Jun 25, 2024  
2019-2020 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, religion, 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 acknowledgment 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.

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 career. Students who think they have already fulfilled some of the requirements are urged to contact the director.


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.
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.
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.
To increase students’ appreciation of freedom.
When students begin college, they notice how much less time they spend in class than they did in high school. Students need to ask whether that free time makes them more free. In studying great works, they have the opportunity to reflect on what freedom means and on how they may best use their freedom.
To enrich students’ university experience and encourage lifelong learning.
A lecture series and a reading group encourage integration of students’ academic and social activities. Reading primary texts allows students to experience more continuity across subjects. This experience encourages a lifelong curiosity — an eagerness and an ability to continue learning independently after college.
To provide students with a superior background for graduate school.
Graduate programs want students who are familiar with key primary texts in areas such as philosophy, literature, and the sciences. Those texts are the foundation of all disciplines in the liberal arts.
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.

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.

Electives - Credits: 6

See the notes below.

Total Credits: 12


  1. A list of approved electives is available at the website (http://www.unlv.edu/liberalarts/gwac). Courses other than those electives, including independent studies, may be accepted with the approval of the director. The standard rule is that two-thirds or more of the readings on the syllabus should consist of works (studied in whole or in part) by authors on a list approved by the GWAC Committee. The list of authors is also available at the website.
  2. At least six credits must be completed at UNLV.
  3.  Students may use nine credits at the 100- or 200-level in a single foreign language as a substitute for three credits of electives.
  4. Students may take three credits of electives in visual or performing arts. Students should obtain the approval of the director for a particular course. Courses that are normally accepted will cover the history of art, music, or film.
  5. To receive the certificate, a student must have a minimum grade point average of 3.00 for courses taken within GWAC.
  6.  Students must receive a grade of B- or better in a course for it to be accepted for GWAC.
  7. Students may count courses taken to fulfill graduation requirements (university, college, and departmental) toward fulfillment of GWAC requirements if the course is on the list of electives or otherwise meets the requirement for content.


David Fott, Political Science, Director
Megan Becker-Leckrone, English
David Beisecker, Philosophy
Andrew Bell, History
Ralph Buechler, World Languages and Cultures
Susan Byrne, World Languages and Cultures
David Forman, Philosophy
Margaret Harp, World Languages and Cultures
Richard Harp, English
John Hay, English
Mark Lutz, Political Science
Giuseppe Natale, World Languages and Cultures
Anne Stevens, English

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