Jun 21, 2024  
Catalogue 2017-2018 
Catalogue 2017-2018 [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Learning & Living at Vassar

A Community of Special Character

Vassar College seeks to sustain a community of special character in which people of divergent views and backgrounds come together to study and live in the proud tradition of a residential liberal arts college. Vassar students, working closely with the faculty, enjoy the freedom to explore their intellectual and artistic passions, to develop their powers of reason and imagination through the process of analysis and synthesis, to effectively express their unique points of view, to challenge and rethink their own and others’ assumptions, and to struggle with complex questions that sometimes reveal conflicting truths. The lifelong love of learning, increased knowledge of oneself and others, humane concern for society and the world, and commitment to an examined and evolving set of values established at Vassar prepares and compels our graduates to actively participate in the local, national, and global communities with a profound understanding of social and political contexts.

As Vassar seeks to educate the individual imagination to see into the lives of others, its academic mission cannot be separated from its identity as a residential community comprising diverse interests and perspectives. The college expects its students to be mindful of their responsibilities to one another and to engage actively in the creation of a community of intellectual freedom, mutually understood dignity, and civil discourse. The embodiment of this commitment is the book of matriculation, which all new students sign as they agree to uphold the letter and spirit of college regulations, to adhere to the values espoused in the college’s mission statement, and to preserve the integrity of the institution.


Assisting students to realize these goals is a faculty of more than 300 individuals, all of whom hold advanced degrees from major universities in this country and abroad. In their devotion to the teaching of undergraduates and in their concern with the needs and capabilities of the individual student, they carry on Vassar’s strongest and most productive traditions, including encouraging students to assume responsibility for the direction of their education.


Vassar College is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.



The Vassar curriculum has always been characterized by boldness, breadth, and flexibility. Vassar was among the first colleges to offer courses in drama, psychology, and Russian, the first to offer an undergraduate degree in cognitive science, and among the first to experiment with interdepartmental courses in the early 20th century. Today, the curriculum is broader, richer, and more varied than ever, with an increasing emphasis on a multidisciplinary approach to intellectual inquiry. The formal curriculum is enriched by an annual events schedule that includes prominent visitors to campus for lectures and residencies, art exhibitions, plays, concerts, and symposia.

The general curricular requirements are flexible: each student must fulfill the Freshman Writing Seminar requirement, the Quantitative Course requirement, and the Foreign Language Proficiency requirement. In addition to these general requirements, the student must fulfill the specific requirements of his or her major (also called a concentration) in his/her choice of a department, an interdepartmental program (such as biochemistry or geography/anthropology), or a multidisciplinary program (such as urban studies or American studies).

The Advising System

Vassar students have formal and informal advisors who encourage and assist them in thinking deeply about their life goals and interests, help them plan their course of study, and locate and access campus resources. Entering students are assigned to faculty pre-major advisors until they declare an area of concentration (typically in the sophomore year), at which time they choose a major advisor from their department or program. Students may also seek advice on any matter from the dean of studies, the dean of freshmen, or their class advisor. In addition, department chairs and program directors are available to answer questions about their courses and majors. Typically, they will also consult with individual faculty members, including the house fellows, for informal advice. The dean of students, director of residential life, and house advisors provide advice on nonacademic matters.

Community-Engaged Learning (Field Work)

Vassar students have multiple opportunities to apply what they’re learning to real life situations. About 400 students annually do community-engaged learning for academic credit in the local community, Albany, and New York City. In some disciplines, such as anthropology, earth science, education, and geography, such work is an expected part of the student’s concentration.

The Learning, Teaching, and Research Center


The Learning, Teaching, and Research Center (LTRC), located in the library, connects students and faculty with one another across disciplines, recognizing that both students and teachers are involved in learning, leading, and scholarship. The center’s mission includes helping students realize their academic potential and achieve their educational goals as well as supporting faculty in their professional development. The LTRC houses the Writing Center, which is staffed by peer consultants who are trained to work with students on a wide range of written work from research papers to critical essays, lab reports, or creative pieces, and at every stage of the writing process from rough draft to final revision. The Q-Center, also part of the LTRC, provides student-to-student support in math and the sciences, especially for students at the introductory level. The Supplemental Instruction (SI) program provides weekly peer-facilitated study sessions for specific courses in math, chemistry, and physics. The director of the Q-center also works with faculty and students to meet their needs across quantitative fields. The academic support and learning resource specialist offers guidance in developing study skills such as reading, note taking, and time management. In addition, the LTRC designs and leads faculty development seminars informed by its work with students and encourages faculty to see how their research informs their teaching, and vice versa. The LTRC also works closely with the Office of Accessibility and Educational Opportunity, the research librarians, and the Academic Computing Services on programming for both faculty and students.

