Pre-Concentration Advisor Handbook

So you want to major in...


(NOTE: Listed by concentration, not by department.)

To assist students in their explorations of majors, departments and programs have provided these guidelines for helping students get an appropriate introduction to their concentrations.

Africana Studies

Students interested in considering a concentration in Africana Studies should take either Imagining Africa (AFRST 220) or Africa in Diaspora (221).  Africana Studies 101 does not count for the concentration, though is open to interested first-year students.
Chair:  Heather Merrill x4439 hmerrill@hamilton.edu  ALCC 101

American Studies

At the center of the American studies curriculum are an introductory course (AMST 201 and an intensive seminar, taken in the junior or senior year (300-level or higher.  Students also take selected courses in U.S. literature (two at the 200-level or higher) and history (two at the 200-level or higher, with approval from the Program Director).  From this base, students work closely with their faculty mentors to chart their own academic paths.  Contact the program chair for more information.
Chair:  Angel Nieves x4125 anieves@hamilton.edu Burke Library 324


To get started in an archaeology concentration, students should take one of the introductory courses in anthropology. Eventually, you should take one course each within two areas.  These areas include archaeology (Archaeology 106 or 108) and cultural and linguistic anthropology (Anthropology 113, 114, 115, 126, 127, or 201).
Chair: Chaise Ladousa x 4109 cladousa@hamilton.edu  KJ 245


Students should begin with Introduction to Drawing or Figure Drawing. If unavailable, due to course conflict or seat availability, students can also begin the concentration with Introduction to Ceramics, Introduction to Painting, Introduction to Photography, Introduction to Sculpture, or Introduction to Video.

Students interested in concentrating should see the chair of the department as early as possible. The department maintains a pre-registration policy to ensure Art Concentrators get a seat in their required studio courses. Many Advanced courses are only offered in the spring and require careful study abroad and/or double concentration planning.

Introductory courses fill quickly. If unable to register for a class because it is full, the student should get on the wait list, then express their interest to the professor.
Chair:  Rebecca Murtaugh x4250 rmurtaug@hamilton.edu  List 221

Art History

The department offers four different introductory (100-level) courses.  None is required for the concentration, but if you have no previous experience with art history they are a good starting point and may count later as one of the required electives.  Several of the 100-level courses (AH 150, 151, and 152) can be difficult to get into.  AH 152 is taught each semester, the others every year, so you may try again.  If you are particularly interested in the history of architecture, we strongly recommend taking one of the introductory architecture courses (AH 150 and 151) as soon as possible.

If you have had an AP art history course or other art history experience in high school, we recommend that you enroll in a 200-level course, particularly AH 258, 254, 282, 285, 292 or 293; all of these courses also fulfill a concentration requirement.

If you are seriously considering art history as concentration option, please arrange to speak with the chair as soon as possible, especially if you think you want to study abroad.
Chair:  Deborah Pokinski x4380 dpokinsk@hamilton.edu  Molly Root House 215

Asian Studies

Students interested in concentrating in Asian Studies can select one of three study tracks: China Studies, Japan Studies, and India Studies. All majors must: (1) study an Asian language to the level of 140; (2) take AS180; and (3) take Asian culture and society courses in at least two of the following departments—Anthropology, Art History, East Asian Languages and Literatures (e.g., linguistics, language acquisition, literature, and film courses), English, Government, History, Religious Studies, and Theatre. Students are strongly encouraged to begin taking a language course in their first semester at Hamilton, unless they test out of this requirement through prior preparation. Students should take AS180 ideally by the end of their sophomore year.

Japanese: Students who are interested in Japanese language and Japan-related subjects (e.g., literature, linguistics, or history) will be able to major in a Japan track under Asian Studies. Those who are interested in this track are highly recommended to take Japanese 110 (language), 150 (language and culture) and Asian Studies 180 (general studies about Asia) in their first year.  For more information about majoring in the Japan track, see the Asian Studies web page.
Chair:  Kyoko Omori x4866 komori@hamilton.edu  KJ 145

Biochemstry/Molecular Biology

See Chemistry and Biology below.


