General Studies Requirements

General Studies Requirements: Fall 2024 and Later


Students who start at Whitman College in Fall 2024 or later are required to complete the following:

  • Foundations
    • Fulfill the writing proficiency requirement.
    • Take the First-Year Seminars:
      • Fall: General Studies 175 Exploring Complex Questions
      • Spring: General Studies 176 Making Powerful Arguments
  • Explorations
    • Take at least three credits in each of the following seven categories:
      • 1. Textual Analysis
      • 2. The Individual and Society
      • 3. Scientific Inquiry
      • 4. Quantitative Analysis
      • 5. Creative Production
      • 6. Global Cultures and Languages
      • 7. Power and Equity
  • Connections
    • At least three credits of the above, or an additional three credits, in each of the following:
      • A. Writing Across Contexts
      • B. Studying the Past

Note: While courses may satisfy more than one of the seven Explorations categories, students may apply each course toward only one category in fulfilling their General Studies requirements. However, students may use the same course to fulfill both an Explorations requirement (categories 1-7) and a Connections requirement (category A or B).

General Studies requirements may not be satisfied by credits obtained for work in high school (e.g., Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate). Courses taken with the P-D-F grade option cannot be used to satisfy General Studies requirements.

Categories and Descriptions

The courses that may be used to fulfill each distribution requirement are listed below, with the exception of Special Topics and Variable Topics courses. For Special Topics and Variable Topics courses, distribution areas are listed in the course description.

  1. Textual Analysis

Courses in this category emphasize close textual analysis across a range of humanistic disciplines. They focus on the skills of open-minded yet disciplined reading and the construction of critical arguments, with “text” interpreted broadly to include the study of visual, musical, and performing arts, as well as film, media, and digital humanities. Courses in this category pay particular attention to the ways that language, form, and genre shape ideas, as well as to the way different disciplines explore fundamental questions of human experience. They situate these explorations in a rich variety of literary, cultural, historical, intellectual, and formal contexts, modeling the interplay between text, context, and interpretation.

Courses in this category provide opportunities for students to:

  • Analyze and interpret texts with precision and fidelity, considering form and content.
  • Articulate complex, evidence-based, and potentially competing interpretations of texts.
  • Develop layered understandings through critical lenses informed by language, genre, textual traditions, and cultural and historical contexts.
  • Trace genealogies of thought and forms of expression across individual texts and genres.


  1. The Individual and Society

Courses in this category use social science methodologies to explore human behavior and social structures. Some courses focus more on individuals, and the factors that affect how people act individually or in the context of social groups. Other courses focus more on social structures, and the ways in which those structures are formed, sustained, and changed. All courses provide students with a foundation in theories or practices of the social science disciplines.

Courses in this category provide opportunities for students to:

  • Describe mutual influences and intersections among individuals, groups, cultures, and/or societies.
  • Use qualitative or quantitative data to develop an understanding of social structures, individual behaviors, and/or cultural contexts.
  • Describe social science theories and methodologies that are used to study individuals, groups, cultures, or societies.


  1. Scientific Inquiry

Courses in this category focus on methods for understanding the natural world: the development of hypotheses, collection of data through experiments and/or empirical observations, interpretation and evaluation of that evidence, and communication of results and engagement with others in the field. Courses in this area provide students with an understanding of how to approach today’s challenges, such as rapid technological and environmental change, from a scientific perspective. Courses that fulfill this area will include substantial attention to the evaluation of data and/or a laboratory or field component.

Courses in this category provide opportunities for students to:

  • Demonstrate familiarity with a method of scientific inquiry.
  • Articulate fundamental principles in a field of science using appropriate terminology.
  • Analyze, interpret, and evaluate scientific data.
  • Given a problem or question about the natural world, formulate a hypothesis and design a realistic study to evaluate that hypothesis.
  • Investigate how scientific processes impact the quality of human lives and ecosystems.


  1. Quantitative Analysis

Courses in this category provide students with an opportunity to develop the skills necessary to critically analyze numerical or graphical data, to develop abstract quantitative frameworks, and to develop a facility with quantitative reasoning techniques and their applicability to disciplines across the liberal arts.

Courses in this category provide opportunities for students to:

  • Perform computations associated with a model and make conclusions based on the results.
  • Represent, communicate, and analyze ideas and data using symbols, graphs, or tables.
  • Analyze and interpret data using statistical methods.
  • Develop and evaluate arguments based on numerical or other quantitative evidence.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of abstract mathematical concepts and be able to apply these concepts to solve problems.


