May 28, 2024  
2024-25 Catalog 
2024-25 Catalog

The Educational Program

The Reed educational program pays particular attention to a balance between broad study in the various areas of human knowledge and close, in-depth study in a recognized academic discipline. All students take a one-year course in humanities. Distribution requirements that include the arts and humanities, social sciences, mathematics, languages, and natural sciences expose the student to many different methods of intellectual inquiry. Typically, students begin to focus on one particular field by the close of their sophomore year. In declaring a major, students work with their faculty adviser to plan a program that meets departmental, divisional, and college requirements. They take a qualifying examination in their major field at the end of their junior year. Seniors engage in a one-year research project and prepare and defend a thesis based on that research.


Reed students have the opportunity to major in a wide variety of department-based or interdisciplinary fields. See Programs  for a list of available majors.

To supplement established majors, ad hoc programs that link two or more disciplines may be approved. The student’s advisers (one from each of the relevant departments) and the departments concerned must review and approve the proposed program.


A student may elect to complete a minor in fields where a minor has been established. Minors typically require five or six courses, and represent an identifiable level of achievement within the relevant field. Classes taken in the student’s major department or, in the case of interdisciplinary majors, in the student’s major departments cannot be counted towards a minor.

Departments or programs that offer majors are not required to offer minors. Ad hoc minors are not available, even by petition. There is no limit on the number of minors a student can complete. Available minors are listed below.

The minor shall be declared by completion and submission of the declaration of minor to the registrar’s office. This must be approved by the adviser and by a faculty member in the minor field to indicate that the curricular expectations of the minor have been explained and discussed with the student. The completion of a minor will be recorded when the student graduates. See Programs  for a list of available minors.

Course Numbering

Introductory courses that have no prerequisites are 100-level courses, 200-level courses are introductory courses that normally have some prerequisite, 300-level courses are intended for students with a background in the discipline, and 400-level courses are advanced courses with more than one prerequisite.

For the most part, courses considered basic to the discipline of a department are given every year. In addition, departments expand their offerings by including work in other areas in a two- or three-year cycle.

Degree Requirements

To be eligible to receive the bachelor of arts degree from Reed College, students must fulfill eight basic requirements:

  1. sufficient units of academic work,
  2. college distribution requirements including Humanities 110,
  3. the physical education/community engagement/experiential learning requirement,
  4. major departmental requirements,
  5. divisional requirements (except for the Arts, Mathematical and Natural Sciences, and Philosophy, Religion, Psychology, and Linguistics divisions),
  6. junior qualifying examination,
  7. senior thesis, and
  8. senior oral examination.

See Degree Requirements  for details and guidelines for distribution requirements.

Sufficient Units of Academic Work

See Degree Requirements  for credit requirement details.

Distribution Requirements & Learning Outcomes

The course distribution required of all Reed undergraduates is carefully designed and frequently reevaluated to ensure that students become broadly proficient in the arts and sciences signified by a liberal education.

The three-unit Humanities 110 requirement engages students with important questions, concepts, and historical moments and develops many of the skills required for succeeding at Reed: writing, active preparation, and conference participation.

In order that students study a wide array of disciplinary methods, understandings, objects, and approaches, students are also required to take three units within the following three broad groupings of the liberal arts:

  • Humanities and the Arts (Group I);
  • History and Social Science (Group II); and
  • Natural, Mathematical, and Psychological Science (Group III).

So that students develop both a broad understanding of the methods of each grouping and a sustained understanding of the methods of one discipline within each grouping, students are required to take two of the three units in the same subject and one of the three in a second subject. To ensure that all students are involved in primary data collection and the analysis of those data, at least one of the units used for Group III must be substantially devoted to this; and, in order that students be exposed to a range of classes in the humanities and arts, no more than two units in Group I can be from language classes or from literature classes.

Students must complete three units from each of the following four categories:

Humanities 110

Learning Outcomes: After successfully completing their humanities requirement, students will be able to:

  • Craft, analyze, critique, and defend arguments using evidence;
  • Express ideas in writing persuasively;
  • Frame questions that elicit productive analysis;
  • Contribute constructively to a classroom discussion.

Distribution Group I

Learning Outcomes: After completing their Group I requirement, students will be able to

  • Understand how arguments can be made, visions presented, or feelings or ideas conveyed through language or other modes of expression (symbols, movement, images, sounds, etc.);
  • Analyze and interpret texts, whether literary or philosophical, in English or a non-English language, or works of the visual or performing arts;
  • Evaluate arguments made in or about texts (whether literary or philosophical, in English or a non-English language, or works of the visual or performing arts).

