Colgate’s mission is to provide a demanding, expansive, educational experience to a select group of diverse, talented, intellectually sophisticated students who are capable of challenging themselves, their peers, and their teachers in a setting that brings together living and learning.

The purpose of the University is to develop wise, thoughtful, critical thinkers and perceptive leaders by challenging young men and women to fulfill their potential through residence in a community that values intellectual rigor and respects the complexity of human understanding.

Colgate University is a small highly selective residential liberal arts college for men and women of talent who are preparing for lives of leadership and productive citizenship. The Colgate faculty is a community of scholars committed to teaching in the classroom, the laboratory, the studio, and the library. Teaching is Colgate’s first responsibility, serving not only to transmit knowledge but also to transform and extend it through a demanding, imaginative curriculum.

Faculty scholarship complements teaching as it advances knowledge. Colgate maintains that ideal size which allows students to work closely with the faculty; it is neither a giant research university nor a tiny liberal arts college. The dialogue between faculty and students provides exciting opportunities for independent work.

As a residential college, Colgate is committed to the belief that learning takes place in many settings. Learning must serve life, and the opportunity to live together in a variety of settings encourages interpersonal exploration, expands mutual understanding, and supports a broadened perspective within a caring, humane community. The residential community provides a setting in which students gain maturity by taking responsibility for their actions and by coming to understand the impact of those actions upon others in an environment that is neither permissive nor authoritarian, but conducive to purposeful engagement.

Colgate is an inclusive institution with diverse students and faculty. With a mission to educate leaders who will and must come from all societal groups, Colgate is committed to educate students to virtue and encourages them to respond openly and sensitively to others who are different from themselves. Within the limitations of its resources, Colgate extends opportunities to academically qualified students without regard to their ability to finance their education.

While we celebrate our diversity, we function as one institution. Although we work together for the success of the University, we also recognize that our differences enrich the experiences of all of us. Groups that lead a separate existence do not support the whole, and those who forsake their culture impoverish all, depriving us of the richness of America’s cultural background. We celebrate that difficult balance between the commonalities of human experience and the particularities of our individual lives.

The sense of community that begins in student/faculty dialogue and continues in the residential college is furthered by Colgate’s general education program. The faculty at Colgate are deeply committed to the idea that the common experience of a shared core curriculum provides the foundation for dialogue both in the classroom and in campus residences. Students and faculty engage those persistent questions and problems that are general to human life as well as new questions raised by technological developments and the proliferation of knowledge. General education at Colgate focuses on questions that transcend disciplinary interests and lie at the intersection of the social, political, economic, and philosophical transformations that have marked the 20th century.

To understand the human condition and the world in which we live requires both analysis and synthesis. We divide knowledge into manageable pieces to achieve understanding in depth, and we integrate the particular to achieve general understanding. Colgate offers a broad array of academic majors, both disciplinary and interdisciplinary, to assure learning in depth, while the program of general education synthesizes the insights of the disciplines into a more coherent understanding of human experience.

The general education sequence of courses takes students not only to various historical moments but also to a variety of social and cultural locations. Colgate puts different cultures, Western and non-Western, in conversation with one another in order that students might see that culture, like the human condition, is not given a priori; it is learned. In order to build upon the knowledge gained in the general education program and to enable students to increase their capacity to view their own culture and to learn how others see us, Colgate annually offers an extensive array of faculty--directed study abroad programs in more than 20 locations in Europe, Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Orientation programs enable students, regardless of their area of study, to prepare for study abroad by examining what it means to live in another culture, and they share their experiences when they return to campus. Almost half of each class participates in some form of off-campus study during their undergraduate career.

Recognizing that we know the world in many ways, Colgate educates the whole person. Those ways of knowing include the engagement of both mind and body with the external world. The fine and performing arts add the challenge of self-discipline and self-expression to the Colgate experience. The arts, which lie at the center of our eternal reinvention of culture, engage students’ creative capacities and enhance their understanding of the world even as they entertain us. With flourishing programs — both curricular and extracurricular — in writing, music, the visual arts, theater, and dance, Colgate is continually enriched by the talents of its students and faculty. In like manner, the exhilaration of physical challenge, the value of group effort to achieve common ends, and the confidence that comes with developing the skills we need to participate in a lifetime of healthy activity are brought together in challenging athletic and outdoor recreational programs that encourage students to develop their personal potential and experience the cohesion of shared purpose.

Finally, Colgate recognizes that those who lead are obligated to help others in need. That obligation must be nurtured, especially in a society that stresses the personal over the communal. Colgate is a nonsectarian institution, but it emphasizes individual and social responsibility to serve the less fortunate. Colgate engages this obligation through an extensive program of service learning and through fostering an ethos that balances individual freedom with social good. Service activities increasingly enhance classroom understanding of social institutions and their expression.

In sum, the mission of Colgate University is to create and nurture an environment most conducive to the creation of self--knowledge and public knowledge.

