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Information for Returning Students

If you are a student who started college prior to Fall 2020, visit this webpage.

To request a substitution for a General Education, please contact the director or complete the Review of GenEd Requirements form (PDF) and submit it to the General Education Office, 204 Flagg Hall,

For Students Who Matriculated Fall 2020 or Later

The Potsdam Pathways General Education program was endorsed by the faculty in May of 2019 and officially rolled out in the fall of 2020.  Students who matriculated Fall 2020 or later will follow this program.

The Potsdam Pathways curriculum provides our graduates with competencies, literacies and experiences that enrich students’ lives. The Potsdam Pathways develops our students’ potential so that they graduate from SUNY Potsdam as active lifelong learners and problem solvers.

3 courses (9 credits) required

WAYS 101: Critical Thinking Seminar (3 cr.)
(SUNY Critical Thinking/SUNY Information Management)

WAYS 101 will be a “Big Ideas” course focusing on “wicked problems” and the contexts in which those problems occur. The courses focus on significant and messy issues with which the faculty experts are deeply engaged. They feature explicit instruction in critical thinking—the ability to think clearly and rationally about what to do and what to believe—as well as oral and written applications of those abilities. Critical Thinking has been characterized as “... the awakening of the intellect to the study of itself.” This is important, as it implies a high degree of self-consciousness about and reflection on one’s thinking processes. Wicked problems seminars are specifically designed to introduce students to a rigorous and demanding liberal arts curriculum, to provide the opportunity for students to work closely with a faculty mentor, and to establish a sense of community among participants.

WAYS 102: College Writing Seminar (3 cr.)
(SUNY Basic Communication/SUNY Information Management)

WAYS 102 helps students develop skills as critical readers, compelling writers, and thoughtful participants in the academic community. This course is designed to help students write effectively in other university courses; develop critical thinking and writing fluency; and find, critically evaluate, and incorporate source materials. Each WAYS 102 seminar will have a particular framing question/issue that provides a focused context within which students will approach texts and assignments. Students will read, discuss, and write about a variety of texts, identifying underlying assumptions, evidence, and points of view, drawing inferences, and reaching independent conclusions. They will begin to work with resources—evaluating, incorporating, and acknowledging them—with increasing sophistication.

Students will work with their advisors during summer orientation/advising to determine if they should take WAYS 102: College Writing Seminar or a Core Writing class. 

Find out more about Core Writing courses here

WAYS 103: Talking about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Seminar (3 cr.)
(SUNY Basic Communication/SUNY Information Management)

WAYS 103 is a speaking class that exposes students to concepts necessary to live, work, and create in the diverse populations and social identities that characterize the U.S., including but not limited to the following: race, ethnicity, culture, sexual orientation, disability status, socioeconomic status, religion, gender, gender identity and expression, and age. Students will explore personal and societal assumptions about differences, and will examine systemic cultural, political, and economic imbalances. Students will model civil and respectful discussions about difficult topics and charged issues.

6 courses (19 credits) required

Thinking Aesthetically (TA-3 cr.)
(SUNY The Arts or SUNY Humanities)

Thinking Aesthetically courses will develop students’ reflective engagement with the creative process by engaging them in a variety of forms of artistic creativity—developing their ability to identify, understand, and appreciate the processes through which works of art are produced, analyzed, and interpreted. TA courses can be devoted to one of the following:

  1. producing forms of artistic creativity (such as painting, acting, poetry writing, dancing, singing, scenic design, music, etc.),
  2. analyzing, interpreting, and critically discussing forms of artistic creativity, or
  3. combining the production (doing), analysis, interpretation, and critical discussion of forms of artistic creativity.

