Whitman College combines academic excellence, an unpretentious Northwest culture, and an engaging community.
What students from across the United States and from many other countries find at Whitman today, as students did a century ago, is a closely knit community of dedicated teachers and students working together to achieve intellectual vitality, moral awareness, personal confidence, social responsibility, and the flexibility to adapt to a rapidly changing world.
Recruiting and celebrating professors who are committed to excellence in teaching, advising, and scholarship always has been a top priority of the college. As Whitman’s third president, Stephen B.L. Penrose, said, “It’s the faculty who make a college great.”
Whitman’s 13th president, George S. Bridges, says, “We are honored to attract students who represent the Whitman mosaic â€” down-to-earth, high achievers with diverse interests. We are proud of our campus and the diversity and accomplishments of our students, staff, and faculty.”
In addition to maintaining a faculty of the highest caliber, Whitman College is steadfastly committed to:
- fostering the intellectual depth and the breadth of knowledge essential for leadership;
- supporting mastery of critical thinking, writing, speaking, presentation, and performance skills;
- integrating technology across the liberal arts curriculum;
- promoting a strong faculty-student collaborative research program;
- promoting a rich appreciation for diversity and tolerance and an understanding of other cultures; and
- encouraging a sense of community by offering a vibrant residential life program and extensive athletic, fitness, and outdoor opportunities.
The primary evidence of any college’s successes can be found among its graduates. Whitman’s alumni include a Nobel Prize winner in physics; the Mars Rover lead engineer; a U.S. Supreme Court justice; an ambassador to Iraq and six other Middle-eastern countries; a NASA astronaut; congressional and state representatives; leaders in law, government, and the Foreign Service; respected scholars; CEOs of major corporations; renowned artists, entertainers, and writers; prominent journalists; leading physicians and scientists; and thousands of active, responsible citizens who are contributing to their professions and their communities.
This mission statement, approved by the Whitman College Board of Trustees, guides all programs of the college:
Whitman College is committed to providing an excellent, well-rounded liberal arts and sciences undergraduate education. It is an independent, nonsectarian, and residential college. Whitman offers an ideal setting for rigorous learning and scholarship and encourages creativity, character, and responsibility.
Through the study of humanities, arts, and social and natural sciences, Whitman’s students develop capacities to analyze, interpret, criticize, communicate, and engage. A concentration on basic disciplines, in combination with a supportive residential life program that encourages personal and social development, is intended to foster intellectual vitality, confidence, leadership, and the flexibility to succeed in a changing technological, multicultural world.
Many individuals and groups â€” trustees, overseers, alumni, students, faculty, and staff â€” contributed to the creation of this statement, which was developed by the Diversity Committee and endorsed by the Board of Trustees:
Diversity is fundamentally important to the character and mission of Whitman College. Diversity enriches our community and enhances intellectual and personal growth. We seek to provide a challenging liberal arts experience for our students that prepares them for citizenship in the global community. By sustaining a diverse community, we strive to ensure that all individuals are valued and respected and that intellectual and personal growth are enriched because of our differences.
Recognizing the impact Whitman College has on the environment and the leadership role Whitman College plays as an institution of higher learning, the college affirms the following environmental principles and standards, which will be followed while exploring practical ways Whitman College can promote an environmentally conscious campus.
- To reduce the amount of nonrecyclable materials, reuse materials when possible, and utilize recycled materials.
- To consider the eco-friendliest science and technology available to decrease our environmental impact.
- To continue to build an energy-efficient campus in the 21st century.
- To patronize companies that are active in their defense of the environment.
- To encourage individuals’ environmental accountability through programs of environmental education.
- To consider environmentally friendly options when they exist and are practical when making decisions regarding developmental projects.
- To further the use of reused materials, recyclable materials, and the Internet for campus communications.
- To encourage and request food service to make environmentally friendly decisions when purchasing food and supplies, reducing waste, and reusing materials.
- To maintain campus grounds through the employment of bio-friendly substances and services.
- To strive to improve upon current practices so we may engage the trends of the industrial world with the natural environment.
