Great Works Academic Certificate

The Great Works Academic Certificate (GWAC) Program 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.


  1. 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.
  2. 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 to promote better writing. Careful reading is a prerequisite of good writing.
  3. 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.
  4. To enrich students’ university experience and encourage lifelong learning. 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.
  5. To provide students with a superior background for graduate school. Graduate programs want students who have knowledge of key primary texts in areas such as philosophy, literature, and the sciences. Those texts are the foundation of all disciplines in the liberal arts.
  6. 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 to develop an intellectual strength that will allow them to maintain a variety of jobs more successfully.
  7. To reward students’ achievements with scholarships and other honors. Students who excel in the program should be more competitive for national scholarships and honors.
  8. To encourage integration of students’ academic and social activities. Activities such as a lecture series and a reading group will encourage shared experiences in learning.

Great Works Academic Certificate Committee

Professor Fott may be reached in Wright Hall, room B217; or at 702-895-4187; or at

To make a donation to the Great Works Academic Certificate program, please click to be taken to the UNLV Foundation website and select the program from the drop-down box: Make a donation.

The Great Works Academic Certificate program has been listed as one of about sixty-five “Oases of Excellence” programs by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, an organization that promotes rigorous academic study, a liberal arts curriculum, and a diversity of views.

Fall 2021 Events

Wednesday, September 15, 4:00 p.m., online: Professor Russell Muirhead of Dartmouth College, Constitution Day lecture, “Can Partisan Representatives Make a Nonpartisan Constitution Work?” Email Professor Fott ( to register for the event.

Tuesday, October 19, 4:00 p.m., WRI C148: Professor Mark Blitz of Claremont McKenna College, “Conserving Liberty: Natural Rights and the Virtue of Responsibility”

Thursday, November 18, 4:00 p.m., WRI C148: Professor Colleen Sheehan of Arizona State University, “The Fragmentation of US Citizens: Fulfillment or Derailment of Madison’s Vision?”

These events are free and open to the public. Funding for these events is provided by the Jack Miller Center.


"The Great Works program was an extraordinary opportunity to expand my scholarly and intellectual scope beyond what is generally offered at the undergraduate level. The program is designed to enhance the intellectual and analytical skills of young scholars who have a thirst for knowledge. By exploring the works of some of the greatest minds in the humanities, I was able to both expand my interests as well as enhance and further develop existing interests. To this end, the Great Works program was a unique intellectual experience."

Nerses Kopalyan, PhD, Assistant Professor-in-Residence, Department of Political Science, UNLV

"When it comes to literature and philosophy certificate programs there are loads of programs that provide an informative summary of the classics, but the Great Works Academic Certificate (GWAC) program allows you to take part in a conversation with some of the greatest thinkers in politics, philosophy and literature. The program enabled me, coached me and gave me the confidence to share my analysis and opinion on some of the greatest moral and political questions of our time. GWAC not only enhanced my coursework at University of Nevada, but years later conversations on works like The Merchant of Venice and its themes of justice and mercy inform my decision making even today."

Amanda Zeidan, Foreign Service Officer, US Department of State