May 22, 2024  
2008-2010 Undergraduate Catalog 

Great Works Academic Certificate

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Purpose and Focus

This program (abbreviated GWAC) provides students with an opportunity to take part in a conversation with some of the best thinkers of all time. The study of great works in philosophy, politics, literature, sciences, and the fine arts encourages critical thinking. Such study confronts what it means to be human and thus immeasurably enhances a person’s daily life. There is a growing acknowledgement among employers in business and the professions that this sort of education develops lifelong learners and future leaders. This program also gives students who want to pursue graduate education early experience in grappling with original works of theory and literature such as they will inevitably encounter in graduate school.
GWAC relies almost entirely on existing courses in departments. A course in great works is defined as either: (1) one of an approved list of courses in art or music (see below), or (2) one in which two-thirds or more of the readings on the syllabus consist of works (studied in whole or in part) on a list approved by the GWAC Committee. The committee may modify that list at its discretion. The list is available at <>.

A student must submit to the committee a syllabus of a course in order to ascertain definitely whether the course will count toward GWAC. There is no required order in which courses must be taken, but students are urged to take European Civilization as early as possible.

Students who fulfill the requirements will receive a notation on their transcript, in addition to the certificate.

Students should notify the director of their interest in the program as soon as possible in their college careers. Some students may have already made progress toward fulfilling GWAC requirements before the program was created in 2004; such students will be given full credit for those courses. Students who think they have fulfilled part or all of the requirements are urged to contact the Director.


  1. To improve students’ ability to read and analyze carefully.
    The challenge of great works summons careful attention and thoughtful critique because such works are impossible to categorize easily. Students will leave the program as better critical thinkers in all aspects of their lives.
  2. To promote students’ facility with the written word.
    Most classes within the program have a writing component that involves the development of good skills in research and analysis. In addition, exposure to excellent writing and thought helps promote better writing. Careful reading is a prerequisite of good writing.
  3. To engage students in a conversation on fundamental questions of human life.
    Works on the list for the program treat questions of what it means to be human, such as: What is the structure of the universe? What is human nature? What is love? What is justice, and what does it require of us? Even if students do not find answers to those questions and learn only how to ask the questions more cogently, they will have accomplished a great deal.
  4. To enrich students’ university experience and encourage lifelong learning.
    Reading primary texts allows students to experience more continuity across subject matters. This experience encourages a lifelong curiosity — an eagerness and an ability to continue learning independently after college.
  5. To provide students with a superior background for graduate school.
    Graduate programs want students who have a knowledge of key primary texts in areas such as philosophy, literature, and the sciences. Those texts are the foundation of all disciplines in the liberal arts.
  6. To prepare students better for today’s careers.
    Specific skills learned in college often become less useful within several years of graduation, and people may change jobs or professions several times in the course of their lives. The program will help students develop an intellectual strength that will allow them to maintain a variety of jobs more successfully.
  7. To reward students’ achievements with scholarships and other honors.
    Students who excel in the program should be more competitive for national scholarships and honors.
  8. To encourage integration of students’ academic and social activities.
    Activities such as a lecture series and on- and off-campus reading groups will encourage shared experiences in learning.

Admission to the Program

There is no formal admissions process. To participate in the program, a student must be formally admitted to UNLV and have a grade point average of at least 3.00. The program is open to undergraduates from any college.


Advising is provided by the faculty on the GWAC Committee and by the Wilson Advising Center.

Degree Requirements

Students will choose between tracks A and B (7 required credits and 15 or 18 electives).

Track A - Total Credits: 22

Track B - Total Credits: 25


  1. Honors students may substitute appropriate honors courses for HIST 105 and 106.
  2. A course in great works is one that falls into either of the following categories: (a) Two-thirds or more of the readings on the syllabus consist of works (studied in whole or in part) on a list approved by the GWAC Committee. (b) The course is one of the following courses in art or music: ART 260, 261, 266, 461, 462, 463, 464, 465, 466, 467, 468, 469, 470, 472. 473, 474, 475, 477, 479, 480, 481; MUS 121, 331, 332, 341, 342, 343. Students may count only three credits of art or music (not both) toward the program, and any course counted in art or music must cover a historical period that overlaps with one of a student’s other GWAC courses.
  3. At least six credits of courses in great works must be at the 300- or 400-level.
  4. Every student in the program must take at least one course with readings from before 1648 and at least one course with readings from after 1648; but those courses need not have all of their readings within only one of those two periods.
  5. In order to receive the certificate a student must have a minimum grade point average of 3.00 for courses taken within GWAC.
  6. No course in which a student receives below a B- may be accepted for GWAC.
  7. A student may count independent studies, as well as courses taken to fulfill graduation requirements (university, college, and departmental), toward fulfillment of GWAC requirements if they meet the requirement for content.
  8. Transfer courses that meet the requirement for content may be accepted for GWAC, but at least one-half of the courses must be completed at UNLV.
  9. Upon completion of the course requirements, a student is required to submit a portfolio of papers or other written work from courses taken within GWAC. The committee reviews the portfolio as a means of assessing what the student has learned. No grade is given, but the committee reserves the power to decide not to grant the certificate. It is expected that such a decision will rarely, if ever, be made.


David Fott, Political Science, Director
Andrew Bell, History
Ralph Buechler, Foreign Languages
Richard Harp, English
Mark Lutz, Political Science
Stephen Rosenbaum, Philosophy

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