Curriculum in Context


Whittier’s curriculum has been carefully designed to prepare students for success in life and work—in a world that is ever smaller, more complex, and changing at an ever more rapid pace.

A student’s success will require, in a developmental sequence, (1) the ability to function within a variety of communities (for which a college campus serves as an ideal laboratory); (2) the ability to communicate perceptions, feelings, ideas, beliefs, and values through a variety of symbolic modes; (3) an understanding of the differing cultural perspectives people bring to the challenge of being human; and (4) the ability to make connections: between people and ideas, between disciplines, between curricular and co-curricular life.

Whittier’s co-curricular programs—Residential Life, Faculty-in-Residence Program, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, athletics programs, clubs and organizations—are also designed around these Four C's: Community, Communication, Cultural Perspectives, and Connections.

All students graduating from Whittier College—regardless of major or career goal—should leave with a strong sense of Whittier’s Four C's and their meaning in every aspect of life, both at the College and beyond.

1. Community: Foundation of the Whittier Experience

What is a community?

A body of people living in the same place who, despite their individual differences, share a common goal and set of values—as well as joint ownership of, and participation in, the activities of the whole.

A sense of place, of being at "home"; of being a part of a family, within which one has both rights and obligations.

Whittier College as a community

  • Founded by the Society of Friends for the purpose of educating men and women—regardless of race, ethnic background, or economic status—for service to the world.
  • Special value on the sanctity of every person—on finding "that which is of God" [i.e. of great and even infinite value] in everyone.
  • An equal value on the community "of the whole," in which individuals, working together, can arrive at levels of wisdom and truth—and then go on to accomplish goals—that none of the participating individuals could achieve alone.
  • A commitment to non-violence—not merely as a means, but as a fundamental stance toward the world and every being within it.
  • A commitment to consensus (as opposed to coercion or mere "majority rule") as the best way to make decisions within a community.

Rights within this community

  • The right to belong and to be treated with respect by all, whatever one's gender, ethnic or economic background, nationality, religion, or sexual orientation.
  • The right to be safe from any threat of violence to body or property.
  • The right to have one's being and ideas respected by all, irrespective of agreement
  • The right to participate fully in the intellectual and social life of the community as a whole.
  • The right to a healthy physical and social environment that fosters (and never impedes) intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth.

Obligations within this community

  • The obligation to treat every other person with the kindness and respect with which one would want to be treated (regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation).
  • The obligation to resist all forms of violence against persons or property—whether the threat comes from within oneself or from someone else in the community.
  • A commitment to embracing diversity (ethnic, economic, religious, intellectual) as a way to forging unity within the community.
  • A commitment to intellectual involvement and service within the community for the enrichment of self and others; to use one's unique gifts for the good of the whole.
  • A commitment to creating and preserving a physical and social environment that fosters (and never impedes) intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth.

Community in the Curriculum (four courses, twelve credits)

Fall: College Writing Seminar (INTD 100) linked to another course (that is, all members of the seminar will be co-enrolled in another course as well).

To foster a yet deeper sense of community, students' writing seminar will also correspond to their mentor groups; in most cases, students' writing instructor will be their mentor and their peer mentor will be their OWL (Orientation Week Leader).

Community in Co-curricular Life

Whittier College's co-curricular programs—including Residential Life, Faculty-in-Residence Program, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, College athletics, and various clubs and organizations—are designed to foster community by offering a variety of opportunities for students to meet and interact with others—students, faculty, and staff—in significant ways.

Within the larger community that is Whittier College, students experience and practice community in a variety of settings:

  • Residence halls.
  • The C.I., the Spot, and Club 88.
  • Faculty-in-Residence houses.
  • The Office of Equity and Inclusion
  • Lounges and "scholars centers" in Wardman Hall and in most other academic buildings.
  • Study spaces in the College Library and the Center for Advisement and Academic Success.
  • In the especially close relationships Whittier students typically form with faculty and staff.
  • Not infrequently in faculty homes and on field trips and other explorations with faculty beyond the classroom.
  • In offices such as the Counseling Center and Career Services.
  • In student government.
  • On athletic teams, intramural and extramural.
  • On the staff of the Quaker Campus, as a member of a musical ensemble, etc.
  • In clubs and organizations allowing students to meet others sharing their interests, faith, or values.

2. Communication: Sharing perceptions, feelings, ideas, beliefs, and values with others

What is communication?

The act of sharing with others what one has perceived, has felt, believes, and/or has come to know through the use of variety of symbol systems: numerical, verbal, visual, musical, etc.

Communication in the Curriculum (three to four courses, nine credits)

  • Quantitative Literacy (3 credits).
  • Writing Intensive Course (3 credits to be taken after the College Writing Seminar).
  • Creative and Performing Arts (2 credits).
  • Senior Presentation (1 credit).

Communication in Co-curricular Life

The empathy essential to building and sustaining any community (from one's family of origin to a couple to a college to a nation) depends, not coincidentally, on Whittier's other three C’s: communication, cultural perspective, and the ability to make connections.

