MSU Denver

General Studies Program at MSU Denver

Learn about the General Studies program, a series of courses designed to accompany the coursework done in the major to create broadly skilled graduates who learn, experience, and grow.

General Studies Program Venn Diagram

What is General Studies?

MSU Denver values that you are an individual coming from a community or family who are also invested in your education. That means that your educational experiences, personal backgrounds, and reasons for choosing MSU Denver are not all alike, but we want to provide you all with an equal chance of success.  MSU Denver General Studies courses are designed with your progression toward your chosen area of study in mind. Building, or even just firming, your foundations in skills and content will prepare you to learnexperience, and grow throughout your whole life.

All undergraduates at MSU Denver must complete the university-wide requirements, including General Studies and Multicultural, which provide a broad span of knowledge and skills, and create a foundation for the more focused, deep study that takes place in each major.  Students will choose courses among eight General Studies categories and build their own personalized experience based on courses of interest.

Three areas of focus make up the General Studies program

Students develop foundational skills, discover ideas, and expand their views.  These areas overlap, helping students integrate skills and knowledge throughout the General Studies program.  The foundational skills are courses recommended in the first year because these skills will be utilized throughout the college experience.


General Studies Program Mission

The General Studies program provides the foundation for the Bachelor’s degree. Students develop thinking, reasoning, and communication skills while discovering new ideas and expanding their views.  The coursework is designed to create the opportunity for learning across different disciplines and builds experiences for students as they grow into lifelong learners.


Transfer students may transfer in a variety of courses that can fulfill General Studies requirements, but the program is designed uniquely for MSU Denver students and students are encouraged to begin their coursework at MSU Denver.  Similarly, most General Studies courses are guaranteed to transfer to other Colorado colleges and universities.  Due to the variety of courses available, transfer students may choose to finish their general studies with upper level courses.

Ready to adapt in the work place

Employers are looking for flexible workers who have the broad skills to problem solve.  The General Studies program is designed to create experiences that use critical thinking, as well as communication and collaboration skills, all leading to problem solving expertise.   The wide range of knowledge acquired in the General Studies program prepares students to be adaptable in the ever-evolving 21st century work place.


A chance to explore

The General Studies curriculum provides an opportunity for students to explore what they want to be and who they want to be as a member of society.  The curriculum can help students pinpoint their talents and passion to help steer them into the major that is their best fit.

Geology Field Trip to Bryce Canyon

Faculty carefully design General Studies courses

The faculty have intricately designed General Studies courses to fulfill both university level and General Studies level goals for all MSU Denver students.  Each course has passed a rigorous curriculum approval process, undergoes regular measurement of effective student learning to be included in the General Studies program, and is aligned with the mission of the General Studies Program.  Faculty are experts in their fields of study and have been trained specially to teach the students with diverse academic backgrounds taking General Studies courses.  Faculty use learner-centered, active learning teaching methods in the General Studies courses that encourage student collaboration.

General Studies courses connect work in the discipline to contemporary societal issues.  Faculty use the content of their discipline to demonstrate the critical and creative thinking and reasoning used to solve relevant problems.  Faculty are challenged to efficiently address the answer to the questions, “If this were the last course a student would take in my field, what would I want them to understand about how we have arrived at how we know what we know?” and, “What skills are most relevant to my students’ future success?”

MSU Denver Campus: Develop Foundational Skills

Develop Foundational Skills– Build your future from the ground up

Goals:  Foundational Skills

Written Communication (6 credits), Oral Communication (3 credits), Quantitative Literacy (3 credits)

Written Communication

Care about words. The ones you write and the ones you read are fundamental to your scholarly career and the world you make for yourself beyond the campus.  Written communication is the development and expression of ideas in writing across many genres and styles. It includes understanding how writers may shape texts for their specific rhetorical situation.  It includes multimodal composing and the creation of texts that combine words, images, and/or data. Written communication abilities develop through interactive and iterative experiences across the curriculum.  Students take two courses (6 credits) meeting these goals.

  • Exhibit a thorough understanding of audience, purpose, genre, and context that is responsive to the situation.
  • Create and develop ideas within the context of the situation and the assigned task(s).
  • Apply formal and informal conventions of writing, including organization, content, presentation, formatting, and stylistic choices, in particular forms and/or fields.
  • Critically read, evaluate, apply, and synthesize evidence and/or sources in support of a claim.
  • Use an appropriate documentation system.
  • Demonstrate proficiency with conventions, including spellings, grammar, mechanics, and word choice appropriate to the writing task.

