OLE Core Curriculum Requirements

The OLE Core requirements were adopted as part of the St. Olaf College Curriculum in 2021 and they constitute the core degree requirements of the curriculum. Courses are described in this catalog; OLE Core curriculum attributes for all courses are indicated in the class and lab schedule.

The OLE Core is based on three OLE (Open Linked and Enduring) Questions:
1. In what ways can I understand the world and my role in it?
2. What skills do I need to live a meaningful and purposeful life in community?
3. How can I live responsibly and prepare for challenges in a dynamic, global society?

OLE Core Curriculum Attributes

First-Year Experience: The First-Year Seminar (1 course: 100 level). This course emphasizes critical thinking, conversation, collaboration, and academic habits for the liberal arts. Students learn key skills like locating and evaluating academic sources, as well as reading, reflecting, and responding to texts. Students will cultivate their own curiosity while also learning how to engage in community, better understanding their responsibilities to each other.

First-Year Experience: Writing and Rhetoric (1 course: 100 level). This course engages students in academic and public discourse (audience, purpose, genre, context) related to a particular topic. Students write in multiple genres and engage in writing as a systematic, interactive process. They understand, evaluate, and use appropriate technologies for different purposes and audiences.

Religion, Faith, and Values (1 course). This course builds religious literacy with a focus on one religious tradition or a set of related religious traditions. Students develop the skills necessary for critically interpreting and understanding religious life as well as a more complex understanding of religion’s place in the world. This includes the relationship of religion with community and/or the natural world, and its role in answering fundamental questions about existence, meaning, and ethics.

Christian Theology in Dialogue (1 course). This course focuses on the dialogue between Christian theology and the theology (or its equivalent) of another religious tradition or between Christian theology and another form of inquiry. For example, this course could pair Christian theology with science or with American politics.

Power and Race (1 course). Students gain knowledge of how race and ethnicity can contribute to inequality in contemporary U.S. society, and how these forms of inequality intersect with other social characteristics and institutions such as gender, religion, sexual orientation, social class, and the environment. Students acquire familiarity with cultural differences and their contributions to a diverse society. Courses must discuss the U.S. but need not focus on it exclusively.

Global Histories and Societies (1 course). Students interrogate the ways in which the past is known, constructed, deconstructed, curated and preserved by the present. Courses will focus on analyzing and understanding textual, artistic, environmental and/or oral evidence within the broader historical and cultural contexts in which they were created.

Natural Science (1 course). Using scientific paradigms and methods, students will learn about and develop skills to lead a meaningful and responsible life in the natural world that all inhabit. This course engages students in observation, measurement, experimentation, and the interpretation and analysis of data.

Social Sciences (1 course). Students use social science approaches to better understand the complexity of human systems. The examination of these systems through theories and empirical evidence helps students understand their intersection with specific communities and/or the wider environment, while developing their ability to evaluate social science research.

Writing Across the Curriculum (1 course). Taught at the 200-level, this course bridges the First-Year Experience foundations of critical reading, writing, inquiry, discussion, and information literacy with deeper learning and transfer as students navigate one or more majors or concentrations, engage in academic and co-curricular experiences that invest in vocation and develop a sense of their place and role in community.

Quantitative and Computational Reasoning (1 course). Students gain knowledge of quantitative and computational methods. They learn how to apply quantitative and computational problem-solving and knowledge in specific contexts.

World Languages and Cultures (1-3 courses). This requirement aims to develop language skills and the ability to use those skills to interpret authentic texts and reflect critically on the connections and differences between one’s own experience and the diverse experiences and perspectives of users of other languages. Depending on placement, most incoming students will complete at least one course and a maximum of three courses at St. Olaf in order to fulfill the requirement.

Creativity (1 course). Students explore “making and doing” – the experience of creation, whether the creation in question takes the form of a studio art project, a film, a poem, a dance or theater performance or a music piece. Students can also fulfill this requirement by study of the creative processes of “making and doing.”

Ethical Reasoning in Context (1 course). Students develop an understanding of a range of ethical perspectives and the contrasts among them within a scholarly field (e.g., history, biology, computer science, philosophy) or a domain of inquiry (e.g., politics, human development, the environment, love and friendship). Students will apply those perspectives to relevant questions and controversies and critically examine their assumptions and limitations.

The OLE Experience in Practice (1 course; can be satisfied by a non-credit bearing experience). Students will engage in work that integrates academic and experiential learning by applying classroom theories and ideas in a practical setting and/or drawing upon experiential learning to advance their understanding in an academic setting. All students will have the opportunity to benefit from the mentoring, guided inquiry, and reflection that characterize experiential learning.

The Active Body: Moving Toward Health and Well-Being (1 course). One course of any credit value in which students engage in a body-based movement practice or activity as the primary mode of learning. Courses with the Active Body attribute expand students’ experiences in and understanding of the capacity of movement to develop and promote lifelong health and well-being of the whole person.

Students competing in intercollegiate athletics may use the season of participation in a varsity sport for 0.25 course credit in kinesiology. This 0.25 course can satisfy the Active Body graduation requirement.  Only one 0.25 intercollegiate athletics course credit can be applied toward the 35.00 credits required for graduation. Eligibility for intercollegiate athletics is certified by the faculty in accordance with Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference policy.


Writing in the Major (1 course or its equivalent). A single course or a set of modules distributed across two or more courses that provide writing instruction and practice relevant to a specific major and build upon knowledge and skills developed in the “First-Year Experience” (especially “Writing and Rhetoric”) and “Writing Across the Curriculum”. As appropriate, this requirement engages students in multimodal writing, including visual and oral communication.  At a minimum, half of this requirement must be at the 300-level.


Depending on the Course and Requirement in Question, Students Can Fulfill One or Two Requirements with a Single Course: In four instances, students will be permitted to fulfill two requirements with a single course. The only instances in which a student can fulfill more than one OLE Core requirement with a single course are those in which (at least) one of the two OLE Core requirements is “Writing Across the Curriculum,” “Power and Race,” “Ethical Reasoning in Context,” or “The OLE Experience in Practice.”

In all other cases, students will only be allowed to fulfill a maximum of one requirement with a single course, even if the course carries two requirements. In these instances, students will be able to use the course to meet whichever of their OLE Core requirements they have not yet fulfilled. If a student has not yet fulfilled either requirement, the course will fulfill the first of the two requirements on a provisional basis. This provisional fulfillment will become final if the student completes a course that fulfills the second requirement. If the student subsequently fulfills the first requirement with another course, the original course will then fulfill the second requirement.

First Year Experience Courses Cannot Fulfill Additional OLE Core Requirements: The "First Year Seminar” and “Writing and Rhetoric” courses can fulfill only OLE Core curriculum requirements. They cannot also fulfill “Writing Across the Curriculum,” “Power and Race,” “Ethical Reasoning in Context,” or “The OLE Experience in Practice.”