Academics Coursebook and Plan Guide
The goal of Marlboro College is to teach students to think clearly and to learn independently through engagement in a structured program of liberal studies. Students are expected to develop a command of concise and correct English and to strive for academic excellence informed by intellectual and artistic creativity; they are encouraged to acquire a passion for learning, discerning judgment, and a global perspective. The College promotes independence by requiring students to participate in the planning of their own programs of study and to act responsibly within a self-governing community. (Marlboro College Mission Statement)
As a Marlboro student, you are encouraged to study broadly, across various disciplines, and engage in multiple ways of knowing. Beginning in your first year, courses are designed to support and enhance your development and help you experience the variety of ways to approach a question, problem or issue.
Beginning in your third year and continuing throughout your work on a Plan of Concentration, you will investigate a single issue more deeply, working closely with faculty. The faculty will guide you in completing a body of work that integrates deep experience, research and knowledge, emphasizing clear communication, whether it be written, visual or performance-based.
This Course Book and Plan Guide is designed to facilitate the process of developing your individual program of study in the liberal arts. At Marlboro, faculty and students collaborate through the advising process to structure individual programs of study that have, as a basic tenet, the value of broad study.
The disciplines that we teach are divided into four areas of study: the arts (ceramics, dance, drawing, film/video studies, mixed media, music, painting, photography, theater, sculpture, and visual arts); the humanities (American studies, art history, Asian studies, classics, history, languages, literature, philosophy, religion and writing); the natural sciences (astronomy, biochemistry, biology, chemistry, computer science, environmental studies, mathematics and physics); and the social sciences (anthropology, cultural history, economics, political science, psychology and sociology). In addition, we offer the opportunity to work across disciplines through:
- The World Studies Program (Developmental Studies)
- American Studies
- Asian Studies
- Cultural Studies
- Liberal Studies
When choosing courses it’s important to engage each of the four areas of intellectual life listed above so that over time, you will structure a broad education grounded in the liberal arts. This process is a collaborative endeavor that you embark upon with your advisor and Plan sponsor. Throughout your time at Marlboro, you will discuss your goals, your choices and your options with your advisor. Together, you will map out a program, semester by semester, but in the end it’s all up to you. As you progress through your program, the collaborative advising process will foster your intellectual independence and confidence. Open wide the doors of a liberal arts education, and have fun.
- First Year
- Sophmore Year
- Junior Year
- Senior Year
- Topics for Advisors and Advisees
- Dedicated Hour
- The Basics
The first year is a time to build on your strengths and to develop new skills, sampling from across the areas of study to explore new interests.
Develop Your Academic Skills: Work on improving your writing, critical reading and thinking, class participation and research strategies. There are a variety of resources at Marlboro to help you.
- Register for a writing seminar or designated writing course, which will help you develop a portfolio by the end of your first semester.
- For research guidance, speak with a librarian who will explain resources available in Marlboro’s library, teach you more sophisticated ways of searching databases and assist you in accessing print and electronic sources.
- Sharpen your study skills by taking advantage of study skills workshops provided by the director of academic support services.
- Talk to your advisor, other faculty and juniors and seniors in your Dedicated Hour, as well as the director of academic support services, for pointers on time management, critical reading, note taking or effective participation in class discussions.
Explore the Curriculum: Study broadly; exploring various disciplines will enable you to discover different modes of learning, become familiar with faculty and build a foundation for further study.
Plan Ahead: Discuss educational goals with your advisor (see Topics for Advisors and Advisees). Review course requirements for individual fields of study to get a sense of direction and the parameters of a discipline. Begin the courses that are prerequisites for the World Studies Program if you are considering entering this program.
Sharpen Your Academic Skills: In anticipation of Plan work, continue to work on your writing by taking a designated writing course. Also, avail yourself of the research methods workshops and individual guidance provided by the library. Talk to faculty to learn what steps you need to take to bring your research, writing and creative skills up to Plan level. Meet with the director of academic support services for ongoing academic skill development.
Explore the Curriculum: As you continue to study across the curriculum, possible directions for your Plan will emerge. Take courses with all of the faculty with whom you’re considering working on Plan. Carefully choose courses that will be expected for Plan work in these degree fields. In this way you will build a strong foundation for Plan.
