. Students in engineering take only one cluster in another field.

Our students have the opportunity to choose among hundreds of faculty-designed three-course clusters or modify and even custom design their own. Students take ownership of their academic program, within the framework we provide, and can study what they love.

Typically, students do this one of two ways:

  1. Study a common problem or subject from a variety of viewpoints—While the major is within one academic division and each cluster is within one of the other two, each set of courses provides a different perspective on the same topic.

    OR
  2. Find clusters unrelated to their major—Each cluster, with its linked courses, facilitates the acquisition of competence in an area outside the major.

Being able to take such a broad view across a range of disciplines is the hallmark of a liberal arts education. By encouraging students to explore and discover ideas and how they connect, the University of Rochester prepares them to take their places as scholars, scientists, leaders, and engaged citizens.

Student Views:

Erica Wellington, health and society major from Needham, Mass.

Erica says she was intrigued by the freedom to chart her own academic course. “You’re not set into anything your freshman year. There’s a lot of freedom with the class choices.”

Erica completed a cluster in biology, which was her original major, and a cluster in philosophy with a focus on ethics. Both complement her major in health & society, a Rochester program that takes a broad interdisciplinary approach to the study of health care policy, administration, and planning. She found her cluster work so appealing that she turned both of them into minors.

The flexibility to follow her interests was important in her choice of college. “That was one of the major reasons I came to the University of Rochester—because of the open curriculum.”

Kali Cohn, political science major from Basking Ridge, N.J.

Kali says the Rochester Curriculum clearly stood out when she was looking at college choices. “I really like our curriculum,” she says. “I’ve a had a lot of room to try a lot of different things, and I think that’s extremely valuable.”

Kali began her academic studies as an English major, but over the course of her studies found herself gravitating toward international law, so she switched to political science with a minor in legal studies. By combining her English department courses in debate, rhetoric, and theater, she was able to round out her legal studies minor. And while she admits she was excited about not being required to take assigned mathematics and science courses while in college, she completed a cluster in brain & cognitive sciences, which she says, turned out to include some of her favorite courses.

“I think it’s very valuable to make people think outside their academic boxes,” she says.

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