Distribution Group II

Learning Outcomes: After completing their Group II requirement, students will be able to

  • Evaluate data and/or sources;
  • Analyze institutions, formations, languages, structures, or processes, whether social, political, religious, economic, cultural, intellectual, or other;
  • Think in sophisticated ways about causation, social and/or historical change, human cognition, or the relationship between individuals and society, or engage with social, political, religious, or economic theory in other areas.

Distribution Group III

Learning Outcomes: After completing their Group III requirement, students will be able to

  • Use and evaluate quantitative data or modeling, or use logical/mathematical reasoning to evaluate, test or prove statements;
  • Given a problem or question, formulate a hypothesis or conjecture, design an experiment, and collect data or use mathematical reasoning to test or validate it;
  • Collect, interpret, and analyze data.

See Degree Requirements  for details and guidelines for distribution requirements.

Physical Education/Community Engagement/Experiential Learning

Satisfactory completion of approved activities is required before graduation. See Degree Requirements  for more details.

Major requirements

See the individual Programs  for program specific requirements.

Divisional requirements

See the Divisional Requirements: History and Social Sciences  or Divisional Requirements: Literature and Languages  for divisional requirements.

Admission to a Major

Students must declare a major once they have completed 16 or more units, and should declare no later than the end of the sophomore year. If a student is enrolled in courses the completion of which would bring the student’s total number of units to 16 or more, the student will not be allowed to register for subsequent semesters until declaring a major. A student achieves junior standing and comes under the jurisdiction of one of the established divisions or one of the established interdisciplinary committees of the college after completing a minimum of 13 units of coursework and filing an approved declaration of major form, indicating the completion of the required introductory work and outlining the remainder of the program to be taken in order to graduate.

In addition to the declaration of major, students declaring a double major or an ad hoc interdisciplinary major must also file a statement of the rationale for such a major. The departments involved will review the statement to evaluate the rationale for the proposed program. The appropriate departments, divisions, and committees are expected to review the records of all newly declared juniors and advise them whether the proposed program of study is satisfactory, or whether certain course changes are required. Specific course and credit distribution requirements for majors are detailed in the descriptions of the departmental and interdisciplinary programs.

Junior Qualifying Examination

After declaring the major, students must pass a qualifying examination administered by the major department and/or interdisciplinary committee before being allowed to begin a thesis in the senior year. Typically, these examinations are given near the end of the junior year. The objectives of the qualifying examination are to gauge the student’s mastery of the discipline or related disciplines, to serve as a diagnostic aid in identifying weaknesses in the student’s preparation for advanced study or thesis work in that discipline, to assist the student in unifying the knowledge of a major field of study, and to assist the major department or interdivisional committee in assessing the effectiveness of its own program. It is possible that a student who does not demonstrate competence in a field may be required to take further work. The review may also identify those who appear to need more time to develop their capabilities for the sustained independent work of the senior thesis. A second failure of the qualifying examination will debar the student from candidacy for a degree in that department. The student may be encouraged to transfer to another department or division.

The qualifying examination is not meant to qualify only the best students and in actuality does not operate that way. The student’s performance in the examination as well as in all previous coursework is discussed in full departmental or interdisciplinary committee meetings to assess the student’s readiness to begin work on a thesis.

Senior Thesis and Oral Examination

The distinctive feature of a student’s senior year is the sustained investigation of a carefully defined problem-experimental, critical, or creative-chosen from the major field and is considered one part of an overall senior-year program. The problem is selected, then developed through the year by the student, with the support of the faculty thesis adviser. At the conclusion of the year, the student submits to community scrutiny a thesis describing the problem and its attempted resolution.

The thesis involves substantially more than the writing of a long paper in a course; it requires the development of new knowledge and a wide variety of skills and permits students to integrate all aspects of their academic experience.

The candidate for graduation takes a final comprehensive two-hour oral review under the direction of the major division, department, and/or interdisciplinary committee. The oral examination may cover the work of the student’s entire program, but emphasis is on the thesis and major field. The committee of examiners typically includes faculty members from the student’s own department and division; faculty members from a second division; and, on occasion, professionals from outside the college.