There are two different ways to begin the study of Biology. The standard approach is a two-semester sequence that surveys diversity, genetics, and evolution in the fall semester (Bio 101) and cells, organisms, and ecosystems in the spring semester (Bio 102). Either course may be taken first. The alternative route is Bio 115, a one-semester fall course that covers fundamentals of Biology.  Which option a student should choose depends on the strength of his/her science background and the general confidence with science subjects. The two-semester combination (Bio 101-102) provides a survey of the breadth of biology and includes necessary background in related topics (e.g., chemistry). Bio 115 assumes a good high-school background in biology and chemistry. It is designed particularly for those who enter Hamilton with an AP Biology score of 4 or 5 or have equivalent experience and who are interested in pursuing further study in science at Hamilton. Students must contact the instructors to get permission to enroll in Bio 115.  Pre-med students may take either option (101/102 or 115). They sometimes prefer the two-course Bio 101-102 sequence to ensure that they have surveyed all of Biology before taking the MCATs.
Chair:  William Pfitsch x4717 wpfitsch@hamilton.edu Science 2038

Chemical Physics

See Chemistry


Students will have more flexibility for the pursuit of opportunities such as studying abroad and second concentrations/minors if they begin the study of chemistry in the first semester. Introductory chemistry courses are not offered in the spring semester. Students cannot begin the study of chemistry in the spring of their first year, unless they are qualified to place directly into Organic Chemistry I.

In addition, we typically have 8-10 summer research opportunities available for rising sophomores who have completed a year of college chemistry.

Introductory chemistry students have the option to take either Chem 120 or 125.  Both provide an appropriate foundation for subsequent work in chemistry and for students intending to pursue a pre-med curriculum.

Chem 120 is a lecture-based course that is appropriate for any student. The Chem 120 lab involves weekly experiments intended to explore specific chemical concepts and to familiarize students with a range of standard laboratory techniques.

Chem 125 is a proseminar intended for students with a strong interest in science and/or medicine who will thrive in a small, discussion-based class.  Students electing to take Chem 125 should have good high school preparation in chemistry, although AP Chemistry is not a prerequisite. The Chem 125 laboratory component is a discovery-based, semester-long investigation that addresses analytical and chemical approaches to environmental chemistry.

Students should decide which course to take based on their background in chemistry, their interests and whether they would prefer a lecture-based or discussion-based course.  Students with questions about which course to elect should contact Tim Elgren (telgren@hamilton.edu) or Ian Rosenstein (irosenst@hamilton.edu). Students who have exceptional background in chemistry should contact Ian Rosenstein (x4730 or irosenst) to discuss options for beginning chemistry at a more advanced level.

Students should elect Chem 190 (Organic Chemistry I) in the spring semester of their first year then enroll in Chem 255 (Organic Chemistry II) in the fall semester of their sophomore year.  In the spring semester of their sophomore year, Chemistry majors may choose between Chem 265 (Inorganic Chemistry and Materials) and Chem 270 (Biological Chemistry).  Biochemistry/Molecular Biology majors must elect Chem 270 in the spring of their sophomore year.  It is possible to start chemistry in your second year at Hamilton and complete a Chemistry or Biochemistry/Molecular Biology concentration but it requires careful planning.
Chair: Ian Rosenstein x4730 irosenst@hamilton.edu Science 1074


Students who are interested in Chinese should start their Chinese language courses (Chinese 110 for beginners) and Chinese culture course (Chinese 150, 205) in their first year at Hamilton. These courses are prerequisite for advanced Chinese courses and Hamilton’s Chinese study abroad program ACC in Beijing. For students with prior study in Chinese study may take a placement exam, available under the Chinese Program (Blackboard).
Chair:  De Bao Xu x4797 dxu@hamilton.edu CJ219


Students interested in Latin, Greek, and the ancient world may major or minor in either Classical Languages or Classical Studies.  Classical Languages requires substantial accomplishment in both Latin and Greek.  Only one of the languages is required for Classical Studies.  Prospective concentrators with no knowledge of Latin or Greek should make an immediate start with the appropriate 100- or 200-level language course.   Those interested in study in Rome should also note that the best study-abroad program there, the Intercollegiate Center for Classical Studies (the Centro), tends to favor students who have taken both Latin and Greek.
Chair:  Shelley Haley x4197 shaley@hamilton.edu Couper 110


