Core Curriculum

The VMI Core Curriculum is a common and mutually reinforcing set of courses and experiences designed to cultivate the essential characteristics of a VMI graduate—a person of character who is able to anticipate, respond, and lead in a complex and changing world.

The Core Curriculum is integrated throughout the course of cadetship, expanding, informing, and facilitating specialized study in a cadet's chosen major. The Core Curriculum contributes to the entire VMI experience in developing graduates who possess:

  • An understanding of the responsibilities of American citizenship, including the obligation to defend the principles of democracy on which the United States is founded;
  • The ability to influence human behavior to accomplish organizational goals, recognizing moral issues and applying ethical considerations in decision-making;
  • The ability to communicate effectively, both orally and in writing;
  • The ability to design and conduct scientific experiments as well as analyze and interpret data;
  • The ability to understand and apply mathematical sciences to solve quantitative problems;
  • A knowledge of history and culture and an appreciation of how they may be used to understand human behavior, achievement, and ideas in a global context;
  • The ability to process information for strategic or creative purposes to include evaluative, anticipatory, logical, conceptual, or divergent thinking which results in effective solutions to problems;
  • The confidence to use technology and experiment with technological solutions to problems;
  • Intellectual curiosity and a commitment to lifelong learning;
  • A lifetime commitment to physical fitness and wellness; and
  • A commitment to public service.

The Core Curriculum is organized into four components:

A. Key Competencies

B. Foundations of Citizenship and Leadership

C. Perspectives on Civilization and Human Achievement

D. Integrative Experiences 


A. Key Competencies: 25 hours

This component develops in a base of skills and knowledge necessary for success in college courses and life after graduation: effective communication, analytical and creative thinking, and a commitment to health and wellness.

Written Communication (6 hours)

Principles of Rhetoric: stressing awareness of audience, occasion, and purpose in effective use of the written word: ERH 101, ERH 102 – both completed with a grade of C or better.

Oral Communication (1 hour)

Public Speaking: reinforcing awareness of audience, occasion, and purpose in effective use of the spoken word: ERH 103.

Scientific Analysis (8 hours)

Two CC-designated laboratory courses in the natural sciences: emphasizing scientific modes of thinking and problem-solving: BI, CH, or PY. The major department may require a cadet to take two, stand-alone courses in two natural sciences or two sequential courses in one of the natural sciences. If the major department does not specify, the cadet may select either option.

Mathematical Reasoning (6 hours)

Two CC-designated sequential courses in mathematics: developing the ability to understand and apply mathematical sciences to solve quantitative problems. The major department may require a particular sequence of courses for this requirement.

Physical Education (4 hours)

Seven semesters of physical education: including PE 300 (Principles of Physical Conditioning) for a total of 4 semester credit hours (exclusive of PE 430 – Health Education). 

B. Foundations of Citizenship and Leadership: 15 hours

This component provides classroom and practical experience with the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in a democratic society and prepares cadets for effective leadership and service to the nation, whether military or civilian. It also equips them for personal success in the community of the Corps of Cadets and in their early life after graduation.

ROTC (12 hours)

The progressive combination of eight courses of any Service ROTC to include associated leadership laboratories when offered, emphasizing foundational background and practical leadership experiences in preparation for commissioned service in our Armed Forces: AS, MS, NS.

Leadership (3 hours)

An interdisciplinary study of leadership in an organizational context focusing on the integration of theory and practice, taught by faculty with formal academic training and experience in leadership studies and affiliated disciplines. Cadets study the leader’s direct influence on individual motivation and group processes through the application of leadership theories, skills, and attributes. Cadets learn how to influence subordinates indirectly through organizational systems and procedures, organizational culture, and ethical climate. The course will be structured around opportunities to reflect upon and apply classroom knowledge to their experiences as leaders (and followers) in the Corps of Cadets and in the various ROTC curricula.

C. Perspectives on Civilization and Human Achievement: 12 hours

This component encourages cadets to think critically about major challenges, accomplishments, and errors of humanity on a global scale. The goal is to cultivate and energize cadets’ capacity for self-examination through analysis of the products of civilization.

World History (6 hours)

Two courses designed to introduce students to the history of humanity and human endeavor on a global scale by focusing on patterns of development in the major cultures and civilizations of the world. The courses are thematically organized and include presentation of case studies showing, historically and cross-culturally, how societies organize themselves to meet human needs and solve problems, including those of leadership. 

Civilizations and Cultures (6 hours)

Two CC-designated courses, taught in any academic department, that are designed primarily to investigate and develop an understanding and appreciation for cultures and their products and traditions. Any X-designated course(s) taught in VMI-sponsored study abroad programs abroad may satisfy this requirement. One (but not both) of these courses may be replaced by a credit-bearing, VMI-approved Study Abroad experience administered by another institution.

D. Integrative Experiences: variable hours

This component ensures the ability to integrate and apply key competencies and discipline-specific knowledge developed through the Core and the major curricula.

Writing-Intensive Courses (variable hours)

Two designated W courses numbered 200 or higher, at least one of which must be in the cadet’s major, taken after the completion of ERH 102 with a grade of C or better. The goal is to demonstrate the ability to use writing as a means of learning and communicating in a specific discipline.

Capstone Experience (variable hours/no credit/course-embedded experience)

As a culminating experience and a demonstration of intellectual curiosity and a creative approach to problem-solving in the major, each cadet will design and complete a project that demonstrates his or her ability to integrate and apply particular knowledge, skills, and experiences

developed in both the Core and major curricula. Criteria for qualifying capstone experiences will be established departmentally.


Core Curriculum - Learning Outcomes