The Buena Vista University general education program acknowledges that a well-educated person has experiences, skills, and knowledge that transcend the preparation for a career or training within an academic discipline. Undergraduates will devote approximately a quarter of their studies at BVU to courses within science, social science, fine arts, and the humanities in order to become broadly educated. Enrollment in the general education program at BVU begins the first semester and continues throughout a student’s program of studies.

The Intellectual Foundations of General Education 

“Successful completion” in each of the four intellectual foundations requirements means passing the indicated course(s) with a grade of “C” or better; a grade of “P” will not meet the requirements.

Mathematics Foundational Requirement

The intellectual foundations requirement in mathematics is designed to provide students with a basic understanding of mathematical reasoning, techniques, thought processes, and perspectives. All students entering Buena Vista University will take a diagnostic mathematics examination once, prior to registering for their first-semester classes. The results of the examination place each student into one of three categories:

  • Category one students will enroll in MATH 050, Basic Mathematics, in their first semester at BVU. They must successfully complete MATH 050 and subsequently enroll in MATH 100, Algebra Review. Upon successful completion of MATH 100, students enroll in one of the several mathematics courses for which MATH 100 is a prerequisite: 125, 130, 140, 143, 145. 
  • Category two students will be exempt from MATH 050 and will enroll in MATH 100 during their first year at BVU. Upon successful completion of MATH 100, students enroll in one of the mathematics courses for which MATH 100 is a prerequisite: 125, 130, 140, 143, 145.
  • Category three students will be exempt from MATH 050 and MATH 100, and will be required to successfully complete only one of the mathematics courses for which MATH 100 is a prerequisite: 125, 130, 140, 143, 145. Successful completion of one of these courses is required for graduation. The math foundation requirement may be satisfied by students earning a passing grade (“D” or higher) in calculus (or any calculus course more advanced than pre-calculus) from an accredited post-secondary institution.

Mathematics Test-Out

In the case of entering students with a strong mathematics background who complete the diagnostic mathematics examination and place as category three students, an examination is available to test out of the final mathematics requirement. Storm Lake campus students should see the associate dean of faculty for test-out details.

Written Communication Foundational Requirement

The intellectual foundations requirement in written communication is designed to ensure that Buena Vista University students develop the ability to write and conduct research at the college level. All students entering BVU will be placed according to ACT English scores. The results of the scores will place each student into one of three categories:

  • Category one students with an ACT English score 15 or below will enroll in ENGL 050 Basic Written Communication, a basic introduction to written communication, in their first semester at BVU. Also, students who know they need more composition experience can enroll.  They must successfully complete ENGL 050 and subsequently enroll in ENGL 100 Written Communication I. Upon successful completion of ENGL 100, students enroll in ENGL 200 Written Communications II. Successful completion of ENGL 200 Written Communication II is required for graduation.
  • Category two students with an ACT English score 16 and above will enroll in ENGL 100 Written Communication I during their first year at BVU. Students with an ACT score of 16 or above may elect, with consultation with their advisor, to enroll in ENGL 050. Upon successful completion of ENGL 100, students enroll in ENGL 200 Written Communications II. Successful completion of ENGL 200 Written Communication II is required for graduation.
  • Category three students with an ACT English score above 30 will be exempt from ENGL 050 and will be consulted about the written communication requirement test-out process. Category Three students are required to successfully complete ENGL 100 and ENGL 200 Written Communication II prior to their junior year, unless they successfully test out of the written communication requirement (see below for test out procedures).

Written Communication Requirement Test-Out

A portfolio examination is available to test out of the final composition requirement for entering students with a strong composition background or students who place in category three. Storm Lake campus students should see the associate dean of faculty for test-out details. BVU Professional & Online Studies students may inquire at the director’s office for more information.

Oral Communication Foundational Requirement

Oral communication competence is a Buena Vista University requirement because oral communication is essential to effective citizenship, service, and leadership. Students and employers identify oral communication competence as one of the most important skills essential for personal and professional success.

Each BVU student is required to take CPER 103 Interpersonal Communication, CPER 105 Public Speaking, or CPER 215 Business and Professional Communication.

Oral Communication Test-Out

Students who have extensive experience in oral communication may demonstrate their competency through a two-part test-out, including both a written exam and an oral presentation. Storm Lake campus students should see the associate dean of faculty for test-out details. BVU Professional & Online Studies students may inquire at the director’s office for more information.

Technology Skills Foundational Requirement

The faculty members of Buena Vista University believe that students must have the technological skills necessary for success in their academic careers, their professional careers, and for life-long learning. The technology skills areas include word processing, spreadsheet management, presentation development, database management, basic electronic communication, and web navigation. To ensure technology skills at the appropriate level, all students must fulfill a technology proficiency requirement, demonstrating competency in these technology skill areas.

