What is General Studies?

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.


Category Credits
Written Communication 6
Oral Communication 3
Quantitative Literacy 3
Arts and Humanities 6
Historical 3
Natural and Physical Sciences 6
Social and Behavioral Sciences 6
Global Diversity 0 or 3*
TOTAL 33 minimum

*Students may fulfill the global diversity requirement by taking an approved course within one of the following categories: arts and humanities; historical; natural and physical sciences; or social and behavioral sciences.

Students also take a 3-credit Ethnic Studies & Social Justice (previously named Multicultural) course for a graduation requirement.  Some courses may fulfill the Ethnic Studies & Social Justice graduation requirement AND a General Studies requirement.

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 the Ethnic Studies & Social Justice requirement (previously named 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

Ethnic Studies & Social Justice (1 course), Global Diversity (1 course);  Both of these courses may be double-dip courses, in that they may also fulfill another requirement in General Studies.   

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.

Ethnic Studies & Social Justice (Multicultural) Graduation Requirement

The Ethnic Studies & Social Justice requirement replaced the Multicultural requirement for students on the 2023-2024 catalog and onward.  The course lists for both are the same.  Please always use the most recent course list, as courses are tagged with the attribute at the time you take them.

Students may find this requirement abbreviated on lists as ESSJ.

Ethnic Studies is rooted in a social justice approach to studying historically marginalized communities of color. The Ethnic Studies & Social Justice graduation requirement is designed to equip students with the tools to challenge, understand, and contextualize the treatment of racially and ethnically marginalized groups in the United States. As a fluid and contested space, the United States has been a historically, geographically, and politically contingent region. These courses center the experiences of marginalized groups and examine the ways in which the existences and experiences of these groups have been historically shaped by oppression and systems of white supremacy. Ethnic Studies & Social Justice coursework interrogates relationships between power, privilege, and oppression. Students explore how power and privilege in the past and present maintain oppression. Additionally, course content examines the resilience, activism, and advocacy of racially and ethnically marginalized groups to counter oppression and systems of white supremacy. Students learn to recognize key moments of liberation and those movements that advance social justice for racially and ethnically marginalized groups. Course content and materials may also examine and interrogate the oppression of other groups whose marginalized identities have been racialized and who have been thus oppressed as racial or ethnic minorities.

Students take one course that meets these goals.  Students may take a course that fulfills this requirement AND a General Studies requirement.

  • Define and understand key critical theories and concepts that inform discussions of racism and colonialism as they overlap with other systems of power as historically situated in the U.S.
  • Define and apply concepts of social justice within specific curriculum and course content to demonstrate the impact of racial and ethnic inequality in the U.S.
  • Identify and evaluate unequal power relationships between and/or among, one or more marginalized groups in the U.S.
  • Recognize and describe ways in which power and privilege are held and upheld by dominant groups in relation to marginalized groups and/or individuals.
  • Analyze the effects of institutional oppression on marginalized groups in the U.S.
MSU Denver Students attend GIS Workshop

What courses should I take?

For lists of General Studies or Ethnic Studies & Social Justice 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

How to find the course for you

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.  If this is your first time registering, check out the Registration Guide.

MSU Denver Students Collaborate on project

Faculty and Advisor Resources

Learn about Assessment, Advising FAQs, 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:  303-615-0737

Email the Director of General Studies Dr. Todd Laugen: [email protected]

Mailing Address: 
Metropolitan State University of Denver
General Studies Program
Campus Box 27
P.O. Box 173362
Denver, CO 80217-3362