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Pathways: The Trinity Curriculum

Trinity University offers undergraduate programs leading to the Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Music degrees. The University is fundamentally committed to ensuring that all Trinity undergraduate degrees represent the broad base of general learning with an underlying commitment to responsible participation in human affairs, which is called a liberal education.

The Trinity Curriculum has six Curricular Requirements that provide the foundation in the liberal arts and sciences for all the bachelor’s degrees awarded by Trinity University. Through these requirements, students acquire the necessary skills and disciplinary perspectives to navigate complex questions at Trinity and in their post-graduate lives. The requirements that must be completed in order to receive the bachelor’s degree are as follows:

  1. The First Year Experience (FYE)
  2. Approaches to Creation and Analysis
  3. The Capacities
  4. The Discovery
  5. The Major
  6. Fitness Education

Three optional Curricular Elements can further enrich a Trinity education:

  1. Experiential Learning
  2. Minors
  3. A Second Major

Students are especially encouraged to include Element 7, Experiential Learning, in their curricula.

Information Literacy at Trinity University

Information literacy is the ability to gather, critically evaluate, and use information creatively and ethically. During their academic careers, Trinity students will receive systematic guidance and practical experience in order to prepare them for the knowledge economy of the twenty-first century. Students will learn to access information efficiently and to use it critically and competently. A systematic and coherent education in information literacy teaches students to understand the information cycle, be aware of search tools and strategies across disciplines, and to use the major resources in their majors.

Graduation Requirements

To receive an undergraduate degree a student must:

  • Complete at least 120 credit hours (129 credit hours for a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Science).
  • Complete the six Curricular Requirements listed above.
  • Complete at least 30 upper-division hours.
  • Earn a minimum grade point average of 2.0 in both the major and the entire program of study.
  • Satisfy the residency requirement. (See “Residency Requirement,” below.)

To become eligible for a second, and different, bachelor's degree, a student must earn a minimum of 30 additional credit hours of work in residence beyond the requirements for one degree, at least 18 of which must be upper division. He/she must also complete courses necessary to meet the specified requirements for the second degree and major. In all the additional courses the student must have at least a 2.0 cumulative grade point average. Two undergraduate degrees can be awarded simultaneously to the same person. However, the two degrees must be of different types, such as a B.A. and a B.S.

A student who completes the requirements for two majors without earning the additional credit required for a second degree will receive a single degree with a double major.

Residency Requirement

Trinity believes that its students should fulfill at least half of their degree requirements in residence. With this principle in mind, the University establishes the following minimum residency requirements:

  • At least 60 credit hours must be earned in residence to complete a baccalaureate degree.
  • At least 15 credit hours of each major must be earned in residence, and at least 12 of those hours must be upper division.
  • The last 30 credit hours before graduation must be earned in residence.

Exceptions for study abroad: Students with 60 or more credit hours earned at Trinity who wish to enroll in an approved study abroad program in their senior year may be exempted from the last 30 hours-in-residence requirement. Students who transfer to Trinity with 50 or more credit hours may count up to 15 credit hours of approved study abroad credit toward the 60-hour residency requirement. These same exceptions apply to special semester domestic programs approved by the Office of Study Abroad.

Student Responsibility 

This Bulletin is designed to assist the student and academic adviser in planning and scheduling a degree program. Each student at Trinity University should keep in mind, however, that he or she alone is ultimately responsible for understanding and fulfilling all degree requirements.


To encourage students to experience a broad range of educational experiences, the University maintains the following guidelines:

  • To earn a bachelor's degree from Trinity University, a student must successfully complete at least 3 credit hours from each of 10 different academic disciplines. *
  • The First-Year Experience (FYE) may not be used to satisfy any other graduation requirement.
  • A minimum of 24 credit hours must be earned outside the major department and major requirements (n.b., only Engineering Science majors may include the FYE).

*An academic discipline is designated by a particular three- or four-letter subject code, such as "ART" or "ARTH," and excludes "PHED."

Curricular Element I: The First-Year Experience

Students should demonstrate the ability to analyze sophisticated texts and ideas through (1) reasoned discussion of substantive issues; (2) oral presentations; (3) analytical and argumentative writing; and (4) locating and evaluating diverse information sources to enhance their understanding of course materials.