Write a Sophomore Review: This is an opportunity to assess your program so far and discuss your intentions for Plan. Write a draft of this statement and meet with your advisor to discuss it before the major break (either Thanksgiving or spring break) in the second semester of your sophomore year.
The goals of the Sophomore Review are:
- to engage in a discussion of the structure and goals of your higher education at its midpoint;
- to assess the character and quality of your education during the first two years;
- to support the values of broad study, global perspective, clear writing and community engagement; and
- to anticipate the needs of your Plan of Concentration.
- Discuss your vision of the coming year (including study abroad) and future educational plans (including graduate school) with your advisor (see Topics for Advisors and Advisees).
- Attend current seniors’ Plan presentations and the Plan workshop.
- Complete the Sophomore Review and Preliminary Plan Application in the second semester of your sophomore year.
- If you are interested in the World Studies Program, continue to take its requirements.
As junior year begins, you will be expected to assume even more responsibility for your academic program. It is important to balance your schedule, which should include Plan-related coursework and possibly tutorials as well as some coursework unrelated to your Plan of Concentration. You and your Plan sponsor(s) will collaborate on the direction for your research. You may not know exactly where you are headed, but in the course of the year it will become clearer.
Further Develop Your Academic Skills: Take courses to improve in areas you still have difficulty with or to fulfill the requirements that are necessary for the completion of your Plan. Take a writing-intensive course to hone your writing skills and a research methodology course related to your field of study. Consult with the director of academic support services to expand your academic skills, especially focusing on independent research and writing strategies.
Consider Study Abroad and Internships: Consider/prepare for an internship or other off-campus experience in the second semester. Consult the associate director of world studies regarding study abroad opportunities. Talk to your Plan sponsor(s) well in advance to shape your course of study to accommodate a semester off campus. Courses that are offered once a year or every other year may need to be taken earlier.
Complete the Final Plan Application: Submit the Final Plan Application by the end of the second semester of your junior year. Make sure you begin the process early, giving yourself time for revisions as you and your sponsor(s) deem necessary.
This is the year in which you will write/create the Plan work that will be evaluated by your outside examiner. Most of your work may be completed in tutorials with your Plan sponsor(s). Since you are not likely to be subject to the structure of many regular classes, one of your greatest challenges will be to manage your time productively between tutorials. Ask for the feedback that you need on your writing, lab work or creative work, and keep the lines of communication open between yourself and your Plan sponsor(s), especially if you are studying with more than one sponsor.
Continue to Sharpen Your Skills: Take a Plan writing seminar. Consult with the director of academic support services for help with time management. Consider taking one class unrelated to your Plan, for variety.
Plan Ahead: Create a timeline with your Plan sponsor(s), based on a schedule that works for you: set daily, weekly or monthly deadlines for yourself. Do this in the first semester of your senior year, re-visit it regularly and decide how to proceed.
Meet with Plan Sponsor(s): Meet weekly with your Plan sponsor(s). If you are doing a cross-disciplinary or interdisciplinary Plan, you should have group meetings at least twice a semester.
One of the most important things an advisor can do for you as an incoming student is make you aware of how Marlboro works—in the general, liberal-arts sense, and also in a more practical way: who you can go to if you need help doing research, or what to do if you’re sick. Your advisor will let you know from the start what will be expected of you as a Marlboro student (requirements, academic integrity, etc.), as well as what resources are available—both on and off campus. You will be encouraged to become involved in all facets of life at Marlboro. Some specific things your advisor might do in discussions:
- Take the time to get to know you, and let you know what you can expect from them.
- Encourage community participation: explain Town Meeting and other campus activities and traditions.
- Encourage you to spend time off campus. Let you know what resources are available outside of Marlboro: in Brattleboro, at surrounding colleges, the Consortium for Innovative Environments in Learning (CIEL), internships, etc.
- Explain Marlboro’s academic structure. Urge you to study broadly, but also to take notice of what interests you most.
- Explain the World Studies Program, and if you are interested introduce you to the director of world studies.
- Discuss Marlboro’s requirements and expectations: Clear Writing (and explain the Writers’ Block), the Sophomore Review, academic integrity, etc.
