Ursinus College Catalog

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Independent Learning Experience (ILE)

A major academic goal of a liberal arts education is to transform students in meaningful and positive ways. Our mission statement describes specifically the goal of enabling students “to become independent, responsible and thoughtful individuals.” The Independent Learning Experiences (ILE) will help students take responsibility for their education and foster student initiative and independence by enhancing their confidence in their own abilities.

The ILE requirement is fulfilled by a completion of a single project of at least three credits in a single semester or summer in one of these categories: (a) an independent research projector a creative project (including but not limited to honors); (b) an internship; (c) an approved study abroad program or (d) student teaching. The requirement can also be fulfilled by completion of a project in the Summer Fellows program or a comparable summer research program. For pre-engineering students, successful completion of the first of two years at the engineering school satisfies this requirement.

The Independent Learning Experience will provide students with the opportunity to:

  1. develop independent thinking skills, their awareness of self and others, and their capacity for reflection by adopting different perspectives and inquiring into their own beliefs. 
  2. apply knowledge and skills learned in the classroom successfully and thoughtfully to an experience outside of the classroom.
  3. gain knowledge and skills that are applicable to future pursuits.
  4. produce evidence of their ability to synthesize their learning inside and outside of the classroom (e.g., internship essay, public presentation, research paper) to be shared with others.

Departmental and Interdepartmental Honors

The goals of the Honors Program at Ursinus College are to encourage academic excellence, to promote original research and independent study, and to reward scholarly achievement. Students with high overall academic standing who have demonstrated an exceptional competence, the capacity for independent, original research and disciplined scholarship may be awarded departmental honors or distinguished honors in the department of their major or minor fields of concentration. Students may also be awarded interdepartmental honors or distinguished honors, if they are double majors and complete the requirements for honors in both departments. Interdepartmental or  distinguished honors may also be granted to students who complete the requirements for honors in the departments of their major and minor, subject to approval of both departments. Students may receive honors or distinguished honors in their minor departments or programs, with the approval of both their major and minor departments/ programs.  Students’ eligibility to do honors outside of their major or minor must be pre-approved by the department in which the honors project is conducted and by the Academic Standards and Discipline Committee.  

All these awards are made subject to the following regulations:

1. To be eligible for departmental or distinguished honors, students must have a 3.5 cumulative average based on their last four semesters. Exceptions may be made by the Academic Standards and Discipline Committee at the request of the department. 

2. To be admitted to candidacy for departmental or interdepartmental honors or distinguished honors, students must enroll in a first semester of Research/Independent Work 491. By the middle of their first semester of Research/Independent Work 491, a candidate for honors submits a formal proposal including a bibliography and research plan to the department(s) for approval. Near the end of the 491 course, the candidate submits a written status report and makes an oral presentation to the department(s). Upon completion of 491, the student may be invited by the department(s) to pursue honors in the following semester. 

Students must obtain written consent of a faculty member who will serve as the project adviser, have their candidacy certified by the chairperson of the department in which they wish to pursue honors. In the case of interdepartmental honors, students must obtain written consent of a faculty project adviser from each department/program, have their candidacy certified by the chairperson/coordinator of one of these departments/programs, and have the research or individual projects approved by both departments/programs.

Students who receive such approval by the end of the first semester will complete a second semester of Research/Independent Work 492.

3. The Honors Project, completed in the second semester of  research/independent work, must demonstrate disciplined, independent and original scholarship or creativity. If the candidates receive a passing grade, they will earn credit hours toward graduation, even though their work may not be recommended for honors.

4. An honors committee consists of at least three faculty members, at least two from the department(s) and at least one from outside the department(s).If the committee agrees the project is moving towards consideration for distinguished honors, an outside evaluator will be secured at least one month prior to the project’s defense and added to the committee.   The committee evaluates the project and an oral presentation, and examines the candidate by early to mid- April. This committee is chosen by the adviser(s) in consultation with the department chair(s) and the student. . Departmental or interdepartmental honors will be awarded on the recommendation of this committee and the department(s), and the approval of the faculty.

5. After the student submits the final paper and passes the oral presentation, the committee may decide to award distinguished honors, if the student has demonstrated exceptional scholarship, originality, and/or thoroughness, and the project has been vetted by an outside reader. The Honors Committee including the outside reader must be unanimous in their decision to award distinguished honors to the student.

6. Departments specify the date for the candidate to submit a completed thesis. In order that the faculty may consider the awarding of honors or distinguished honors, the candidate must deposit the completed thesis in bound form following the format established by the Myrin Library, the written recommendation of the project adviser, and approval of the department(s) and of the outside evaluator for distinguished honors in the office of the dean of the College by the Monday of the last full week of classes.