Thinking Foundationally (TF-3 cr.)
(SUNY Humanities or other)

Thinking Foundationally courses are designed to uncover and critically (i.e., skeptically and argumentatively) examine foundational assumptions. Foundational assumptions occur in every subject area: i.e., every subject area is grounded in theoretical/foundational assumptions that guide inquiry in that subject area. Thinking Foundationally courses will build upon the basic critical thinking skills introduced and exercised in the WAYS 101 seminars. Students will be required to develop and practice higher-order argumentation skills. Thinking Foundationally courses will require a significant amount of writing in which students demonstrate their ability to understand and explicate arguments, and to anticipate, appreciate, and respond to objections. This might be done in a series of papers arguing on multiple sides of an issue, culminating in a paper which synthesizes the previous work and advocates for a particular position.

Thinking Historically (TH-3 cr.)
(SUNY American History or SUNY Western Civilizations or SUNY Other World Civilizations)

Thinking Historically courses explore some of the sources, arguments, and methodologies used to understand the past. Why does the past matter? How do we know what we know about the past? How do we move beyond the idea that how we know things now is the only way we need to know them? Our understanding of the past is constructed from individual stories that are themselves shaped by larger cultural contexts. These courses are designed to help students become critical consumers of historical knowledge to assist their navigation through contemporary concerns that are themselves rooted in history.

Thinking Mathematically (TM-3 cr.)
(SUNY Mathematics)

Thinking Mathematically courses build proficiency with fundamental tools of mathematics, such as arithmetic, algebra, geometry, functions, graphs, and statistics. They teach students precise quantitative logical reasoning and applications of mathematical problem-solving skills in abstract and real-world problems. They engage students in oral and written communication of mathematical ideas.

Thinking Scientifically
(SUNY Natural Sciences/SUNY Social Sciences)

Courses that fulfill the Thinking Scientifically requirements (Natural World-NW and Social World- SW) engage students in the basic methods and goals of the natural and social sciences with the aim of making them scientifically literate and able to make reasonable and well-founded judgments on matters concerning the natural and social worlds.

Thinking Scientifically: Natural World (NW-4 cr. Includes lab) (SUNY Natural Sciences)
Thinking Scientifically: Social World (SW-3 cr.) (SUNY Social Sciences)

3 courses (9 credits) plus 2 requirements fulfilled in major

WAYS 301: Connecting the Ways of Thinking (3 cr.)
(SUNY Information Management)

WAYS 301 courses are meant to enhance students’ ability to make connections across academic disciplines and to provide the opportunity for self-assessment of this cross disciplinary approach to problem shaping. Led by two faculty members from different disciplines, students will examine a central issue from multiple perspectives. The course critically examines information from diverse sources, shapes the issue through creative questioning, and explores and evaluates a range of solutions.

Connecting through Language Other than English (CL-3 cr.)
(SUNY Foreign Language)

These courses examine salient structural linguistic components of a language other than English as well as key cultural features of other-than-English language communities. Courses will develop effective ways to communicate in that language and will significantly increase students’ understanding and appreciation of a diverse range of non-English language communities and their creative contributions.

Connecting Globally (CG-3 cr.)
(SUNY Western Civilizations or SUNY Other World Civilizations)

This requirement engages students in the study of ideas, peoples, places, and/or life in specific global context(s) (not derived primarily from the United States) with a focus on the societies, civilizations, and/or cultural traditions in Africa, Asia, Oceania, the Americas, and/or Europe.

Connecting Clearly: Communication in the Major (CM-credits count in major)
(SUNY Information Management)

This requirement adopts a “communicating in the disciplines” model that transmits the skills required to both learn and create knowledge within the chosen academic field, and to develop a professional voice through opportunities to write and speak on substantive issues arising from the major. This requirement may be met by a single course covering both writing and speaking in the major, or by separate courses, one focusing on writing and the other on speaking, to be determined by the major department.

Connecting Theory to Practice through Applied Learning (CT-credits count in major)
(SUNY Applied Learning)

Connecting Theory to Practice through Applied Learning, which counts in the major, is a credit-bearing experience in which students learn by engaging in direct application of skills, theories, and models. Students apply knowledge and skills gained from traditional classroom learning to hands-on and/or real world settings, creative projects or research, and then apply what they gained from their applied experience to their academic learning. The activity can be embedded as part of a course or can occur outside of the classroom.


For questions about Pathways, email