All incoming students must complete one First-Year Experience during their first semester at Trinity. A new transfer student with 26 credit hours of transfer credit or whose high school graduation date is a year or more prior to his or her matriculation at Trinity is exempted from the First-Year Experience requirement. The total number of hours required for any Trinity degree shall not be reduced by an exemption from the First-Year Experience.


The First-Year Experience includes substantial instruction in written and oral communication skills while engaging a topic of widespread or enduring significance. For each topic, the First-Year Experience consists of multiple sections linked by a common syllabus and a weekly common learning experience for all students and faculty. Each section, comprised of approximately 15 students, is taught by two instructors from different departments, and is the equivalent of two three-hour courses for students.

Curricular Element II: Approaches to Creation and Analysis

In order to master the skills of analysis, research, and creation, students should demonstrate the ability to use disciplinary approaches characteristic of (1) the humanities, (2) the arts and creative disciplines, (3) the social and behavioral sciences, (4) the natural sciences, and (5) quantitative disciplines.


To qualify for graduation with a bachelor’s degree, a student must successfully complete one course (totaling no fewer than 3 credit hours) from each of the following categories at Trinity:

  • Courses that enable students to understand the human condition through the study of the arts, literature, history, philosophy, or religion (humanities);
  • Courses that enable students to create aesthetic artifacts or performances (creative expression);
  • Courses that enable students to engage in the scientific study of human behavior (social and behavioral sciences);
  • Courses that enable students to engage in the scientific study of the natural world (natural sciences); and
  • Courses that enable students to solve problems within a structured mathematical framework (quantitative reasoning).

Curricular Element III: The Capacities

Written, Oral, and Visual Communication

Students should demonstrate the ability to communicate effectively in a variety of contexts and within a variety of media.


To qualify for graduation with a bachelor’s degree from Trinity, a student must fulfill the requirements for Written Communication (WC) and Oral and Visual Communication (OVC) in the following ways:

  • A student must fulfill the Written Communication requirement by successfully completing two courses designated with the abbreviation WC. Only one of these requirements may be satisfied by a creative writing course.
  • A student must fulfill the Oral and Visual Communication requirement by successfully completing two courses designated with the abbreviation OVC.


Every WC course requires extensive writing and provides substantial instruction in written communication.

Every OVC course requires significant oral presentation supported by visual products and provides substantial instruction in oral and visual communication.

Digital Literacy

Students should demonstrate the ability to (1) investigate questions, solve problems, or engage in artistic expression through the systematic manipulation of digital information; and (2) evaluate the design, function, or cultural impact of a digital technology.


To qualify for graduation with a bachelor’s degree from Trinity, a student must fulfill the Digital Literacy requirement by successfully completing one course designated with the abbreviation DL.


Courses that carry a DL designation provide substantial instruction in principles and tools of digital information manipulation and significant activities where students employ those principles and tools to satisfy the two learning outcomes.

Global Awareness, Understanding Diversity, Historical Perspective, and Foreign Language

Students should demonstrate the ability to (1) identify and articulate the perspectives and values of diverse people, groups, and cultures both within the United States and beyond its borders; (2) analyze major historical events,
contexts or processes to better understand the unique character of cultures, institutions, or ideas; (3) gather and evaluate information from sources that facilitate cross-cultural understanding; (4) communicate in a foreign language at the intermediate level or above.


To qualify for graduation with a bachelor’s degree from Trinity, a student must fulfill the requirements for Global Awareness (GA), Understanding Diversity (UD), Historical Perspective (HP), and Foreign Language (FL), as follows:

  • A student fulfills the Global Awareness requirement by successfully completing one course (totaling no fewer than 3 credit hours) designated with the abbreviation GA or by successfully completing an approved study abroad program.
  • A student fulfills the Understanding Diversity requirement by successfully completing one course (totaling no fewer than 3 credit hours) designated with the abbreviation UD or by successfully completing an approved independent study project or an internship that substantially engages with the diversity issues listed below.
  • A student fulfills the Historical Perspective requirement by successfully completing one course (totaling no fewer than 3 credit hours) designated with the abbreviation HP.
  • A student fulfills the Foreign Language (FL) requirement by successfully completing an intermediate level or higher course in a foreign language sequence in a modern or ancient language taught at Trinity, or demonstrating equivalent proficiency by examination.


