I. BFA Program
General Critical Studies Requirements
CalArts is committed to providing a course of study, which advances both the practice of the arts, and a broad program of general education designed to enable students to consider aesthetic questions within larger socio-cultural, ethical, and political contexts. The emphasis on the close relationship between critical studies and studio practice at CalArts reflects the visionary commitment to inter and cross-disciplinary study on which the Institute was founded.
A CalArts education is based on both artistic and intellectual rigor. To ensure that every undergraduate has the broad knowledge and cultural sophistication needed for successful arts careers in today’s world, all candidates for the BFA Degree must complete the Critical Studies Undergraduate Requirements in addition to coursework in their individual programs.
Designed to broaden vision and encourage well-informed, innovative art making, the Critical Studies Undergraduate Requirements help students to develop analytical, writing and research skills, and to learn about a broad range of topics in the humanities, social sciences, sciences, and cultural studies. Many courses directly related to the student’s own métier are also included in the Critical Studies curriculum.
Critical Studies Program Goals
On completing the BFA Program Requirements you will be able to:
- Participate in collaborative and interdisciplinary projects in roles that vary from engaged participant to group leader.
- Synthesize and contextualize a diversity of historical and contemporary events, movements, perspectives from a global field, utilizing a range of methodologies that are relevant to your projects and/or practices.
- Engage with complex and controversial ideas from multiple perspectives across the arts and society demonstrating cultural competencies as a student, artist and citizen.
- When appropriate, support independent research/projects with quantitative evidence demonstrating skills of analysis and decision making.
- Write and present your own ideas coherently with the adept use of various compositional strategies that address a range of clearly identified publics.
- Develop a sustained critical and creative research practice by adopting and/or adapting appropriate critical research methods to independently initiated projects.
All BFA candidates are expected to have taken a total of 46 units in Critical Studies by the time of graduation. This amounts to 2–3 courses per semester (6 units) and represents about 40 percent of each student’s overall course load.
For satisfactory progress toward the BFA degree, students should have accumulated the minimum required Critical Studies units for their year level as follows:
Year Level / Minimum CS Units Completed
- End of First Year (BFA1–2) 10 units
- End of Second Year (BFA2–2) 22 units
- End of First Semester, Third Year (BFA3–1) 28 units
- End of Second Semester, Third Year (BFA3–2) 34 units
- End of First Semester, Fourth Year (BFA4–1) 40 units
- End of Second Semester, Fourth Year (BFA4–2) 46 units
**Any student failing to meet the above year–level requirements will be subject to Academic Warning. (see Institute Policies and Procedures for details. Policy 22.214.171.124 Academic Warning, Probation, Dismissal and Appeal: Deficiencies Leading to Warning, Probation and Dismissal).
Critical Studies Rubric
100 & 200 Level
Engage in class discussions and communicate ideas, demonstrating course preparation.
Generate class discussion from course material through active questioning, challenging ideas across and through disciplines and diverse cultures, and making connections beyond the classroom.
Lead, facilitate, and participate in discussions and collaborative interdisciplinary group work, communicate ideas clearly, and make presentations using image and/or text effectively to a range of diverse audiences.
Frame key events, movements, and ideas in a range of subject areas in historical, contemporary and globally diverse contexts.
Investigate and analyze key events, movements, and ideas in a diverse range of subject areas relevant to course topic, demonstrating comprehension of diverse methodologies with a range of global and cultural contexts and perspectives.
Synthesize and contextualize key events, movements, perspectives and methodologies that are relevant to your own projects and/or practice demonstrating core cultural competencies in situating work in a global context.
Respond to a range of critical approaches and demonstrate an introductory understanding of how they may relate to métier practice.
Craft ideas, developing and constructing independent critical positions in relationship to course material.
Propose projects or papers that make independent arguments through a thesis demonstrating a sophisticated comprehension of and response to complex ideas.
Identify a range of quantitative methods.
Collect and organize quantitative information related to course material.
Analyze, interpret, and utilize quantitative evidence for the development of independent research or projects.
Write critically/creatively in clearly communicated texts honed for an intended audience.
Write independently using sustained analytical and evidence based reasoning and clear communication.
Write with the adept use of various compositional strategies that address a range of clearly identified publics.
Research using a variety of sources ethically and according to academic citation protocols, and demonstrating familiarity with different research methodologies.
Research including the employment of library, internet, and database searches to find and evaluate relevant and reliable sources.
Develop, articulate, and implement a range of methods in the realization of advanced independent research plans and demonstrate critical research methods in the analysis and use of research material.
The Critical Studies Level 100 Curriculum
The Critical Studies Level 100 Curriculum is a graduation requirement. In the fall semester of the first year, all students must take "Introduction to Critical Studies," a course that welcomes students into the critical conversations that are at the heart of Critical Studies courses and to prepare them to engage with a variety of modes of critical inquiry. In the spring semester of the first year, all students must take a Level 100 Special Topics course. These courses cover a variety of subjects ranging from literature to biological sciences. Both "Introduction to Critical Studies" and Level 100 Special Topics courses have an intensive writing workshop component.
