General Education profoundly influences undergraduates by providing the breadth of knowledge necessary for meaningful work, lifelong learning, socially responsible citizenship, and intellectual development. This 49-unit program, which comprises over one third of an undergraduate’s course of study, places specialized disciplines into a wider world, enabling students to integrate knowledge and to make connections among fields of inquiry.
The General Education program at SDSU prepares students to succeed in an increasingly complex and rapidly changing world. Our students will live and work in the context of globalization, scientific and technological innovation, cross-cultural encounters, environmental challenges, and unforeseen shifts in economic and political power. Through this program, students will acquire knowledge of human cultures and the physical and natural world that will enable them to engage significant questions, both contemporary and enduring.
To put their breadth of knowledge to work, students gain intellectual and practical skills such as inquiry and analysis, creative and critical thinking, written and oral communication, scientific and quantitative literacy, and technological-information proficiencies. Students practice these skills in progressively challenging venues, mastering learning outcomes from a series of courses drawn from the following sections: I, Communication and Critical Thinking; II and III, Foundations of Learning; IV, Explorations of Human Experience; and V, Ethnic Studies. In order to acquire the skills required for advanced coursework within and across disciplines, student should complete these sections sequentially.
The General Education program at San Diego State University is evolving. A standing committee of faculty and students reviews the program continually and encourages the development of new courses, concepts, and learning experiences.
Institutional Learning Outcomes
In 2020, San Diego State University established seven “Institutional Learning Outcomes” (ILOs) to guide and connect our broad educational mission through our diverse degree offerings:
- Demonstrate expertise in integrating ideas, methods, theories, and practices within and across academic/disciplinary areas of study. (Disciplinary/Interdisciplinary Knowledge)
- Seek, analyze, contextualize, and incorporate information to expressly enrich understanding of the world. (WASC Information Literacy)
- Develop the ability to sustain curiosity and to think critically, creatively, and independently. (WASC Critical Thinking)
- Develop skills to collaborate effectively and ethically as leaders and team members. (WASC Oral and Written Communication)
- Communicate effectively within and across academic, professional, and social contexts. (WASC Oral and Written Communication)
- Use deductive reasoning and statistical methods to gather, interpret, and evaluate data critically, in order to assess the reasonableness of solutions to scientific, civic, and personal challenges. (WASC Quantitative Reasoning)
- Demonstrate an understanding of diversity, equity, inclusion, and sustainability through local, global, and ethical perspectives.
While situated within the General Education section of the catalog, these ILOs transcend General Education and serve to inform the design and content of course and degree offerings across the broader University. Furthermore, many of these ILOs are aligned with the four broader Core Competencies for educational institutions as established by our regional accreditor, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
Communication and Critical Thinking
Communication and Critical Thinking are essential skills that underlie all university education. Focusing particularly on argument, courses in this area of General Education help students understand the general function of writing, speaking, visual texts, and thinking within the context of the university at large, rather than within specific disciplines. In addition to featuring the basic rules and conventions governing composition and presentation, Communication and Critical Thinking courses establish intellectual frameworks and analytical tools that help students explore, construct, critique, and integrate sophisticated texts.
Goals in Communication and Critical Thinking:
- Goal 1: Craft well-reasoned arguments for specific audiences.
- Goal 2: Analyze a variety of texts commonly encountered in the academic setting.
- Goal 3: Situate discourse within social, generic, cultural, and historic contexts.
- Goal 4: Assess the relative strengths of arguments and supporting evidence.
Foundations of Learning
Foundations of Learning courses follow and build upon Communication and Critical Thinking courses and are offered by individual departments and interdisciplinary areas in the Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning, Social and Behavioral Sciences, Humanities and Fine Arts, and Lifelong Learning and Self-Development. Foundations of Learning courses in the Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning are divided into four categories: 1. Physical Sciences, 2. Life Sciences, 3. Laboratory, and 4. Mathematics and Quantitative Reasoning. Those in the Humanities and Fine Arts are divided into two categories: 1. Arts: Arts, Cinema, Dance, Music, Theatre, 2. Humanities: Literature, Philosophy, Languages other than English. Foundations of Learning courses introduce students to the basic concepts, theories, and approaches offered by disciplinary and interdisciplinary areas of study. They provide the foundation to understand and approach problems in the academy, and in local and global real-world environments. Consistent with class size and learning goals, they cultivate skills in reading, writing, communication, computation, information-gathering, and use of technology. Where appropriate, courses intended as preparation for a major may also be designated as Foundations of Learning courses. Only lower division courses are designated as Foundations of Learning courses.