Oral Communication

If you have ever appreciated an instructional video or listened to a podcast, then you know the importance of effective communication. Learn to share ideas with confidence. You can think about how audience matters or explore languages of the world.  Students learn to perform effective and ethical oral communication that is appropriate to diverse audiences, settings, media, and goals.  Students take one course (3 credits) meeting these goals.

  • Develop a clear, purposeful message with coherent and effective content.
  • Incorporate various and credible supporting material (e.g. examples, statistics, analogies, illustrations, and quotations).
  • Practice effective listening strategies that enhance understanding, evaluation and engagement.
  • Adapt to varied audiences, their beliefs, values, and attitudes, as well as to features of contexts, situations, and interactions.
  • Perform skillful non-verbal communication (e.g. vocal variety, pace and physical behavior) appropriate to audience and context.
  • Perform skillful verbal communication (e.g. clear, vivid, and/or compelling language) appropriate to audience and context.

Quantitative Literacy

Math is its own language. It speaks with symbols. It gestures with shapes. It raises an eyebrow with numbers. You need to know its expressions and techniques to communicate across time space.  Competency in quantitative literacy represents a student’s ability to use quantifiable information and mathematical analysis to make connections and draw conclusions. The main focus of each Quantitative Literacy course is the use of mathematical techniques and analysis, with problems from a broad spectrum of real-life and abstract settings requiring translation to and from mathematical forms.  Students take one course (3 credits) meeting these goals.

  • Apply mathematical techniques to the analysis of quantitative problems.
  • Communicate the mathematical process and results in text, graphics, and symbols.
Windmills: Discover Ideas

Discover Ideas—Take your foundational skills on tour!

“Discover Ideas” courses give breadth to the student’s knowledge and ways of problem solving.

Goals:  Discover Ideas

Arts and Humanities (6 credits), Historical (3 credits), Social and Behavioral Science (6 credits), Natural and Physical Science (6 credits)

Arts and Humanities

People have so many ways of expressing their values and experiences. Language, art, literature and religion are just a few ways in which the human experience can both be known and appreciated. Take the next step and understand the wide array artifacts in the contexts of their creation and practice.  In Arts and Humanities courses students interpret, analyze, and create texts and other artistic works to deepen their understanding of the various contexts that shape the human experience and explore fundamental questions of identity, value, diversity, and meaning.  Students take two courses (6 credits) meeting these goals.

  • Describe how the context (historical, racial, ethnic, material, technological, religious, intellectual, cultural, gender, etc.) influences the creation, content, or interpretation of a text, performance, work of art, etc.
  • Critically engage with a text, performance, work of art, etc. by applying social/political, epistemic, aesthetic, pragmatic, moral/ethical, or other discipline-appropriate standards.
  • Implement course content or skills through the creation of an original project (essay, argument, narrative, reflection, oral presentation, performance, work of art, etc.).


You have probably taken a history class before, but have you learned how historical knowledge is generated?  Dates, places, and people are only the beginning of a journey into the past. Finding your own sources, asking useful questions, seeing context, and communicating your fact-based answers to different types of audiences are all skills you can use.  Historical thinking contextualizes the present by using a wide range of sources and methods to understand how people experienced the past.  Students take one course (3 credits) meeting these goals.

  • Demonstrate the ability to locate sources when information is needed, and to evaluate the authenticity, validity, and reliability of resources applied to a specific purpose.
  • Communicate in writing with an awareness of audience, by using language conventions appropriate to the occasion and task.
  • Demonstrate historical knowledge of the United States, the world, or one of the major regions of the world.
  • Demonstrate, using historical sources, how context and contingency influence change over time.
  • Develop an effective historical interpretation and marshal primary and/or secondary source evidence to support it.

Social and Behavioral Science*

How do we understand ideas from the past and the forces of the present that influence our choices and constraints? These courses will equip you to navigate complex social and global issues.  Courses in Social and Behavioral Science study the behavior and actions of individuals, groups, and/or institutions using scientific methods and approaches. Social and Behavioral Science also develops a student’s ability to examine and influence those behaviors and actions between and among larger social, economic, political, and/or geographic contexts.   Students take two courses (6 credits) meeting these goals.  *Students on catalog years 2019 and older may take any course from the full, current Social and Behavioral Science General Studies list to fulfill their SBS I or SBS II requirements.

  • Describe foundational concepts in the social and behavioral sciences.
  • Examine how individuals, groups, communities, and social institutions relate or interact with each other and/or the natural world using theories and methods in the social and behavioral sciences.
  • Engage with social and behavioral science tools, approaches, and skills to explore complex human, social, political, cultural, and/or global interactions and issues.

Natural and Physical Science

Science helps you see the world. The problems that you want to solve have answers in science. You will need to know the methods of science and the knowledge of the fields.  The Natural and Physical Sciences involve discovering knowledge in natural or physical sciences, applying scientific thinking and reasoning, and critically thinking about the use of scientific information.  Students take two courses (6 credits) meeting these goals.