Students interested in exploring a concentration in Communication should enroll in Com. 101, Introduction to Communication. Though seats are saved in that course for first-year students, some may find that the course is full. Please encourage students to add their name to the waitlist and then contact the chair of the department. Based on the interests of the student and availability of seats, students may be signed in to Com. 203, History of Communication or Com. 280 Conflict Mediation.
Chair:  Catherine Phelan x4122 cwphelan@hamilton.edu KJ 246

Comparative Literature

Students interested in Comparative Literature as a possible concentration are encouraged to start either with one of the Department’s 100-level courses or with one of the lower-200 level courses that has no prerequisites. For courses with a pre-requisite of a single literature course, a 5 on the English Literature and Composition AP exam serves as an acceptable substitute. Potential concentrators should also begin foreign language study as soon as possible, especially if they are considering graduate study in the discipline. The concentration is flexible, offering several tracks designed to meet the needs of students with different interests; it is therefore a good idea to meet with the Department chair at some point during the first year to consider the available options.
Chair:  Peter Rabinowitz x4203 prabinow@hamilton.edu Root Hall 113

Computer Science

Students considering concentrating in Computer Science should start by taking Computer Science 110. If starting in the fall, the first three semesters generally would look like:

Fall: 110
Spring: 111 and 123
Fall: 210 and 240

If starting in the spring, the first three semesters would be:

Spring: 110
Fall: 111
Spring: 123 and 220

Chair:  Mark Bailey x4229 mbailey@hamilton.edu Science 2014

Creative Writing

Students who do not take a 100-level English course and who want to take creative writing workshops must first take English 204, which is available both semesters. Prospective concentrators in Creative Writing are not required to take a workshop in the first year; however, they must take 215 by the end of their sophomore year (earlier if they have plans to do a semester off-campus).  Please note that the fall section of 215 (Introduction to Creative Writing) is NOT open to first year students. Students may not use AP scores to place directly into English 215 (Introductory Poetry and Fiction Workshop). Concentrators in Creative Writing must complete the department’s language requirement.
Chair:  Steve Yao x4325 syao@hamilton.edu  Root Hall 109B

Cultural Anthropology

To get started in a cultural anthropology concentration, students should take one of the introductory courses in anthropology.  Eventually, you should take one course each within three areas.  The areas include cultural anthropology (Anthropology 113, 114, or 115), linguistic anthropology (Anthropology 126, 127, or 201), and archaeology (Archaeology 106 or 108).
Chair: Chaise Ladousa x 4109 cladousa@hamilton.edu  KJ 245

Dance and Movement Studies

Students interested in a Dance and Movement Studies concentration should take a technique course (Contemporary, Martial Arts and Dance or Ballet) during the first year. It is highly recommended that concentrators enroll in a technique class each semester to advance their skill level.  Since the senior projects involve original student choreography, it is important for the students to take a Dance Composition/Choreography course during their second year.
Chair:  Elaine Heekin x4262 eheekin@hamilton.edu  List 124


The Economics major starts with Econ 101 followed by Econ 102. Both courses are offered every semester. If you are considering majoring, it is a good idea to take these in the first year. See the Economics Department web page for our Advanced Placement policy and the Catalog for further information about the major and direct further questions to the Department Chair.

Students who are considering majoring or minoring in Economics should be aware that Math 113 (Calculus I) or its equivalent is a prerequisite for Economics 275 (Microeconomic Theory), one of the courses required for the major and the minor. (Concentrators are required to complete Econ 275 by the end of their junior year; this course must be taken at Hamilton.) Students who are placed into Math 116 (Calculus II) by the Math Department will have fulfilled the calculus prerequisite for Economics 275. Thus, prospective majors or minors in Economics should take one of the math placement exams; students who have studied some calculus in high school should take the calculus placement exam. Students who have not studied calculus but who might pursue Economics should consider taking Math 113 in their first year at Hamilton.
Chair:  Christophre Georges x4472 cgeorges@hamilton.edu KJ 217


Students interested in English should aim to take a 100-level course during the first-year. Students who have taken AP Literature and/or Language, and have scored a 4 or 5 in either course, have the option of going straight into one of several 200-level courses, such as 203, 204, 220, 221, 222, 225, 255, 256, 267, or 293. (Check the catalog for current offerings). Note that there are MANY English courses that students can take after their first year, even if they do NOT have a first-year English course.

