At Whitman College, you’ll experience a different kind of academic rigor. A liberal arts education provides students depth and breadth. You’ll explore multiple perspectives in a variety of departments, as well as dive into your major with passion and purpose. 

The General Studies Program offers a framework for broad-based learning through general distribution and writing proficiency requirements and the First Year Seminars. 

First Year Seminars

All incoming students will participate in Whitman’s First Year Seminars, which combine a fall course in one of six learning communities (GENS 175) and a spring seminar that emphasizes in-depth investigation of an important topic (GENS 176). Across the two seminars, students develop their abilities to inquire into complex issues, formulate and support coherent arguments, and engage in constructive, transformative dialogue with their professors and peers. Learn more about the First Year Seminars.

Distribution Requirements

All students are required to fulfill the college’s distribution requirements to earn their degree. By taking courses in different disciplines, students gain insights into many areas of knowledge while coming to understand the ways in which their studies often overlap or merge. Students are encouraged to explore connections and divergences between fields.

To fulfill distribution requirements, students will complete courses in the following areas:

  • Cultural Pluralism — Studying underrepresented cultural perspectives.
  • Fine Arts — Developing creative problem-solving skills, artistic expression, and an understanding of theoretical and analytical approaches to the making of art.
  • Humanities — Studying the ways that human beings have understood and interpreted the world around them.
  • Quantitative Analysis — Developing the skills necessary to critically analyze and interpret data using statistical methods.
  • Sciences — Building the background necessary to inquire about how the natural world is structured and operates.
  • Social Sciences — Analyzing complex relationships and interconnections within/among individuals, social formations, texts and institutions in a variety of contexts.

See which courses apply to distribution requirements in the course catalog. Learn more about distribution requirements.

Writing Proficiency

A key component of a Whitman education is being able to articulate complex ideas in writing. The college supports the continued development of our students’ writing skills through the Department of Rhetoric, Writing and Public Discourse

Nearly all courses at Whitman require proficiency in writing. The writing skills of all new students are evaluated before classes begin through a writing exercise. You will be given a prompt and a set amount of time to write a response. The college’s writing faculty evaluate the papers to identify students who would benefit from additional writing assistance. 

The college offers Rhetoric, Writing and Public Discourse 170 (RWPD 170) to serve the needs of entering and advanced students. This class helps Whitman students strengthen their skills in order to best be successful in academics at Whitman. Students will be enrolled in the course based on the results of their writing assessments. Students may also choose to self-enroll. Learn more about placement exams.