Liberal education values intellectual curiosity and an approach to learning informed by multiple perspectives. The General Studies Program is the primary means of achieving such breadth and perspective. The program consists of Encounters (The First-Year Experience) and the Distribution Requirements. The First-Year Experience provides both an integration of varieties of knowledge and a significant context for thought and written expression. Through the Distribution Requirements, students gain insights into disparate areas of knowledge and ways of knowing emphasized in different disciplines, while also coming to understand the ways in which disciplines often overlap or merge with one another. Students are encouraged to explore connections and divergences between fields and approaches to knowledge through their distribution studies. Courses in each area will vary in the emphasis they give to the elements described and in the approach they take to their study.

All students, with the exceptions noted below for transfer students, are required to successfully complete the two-semester sequence of the First-Year Experience (General Studies 145, 146) during their first year of study at Whitman College. General Studies 245 is optional. In addition, the Distribution Requirements must be completed.


All students are required to complete the following Distribution Requirements:

1. The cultural pluralism requirement focuses primarily on underrepresented cultural perspectives. In addition, courses in this area foster a greater understanding of the diversity or interconnectedness of cultures. Such courses must offer in-depth coverage of, and must focus on, at least one of the following: cultural pluralism; power disparities among social groups; methodological or theoretical approaches used in the interpretation of cultural difference; marginality within categories such as gender, age, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, or class; and/or the perspectives of nondominant groups.

Students must complete two courses totaling at least six credits designated as fulfilling the requirement in Cultural Pluralism. These courses include: General Studies 245; Anthropology 102, 219, 233, 238, 247, 257, 258, 259, 300, 306, 313, 324, 328, 347, 358; Art History and Visual Culture Studies 210, 235, 243, 245, 246, 248, 353, 354, 345, 495; Asian Studies — all courses; BBMB 430; Chinese — all courses; Classics 140; Dance 118; Economics 258, 266, 345; English 376; Environmental Studies 259, 306, 313, 335, 339; Film and Media Studies 340, 345; French — all courses; Gender Studies — all courses; German — all courses; Greek 105, 106, 205; History 109, 110, 112, 121, 127, 128, 188, 205, 209, 210, 215, 217, 218, 219, 220, 223, 225, 230, 235, 241, 247, 248, 254, 268, 283, 287, 288, 290, 300, 305, 310, 314, 319, 322, 323, 325, 332, 344, 346, 348, 349, 364, 370, 382, 384, 387, 389, 393, 494, 495; Interdisciplinary Studies 220; Japanese — all courses; Latin 105, 106, 205; Music 129, 160, 218, 220, 354, 360; Philosophy 235, 318; Politics 100, 119, 228, 236, 242, 250, 254, 258, 311, 318, 319, 325, 333, 334, 337, 349, 359, 363, 365, 367; Psychology 239, 309, 311, 319, 336; Race and Ethnic Studies 105, 301; Religion 100, 105, 103, 109, 110, 134, 207, 209, 214, 217, 219, 221, 228, 229, 233, 236, 245, 260, 287, 305, 310, 321, 355, 358, 370, 387; Rhetoric Studies 240, 341; Sociology 110, 117, 229, 250, 257, 258, 259, 267, 269, 271, 278, 279, 287, 290, 294, 309, 318, 337, 341, 360, 367, 369; Spanish — all courses (except 491, 492); World Literature 222, 301, 312, 315, 320, 322, 325, 326, 328, 330, 338, 343, 349, 359, 395.

Some departments offer special topics in any given year that may or may not be applicable toward the Cultural Pluralism requirement. For more information, see the individual course descriptions.

Many courses taken while on a study abroad program or on a domestic urban studies program may be approved to fulfill this requirement. Contact the Off-Campus Studies Office or the General Studies Committee for more information.

2. Courses in the fine arts develop our creative problem solving skills, our abilities to exercise artistic expression and our understanding of theoretical and analytical approaches to the process of making a work of art. Courses in this area engage students in artistic production and help students critically analyze their own or others’ works of music, visual and verbal art, dance, film, media and theater.

Students must complete a minimum of six credits in the fine arts. This requirement is satisfied by courses in Art; Art History and Visual Culture Studies; Classics 224, 226, 377; English 150, 250, 251, 252, 320, 321, 322, 323, 389; Environmental Studies 319, 347; Film and Media Studies 260, 360; Music; Philosophy 239, 241, 302; Rhetoric Studies 110, 245; and Theatre and Dance (except 371, 372); courses designated Independent Study may not be used to satisfy the fine arts distribution requirement. A student may not use more than eight credits from any one department to satisfy the requirements in humanities and fine arts.

3. Courses in the humanities focus our attention on the ways that human beings have understood and interpreted the world around them as well as the processes by which humans come to see life as meaningful. Study in the humanities equips students with the tools to analyze and interpret texts, artistic works, material objects, beliefs and values through close reading and consideration of components such as cultural and historical context, genre, and language.