Special Provision for Majors in the Sciences and Related Fields
Some majors require or recommend coursework in astronomy, biology, chemistry, geological sciences, or physics in preparation for the major. If you have declared one of these majors you may substitute those courses for courses listed under either Life Sciences or Physical Sciences (as appropriate) in Section II.A.
Explorations of Human Experience
Explorations of Human Experience courses are upper division courses which allow concentrated or thematic study. In Explorations of Human Experience there are three areas of study - Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning, Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Humanities and Fine Arts. Among these areas are courses designated as cultural diversity courses. Explorations of Human Experience courses take the goals and skills of Foundations of Learning courses to a more advanced level. This may find expression in one or more of the following pedagogical elements: greater interdisciplinary, more complex and in-depth theory, deeper investigation of local problems, and wider awareness of global challenges. More extensive reading, written analysis involving complex comparisons well-developed arguments, considerable bibliography, and use of technology are appropriate in many Explorations of Human Experience courses. Courses narrowly centered within one aspect of a discipline are more suited to major study than general education, which encourages students to relate their learning across the range of their educational experience. Explorations of Human Experience courses are upper division and cannot be used to fulfill this requirement if taken before students reach junior standing (passing 60 units).
Areas of Study in Foundations of Learning and Explorations of Human Experience
A. Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning
[CSU Area B - Scientific Inquiry and Quantitative Reasoning]
Natural Sciences use the scientific process to study nature and represent an approach to the study of the universe and its natural laws and phenomena. Students achieve basic scientific literacy and thereby understand the scientific process including the value of observation, hypothesis testing, and experiments in the advance of science. Thus students require a general understanding of fundamental concepts and knowledge accumulated by the natural sciences. From that understanding, students develop an ability to reason about and follow new developments in the natural sciences, and to think in a scientifically informed manner about social and political issues that involve science and technology.
Goals for GE Courses in the Natural Sciences
- Goal 1: Explain basic concepts and theories of the natural sciences.
- Goal 2: Use logic and scientific methods to analyze the natural world and solve problems.
- Goal 3: Argue from multiple perspectives about issues in natural science that have personal and global relevance.
- Goal 4: Use technology in laboratory and field situations to connect concepts and theories with real-world phenomena.
Quantitative reasoning refers to a range of academic capacities that includes learning from data, communicating quantitatively, analyzing evidence and assertions, and employing quantitative intuition. While quantitative reasoning is essential to sciences, other disciplines require the ability to use and comprehend quantitative language. To do this, students require the ability to analyze and interpret data in both scientific and social contexts. By possessing this set of mathematical and problem solving skills, students will be able to engage effectively in quantitative situations arising in life and work.
Goals for GE Courses in Quantitative Reasoning
- Goal 1: Apply appropriate computational skills and use basic mathematical concepts to analyze problems in natural and social sciences.
- Goal 2: Use methods of quantitative reasoning to solve and communicate answers to real-world problems.
B. Social and Behavioral Sciences
[CSU Area D - Social Sciences]
The Social and Behavioral Sciences focus on human behavior, cognition, and organization from anthropological, economic, geographic, historical, linguistic, political, psychological and sociological perspectives. Students gain an understanding of society and culture, as well as individual and social interaction processes. Disciplines within the Social and Behavioral Sciences employ the scientific method and utilize both quantitative and qualitative techniques to analyze the diversity and complexity of human experience. Through interdisciplinary learning, students explore the relationships between human societies and the physical environment.
Goals for GE Courses in the Social and Behavioral Sciences
- Goal 1: Explore and recognize basic terms, concepts, and domains of the social and behavioral sciences.
- Goal 2: Comprehend diverse theories and methods of the social and behavioral sciences.
- Goal 3: Identify human behavioral patterns across space and time and discuss their interrelatedness and distinctiveness.
- Goal 4: Enhance understanding of the social world through the application of conceptual frameworks from the social and behavioral sciences to first-hand engagement with contemporary issues.
C. Humanities and Fine Arts
[CSU Area C]
The Humanities and Fine Arts encompass works of the imagination, such as art, literature, film, drama, dance, and music, and related scholarship. Students better understand human problems, responsibilities, and possibilities in changing historical contexts and diverse cultures, and in relation to the natural environment. Students acquire new languages and familiarize themselves with related cultures. They gain the ability to recognize and assess various aesthetic principles, belief systems, and constructions of identity. Students acquire capacities for reflection, critique, communication, cultural understanding, creativity, and problem solving in an increasingly globalized world.
Goals for GE Courses in the Humanities and Fine Arts
- Goal 1: Analyze written, visual, or performed texts in the humanities and fine arts with sensitivity to their diverse cultural contexts and historical moments.
