Kalamazoo Curriculum

For sixty years, Kalamazoo College’s distinctive K-Plan has served as the foundation and focal point of the College’s curriculum. The original four components — on-campus instruction, career service internships, foreign study, and the senior individualized project — have remained at the heart of the K-Plan experience, augmented and enhanced by new opportunities such as service learning, externships, social justice leadership, and intercultural research projects. Throughout a half century, however, the underlying principles of the K-Plan have remained unchanged:

  •     * Depth and breadth in the liberal arts;
  •     * Learning through experience;
  •     * International and intercultural engagement, especially through study abroad; and
  •     * Independent scholarship, culminating in the Senior Integrated Project (SIP).

Following these principles, students construct individualized K-Plans combining activities that reflect and expand their own interests. Some activities will integrate multiple K-Plan components, since the principles suffuse and reinforce one another. For example, students may experience depth and breadth in the liberal arts while on study abroad, intercultural engagement through service learning, independent scholarship while participating in a summer internship, or experiential learning while conducting their SIP. Thus, rather than narrowly prescribing a single path for students to follow from matriculation to graduation, the guiding principles in the K-Plan encourage students to navigate their own path to an individualized, integrated liberal arts education, and provides a structure to support them while doing so.

Exploration Across the Liberal Arts

The K-Plan and its general education curriculum encourage student exploration within the liberal arts through a variety of unique opportunities, both on campus and off. Students engage with new ideas, new experiences, new perspectives, and new places as they explore diverse disciplines, a variety of cultures, and possible careers. This exploration enables them to expand their intellectual horizons and to broaden their perspective on their particular field of interest. Before each registration period, students meet with their academic advisors to discuss their plans for pursuing an education that balances pursuing new interests, further developing and integrating existing interests, and studying at least one discipline in depth through a major. Students may also broaden their learning experience by studying a second discipline or an interdisciplinary field in depth through a major or minor.

Students who wish to be considered for election to Phi Beta Kappa must demonstrate a knowledge of mathematics, take a wide variety of courses outside the major, and must include courses in the natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Shared Passages

All students take three Shared Passage courses.

First-Year Seminars constitute the gateway to the K-Plan and to college life for entering students and serve as the foundation of the Shared Passages Program. Offered in the fall quarter, these Seminars are designed to orient students to college-level learning practices, with particular emphasis on critical thinking, writing, speaking, information literacy, and intercultural engagement. In keeping with Kalamazoo College’s emphasis on intercultural education and social justice, they aim to engage students in the study of significant social and historical differences. They integrate collaborative and group work, research strategies, and effective discussions, all promoting active, engaged learning.

Additionally, the seminars are structured to improve students’ overall writing proficiency. The seminars’ overall goal is to help students find and develop a voice through writing, speaking, analytical reading, and discussion. They are intended to help each student’s writing improve and to provide all students with the knowledge, tools, and practices that will serve them in college-level writing. Seminars include a variety of types of writing: for example, response papers, essays, structured reflection, journals, art reviews, reading summaries, research reports, annotated bibliographies, etc.  Additionally, students complete frequent, short assignments, with ample feedback and opportunities for revision, emphasizing a variety of types of writing.

First-Year Seminars are linked to academic advising, the First-Year Experience program, Upjohn Library, and the Writing Center. They create connections with the components of the K-Plan; depth and breadth in the liberal arts, learning through experience, international and intercultural engagement, and independent scholarship.

Transfer students and students who do not pass the First-Year Seminar must work with the Registrar’s Office who will, in consultation with the Associate Provost and Dean of the First Year Class, determine how the First-Year Seminar requirement will be met.

Sophomore seminars build upon the learning goals of the First-Year Seminars, focusing on a particular topic or question viewed from multiple perspectives. Learning goals include intercultural proficiency and the ability to differentiate between observation and interpretation (both critical skills for study abroad and experiential education in general), as well as enhanced writing and oral presentation abilities. As in the First-Year Seminars, information literacy and enhanced research skills remain a key component of Shared Passages.

