Undergraduate Admissions

Strengthening the Quality of Undergraduate and Graduate Education

The College’s fundamental mission is to provide the highest quality education to students at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Achieving that goal requires that faculty strive for excellence in the quality of their own teaching and mentoring. We encourage this in many ways. Each year we recognize some of our great teachers and advisors with awards.

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But providing a high quality education also requires constantly assessing and refreshing our curriculum and the academic experience of our students.

Academic Planning Self-Study

CAS piloted an Academic Planning Self-Study in fall 2007. This self-study, completed by every department and program, was aimed at making sure we offer the courses necessary to fulfill our curricular promises with efficiency and in a way that distributes the work load fairly among faculty. During 2008/09, we institutionalized this process as an annual exercise that guides many aspects of CAS academic planning, including designing class schedules and faculty assignments, developing and responding to budget requests, planning for faculty leaves and sabbaticals, and assessing priorities in faculty recruitment.

New Degree Programs and Majors

The College’s proud tradition of excellence in the teaching of literature was renewed in 2008/2009 by the addition of two exciting and challenging undergraduate majors.

The new BA in Comparative Literature is anchored as a signature program in the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature. This collaborative major draws on faculty and coursework in the departments of Classical Studies, English, Romance Studies, and Religion. Our degree is distinctive for the enviable breadth of engagement it affords with major works of the Western, Middle Eastern, and East Asian traditions. Its three required foundational courses will also initiate students in the scholarly methods and approaches that make comparative literary studies rigorously and rewardingly comparative.

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Students will pursue at least one ancient or modern language and two literatures of their choice to the advanced level, along with upper-level electives such as “The Faust Tradition” and “1001 Nights in the World Literary Imagination” that highlight far-reaching influences among national literatures.

All students with majors or minors in comparative literature will come together for a capstone senior seminar. In addition to providing a vibrant new context for the University’s highly regarded Translation Seminar, the BA in Comparative Literature will hold special appeal as an upper-division course of study for undergraduates who have flourished in the interdisciplinary humanities sequence of the freshman-sophomore Core Curriculum.



A new BA in Chinese Language & Literature builds on strong and increasing enrollments in Chinese language through the fourth-year level, as well as new opportunities for beginning and advanced study abroad. Responding to the growing importance of China in the world economy and international affairs--and the centrality of Asia to the university’s strategic planning for globalization of research and teaching—the new major complements our interdisciplinary degree in East Asian Studies. Moreover, it serves a national need for college graduates with linguistic proficiency and deep knowledge of Chinese culture.

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All students in the major will fulfill core requirements in language, (including the option of Classical Chinese), literature (with readings to the extent possible in the original) and culture (from food to film). In addition, students will be able to match the degree to their particular interests through their choice of contextual coursework in comparative literature and linguistics, as well as optional electives from a rich menu of related offerings in the departments of Anthropology, Art History, Geography and Environment, International Relations, Philosophy, Religion, and Sociology.



Degree Collaborations across Boston University

In the spirit of “One BU,” collaborations extending to the Medical Campus produced new degree programs in public health and global development studies, with strong potential for attracting highly motivated undergraduates and master’s students. 

Beginning in fall 2009, qualified second-semester sophomores and first-semester juniors were able to apply for admission to a new dual BA/MPH program leading to a Bachelor of Arts degree from CAS and a Master’s in Public Health at BU’s School of Public Health (SPH).

Public health is an area of rapidly growing interest among current and prospective undergraduates seeking effective multi-disciplinary approaches to preventive medicine and healthcare delivery; it is second in enrollment only to Business Administration and Management among the non-CAS minors elected by our students. Along with the benefits of early admission to the School of Public Health and dual academic citizenship and mentoring on the Charles River and Medical campuses, the BA/MPH program carries the advantageous possibility of reducing the post-baccalaureate MPH component by a whole semester of time and tuition through double-counting of SPH foundational coursework in epidemiology, biostatistics, and health law as electives toward the BA.

Timely new interconnected master’s programs will lead respectively to the MA in Global Development Policy (GDP) and the MA in Global Development Economics (GDE). These degrees are designed to prepare students for a variety of careers in the planning, implementation, and evaluation of initiatives aimed at improving living standards, health, and quality of life throughout the developing world. Each degree features a comprehensive introduction to four key disciplines (international relations, development economics, third-world geography, and public health), as well as an interdisciplinary capstone course that integrates knowledge and skills acquired over the whole course of study.

new majors and minors


New Courses

In 2008/2009, 88 new undergraduate courses and 12 new graduate courses were approved—44 in the humanities, 21 in the natural and quantitative sciences, and 35 in the social sciences.

