Ways of Thinking/ Ways of Doing(Ways) is the name of Stanford’s innovative general education breadth system. You must take 11 courses in 8 Waysany time during your undergraduate years.

The Ways breadth system takes a unique perspective on the idea of “breadth.” Unlike the breadth requirements of other institutions, Ways focuses on two other important aspects of university education.  First, we emphasize both “thinking” and “doing”—that is, teaching you how to view the world differently, how to conceptualize it from various angles, and how to use those new intellectual capacities in new ways. Second, it emphasizes synthesis and integration— individual Ways as not seen as separate, but part of an overall intellectual profile and set of complementary capacities.

The Ways system is intended to complement and integrate with your experiences in your major.  It also provides you with a more clearly articulated and meaningful rationale for breadth and more flexibility for you to select courses of interest in a wide array of fields. 

Fulfilling the Ways

The Ways program is comprised of eight Ways requirements. You must take a total of eleven courses

Two courses each in:

One course each in:

Each course must be a minimum of 3 units and taken for a grade with the exception of Creative Expression.*

While a course may be certified for up to two Ways, you may only count one Way per course with the exception of residential Integrated Learning Environment (ILE) programs.

*CE may be taken for a grade or credit/no credit at the discretion of the instructor.  The CE requirement may be fulfilled by doing one of the following:

  • taking one CE course with a minimum of 2 units
  • taking a 1-unit CE course twice in different quarters
  • taking two 1-unit courses in the same department such as in Dance, Music, or TAPS

THE WAYS and Other General Education Requirements & Programs

Degree Requirements and the Ways Requirement:

  • The Thinking Matters Requirement: All Thinking Matters courses can count towards Ways.

  • The Writing and Rhetoric Requirement: The required courses taught by PWR, PWR 1 and PWR 2, may not double count for Ways. Exception: if a student completes a WRITE 2 (DWR 2) course to fulfill PWR 2, it may be counted for Ways. Also, WIM courses and advanced PWR courses may double count for Ways.  Please visit the PWR page to learn more about this requirement.

  • The Foreign Language Requirement:  This requirement does not count towards Ways.

  • Major/ Minor Requirements: These requirements can count towards Ways.

Other Programs and the Ways Requirement:

  • Introductory Seminars (IntroSems): These seminars can count towards Ways.
  • Integrated Learning Environment (ILE) programs: Each of these programs fulfill four Ways.
    • ITALIC (Immersion in the Arts: Living in Culture)
      • 91 = AII
      • 92 = AII
      • 93 = both ED and CE (2 units)
    • SIMILE (Science in the Making Integrated Learning Environment)
      • 91 = AII
      • 92 = AII
      • 93 = both SI and ER
    • SLE (Structured Liberal Education)
      • 91 = AII
      • 92 = both AII and ED
      • 93 = ED


The Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing breadth system is overseen by the Breadth Governance Board (BGB).  The Board is chaired by David Palumbo-Liu, Louise Hewlett Nixon Professor and Professor of Comparative Literature.  View the full list of committee members, including a list of teams for specific Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing.  The charge to the Breadth Governance Board was established in September, 2012.

More information on the BGB


The Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES) recommended the change to the new Ways of Thinking/Ways of Doing breadth system as a core part of its aims for a Stanford undergraduate education (owning knowledge, honing skills and capacities, developing personal and social responsibility, and adaptive learning).  SUES and the Faculty Senate believed that undergraduate education would be better structured by shifting from a discipline-based to capacity-based model of achieving breadth.

Full text of the Faculty Senate legislation


Can't find what you are looking for? Please visit the Ways Faqs.