- Have a discussion about Plan. Give you a basic timeline of Plan-related deadlines and requirements, and answer any questions you have at this stage.
- Point you toward relevant resources: online college handbooks and descriptions of areas of study, as well as the Total Health Center, Writers’ Block, the dean of students, the director of academic support services, the director of academic advising and the library.
First Year, 2nd Semester
As a second-semester first year student, you will be fairly well acquainted with how Marlboro works. Your advisor may base your discussions around how your first semester went, and what you need to start thinking about in the immediate future. Some suggested topics:
- The results of your first semester: course results, Clear Writing results and campus involvement. Advice and guidance where it seems you need it most.
- Begin talking seriously with your advisor about the Sophomore Review. Learn about its purpose and process, and refer to the Marlboro College Handbook description.
- In Dedicated Hour, you might have upper-class students talk to you about their first year at Marlboro: their choices, struggles and successes.
- Go over the basics again: degree field requirements, important deadlines, studying broadly, etc. All this will keep you planning ahead.
As a first-semester sophomore, you will begin to think concretely about Plan, but you’ll also still study broadly and figure out exactly what it is you want to do. Some things to talk about in Dedicated Hour and advising meetings:
- The Clear Writing Requirement. Your advisor will stress its importance and usefulness to those who haven’t passed yet, and encourage you to take more writing courses as preparation for Plan work. You are also encouraged to visit the Writers’ Block and to meet with the director of academic support services.
- Continue discussing the process and purpose behind the Sophomore Reviewand Preliminary Plan Application. You are encouraged to begin working early on both of these.
- Explore the meaning of broad study, and discuss how course choices reflect deeper interests.
- As Plan ideas emerge, you’ll be advised to think broadly about the subject: at this stage, focus on the idea of ‘degree field’ over that of ‘Plan project’.
- You will be urged to attend Plan workshops and to talk with your faculty and upper-class students about what to expect in the coming semesters.
At this stage you will be starting to narrow your focus, and it will be helpful for you to put your interests down on paper and begin thinking about how you’ll continue to work on what you find meaningful. This is where Plan starts to be at the forefront of your academic choices, so you will be guided accordingly. Some things you’ll want to discuss with your advisor:
- Important paperwork: Sophomore Review and Preliminary Plan Application. Students should begin drafting each of these documents early in the semester. Learn the due dates well in advance.
- Plan sponsors: As you work on your Preliminary Plan Application, your advisor can help you make connections with appropriate faculty members. Study with faculty who may later become Plan sponsors.
- After everyone involved has read the written statement portion of your Sophomore Review, you will convene a meeting with your advisor and potential Plan sponsor(s).
- Find out how Plan tutorials work: structure, expectations, credit load, how to set a tutorial up, etc.
- Explore options for study abroad where appropriate, either during the summer or during the semester. Also take on summer reading and research in preparation for your junior year.
As a junior you need to begin doing Plan-specific research and writing, but you also have to keep up with your regular coursework. Advisors will emphasize this balance of tutorials and continued regular coursework, while also becoming familiar with your specific Plan interests and concerns. Some ways to do this:
- Begin the semester by learning what you will need to do in the next two years; get a basic Plan timeline. Pin down a degree field(s) and seek guidance in finding appropriate resources.
- World Studies students will be working on their internship plans and must be aware of how time-sensitive the process is.
- You will be encouraged to begin or continue gathering research materials well in advance of your senior year—and to begin Plan-related writing.
At this point, you will be making sure you’ve got everything in place for your final year. You’ll want details on all the intricacies of Plan, so that you can move ahead confidently. Some ways to facilitate this process:
- Seek help in completing your Final Plan Application.
- Make sure, if you are a World Studies student, you have finalized the details of your internship.
- Discuss the structure of Plan in detail: paperwork components, independent projects, percentages and orals.
- Learn about the grading system for seniors.
As a first-semester senior you will have, ideally, begun work on your Plan projects, and will be in the midst of in-depth research. You’re figuring out how to budget your time between courses/tutorials, research and writing, and are likely feeling overwhelmed. Things to take into consideration with your Plan sponsor(s):
- Again, acquire detailed explanations of the different components of Plan. This will help to demystify the process, and make you a little less anxious.
- Find out how different components will be evaluated: discuss oral exams and outside examiners.
