Summer Reading and Viewing Assignments


The summer reading and viewing assignments are to be completed before arriving on campus for Orientation.

Books listed here can be purchased online or at your preferred bookstore. Films can be streamed online through your preferred streaming service.

INTD 90, Introductory Seminar, linked with INTD 101, Your Whittier College Experience

A Vast Global Caravan

This is first and foremost a writing-focused, developmental college composition course, and students will have extensive practice in reading critically, planning, drafting, revising, and editing papers in a variety of academic genres. Your instructor will emphasize the development of the student’s individual authorial process, as well as writing for rhetorical effect. Our theme--What we will be writing about--is current controversy surrounding what is often called “the refugee crisis.” We will be reading a variety of fiction and non-fiction: Tell Me How It Ends (Luiselli), Exit West (Hamid), and selections from The Displaced: Refugee Writers on Refugee Lives (Nguyen, ed.), among others.

INTD 100, College Writing Seminar, linked with INTD 101, Your Whittier College Experience

The Speed Limit

In a culture dominated by the tyranny of now, we are compelled to embrace efficiency and expediency as the ultimate values, rapidly accelerating our life pace and in the process unquestionably surrendering quality of experience, emotional presence, space for reflection, mental health, and perhaps our very humanity. We have become caught up in a culture of sensationalism and transience in which the rampant illnesses of our society, both literal and figurative, have been fostered and allowed to fester. Engaging with film, world literary works, and critical essays on culture, we will take time to reflect on and write about the causes of this phenomenon, your own related values, the meanings of quality of life, and making well considered choices on the best experience of time. 

Race Narratives

What are the stories we have told about race?  How have fictions been central to racist culture and how can they be harnessed to the project of challenging white supremacy? Students will engage with representations of bias, intersectionality, rage and whiteness in the work of journalists, sociologists, short-story writers and playwrights. 

The Landscape of Health in the 21st Century

This course will ask students to explore the changing landscape of health in the 21st Century and weigh in on the ethics of medical advances and health disparities. The 21st Century will see amazing changes in medical technologies, from stem cell therapy and gene editing to brain computer interfaces and precision medicine. In turn, as our tool set for diagnosing and treating disease grows, society will need to make hard decisions about their use. Do we want to share our genetic information or create designer babies? Are these new tools really safe? Alongside these advances, climate change and population growth are leading to the emergence of new diseases and the expansion of the geographical range of existing diseases. Additionally, the anti-vaccination movement has led to the re-emergence of previously eradicated diseases, such as measles, and the overuse of antibiotics has led to the emergence of superbugs. Together we will make sense of this brave new world.

Thinking & Communicating About Music

This course is an introduction to the study of music as a scholarly pursuit, including the professional disciplines of ethnomusicology, historical musicology, and popular music studies. This course explores diverse ways of thinking and writing about music using repertoires drawn from non-Eurogenic traditional, Western classical and mass-mediated musics as case studies. Reading, listening, and writing projects pose core philosophical questions about music’s nature, meaning, cultural significance and distinctiveness among the arts.

Scientific Writing for a General Audience

  • Faculty Mentor and instructor: Jordan Hanson
  • Professor Hanson requires you to read: Notes from a Native Son, by James Baldwin

Science writing is useful, and we encounter it in a variety of styles that share common elements. Good science writing may be found in popular science sites and magazines which distill interesting scientific breakthroughs into language that is accessible to a general audience. Popular science writing involves metaphor, analogies, descriptive language, and quotation and paraphrasing of experts. Another example of science writing may be found in technical descriptions, which must convey an idea accurately enough so that another person may understand the shape, form, or design of something without any mistake. Technical description requires practice in the art of eliminating ambiguity from writing. Finally, science writing takes the form of thesis, dissertation, and journal article writing, in which scientific results are reported. Students will regularly practice these scientific writing styles, and explore subject material ranging from popular science, science fiction, and content relating to potential STEM majors. Students in this course will explore exciting topical subject matter, including the discovery of gravitational waves, black hole observations, vaccine use, COVID-19, and climate science. Students will practice various scientific writing styles using this subject matter, with the goal of becoming better writers, and to learn to explore a new and exciting field of research.


  • Faculty Mentor and instructor: Irfana Hashmi
  • Professor Hashmi requires you to watch one of the following options. Both options are available on Netflix.
    • Unorthodox (all 4 episodes): A story of a Hasidic Jewish woman in Brooklyn, NY who flees to Berlin from an arranged marriage and is taken in by a group of musicians
    • The Messiah (10 episodes): A story about a charismatic figure whose followers believe he can perform miracles; he may be a divine entity or a dangerous con artist. 

Monotheism refers to a tradition that is bound together by a common belief in and worship of one deity. In this course we will examine three such traditions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, exploring each tradition in its historical, cultural, political, and contemporary contexts. We will ask and answer essential questions, including: “how did monotheisms develop” “why people are or are not religious,” and “why do people convert or remain within their birth tradition.” We will point out tensions between how religion is understood (often textually) and how it is actually lived by ordinary people. This course is intended as a comparative conversation. Throughout the semester, we will search for common threads as well as dividing lines among the three traditions.