  1. Creative Production

Courses in this category focus on the production and performance of art with particular attention to the materials, forms, and processes of creative practice. These courses emphasize the creative act, exploring the ways we use different creative modes, materials, and artistic approaches to represent and interrogate ourselves and the world around us. Courses in this category also cultivate vocabulary for the examination and understanding of art, situating the student’s own creative production within theories and genealogies of the particular artform.

Courses in this category provide opportunities for students to:

  • Engage in the creative process of making or performing.
  • Develop skills in the use of the unique materials/forms/processes associated with the different creative disciplines, and understand the significance and meaning of these methods.
  • Understand different theoretical approaches to creative production.
  • Solve problems in creative ways.
  • Critically analyze their own and others’ artistic work.


  1. Global Cultures and Languages

Courses in this category prepare students to be informed citizens in an interdependent world. Courses focus both on individual cultures and global interconnections and interdependencies; they explore the rooted traditions of different locales as well as cultural and geopolitical migrations, displacements, and cross-fertilizations. Language classes in particular examine how different cultures construct and communicate meaning through language, encouraging ethical participation in a globalized society and a comparativist understanding of world culture, while providing critical tools for interacting in a multilingual world.

Courses in this category provide opportunities for students to:

  • Become familiar with at least one realm of global interconnection, such as migration, international financial markets, climate change, or the movement of ideas.
  • Examine how forces such as globalization, imperialism, and national identity have shaped ideas and interactions.
  • Engage with difference across cultures and critically examine their own place in the world and their assumptions about it.
  • Gain the skills necessary to participate in multilingual communities at home and around the world.
  • Investigate, explain, and reflect on the nature of language and its connection to culture.


  1. Power and Equity

Courses in this category help students explore issues related to power and equity across disciplines. In particular, courses address the ways in which inequalities are produced, experienced, and resisted. Courses engage critically with issues of diversity, inequality, and inclusivity, and address differences related to ability/disability, age, body size, citizenship status, class, color, ethnicity, gender, gender expression, geography, nationality, political affiliation, religion, race, sexual orientation, or socioeconomic background, etc. They also investigate issues of power, privilege, and social justice, both domestically and globally, providing students with a critical framework for ethical and engaged participation in society.

Courses in this category provide opportunities for students to:

  • Demonstrate an understanding of economic, political, legal, cultural, natural, historical, or social forces that affect public problems or civic issues and responses.
  • Engage critically with issues of difference, diversity, inequality, inclusivity, and justice.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of how justice/injustice and equality/inequality have been distributed, enacted, problematized, and idealized in historical or contemporary settings.


  1. Writing Across Contexts

Effective writing is a skill acquired over a lifetime, not mastered in one course or a single year. Whitman supports students’ development as writers throughout their studies, as they move into more specific areas of interest and more sophisticated academic work. First Year Seminars and Rhetoric, Writing, and Public Discourse 170 engage students in writing to learn, to persuade, and to communicate with different audiences. Writing Across Contexts courses, taken primarily in the second or third year, challenge students to develop writing practices relevant to specific disciplinary areas of study. Writing across Contexts courses may be taken in a student’s major, in a related field, or in a different area of interest chosen in consultation with their advisor. As with the Studying the Past requirement, students may double-count courses in this category with courses counting toward categories 1-7.

Courses in this category provide opportunities for students to:

  • Employ writing as a method of increased engagement with course content.
  • Select and use evidence in writing as appropriate to specific fields of study.
  • Recognize and apply writing practices and conventions within distinct genres and academic disciplines.
  • Reflect on their writing practices and revise their writing.


  1. Studying the Past

Courses in this category focus on the study of historically remote cultures, texts, and phenomena, encouraging students to acquire temporal as well as disciplinary breadth within their studies. Courses broaden students’ perspectives beyond the present by engaging with historical difference, processes of change, and continuities between past and present. As with the Writing Across Contexts requirement, students may double-count courses in this category with courses counting toward categories 1-7.

Courses in this category provide opportunities for students to:

  • Investigate distant eras of history.
  • Analyze and evaluate various types of historical evidence.
  • Understand and critique diverse and potentially competing interpretations of past events.
  • Develop a sense of chronology and how it’s documented and measured.
Item #
Sub-Total Credits
Total Credits