- Set anticipated Plan percentages—there’s still time to adjust them next semester.
- Work with your advisor to set appropriate and feasible objectives and deadlines. This will make the process seem less overwhelming.
- Discuss post-Marlboro goals and plans.
- Meet with the director of academic support services to discuss Plan-related time management and long-range planning strategies.
As a senior 2, you will likely know what’s expected of you in terms of Plan percentages and paperwork, and you’ve got a lot of momentum where your project is concerned. You’ll want feedback on your writing (and other work), as well as advice on more obscure Plan requirements—like the abstract, copy responsibilities and mail dates.
- Touch base with your Plan sponsor(s) at least every week for writing advice, research questions, etc.
- Participate in Plan-writing seminars, which provide writing advice and support.
- Give a Plan presentation during Dedicated Hour.
- Finalize Plan percentages by midterm.
- After your Plan sponsor(s) chooses an outside examiner for you, you should find out what to expect during orals and how to prepare for them.
- Learn about all the loose ends you might need to take care of: writing an abstract, giving the library and the registrar copies of your Plan, letters of recommendation, etc. Work on these details early in the semester, so it won’t become a source of stress just as you are about to mail.
Dedicated Hour, which takes place each Wednesday from 1:15-2:15 PM, is a period of time set aside to facilitate academic advising. Aside from Work Day, no academic courses or community events are held during this time.
As long as the time is utilized in a constructive manner, faculty and their advisees are free to use Dedicated Hour as they wish. Some advising groups meet all together each week to discuss a question or topic of their choosing, while other faculty choose to meet with students on an individual basis. Some groups use the time to take field trips or attend events. Faculty and their advisees are encouraged to make suggestions regarding the content and structure of their Dedicated Hour. For some potential topics, refer to the Topics for Advisors and Advisees as well as the ideas listed below.
- Reminder and review of deadlines, procedures and academic policies
- Group reading with a discussion
- Discussion on how various academic fields fit into the Marlboro curriculum
- Study skills workshop with the director of academic support services
- Library research session with a librarian
- Stress management workshop / discussion
- Sophomore Review preparation or discussion
- Discussion of the Plan process
- Work session on Final or Preliminary Plan Applications to familiarize students of all class standings with the process and structure
- Discussion on how tutorials work and how to build a good one—with all class standings
- Senior Plan presentations
- Dedicated Hour held in Plan Room of the library with discussion about some well-designed plans in the area of study
- Study abroad overview with the associate director of world studies
- Study abroad experiences—presentation and Q & A with students returning from world studies internships, study abroad or college-sponsored trips
- Alumni experiences—presentations or discussions with former students
- Foreign language immersion option for Dedicated Hour
- Session on finding summer jobs or internships with the director of career development
- Overview of process, timing and etiquette of letters of recommendation
- Discussions about graduate school options within the area of study
- Career exploration with the director of career development
Student Life and Student Health
- Emotional and physical health discussion / education session with Total Health Center staff
- Discussion / round-table on how to support friends or who are on Plan
- Check-in about dorm life or student experience off campus
- Frustration / venting / community-wide primal scream
- Discussion on relevant Town Meeting issues and upcoming votes
Staff / Faculty Features
- Faculty “How did I get here?” sessions—time for faculty to recount their own academic “journeys” as a way to help students understand the graduate school experience, the transition from student to teacher and the balance of a rounded life that reaches beyond academia.
- Meet the staff event—staff members visit Dedicated Hours to talk about what they do (academic technology coordinator, financial aid, academic records, etc.), how it impacts the student, and how they can best work together.
- Outdoor Program orientation—for new students, or those not familiar with the program; meet outdoor program staff, find out hours, learn about gear checkout and upcoming trips.
Trips / Events / Projects / Socialization
- Trips to art museums or other events
- Presentation of a science reading or a digital projection session exploring geography and mapping tools via Google Earth
- Watch a documentary
- Ice cream, trust games, origami, board games, chess, or Go
- Short student-taught projects: Button-making with the school’s button machine, small hand-made book projects, poster-making for an event
- Group participation in a senior’s study needing test subjects
- Hike together in the woods or visit the climbing wall
- Sports games between Dedicated Hour groups (a la the epic Meg Mott’s vs. John Sheehy’s Dedicated Hour volleyball game of 2007)
- Advisees’ dinners
Community Involvement and Activism
- Town Meeting / selectboard special sessions or discussions
- Special session on current event (e.g., international crises; elections)
- Fundraising, petition writing or letter writing
- Surveys or discussion on current campus issues (e.g., smoking language)
- Discussions on current campus initiatives (Community Court, restorative justice panels, assessment, etc.)
