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Majors take courses across the Visual Studies Curriculum as well as develop a concentration in one of four areas. In Sector A students learn about the physiology and psychology of seeing; perception of color, movement, space, objects, and events; and issues in philosophy of vision from ancient to contemporary. In Sector B students explore the status of images as representations or models of visual experience and as bearers of information, and they develop skills in interpreting artifacts visually. Sector C enables students to develop skills in the making of art ranging from the two- and three-dimensional to the digital and time-based media, and includes both fine arts and architecture tracks.



Certification of the major requires 15 or 16 course units in four stages. (Sector A, Sector B, and Sector C ArtPT require 15 c.u.; Sector C ArchPT requires 16 c.u.) 

All courses must be taken for a grade. Only grades of C+ and higher are applied to the major. 



The major is structured with four possible concentrations:

Sector A | Philosophy and Science of Seeing (PAS)

Sector B | Art and Culture of Seeing (ACS)

Sector C | Art Practice and Technology (ArtPT)


Sector C | Architecture Practice and Technology (ArchPT)

Students develop a specialization in one of these areas, which serves as the foundation for original work in a year-long senior thesis. 



The Visual Studies Curriculum is organized into four stages.  

Stage 1. Two Core Courses in Visual Studies (2 c.u.)
Stage 2. Seven Core Courses across sectors (7 c.u.)
Stage 3. Concentration Requirements (5 c.u. or 6 c.u.)
(PAS, ACS, and ArtPT, 4 c.u. in concentration + 1 c.u. outside of concentration)                                                               (ArchPT, 4.5 c.u. in concentration + 1 c.u.  outside of concentration)
Stage 4. Senior Thesis Seminar (.5 c.u. each semester, 1 c.u. total)


Stage 1. Two Core Courses in Visual Studies (2 c.u.)

In Stage 1 students complete two interdisciplinary courses designed specifically to introduce students to Visual Studies as a cross-disciplinary practice. VLST 101 + VLST 102 or VLST 103 are required before declaring the Visual Studies Major. 

—VLST 101: Eye, Mind, and Image

and either

—VLST 102: 2-Dimensions - Form and Meaning or VLST 103: 3-Dimensions - Time and Space

*ArchPT concentrators must complete VLST 102 in Stage 1.  


Stage 2. Seven Core Courses (7 c.u.)

(ArchPT, 7.5 c.u. in concentration)
In addition to a sequence of introductory courses, Visual Studies majors take courses in three broad areas (Sectors). The Sectors ensure both sufficient breadth and specialized depth of study.

All majors must complete VLST 301: What is Visual Studies? 

—VLST 301—What is Visual Studies?  Seminar. Engages vision and visual products drawing on the core disciplines of the major, allowing students to compare and integrate the various approaches. This course should be taken after VLST 101, and ideally in the junior year. The course aims to help inspire ideas for the senior thesis projects. 


2 courses from each sector, chosen from an approved list. 

A. Philosophy and Science of Seeing

—VLST 211 (PSYC 111) Perception or VLST 217 (PSYC 217/BIBB 217) Visual Neuroscience

—VLST 212 (PSYC/CSE 311) Research Experience in Perception or VLST 305: What is an Image?

—VLST 221 (PHIL/PPE 244) Philosophy of Mind or VLST 222 (PHIL 330) Philosophy of Perception or VLST 223 (PHIL 223/423) Philosophy & Visual Perception

B. Art and the Culture of Seeing

—VLST 232 (ARTH 102) Renaissance to Contemporary or ARTH 278 or ARTH 286

—VLST 233 (ARTH 103/EALC 013) East Asian Art and Civilization or VLST 234 (ARTH 104/SAST 200) South Asian Art and Civilization or VLST 235 (ARTH 235) Islamic Civilization and its Visual Culture (only one of these four courses can count toward stage 2)

—VLST 236 (ARTH 294) Art Now (previously ARTH 287) or VLST 303: The Rise of Image Culture

C. Art Practice and Technology

—VLST 102 or VLST 103 (whichever was not completed in Stage I)

plus one of the following

VLST 261 (FNAR 061) Video 1 or VLST 253 (FNAR 123) Drawing 1 or VLST 264 (FNAR 264) Art, Design and Digital Culture: or one of these courses: VLST 250 (FNAR250) Introduction to Printmaking; VLST 252 (FNAR 145) Sculpture Practices; VLST 260 (FNAR 150) Photography Practices; VLST 251 (FNAR 271) Introduction to Photography; VLST 265 (FNAR 340) Digital Photography. (Only one of these courses can count toward stage 2.) If there is a reason to consider another course because of a student's particular interest, this be discussed with the Program Director.

C. Architecture Practice and Technology

—ARCH 102: Introduction to Design


—ARCH 201: Design Fundamentals I 

(both are required courses for the ArchPT concentration)


Stage 3. Concentration Requirements (5 c.u.)

(PAS, ACS, and ArtPT, 4 c.u. in concentration + 1 c.u. outside of concentration)                                                                 (ArchPT, 5.5 c.u. in concentration + 1 c.u.  outside of concentration)

Four courses within the student's chosen area of concentration (Sector A,B, or C ArtPT) and one from another sector. Sector C Arch PT must complete ARCH 202 (1.5 c.u. Design Fundamentals II) + 3 additional c.u. in ARCH (e.g. ARCH 111, 112, 301) + 1 c.u. in Sector A or B.

There is considerable latitude in the courses that can fill Stage 3, and course selectiion should be done with some care. Along with the choices made in Stage 2, this is where the major becomes individualized. The relevant courses are by no means limited to those with VLST numbers.

Sector A students can look to a variety of courses in PSYC and PHIL, but also courses in other departments that address the science of human experience (including the emotions and aesthetic responses) or philosophical approaches to human experience. Sector B students should consult not only Art History courses (including Cinema Studies) but also Communications and Sociology courses that have to do with art, communication, and society, and some of the seminar courses in FNAR or ARCH. Sector C students potentially have the full range of fine arts and design courses for which they qualify. In addition, courses such as those in materials science in MEAM may be relevant for Sector C. For Sector A, VLST 305 can count, and for Sector B, VLST 303 can count.

Students should choose four courses (plus the fifth breadth course) that complement one another and cohere. They should discuss their course selection with the Program Director and also with an adviser in the specific sector of their chosen concentration. There is flexibility, but course selections must be approved by the Program Director.


Stage 4. Senior Thesis Seminar (.5 c.u. each semester, 1 c.u. total)

Faculty Advisers in two different fields work with each senior to encourage thinking across boundaries. A final exhibition of thesis projects in all Sectors is the highlight of the Visual Studies academic year.

—VLST 395: Senior Thesis Semiar