An internship is a structured and supervised professional experience for which a student receives academic credit. The Career Services Office has information on a wide range of internship opportunities.


Credit for a departmental internship will be established within the department and may be either three or four credits. The faculty internship adviser will determine whether an internship opportunity meets the standards to qualify for academic credit. Approval for academic credit for internship experiences will not be granted for internships in progress or following their completion. Students register for a summer internship during the spring registration period. On-campus internships must be approved by the Academic Standards and Discipline Committee.


Students who meet the following qualifications will be permitted to enroll in an internship for credit:

  1. junior or senior status
  2. have completed three courses within the department that administers the internship, or permission of the faculty internship adviser;
  3. must have a cumulative GPA of 2.0;

Students will be permitted to undertake two internships, provided they are not concurrent, under any of the following conditions:

  1. the internship site requires a two-term commitment
  2. the student is a double major and wishes an internship in each major
  3. the second internship is outside the major (e.g. in the minor)
  4. the two internships are within the same major but are so different as to constitute a markedly different experience

Exceptions to these qualifications must be approved by the Academic Standards and Discipline Committee prior to enrolling in the internship.

Defined Activities

The internships will include the following specified activities:

  1. specified number of hours at the internship site; the minimum hourly requirement will be 10-12 hours per week with a minimum of 160 hours per semester – four credits; 120 hours per semester – three credits
  2. submission of the internship registration form (internship learning agreement)
  3. completion of the Online Internship Companion Course (Internship PREP) by the end of the first week of commencing the internship
  4. a journal or daily log recording activities and hours
  5. meetings with the faculty internship adviser
  6. a final research paper or other visible product such as a portfolio, video
  7. whenever possible, a public oral presentation of results
  8. Completion of an internship evaluation within one week of receipt.


Since the faculty internship adviser is responsible for the final grade, the internship will be graded on the basis of: a) final visible product as defined by internship-granting department, b) input from on-site adviser, c) input from faculty internship adviser

International Programs

The immediate knowledge of the cultural heritage of another country, with its contemporary economic and social problems, affords students an awareness of differing values and an understanding of their own country’s relation to issues which confront the world today. Ursinus students grow and learn from a wide variety of international experiences, both for academic credit and not credit -bearing. Students may spend a semester or a summer in an approved study abroad program provided they are students in good standing, are recommended by their major adviser, and, in the opinion of the dean and the faculty, will be worthy representatives of the College and will profit from this experience. Students may apply to study abroad as early as the summer following their freshman year. Juniors are especially encouraged to study abroad, and seniors may apply to study abroad in the fall semester of their last year. All students, regardless of major, are encouraged to consider study abroad, but they normally should have completed courses through at least the intermediate level in the language of the country involved. Students approved to study abroad for a semester are required take a pre-departure orientation course. The course of study must be approved in advance. Upon evidence of successful completion of the program, normally a maximum of 16 credits per semester or no more than 1 credit per week for short term programs will be granted for studies pursued abroad. All semester and most short-term programs satisfy the College’s ILE requirement. Students may apply their financial aid and merit scholarships to approved semester abroad programs. The Ursinus faculty-led and affiliated programs listed below are a partial list of study abroad options chosen by our students. We also allow students to participate in a number of other overseas programs run by independent organizations. Additional information may be obtained from the Office of International Programs and website. Other international opportunities are supported by the Office of Fellowships and Scholarships, the Office of the Ambassador-in-Residence, and the Ursinus Center for Advocacy, Responsibility and Engagement (UCARE).

Ursinus College Semester Abroad Programs

These study abroad programs are directed by Ursinus College faculty and feature family homestays and internships where available. Participants remain officially enrolled at the college, receive Ursinus College credit, and most of their grades factor into their overall GPA. Ursinus College Semester Abroad programs are preferred over other semester programs in similar destinations with similar course offerings.

Ursinus in Beijing, China

This fall semester program provides students the opportunity to live and study on a Chinese university campus. Housed within the College of International Education at Capital Normal University, the CAPA Beijing Study Center offers intensive Chinese language taught by local instructors and internships in businesses and organizations where English and Chinese are spoken. An Ursinus faculty member teaches courses in his or her field. Students live in an international student residence hall.

Ursinus in Florence, Italy

This fall or spring semester program in Tuscany includes the study of Italian language and culture, as well as offerings taught in English by Ursinus faculty in other areas of study. All students are required to take a course in Italian language. Students live with homestay families.

Ursinus in Madrid, Spain

This full immersion language program, offered in fall, targets students of various levels who have completed a minimum of two semesters of college Spanish at the intermediate level. Students take intensive Spanish taught by local instructors and participate in a Community Practicum that places them in local firms, non-governmental organizations, or community schools. The Ursinus faculty director teaches one or more courses on Spanish art, literature, politics, or society. All students live with families.