Teaching Methods

Instruction at Reed College emphasizes learning as a common adventure of students and teachers in which both cooperate closely in classes, group discussions, laboratories, studios, and individual conferences. The faculty seeks to deal with students as individuals with differences in experience, attitudes, and interests that have important bearing on their development. On their part, students are expected to recognize the responsibility placed upon them to participate actively in the intellectual life of the college, to discover their educational objectives, and to strive to attain them.

The methods of instruction vary with the subject matter of the courses, the number in the class, and the judgment and preferred pedagogy of the instructor. Most courses are characterized by teaching based on conferences, studios, or laboratories, in which students and faculty members work closely together. In conferences ideas, facts, methods of analysis, and interpretations are exchanged, challenged, and defended by both students and faculty members, who jointly share responsibility for the learning process. Laboratory-based teaching allows students to become familiar with science as an active process of continuing inquiry. Studio courses provide intensive experience in the study and practice of artistic disciplines.

In the junior and senior year, independent work is given greater importance as the student selects a major focus for study. The culmination of this experience is the senior thesis, in which the student researches a topic with the guidance of a faculty adviser.

Many departments hold weekly seminars in which there are presentations by faculty, students, and visiting scholars. Frequent lectures and symposia further expand the opportunities for intellectual exchange available to Reed students.


Reed College encourages students to measure academic achievement by self-assessment of their grasp of course material and intellectual growth. Students’ work is closely observed and frequently evaluated by faculty instructors. Students receive frequent written and oral comments on their work.

The college does not wish to divide students by labels of achievement. While a conventional letter grade for each course is recorded for every student, the registrar’s office does not distribute grades to students. Students may access an unofficial transcript if they wish to do so. Unsatisfactory grades are reported directly to the student and the student’s adviser. Students are encouraged to discuss the evaluation of their work in individual conferences with their faculty instructors and advisers. 

Student progress in all courses is reviewed six times each year: at the fourth and eighth weeks and at the end of each semester. In addition to the course grade, faculty members submit comments giving their assessment of the student’s difficulties when a student’s work is incomplete or below the expected standard. At the end of each semester, the progress of first- and second-year students is reviewed by the Administration Committee of the faculty, and that of upper-division students by the divisions in which they are majoring. Faculty comments are considered along with the grade record in deciding whether an academic action should be taken.

Academic Advising

Each student has a faculty adviser who offers guidance and counseling on program, performance, and career goals. An adviser is assigned initially according to the student’s interests and may be changed at the request of the student through the registrar’s office.

All students should confer with their advisers at least three times during the year: at the beginning of the year to review their planned course of study, at the beginning of the second semester for an overall review of progress, and in the spring at the time of registration for course selection and program planning for the following year. Additionally, every new student should confer with the adviser following the first progress review in the fall. Every student in academic difficulty should confer with their adviser and with the instructor in each course where performance has been unsatisfactory.

All faculty members hold regular office hours to discuss students’ progress and performance in their courses. The dean of students and other members of the student life staff are also available to discuss educational and personal concerns. The registrar’s office manages the assignment of academic advisers for continuing students. Students who wish to explore changing advisers should check with the registrar’s office for assistance.

Instructional Resources

The Office of Academic Support: Academic, Quantitative, and Writing Skills; Peer Tutoring

The Office of Academic Support, housed in the Dorothy Johansen House (DoJo), offers academic coaching on quantitative skills and academic/study skills, as well as peer tutoring for many subjects and skill areas, including writing, biology, chemistry, computer science, economics, languages, mathematics, and physics.

Professional staff members offer coaching in skills such as reading effectively, studying for exams, and time management, as well as quantitative skills for math, science, and social science courses. Peer tutors are fellow undergraduates who have a deep understanding of Reed’s approach to academics. Tutors have been recommended by their professors and are trained not to provide answers, but guidance to augment and develop student learning.

These free resources are available to students at all stages of their Reed career. Students should discuss with their adviser how academic support can help them manage the demands of Reed’s challenging coursework.

To learn more about academic support services and resources available at Reed, visit the Office of Academic Support website at

Computing Resources

Reed’s educational technology center and other campus computing facilities are designed to provide students and other members of the college community with a rich and diverse set of tools for learning, research, and communication. Students have unlimited access to physical and virtual computing labs, known as information resource centers (IRCs), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Instructional technology is used in every academic discipline at Reed, and there are specialized student computing labs in art, biology, chemistry, language studies, linguistics, the performing arts, physics, psychology, and other areas.

Students and faculty members who purchase computer equipment and peripherals through the college receive discounts on hardware and software. Low-interest loans are available from Reed to help students finance computers; in addition, seniors and students on financial aid are eligible to receive a computer on loan for the academic year through the student technology equipment program.

