May 26, 2024  
Rensselaer Catalog 2021-2022 
Rensselaer Catalog 2021-2022 [Archived Catalog]

School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

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Dean: Mary H. Simoni
Associate Dean for Academic Affairs: Brett Fajen
Associate Dean for Research and Graduate Studies: Kenneth Simons
School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Home Page:

The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) offers research and educational opportunities aligned with Rensselaer’s vision of the New Polytechnic Institute. The School’s five departments offer innovative and interdisciplinary programs of study at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. The undergraduate programs include majors in humanities, social science, and arts disciplines; collaborations and dual majors for students of all schools; and a core curriculum (the HASS Core) that is a common element in the course of study for all Rensselaer students. Graduate programs in HASS offer unique opportunities for the study of the technological world, its impact on society, and its potential contributions to social, cultural, and artistic goals. All HASS students have a broad choice of electives representing Rensselaer’s global vision and commitment to personal excellence through studies in arts, communications, and culture, as well as to the traditional areas of liberal arts and social sciences.

HASS programs at Rensselaer give every student close contact with outstanding faculty members. Those faculty—scholars and practitioners themselves—create programs that are distinctive for research applications at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students also have access to fieldwork and studio experiences; internships and professional co-op opportunities; maker spaces, multimedia studios and laboratories, game development and computer facilities; traditional and experimental musical ensembles; and opportunities to cross boundaries and to develop interdisciplinary projects. These programs integrate the intellectual depth and the practical experience needed for leadership careers in business, non-profit corporations, government and government-related organizations, higher education, arts, and more. HASS students not only participate in the technological world—they create it; they shape it.

HASS is home to five academic departments—Arts; Cognitive Science; Communication and Media; Economics; and Science and Technology Studies (STS); and an interdisciplinary program in Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences—each of which combines a unique breadth and depth of scholarly expertise to create innovative educational programs and pursue interdisciplinary research. 

Departments and Degrees Offered

B.S. Electronic Arts
B.S. Music
Ph.D. Electronic Arts

B.S. Cognitive Science
M.S. Cognitive Science (internal applicants only)
Ph.D. Cognitive Science
B.S. Philosophy
B.S. Psychological Science

B.S. Communication, Media, and Design
M.S. Communication and Rhetoric (internal applicants only)
Ph.D. Communication and Rhetoric

B.S. Economics
B.S. Biotechnology and Health Economics
M.S. Economics

B.S. Science, Technology, and Society
Accelerated Science, Technology, and Society-Law Program (six-year B.S./J.D.)
B.S. Sustainability Studies
B.S. Design, Innovation, and Society
M.S. Science and Technology Studies (internal applicants only)
Ph.D. Science and Technology Studies 

B.S. Games and Simulation Arts and Sciences
M.S. Critical Game Design
Ph.D. Critical Game Design


The HASS Core 

As part of their B.S. degree program, all Rensselaer undergraduates take a selection of HASS courses referred to as the HASS Core.  


Students will be able to:

  • Provide “big picture” as well as community-scale perspective, advancing students’ understanding of how the contemporary, globalized world works, and of the positioning and perspectives of different social groups.
  • Provide both a historical perspective and a sense of how change has been and can be brought about.
  • Introduce, expose, and cultivate diverse communication skills and critical perspectives on communication, encouraging students to continually evaluate rhetorical forms and styles of argument, supporting data, and media representations.
  • Develop a critical perspective and awareness.

The HASS Core consists of:

  • 24 credits distributed to afford students a breadth of perspective across the various disciplines (See footnotes 1 and 2 below).
    • A maximum of 12 credits at the 1000-level can be counted toward the HASS core.
    • A maximum of 8 AP or transfer credits can be counted toward the HASS core. (See footnotes 3 and 5 below)
    • A maximum of 8 credits can be designated as P/NC.
  • An approved 12-credit area-of-focus known as an Integrative Pathway, which is designed to add depth and coherence to the HASS Core, enhance students’ majors, and optimize students’ degree curriculum. Students can choose from a list of either disciplinary or interdisciplinary Pathways.
    • Courses counting toward the Pathway may not be designated as P/NC.
    • Transfer students may apply up to 12 transfer credits toward a pathway.
    • Transfer students entering below sophomore status must follow the same HASS core as students entering via freshman admission.
    • Transfer students entering at or above sophomore status have two additional pathway options available to them:
      • Transfer Student Social Science Pathway
      • Transfer Student Arts and Humanities Pathway 
  • One four-credit 4000-level course (see footnote 4 below)
  • One HASS Communication Intensive course
    • Students may not use AP, IB, or Cambridge A-level credit, or transfer credit from another university to satisfy the HASScommunication intensive (CI) requirement.  This applies to all transfer courses, including those taken before entering RPI and those taken after entering RPI (e.g., during break, while studying abroad). 
    • Exception: Transfer students may use credits taken at their prior institution to satisfy the HASS CI requirement provided that the course satisfies RPI’s CI standards. Students should send documentation to HASS Associate Dean for Academic Affairs verifying that the course meets these standards.
    • Students should take their HASS Communication Intensive course during their first three semesters.
    • P/NC designation may not be used to satisfy this requirement.
  • One HASS Inquiry course
    • Students who enroll at Rensselaer as first-year students are required to take a HASS Inquiry course during their first year. These courses cultivate a deep appreciation of the ethical and moral imperatives that are the foundation of integrative knowledge that spans the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Students learn the habits of mind that illuminate contemporary global issues from a diversity of perspectives using an interdisciplinary, integrative, and collaborative approach.  For a listing of HASS Inquiry courses visit:
  • Breadth
    • Students should take at least one course from the humanities and one course from the social sciences. 
    • Completion of a HASS Inquiry course (typically an IHSS course), in addition to the previously stated HASS Core requirements, satisfies the breadth requirement.


Humanities Code Social Sciences Code
Arts ARTS Cognitive Science COGS
Communication COMM Economics ECON
Languages LANG Games and Simulation Arts & Sciences GSAS
Literature LITR Interdisciplinary Studies IHSS
Games and Simulation Arts & Sciences GSAS Psychology PSYC
Interdisciplinary Studies IHSS Science, Technology, & Society STSO
Philosophy PHIL    
Science, Technology, & Society STSO    
Writing WRIT    


  1. Engineering majors must complete 20 credits of HASS courses in addition to the credits earned associated with the three-course sequence of professional development (PD) courses entitled PD1 (either ENGR 1010 or as part of ENGR 2050), PD2, and PD3 (ENGR 4010). 
  2. Architecture majors must complete 20 credits of HASS courses. Four credits of the HASS core requirements are embedded within the Architectural Genealogy and Cloud Atlas: ARCH 4100 and ARCH 4110.
  3. The transfer credit limit may be waived for transfer students if courses were taken at the previous institution, however, the limit for AP credits still applies.
  4. Students who transfer into Rensselaer can satisfy this through a three- or four-credit course at their prior institution or a four-credit course at Rensselaer.
  5. Students enrolled at Rensselaer who wish to take a HASS course for credit at another accredited institution must obtain prior approval for the course from the HASS Associate Dean for Academic Affairs. Applicants must furnish a catalog description of the proposed course and syllabus, and a completed copy of Rensselaer’s Transfer Credit Approval Form to the HASS Student Services Hub on the 4th floor of the Sage building.


Overview of Graduate Programs

The School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences offers both master’s and doctoral level programs. 

Master’s Programs

HASS offers master’s degrees (M.S.) within the departments of Communication and Media, Cognitive Science, Economics, and Science and Technology Studies and an interdisciplinary program in Critical Game Design. The master’s programs in Cognitive Science, Communication and Rhetoric, and Science and Technology Studies limit the application to internal students only.

Co-terminal Degree Opportunities

Rensselaer’s co-terminal program provides Rensselaer undergraduates the opportunity to pursue a master’s degree while maintaining their undergraduate funding. HASS offers co-terminal opportunities in Critical Game Design, Cognitive Science, Economics, and Science Technology Studies. Co-terminal students can pursue a master’s degree in the same academic discipline as their bachelor’s degree or take an interdisciplinary approach, applying to a graduate program outside of their undergraduate department. Applications to HASS co-terminal programs are due by January 30th of a student’s junior year. Interested applicants are strongly encouraged to begin talking with their undergraduate advisers during their sophomore or fall semester of their junior year. Please refer to the Office of Graduate Education Website for the current co-terminal admission criteria.

Doctoral Programs

Programs leading to the Doctor of Philosophy degree (Ph.D.) are offered in Electronic Arts, Critical Game Design, Cognitive Science, Science and Technology Studies, and Communication and Rhetoric. Individual courses and opportunities for directed study are also available in other areas.



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