Whitman College’s full-time faculty currently numbers 134. In addition to their dedication to teaching and advising, Whitman faculty members conduct an impressive amount of original research.
Believing that an active professional life supports enthusiasm in teaching and advising, the college encourages faculty members’ scholarly work through a generous sabbatical program, the faculty scholarship fund, and other resources. During recent years Whitman faculty have been recipients of awards such as the Graves Award in the Humanities and CASE Professor of the Year Award for Washington State. Members of the faculty have garnered honors and fellowships from Battelle Research Institute, National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, Fulbright Fellowships, Hughes Medical Institute, PEW Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and others.
The faculty, with the president and the provost/dean of the faculty, is responsible for basic academic policy and for the formulation of the curriculum. The faculty also has a responsibility for student life and welfare.
Penrose Library provides access to diverse collections of resources that support faculty and student research and learning. Its information literacy programs utilize active, problem-based learning and focus on teaching students to navigate the research process. Librarians help students develop critical thinking skills, evaluate and synthesize information, and communicate the results of intellectual inquiry. Penrose librarians work collaboratively with faculty, helping shape assignments that are illustrative and engaging.
How does Penrose Library accomplish its mission? By serving as a bridge between the college community and a digital environment consisting of more than 35,000 unique journal titles and 120 databases that complements its 500,000 volume print collection. Penrose is one of only a few college libraries that are open 24/7, and the facility itself was built and renovated with the idea that form follows function. Penrose’s archives and special collections include 3,500 linear feet of archival and manuscript material and more than 5,000 rare books. And, Whitman College is a member of the Orbis Cascade Alliance which combines the holdings of 37 academic libraries throughout the Northwest to provide access and courier delivery of more than 29 million volumes. Students at Whitman have access to rich, diverse, and unique information resources and collections.
Whitman College traces its roots to the 1830s. In 1836, near Walla Walla, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman established a mission and a school to teach the Cayuse Indians to read and write their native language. Later, the couple provided assistance to Oregon Trail travelers. However, the Whitmans were killed in 1847, and fellow missionary Rev. Cushing Eells resolved to establish a school in their honor. The Washington Territorial Legislature granted a charter to Whitman Seminary on Dec. 20, 1859. College courses were first offered at Whitman in 1882 and on Nov. 28, 1883, the Legislature issued a new charter, changing the seminary into a four-year, degree-granting college.
Whitman prizes its independence from sectarian and political control. The college has remained small in order to facilitate the close faculty-student interaction that is essential to exceptional higher education. In 1914, Whitman became the first college or university in the nation to require undergraduate students to complete comprehensive examinations in their major fields. The installation of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter in 1919, the first for any Northwest college, marked Whitman’s growing reputation.
One of Whitman’s most recognizable campus landmarks is the clock tower atop Memorial Building, which was constructed in 1899. Among recent construction projects are the upgrade of the Sherwood Athletic Center, the Glover Alston Center, and the renovation and expansion of Maxey Hall, Penrose Library, the Hall of Science, and Harper Joy Theatre. Newer buildings include the Fouts Center for Visual Arts, the Baker Ferguson Fitness Center/Harvey Pool, the Welty Center (health and counseling services), and the Reid Campus Center.
Whitman is committed to providing information technology tools for all members of the college community. All residence hall rooms have connections to the campus network. The college provides all students with computer accounts, email addresses, and access to the Internet through wired and wireless connections. Computers are available for use in the library and in several computer labs around campus.
The campus is one block from the downtown area of Walla Walla, a city of 30,000 in southeastern Washington. The town’s setting in golden wheatlands shadowed by the Blue Mountains provides countless opportunities for skiing, hiking, bicycling, fishing, rock climbing, and white-water rafting. Named one of the nation’s top 25 “small town cultural treasures” and cited by Sunset magazine as having the best Main Street in the West, Walla Walla is known for its art galleries, symphony orchestra, community theater, and premium wineries. Whitman sponsors dance groups, opera, musical soloists, fine arts film series, and performances by the college’s excellent music and theatre departments. The college hosts nationally recognized lecturers in science, letters, politics, current history, and other fields.