Each of the 100 newly approved courses has been designed to meet a particular need for foundational study or lead students’ intellectual development in some exciting and important new direction. From “Greek Tragedy and Film” to “Early Cognition” and “Quantum Computing,” the courses aim to impart a range of knowledge, skills, and perspectives and a variety of pedagogical approaches.

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EC 171: “Personal Lifestyle Economics,” is a good example of the unique opportunities that leading scholars on our faculty make available to all BU undergraduates without prerequisite. Students in this course with Warren Professor of Economics Laurence Kotlikoff will learn the principles and basic math of economic decision-making by focusing on choices about education, careers, family, and investment that will centrally affect their lives.

The new options left graduating seniors on our College curriculum review committees wishing they could extend their undergraduate years.

Several themes run through the additions to our course inventory, transcending disciplinary differences and aptly reinforcing the characteristic strengths and overarching strategic aspirations of arts and sciences education at Boston University:

  • Global reach, rooted in linguistic competence and cross-cultural knowledge. More than 40 of the new courses approved in 2008/2009 engage centrally with international or comparative content. Our commitment to global competence is further reflected not only in the cluster of courses added in the 22 ancient and modern languages we currently offer, but also in the diversity of backgrounds and goals—from heritage learners of Arabic to healthcare professionals working with Hispanic populations—these courses were designed to serve. Innovative pedagogies address language-specific challenges such as the Japanese writing system and develop advanced proficiency through the creative practices of translation and French poetry writing.

    In testimony to the priority we place on foreign language learning linked to on-campus area studies and study abroad, the National Security Education Program in June 2009 awarded $500,000 to a BU team led by Modern Languages and Comparative Literature Chair William Waters. The award aims to strengthen our programs in Arabic, Chinese, Hausa, Turkish, and Wolof, while also increasing the number of ROTC students who enroll in these Asian and West African languages, all taught in CAS and classified as critical to U.S. security and diplomatic interests.

    Instrumental in the success of that initiative, enhanced collaboration with the home office and resident directors of BU International Programs also yielded new curricula that advanced the goal of integrating meaningful study abroad opportunities with all of our academic majors. For example, students of art history are now able to spend a semester at the world-renowned Courtauld Institute of the University of London, and a new course in scientific research, including laboratory rotations, will prepare students in our Grenoble and Dresden life sciences programs for the seamless re-entry of joining a CAS faculty member’s lab group.
  • Location, Location, Location. Closer to home, new courses took advantage of partnerships and resources for learning throughout the university, city, and region:
    • The Psychology Department hosted the pilot offering of PS 200, a multidisciplinary seminar on “Autism and Society,” with lead faculty from the Schools of Law and Medicine, and students from five different Charles River colleges.
    • HI 560, a new history course on “The American Transcendentalists,” featured walks in the transcendentalists’ footsteps and work in local archives.
    • Students in ES 543, a new addition to the Marine Semester’s roster of hands-on block courses, learned about estuaries and near-shore systems by conducting intensive fieldwork at the Parker River-Plum Island Sound estuary, an hour north of Boston.
    • Our Sociology Department partnered with colleagues in the School of Education to design a two-semester sequence of courses combining sociological analysis of urban classrooms and the achievement gap, with field placement at the Trotter Elementary School in Dorchester.
  • Community-Building within the Disciplines. Continuing a College-wide trend of the last several years, Classical Studies, Astronomy, and Earth Sciences established seminars to bring their incoming graduate students as a cohort into the intellectual life of the departments and introduce them to the scholarly methods and ethical standards of the profession. New sophomore-level seminars in quantitative and behavioral biology, where the substantive focus is on discussion of leading-edge scientific papers, will serve a similar cohort-building function for undergraduates who have declared, or are considering, an upper-division specialization in one of those areas.

complete list of new courses



Other Curricular Changes

  • The Division of Religious and Theological Studies substantially revised requirements for the MA and PhD degrees, resulting in a streamlined, intellectually rigorous, and contemporary curriculum, as well as a renewed sense of community and common purpose among participating faculty from the Graduate School and School of Theology.
  • We revised the requirements of the following degree programs: BA, MA, and PhD in English; MA in International Relations and Religion; and PhD in Political Science.
  • We discontinued the five existing BA programs and minor in “continental European Literatures,” replacing them with the new undergraduate major and minor in Comparative Literature.
  • We discontinued the joint BA in Philosophy and Anthropology.
  • Cooperation with the School of Law resulted in the cross-listing of courses with CAS Philosophy and Political Science, and the exchange of information about courses likely to appeal to each unit’s students.   

National Recognition for International Relations Professional Education

The growing reputation of our International Relations Department was reaffirmed when it won acceptance as an affiliate member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) early in 2009. APSIA, an international organization whose mission is to promote excellence in professional, international affairs education, chooses programs and schools that offer graduate programs and maintain a high standard of excellence. The membership is a milestone for a department that has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two decades.

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