- Goal 2: Develop a familiarity with various aesthetic and other value systems and the ways they are communicated across time and cultures.
- Goal 3: Argue from multiple perspectives about issues in the humanities that have personal and global relevance.
- Goal 4: Demonstrate the ability to approach complex problems and ask complex questions drawing upon knowledge of the humanities.
D. Lifelong Learning and Self-Development
[CSU Area E]
Lifelong Learning and Self-Development facilitate understanding of the human being as an integrated physiological, social, and psychological organism. Students learn about such matters as human behavior, sexuality, nutrition, health, stress, key relationships of humankind to the social and physical environment, and implications of death and dying. This lower division requirement in Lifelong Learning and Self-Development integrates three kinds of inquiry (though not necessarily with equal emphasis): 1. Sociological: in this context, the relationships between an individual and broader society; 2. Physiological: the human body as an integrated organism with systemic functions such as movement, nutrition, growth, reproduction, aging; and 3. Psychological: the study of the mental processes that create consciousness, behavior, emotions, and intelligence.
Goals for GE Courses in Lifelong Learning and Self-Development
- Goal 1: Develop cognitive, physical, and affective skills to become more integrated and well-rounded individuals in society.
- Goal 2: Comprehend various behaviors conducive to physiological health and development.
- Goal 3: Identify and apply strategies leading to psychological well-being.
- Goal 4: Develop strategies to be integrated physiological, socio-cultural, and psychological beings engaged in learning and self-development throughout their lives.
E. Ethnic Studies
[CSU Area F]
More than half a century ago, in the midst of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the field of ethnic studies emerged, seeking to advance the interdisciplinary study of race, ethnicity, and indigeneity, while emphasizing the experiences, contributions, histories, and perspectives of people of color in the United States and beyond. In the hopes of disrupting centuries of historical marginalization, departments of Africana, American Indian, Chicana/o/x, and Asian American studies emerged at universities across the country-including SDSU.
Now, as we enter the third decade of the twenty-first century, the ongoing challenges that racism, marginalization, inequality, and discrimination pose could not be more obvious, nor more urgent. In response, the California legislature passed AB 1460, which made ethnic studies a graduation requirement at the CSU beginning with the 2021-2022 academic year. AB 1460 states that, at minimum, three (3) units of ethnic studies shall be offered at the CSU and recognizes the value, importance, and promise of ethnic studies as an essential part of a student’s education, providing skills and knowledge that will contribute to a liberatory, democratic, and pluralistic American future.
We believe strongly that ethnic studies is a vital component of your undergraduate experience. At SDSU, we have innovated two ethnic studies requirements–unusual in higher education. One is a general education requirement, which meets the CSU Executive Order to create a distinct GE category (Area F), and the other is a general graduation requirement created by SDSU Senate resolution (see section X of this page). Required ethnic studies courses, as per AB 1460 and CSU Executive Order 1100, are taught only within designated ethnic studies programs. At SDSU, these are the Departments of Africana Studies, American Indian Studies, and Chicana and Chicano Studies, and in the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies. Courses that satisfy Area F and section X are listed on this page. Students must take one class in Area F, that requirement cannot be waived or substituted. However, classes taken to satisfy GE Area F can double count to also satisfy the section X requirement.
Goals for GE Courses in Ethnic Studies
- Goal 1: Analyze and articulate concepts such as race and racism, racialization, ethnicity, equity, ethno-centrism, eurocentrism, white supremacy, self-determination, liberation, decolonization, sovereignty, imperialism, settler colonialism, and anti-racism as analyzed in any one or more of the following: Native American Studies, African American Studies, Asian American Studies, and Latina and Latino American Studies.
- Goal 2: Apply theory and knowledge produced by Native American, African American, Asian American, and/or Latina and Latino American communities to describe the critical events, histories, cultures, intellectual traditions, contributions, lived-experiences and social struggles of those groups with a particular emphasis on agency and group-affirmation.
- Goal 3: Critically analyze the intersection of race and racism as they relate to class, gender, sexuality, religion, spirituality, national origin, immigration status, ability, tribal citizenship, sovereignty, language, and/or age in Native American, African American, Asian American, and/or Latina and Latino American communities.
- Goal 4: Critically review how struggle, resistance, racial and social justice, solidarity, and liberation, as experienced and enacted by Native Americans, African Americans, Asian Americans and/or Latina and Latino Americans are relevant to current and structural issues such as communal, national, international, and transnational politics as, for example, in immigration, reparations, settler-colonialism, multiculturalism, language policies.
