The mission of Scripps College is to educate women to develop their intellects and talents through active participation in a community of scholars, so that as graduates they may contribute to society through public and private lives of leadership, service, integrity, and creativity.
Scripps emphasizes a challenging core curriculum based on interdisciplinary studies in the humanities, combined with rigorous training in the disciplines, as the best possible foundation for any goals a student may pursue. The interdisciplinary emphasis of the curriculum has always been a hallmark of a Scripps education. Because Scripps students learn to see the connections not only among academic subjects, but also among the major areas of their own lives, alumnae often remark that Scripps “prepared me for life.”
From its founding in 1926 as one of the few institutions in the West dedicated to educating women for professional careers as well as personal growth, Scripps College has championed the qualities of mind and spirit described by its founder, newspaper entrepreneur and philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps. Scripps College remains a women’s college because it believes that having women at the core of its concerns provides the best environment for intellectually ambitious women to learn from a distinguished teaching faculty and from each other.
Scripps College aspires to be a diverse community committed to the principles of free inquiry and free expression based on mutual respect. The College chooses to remain a largely residential college of fewer than one thousand students, a scale that encourages its students to participate actively in their community and to develop a sense of both personal ethics and social responsibility. Scripps cherishes its campus of uncommon beauty, a tribute to the founder’s vision that the College’s architecture and landscape should reflect and influence taste and judgment.
As one of the founders of The Claremont Colleges Group Plan, Scripps College is a principal contributor to the university community, which offers expanded intellectual, curricular, athletic, and social opportunities for students and faculty at each college. Scripps emphasizes high aspirations, high achievement, and personal integrity in all pursuits, and it expects students, faculty, staff, and alumnae to contribute to Scripps and to their own communities throughout their professional, social, and civic lives. Scripps believes that this form of challenging and individualized education will best prepare women for lives of confidence, courage, and hope.
Adopted by the Scripps College Board of Trustees in 1996.
“The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.”
—Ellen Browning Scripps
One of the most remarkable “Scripps women” never attended Scripps—she founded it. Born in 1836 and raised on a farm in Illinois, Ellen Browning Scripps was one of the first female graduates of Knox College, Illinois, and one of the first women college students in the United States. She began her professional life in the traditional role of a schoolteacher. At the age of 37, Miss Scripps became a path-paving journalist and publisher, joining her brothers in Detroit, where they founded the Detroit Evening News. A shrewd investor, she helped her brothers develop the business into the Scripps-Howard newspaper chain and United Press International.
Miss Scripps celebrated her success with philanthropy, giving to improve the quality of life in her community and in support of education. Already in her nineties when Scripps and the undergraduate Claremont Colleges were being planned, her financial generosity laid the bricks and mortar for the first buildings of Scripps College and secured the land on which the three newest of the undergraduate Claremont Colleges would be built—Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Pitzer. The spiritual framework of Scripps was also established by Miss Scripps and, like the buildings, it has become the supporting framework of generations of Scripps women. As the Scripps Mission states, Ellen Browning Scripps believed that the primary obligation of a college is to educate students to be clear and independent thinkers and to live their lives with confidence, courage, and hope.
Modeled after the Oxford University plan of small, coordinating residential colleges with central, university-level services and graduate schools, Scripps and the four other undergraduate Claremont Colleges—Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, and Pomona—are the finest assembly of small, liberal arts colleges in the United States. Graduate education in Claremont is represented by Claremont Graduate University and Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences. Located at the foot of the San Gabriel Mountains in the city of Claremont, California (population 36,500), 35 miles east of Los Angeles, the Colleges are across the street from one another and enroll nearly 5,200 undergraduates and about 2,100 graduate students.
The original Scripps campus was designed by architect Gordon Kaufmann, one of the pioneers of Mediterranean Revival or “California Style” and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Scripps campus and adjoining facilities provide the intimate scale of a small women’s college with the resources of a large, coeducational university, including four libraries, three art galleries, two museums, nine performance spaces, a national model of undergraduate science facilities, a Chicano/Latino Student Affairs Center, an Office of Black Student Affairs, an Asian American Student Union, a center for international students, a full-service health and counseling center, two gymnasiums, 17 tennis courts, five swimming pools, two outdoor tracks, squash courts, an exercise room, nine newspapers, a radio station, video cameras and editing facilities, a film production studio, and multiple computer labs.
The objective of a fine liberal education is the acquisition of skills and knowledge instrumental to one’s intellectual and emotional fulfillment and to success in whatever career one chooses. A liberal education does not teach professional or vocational knowledge so much as a comprehensive, connected understanding that can guide the use of such knowledge. Scripps College develops skills—analytical, quantitative, and verbal—that are critical to any endeavor and encourages opportunities for artistic expression and aesthetic response. The College seeks to foster a passion for inquiry in each student, expecting reflection upon and, when appropriate, challenging received ideas. Because a liberal education aims for freedom of mind, it has a moral dimension as well. Scripps expects flexibility of approach, tolerance for the diversity of ideas to which open inquiry exposes one, and the imagination required to understand those ideas.