Reed’s wireless network reaches all residence halls, classrooms, labs, offices, and study areas, and many other campus spaces. Students must register their personal computers and handheld devices in order to access networked resources. All computers connected to the campus network must have up-to-date antivirus and antispyware protection software.

Software troubleshooting; hardware repair; consulting about purchases; training in the use of Macintosh, Windows, and Linux computers; and other technology services are available to all students.

For more information about computing at Reed, visit the information technology website at

Library and Media Centers


The library is a central part of the intellectual and cultural life at Reed. Its primary mission is to provide collections and services that support the educational goals of the college. Book stacks are open to encourage browsing of the collections. Study desks, carrels, and comfortable seating are distributed throughout the building, which also supports wireless network access. A computer-equipped reading room is a popular place for writing and research. Library staff members endeavor to maintain an atmosphere that is informal and conducive to study.

Reed’s library houses a collection of over 680,000 volumes. It is a depository for U.S. government publications and maintains special collections of rare books, manuscripts, and archival materials. The library manages a collection of nearly 230,000 digital images that support instruction and research in art, classics, humanities, history, and other disciplines.

Reed’s carefully built collection provides strong support for student coursework and for individual research interests. Students can consult a variety of databases and online resources to access journal articles, e-books, data, maps, and images on a wide range of subjects. Reed students have borrowing privileges at most Oregon and Washington academic libraries. Students can place direct online requests for books and other resources in these other library collections and have the titles delivered to Reed.

The library is open over 120 hours each week. Librarians staff the reference desk to aid students in their research and answer reference questions using email, online chat, and text messaging. They offer class-related instruction in the use of library resources and methods for exploring print and digital resources.

Students are encouraged to consult a reference librarian for more information on library resources and services. The library’s website can be found at

Media Center

The instructional media center (IMC), on lower level one in the library building, includes a language lab, a video viewing room, a multimedia lab, and a large collection of videos. Streaming audio and video are provided for courses and to individuals in the Reed community via the IMC. Additionally, the IMC provides audiovisual equipment for checkout, including headphones, laptops, audio/video recorders, projectors, DVD/VCR players, and screens.

Performing Arts Resource Center

The Performing Arts Building includes a shared library and computing facility known as the PARC (performing arts resource center). This facility includes sound recordings, music scores, videos, computers, and other information resources that support studies in the performing arts. In addition, a core collection of current performing arts journals and reference materials is available. A performing arts librarian, an instructional technologist, and other staff support the use of collections, technology, and services for dance, music, and theatre.

Cooley Gallery

The Douglas F. Cooley Memorial Art Gallery is Reed College’s professional visual arts exhibition space and is located in the Reed College library. The mission of the Cooley is to present exceptional historical and contemporary art in dialogue with the academic program of the college and for the enrichment of the larger community. Exhibitions are curated by director Stephanie Snyder ‘91, in close collaboration with Reed faculty and occasional guest curators. The Cooley’s programs complement courses in the visual arts and humanities and are accompanied by publications, lectures, and symposia. Reed students intern at the Cooley, receiving rigorous mentorship in curatorial issues, K-12 museum education, and gallery operations. The Cooley also founded and organizes Reed’s Calligraphy Initiative, which offers weekly calligraphy classes for students and the Reed community. Cooley exhibitions in 2011-2018 included The Academy of Saturn, an exploration of networked culture’s affective intimacies by UK artists Thomson & Craighead; Stacy, a video-based performance project by queer feminist artist Wynne Greenwood that subsequently traveled to the New Museum, New York; Qalam, Persian and Arabic Calligraphy from the Early Middle Ages to the Present; Will Return, a performance and object-based installation by noted New York artist and Reed alumna Jamie Isenstein ‘98; Lloyd Reynolds: A Life of Forms in Art, the first comprehensive exhibition of the work of renowned Oregon calligrapher, visual artist, Reed College professor, and humanist Lloyd Reynolds (1902-1978), cocurated with Gay Walker ‘69, Reed College Special Collections Librarian; Bruce Nauman: Basements, an exhibition of Nauman’s early studio films from 1967 to 1969; and Kara Walker: More & Less, an exhibition that included Walker’s most recent film, Fall Frum Grace, Miss Pipi’s Blue Tale (2011), and a body of prints and multiples from the collections of Jordan D. Schnitzer and the Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation.