Academic Programs Catalog

Residential College in the Arts and Humanities

Residential College in the Arts and Humanities

Stephen L. Esquith, DEAN

The Residential College in the Arts and Humanities (RCAH) is an interdisciplinary college offering a Bachelor of Arts degree in Arts and Humanities for students interested in and enthusiastic about the growing global connections between literature, history, ethics, culture, world languages, the visual and performing arts, and their own civic engagement in these fields of work and study. Its faculty, staff, and visiting artists are committed to teaching and to scholarship that enhances the collaborative learning process that defines the life of the college.

RCAH students live and learn together in Snyder-Phillips Hall, a historic building on the MSU north campus. From this home base, students can explore the diverse resources of one of the nation’s most distinguished public research universities. They also learn to communicate and navigate within the evolving cultures of our contemporary world through study abroad and study away programs.

The mission of the college is to weave together the passion, imagination, humor, and candor of the arts and humanities to promote individual well-being and the common good. Students, faculty, and community partners in the arts and humanities have the power to focus critical attention on the public issues we face and the opportunities we have to resolve them. The arts and humanities not only give us the pleasure of living in the moment, but also the wisdom to make sound judgments and good choices. The mission, then, is to see things as they are, to hear things as others may, to tell these stories as they should be told, and to contribute to the making of a better world.

Seeing today’s rapidly changing world clearly, hearing its many voices, and then interpreting these sights and sounds persuasively takes time, care, and empathy. By living, studying, and learning together, students in the college acquire the communication skills, the visual literacy, and the composure and poise to perform well and work collaboratively. They learn how to bring the arts and humanities into the conversation that we have only just begun to have as citizens.

RCAH students graduate with the vital writing, communication, problem solving, critical thinking, and research abilities that are desirable and transferable across different workplace settings. Through upper-level course work, students deepen their knowledge of particular fields in the humanities so that they can effectively compete in the marketplace in their chosen area of study. The college is an excellent choice for students interested in global community service, the creative arts, culture, languages, history, and literature. Graduates have pursued graduate study at some of the nation’s most prestigious universities and careers in the nonprofit sector, education, social work, business, and government.

RCAH students may choose to dual major in a traditional humanities or social science discipline or pursue a specialization in one of the many programs available at the university, such as Museum Studies; Film Studies; Dance; Peace and Justice Studies; Muslim Studies; Jewish Studies; Women, Gender, and Social Justice; and Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems. A high percentage of RCAH students are members of the Honors College, and individual and small group Honors options are offered frequently.

The college provides abundant opportunities for learning and hands-on training outside the classroom, in settings that include the RCAH Poetry Center, the LookOut! Art Gallery, the RCAH Theatre, and the Language and Media Center. Student-initiated groups include a theatre company, music ensembles, and a photography club, among many others. Students can often be found creating art at impromptu studio events, music at informal jam sessions, and poetry at the college’s popular slam programs. The RCAH student government takes an active part in discussions that shape the college’s living and learning environments.

World language proficiency is a primary goal for students in the program. Students graduating from the RCAH are required to achieve at least functional competence in one modern language other than English, which they demonstrate through an oral test. Entering RCAH students with advanced placement credits must still pass the RCAH proficiency requirement. Certification in American Sign Language may substitute for meeting the proficiency requirement. All students take a course in language and culture (RCAH 390); topics of the course may include the relationship between language and culture, issues regarding language and politics (for example, national languages versus minority languages), language acquisition, and theories of interpretation and translation.

The first level of the college major is a set of four introductory core courses typically taken during the first year. These courses (RCAH 111, 112, and 202) combine small group discussion and larger classes so that students become acquainted with as many of their classmates as possible. This common experience creates a community of teachers and learners with a shared understanding of the many cultures that define our global experience and the transcultural world in which we live.

The second level of required courses, beginning with the pro-seminar (RCAH 192) and concentrated in the second year (RCAH 203, 291, 292A, 292B or 292C), provides more intimate tutorials, civic engagement experiences, and creative projects. It is here that students can explore their own passionate interests in the arts and humanities through making, doing, and collaborating with others to explore competing understandings of the common good. The RCAH works closely with community organizations to create internship opportunities for which students can receive academic credit (RCAH 392).

The third level – the Elective Pathways (RCAH 310, 320, 330, and 340) – allows students to specialize and extend their field of study beyond the boundaries of the college. It begins with the world we have inherited – its cultures, ethical perspectives, and rich literatures – and then opens along paths that extend the major and deepen student understanding. The Third Year Tutorial (RCAH 380) continues to build upon a student's understanding of research and exploration of culture and global experience gleaned from the first and second year courses.

Finally, the fourth level – the Capstone Experience – provides students with an opportunity to do more advanced work through a senior thesis (RCAH 491) or a senior seminar (RCAH 492). It is at this level that students bring their career goals into clearer focus and prepare themselves for the challenging work that lies ahead.

During the four-year program, students will engage with a range of authors, artists, and thinkers, through the required College Colloquium sessions. All students will attend 12 sessions in order to graduate, with attendance at 6 sessions required in the first year. These sessions will engage students and faculty with artists, authors, thinkers, and recent RCAH graduates across a diversity of disciplines in order to inspire them with career possibilities in the arts and humanities.