Students must complete a minimum of six credits in the humanities. This requirement is satisfied by courses in Art History and Visual Culture Studies; Chinese, Asian Studies 315; Composition, Classics; Dance 118, 234; English (except 150, 250, 251, 320, 321, 322, 389); Environmental Studies 217, 226, 227, 230, 235, 247, 335, 339, 340, 347, 349, 350, 358, 360, 365; Film and Media Studies (except 260, 360); French; German; Greek; Japanese; Latin; Linguistics 107; Philosophy (except 488); Politics 121, 342, 343, 352, 380; Religion; Rhetoric Studies (except 110, 121, 221, 222, 245, 263); Sociology 127, 341; Spanish; Theatre 330, 357, 371, 372, 377; and World Literature; courses designated Independent Study may not be used to satisfy the humanities Distribution Requirement. A student may not use more than eight credits from any one department to satisfy the requirements in humanities and fine arts.

4. Courses with a significant quantitative focus help us develop the skills to critically analyze numerical or graphical data, to develop abstract quantitative frameworks, and to develop a facility and acumen with quantitative reasoning techniques and their applicability to disciplines across the liberal arts.

Students must complete one course of three or more credits in quantitative analysis. All courses in Mathematics fulfill this requirement, as do the following; Astronomy 110, 177, 178, 179; Biology 228; Chemistry 100, 102, 125, 126, 140, 315; Computer Science 167, 270; Economics 227, 327, 479; Environmental Studies 207; Geology 350; Music 327, 426; Philosophy 488; Physics 101, 102, 103, 105, 155, 156, 165, 166, 245, 246, 377; Psychology 210; and Sociology 208.

5. Courses in the sciences give us the background necessary to inquire how the natural world is structured and operates. Students will be exposed to methodologies and techniques that allow them to form hypotheses, then to examine, justify, or refute their hypotheses through scientific evidence and analysis of observations.

Students must complete a minimum of six credits in science, including at least one course with a laboratory. This requirement is satisfied by courses in Astronomy; BBMB; Biology; Chemistry; Geology; Physics (except 115, 116); and Psychology 360; any laboratory or course with a regularly scheduled laboratory may be used to fulfill the laboratory component of this requirement — see the individual course descriptions.

6. Studies in the social sciences help us analyze complex relationships and interconnections within and/or among individuals, social formations, texts and institutions across time and/or across local, national, and/or global contexts.

Students must complete a minimum of six credits in the social sciences. This requirement is satisfied by courses in Anthropology, Classics 221; Economics, Environmental Studies 259, 306, 313, 329, 353, 362, 369; Film and Media Studies 330, Gender Studies 333; History, Politics, Psychology (except 210, 360 and some courses designated Seminars or Tutorials — see the individual course descriptions), Sociology, Religion 107; and Rhetoric Studies 341, 342, 343, 351, 352.

All courses in sports studies, recreation and athletics, and those courses in environmental studies not specifically designated in the distribution areas listing above, do not count toward the completion of the Distribution Requirements.

A student may not apply any individual course toward more than one of the distribution areas, with the exception of the courses used to fulfill the requirement in quantitative analysis. For example, a student may use History 212 to meet either the requirement in social sciences or the requirement in cultural pluralism but not both. In the event that the same cross-listed class applies to different distribution areas, the course may be applied to either distribution area referenced by the indicated departmental registration rubric. For example, Classics 224 cross-listed with Art History 224 may be applied to the fine arts or humanities distribution area.

Distribution Requirements may not be satisfied by credits obtained for work in the high school (e.g., Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate). With the exception of Economics 493/494, courses taken with the P-D-F grade option cannot be used to satisfy Distribution Requirements.

Five of the six Distribution Requirements should be completed by the end of the sixth semester of college work. The total requirements must be fulfilled not later than the student’s seventh semester or at the time 110 degree credits have been earned if this occurs prior to the seventh semester.

Transfer students entering with fewer than 58 acceptable credits (i.e., below junior level) must complete the First-Year Experience unless, upon appeal, the Board of Review finds that they have passed comparable courses at another institution.

145, 146 Encounters (The First-Year Experience)
4, 4 Staff

A two-semester introduction to the liberal arts and the academic construction of knowledge. Organized around a variable theme, this course takes as its broad topic the examination of encounters between peoples and cultures, and the formation and transformation of dominant and competing worldviews. The study of primary sources, discussion, writing, and the construction of knowledge across academic fields will be emphasized. The two semesters will be taught as a single year-long course. The P-D-F grade option may not be elected for this course. The theme for the 2014-2015 academic year will be “Encounters: Transformations.” Distribution area: none.

Students who wish to change Encounters sections may do so only at the semester break, prior to the beginning of second semester, by making a request to the Registrar. Students are not allowed to choose which section they would like to enter. Those students who seek to change sections will be assigned to other sections by the Registrar.

245 Critical Voices
4, x Morrissey

This course calls into question the dominance of traditional western world views by critically examining the historical and ideological roles played by "others." The aim is to cultivate an eye for difference, to learn to listen to these voices in their own contexts. Such voices include those geographically "non-western," as well as those excluded or subordinated by way of race, gender, and/or class within Europe and North America. Prerequisites: General Studies 145 and 146.