Knowing the World through Thought, Sound, and Vision


Fall 2015 and Winter 2016 quarters

Taught by

This first-year program focuses attention on the idea that each of us has a unique way of understanding the world because of the contexts to which we have been exposed. What is your context? How has it shaped the ways you interact with humans, institutions, and the natural world? Considering these questions opens the idea of having not just one, but several lenses through which we have built our understanding: we use all of our senses in addition to larger societal, linguistic, and biological structures to inform and guide us.

The languages we use and the social structures in which we live can be thought of as systems of representation—tools that living organisms can use to get a grip on reality. In the case of language, we might say that vocabulary is the material we have to work with, grammar ( syntax ) is the order in which we can combine those materials, and context is the place where language becomes meaningful or useful. Other systems of representation—in music, visual art, and science, for example—have similar structures.

How do you make sense of the world when your “lived vocabulary” includes rhythms and notes, shapes and lines, molecules and ecosystems, or color and light? How does your picture of the world change when your epistemology—your way of knowing—includes multiple systems of representation and is not limited to just words and syntax? In learning by doing, we will explore how artists use geometry and math, how musicians use physics, and how scientists engage the mystery of their environment. We will examine these systems of representation and develop new ones through creative play to explore the range of human experiences.

Weekly activities will include lectures, films, and seminars. There will also be field trips in each quarter, workshops, collaborative presentations, and guest lectures. Students are expected to focus on enhancing their college-level writing skills throughout the program; each quarter's major writing assignments will require students to master the process of revision. In fall quarter, students will be introduced to important skills in approaching this material through multiple modes; issues of perspective, critical analysis, and context are important factors in deepening our understanding. As we move into winter quarter, students will have more chances to develop individual and collaborative projects focusing on particular areas of interest.

Program Details

Fields of Study

Preparatory for studies or careers in

visual and performing arts, biological sciences, and communications.

Location and Schedule

Campus location



Offered during: Day

Final Schedule and Room Assignment


Buy books for this program through The Greener Store.

Online Learning

No Required Online Learning

More information about online learning.

Required Fees

$80 in fall for entrance fees and overnight field trips.


Date Revision
September 21st, 2015 Fees corrected ($80 in fall only, not $40 per quarter).
June 2nd, 2015 Fees have been reduced (from $60 to $40).

Registration Information

Credits: 16 (Fall); 16 (Winter)

Class standing: Freshmen ONLY ; 100% of the seats are reserved for freshmen

Maximum enrollment: 54


Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 10200
Fr (1-16 credits): 10500

Go to to register for this program.


Accepting New Students

Course Reference Numbers

Fr (16 credits): 20098
Fr (1-16 credits): 20240

Go to to register for this program.

Need Help Finding the Right Program?

Contact Academic Advising for help in answering your questions, planning your future and solving problems.