Dedicated Hour Structure
- Designate a different student to lead a Dedicated Hour each week
- Create a semester-long schedule of all Dedicated Hour discussions or activities
- Schedule group meetings early in the semester and individual meetings later
- Email out a reminder about Dedicated Hour on Tuesday
- Dedicated Hour “student exchange”—either swap whole groups with another faculty member or have individual students visit a Dedicated Hour group they might join as a Plan student to gain new ideas and perspective
- Combine Dedicated Hour groups and schedule outdoor program session with director of outdoor program
Credit Load: You need an average of 15 credits per semester. The minimum allowed for a full-time student is 12 credits and the maximum is 18. You will need 120 credits for degree completion, 50 of which must be designated as Plan credits. If you are a first-year student, you are advised not to take the limit of 18 credits in your first semester. We want you to be challenged but not overwhelmed. It is wise to learn the expectations of your faculty—as well as your own limits. Solicit advice from your advisor and the director of academic advising. You’ll know by the end of your first semester or year whether or not 18 credits is an appropriate load for you.
Recommended courses: Although Marlboro does not have any course requirements, per se, all areas of the curriculum necessitate a certain foundation of courses in preparation for Plan-level work. The information in each degree field will inform you of these guidelines. Courses are offered at the introductory, intermediate and advanced level. If you are in the World Studies Program, you will need to take the required courses at the appropriate time (seethe World Studies Handbook).
Writing: Good writing is the foundation of a successful Plan; with this in mind, all students are required to pass the Clear Writing Requirement within their first three semesters. Successfully completing the Clear Writing Requirement is an achievement that lets you and the faculty know that you’re ready to continue with more advanced research and writing. It’s an important stepping-stone, and an incredibly helpful one. Therefore, all entering students should take either a writing seminar or a designated writing course during their first semester. The writing course you choose will depend on the results of your writing assessment and your advisor’s recommendation. Even once you have met the Clear Writing Requirement, you should continue to take at least one course each semester that will give you regular opportunities to write.
Mathematics: Knowledge of mathematical concepts is necessary for any field that requires quantitative research. This includes work in psychology, sociology, economics, environmental studies and political science, as well as the natural sciences. Furthermore, knowledge of mathematics is essential for musical composition and is handy for technical work in theater.
Language study: The study of languages is highly recommended, not only for broadening your perspective of the world but in the interest of cross-cultural communication. In addition, if graduate school is a goal, you will probably need to demonstrate competence in at least one foreign language, if not two.
Foundation work: It is important to establish a foundation in the area(s) you are especially interested in. You may reach your first semester on Plan and realize you should have taken a course in anthropology or music history: You’ll spend part of your junior year on Plan playing catch-up. The better informed you are about needed course work, the better off you’ll be when it comes time to submit your Preliminary Plan Application at the end of your sophomore year.
Tutorials: Tutorials are a key component of Marlboro College curriculum reserved for junior and seniors undertaking advanced work on a subject outside the standard course offerings. They are offered for variable credit, determined by the faculty member and student in consultation. The substance and form of tutorials vary widely. The basis of tutorial work depends on students taking charge of a subject, preparing for and leading a weekly meeting with the faculty member and completing a piece of research or production. Success in tutorial work is a key step toward the completion of the Plan of Concentration.
It’s worth saying again: Tutorials are necessarily advanced and are designed for juniors and seniors on Plan. Tutorials include: one-on-one tutorials in a student’s specific field in preparation for Plan work, group tutorials with several students who have similar interests and Plan-writing tutorials in the senior year focusing on analyzing information and completing Plan papers. In addition, satellite tutorials are centered around a listed course offering and allow students to both participate in the course and do research on a related subject. In all cases, meetings are usually weekly and depend on students leading the development of inquiry as well as demonstrating regular progress on their work.