Concentrators in English must complete the department’s language requirement.
Chair:  Steve Yao x4325 syao@hamilton.edu  Root Hall 109B

Environmental Studies

Environmental Studies is an interdisciplinary concentration, and there is no specific course that all majors must take. However, you must choose six foundational courses distributed between the concentration’s two tracks, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences/Humanities.  The foundational courses must include two lab science courses: one in Geosciences and one in Biology, Chemistry, or Physics.  First-years often take one of the lab science courses, ES 150: Environmental Science and Society, and/or ES 250: Interpreting the American Environment.  When declaring an Environmental Studies major, you will need to choose either of the concentration’s two tracks.  This decision, and your eventual thesis topic, will help determine the foundational and other courses you take toward your ES concentration.  The ES concentration consists of a total of 13 courses, so if you are contemplating majoring in ES, you should begin your coursework in your first semester. 
Chair:  Peter Cannavo x4829 pcannavo@hamilton.edu KJ 114


The most important thing for a major in French is to take courses consecutively and not to create "gaps" in the study of the language.  These can be overcome but require extra effort when one takes back up the language.  First-year students should take the placement exam in French and enroll in the course it indicates.  If, after attending the course, the level does not seem appropriate to the student, speak to the professor immediately.  Study abroad helps enormously with the required number of courses and, normally, awards a student credit for the civilization requirement, French 250.  The Hamilton program in France requires the completion of French 200 prior to the program.
Chair:  John O’Neal (for Cheryl Morgan) x4212 joneal@hamilton.edu  CJ 207

Geosciences (Geoscience and Geoarchaeology)

The Geosciences curriculum is quite flexible and broad and serves students in several majors. The Department normally offers two different 100-level courses every semester. One 100-level course is required for the major.  After this one course, students can then take any 200-level course . Five specific 200-level courses are required for a concentration in Geoscience. Three 200-level geoscience courses are required for a Geoarchaeology concentration. Students interested in concentrating should take an introductory course no later than fall semester of sophomore year - earlier if he/she also intends to study abroad.
Chair: Todd Rayne x4698 trayne@hamilton.edu Science 1023(on leave for fall term) / Dave Bailey x4142 dbailey@hamilton.edu  Science 1022 for fall term

German Studies

German Studies is an interdisciplinary concentration focusing on the language, literature, culture, historical development, and politics of German-speaking countries. The German program also offers beginning German language (110, 120), but only courses numbered 130 or above count toward the concentration. Students wishing to take advanced courses should see the departmental advisor for placement. Courses in the department that are available to first-year students include German language and/or literature courses (110, 130, 186, 200) and History 117.
Chair: John Bartle x4779 jbartle@hamilton.edu  CJ 229


Students interested in concentrating in Gov. should take Gov. 116, 117 and either 112 or 114, all of which are required for the concentration.  They are all offered every semester and can be taken in any sequence.  Concentrators should take at least one of them as a WI course.  Gov 117 is also required for the World Politics major and is not required but counts for the Public Policy major as well. Both Gov. 112 and 114 are required for the World Politics major (see further details below).
Chair:  Phil Klinkner x4344 pklinkne@hamilton.edu KJ 112

Hispanic Studies

Students interested in taking HSPST 110 (First Semester Spanish) should be aware that we also offer HSPST 115, Spanish Immersion I, which covers HSPST 110 and 120 in one semester (the course meets five days a week and is counted as two units on the student’s transcript).  Students who take this course will be ready to take HSPST 130 in the spring, or HSPST 135 (immersion). Students can complete two years of Spanish language study in one year by taking our immersion courses 115 (fall) and 135 (spring).  These courses are open to all students, but are especially designed to help beginning students to major in Hispanic Studies, and/or to be ready to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country
Chair:  Edna Rodriguez-Plate x4294 emrodrig@hamilton.edu  CJ 210