Students who transfer to the College after the sophomore year and students who do not pass the sophomore seminar must work with the Registrar’s Office who will, in consultation with the Associate Provost and Dean of the Sophomore Class, identify an appropriate substitution.

Senior-level courses in the Shared Passages Program focus on integrating students’ Kalamazoo College experiences and preparing them for lives beyond ‘K.’ Disciplinary senior seminars integrate students’ experiences inside and outside a particular major, while interdisciplinary senior seminars provide a liberal arts capstone experience, allowing students from a variety of majors to apply diverse aspects of their Kalamazoo College education to a specific topic or problem.

Students who do not pass their senior seminar may find that completion of their degree is delayed. They must work with the Registrar’s Office, in consultation with the Associate Provost and Dean of the Senior Class, to identify an appropriate substitution. If the senior seminar was also a requirement for the major, the student must work with the department chair to determine what is required to complete the major.

Students on approved 3/2 engineering or health professions early entry programs are required to meet the senior capstone requirement by working with the director of their program at Kalamazoo College to identify a single capstone course at the approved school that reasonably fits the published senior capstone guidelines. Upon transfer of the credit for this course back to Kalamazoo College, the student will have completed the senior capstone requirement.

Foreign Language Learning and Proficiency

Kalamazoo College is dedicated not only to international education and study abroad but also to proficiency in a second language. All students consequently are required to demonstrate at least an intermediate–‐level proficiency in a language other than English.

Proficiency in any language offered by the College can be demonstrated by completing the third language course (numbered 103 or 201, depending on the language) in any sequence or by scoring at a proficiency level determined by the department on an examination developed or approved by the College. Kalamazoo College regularly offers Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin and Spanish. Please see individual department policy regarding whether/how credit earned from the College Board Advanced Placement examinations and International Baccalaureate examinations applies to the language requirement in that particular language.

Students wishing to satisfy the College language requirement by taking a language not taught on campus are responsible for 1). Finding another University or College that offers the language and 2) successfully completing a course (or courses) in that language at the intermediate level. Before registering, the student must have the course (or courses) approved by the Registrar’s Office.

Students who are at least partially bilingual in a language taught on campus should take the College’s placement test and score at a proficiency level determined by that language department. Students who are at least partially bilingual in a language not taught on campus and whose formal secondary education was exclusively in English may fulfill the language requirement by demonstrating intermediate-level literacy skills in that language. A written essay test will be administered on campus and rated by a person fluent in that language. A reasonable effort will be made to provide this option to students requesting it.

Students whose formal secondary education was not exclusively in English may request to certify that they had at least two years of secondary education in a school which teaches at least 50% of its content in a language other than English. Students should contact the Registrar’s Office to request such certification.

Students with a documented language learning disability should contact Disability Services regarding accommodations for fulfilling the language proficiency requirement for graduation.

Senior Integrated Project

The Senior Integrated Project is the capstone of Kalamazoo College’s program of liberal arts education, offering students the opportunity to make use of all of their experiences at the College, including a capacity for exploration and inquiry. The SIP is an occasion for independent or group scholarship, which may be in conjunction with an internship or other creative activity that results in a written report, performance, or exhibit. Rather than selecting only a subset of students to work on an honors project or thesis, the College considers such work a significant part of the education of all Kalamazoo College students and requires it of all seniors. The requirement is waived for students participating in 3/2 engineering programs, as they are not at the College for their senior year.

The Senior Integrated Project is a college graduation requirement, not a requirement for any department or program (except the Independent Interdisciplinary Major). The SIP requirement is often completed in the student’s major department, but students may complete a SIP in any department or program of the College or outside of those areas with the approval of a faculty SIP supervisor. Departments and programs, or supervisors set their own requirements for senior projects done under their auspices, including the range of acceptable projects, the required background of students doing projects, the format of the SIP, and the expected scope and depth of projects. As a capstone experience, the SIP can build upon the student’s previous coursework and other experiences or be an application of the critical thinking and liberal inquiry that form the basis of new learning. SIPs may be either one or two units, with the amount of credit to be determined by the student and the faculty SIP supervisor. In consultation with the faculty SIP supervisor, and within the constraints set by the relevant department or program, students determine their project’s form and the environment in which it is to be pursued.

