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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 1010 + VLST 1020 or VLST 1030 are required before declaring the Visual Studies Major. 

—VLST 1010: Eye, Mind, and Image

and either

—VLST 1020: 2-Dimensions - Form and Meaning or VLST 1030: 3-Dimensions - Time and Space

*ArchPT concentrators must complete VLST 1020 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 3010—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 2110 (PSYC 111/1340) Perception or VLST 2170 (PSYC 2240/NRSC 2217) Visual Neuroscience

—VLST 2120 (PSYC 4340) Research Experience in Perception or VLST 3050: What is an Image?

—VLST 2210 (PHIL 2640) Philosophy of Mind or VLST 2220 (PHIL 3623) Philosophy of Perception or VLST 2230 (PHIL 4843) Philosophy & Visual Perception or PHIL 1380 Aesthetics

B. Art and the Culture of Seeing

—VLST 2320 (ARTH 1020) Renaissance to Contemporary or ARTH 2780 or ARTH 2860

—VLST 2330 (ARTH 1030/EALC 0100) East Asian Art and Civilization or VLST 2340 (ARTH 1040) South Asian Art and Civilization or VLST 2350 (ARTH 2350) Islamic Civilization and its Visual Culture (only one of these four courses can count toward stage 2)

—VLST 2360 (ARTH 2940) Art Now (previously ARTH 287) or VLST 3030: The Rise of Image Culture

C. Art Practice and Technology

—VLST 1020 or VLST 1030 (whichever was not completed in Stage I)

plus one of the following

VLST 2610 (FNAR 1010) Video 1 or VLST 2530 (FNAR 0010) Drawing 1 or VLST 2640 (DSGN 0010) Art, Design and Digital Culture: or one of these courses: VLST 2500 (FNAR 1100) Introduction to Printmaking; VLST 2520 (FNAR 145) Sculpture Practices; VLST 260 (FNAR 1020) Photography Practices; VLST 2510 (FNAR 1030) Introduction to Photography; VLST 2650 (FNAR 1040) 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 1020: Introduction to Design


—ARCH 2010: 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 2020 (1.5 c.u. Design Fundamentals II) + 3 additional c.u. in ARCH (e.g. ARCH 0111, 3010) + 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 3050 can count, and for Sector B, VLST 3030 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 3950: Senior Thesis Semiar