The way to begin a history major is to take a 100-level course.  These courses are Writing Intensive and are dedicated to broad topics such as Europe and its empires, the Atlantic world, the great cities of Asia, murder and opera in Muscovy, and many others.  A 100-level course will teach you the basics of how to think historically, how to use primary sources, and how to synthesize information.
Chair:  Shoshana Keller x4358 skeller@hamilton.edu  KJ 134


Math advice is fairly straightforward: start with the calculus course -- Math 113, 116, or 216 -- recommended by the department based on the math placement exam.
Chair: Robert Kantrowitz x4417 rkantrow@hamilton.edu  CJ 120


Students considering a major in music should take music theory their first term (either 109 or 209, depending on results from the Music Theory Placement Exam.)  The department strongly recommends that students enroll in 180 and/or 181 (basic aural skills/basic keyboard skills) when they begin Music theory classes.  While only one credit in performance is required, students are also expected to participate in department ensembles in each semester.
Chair:  Rob Kolb x4351g kolb@hamilton.edu Schambach Center 208


Students intending to major in Neuroscience should plan to complete their introductory Biology sequence during their first year and their introductory Chemistry sequence either their first or second year.  The courses in Psychology (Introductory Psychology, Statistics/Research Methods, and Introduction to Brain and Behavior) should be completed by the end of the second year.  Thus, a reasonable approach for the first semester is to enroll in Biology 101 (or 115) and either Psychology 101 or Chemistry 120 (or 125).
Chair:  Doug Weldon x4165 dweldon@hamilton.edu  Science 3065


The Philosophy concentration has as its core a history sequence and a logic requirement that should be fulfilled as early as possible in a student's career. Students should plan to take Phil. 201, 203, and either 100, 200, or 240 as early as possible.  The department encourages concentrators to complete those courses by the end of sophomore year, if possible.
Chair:   Marianne Janack x4127 mjanack@hamilton.edu  202 College Hill Rd 103


The physics department has three kinds of introductory courses to address different needs and interests.

I) Students interested in majoring or minoring should take Physics 190, which has a co-requisite of Math 113.

II) Students interested in taking one year of physics to support a premed, Chemistry, Biology, or Geology program should begin with Physics 100 or Physics 200.   Physics 100 (fall) followed by Physics 105 (spring) does not require calculus, while the sequence Physics 200 (fall) followed by Physics 205 (spring) requires proficiency in calculus. There is some freedom to switch from one sequence to another after the first semester.

III) Students who wish to explore physics without undertaking a year long survey may take any of the following one-semester courses without prerequisite: Physics 160 (Introduction to Astronomy, Fall '12), Physics 175 (Physics of Musical Sound, Fall '12), Physics 120 (How Things Work, Spring '13).

Chair:  Gordon Jones x 4697 gjones@hamilton.edu Science G071

Public Policy

The Public Policy concentration requires a long list of courses, so it is best to get started early.

Recommendations for First-Year Students: Students interested in public policy are encouraged to take Economics 101, Math 100, and either Government 116 or one of the required ethics courses (such as Government 117 or Philosophy 111 or 112) in their first year.

Recommendations for Sophomore Students: Public Policy 251 (Introduction to Public Policy) is taught only in the fall, and requires Econ 101 as a prerequisite, so it is normally taken in the fall of the student's sophomore year. Government 230 (Data Analysis) is also taught only in the fall, and Math 100 or prior preparation in statistics is helpful, so Data Analysis is also normally taken in the fall of the student's sophomore year. Topics in Public Policy is taught only in the spring, and requires Public 251 as a prerequisite, so it is normally taken in the spring of the student's sophomore year, to free up the junior year for off-campus study.  Students also should take Econ 102 and Government 116 in their sophomore year, if they have not already completed those courses.
Chair:  Gary Wyckoff x4198 pwyckoff@hamilton.edu  KJ 106

