Curriculum

The General Studies Program: The goal of the General Studies Program is to inform the whole of the student’s undergraduate education with a structure and consistency that complement and broaden the program of major studies. Whitman recognizes that flexibility is necessary in order to accommodate differences in background, interest, and aptitude. General Studies is Whitman’s method of ensuring that student programs have overall coherence and that the wide range of the college’s intellectual resources are utilized without enforcing lockstep requirements.

Specifically, the General Studies Program is intended to provide: 1) breadth and perspective to allow exposure to the diversity of knowledge, 2) integration to demonstrate the interrelatedness of knowledge, 3) a community of shared experience to encourage informal continuation of education beyond the classroom, and 4) a context for further study in the many areas appropriate for a well-educated person. To achieve these goals, the faculty has devised the following curriculum:

  • The First-Year Experience: Encounters: two four-credit courses to be completed by all students during their first year of study at Whitman College, with the exception of transfer students entering with junior standing.
  • Distribution Requirements: All students must complete the Distribution Requirements (see “General Studies Program” in the Courses and Programs section of this catalog).

First-year students who wish to defer the First-Year Experience until the sophomore year must receive the permission of the Board of Review. Transfer students entering with fewer than 58 acceptable credits (below junior level) must complete the First-Year Experience unless, upon appeal, the Board of Review finds that they have successfully completed comparable courses at another institution.

Major Studies Requirements: A major study program is a coherent array of courses designed to develop mastery of the basic ideas and skills in a particular field or area. Every candidate for a bachelor’s degree must complete such a program. The major study may be an established departmental program, an established combined program, or an individually planned program.

The choice of a major can be made at any time after the student has been admitted to the college, but must be made before the end of the second semester of the sophomore year. The selection of a major should be made in consultation with the student’s premajor adviser and the adviser or advisers for the proposed major study.

Whitman College offers departmental major study programs in the areas listed as follows. Departments also may provide an option for emphasis within the major.

Anthropology
Art
Art History and Visual Culture Studies
Astronomy
Biology
Chemistry
Classics
Classical Studies
Economics
English
Foreign Languages and Literatures: French, German Studies
Geology
History

Mathematics
Music
Philosophy
Physics
Politics
Psychology
Religion
Rhetoric Studies
Sociology
Spanish
Theatre

A combined major study program integrates work from two or more departments, from a department and one or more of the extra-departmental teaching areas, or from two teaching areas within a department, to provide concentration in an area of study. The faculty has established combined major study programs in the following areas:

Asian Studies
Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology
Biology-Geology
Chemistry-Geology
Economics-Mathematics
Film and Media Studies
Gender Studies
Geology-Astronomy
Geology-Physics
Mathematics-Physics
Physics-Astronomy

Biology-Environmental Studies
Chemistry-Environmental Studies
Economics-Environmental Studies
Environmental Humanities
Geology-Environmental Studies
Physics-Environmental Studies
Politics-Environmental Studies

Race and Ethnic Studies
Sociology-Environmental Studies

Specific requirements for each of the established major study programs may be found by referring to the respective departmental listing in the Courses of Instruction section of this catalog. The requirements that apply to a student are those published in the most recent edition of this catalog at the time a student completes the second semester of his or her sophomore year or, in the case of junior-level transfer students, the catalog for the year of entrance to the college. These requirements may be altered as necessary in individual cases by the departments with the approval of the Board of Review.

In addition to the combined major, an individually planned major study program may be developed by students with unique interests and intentions. The individually planned major permits the development of a concentrated study in some area which crosses two or more disciplines, or which currently does not offer a standard major, thus permitting an area of concentration not available in other major study programs. Prior to the end of the student’s fifth semester or the equivalent, he or she must select a major committee consisting of at least three faculty advisers (at least two of whom must be tenured or tenure-track) appropriate for the proposed major. With the guidance of the advisory committee, the student must specify the requirements for a coherent major study program and develop a rationale. The rationale must clearly demonstrate the need for an individually planned major rather than an established combined major or a departmental major and minor. Moreover, the proposed individually planned major must be approved by the Board of Review and subsequently assessed by the Curriculum Committee. Additional requirements appear in Guidelines for the Construction of an Individually Planned Major, available from the Registrar’s Office.

Regardless of whether the student declares a standard, combined, or individually planned major, a minimum of two-thirds of the specific course and credit requirements for the major must be completed in the on-campus program of the college, and a minimum cumulative grade-point average of 2.000 must be earned by a student in all of the courses taken within the department or departments of his or her major study. A student with a combined major must maintain a GPA of at least 2.000 in each subject area of the major. A student with an individually planned major must maintain a GPA of at least 2.000 in the courses specified in the major.

A program of study is prepared with the advice and consent of the student’s major adviser or advisory committee to ensure that all major and degree requirements are completed. At an appropriate time during the student’s senior year, the major department or major committee certifies that the degree candidate has completed an acceptable program of study.