Ursinus in Tübingen, Germany

The fall semester program is located in the beautiful medieval university town of Tübingen in southwestern Germany. No previous knowledge of German is required but all students register for an intensive German language course. Students choose from courses offered in European history, politics, and German and comparative literature. Courses are taught in English and in German. Independent research projects and internships, including science internships in university and private laboratories and teaching internships in German public schools, are available to qualified students. Students live with families.

Ursinus in Yucatán, Mexico

This field-work intensive spring experience takes students to various sites of biological and archaeological interest for classroom study, field work and research. It offers three courses taught in English including Evolution, the Biology of Maya México and the Maya: Ancient and Modern. In addition, all students take a short-term intensive Spanish language course during which they live with homestay families. Otherwise students live in accommodations provided by research stations.

Ursinus College Summer and Winter Interim Programs

All programs are conducted by Ursinus College faculty. Programs that fulfill the Independent Learning Experience (ILE) are indicated by *.

The Summer Program in Japan*

which runs from late May to late June, is offered in collaboration with Tohoku Gakuin University in Sendai, Japan. Students live with families while studying at the university and have an opportunity to visit Hiroshima and Tokyo.

The Summer Program in Mexico*

is a four-week language-intensive program that includes a homestay in Cuernavaca and travel to Puebla, Mexico City, and other areas of interest, such as the Yucatan Peninsula, Oaxaca, or the west coast of Mexico. Students participate in language classes taught by local faculty and take a seminar with the Ursinus faculty director.

The Summer Program in Germany *

is held in Tübingen in southwestern Germany. Students of all majors and language levels study intensive language, live in student residences and have the opportunity to enroll in a practicum or internship. The six-week program begins at the end of May and ends in early July.

Biology of the Neotropics*

is a field study of the rain forests of Costa Rica. Qualified students meet for hours on campus during the fall semester and spend three weeks during winter break in the field. Side trips include visits to cloud forests or coral reefs. The program is offered every other year.

Winter Study in Senegal

is a two-week French language course, including classroom study, homestay with a Senegalese family, excursions and weekend travel. Offered during winter break.

International Internships

Qualifying students may be placed in domestic internships within an international context or in special internships abroad arranged by The Hon. Joseph Melrose, Ambassador-in-Residence. Past placements have been made in U.S. State Department as well as Non-governmental Organization sites abroad.

Exchange Programs

These semester or academic year programs are based on student exchange agreements or sister school status with other institutions. Students who participate in these programs are officially enrolled at the host institution. Up to 16 credits per semester, but not grades, may transfer.

Akita International University (Japan)

Qualified Ursinus students can study at AIU for the fall or spring semester. In addition to intensive Japanese language courses, AIU offers many courses taught in English in a variety of disciplines, making the program open to students of all majors. Its location gives our students an opportunity to study away from Japan’s urban centers, while still having access to a region rich with cultural and recreational activities. AIU houses most of its exchange students in dorms with Japanese students. A winter term option is available. Previous study of Japanese is desirable but not required. Admission is competitive.

Ursinus-Tohoku Gakuin University Program (Japan)

Ursinus students may spend the fall semester at Tohoku Gakuin, our sister university in Sendai, Japan. Classes are conducted in English except for Japanese language classes. Admission is competitive and the program is open to majors in any field who have completed at least one year of Japanese language study at the college level.


Ursinus College is affiliated with several organizations and consortia of colleges and universities that offer high-quality international experiences to our students throughout the world. Qualified students who participate in these programs are visiting students abroad. Up to 16 credits, but not grades, may transfer. Students have recently studied abroad under the auspices of the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), the Council for International Education Exchange (CIEE), CAPA in London and Florence, Institute for Study Abroad (IFSA), International Christian University (Japan), Sea Education Association (SEA) in Woods Hole, Université de Saint-Louis (Sénégal), and Washington University (St. Louis) Summer Study in France for the Pre-Medical Student. For a complete and updated list of approved programs, please see the Study Abroad Website.

Student Teaching

The teaching semester immerses the students daily within a large and varied community outside Ursinus. The program prepares students for positions in 15 academic disciplines including the most recent addition of certification in Environmental Studies. Ursinus is one of only a small number of institutions in Pennsylvania to offer certification for secondary-school teaching in Japanese language.

