South Mountain College
Joan Ramage Macdonald, program director
South Mountain College is a residential academic program in the College of Arts and Sciences that unites a community of students and faculty in the exploration of intellectually exciting and practically significant topics of investigation. Students in South Mountain College are challenged to assume responsibility for their educations and make connections across disciplinary barriers. Assisted by core faculty – along with faculty and staff ‘friends’ of the program – South Mountain students also draw from the curricular resources and intellectual capital of the University. South Mountain College consists of a physical place (a dedicated residence), a curriculum (a unique set of courses and activities), and an intellectual community. Its guiding philosophy is that the problems and conundrums which confront us as individuals and as citizens are so thoroughly interconnected that our only hope of disentangling them is through creative, critical and comparative thinking across the full range of academic disciplines, and beyond. More information about South Mountain College as well as information about application procedures can be found at the program’s web site (http://lehigh.edu/smc).
Participation in South Mountain College (SMC) involves a one-year residential commitment in its dedicated living space, pursuit of a traditional Lehigh major, enrollment in SMC courses (described below), participation in SMC activities such as the annual planning retreats and extracurricular events, and completion of free electives to meet University graduation requirements. Students work closely with their traditional major advisors, faculty within SMC, and peers having a range of experience in the program. As outcomes of their South Mountain College experience, students will experience a strong liberal-arts education focused on the connections across disciplines, and they will gain tangible skills in critical analysis, grappling with complex issues and problems, and managing their own work and that of others to make timely progress on difficult issues.
Students who have joined South Mountain College will spend roughly one third of their credits pursuing a traditional major, one third sampling free electives, and one third in the formal South Mountain College curriculum. This curriculum has two components, augmented by formal and informal extracurricular activities and events. First, in all semesters, students will join a section of an ongoing multidisciplinary seminar devoted to the discussion and analysis of important ideas; in consultation with their faculty mentor, students will participate in selecting both the topics to be considered and the works through which to examine them. Second, in all semesters, students will work either in groups or alone on investigations related to one of the annual South Mountain themes chosen by the faculty and student community in a May retreat. Again, the nature of this work, how goals will be achieved, and what products or end-result is desired will be determined by students working with faculty mentors devoted to each theme. A strong focus on writing and communication skills is an important part of both the South Mountain College Seminar and Investigations courses, and the theme-based work is aimed at concrete outcomes no matter what path a student or group of students chooses to take in working on the theme.
When taking free electives or courses in their declared major, South Mountain College students earn letter grades and accrue a grade-point average like any other Lehigh student. However, in SMC courses, letter grades are not used and students simply earn credit towards graduation if they successfully complete the course (a notation of “CR” will appear on their transcript). In lieu of letter grades, for each offering of each course, students receive a narrative assessment provided by their instructor, and these assessments become part of their permanent record. To continue in South Mountain College, students must remain in good academic standing in the University and also in good standing within the program.
Students admitted to the program have most College requirements waived for them, including the first-year English Composition sequence, the first-year College Seminar, the junior writing-intensive requirement, and distribution requirements (in Math, Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, and Arts and Humanities). They do need to complete one of the majors offered by the College, meet all South Mountain College requirements, and take free electives to meet the graduation requirement of at least 120 credits. In principle the program is open to students from other colleges at Lehigh, but they would have to meet all major and graduation requirements for their College and degree program in addition to SMC requirements.
Students can apply to South Mountain College in parallel with application for admission to Lehigh and participate in the program throughout their four years at the University. It is possible to join the program after the first year, and interested students should contact the program office for information about procedures. Students who choose to leave the program before graduation can do so without penalty, given that they will already be completing a major and accruing credits towards graduation; students in this situation should contact the SMC Director for information about returning to the traditional Lehigh curriculum.
Degree Requirements for South Mountain College
Residence in South Mountain College housing for at least 2 semesters.
Participation in the annual planning retreats, each year (usually in May and in August before First-Year orientation)
Completion of a Lehigh B.A. or B.S. major (Note: most B.S. majors will require careful planning in order to meet all requirements in a timely fashion)
Completion of free electives, so as to meet the minimum University graduation requirement of 120 credits.
Maintenance of good standing in the South Mountain College program.
Completion of the South Mountain College Curriculum (40 credits):
Year 1, fall and spring:
Years 2 – 4, fall and spring:
Notes: Two credits of SMC Seminar are required each semester a student is enrolled on-campus, for a total of up to 16 credits. Three credits of SMC Investigation is required each semester a student is enrolled on-campus for a total of 24. Students who are involved in Study Abroad or other off-campus activities may request a waiver from the South Mountain courses for that semester. South Mountain College encourages students to take advantage of opportunities like Study Abroad and will assist students in developing a program that works.
Courses in South Mountain College
SMC 10. South Mountain College Seminar (2)
The subject of this multidisciplinary seminar is the critical analysis of significant ideas. Each offering is organized around the discussion of books, articles, compositions, performances, films, and artworks selected by the students in consultation with their faculty mentor; sources will be drawn from across disciplines. May include associated workshops that provide a special focus on writing and communication skills. This course is intended for first-year students in the SMC program, and meets concurrently with SMC 200. May be repeated once for credit. (ND)
SMC 050. South Mountain College Investigations (3)
Studies related to the annual theme, involving work across disciplines by members of South Mountain College. Can involve individual or group work, weekly meetings and discussions, and written, artistic, technical or other work as required to explore or make progress on the issue under study. The advising and mentoring associated with this course includes coverage equivalent to Arts 001 (Choices and Decisions). This course is intended for first-year students in the SMC program, and meets concurrently with SMC 250. May be repeated once for credit. (ND)
SMC 200. South Mountain College Advanced Seminar (2)
The subject of this multidisciplinary seminar is the critical analysis of significant ideas. Each offering is organized around the discussion of books, articles, compositions, performances, films, and artworks selected by the students in consultation with their faculty mentor; sources will be drawn from across disciplines. May be repeated for credit. May be taken by non-South Mountain students dependent on available space, by permission. (ND)
SMC 250. South Mountain College Advanced Investigations (3)
Studies related to the annual theme, involving work across disciplines by members of South Mountain College. Can involve individual or group work, weekly meetings and discussions, and written, artistic, technical or other work as required to explore or make progress on the issue under study. May be repeated for credit. (ND)