Technology Skills Test-Out

This requirement may be fulfilled in one of two ways: The student may successfully complete OBVU 120 Computer Applications, or the student may successfully complete a technology examination demonstrating competency in the required technology skill areas. Completing a course equivalent to OBVU 120 at another accredited institution also completes the requirement. Storm Lake campus students should see the associate dean of faculty for test-out details. BVU Professional & Online Studies students may inquire at the director’s office for more information.

The Intellectual Explorations of General Education

Fine Arts (three credit hours):

  • ART 100 Art Survey; ART 201 Art Foundations I; ART 202 Art Foundations II; ART 300 Methodology of Art Criticism and Analysis; ART 301 Prehistoric and Medieval Art History; ART 302 European Renaissance to Baroque Art History; ART 303 Romanticism to Modern Art History; ART 304 Modern to Contemporary Art History
  • CPER 110 Introduction to Theatre; CPER 220 Fundamentals of Acting; CPER 401 History of the Theatre I; CPER 402 History of the Theatre II
  • HONR 200 Honors Fine Arts
  • MUSC 101 Music Appreciation; MUSC 103 Jazz Appreciation Humanities (nine credit hours from three of the following disciplines) Note: only three credit hours of foreign language may be applied to humanities requirement:
  • OBVU 300 BVU Seminar
  • CHIN 101 Elementary Chinese I; CHIN 102 Elementary Chinese II
  • CPER/ENGL 395 Plays By and About Women; CPER/ENGL 411 Dramatic Literature; CPER 351/ENGL 350 Shakespeare
  • ENGL 220 Intro to Literature: Early Classics; ENGL 250 American Literature; ENGL 261 British Literature, Beginnings to 1750; ENGL 262 British Literature, 1750 to Present; ENGL 350/CPER 351 Shakespeare; ENGL/CPER 395 Plays By and About Women; ENGL/CPER 411 Dramatic Literature
  • GERN 101 Elementary German I; GERN 102 Elementary German II; GERN 201 Intermediate German I; GERN 202 Intermediate German II
  • HIST 101 History of the United States to 1877; HIST 102 History of the United States after 1877; HIST 111 World Civilizations I; HIST 112 World Civilizations II; HIST 121 The Emergence of Western Civilization; HIST 122 The Revolutions of Western Civilizations; HIST 125 Asian Civilizations; HIST 222 The History of Iowa; HIST 230 Vietnam Wars; HIST 235 The American Civil War; HIST 240 History of the American West; HIST 241 History of WWII; HIST 242 The Holocaust; HIST 245 Renaissance and Reformation; HIST 284 Empires: The Colonial Experience; HIST 315 History of Immigration in the U.S.; HIST 342 Exploring the Holocaust
  • HONR 230 Honors Humanities
  • JAPN 101 Elementary Japanese I; JAPN 102 Elementary Japanese II; JAPN 125 Japanese Culture
  • MDST 102 Media & Society; MDST 397 Film Studies
  • PHIL 100 Introduction to Philosophy; PHIL 110 Ethics; PHIL 130 Logic; PHIL 230 Studies in Philosophy; PHIL 240 Philosophy of Religion; PHIL/RELI 321 Women in Philosophy & Religion; PHIL/RELI 335 Topics in Ethics; PHIL 336 Professional Ethics; PHIL/RELI 340 Environmental Ethics; PHIL/SOCI 361 Racism & Sexism in American Life 
  • RELI 102 Introduction to Biblical Heritage; RELI 110 Introduction to World Religions; RELI 111 Introduction to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam; RELI 112 Religions of Asia; RELI 122 Religion and Culture; RELI 230 Religious Traditions of the World; RELI/PHIL 321 Women in Philosophy & Religion; RELI/PHIL 335 Topics in Ethics; RELI 336 Professional Ethics; RELI/PHIL 340 Environmental Ethics; RELI 355 Topics in Religious History
  • SOCI/PHIL 361 Racism & Sexism in American Life
  • SPAN 101 Elementary Spanish I; SPAN 102 Elementary Spanish II; SPAN 201 Intermediate Spanish I; SPAN 202 Intermediate Spanish II; SPAN 301 Advanced Grammar & Conversation
  • WMST 110 Introduction to Women’s Studies

Science (nine credit hours from three of the following disciplines):

  • BIOL 104 Cancer and Aging; BIOL 106 The Brain; BIOL 107 Human Genetics; BIOL 108 Human Reproduction & Development; BIOL 109 Ecology; BIOL 110 Infectious Diseases; BIOL 112 Evolution; BIOL 113 Biology of Birds; BIOL 114 Aquatic Biology; BIOL 115 Introduction to Biological Science Laboratory; BIOL 120 Life Science with a Human Focus; BIOL 142 Introduction to Human Physiology; BIOL 163 Biological Principles I; BIOL 164 Biological Principles II; BIOL 270 Evolution; BIOL 303 Ecology and Society; PSYC 281 Introduction to Biological Psychology
  • CHEM 110 Everyday Chemistry; CHEM 115 Chemistry in Art; CHEM 151 General Chemistry I
  • CMSC 160 Introduction to Computer Programming; CMSC 200 Computer Science I
  • ENVS 100 The Biological Environment; ENVS 101 The Physical Environment; ENVS 105 Stream Conservation/Fly Fishing; ENVS 201 Conservation Ecology
  • GENS 101 Physical General Science; GENS 110 Introduction to Astronomy; GENS 115 Atmosphere, Weather and Climate; GENS 125 Oceanography; GENS 300 Geology; GENS 320 Physical Geography 
  • HONR 220 Honors Science
  • MATH 160 Calculus I: Differential Calculus; MATH 161 Calculus II: Integral Calculus; MATH 330 Applied Regression Analysis
  • PHYS 201 General Physics I: Trigonometry based; PHYS 202 General Physics II: Trigonometry-based; PHYS 211 General Physics I: Calculus-based

Social Science (nine credit hours from three of the following disciplines):

  • CPER 320 Introduction to Communication Research; CPER 355 Conflict Management• CRIM 101 Criminal Justice Systems; CRIM 102 Survey of Criminology
  • ECON 110 Introduction to International Political Economy; ECON 205 Principles of Microeconomics; ECON 206 Principles of Macroeconomics
  • HONR 210 Honors Social Science
  • PSCN 110 Introduction to American Government; PSCN 115 Introduction to Politics; PSCN 245 Introduction to American Law
  • PSPA 265 Introduction to Public Administration; PSPA 320 State and Local Politics; PSPA 360 Introduction to Public Affairs
  • PSYC 100 General Psychology; PSYC/SOCI 203 Social Psychology
  • SCWK/SOCI 100 Modern Social Problems; SCWK 200 Intro to Social Work & Social Welfare; SCWK 255 Human Behavior in the Social Environment; SCWK 351 Aging in American Society
  • SOCI/SCWK 100 Modern Social Problems; SOCI 101 Introduction to Sociology; SOCI/PSYC 203 Social Psychology

First-Year Student Experience

We know the first year of collegiate work is a critical time of transition and development for students having significant effect on students’ ability to persist and be successful. Because of our desire for students to achieve academic success, and our belief that students we admit have the potential for success, we intentionally articulate our philosophy and expectations for first-year students.

Our philosophy for the first-year experience is that the faculty, staff, and students at BVU commit to a collaborative, effective, and integrated first year experience that provides a foundation for living the university’s mission. Students experience the philosophy through achieving the following goals during their first-year via the collaborative, effective, and integrated first year experience:

  1. Students will have achieved academic success in the foundational skills areas, having developed a plan to complete the foundational skills courses by the end of their sophomore year, and will be poised for future academic success (including setting the foundation for the BVU objectives).
  2. Students will have moved beyond their comfort zone by experiencing a mixture of rich opportunities outside the experiences they have brought to BVU while becoming engaged in new experiences that broaden their understanding of global issues, including people, ideas, and cultures.
  3. Students will have become vested with the institution.?
    • Students will have developed positive relationships with faculty, staff, other students, and alumni.
    • Students will have become intentionally involved in campus activities, concentrating on the quality of their involvement.
    • Students will have begun to understand BVU customs and traditions.
  4. Students will have a successful transition to college, including the development of self-advocacy skills and independence.
  5. Students will have explored potential majors and possible career options.
  6. Students will have become more self-reflective about the processes of education, will have a better understanding of the roles and purposes of higher education, and will have developed a personal commitment to graduation.
  7. Students will develop a passion and commitment to learning.
  8. Faculty and staff will commit to these goals in partnership with students.

University Seminar

The University Seminar is a small-section course, developed around a common theme shared among all sections, which focuses on the exercise and development of basic academic skills essential for success in university study. The goal of the course is to enhance critical thinking while sharpening ability in the skills areas of writing, reading, speaking, listening, and quantitative reasoning. The course is also intended to assist students in the transition to life within a learning community, and to facilitate understanding of the privileges, responsibilities, and expectations that accompany membership in such a community. Important to the development of all students and the seminar is the students’ entry into collegiate academic work which begins prior to their arrival on campus. All students share their initiation to collegiate academic expectations through an assigned reading (generally a notable book addressing some aspect of the common theme) which is required of students to have critically read by the time they arrive on campus for their first class session. Critical thinking questions to be completed by each student will often accompany the required reading. Registration in this course in the first semester of enrollment is required of all new and transfer students who enter Buena Vista University. The course is a four-credit course, and is offered only on a graded (A, B, C, D, F) basis and may not be repeated. 

