Department of Humanities

NCSSM’s Department of Humanities plays a critical role in fulfilling our institution’s mission to cultivate engaged citizens and leaders who work for the betterment of our world. Our curriculum reflects the department’s longstanding commitment to interdisciplinary approaches to teaching and learning, which challenge students to make connections between and among areas of knowledge. NCSSM’s humanities courses actively engage students in critical inquiry, creative expression, and applications of knowledge and skills beyond the classroom. Students expand their understanding of their own and other cultures; they explore and interrogate ethical issues; they discover and follow their intellectual passions; they develop intellectual autonomy; they learn to communicate their ideas in clear and compelling writing and speech. NCSSM’s program in fine arts (visual art, drama, and music) gives students opportunities both in and beyond the classroom to grow as performing artists and audience members. The department’s robust research program invites students of all levels of experience to engage in research across all areas of the humanities, arts, and social sciences and to make connections among these disciplines and STEM fields.

Graduation Requirements in the Humanities

American Studies

All juniors must complete a two-course sequence in American Studies. We offer two sequences in American Studies:

AS4051/AS4052 American Studies I and II

AS4051W/AS4052W Writing and American Studies I and II

Both sequences use the same textbooks, cover the same content, and carry the same quality-point value. Both sequences have small class sizes and offer extensive practice in critical reading, analysis and interpretation, and academic writing. Both sequences carry double credit (English and history/social science), fulfill NCSSM’s English/history requirements for juniors, and prepare students for their senior-level courses. The AS4051W/AS4052W sequence offers additional support for students who need more intensive instruction and practice in developing their skills in critical reading, analysis and interpretation, and academic writing. Incoming juniors’ initial placement in American Studies is based upon their performance on NCSSM’s American Studies Placement Test. If, after classes begin, an adjustment to that initial placement is needed, it is made upon the recommendation of the instructor and the approval of the Dean.

Senior English/Interdisciplinary Humanities

Students must also complete a semester of a 4200-level or higher English course and an additional semester of EITHER a 4200-level or higher English course OR an HU4400-level or higher interdisciplinary humanities elective course.

World Languages

All students who matriculate at NCSSM will graduate from NCSSM with at least two NCSSM World Language (WL) credits on their NCSSM transcripts.

Those credits will be achieved in one of the following ways:


Students who demonstrate less than “intermediate low” proficiency on NCSSM’s WL placement assessments (confirmed through additional in-person assessments once classes begin) must take two WL courses in the same language at NCSSM.

Students who demonstrate “intermediate low” or higher proficiency on NCSSM’s WL placement assessments (confirmed through additional in-person assessments once classes begin) will earn one Credit by Demonstrated Mastery (CDM) and must take a minimum of one WL course at NCSSM. There will be opportunities for students to earn a CDM in languages not taught at NCSSM. 

Students will begin their study of an NCSSM WL in the junior year. Students who are placed into an advanced NCSSM course may take that course during their junior or senior years.

Students may and are encouraged to take additional courses in WL beyond this minimum requirement.

Placement in Humanities Courses

American Studies

Placement is determined by the Dean of Humanities, based upon incoming student’s grades and standardized test scores.

World Languages

Placement is determined by the Dean of Humanities, based upon incoming students’ responses to an online intake form and their performance on an online placement test in the relevant language(s).

Humanities Electives

Some courses in English, interdisciplinary humanities, and the social sciences (such as creative writing, economics, entrepreneurship, international relations, psychology, and sociology) count as one of students’ five enrolled courses per term but do not carry graduation credit in a particular subject area. Students earn general elective credit for those courses.

Fine Arts Electives

NCSSM nurtures students of all levels of experience in the visual arts, drama, and music.  From beginners to veterans, NCSSM students create, perform, and exhibit their arts.  Since most of NCSSM’s fine arts courses do not count among students’ five enrolled courses, many students take fine arts offerings as an enriching complement to their courses in STEM and the humanities.  Students earn general elective credit for these fine arts courses. For further information, see the NCSSM Fine Arts website:

Visual Arts

NCSSM’s program in the visual arts offers students opportunities to create and collaborate in many media.  Our curriculum includes traditional studio art courses as well as art and technology courses team-taught by engineering staff and fine arts faculty.  Facilities include a darkroom, drawing and painting studios, NCSSM’s Fabrication Lab, and a Creative Technology Lab, which houses a Virtual Reality Painting Studio.


Our program in drama includes courses in acting as well as three extracurricular mainstage productions per year (two plays and a musical) in which students gain experience as actors, directors, theater technicians, and choreographers.

Musical Performance

NCSSM’s performing ensembles (chorale, wind ensemble, jazz ensemble, and orchestra) are dedicated to the teaching, study, practice, and performance of ensemble music and literature of the highest quality. Through exemplary organization, training, and presentation, our ensembles provide outstanding experiences for performers as well as audience members. Students grow as musicians as well as collaborators and leaders. Members of NCSSM’s performing ensembles are encouraged to audition for regional, state, and national honors ensembles, including all NCMEA-, NAfME-, and ASTA-sponsored events.