Every GA course addresses the perspectives and values of peoples, groups, institutions, or cultures outside the United States. the United States.

Every UD course addresses diversity issues involving, e.g., race, ethnicity, ability, social class, gender, religion, or sexualities, primarily within the United States.

Every HP course addresses one or more cultures, institutions, events or ideas in their historical contexts.

Every FL course focuses on cross-cultural understanding through the mastery and employment of foreign language skills.

Curricular Element IV: The Discovery

Students should demonstrate the ability to explore a discipline or area of study outside the close neighborhood of their primary major in a sustained way.

The Discovery is a faculty-designed set of courses totaling no fewer than 9 credit hours that give non-majors meaningful, sustained exposure to an academic discipline* or area of study. Each Discovery features at least two courses in the relevant subject area that are upper division (3xxx or 4xxx) or else have at least one course as a prerequisite or corequisite.

To qualify for graduation with a bachelor’s degree from Trinity, a student must complete at least one  Discovery subject to the following restrictions: i) no course used for the Discovery may also be used to fulfill the requirements of the student’s primary major, and ii) a maximum of one course used for the Discovery may be in an academic discipline that is a cognate** of the student’s primary major.

Students can also fulfill the Discovery requirement by completing a second major or a minor, provided that in either case it overlaps their primary major requirements by at most one course.

Courses in the Discovery must be taken at Trinity University, with one exception: one course from a Trinity-approved Study Abroad program may be applied to a student's Discovery with pre-approval by the appropriate department chair (or the assigned director if the Discovery is cross-disciplinary).

Students must declare their intention to complete a specific Discovery (or an appropriate minor or second major towards the Discovery requirement) at the same time that they apply for admission to their primary major. (See Curricular Element V: The Major.)

Note: Courses used to fulfill the Discovery requirement may also be used to fulfill other Pathways requirements, and students are encouraged to use an Approach course, where appropriate, as their first course towards completing a Discovery.

*Each discipline is designated by a particular three- or four-letter subject code, such as "ART" or "ARTH."

** Example: An Engineering Science major requires courses in Physics, Math, Chemistry and Computer Science. These disciplines are considered the cognate disciplines of that major. Disciplines that a major uses only as elective options from a list are not considered to be cognates. Interdisciplinary majors do not have cognates. Cross-listed courses are considered to be from all disciplines involved in the cross-listing.

View all Discoveries

Curricular Element V: The Major

This Bulletin is designed to assist the student and academic adviser in planning and scheduling a degree program. Each student at Trinity University should keep in mind, however, that he or she alone is ultimately responsible for understanding and fulfilling all degree requirements.


The major provides for in-depth study of a field of specialization. The requirements for each major are found in this bulletin in the departmental listings. Students may elect multiple disciplinary majors or construct a second, interdisciplinary major in consultation with their major advisers.

The candidate for a baccalaureate degree must fulfill the requirements for a major in one of the departments or in one of the interdisciplinary majors listed in the Courses of Study Bulletin. Official admission to a major program occurs in the sophomore year, although the student may begin taking courses in the major department before official admission. A student may apply to major in two departments or programs.

After students achieve sophomore standing and before achieving junior standing (58 credit hours completed), they must apply for admission to the chair of the department in which they wish to major or to the chair of the interdepartmental major. Students may be accepted without conditions or accepted on a provisional basis. Provisional status, if imposed, should be noted on the form. At the end of the provisional period, the chair will notify the student and the Office of the Registrar of the final decision of the department or program. As part of the application process, students are strongly encouraged to complete an online evaluation of the first-year advising program.

Curricular Element VI: Fitness Education

Students should possess basic knowledge, understanding, or skills that will help them to make good decisions relating to health throughout life. The premise underlying this objective is that students will be more likely to engage in a healthy lifestyle of exercise and physical activity throughout their lives if they:

This requirement may be satisfied by successfully completing one approved course.

Curricular Element VII: Experiential Learning

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of an EXL course, students will have demonstrated the ability to:

  • develop goals for and execute a specific project or experience that involves purposeful engagement with the local, national, or global community or the natural environment outside of the formal classroom *
  • apply skills, theories, or methodologies gained through their coursework (in this course or more cumulatively) to solve problems or explore issues outside of the formal classroom *

Additionally, some courses may have a more specific designation as follows:

  • for a service-learning course designated EXL-SL: reflect how service experience with community partners connects to theories and concepts covered in class
  • for an internship, designated EXL-INT:  articulate how internship experience will improve knowledge and skills needed to achieve personal, academic, and professional goals
  • for a research project, designated EXL-UGR: articulate how their scholarly activity makes a meaningful contribution to the discovery or interpretation of knowledge within the relevant discipline(s)
  • for field study course, designated EXL-FS: employ methodologies and make observations in the field that contribute to the discovery or interpretation of knowledge within the relevant discipline(s)
  • for a study abroad course, designated EXL-SA: reflect meaningfully on the connections between their experiences abroad and the theories and concepts covered in class.

Course Requirements

To be designated an EXL course, the course will:

  • require students to engage in at least one of the following:
    • significant interaction with a local, national, or global community, or the natural environment or
    • project-based learning experiences beyond the classroom*, or
    • the creation of artifacts that will be presented to or evaluated by an outside audience
  • be designed so that at least 20% of the course grade is determined by Experiential Learning (EXL) curricular elements

Additional Notes

* References in the above to “outside” or “beyond” the formal classroom attempt to distinguish the spirit of EXL activities from those recognized as a part of traditional lecture/lab coursework. The intention is to identify work that can only be completed by engaging in activities whose impacts transcend Trinity’s campus, whether by interacting with the outside world or by contributing to a body of scholarly knowledge. 

The Minor

A minor consists of at least 18 credit hours, no fewer than nine of which must be taken at Trinity, and no fewer than nine of which must be upper division. (Exception: for the requirements for a minor in French, German, Russian, or Spanish, see the Modern Languages and Literatures section of this bulletin; for the requirements for a minor in Greek or Latin, see the Classical Studies section.) Consult the appropriate departmental section of this bulletin for specific courses required for each minor. Courses counted toward a minor may not be taken Pass/Fail unless the course is offered exclusively on a Pass/Fail basis. A minor is not required for the completion of any Trinity degree.

Graduation With Honors

Departmental/Major Honors

Students who have maintained their scholastic standing on high levels and who complete a thesis supervised by a faculty member in the department of the major may be candidates for Departmental Honors. Not all departments offer the opportunity for Departmental Honors; consult the course listings of the individual department or program in this Courses of Study Bulletin.

The minimum requirements qualifying a student for Departmental Honors include a 3.33 grade point average, both cumulatively and in the major. Individual departments may require a higher grade point average in departmental courses, but not a higher overall grade-point average.

In addition to the grade-point requirements, a minimum of 6 hours of thesis credit must be acquired during the last three semesters before graduation. This curricular option, entitled Thesis, may also be available to students who are not candidates for Departmental Honors. In all cases the thesis provides students with the opportunity for independent scholarly, scientific, or artistic work. Students may enroll for thesis credit only with the permission of the instructor who will be the adviser. Grounds for faculty decisions may include faculty load, appropriate expertise to guide the particular project, and the willingness of the faculty member to serve as adviser.

In anticipation of completion of the 6 hours of Thesis and the grade-point requirements, the student may become a candidate for Departmental Honors by addressing a written request for consideration to the chair of the department. The request must be received no later than the end of the first full week of the student’s final semester at Trinity.

Additional requirements for candidacy vary according to the department but minimally include the oral and written presentation of the thesis to a committee of no fewer than two members of the faculty: the adviser and a reader with appropriate expertise in the area of the thesis. Based on the quality of these presentations, the committee makes the recommendation to award Departmental Honors to the department chair. If the award is made by the department, copies of the thesis are submitted to the Office of Academic Affairs. Students have three options for depositing their theses with the University, and each student should discuss these options with their thesis adviser. The first option is the submission of the thesis in electronic format for deposit in the Trinity Digital Commons. It will be accessible through the Internet to anyone and indexed by search engines like Google. For those who would prefer that their theses not be viewable outside the Trinity campus, there are two other options. (This may be a concern, for instance, if the student intends to submit the thesis for publication to a journal which considers digital archiving to be “previous publication.”) One is for the library staff to add the thesis to the Digital Commons but restrict its viewing to campus computers only, thereby treating the thesis as a traditional library print copy. Only the thesis title and abstract will be available to Internet users off-campus. The final option is to submit a traditional print thesis. The costs of binding will be paid by the student. The student can provide the University with two bound copies of the thesis. The award will be indicated by a designation of Departmental Honors on the student’s transcript. If the award of honors is denied, the thesis will be considered for non-honors thesis credit.

University Honors

Students who have maintained their scholastic standing on high levels will graduate with Honors. Students acquiring a grade-point average of 3.875 will receive their degrees summa cum laude; students acquiring a grade point average of 3.750 will receive their degrees magna cum laude; and students acquiring a grade-point average of 3.500 will receive their degrees cum laude. The grade-point average is determined by dividing the total number of grade points earned by the total number of credit hours attempted and the average is not rounded. Honors will be determined on the basis of four years of undergraduate work, 60 credit hours of which must be taken at Trinity University. Students transferring from other institutions will be required to submit all of their grades, but the average grade for the purpose of determining honors shall not  exceed  the  average  of  their  work  taken  at  Trinity  University.  (Exception:  Grades earned in approved Study Abroad programs are not included in the calculation for graduation with Honors.)

Phi Beta Kappa 

Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society, founded in 1776, elects students with broad cultural interests and scholastic achievement. The Epsilon of Texas Chapter at Trinity University, installed in 1974, is one of 280 chapters at distinguished colleges and universities in the United States. Selection of student members, or members-in-course, is generally made in the student’s senior year, although a few juniors (usually three or four) are elected each year. The names of those elected are announced prior to graduation in the spring semester. Students do not apply for election to Phi Beta Kappa; the Chapter screens student records.

Criteria for election to Phi Beta Kappa are determined by the Chapter under the guidelines of the national organization. To be eligible for election, the student must satisfy certain minimum criteria:

  1. Candidates pursuing a single major in Business Administration or a Bachelor of Music degree are not eligible. Those pursuing a single Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in Music ARE eligible.
  2. Candidates must have completed a minimum of 60 hours of primarily liberal arts coursework at Trinity by graduation. Candidates for election as juniors must  have  completed a minimum of 75 hours of primarily liberal arts coursework at Trinity at the time of the election.
  3. Candidates must have completed at least one three-hour course in Mathematics at the level of calculus or higher. Pass/Fail work is not accepted.
  4. Candidates must have completed at least one course in a foreign language at the intermediate level or higher. Pass/Fail work is not accepted.

Criteria 3 and 4 are not satisfied by high school experience. Advanced Placement and transfer credit are accepted. Those who are eligible, based on the above minimum standards, are ranked on the basis of grade point average. Those who do not meet the minimum criteria may be nominated for membership by individual members of the chapter.

Contact the Office of Academic Affairs for further information.

Preprofessional Programs

Trinity University offers preprofessional programs in health professions and law. Many of the professions require or recommend the completion of a liberal arts degree before the student begins his or her specialized work. Variations in programs can be arranged to meet individual needs. Students  who plan graduate work are urged to make early selection of the graduate or professional  school in order to meet the entrance requirements of the chosen institutions. Current catalogs of graduate and professional schools are on file in the reference section of the library.

Trinity University provides individual guidance for students who plan to enter professional schools.  Students are invited to contact the chair of the appropriate committee.

Health Professions Advisory Committee

The Health Professions Advisory Committee (HPAC) develops plans for students to progress through sequences of preparatory work required for postgraduate study in the professions of medicine, dentistry, and certain allied health fields. James Shinkle is the chair of the committee, and Jonathan King serves as associate chair.