The Scripps College curriculum has four parts: the three-semester Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities; the General Education requirements; the Disciplines or Area Studies in which students major; and the Elective courses that lend breadth to a student’s education. Scripps requires in every major a senior thesis and/or senior arts performance, which demands a thorough professional knowledge of some subject within the major. The earlier, required courses lay a foundation upon which the student’s major(s) and perhaps minor are built. Scripps expects general skills, training in an interdisciplinary approach, and broad knowledge as preparation for the more focused work done in the student’s major. Thirty-two courses, or an average of four each semester, are needed for graduation, though students are encouraged to, and often do, exceed the minimum.
Core Curriculum in Interdisciplinary Humanities: Histories of the Present
Scripps is exceptional in having had from its founding a commitment to the kind of interdisciplinary education that is emerging at the forefront of contemporary intellectual thought. Interdisciplinary study, focused in the Core Curriculum, is central to Scripps. The College is therefore in an especially advantageous position to train its students in the broadly based interrogation of the past and present that now characterizes much contemporary intellectual life.
Scripps believes that the core of a solid undergraduate education cuts across conventional disciplinary boundaries, seeking connections that generate insights into issues of both historical and contemporary importance. The Core Curriculum is a closely-integrated sequence of three interdisciplinary courses focusing on our ideas about the world and the methods we use to generate these ideas. The current theme of the Core program is “Histories of the Present,” and in the first semester of the first year, all students take Core I, a lecture/discussion course that highlights the categories and values that we may take to be given or obvious and the ways in which the conventional or received understanding and application of these categories and values can prevent us from seeing ourselves and the world in other ways. We explore the relationship between historically informed critical thinking and our engagement with contemporary issues and debates by examining a number of ways in which Human Nature and Human Difference are used as the bases of various modes of thought and action. In the second semester, Core II offers students a choice among a number of interdisciplinary, team-taught courses, each of which is devoted to more intensive study of a broad topic, theme, or problem introduced in Core I. In Core III, students continue their interdisciplinary investigations by focusing upon more specialized topics and projects.
Not only is interdisciplinary analysis producing some of the most interesting current scholarship, it is also excellent training for the kind of nontraditional thinking that many graduate schools now welcome and which many professions reward. In addition to helping students think strategically about how to answer basic questions about culture and history, such courses help them think creatively by inviting them to see the benefits of overlapping disciplinary perspectives. Many students have found that interdisciplinary courses offer the kind of intellectual breakthroughs that were otherwise available only when a student happened to take two interrelated courses in a single semester.
Innovative study of the humanities is also encouraged by the Scripps College Humanities Institute, which acts as a forum for interdisciplinary research and communication about important issues in culture and society and brings to the College internationally recognized scholars, scientists, artists, and other public figures. Each semester the Institute organizes a lecture series and a major conference on a significant theme in the contemporary study of the humanities. Faculty and Junior Fellows are selected to participate in the work of the Institute. Junior Fellows are chosen by nomination of the faculty and receive one course credit for their participation.
General Education Requirements: Competency and Breadth
The General Education requirements ensure an education that is well-grounded in skills and well-rounded in knowledge. The requirements are of two types. One demands competency in certain skills, demonstrated through a test or other means that exempt the student from further course work. The breadth requirements aim for comprehensiveness of outlook.
Writing. The College requires students to command their own language and to have mastered the rudiments of another. Prior to graduation all students must read, speak, and write English with reasonable sophistication. Scripps is unusual among colleges in having a senior thesis requirement for each student, regardless of major. The thesis represents the most ambitious, independent, and professional work in the student’s discipline. The emphasis upon writing begins in the first-semester writing course in which all students must enroll.
Mathematics. Similarly, Scripps assumes that numeracy and/or logic are critical skills. The requirement can be met in theoretical (precalculus) or applied mathematics (statistics) or logic.
Foreign Language. The nuanced understanding and use of English depends to a degree upon one’s familiarity with the principles of a language not one’s own. Furthermore, the ability to read a foreign language is the surest means of access to a culture other than one’s own. To this end Scripps also encourages study abroad for a semester or year. The language may be ancient or modern. The requirement presupposes a thorough knowledge of basic grammatical structure, the ability to write correctly, and with respect to a modern language, the capacity to understand and respond to a native speaker.
Breadth of Study
All students are required to take at least one course in each of the four principal academic divisions, fine arts, letters, natural sciences, and social sciences.
In addition, Scripps believes it is important that students do work in two areas that are themselves notably interdisciplinary and of immediate import for contemporary society—gender and women’s studies (one course) and race and ethnic studies (one course in addition to the Core). The gender and women’s studies requirement may be met through any one of several courses in fine arts, letters, or social sciences. The race and ethnic studies requirement is filled through the three-semester Core plus one course designated to meet the requirement. A student may fulfill the race and ethnic studies or gender and women’s studies requirement while, for instance, meeting a divisional requirement in fine arts, letters, or social sciences
The Major: Disciplines and Area Studies
As the student progresses from the interdisciplinary humanities and general education requirements, studies become more focused upon a major in a specific discipline or area study. The latter includes Africana Studies; American studies; art conservation, Asian studies; Asian American studies; Chicano/a studies; environmental analysis; environment, economics and politics; European studies; gender and women’s studies; Jewish studies; Latin American studies; legal studies; media studies; Middle East and North African studies; neuroscience; and science, technology, and society.
