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Whittier College features the Whittier Scholars Program, which takes the traditional liberal arts education even further. The Whittier Scholars Program is an individualized liberal arts program within a community of scholars. The program exists as an alternative curricular path for a liberal arts education at one of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges. Students participating in the program create their own majors, or design an individual course of study around a traditional major. The completed program will include an ‘off campus’ component, and culminates in the senior project.
The WSP is designed for, and attracts, a particular kind of student. Whittier enumerates a number of the qualities that a candidate will have: To begin with, the student will already be highly motivated, the student will be interested in learning, and the student will be independent. These qualities taken together tend to result in “a student that appreciates the opportunity to take responsibility for their own education and embraces the challenge that comes from thinking about their own goals and how their education can help them achieve those goals.”
The Whittier Scholars Program is about education; it is about learning, yet it is not an honors program. Students will design a course of study around a traditional major, or, they will create a major, which they will develop with faculty and peer guidance. In this way, students are able to achieve their own particular educational goals; they are able to follow a course through their college career rooted in self-motivation. To help develop those goals, WSP students take four core, interdisciplinary seminars designed to create interest in, and develop questions for, the program of study they will follow.
WSP students develop a course of study that ranges the entire curriculum. This way, students experience both the fellowship that more traditional students enjoy, as well as the opportunities afforded to a more independent thinker. WSP students are a part of two communities – the campus at large, and the more intimate community of fellow scholars.
The program was created in 1977 and nourishes the 4 “C’s” at the root of Whittier’s educational philosophy: Community, connections, cultural perspectives, and communication. About 12 percent of Whittier students are currently participating in the WSP, which allows the program to flourish without diluting the individual aspect that the WSP is all about.
The admission process for the Whittier Scholars Program is composed of two steps: (a) provisional and (b) full admission. The goals of this process are to allow the Scholars Council to get to know each student individually and to ensure that that student will be able to successfully complete the entire program. First year, or, provisional students, have the opportunity to meet current and former students, who will describe the impact this program has had. These current and former students expose candidates to the kinds of possibilities that exist after graduation and help to begin the networking process.
At this point, provisional students will develop, or draft, an Educational Design. An E.D. includes career and educational goals as well as alternative means of study in order to reach those goals. The E.D. is honed by faculty members and peers in order to sharpen the path that a student’s course will take and helps to determine a candidate’s fitness for the full program.
Two integral features of the full program include the ‘off campus’ requirement, and the senior project. Students are expected to participate in an off campus project, such as an internship, a service learning program, or a study abroad program in order to broaden their views and further develop their study of interest. This part of the program is aimed at giving students a ‘hands on’ component to their course of study.
The senior project that students develop throughout this process is the culmination of their education, and will be shared with colleagues as well as the whole Whittier community: the Senior Symposium series allows students the opportunity to showcase their effort before the full body of their peers.
WSP students are scholars in the full sense of the word. They learn to explore difficult questions individually, while sharing in discussions and presentations with their peers. To learn more about the Whittier Scholars Program, please visit http://www.whittier.edu/academics/whittierscholars