The Health Professions Advisory Committee establishes the policies and procedures for students who plan to enter the medically oriented professional schools. Applications to medical, dental, and veterinary schools are routinely made through the HPAC administrative office. Certain other allied health schools also require that applications be made through the HPAC. Students indicating preprofessional interests in medicine or related fields will be assigned to a faculty member familiar with health professions curricula starting with the first advisement.

Though medical schools and medically related professional schools do not require their entering students to have majors in any particular fields, they do have specific entrance requirements and great care is exercised by the committee in advising preprofessional students. For example, Texas state medical schools list the following prerequisites: one year of college English; one-half year of college calculus; two years of biology; one year of general and one year of organic chemistry; and one year of physics.

The science courses (biology, chemistry, physics) must be those designed for science majors and must include laboratory work. A premedical or predental student should plan on taking two of these courses per semester for one or two years of college, often beginning in the first year. All of the prerequisite science courses are usually completed in six semesters. Admissions committees may waive some of these course requirements if competency can be established on the basis of previous work. These decisions are made by individual professional schools on a case-by-case basis, and the preparation of a request for waiver is done in consultation with the student’s premedical adviser and the chair of the HPAC.

Prelaw Advisory Committee

The Prelaw Advisory Committee provides individual guidance and counseling for Trinity students who plan to enter law schools. Students currently enrolled at Trinity who become interested in applying to law schools late in their academic careers can request an appointment with the committee member closest to their major for review of their academic achievements.  John Hermann is the chair of the committee.

Law schools do not usually require specific courses as prerequisites to application. Therefore, advisers will recommend courses that they consider useful for success in law school and law- related careers in light of each student’s particular academic background.

Guidance for Students Interested in Ministry

The University Chaplain Alex Serna-Wallender, supports a program of exploration, guidance, and counsel for Trinity students who are interested in careers in ministry. The program is one of vocational clarification tailored to the needs and questions of individual students. It consists of exercises in faith development, participation in initiatives in ministry, reflection on interactions with congregations, and accessing national resources for students intrigued by such professions.

Seminaries and rabbinic schools do not usually require specific courses as prerequisites to application. Therefore, the Chaplain will discuss disciplines that will prepare students for success in ministerial education and careers in light of each student’s particular academic background.

General Degree Regulations

Awarding of Degrees

Upon the recommendation of the faculty and the approval of the Board of Trustees, Trinity University confers the degrees of Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science, and Bachelor of Music. (For graduate degrees, see the section on Graduate Studies.) Only those candidates who have fulfilled all scholastic requirements for a degree and who have met their financial obligations to the University will be recommended for the degree.

Application for Degree

A candidate for an undergraduate degree must file an application for the degree in the Office of the Registrar. Dates are specified in the University calendar as deadlines for applying for degrees. Candidates for degrees at winter commencement must apply by the last class day in April; candidates for spring commencement must apply by the first day of classes in December; and candidates for summer graduation must apply by the last day in June.

Candidacy for a degree is not complete until all financial obligations are met. A degree candidate must be registered in the semester or summer term in which the degree will be awarded. If the student is not registered for credit or for study abroad, the student will register for SPCL 4099. 

A degree candidate must be present for commencement exercises unless he/she submits a written request for permission to graduate in absentia to the Registrar at least two weeks prior to commencement.

Bulletin Requirements

A candidate for an undergraduate degree must meet the requirements as outlined in the Courses of Study Bulletin for the year of his/her first enrollment at Trinity University or any subsequent bulletin under which work is taken. In all cases, however, a candidate must complete work for his/her degree within a period of seven years from the date of the bulletin selected. The degree requirements with which a candidate complies must come from a single bulletin.

Music Ensembles

Ensembles may be repeated for credit but no more than 8 credit hours (all ensembles combined) may be applied to a degree.

Interpretation of Degree Requirements

The interpretation of all degree requirements is the responsibility of the Office of Academic Affairs and the Registrar. Problems related to degree requirements should be referred to the Registrar, the faculty adviser, or the department chair. For exceptions to policy in academic matters, students should consult with the Office of Academic Affairs; new students and other students without a declared major may consult the Office of Academic Affairs.