2021 Commencement Information
Statement of Goals
Two practices are central to the Liberal Education Program: critical thinking (the development of the skills and methods necessary for systematic investigation--i.e. the ability to define, analyze, and synthesize using a variety of methods and technologies) and the practical application of knowledge. These practices, together with the objectives underlying the curricular framework, ensure students' awareness of their own intellectual, physical, moral, and cultural development. Specifically our learning goals are:
I. Students should develop the ability to make connections across disciplines in order to understand the convergence and divergence of different fields of knowledge and to understand the nature of an academic community.
II. Students should develop an understanding of, and competency in, the use of signs and symbols to construct, create, perceive, and communicate meaning.
III. Students should develop the capacity to entertain multiple perspectives and interpretations.
IV. Students should develop an understanding of culture and of the connections between themselves and others in relation to physical, historical, social, and global contexts.
V. Students should develop breadth, defined as familiarity with essential concepts in major fields, and depth, defined as knowledge of at least one field (usually achieved in the major).
Each course identified as fulfilling a liberal education requirement should be structured to enable students to achieve at least part of one of the five goals. We should begin to articulate the goals of a Whittier education as soon as students arrive at the College, and continue to reinforce them over the next four years, so that when students are ready to graduate they can say with assurance that these are some of the most important things they have gained from their Whittier College education.
Careful tracking of the degree to which our educational goals are being attained is one important way faculty can model accountability, while refining and improving our ability to help students attain the education we want them to have. The guidelines committee was intentional in attempting to articulate clearly defined goals that can be systematically measured. Although it is true that this kind of assessment is important to funding organizations and accrediting organizations, it also should be internally important if we value the goals we have approved.
The Liberal Education Program consists of the following requirements (which together with elective courses must total at least 120 credits required for graduation):
The long-term Core Framework, in which many of the learning goals are met, consists of the following core elements:
Community (6 credits)
Communication (9 credits)
Cultural perspectives (12 credits)
One course each from four of the following seven areas:
Connections (10 credits)
Community I. Students should develop the ability to make connections across disciplines in order to understand the convergence and divergence of different fields of knowledge and to understand the nature of an academic community.
Community II. Students should develop the ability to make connections across disciplines in order to understand the convergence and divergence of different fields of knowledge and to understand the nature of an academic community
Students should develop the capacity to entertain multiple perspectives and interpretations.
Communications I-IV. Students should develop an understanding of, and competency in, the use of signs and symbols to construct, create, perceive, and communicate meaning.
Communications IV. Students should develop breadth, defined as familiarity with essential concepts in major fields, and depth, defined as knowledge of at least one field (usually achieved in the major).
Cultural Perspectives. Students should develop the capacity to entertain multiple perspectives and interpretations.
Students should develop an understanding of culture and of the connections between themselves and others in relation to physical, historical, social, and global contexts.
Connections I and II. Students should develop the ability to make connections across disciplines in order to understand the convergence and divergence of different fields of knowledge and to understand the nature of an academic community
1. Community I (fall linked courses; 6 credits)
Students should develop the ability to make connections across disciplines in order to understand the convergence and divergence of different fields of knowledge and to understand the nature of an academic community (I).
Students should develop an understanding of, and competency in, the use of signs and symbols to construct, create, perceive, and communicate meaning (II).
Students should develop the capacity to entertain multiple perspectives and interpretations (III).
Whittier College has been described as a meeting place that brings together people, ideas, traditions, and experiences that have not connected before, resulting in a sense of community. Community among college students fosters social well-being and academic enrichment. Two sets of linked courses taken in the first year serve as important elements in Whittier College's broader array of community-building strategies. In a linked set of courses, students enrolled in one course are simultaneously enrolled in another associated course, encouraging formation of both intellectual and interpersonal bonds. New insights rise out of this linking: new knowledge, new questions, and new possibilities.
The two linked sets are developmental in nature. In the first semester, the primary purpose of the link is for each student to develop intellectual and social relationships with a defined set of peers through common enrollment in two classes. The spring semester link continues these purposes but intensifies the intellectual dimension. This link consists of two courses with some level of thematic connection designed to promote awareness and understanding of relationships across disciplines. Examining a theme from the standpoint of two different disciplines introduces the intellectually rich notion of multiple perspectives--a concept important to the collaborative community that defines Whittier College.
Social well-being and intellectual engagement and growth are enhanced by giving each student places of belonging within the campus community. Every first-year student should have such a place within the academic and intellectual community that is Whittier College. Linked courses contribute to this purpose.
These linked sets of courses are called Community I and consist of two courses of 3 or more credits. All Community courses should be suitable for first-years, typically at the introductory level. The following sets of guidelines specify the parameters within which each link should be formed.
