Liberal Studies Program and Graduation Requirements


Students who have specific questions about these requirements should contact their adviser.

Mission and Goals of the Liberal Studies Program

Through the liberal studies program, the faculty of Northern Michigan University seeks to develop in our students the skills necessary for becoming independent lifelong learners and effective citizens of a challenging and rapidly changing world. In order to complement a student’s academic major, the liberal studies program promotes the integration of knowledge derived from multiple perspectives and stresses the development of problem-solving skills and intellectual creativity through the exploration of a broad range of disciplines and fields. In pursuit of these goals, we encourage our students to be rigorous and systematic in their thought and reflective about their learning, their lives and their world.

The liberal studies program focuses on developing the following skills:

  • Ability to write and communicate clearly and effectively
  • Ability to evaluate various forms of evidence and knowledge
  • Ability to engage in analytical reasoning and argumentation
  • Ability to engage in quantitative analysis
  • Ability to engage in scientific inquiry and processes
  • Ability to see across disciplinary boundaries

NMU stresses the application of these abilities in the pursuit of:

  • Understanding cultural diversity in the United States
  • Understanding the world as a diverse and interrelated community
  • Understanding the relationship of the individual to society and its culture and institutions
  • Understanding the role of the fine and performing arts and the humanities in shaping and expressing a culture’s values and ideals
  • Understanding natural phenomena and the physical world
  • Understanding multiple problem-solving perspectives
Program Requirements

Baccalaureate degree-seeking students meet the liberal studies requirements by completing selected courses in each of the divisions listed below.

Division I: Foundations of Communication - 6-8 credits required

Division II: Foundations of Humanities - 6-8 credits required

Division III: Foundations of Natural Sciences/Mathematics - 6-8 credits required

Division IV: Foundations of Social Sciences - 6-8 credits required

Division V: Formal Communication Studies - 3-4 credits required

Division VI: Foundations of Visual and Performing Arts - 3-4 credits required

The majority of liberal studies courses at Northern Michigan University are four-credit courses, so normally students meet divisional requirements by taking the necessary number of four-credit courses from the above divisions for a total of 40 credits. However, a minimum of six semester credits (two courses) is required for each of Divisions I, II, III and IV. A minimum of three semester credits (one course) is required for each of Divisions V and VI.

At least three credits of liberal studies must be an upper division course (300+ level). This requirement can be met with a course from any division.

Students who complete liberal studies requirements with less than 40 credit hours must complete their liberal studies divisions with the minimum number of credit hours stated above. The difference between the minimum credit hours required and 40 credit hours are added to general electives.

Students in associate degree or certificate programs follow the guidelines for their program listed in the appropriate department section.

Substitute Courses

Transfer students wishing to substitute a course with no specific NMU equivalent to meet a specific divisional requirement should consult their academic adviser. If the adviser approves the request, a written recommendation justifying the request should be submitted to the Registrar’s Office. In special cases, the Registrar’s Office will confer with the Liberal Studies Committee. NMU courses not designated as liberal studies courses cannot normally be used to meet liberal studies program requirements. All exceptions to this rule must be thoroughly justified by the adviser and have the support of the department offering that course. Students should get approval of the substitution before they register for the course.

Honors Program Participants

Honors program participants take some alternate courses to complete their liberal studies requirements. For information see the “Honors Program” section of this bulletin or contact the honors program director.

Advanced Placement Examinations

Examinations are available in most divisions of the liberal studies program through the College Level Examination Program (CLEP) and the advance placement program of the College Entrance Examination Board (APP-CEEB). The university awards credit for higher level international baccalaureate courses with a score of 5. If these courses are the equivalent of NMU liberal studies courses, credit will be awarded. Information may be obtained in the Registrar’s Office. (See also the “Academic Standards, Policies and Degree Requirements” section of this bulletin.)

Graduation Requirements

There are three baccalaureate graduation requirements that students must complete. They are: (1) a laboratory science course; (2) a world cultures course; and (3) the health promotion requirement. While the baccalaureate graduation requirements are not, strictly speaking, part of the liberal studies program, they often can be fulfilled by courses that meet the various divisional liberal studies requirements.