Writing for Life

  • Faculty Mentor and instructor: Ralph Isovitsch
  • Professor Isovitsch requires you to view DNA Secret of Photo 51, a documentary about Dr. Rosalind Franklin that can be found on YouTube.

Writing is a skill that you will use your entire life. This course will give you the space to practice and refine your skills at those things that are integral to good writing: strong thesis statements and topic sentences, choosing the strongest sources to support your ideas, using citations to give credit where credit is due, and the importance of revision. The topics that we will explore in our writing include: the sociology, philosophy, and history of science, earthquakes, tsunami, volcanoes, and pandemics old and new.


I’ve learned more about writing from grading papers than I ever learned from writing them. Looking at someone else’s paper for what is and isn’t working, figuring out how to make it stronger, and explaining them in a way that motivates them to do it, really taught me how to do those things for myself. So this won’t just be a course on writing so much as on editing; that is, not so much about writing your own papers (though there will be some of that so we have some raw material to work with) but on reading each others’ writing and helping to make it even more awesome.

What's Real and What Isn't?

People make all sorts of extraordinary claims. How do we decide if these things are real or not? By developing your critical thinking skills, you will be able to discriminate between reality and fiction. We will examine such topics as: science denialism, Bigfoot, UFOs and disputes over human induced global climate change.

What’s so “Great” About a Good Society--Does Happiness Matter?

One struggles to answer the question, “What do we mean by a good society?” because each of us inhabits so many different kinds of societies. From the close-knit, personal societies of family and friends, to the more distant societies of cultures or nations, to the even more distant society of the biosphere, our different societies call out different allegiances, different responsibilities, different actions.  This course explores the intersection of who we are as individuals and who we are as communities and how the tension between individual rights and social responsibilities manifest in matters of identity, equality, and sustainability, among others. People, though, often forget how intertwined their “pursuit” of happiness is with that of others. Our choices define our reality, and in turn, form the world we live in. In choosing where to live, what kind of family to make, what to eat, how to dress, what kind of music to hear, what kind of movie to watch, what kind of friends to make, whether or not to practice a religion, and what kind of education to pursue, we express belief systems about what is good for us and those we care about. But to move our choices from the unconscious level to a level of critical, deliberate, and self-aware choosing—in other words, to make our choices free—is much harder. Engaging in this type of conversation is necessary in order to develop the agency and flexibility required to navigate our rapidly changing political, social, and economic environment. The goal then, of this class, is to set up a conversation that allows students to examine what makes an aspect of a society “good,” what makes people happy, and openly investigate the strengths and weaknesses of those ideas.

How We Learn Things

  • Faculty Mentor and instructor: Laura McEnaney
  • Professor McEnaney requires you to submit a Flipgrid video that introduces you and your specific learning styles and challenges. Details to follow. 

This class invites you into conversation about how we learn things—including writing. You have done a lot of learning, from tying a shoe to figuring out a new app, but you probably have not explored the social and scientific dimensions of that learning. We will read two books: one explores learning, generally, and the other examines how you learned to write in elementary and high school. Our goal is to think deeply about your learning identities and habits so that you feel ready to tackle college-level learning in whatever major you choose.

The Power of Peace: Nonviolent Activism and the Pursuit of Political Change

This course explores the ideas and methods of nonviolent movements, from the Quakers, Gandhi, and Martin Luther King, Jr. through today's Black Lives Matter movement.

The First-Gen College Experience

This course is for and about First-Generation college students. If neither of your parents graduated from college, this class is for you. In a small nurturing group, led by a professor who was also the first person in his family to go to college, we will be reading, writing, and having meaningful discussions about the First-Gen experience. We will also develop the practical social and academic skills you need to have a successful four-year experience at Whittier. We hope this class is the beginning of your journey to becoming a successful Poet graduate.

Social Justice, Social Media, and Social Lives

The movement for social justice, like much of our social lives, has moved to social media. Working together over the term we will look closely at #BlackLivesMatter and #MeToo as examples of recent movements for social justice that took off on social media. What is the good, the bad, and the ugly of our life in this new social space? Can we change the world through social media? I look forward to learning the answers to these questions with you this fall!

Exploring the Effectiveness of Online Learning 

What do children learn online? The COVID-19 pandemic forced students into online learning from preschool thru college this year. Online education has existed for over 30 years and yet there is still a debate about whether it delivers an education as good as in-person instruction. The main objective of this course is to introduce you to writing and reading at the college level and we will ultimately write about the following questions: What subjects do children learn better or worse online than in in-person instruction? Who did online learning advantage and disadvantage? For example, during the pandemic, schools tried to overcome a digital divide where some poor students lacked internet access and computers to keep up with their school work. How many children in the U.S. experienced limited access to education during the pandemic and how did it affect their learning? Are we all behind in education because of this shift? In addition, we will explore what children learn from the internet, social media and computer programs that are not educational, negative and/or not intended from the developers. We will read research studies on education and child development as well as a variety of opinions to help us answer these questions.

African American Literacy: From Slave Narratives to Hip Hop

  • Faculty Mentor and instructor: Shannon Stanton Agbotse
  • Professor Stanton Agbotse requires you to:
    • Read the Declaration of Independence
    • Read the Constitution
    • Watch 13th by Ava DuVernay

This course will explore the ways literacy has been used in African American communities as a form of resistance, freedom and empowerment.