Doreen O’Connor-Gómez, Director of the Whittier Scholars Program, Associate Academic Dean, and Professor of Modern Languages and Literatures
Ria O’Foghludha, Associate Director of the Whittier Scholars Program, and Associate Professor of Art and Art History
The Whittier Scholars Council, consisting of appointed faculty members from across the College and elected student members, governs the Whittier Scholars Program (WSP).
Throughout its history, Whittier College has been committed to high quality, innovative education and to a concern for the individual, particularly as a member of a community. The Whittier Scholars Program (WSP) exists within the context of those two traditions. It is a rigorous, individualized interdisciplinary program that offers an alternative approach to a liberal arts degree. Working with faculty advisors and their peers, students in the Scholars Program construct an educational program that is unique to them, as well as designed to make them educated individuals in the world today. Through interdisciplinary seminars, discussions with faculty and peers, and guest lecturers, students explore fundamental questions that help them define themselves and their goals and the role that education plays in helping them achieve those goals. These ideas are further explored as part of the requirement to complete an off-campus experience such as study abroad, off-campus internship, or community service.
Central to the Scholars Program is the Educational Design process. Through an interdisciplinary seminar and with the assistance of a faculty advisor, students design their own course of study. Each design must have coherence and purpose while still supporting the goals of the individual student. All designs must be presented to, defended before, and approved by faculty members of the Whittier Scholars Council. Student reflection does not end with the Educational Design process. Rather, students continue to examine their goals, objectives and values on an ongoing basis throughout their course of study as part of all the Whittier Scholars Program seminars.
Although students design their own courses of study, the program does have specific requirements unique to WSP. Three three-credit interdisciplinary seminars plus the Design Your Education course and a Senior Project and public presentation of the project are required to complete the program successfully. Because one of our ideals is the ability to communicate, the College Writing requirement also applies to those students in the WSP. Also required is an off-campus experience (study abroad, community service, and/or off-campus internship).
The seminars are taught by faculty members from across the College and focus on fundamental and enduring questions and topics that demand analysis, value judgments and synthesis, and include significant student participation and research. Students come to grips with what they believe and why, but they also learn that the search is more important than any single answer. Through the seminars, there is a progression toward greater self-direction and discovery, which culminates in the Senior Project process.
The first course, “The Individual, Identity and Community,” is the foundation course for the Scholars Program and is typically taken in the freshman year. It is designed to enable students to explore issues such as: human beings in a social context; the relationship between the individual and the community; the role of education and the life of the mind; and the ways in which values affect and play a role in asking and understanding enduring questions and analyzing issues. These themes are addressed in terms of different historical periods, disciplines, cultures and identities.
The WSP course of study then builds upon that seminar by having students continue to explore their own values in the Design Your Education class. That course is then followed by another interdisciplinary seminar called “Nature, Theory and Bases of Knowledge.” This seminar explores various methods of gathering and understanding knowledge from a number of disciplinary perspectives. By the conclusion of the course, students should have an awareness of what knowledge is and also an understanding of the approach most appropriate for them as they begin the Senior Project process. The final course in the sequence is a Senior Seminar, which enables students in the program to share their ideas and to peer review one another’s work as they progress through the creation of a Senior Project.
The Senior Project is the culmination of the Whittier Scholars Program. The concept must be presented and defended to faculty members of the Whittier Scholars Program in the form of a proposal which frames the Project, places it in a disciplinary context, and provides a bibliography (where appropriate) and timetable for completion. Each student works on the Project with a faculty Sponsor selected by the student who serves as a mentor and guide through the process. The Project may be a research paper, an art portfolio, the production of a play, or anything else that allows each student to prove him/herself as a scholar and grows from the student’s approved Educational Design. The Senior Project permits students to demonstrate that they can learn on their own, that they have attained a level of mastery appropriate to advanced undergraduate work, and that they are aware of the relationship of themselves and their work to others in their own and different disciplines. Students then share their Senior Projects with the larger Whittier College Community as part of a WSP Senior Symposium series.
Admission: Provisional acceptance to the Whittier Scholars Program requires admission to the College and completion of an application to the program concurrent with enrollment in one of the first two courses in the program. Full acceptance follows successful completion of the first seminar, the Educational Design course, and Whittier Scholars Council faculty approval of an Educational Design.
Whittier Scholars Program Requirements
- Six credits of College Writing (Freshman Writing Seminar and a second 3-credit approved writing course). Students admitted to the WSP may meet the second semester writing requirement by successfully completing WSP 101 .
- An approved Educational Design, Whittier Scholars courses WSP 101 , WSP 201 , WSP 301 and WSP 401 , all of which should be taken sequentially
- An off-campus experience (study abroad, community service, and/or off-campus internship)
- A Senior Project and Senior Symposium
- Completion of 60 credits after the Educational Design has been approved
If a student transfers from the Whittier Scholars Program to the Liberal Education Program, the student must submit a formal letter signed by his/her advisor and the Director of the Whittier Scholars Program to the Registrar’s Office. The Registrar will then evaluate the student’s academic record as though the student were a transfer student with regard to the Liberal Education requirements. If a student chooses to enter the Whittier Scholars Program after his/her freshman year, then he/she must meet with the Director of the Program to review necessary requirements including completion of WSP 101 , WSP 201 , WSP 301 and WSP 401 , and the acceptance of an off campus requirement.