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.
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 Fellows are selected to participate in the work of the Institute. Fellows are chosen by nomination of the faculty and receive one course credit for their participation.
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.
1. Fine Arts
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.
3. Natural Sciences
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.
4. Social Sciences
Social science offerings at Scripps include economics, history, politics, and psychology. Scripps and Pitzer Colleges have a cooperative program in anthropology. Sociology is an off-campus major at Pitzer or Pomona College.
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.
Honors in the Major
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 Fellow to the Humanities Institute.