- Goal 5: Describe and actively engage with anti-racist and anti-colonial issues and the practices and movements in Native American, African American, Asian American and/or Latina and Latino communities and a just and equitable society.
F. Cultural Diversity Requirement
One explorations course in areas A, B, or C must be a course in cultural diversity, as indicated by an asterisk. Cultural diversity courses focus on the theoretical and practical factors of age, class, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, immigration, nation, race, religion, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and other significant markers of social identity. Courses meeting this requirement examine the complexity of diversity through an analysis of differential inequities, oppression, power, and privilege. Cultural diversity courses focus on non-dominant views and perspectives.
Goals for GE Courses Meeting the Diversity Requirement
- Goal 1: Enhance understanding of the diverse efforts and strategies used by groups to transform and/or dismantle structures of oppression.
- Goal 2: Foster reflection and appreciation of non-dominant perspectives, their contribution to society and culture, and models for their inclusion.
- Goal 3: Analyze the intersection of the categories of various dimensions of difference as they affect cultural groups’ members lived realities and/or as they are embodied in personal and collective identities.
- Goal 4: Formulate informed views on the mechanisms for maintaining existing power structures and their impact on all sectors of society.
Requirements and Limitations
You must complete all requirements in sections I to IV for a total of 49 units. Because you must be a junior (60 units) to satisfy the upper division section IV requirement, you should not register for upper division GE courses until the semester in which you complete 60 units. Only those courses listed in the General Education areas may be used to satisfy General Education requirements.
Within these 49 units, the following limitations apply:
1. Explorations of Human Experience courses shall not be taken sooner than the semester in which you pass 60 units.
2. Credit/No Credit grades cannot be used in section I, Communication and Critical Thinking or section II.A.4., Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning.
3. Courses numbered 296, 299, 496, 499, 500-level and above cannot be used in General Education.
Transfer Students - Additional Information
If you fall into one of the following four categories, you must complete only section IV, Explorations of Human Experience, to satisfy your General Education requirements:
- You transferred from a California community college and have completed the Intersegmental General Education Transfer Curriculum (IGETC)
- You transferred from a California community college and are certified as having completed the 39 unit lower division CSU General Education pattern (Sections I to III)
- You transferred from another California State University campus and have completed all lower division General Education requirements at the CSU campus
- You transferred from a University of California campus and have completed all lower division General Education requirements at the UC campus.
Your previous college must provide SDSU with proof of completion, either a GE certification or a statement of completion from a University of California campus. Remember, you may not take Explorations of Human Experience courses sooner than the semester in which you complete 60 units.
If you completed one or more areas of CSU General Education pattern at a California community college or another CSU campus, some of the SDSU General Education area requirements may be met. If you have transfer courses from a California community college, a CSU or UC campus (but have not completed any General Education area), these courses may be used in the appropriate area of the SDSU General Education pattern. Consult with an adviser at the Academic Advising Center to determine which requirements you must complete.
If you transferred from a private college in California or from a non-California college, you must meet the requirements listed below. A transfer course will be used when equivalent to the listed SDSU course.
Second Bachelor’s Degree Students in Nursing - Additional Information
Students seeking a second bachelor’s degree in nursing have satisfied all requirements in sections I to IV of General Education with their first baccalaureate degree from a college/university accredited by a regional accrediting association.
Freshmen Registration Requirements
All students entering SDSU as freshmen are required to register for a specific sequence of lower division General Education courses in the areas of I.1. Oral Communication, I.2. Written Communication, I.3. Critical Thinking, and II.4. Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning. Freshmen must begin the required sequences in their first semester and continue in subsequent semesters until they complete the sequences. The registration system will enforce enrollment in the required courses. This enforcement will occur every semester until the required sequences are completed.
Specialized General Education Patterns
Liberal Studies majors should refer to the description of their major in the Courses and Curricula section of this catalog for a listing of General Education requirements.
I. Communication and Critical Thinking (9 units)
1. Oral Communication | 2. Written Communication | 3. Critical Thinking
II. and III. Foundations of Learning (28 units)
A. Natural Sciences and Quantitative Reasoning
1. Physical Sciences | 2. Life Sciences | 3. Laboratory | 4. Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning
B. Social and Behavioral Sciences
C. Arts and Humanities
1. Arts: Art, Cinema, Dance, Music, and Theatre | 2. Humanities: History, Languages other than English, Literature, Philosophy, Religious Studies
III. Lifelong Learning and Self-Development
IV. Explorations of Human Experience (9 units)
A. Natural Sciences
B. Social and Behavioral Science
V. Ethnic Studies (3 units) [lower division requirement]