To develop community in a cohort of fifteen students through co-enrollment in two classes, while developing the writing skills necessary for success in college.
Guidelines for Community I Link
Guidelines for INTD 100 Courses
The Communication I requirement should not be confused with an explicit Mathematics requirement. According to the National Council on Education, quantitative literacy, also known as numeracy, is
not so much about understanding abstract concepts as about applying elementary tools in sophisticated settings. . . . [N]umeracy and mathematics should be complementary aspects of the school curriculum. . . . Mathematics thrived as a discipline and as a school subject because it was (and still is) the tool par excellence for comprehending ideas of the scientific age. Numeracy will thrive similarly because it is the natural tool for comprehending information in the computer age. As variables and equations created the mathematical language of science, so digital data are creating a new language of information technology. Numeracy embodies the capacity to communicate in this new language.[Lynn Arthur Steen, ed. Mathematics and Democracy: The Case for Quantitative Literacy (National Council on Education and the Disciplines), http://www.maa.org/ql/mathanddemocracy.html.]
The focus of the Communication I requirement is on the application of quantitative skills to diverse fields of inquiry at the college level. Any course that satisfies this requirement should give the student an opportunity to use numerical tools to (a) analyze problems and/or situations, and (b) communicate the results of that analysis. Whenever possible, students should have the opportunity to satisfy this requirement by applying their quantitative skills in a course related to their academic interests.
Objectives and Outcomes
According to a report by a Mathematics Association of America committee,
The level of sophistication and maturity of thinking expected of a college student should extend to a capability for quantitative reasoning which is commensurate with the college experience. College students should be expected to go beyond routine problem solving to handle problem situations of greater complexity and diversity, and to connect ideas and procedures more readily with other topics both within and outside mathematics.[Quantitative Reasoning for College Graduates (Report of an MAA Committee), http://www.maa.org/past/ql/ql toc.html.]
The MAA committee has made a list of desirable quantitative skills for college graduates: a quantitatively literate college graduate should be able to
Implicit in all of the above is the assumption that students already have achieved a certain level of mathematical proficiency (basic arithmetic, algebra, geometry and, perhaps, statistics). Students will demonstrate this proficiency by taking a placement exam at the start of the semester they enter the college. Students who are not prepared for the level of work expected in Communications I courses will be required to take a preparatory course as a pre-requisite to any Communications I offering. (Examples of such a course include Math 74, Transition to College Mathematics, and Math 76, College Algebra.)
The creative arts are fundamental avenues of expression and modes of communication. Music, theater, visual art, and creative writing abound in virtually all cultures--revealing fashion, sensibilities and substantive concerns--and communicate across cultural divides. Artworks reflect the creator's insights into questions, problems, and ideas. Motivation to create comes from many sources: addressing spatial and structural challenges; telling a story; communicating a social, political or commercial message; revealing perceptions of self, the human condition, or the depths of the psyche.
We believe that creative experience in one or more of the arts offered at Whittier is enriching and essential. This general sector of coursework provides students with challenges and opportunities similar to those encountered in other types of intellectual pursuits: researching and analyzing; composing, revising, refining and presenting; hypothesizing and testing. However, a number of qualities distinguish creative endeavors from most other components of the curriculum:
The importance of creativity is reflected in Albert Einstein’s comment that "creativity is more important than knowledge." Communication III develops students' creative capacities, which can at the same time improve their thinking skills and comprehension of their surroundings--leading to an enriched life. Through creative engagement a student becomes a more complete person, more alive.
Students should develop breadth, defined as familiarity with essential concepts in major fields, and depth, defined as knowledge of at least one field--usually achieved in the major (V).
The Senior Presentation is intended as the capstone of the Liberal Education Program, which emphasizes the importance of communication skills, as well as the importance of applying acquired knowledge. It should also showcase the accomplishments of Whittier College graduates on--and in some cases off--campus, while providing an inspiring example for younger students.
To communicate to the campus community the results of a project or activity that demonstrates the ability to translate skills and knowledge to domains and problems new to the student presenter.
One Course from four of the following seven areas
Students should develop an understanding of culture and of the connections between themselves and others in relation to physical, historical, social, and global contexts (IV).
Cultural Perspectives courses introduce students to the complexity and diversity of both contemporary and historical human culture, whether material, social, or intellectual. Material culture might, for example, include the study of physical or visual artifacts. Social culture might be understood through the study of institutions, art, religion, theater, ritual, or language. And intellectual culture might include literary, philosophical, religious, and artistic expressions.