BVU Seminar

The BVU Seminar is a three-credit course focused on the exercise of basic academic skills using an emphasis on the topic of globalism. The course is specifically designed to assist students transferring to the Professional and Online Studies Program in achieving the necessary academic skills and familiarity with BVU resources to be successful in their program of study, and to do so within the context of a global topic of contemporary importance. The goal of the course is to enhance critical thinking while sharpening basic academic abilities such as writing, reading, speaking, listening, etc. Registration in this course is required of all new Professional and Online Studies students seeking their first baccalaureate degree, and must be taken within the first 12 credit hours at BVU. Failure to complete BVU Seminar within the first 12 credit hours relinquishes the privilege to continue studying at BVU until the seminar is completed. The BVU Seminar carries the Intellectual Explorations: Humanities designation and is graded only on a letter grade (A, B, C, D, F) basis and is not available to Storm Lake students. 


Students at Buena Vista University are involved in just one course during the period in January known as “interim.” Freshmen are required to complete a January interim course. All students are encouraged to try a course outside their major area of interest, and to engage at least one travel course and internship during their program of study. The chance to concentrate on one subject offers new challenges and opportunities for students, often offered outside the walls of the university classrooms in non-traditional ways. No independent or directed studies may be enrolled in during January. Students must be enrolled in and attending a BVU interim offering to reside in the residence halls during interim.

Academic and Cultural Events Series (ACES)

A requirement for Storm Lake campus students only, the Academic and Cultural Events Series (ACES) exposes students to some of the finest lecturers and performers in the world through the scholarly events (a lecture/program series related to topics within academic disciplines), student-life events (a lecture/program series around various student-life topics) and the signature events (a concert/ performance series). ACES contributes to the university’s mission by enriching the solid liberal arts foundation of the university, enhancing the curriculum through experiential learning opportunities, and by promoting an awareness of the diversity of cultures and perspectives that exist in the global community.

ACES Credits Required for Graduation

To graduate from Buena Vista University at the Storm Lake campus, all full-time students must register for .5 credits of ACES each semester beginning in their first semester until successfully completing the required number of credits based upon the formula outlined below. These credits shall be graded on the P/F scale. Non-fulfillment of the ACES requirement for a given semester will result in a grade of “F” on the student’s transcript. Students possessing a baccalaureate degree are exempt from the ACES requirement.

ACES Requirements for Full-Time Students

For students entering as freshmen, four semesters graded at “P” are required. For transfer students, ACES requirements are based on number of transfer hours accepted by the Registrar’s Office based on the following:

  • 0-23 credit hours requires 2.0 ACES credits earned
  • 24-55 credit hours requires 1.5 ACES credits earned
  • 56-86 credit hours requires 1.0 ACES credits earned
  • 87 or more credit hours requires .5 ACES credits earned

Non-degree seeking students and part-time students at the Storm Lake campus are not required to fulfill ACES requirements, nor are BVU Graduate & Professional Studies students.

Earning ACES Credit

A student may earn .5 ACES credit in a semester. To earn .5 credit, the student must be recorded as having attended eight ACES events during the semester with the following distribution:

  • Two ACES Signature Events
  • Four ACES Scholarly Events
  • One ACES Student Life Event
  • One additional ACES event of the student’s choosing.

ACES events attended in one semester may not be carried over to another semester to earn credit except in the following situation.

If a student has been recorded in attendance for at least 6 events in a fall or spring semester but fails to attend the required 8 with appropriate distribution, it is still possible to receive credit for that semester through the filing of a change of grade contract. Contracts must be filed with the ACES instructor prior to the end of the incomplete semester. To successfully complete the course the following must occur:

  • The student must complete a change of grade contract at the end of the semester in which he/she wishes to receive an extension. All applications must be approved by the ACES instructor. A failing grade will be recorded until such time as the coursework has been successfully completed. Completion of the requirements must be done during the semester immediately following and is based on:
  • Earning the .5 ACES credit required the next immediate semester by meeting quantity and distribution requirements, AND, 
  • Attending extra events as necessary to meet the quantity and distribution requirements for the previous incomplete semester.

This ACES requirement applies only to the Buena Vista University Storm Lake campus except students who already hold a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution.

General Education Requirements for Transfer Students

Students transferring to BVU’s Storm Lake and BVU Professional & Online Studies campuses with an associate of arts degree have satisfied the “intellectual foundations” and the “intellectual explorations” general education categories.

Storm Lake transfer students must complete a “pro-rated” ACES requirement. BVU Professional & Online Studies transfer students are not required to complete ACES. Details of these requirements are outlined in the ACES section.

The transcripts of those transfer students — Storm Lake and BVU Professional & Online Studies — who have not completed an associate of arts degree will be evaluated by the registrar in consultation with the deans on a course by course basis to determine satisfaction of general education requirements.