A number of departments and programs host symposia, recitals, exhibitions, or theatrical productions in which results of research or creative work are featured. The College reserves the right to archive student SIPs within academic departments, the Upjohn Library and/or an online digital archive, and to publish SIP titles and the titles of SIP presentations.

General Information about SIPs

  • Every senior must complete a Senior Integrated Project (SIP). Every SIP must have a faculty supervisor. SIPs may be completed within any department or program (including an Independent Interdisciplinary Major), or they may be completed outside of these areas.
  • Each student must complete at least a 1-unit SIP. Departments and programs have the option of allowing or requiring a 2-unit SIP.
  • A student may split a SIP between two departments, whether it be 1 or 2 units. In such cases, the student may have more than one faculty SIP supervisor.
  • Since students cannot earn a SIP unit in the Spring of their senior year, they should wait no later than the Fall of their senior year before finding a SIP supervisor and identifying a project. Many departments or programs expect or require the process to begin even earlier than senior Fall.
  • The SIP does not necessarily have to be done in the major department, although most SIPs are done in the major or in one or both departments of a double major. Some majors strongly encourage their students to do their SIP in the major. Many departments and programs have specific prerequisites that must be met before doing a SIP within that department or program.
  • All departments and programs provide written guidelines or requirements for SIPs done within their disciplines, and those completed with non-departmental supervisors will negotiate such expectations at the start of the project. Ask your faculty SIP supervisor for guidelines early in the process. SIPs may take the following forms:
    • Research thesis or reading project culminating in review paper
    • Internship with a paper relating theory to practice
    • Laboratory or field research with a paper
    • Translation with appropriate explanation
    • Creative work culminating in an exhibition, performance, and/or written work
  • Under extenuating circumstances, with approval of the Department or Program Chair, IIM committee, or non-departmental SIP supervisor (in collaboration with the Associate Provost), advanced coursework at Kalamazoo College or another institution may be substituted for the SIP
  • Potential faculty SIP supervisors are not obliged to approve every SIP proposal that is presented to them. You may have to meet certain prerequisites, or you may have to adjust your ideas or modify your proposal, before it gains the approval of a SIP supervisor. Identify a SIP supervisor early in the process and then work with that person to develop a project that will be interesting, significant, and meaningful to you.

The SIP Quarter

  • Students may conduct SIP work over the summer (as part of an extended fall term), during the fall quarter, or during the winter quarter.
  • The SIP quarter will be included in any financial aid package you already receive. A SIP is charged as part of a regular quarter load (2 to 4 units of course work carries the same tuition fee). A summer SIP will be registered in the Extended Fall term and included in the Fall tuition billing.
  • Students may not overload while working on their SIP. With the exception of performance-based SIPs in specific departments, which may have partial units spread over multiple quarters, students will have at least one “SIP quarter” in which at least one unit is devoted to the SIP. During this term students may take no more than 2 non-SIP courses (not counting partial credit courses). Students completing performance-based SIPs will have the term in which the greatest percentage of their SIP is registered designated as their SIP quarter and may not overload in this quarter.
Sip UnitsMaximum Additional Coursework Allowed
1 Unit Summer SIP3 courses (up to 3.9 units) in Fall
2 Unit Summer/Fall SIP2 courses (up to 2.9 units) in Fall
2 Unit Summer/Winter SIP3 courses (up to 3.9 units) in Fall;
2 courses (up to 2.9 units) in Winter;
Summer component must be finished before Fall term
1 Unit Fall SIP2 courses (up to 2.9 units) in Fall
2 Unit Fall SIP1 course (up to 1.9 units) in Fall
2 Unit Fall/Winter SIP2 courses (up to 2.9 units) each in Fall and Winter
1 Unit Winter SIP2 courses (up to 2.9 units) in Winter
2 Unit Winter SIP1 course (up to 1.9 units) in Winter
Multi-term Performance SIP in Art or Music  Depends on portion of SIP unit registered each term