The categories African, Asian, European, Latin American, North American and Cross-Cultural are broadly definable; these terms are synoptic and multivalent rather than discrete and unitary geographic categories. But the Cultural Perspectives requirement should remove students from that which comprises their known world, and should inspire them to explore the terra incognita both of their own culture and that of other cultures, whether the distance is that of time or space or both. The purpose of this journey is to help students define and understand their world through contradistinction.
In the aggregate (four courses of the total seven categories), students should:
Part of Whittier College's historic commitment to being a collaborative community rests in our emphasis on interdisciplinarity--that is, on the building of connections between disciplines and different fields of knowledge. Many colleges and universities have recently adopted paired and linked courses, a curricular approach that Whittier introduced in the 1980s. The Connections I requirement represents the faculty's recognition that there is a variety of approaches to the construction of knowledge, which leads to an understanding of similarities and differences between disciplines. The Connections I requirement invites students to explore comparative methods of analysis of a topic or theme, and requires students to demonstrate an understanding of the connections between disciplines through shared or linked assignments or experiences. Students fulfill this requirement by enrolling in a pair consisting of two concurrent courses taught by faculty members from two different disciplines; or by enrolling in a year-long sequence of team-taught courses, both taught by two faculty members from different disciplines; or by enrolling in any two three-credit, team-taught courses, each taught by faculty in different disciplines.
Since the nineteenth century, academic disciplines have typically been seen as discrete entities unto themselves, with their own theoretical frameworks for organizing, understanding, analyzing, and creating knowledge. As disciplines have matured, however, it has become apparent that our real world is not organized in separate distinct units, but rather is an amalgam of its many parts, and thus that additional gains in our understanding of our world will occur not just within disciplines but at disciplinary boundaries.
From medical and technological advances to the application and acceptance of these advances, the practice of the natural sciences and our social and ethical behaviors impact our world in numerous and important ways. It is essential for a liberally educated person to have some understanding of these complex interactions. The purpose of Connections II is to study the relationship between the natural sciences and society, with respect to the impact each has on the practices of the other.
Transfer students who enter Whittier with 30 or more credits do not need to satisfy the Community I and II requirements.
Transfer students who enter Whittier with fewer than 30 credits complete the Community I and II requirements as follows:
Logistical Notes for Communication IV
When students submit their Graduation Plan, typically in the spring of their junior year, the Liberal Education form will have a place to designate the course being used for preparation of the Senior Presentation. As noted above, this may either be a departmental course or INTD 499 (independent study). The department chair's signature on this form will indicate the department's approval of the course and the faculty member serving as instructor/sponsor. Any disagreements will be resolved by the Liberal Education Committee.
Departmental and College-Wide Support of the Requirement
Departments not offering a senior seminar are encouraged to offer a course to prepare students for both Paper in the Major and the Senior Presentation, or a one-credit course for just the Senior Presentation if that is more appropriate, so that the faculty time is counted in the teaching load. In any case, instruction in how to give senior presentations should be provided in these courses or in other courses offered by the department, such as required methods courses. College-wide workshops or courses might also be offered on how to prepare presentations involving posters or multi-media web pages.
Timing of Courses and Presentations
The course used for preparing the Senior Presentation can be offered in the fall, in January, in the spring, or even over the summer. It will require the student to prepare an abstract of the presentation, but need not require the completion of the Senior Presentation as part of the course requirements.
Senior Presentations prepared in the fall semester may be presented in either the fall or spring. Those prepared in January or spring should be presented in the spring. Students expecting to graduate in the summer should have given their Senior Presentation in the spring. If they have been unable to do so, their diploma will be held until fall, when they must register for one credit of INTD 499 or other course required by the department to prepare for the Senior Presentation. Summer presentations will generally not be allowed, due to the absence of most of the campus community.
Tracking Student Progress
When a student's Senior Presentation abstract has been prepared, it will be written on a form-- similar to an Independent Study form--which will identify the student, the title of the presentation, and its format. The form will also indicate the course in which the abstract has been prepared. If INTD 499, the form will also indicate a grade of CR or NC.
If the student has given his or her Senior Presentation, the form will indicate the date of the presentation, the location (Whittier College or a conference elsewhere), and approval of the presentation (Yes/No) as being of at least C- quality. On the back of the form, the instructor or sponsor will give a snapshot rating of the Senior Presentation for use by the Assessment Committee.
The instructor or sponsor will submit this form to the registrar at the end of the semester in which the course (or INTD 499) is taught. If the student has not yet given his or her Senior Presentation, the Registrar will return a copy of the form to the instructor, who will re-file it once the Presentation is completed.
The registrar also will add a notation to the student's transcript indicating when the Senior Abstract has been submitted and when the Senior Presentation has been completed.