Exemptions from Level 100 Curriculum
Students either participate in both the fall and spring Level 100 courses, or are exempt entirely.
- Students with 15 or more Critical Studies transfer units, prior to matriculation, are exempt. This exemption occurs even if they do not have the equivalent of "Composition-101."
- Students with a previous Bachelors degree are also exempt.
Students with fewer than 15 CS transfer units would have to take the Level 100 requirement regardless of having the equivalent of "Composition-101." This is because the first year sequence is an introduction to Critical Studies and not simply a sequence of composition or writing intensive courses.
Deferral of Level 100 Sequence
CalArts utilizes an assessment and placement process for multilingual students who speak a mother tongue other than English. Following this process, non-exempt students may be placed into the credit-bearing English for the Arts courses Artspeak 1A or Artspeak 1B in their first year. Students in these courses will join the Level 100 sequence in their second year.
Retaking Level 100 Courses or Sequence
Students who fail to receive credit (by dropping, withdrawing from the course, or by receiving an NC) for either, or both, Level 100 courses will have to retake the course the next time it offered. Failing the Fall Semester course will not prevent students from taking the Spring Semester course. Because these two courses are a graduation requirement (unless exempted upon matriculation), students will have to complete the courses to be awarded a BFA. Transfer credit is not accepted for the Level 100 Curriculum. The Level 100 Curriculum is a prerequisite for all Critical Studies 300 and 400 level courses. Students who fail during their first attempt will be monitored carefully by the Academic Advisors and will be required to use the Writing Center when they retake the required course(s). This close monitoring will continue until the student has completed the requirement.
The Critical Studies Core Curriculum
Throughout the remaining three years, students must get at least two units in each of the following Critical Studies categories:
- Social Sciences
- Cultural Studies
- Science and Math
The remaining units are elective and drawn from other courses offered by the School of Critical Studies, or can be fulfilled through Advanced Placement credits and liberal arts / general education transfer credits from other accredited colleges and universities. To successfully complete the 46 units, it is expected that after the first year, the student will need to take an average of two to three Critical Studies courses per semester (or 6 units).
Critical Studies BFA Residency Requirement
Students with previous bachelors degrees and students transferring in undergraduate credits are required to complete at least 8 CalArts Critical Studies Core Curriculum units in order to obtain a BFA degree from CalArts. While all students graduating will have to meet the Core Curriculum requirement, students transferring in from outside institutions may apply transfer credits to any of the corresponding Critical Studies categories up to a maximum of 38 units. The remaining 8 units (Residency Requirement) which must be taken in Critical Studies at CalArts may fall in the following distribution:
- 8 units in any combination of Critical/Intellectual Skills, Creative Writing, Computing and Research Skills, Humanities, Cultural Studies, Social Sciences, Science/Math providing the student will have met the Core Curriculum requirement by graduation. The Critical Studies BFA Residency Requirement cannot be fulfilled by Independent Studies units.
Upper Division Courses
Upper Division courses (400 level) assume students are already familiar with the modes of thought and writing associated with a given subject area.
Foreign Language Courses
Students may take or transfer foreign language credit at accredited institutions outside CalArts during their period of residence (for elective credit only).
Critical Studies Minor
Students who have completed their Level 100 and Core Curriculum requirements have the option of obtaining a Minor in Critical Studies in one of the following categories: Creative Writing, Humanities, Social Science, Cultural Studies or Science/Math. Students are required to take 18 units from their designated area of concentration (12 of which must be completed at CalArts). Students are not required to take additional units to obtain the Minor in Critical Studies; rather students would focus existing unit requirements (46 total) in a specific curriculum area.
Students who have completed their Level 100 and Core Curriculum requirements have the option of working closely with a Critical Studies instructor on a well-defined academic project for elective credit. Typically these will be awarded 1 unit and only in exceptional circumstances will be awarded 2 units. Independent Studies allow for further research and development of themes and ideas students have encountered in Critical Studies courses and/or in their métiers; they will not replace Critical Studies courses or requirements. Independent Studies may comprise no more than 10 units of the total 46 needed to graduate.
To obtain credit for an independent study, the student must fully define his/her project in a written Independent Study proposal learning goals drawn from the Critical Studies rubric. The proposal must also include a schedule of meetings and assignments jointly determined by the student and the instructor. Independent Study contracts can be obtained in the Registrar's office.
Critical Studies Policies on Grading and Attendance
The School of Critical Studies adheres to the Institute policies on grading. If a student is unable to complete the requirements for any Critical Studies course by the end of the semester, they may ask the instructor for an incomplete in lieu of a grade. At the instructor’s discretion, a HP, P, or LP grade will be awarded only if missing work, completed to a satisfactory standard, is submitted by the end of the following semester. Otherwise the student will receive a No Credit.
If a student misses more than 3 sessions of one class and does not pursue the formal Withdrawal option, a NC will be given and will appear on external records.
Institute–Wide MFA Offerings
Critical Studies also offers Upper Level courses, which are open to MFA students throughout the Institute, and to upper level BFAs, provided the Level 100 curriculum requirement has been completed. These classes give insight into contemporary criticism and arts practice, with graduate–level readings and assignments.
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