SIP Registration Policies

The SIP counts as one or two course unit(s) for the term(s) during which it is counted, but the SIP is registered via a separate process from class registration. The SIP registration process involves an electronic form on the Registrar’s Website, which must be submitted to the Registrar’s office by the student herself/himself. This electronic form has its own set of deadlines:

SIP QuarterRegistration Form Due
All SIPs involving work over the summer (as part of an extended fall term)Friday of 10th Week, Junior Spring Quarter
Fall and Fall/Winter SIPsFriday of 1st Week, Senior Fall Quarter
Winter SIPsFriday of 1st Week, Senior Winter Quarter
  • Some departments may also require a SIP proposal or contract, which should be submitted to your SIP department.  Your department’s SIP contract deadline may be earlier than the normal SIP registration deadline, in which case it is recommended that you turn your SIP registration form in to the Registrar’s Office at the same time that you submit the contract to your department. Some departments require all SIP proposals to be submitted in the spring.  Submitting a SIP proposal to your department does not constitute registration for your SIP; you must officially register by submitting a registration form to the Registrar’s Office in order to receive a grade or earn credit for a SIP.
  • The SIP registration form requires your signature and the signature of your faculty SIP supervisor (the person who will evaluate and grade your work). Many departments also designate a SIP coordinator. Find out from your department who your coordinator will be.
  • Any changes to SIP registrations must be made in the Registrar’s Office by the end of the drop/add period of the quarter of registration (end of the first week of Fall quarter for Summer and Fall units; end of the first week of Winter quarter for Winter units). This includes dropping a SIP, changing your department or SIP advisor, changing the number of units, etc.
  • After the end of the drop/add period, you may withdraw from a SIP as you would from any other class, and the SIP will appear on your transcript with a grade of W.  The withdrawal period for SIPs ends on Friday of the first week of the term following the SIP quarter (the end of the drop/add period for the following term).
  • Overloading is not permitted during a SIP quarter. Work completed over the summer as part of an extended fall SIP is the exception; students with a summer SIP unit may either take up to 3 full-unit courses or 2 full-unit courses and a fall SIP unit during the regular fall term. (Registration above 3.9 units is considered an overload.)
  • A student may not take 1 unit of SIP as their only course during a quarter unless that is the only unit they need to graduate.
  • If a student drops, withdraws from, or fails a SIP, the original SIP advisor is not obligated to supervise a second SIP with that student.

SIP Deadlines for Students and Faculty

  • Each Department, Program, or IIM Committee is responsible for establishing and implementing specific SIP deadlines within the SIP quarter (the term in which the bulk of the work on the SIP is to take place). This may include deadlines for drafts, interim feedback, revisions, presentations, etc.
  • For all SIPs, the final copy (i.e., no more revisions) is due to the SIP supervisor no later than Friday of second week of the term following the SIP quarter. For Summer SIPs, this means second week of the Fall quarter, even though Summer SIPs appear with the Fall registration. Students are expected to be completely finished with all work associated with the SIP by that time, with the possible exception of departmental or program symposia in later terms.
  • Faculty shall submit Credit/No Credit grades by Friday of 6th week of the quarter following a registered SIP unit. For departments with partial SIP units extending into Spring, that partial unit grade is due by 6th week of the Spring quarter. A grade of Credit may be upgraded to Honors (e.g., after a Spring departmental symposium) until the end of Spring quarter.
  • The time lag between students turning in completed SIPs and faculty deadlines for turning in grades should not be interpreted as extra time for students to make revisions to the SIP. Work on the SIP in a quarter in which the student is not registered for SIP credit is consider an “invisible overload” for the students and is against College policy.