Religious Studies

Students begin their work in Religious Studies by taking any of the Department’s 100 level classes.  Students expand their course of studies with additional 100, 200, and 300 level courses in a self-designed program constructed in consultation with the faculty of the Department.
Chair:  Richard Seager x4132 rseager@hamilton.edu Benedict Hall 205


Students intending to major in Psychology are encouraged to take PSYCH 101 (Introductory Psychology) in the fall of their first year, as there are fewer sections in the spring. Students with a 4 or 5 on the Psychology AP exam may opt out of PSYCH 101. Students are then encouraged to take their required Neuroscience course (PSYCH 204 or 205; students considering a major in Neuroscience should take 205). Students are advised to take Psych/Neuro 201 (Statistics/Research Methods) in the fall of their sophomore year. Students planning to be abroad for their entire junior year should plan to take a laboratory course and an elective in their sophomore spring.
Chair:  Jen Borton x4693 jborton@hamilton.edu Science 3032

Russian Studies

To begin a concentration in Russian Studies, students should take First-Term Russian (RUSSN 110) unless they have studied Russian earlier, in which case contact the Chair of Russian Studies.  Other options that count toward the major are Introduction to Russian Studies (RSNST 100) or Early Russian History (RSNST/HIST 221).  You are encouraged to talk with the Chair of Russian Studies in your first semester.
Chair: John Bartle x4779 jbartle@hamilton.edu  CJ 229


The Sociology concentration has relatively few "core" course requirements: a 100-level course, Social Theory, Research Methods, and a year-long Senior Project. If you are interested in concentrating in Sociology, you should take a 100-level course in Sociology (either Introduction to Sociology (Soc 101) or American Society (Soc 110)) in your first or second year.  These courses are very often oversubscribed, but at least one or two sections of a 100-level course in Sociology are offered every semester.  If you are unable to register for a section of 101 or 110, contact the instructor to be placed on a waiting list for the course.  Many (though not all) students will find a spot if they contact the professor and show up to class during the first week of the semester.  If you are still unable to find a place in a section, please try again the following semester.  You should also know that Sociology concentrators must take Social Theory (Soc 301) and Research Methods (Soc 302) at Hamilton College, and the faculty recommends that you take these courses prior to beginning your senior year. Therefore, if you are considering studying abroad during your junior year, you may wish to speak with a member of the Sociology Department faculty to discuss options for how you might structure your program.
Chair:  Yvonne Zylan x4521 yzylan@hamilton.edu  KJ 239


Students interested in any aspect of theatre should begin with Theatre 100.   This course introduces students to all aspects of theatre art and offers opportunities to develop both theoretical and practical knowledge in various areas of theatre making. Theatre 100 is a pre-requisite for many 100-and 200-level theatre courses. Students interested in the Theatre Concentration (or minor) should do their best to register for Theatre 100 in their first semester.  If both sections are full, students should place their name on the wait list, express interest in the course to one of the theatre faculty members, and attend the first class meeting to see if a seat opens. The Theatre Department encourages all students interested in theatre to meet with department faculty members informally during the first few weeks of classes, whether or not they choose to enroll in a course or major.
Chair:  Carole Bellini-Sharp x4405 cbellini@hamilton.edu  List 126

Women's Studies

Students intending to major in Women’s Studies should take WMNST 101 and 201 early in their career. The 101 course is popular and fills quickly. Students should get on the waitlist and contact the professor to express interest. The department offers 6 sections of 101 throughout the year, so there are many opportunities.
Chair:  Anne Lacsamana x4281 alacsama@hamilton.edu  Couper  204

World Politics

Students interested in concentrating in World Politics should take Gov. 112, 114, or 117, all three of which are required for the concentration.  They are all offered every semester and can be taken in any sequence.  Concentrators should take at least one of them as a WI course.  (Note: Gov 117 is also required for the Government major and is not required but counts for the Public Policy major as well.) Gov. 290 and 291 are also required for the major.  Each concentrator develops his/her own focus within the major.  Students are encouraged to speak with a faculty member in the concentration about that as early as possible.
Chair:  Phil Klinkner x4344 pklinkne@hamilton.edu KJ 112