Fellowships and Pre-Health Advising

The Office for Fellowships and Pre-Health Advising works with students and alumnae/i seeking admission to schools in the health professions (medical, dental, etc.), as well as with those who apply for fellowships to fund graduate education, independent study, and research. Students interested in these opportunities are encouraged to meet with the director and to consult the available materials relative to their interests. Information sessions and general mailings provide all students, but especially juniors and seniors, with details of a wide variety of opportunities and application processes. Early consultation is recommended for students who intend to apply for schools in the health professions and/or competitive fellowships.

Career Development

The Career Development Office (CDO) helps students and alumnae/i envision and realize a meaningful life after Vassar. We support members of the Vassar Community as they explore their interests, define their career goals, and seek their next opportunity for personal growth and professional development.

The office believes career choices are a reflection of one’s interests, values, and skills. Understanding the connections among the three is a catalyst in enabling a person to find meaning in his or her life’s work.

The CDO houses extensive resources for locating internships, summer employment, and full-time postgraduate opportunities. CDO counselors also provide pre-law and graduate school advising.

Campus Life and Diversity

The Campus Life and Diversity Office coordinates programs and services to build inclusive and affirming campus environments for all students and oversees the Vassar First Year program, a series of events, including New Student Orientation, designed to introduce new students to life at Vassar. A mix of academic events, cultural happenings, and discussions about campus issues, these programs encourage students to engage beyond the classroom as they explore channels for contributing to the intellectual and community life of the college.

The Campus Life and Diversity Office hosts regular Conversation Dinners and plans the annual All College Day in February, bringing students, faculty, administrators, and staff together for a day of discussions and dialogues. The office also assists students, groups, and other offices in creating opportunities for participants from different backgrounds and perspectives to engage in dialogue. In addition, the office oversees the following campus resources that focus on issues of identity and social justice education and provide support for historically underrepresented and religious and spiritual groups:

The ALANA Center provides myriad resources and programs to enhance the campus life and academic experiences of African-American/Black, Latino, Asian, and Native American students. The center provides a comfortable gathering space for student organizations that support students of color and offers opportunities for leadership development, intra-cultural and cross-cultural dialogues, lectures, big sister/big brother and alumnae/i mentoring programs. The center also provides resources for interacting with various communities in Poughkeepsie and surrounding areas, cultural journals/newsletters, educational videos, career development, scholarship and fellowship information, and a computer lab.

The Office of International Services offers a full range of resources for international students and scholars, including advice and assistance in visa, immigration, tax, employment, cultural and general matters. The office seeks to support internationals in adjusting to and embracing a new culture and also to involve and engage all members of the campus community in events, workshops, and other opportunities to share the wealth of global perspectives and experiences our campus enjoys.

The LGBTQ/Gender Resource Centers, located in College Center 213 and staffed by the assistant director for Campus Life and interns, fosters a spirit of inquiry while offering Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender, and Queer (LBGTQ) and gender viewpoints to the campus life and academic discourse. The center hosts discussions, lectures, and social events, and provides meeting space for various student organizations. The Women’s Center, located in College Center 235, is staffed by student interns who plan film screenings, lectures, and discussions on a range of topics. They collaborate with other student interns and student organizations to promote gender equity. Faculty members from the Women’s Studies Program provide support through curricular and co-curricular advising.

The Office of Religious and Spiritual Life (RSL) oversees, advises, and supports a wide range of religious and civic communities and initiatives on campus and plays an important role as a college liaison to the mid-Hudson Valley community. RSL staff members are available for pastoral counseling and spiritual guidance for any concern or question students may have. Staffed by a director, an assistant director and advisor to Jewish students, and part-time affiliate advisors serving the Episcopal, Roman Catholic, and InterVarsity communities on campus, RSL provides programming and support for 10 different student religious groups at Vassar. RSL has office and program space in the Chapel tower and basement, as well as at the Bayit, Vassar’s home of Jewish campus life, at 51 Collegeview Avenue.