The college faculty is drawn from a wide range of disciplines, including literature, art and art history, theatre, philosophy, world history, music, rhetoric and composition, anthropology, education, and the study of languages and culture. They have a wide range of research interests and view engaged learning in the broadest sense – from workshop immersion experiences to civic activism in local communities to study abroad – as a hallmark of good education for teachers as well as students.

The total enrollment for the college is currently projected to be 450-600 students. Typically, students live in the Snyder-Phillips residence complex for their first two years. Students admitted to Michigan State University are also admitted to the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities. Because enrollments in the college are limited, prospective first-year and transfer students should notify the Michigan State University Office of Admissions as early as possible of their desire to enroll in the college.

In addition to meeting the requirements of the university, students must meet the requirements specified below.

Arts and Humanities

Requirements for the Bachelor of Arts Degree in the Arts and Humanities

  1. The University requirements for bachelor’s degrees as described in the Undergraduate Education section of this catalog; 120 credits, including general elective credits, are required for the Bachelor of Arts degree in the Arts and Humanities.
    The completion of  RCAH 111 referenced in item 2. a. below satisfies the University’s Tier I writing requirement.

    The University’s Tier II writing requirement for the Bachelor of Arts degree in the Arts and Humanities is met by completing RCAH 491 or 492. That course is referenced in item 2. h. below.

    The completion of RCAH 202 and 203 referenced in item 2. a. below satisfies the University’s Integrative Studies in the Arts and Humanities requirement.

    The completion of at least 30 credits in courses at the 300-level or above, which may include courses from items 2.d., 2.e., and 2.f. below.
  2. The following requirements:
a. All of the following core courses (28 credits):
RCAH 111 Writing in Transcultural Contexts 4
RCAH 112 Writing, Research and Technologies 4
RCAH 192 Proseminar 3
RCAH 202 The Presence of the Past 4
RCAH 203 Transcultural Relations through the Ages 4
RCAH 291 Arts Workshops 4
RCAH 292A Engagement Proseminar 2
RCAH 380 Third Year Tutorial 3
Credits used to fulfill this requirement cannot be used to fulfill requirement c. below.
b. Complete 4 credits from the following (4 credits):
RCAH 292B Engagement and Reflection 1 to 4
RCAH 292C Independent Engagement 2 to 4
Credits used to fulfill this requirement cannot be used to fulfill requirement c. below.
c. Complete 4 credits from any combination of the following courses:
RCAH 291 Arts Workshops 1 to 4
RCAH 292B Engagement and Reflection 1 to 4
RCAH 292C Independent Engagement 2 to 4
Credits used to fulfill this requirement may not be used to fulfill requirements a. or b. above.
d. Two of the following courses (6 credits):
RCAH 310 Topics in Childhood and Society 3
RCAH 320 Topics in Art and Public Life 3
RCAH 330 Topics in Nature and Culture 3
RCAH 340 Topics in Technology and Creativity 3
RCAH 395 Special Topics in the Arts and Humanities 3
e. Five elective courses totaling 15 to 20 credits taken outside of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities chosen in consultation with the student’s academic advisor. At least 8 of these credits must be at the 300-level or above.
f. Demonstrate proficiency in a world language or American Sign Language by completing one of the following two options:

pass the language proficiency test, or


complete the equivalent language course work through the 202-level and at least one 300-level course. A study abroad or study away experience can substitute for one or more of these courses with approval of the Director of Student Affairs and the Coordinator of Language Proficiency in consultation with the leader of the student's study abroad or study away program.

g. The following course (6 credits):
RCAH 390 Immersions in Language and Culture 6
h. One of the following capstone courses (4 credits):
RCAH 491 Senior Thesis (W) 4
RCAH 492 Senior Seminar (W) 4

Students must attend 12 separate sessions of the College Colloquium, with 6 of those sessions occurring in the first year of the student’s major within the Residential College in  the Arts and Humanities.

Residential College in the Arts and Humanities 3 + 3 Option

The Residential College in the Arts and Humanities, in collaboration with the MSU College of Law, offers an opportunity for selected Residential College in the Arts and Humanities students to earn a baccalaureate degree after satisfactory completion of a minimum of 91 credits at Michigan State University, and a minimum of 29 credits through subsequent enrollment at the Michigan State University College of Law. Students interested in this option should consult with their college academic advisor during their first year in the college.

Admission to the MSU College of Law component of this program is limited to a small number of students who complete the specified university and college requirements and who earn a grade-point average and LSAT score that is acceptable for admission to the Michigan State University College of Law.

All students in this program will complete a minimum of 91 credits at Michigan State University with at least 52 of those credits in the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities. The requirements for the program are as follows:

  1. Completion of all the university-level graduation requirements, including integrative studies, writing, and mathematics.
  2. Completion of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities required courses, language proficiency, and elective pathway.
  3. Completion of a minimum of 29 credits at the Michigan State University College of Law
Upon satisfactory completion of the specified 120 credits, students in this program will be eligible for the baccalaureate degree and may apply for conferral of their degree.