  • Explain the foundational knowledge of a particular field of natural or physical science
  • Apply principles and techniques of scientific thinking.
  • Evaluate the credibility of scientific information and interpret the impact of its use or misuse in society.
Colorado Mountains: Expand Your Views

Expand Your Views

“Expand Your Views” courses increase students’ awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity in the United States as well as interdependent global systems and their implications for people’s lives.

Goals:  Expand your Views

Multicultural (1 course), Global Diversity (1 course);  Both of these courses may be double-dip courses, in that they may also fulfill another requirement.   

Global Diversity General Studies Requirement

Global Diversity refers to a student’s ability to critically analyze and engage complex, interconnected global systems (such as natural, physical, social, cultural, economic, or political) and their implications for individuals, groups, communities, or cultures.  These courses will introduce students to various concepts toward valuing diversity and the importance of inclusivity.  Students should seek to understand how their actions affect both local and global communities.  Courses in this category must contain a majority of material from one or more regions or countries outside the U.S.  Students take one course that meets these goals.

  • Describe the implications of global interconnections, including their impact on culture, societies, the environment, or the individual.
  • Analyze connections between worldviews, experiences, and/or power structures of differing cultures in historical or contemporary contexts.

Multicultural Graduation Requirement

Multicultural course required content and course materials are designed to increase students’ awareness and appreciation of cultural diversity in the United States.  Multicultural education coursework examines the interactions of values, beliefs, traditions, identities, and contributions of one or more of the following four groups of color in the United States: African American, Asian American, Hispanic American, and Native American, which may include the characteristics of gender, sexual orientation, age, or disability within these groups.  The Multicultural course does not require three credits as a separate category and can be taken in the major, minor, or as an elective.  Students take one course that meets these goals.

  • Define factors that lead to the formation and continuation of one or more of the four groups of color in United States society
  • Present the customs, behavioral patterns, and identities of one or more of the four groups of color in United States society
  • Delineate the effects of bias, prejudices, and discrimination on one or more of the four groups of color in United States society
  • Describe the cultural similarities, commonalities, and differences within or among one or more of the four groups of color in United States society
  • Communicate how the acceptance and inclusion of all groups of color enriches lives and increases the creativity and performance of everyone in United States society
MSU Denver Students attend GIS Workshop

What courses should I take?

For lists of General Studies or Multicultural courses, use the buttons at the top of this page.  Look through the courses in each category before you make a decision. You might not know you are interested in a course or a subject until you see it. You might choose something that complements your major or challenges you to do something entirely different. General Studies are safe places to take intellectual leaps.

Once you have made your choices READ THE RULES for your catalog year.  Some courses and majors have special rules and requirements.  You don’t want to find out after you have taken a course that it won’t count for general studies.  Some majors recommend certain General Studies courses.  Checking your degree progress report and seeing an advisor are always good ideas.

Don’t Put off Your General Studies Courses

The catalog uses the phrase “Timing of Completion” to explain when you should be done taking general studies courses. We don’t want you to have to learn things in your senior year that would have made your college experience much better if you had taken them in your freshman or sophomore year.

You need to take classes in these categories before your finish your first 30 college-level credit hours:

  • Written Communication (first 3 semester hours of coursework)
  • Oral Communication (3 semester hours of coursework)
  • Quantitative Literacy (3 semester hours of coursework)

And you need to take your second written communication course before you reach 45 hours. You may be blocked from registering for more courses until you complete these requirements.

Have questions about transfer credits, rules, or want more information about general studies?  We highly recommend speaking to an advisor who can help you navigate the system:  Academic Advising Home

MSU Denver Campus with Students

Register Today!

Some majors recommend specific General Studies courses to launch you in the right direction to efficiently complete your major.  You can see these in the catalog for your program.  Once you’ve found some General Studies courses you’d like to take, see what will fit into your schedule and then register at the Student Hub.  You can also make an appointment with your advisor to discuss the best courses for you by visiting the Student Hub.

MSU Denver Students Collaborate on project

Faculty Resources

Learn about Assessment, GT Pathways, SLOs, and Proposing a Course here.

Contact Us

Advisors and Faculty are the best source of General Studies information. Contact the General Studies program with lingering questions.

Phone: 303-615-0780

Email the Director of General Studies Dr. Keah Schuenemann: [email protected]

Office Location:
Science Building
2nd Floor – #2018
Auraria Campus

Mailing Address: 
Metropolitan State University of Denver
General Studies Program
Campus Box 22
P.O. Box 173362
Denver, CO 80217-3362