Student Employment

Student employees are an integral part of the daily operation of Vassar College, and student jobs are found in nearly every department and office on the campus. Each semester students fill over 1,600 campus jobs. About 300 students annually work as paid research assistants or academic interns in the sciences, social sciences, arts, and humanities. The mission of the Student Financial Services Office is to offer employment that matches the educational goals set by each student and to offer jobs that help students gain both professional and personal development.

Financial aid students have priority consideration for campus jobs through the placement process and during exclusive priority periods at the beginning of each semester. College policy limits the number of hours that students may work based upon class year: freshmen may work up to eight hours per week, sophomores nine hours per week, and juniors and seniors may work up to 10 hours per week. In addition to the part-time employment program that operates during academic periods, the Student Financial Services Office also administers a small full-time employment program for students during the winter, spring, and summer breaks.

Counseling Service

The Counseling Service provides a variety of services to help students and the campus community handle the problems associated with academics, college life, and personal development. Services include: individual, couple, and group counseling and psychotherapy; crisis intervention; educational programs; consultation; assessment; and referral to off-campus services. Services are free of charge to Vassar College students.

The staff of the Counseling Service is made up of mental health professionals who welcome all students and embrace a philosophy of diversity. As part of the college community, counselors are committed to the personal and academic development of all Vassar students. The counselors are trained in the disciplines of clinical and counseling psychology and clinical social work, and work with students to explore personal problems and concerns in a secure and private setting. Students come to the Counseling Service for a variety of reasons, for example: relationship problems with parents, peers, or partners, depression, anxiety, alcohol and other drug use and abuse, coming out issues, stress, concerns about academic progress or direction, or assistance in planning for the future. The student and the counselor work out the details and the course of counseling jointly.

Counselors often refer students to resources outside of the Vassar community depending on the needs of the student and the limitations of the Counseling Service. Students referred for treatment off campus may use their health insurance to defray the cost. Off-campus services are the responsibility of the student and/or the student’s family.

The Counseling Service offers a variety of groups, some with a specific focus such as eating disorders or the concerns of children of alcoholics. Other groups are more general such as process groups on relationships or psychotherapy. Groups are formed at the beginning of each semester and typically meet once a week. A list of groups is advertised at the start of each semester.

Confidentiality, a highest priority at the Counseling Service, is often a concern for students. Strict ethical principles and codes of conduct govern the Counseling Service, ensuring confidentiality within specific legal limits. Counseling records are separate from academic and medical records at the college and are not available to college offices outside of the Counseling Service.

A consulting psychiatrist is affiliated with the Counseling Service. Limited psychiatric services are available at Metcalf by referral from a counselor. If continuing psychiatric services are required, a referral is made to a private psychiatrist.

Health Service

The Health Service addresses the health concerns of students and provides care for acute illnesses as well as continuity of care for chronic conditions by liaison with the student’s physicians at home. Medical staff including physicians, PAs, and NPs, are available during clinic hours for consultation. During the hours the Health Service is closed, a member of the medical staff is on call to attend to acute problems. In an emergency, students should contact the Campus Response Center 845-437-7333 (extension 7333 from a campus phone) to dispatch the Vassar Emergency Medical Service (VCEMS).

A health fee covers the cost of most medical visits on campus. Students must be covered by the Vassar Student Health Insurance or an equivalent health insurance policy to cover outside hospitalization and/or surgery, specialist consultations, emergency room visits, certain laboratory work, and medications.

New students are required to file a medical history and physical examination with the department before coming to college. Proof of immunization against meningitis, measles, mumps, and rubella are mandatory to meet New York State requirements. Documentation of a current TB test is also required. Proof of polio immunization, recent tetanus immunization, the hepatitis B vaccine, Varivax and HPV immunization are highly recommended.