In addition to major and core requirements, certification courses are required in order to meet Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) regulations. Earning a degree and certification in four years is possible, but candidates must meet with their advisers early in their college career and plan their schedule with care. The Education course sequence provides a variety of field experiences, usually beginning in the sophomore year, to prepare students to step in front of a class during the student teaching semester in the senior year. In order to be admitted to the education program, students must have completed 48 college credits, received a departmental recommendation, passed Praxis I exams (effective April 2, 2012 students must take PAPA exams), and attained a 3.00 overall GPA. They must maintain the minimum of 3.00 GPA throughout the program to be recommended for certification. Passing the necessary Praxis II exams is also a requirement to achieve certification. Students interested in obtaining teaching certification must meet major and Ursinus College Education Department requirements.

Student teaching can take place in either the fall or spring semester, and most apprentice teachers are given two placements during the semester—one at a high school and one in middle school. A special program to prepare interested students to take up careers in urban teaching allows students live in Philadelphia while teaching, reaching beyond Ursinus in all senses of the word.

Summer Fellows and Undergraduate Research

Another program that illustrates the College’s commitment to providing meaningful independent research opportunities is the Summer Fellows Program. Established in 1996 for students of all disciplines, the program allows students to participate in a research project or a creative or artistic endeavor on a one-to-one basis with a faculty member. For eight to ten weeks, Summer Fellows live on campus and work closely with their mentors on independent projects. The opportunity for students to live and work together as a community of scholars generates a unique atmosphere of student-faculty collegiality on the Ursinus campus that is highly valued by all participants. The program is highly competitive and about seventy to ninety students participate each summer. To mark the close of the summer program, each year students, faculty, and members of the Ursinus community gather together formally to recognize and celebrate students’ outstanding achievements with a Summer Fellows Symposium, an opportunity for student scholars to present their work in a public forum. The program is funded by internal and external grants as well as by gifts from generous alumni.

Students who do not have the time for a major research commitment such as honors or Summer Fellows often participate in a focused research project for at least one semester through Directed Research courses and Independent Study courses. Small grants are available to support research expenses for Honors, Directed Research, and Independent Study courses.

Students to have the opportunity to showcase their work on the Celebration of Student Achievement (CoSA) day each spring when classes are set aside for the presentation of students’ scholarly and artistic work. Ursinus students regularly present at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research and at the Sigma Xi Student Research Conference as well as at discipline-specific undergraduate research conferences and regional professional meetings. Others have co-authored presentations at national meetings and many have won awards for their independent research and artistic accomplishments. Many students also publish with their faculty mentors and in the past five years over one hundred papers have been published in professional journals.

Foreign Language Integration Option (FL)

This program allows students to use their language abilities in courses outside the language departments. Faculty members in the disciplines who wish to make their courses available for the foreign language integration option decide, in conjunction with individual students and in consultation with a member of the modern or classical language departments, on the amount
and type of language work involved. This work typically includes readings from books, newspapers or articles, or paper writing, and it substitutes for English language work.

Pre-Professional Programs

Pre-Engineering Program

Arrangements have been made with the engineering school of Columbia University to which a student may apply for transfer after completing three years of prescribed work toward a B.A. at Ursinus College. Ursinus will grant the B.A. or B.S. after the student has satisfied the requirements for that degree, usually on satisfactory completion of the fourth year. The engineering school will grant the engineering degree on satisfactory completion of the fifth year. Transfer to other engineering schools (without formal affiliation) is also possible.

Premedical Advising Program

The Premedical Committee at Ursinus serves all students interested in pursuing careers in the health care field. The committee serves students interested in, but not limited to, medical school (allopathic and osteopathic), dental school, veterinary school, optometry school, and physician assistant programs. The Chair of the Premedical committee serves as the “premedical adviser” for all students until junior year, holds group meetings, and organizes speakers. Each junior is assigned an adviser from the interdisciplinary Premedical Committee. Advisers assist in revising personal statements, team up to provide “practice” interviews for students about to apply, and write up composite recommendation letters to send to medical schools.

Pre-Legal Advising Program

The Pre-Legal program provides support for those students considering a career related to the law. The Pre-Legal program is directed by a coordinator assisted by pre-legal faculty advisers from across the disciplines, including Biology, Business and Economics, Chemistry, English, History, and Politics, who are meant to serve as advocates and providers of information to students with whom they come in contact. No particular major provides the “best” path to a legal career. Students considering legal careers should choose majors and courses that can help them understand human experience while developing the reading, writing, speaking, and reasoning skills necessary for success in legal work. These skills can be obtained from courses in a wide array of departments in humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences.

Pre-Theological Studies

Students who are considering entering a school of theology or seminary after graduation are encouraged to discuss their plans with members of the department of Philosophy and Religion and with the Campus Chaplain. Most seminaries and schools of theology will accept students from any academic major. In general, a broad background in the humanities, arts, social science, and sciences is desirable. Also, students should check with their denomination for more specific details regarding entrance requirements.