SIP Grades

  • The SIP will receive a grade of Honors (H), Credit (CR), or No Credit (NC). If you complete a SIP in two departments, you may be graded separately by each department. The SIP grade is not included in the cumulative GPA calculation, though it is recorded on the academic transcript along with the title of the project. There are no college-wide rules regarding length or breadth of paper that determine the difference between a CR and an H; the grade is determined solely by evaluators within the academic department or program, with the input of any outside mentors the student may have consulted.
  • Students who register for a 2-unit SIP but only complete enough work to earn 1 unit will receive a grade of CR for one unit and a grade of NC for the other unit.  Faculty may also award a CR for one unit and an H grade for a second unit of a 2-unit SIP.
  • An “In-Progress” notation (IP) indicates that a SIP is continuing beyond the end of the quarter.
  • Incompletes will only be issued in consultation with the faculty SIP supervisor, and only in the event of a verified serious illness or family emergency. An incomplete will not be granted for poor or neglected work.

PE/Wellness Unit

The College requires all students to successfully complete one unit of physical education or wellness activity classes (typically five classes). PED 101 (Mind/Body) counts as two activities and may not be repeated. PE/Wellness activities are graded CR/NC. Only one unit of PE/Wellness activities may be counted toward graduation; students may participate in additional activities but will not earn additional units towards graduation.

Full-unit, credit-bearing courses, PED 205, 210 and 598, are separate from the PE/Wellness activities; they apply as separate units toward graduation rather than toward the five activities requirement.

Transfer credit may be applied toward the PE/Wellness unit requirement.

Majors, Minors, and Concentrations

Completion of a Major

Each student is expected to pursue a passion and develop expertise in at least one academic discipline or interdisciplinary area. A major is required for graduation; students may supplement this by completing a second disciplinary major or minor or by integrating courses from several disciplines.

Majors programs are designed to move from the broad to the specific through a sequence of core and elective courses. Upper-level majors courses usually delve deeply into a specific topic, and students can shape a particular emphasis within a major through their choice of upper-level courses. No matter what the discipline, all majors programs build skills in written and oral expression, information literacy, critical thinking and analysis, creative problem-solving, and independent scholarship.

Each major consists of a minimum of eight units plus cognates. The specific requirements for all major programs are documented in the Academic Programs section of this catalog. Students are required to declare a major during the winter of their sophomore year. The major program of study may be changed thereafter by filing a Change of Major form in the Registrar’s office. If a double major is chosen, students must meet the requirements of both programs, including comprehensive examinations (if required). The number of units from study abroad that may count toward the major is determined by the department or program. See the Requirements for the Major for the specific departmental requirements.

  • Students may not double count a single course to meet multiple major or minor requirements (two different requirements for a single major or minor, requirements for two different majors or minors, or requirements for a major and a minor) except that requirements for the IAS major may be used to satisfy another major or minor. A single course may meet the requirements for a major and be a cognate course for another major or a minor.
  • All courses taken in the major field of study and that major’s associated cognates must be at C- or better.

Transfer units may be used toward majors, minors, and concentrations at the discretion of the faculty in the associated department or program. Many departments have limits on the number of credits from outside Kalamazoo College that may count toward the program.


A minor consists of a minimum of six units within one department, all of which must be earned at a grade of C- or better. A minor is not required for graduation, but may be used by the student to strengthen a knowledge base different from or complementary to the required major program. Courses taken in a minor program may not also count toward a major or another minor.


A concentration consists of a minimum of six interdisciplinary units, all of which must be earned at a grade of C- or better. A concentration is not required for graduation, but may be used by the student to strengthen a knowledge base different from or complementary to the required major program. A course used for a concentration may also count for a major or a minor.

Outcomes of a Kalamazoo College Education

The mission of Kalamazoo College is to prepare its graduates to better understand, live successfully within, and provide enlightened leadership to a richly diverse and increasingly complex world.  The entirety of the Kalamazoo College student experience, including deep knowledge in a chosen academic discipline, supports this mission.  Institutional learning outcomes also advance this mission by enabling graduates to:

  • Communicate effectively
  • Address complex problems
  • Collaborate successfully
  • Demonstrate intercultural competency