Whittier College's co-curricular programs—including Residential Life, Faculty-in-Residence Program, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, College athletics, and various clubs and organizations—are designed to foster communication within the community:

  • Among students living on campus.
  • Between students living on-campus and those living off-campus.
  • Among students with similar goals, interests, or values.
  • Among students who might not otherwise find ways to communicate—e.g. students from differing national, ethnic, cultural, religious, economic, or educational backgrounds; with differing values, political or religious views, sexual orientation.
  • Between students and faculty, students and staff

This communication is fostered through a wide variety of programs:

  • Lectures by distinguished speakers in a variety of fields.
  • Discussions hosted by various organizations.
  • Clubs that are open to the student body as a whole. (At Whittier, for example, students of any ethnicity can join BSU; everyone is welcome to participate in Asian Night.)
  • Cultural events such as concerts, plays, and films hosted by various organizations.
  • Social events, such as ethnic dinners at Faculty-in-Residence houses.
  • Athletic events, both intramural and extramural.
  • Service opportunities, both on campus and in the wider community.
  • "Fun" experiences like Dub Sync and annual dances.
  • The opportunity to express oneself by writing for the Quaker Campus, working as a D.J. on Whittier’s radio station, singing in a vocal ensemble, or acting in a play (to suggest a few examples among many).
  • The opportunity to help others communicate more effectively by working as a math or writing tutor at CAAS.

3. Cultural Perspectives: Coming to Understand the Other

What is Cultural Perspective?

One of the marks of educated people is their thoughtful and informed awareness that not everyone thinks and feels as they do—that there is more than one way to think about the idea of the "self"; to build and sustain a family, a community, a society; to rear children; to teach values; to seek ultimate meaning—and that functioning effectively in an ever smaller world requires an ever deeper knowledge of the world others inhabit.

Understanding the present and future also requires an understanding of the past; thus understanding the history of various cultural perspectives is part of the job—as is the exploration of others' surviving artifacts and cultural products: their art, their literature, their music.

Cultural Perspectives in the Curriculum (four courses, twelve credits)

One course from four of the following seven areas:

  1. African
  2. Asian
  3. Latin American
  4. North American
  5. European
  6. Cross-Cultural
  7. Foreign Languages

Cultural Perspectives in Co-curricular Life

Whittier College is proud to have one of the most ethnically diverse student populations among liberal arts colleges in America. Thus—both within the classroom and without Whittier is an ideal community within which to experience cultural diversity: to learn to appreciate and communicate with others from a variety of backgrounds.

Whittier College's co-curricular programs—including Residential Life, Faculty-in-Residence Program, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, College athletics, and various clubs and organizations—are designed to foster cultural awareness and cross-cultural interaction, as we attempt to forge a single community made up of many complex strands and unique individuals.

Virtually all activities on campus work toward this end, but some programs make diversity issues their central focus. Activities on campus that showcase diversity always do so in a way that is inclusive, welcoming all interested students, faculty, and staff.

Whittier College’s Office of Equity and Inclusion exists to sponsor and co-sponsor such ongoing programs and resources such as, but not limited to:

  • Diverse Identities Month
  • Latino Heritage Month
  • Black History Month
  • Workshops on leadership and tolerance.

It also serves as a home for individuals and groups of all cultures and traditions to come together for meetings and informal discussions, and houses a small library devoted to diversity issues.

Other groups—open to all—also work to foster cultural awareness and the embrace of diversity on campus. These include:

  • Alianza de los Amigos (Latino alumni network)
  • Amigos Unidos (AU)
  • Asian Student Association (ASA)
  • Black Student Union (BSU)
  • Christian Poets
  • Halo Halo (Filipino organization)
  • Hawaiian Islanders Club (HIC)
  • International Student Club
  • Jewish Student Union (JSU)
  • MEChA - Movimiento Estudiantil Chican@ de Aztlán
  • Mid-East Connection
  • Newman Club (Catholic organization)
  • Transgender, Other-identified, Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Allies for Diversity (TOBGLAD)
  • Minority Caucus 
  • Support and resources for non-traditional and commuter students

4. Connections: Putting it all together

What are connections?

Education has in general become more and more specialized; yet there has never been a more urgent need for people who have a sense of the "big picture": the way disciplines reflect and illuminate one another; the way seemingly disparate problems are actually related; the way science and math impact our daily lives.

The genius of liberal education is its special focus on this big picture—on preparing doctors who can see the cultural dimension of healing; economists who understand the social impact of their theories. People who can see and make meaningful connections can assess options with far greater clarity, and thus are freer to make wise (and, ideally, ethical) choices. For many great thinkers, there is no better definition of freedom—freedom fostered above all by a liberal education.

Connections in the Curriculum (three courses, ten credits)

  1. Two paired courses or a sequence or set of two team-taught courses (6 credits).
  2. A course that integrates scientific and mathematical methods with analysis of cultural or societal issues (4 credits).

Connections in Co-curricular life

Whittier College's co-curricular programs—including Residential Life, Faculty-in-Residence Program, the Office of Equity and Inclusion, College athletics, and various clubs and organizations—are designed to foster connection-making in the broadest possible sense: by helping to build community, by fostering communication, and by sponsoring programs that promote cultural awareness.

They also build explicit connections to classroom learning by co-sponsoring with faculty such events as

  • The Whittier College Writers Series (in which famous and emerging authors visit the campus for readings and classroom visits).
  • Lectures and debates by public figures.
  • Presentations and demonstrations by scientists in various fields.
  • Concerts and other forms of artistic production.
  • Field trips to places of cultural and educational importance.
  • Dinners and cultural events connected with courses.

Because these programs often serve a variety of courses, they also underscore the connection between disciplines—the interdisciplinary nature of knowledge—as well as the connections between academic life and life "in the real world."