Health Education

The Office of Health Education, staffed by a director and several student wellness peer educators, reflects Vassar College’s commitment to the development of the whole personbody, mind, and spiritby following three guiding principles: education, outreach, and prevention. Students work with the director to help Vassar students make better choices for healthier living via educational programs related to various aspects of student health; through outreach aimed at facilitating connections between student health needs and services provided by the college; and by prevention through leadership, consultations, and referrals.

Sexual Assault Violence Prevention

Vassar College is committed to ensuring the safety and well being of its entire community. The Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention (SAVP) program, housed in the Office of Health Education, coordinates student and faculty interests around issues of sexual assault, stalking, and violence in order to increase awareness of issues of violence against women, establishes campus-wide policies and protocols around these issues, and works with campus and community resources to prevent further incidences of violence.

The SAVP coordinator and the Sexual Assault Response Team (SART), composed of faculty, staff, and administrator volunteers, provide support, advocacy, and information for victims of sexual assault, relationship abuse, and stalking.

Accessibility and Educational Opportunity

Recognizing the diversity and individualized needs of Vassar’s student population in the context of the college’s commitment to inclusion, the Office for Accessibility and Educational Opportunity (AEO) provides support and resources for students diagnosed with learning differences (including ADHD), psychological disorders, chronic health conditions, mobility or orthopedic impairments, sensory impairments, and substance abuse/recovery needs. The office coordinates accommodations for academic courses, residential life, meal plans, college-sponsored extracurricular activities, and college jobs.

Students with known disabilities are encouraged to contact the AEO directly prior to or upon admission. To receive any disability-related academic or residential life accommodations, modifications, auxiliary aids, or academic services, students must first self-identify to the AEO and provide appropriate documentation of their disability or disabilities. All accommodation and service decisions are based on the nature of the student’s disability, supporting documentation, and current needs as they relate to the specific requirements of the course, program, or activity.  Students may wish to consult the AEO to explore eligibility for accommodations and services when learning, attention, medical and/or psychological challenges emerge during a particular semester. Commonly offered accommodations and support services include exam accommodations (e.g., extended time, use of a computer, lower distraction environment, etc.), access to assistive technology, alternative print formats, notetaker services, modified course load, sign language interpreters, remote closed captioning, and housing and meal plan modifications.

Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action

The Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action (EOAA) is responsible for monitoring the college’s compliance with federal and state nondiscrimination laws and for investigating complaints of discrimination, harassment, and gender based discrimination, including sexual harassment, in accordance with the college’s Policy Against Discrimination and Harassment. The EOAA office also offers a variety of educational programs for faculty, students, and employees including small group discussions for new faculty, workshops tailored to any group’s specific needs on creating a respectful working and learning environment free from discrimination and harassment, and other educational programs such as responding to bias incidents and hate crimes on college campuses.

In addition to helping address concerns of alleged discrimination, harassment, and sexual harassment through a variety of informal resolution mechanisms, the office conducts investigations and oversees formal grievance and hearing procedures. The procedures used to handle discrimination and harassment concerns are described in the College Regulations, Administrative Handbook, and Faculty Handbook, and may involve informal mechanisms of redress or resolution through a formal grievance hearing. Individuals who wish to report a concern, seek guidance, file a formal grievance, or request training or other assistance may do so by contacting the director of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action and/or the faculty director of Affirmative Action. The director of equal opportunity is a designated Title IX Officer for the college. Discussing a concern with an EOAA officer does not commit one to making a formal charge.

Safety and Security

As in all communities, members of the Vassar community are advised to safeguard personal property and to be aware of established security regulations. The college employs men and women, both in uniform and plain clothes, dedicated to providing a safe, peaceful campus. All suspicious circumstances and individuals should be reported to Safety and Security for investigation and evaluation. Individuals in need of assistance should dial 845-437-7333 (extension 7333 from a campus phone).

The Vassar College Safety and Security Department offers RAD (Rape Aggression Defense) classes each semester, Defensive Driving courses, and other informational Q&A sessions throughout the year. The Vassar College Security Bicycle Patrol is staffed by seven officers who patrol the campus and provide extra security at all campus events.

For campus crime statistics, consult the U.S. Department of Education’s website at http://ope.ed.gov/security/, or call the director of security at 845-437-5201. The Advisory Committee on Campus Safety will also provide upon request all campus crime statistics as reported to the United States Department of Education.