Goals of a Colgate Education

A Colgate education should enable students to:

  1. See themselves honestly and critically within a global and historical perspective: recognize that their beliefs, identities, interests, and values are in part a reflection of their background, education, and life experiences.
  2. Understand the methodology, modes of thought, content, and discourse of a particular scholarly discipline: articulate questions for research and craft a coherent argument so as to produce a substantial work in their chosen field.
  3. Conduct interdisciplinary inquiry: synthesize viewpoints from multiple disciplinary perspectives so as to overcome the limitations of any one perspective.
  4. Appreciate the myriad modes of human creative expression across time and place.
  5. Investigate human behavior, social relations, and institutions in order to understand the complex relationship between self and society.
  6. Examine natural phenomena using the methods of science, and understand the role of science in contemporary society.
  7. Acquire valuable habits of mind: listen and read well; think critically and creatively; ask challenging questions; gather relevant information and construct cogent arguments to answer them.
  8. Communicate well: speak and write correctly and precisely; speak and read a second language; present information effectively.
  9. Set an example of ethical behavior in public and in private: take a principled stand for what they believe and be accountable for their actions; uphold the legal and ethical uses of information.
  10. Be engaged citizens and strive for a just society: embrace their responsibilities to local, national, and global communities; use their influence for the benefit of others.
  11. Respect nature and the diversity of life on earth: recognize their individual and collective responsibilities for the stewardship of the earth’s resources and the natural environment.
  12. Grow in both confidence and humility: affirm a set of values while respecting and learning from the diverse perspectives, identities, ways of life, and philosophies of others.
  13. Continue learning beyond college: sustain a lifelong curiosity and grow in knowledge and wisdom.

Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression

Colgate’s Task Force on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression was formed by President Brian W. Casey in the summer of 2017, after consultation with Colgate’s Faculty Affairs Committee. The Task Force was composed of 13 members of the Colgate community, including representatives of the faculty, staff, Board of Trustees, and student body. President Casey charged the task force with the following to guide the efforts of the Task Force:

“Academic freedom and freedom of expression being central to the academic mission of Colgate University and to the enterprise of higher education generally, the Colgate Task Force on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression is charged with reviewing the history of academic freedom and freedom of expression policies and developments at Colgate University and drafting a statement on academic freedom and the freedom of expression as it relates to all sectors of the University’s community. The task force will recommend the statement for consideration by the faculty, the Board of Trustees, and the Student Government Association.”

In 2018, the Report on Academic Freedom and Freedom of Expression was endorsed by the Board of Trustees, faculty, and the Student Government Association.

See online at colgate.edu/academicfreedom

Student Life

The Vice President and Dean of the College, Paul J. McLoughlin II, members of the dean’s staff, and numerous other offices and departments are concerned with the quality of student life beyond the classroom. Extracurricular activities at the University are intended to complement and enhance a student’s academic experience, and a wide range of programs and services are conducted for this purpose. A listing of Student Life information can be found in the University Catalog. 

Administrative Deans

Every student at Colgate is assigned an administrative dean who can provide advice and assistance. The administrative deans work collaboratively with academic advisers to assist students in achieving personal and academic success. Students may refer to their portal for the names of both their academic adviser and administrative dean, and are encouraged to access these valuable resources throughout their time at Colgate.

Working collaboratively with academic advisers, administrative deans assist students with interpretation of the University’s policies and procedures, and answer questions pertaining to: graduation requirements; attendance patterns; medical, personal, or academic leaves of absence; withdrawal from the University; disciplinary matters; or emergencies or problems that may affect the quality of a student’s academic work. Administrative deans are available to assist students with personal issues and may, at the request of the student, contact others in the Colgate community or elsewhere who may be better positioned to assist, depending on the situation.

Administrative deans are also available for consultation with instructors and academic advisers regarding questions of University policy, as well as on student academic progress. In this regard, throughout the semester, faculty members are asked to alert a student’s administrative dean if their absences from class are excessive and/or they are experiencing academic difficulty in a course. Administrative deans may also request a specific progress report at any time if the dean feels that the student’s academic status is in question. Other areas of mutual concern between a faculty member and an administrative dean include: authorization of incomplete grades, verification of prolonged absence from class, and academic standing.

Colgate University, as a matter of policy, regards students as adults and therefore encourages them to take responsibility for their academic and personal lives at Colgate; however, in the event that an administrative dean feels that a student’s Colgate career is in jeopardy for health, academic, or disciplinary reasons, the University may contact the student’s parents, guardians, or next of kin.

Academic Adviser

The academic adviser, as the title implies, provides advice to students on their academic life of the college, and assists them in planning their academic programs and course schedules, selecting majors, and examining postgraduate plans. The academic adviser is also frequently called upon to write letters of recommendation. 

The faculty member who teaches a student’s first-year seminar serves as their academic adviser for the first two years, although after the first semester, a student may change academic advisers. In the spring term of the second year, students choose an academic adviser in the academic department or program that they have chosen for their major. If their academic adviser goes on sabbatical, leave, or leaves the University, the student should request another academic adviser through the same department or program.

For more information on the role of the academic adviser, see Academic Advising in the University Catalog.

The information contained in this publication applies to the academic years 2023–2024, but this handbook is not to be regarded as a contract between the student and the University. The University reserves the right to change requirements, policies, rules, and regulations without prior notice in accordance with established procedures.

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