A major demands a significant level of accomplishment, both in class and through independent work culminating in the senior thesis. There are some 50 areas of specialization available either at Scripps or in conjunction with the other Claremont Colleges, fields that range from classics to mathematics. In addition, students may petition for approval of a self-designed major.
Majoring introduces the student to the methods and particular knowledge that will lead to expertise in that field. Sometimes the major is preparatory to graduate or professional school, sometimes to careers upon graduation.
A “discipline” is so-called because of the rigor required for mastery of the field. Whether it is dance, economics, literature, music, philosophy, or physics, learning at its most challenging is the heart of majoring in a discipline. The senior thesis is the capstone of this endeavor. Increasingly, students are opting for dual or double majors or some combination of a major and a minor, often in a related field.
Scripps students may major in art (including ceramics, sculpture, computer graphics, photography, and painting), music, dance, and theatre. Instruction in music includes voice, piano, choral groups, conducting, and chamber music. Scripps has its own dance program and participates in a five-college theatre program with the other Claremont Colleges.
Majors at Scripps include art history, classics, English, French, German, Hispanic studies, Italian, philosophy, and religious studies. In addition, Scripps’ affiliation with the other Claremont Colleges affords access to courses in Russian and several Asian languages and literatures.
Scripps students may major in mathematics through Scripps, and biology, chemistry, or physics through the W.M. Keck Science Department, administered by Scripps, Claremont McKenna, and Pitzer Colleges. Majors in computer science, engineering (Scripps participates in a 3-2 program), and geology are also available through the other Claremont Colleges.
Social science offerings at Scripps include economics, history, politics and international relations, and psychology. Scripps and Pitzer Colleges have a cooperative program in anthropology. Sociology is an off-campus major at Pitzer or Pomona College.
A number of disciplines offer honors in the major, which typically requires more courses, a higher minimum grade point average in the major, and a more ambitious senior thesis.
Electives comprise the many courses the student may choose that are taught outside the major and the general education requirements to meet the 32-course minimum for the degree. In any given semester Scripps offers some 130 or more courses. Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, Pitzer, Pomona Colleges, and Claremont Graduate University offer hundreds more. The student’s particular choice of electives from among this array lends special character to undergraduate education.
Students desiring advanced work in the humanities may apply for admission as a Junior Fellow to the Humanities Institute.
The seal of Scripps College, designed by sculptor Lee Lawrie, depicts La Semeuse—she who sows. The image of the sower of “the good seed of thought, of action, of life” was chosen by the faculty in the 1927-28 academic year. They also selected the College motto, Incipit Vita Nova—“new life begins here.” The esteemed Professor Hartley Burr Alexander was largely responsible for the seal’s image and the motto. Before he arrived on campus, he suggested Incipit Vita Nova, the first words of Dante’s New Life.
It seems to me that what college ought to do is begin a new life in a very real sense, and perhaps the motto would have a double significance for Scripps in indicating not only the new life begun for each student, but also the new life which we hope may be begun from a renewed vitality in education [evidenced in the founding of this college for women]. —Hartley Burr Alexander
Principles of Community
Scripps College is a community of scholars: faculty, students, and staff dedicated to the education of women and the advancement of learning.
To further this community, Scripps seeks to attract a diverse student body and to build a diverse faculty and staff. Our goal is to create a hospitable environment without discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, religion, culture, color, beliefs, physical condition, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, or age. Scripps believes that each member of the community contributes to the learning and teaching of all and, therefore, seeks to balance individual freedoms with sensitivity to, and awareness of, the rights and human dignity of others. Scripps recognizes the obligation to respond to the acts and effects of discrimination and bigotry by building an academic community in which people learn to respect and value one another for their differences.
Scripps believes that learning and teaching thrive in an environment conducive to freedom of belief, inquiry, and speech, assuring expression of the broadest range of opinions and beliefs. Scripps commits itself to maintaining that freedom, subject only to regulation of time, place, and manner.
Recognizing that such expressions may offend, provoke, and disturb, Scripps affirms its dedication to encourage rather than limit expression. At the same time, Scripps encourages community members to show mutual respect and understanding and to employ reasoned civil discourse.
Scripps seeks to secure, through its academic and community policies and practices, through its actions and the services it provides to students, faculty, and staff, the widest appreciation for all groups and individuals; to combat discrimination and misunderstanding; and to forge a better and more just society.
Each member of the Scripps community affirms, by continuing participation in college life, acceptance of personal responsibility and obligation to the community in assuring that these principles are upheld in all aspects of our lives together.
Adopted by Scripps students, faculty, and staff in 1992.