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About the Core

Group in library

The humanities are a central part of a college education. Studying literature, philosophy, and history strengthens valuable skills in research, communication, and careful thought. It exposes us to powerful ideas that broaden our horizons and help us reflect on how to live.

With this in mind, Stanford has created the Humanities Core as a structured, guided program for undergraduates. Many of the world’s greatest problems—climate change, inequality, poverty, and conflict—involve questions of value and meaning that the humanities explore. What do we owe to future generations? Is there an obligation to remember the past and, if so, how? What does it mean to be free? The humanities also help us answer the most profound questions that every human being faces: How am I to choose? What gives my life meaning?

The humanities are a springboard for thinking about issues like these with clarity and insight—not only in the classroom but in all of life’s arenas. As a forum for addressing these deep questions we all face, the Humanities Core provides students with experiences that form the foundations of purposeful careers and meaningful lives. 

Choose Your Track

Start by choosing a track: East Asian, European, or Middle Eastern (the African Track will be available in 2019). These tracks offer the chance to engage broadly, and with historical perspective, in a tradition of your choice. Exploring a defined set of interrelated works and themes over the course of a whole academic year is an extraordinary opportunity to develop a foundation of knowledge, discover new passions, and build relationships with faculty and other students who share your interests. Weekly plenary sessions provide all students in the core with opportunities to discuss themes, authors, and works that are shared among the tracks. 

Earn a Humanities Minor or Certificate

By completing a track, you earn the certificate. Then go further in the humanities by choosing courses in departments or programs that interest you. Taking three additional humanities electives leads to the humanities minor.

Humanities Sophomore IntroSems

Some Humanities Core courses are sophomore Introductory Seminars. Like all IntroSems, these are small-group, discussion-oriented courses that provide undergraduates with invaluable opportunities to form close relationships with leading Stanford faculty. Many fulfill WAYS or Write 2 requirements. Sophomores have priority for enrollment, but these seminars are open to all students, including freshmen.