Whittier Scholars Program




The Whittier Scholars Program offers students the opportunity to pursue a self-designed education at Whittier College. The Program embodies Whittier College’s mission and values through an individualized set of requirements tailored to each student. Students in the Whittier Scholars Program (Scholars) integrate all aspects of their college experience into individualized “Educational Designs,” which are customized educational pathways designed to actualize personal aptitudes and ambitions. These pathways may include any of the majors or minors offered at Whittier or self-designed majors or minors. In a series of small seminars, students synthesize learning experiences across a spectrum of fields, discern their academic focus, and work together with others to connect their co-curricular engagements with their aspirations and burgeoning skills.


An iterative design process affords students opportunities to imagine, plan, practice, and reflect on their learning, their goals, and their educational choices. Students create their Educational Designs with close mentorship from members of the Whittier Scholars Council and other faculty. Educational Designs incorporate 4-6 courses (8-13 credits) in the Whittier Scholars Program, a carefully curated selection of courses from all divisions of the College, at least one off-campus learning experience, a mentored capstone project, and a digital portfolio that reflects each student’s goals and growing proficiencies.

Program Goal 

The Whittier Scholars curriculum is designed to foster effective expression in multiple modes and media, cultivate community engagement and a habit of self-reflection, and instantiate practical and scholarly skills appropriate to students’ academic and professional goals.

Program Objectives

  1. PURPOSE: Whittier Scholars develop, refine, and pursue their own educational goals.   
  2. INTEGRATION: Whittier Scholars synthesize their achievements and reflect on their learning process in a portfolio of work in multiple modes adapted to various audiences.   
  3. BREADTH: Whittier Scholars attain foundational knowledge in a variety of methodologies or theoretical perspectives. 
  4. DEPTH: Whittier Scholars demonstrate the development of proficiencies relevant to their self-designed education through the completion of original work.   
  5. PRAXIS: Whittier Scholars integrate academic competencies with co-curricular and off-campus learning experiences involving research, study abroad, internships, or service learning. 

Course Descriptions

WSP 101 – Individual, Identity, Community 3 credits


This gateway course for the Scholars Program asks students to explore enduring questions such as; the relationship between the individual and the community; the role of education and the life of the mind; and the ways in which values and affect influence the formation of our questions. The course is designed to help students discern their own goals for their education and to yield fundamental research, communication, and problem-solving skills. Director’s permission required. 

WSP 201 – Designing Your Education 1 credit


This course requires students to think about their educational choices in the context of their own values, interests, aspirations, and aptitudes. Students define specific educational goals as well as pathways to achieve them. In-class examples, discussion, and reflection guide students as they develop their Educational Design Portfolio, which maps educational goals onto courses and experiences to be acquired during their academic journey. The course prepares students for the Educational Design Defense, which typically takes place during or immediately following WSP 201. Pre-req or co-req: WSP101. 

WSP 299 — Internship Reflection 1-3 credits


This course, which must be taken simultaneously with an off-campus internship, provides the opportunity for students to reflect on their internship experiences, deliberately and consistently connecting their experiences to their academic learning objectives, and comparing experiences with those of their classmates. The goal of the course is to enhance the extent to which internships provide a learning opportunity for students. Director’s permission required. Permission required if a student has already taken WSP399. Pre-req: WSP101.

WSP 301 — Project and Portfolio Design 1 credit


In this course, students practice research skills and create an action plan for their Whittier Scholars senior project, which may include a capstone project in a major. Through peer interaction and with the mentorship of a faculty sponsor, students define the shape and scope of their project, and prepare a bibliography, timeline, and proposal for the project. Additionally, students revise their Educational Design Portfolio to integrate evidence of progress toward their educational goals. This course prepares students for the Senior Project/Portfolio Report meeting, which typically takes place during or immediately following WSP301. Pre-req: approved Educational Design.

WSP 399 — Practicuum 1 credit


This course, which must be taken upon completion of a non-internship off-campus experience, provides space to process and reflect on the experience. Through peer interaction, students will conceptually integrate their individual off-campus experience into their Educational Design Portfolio, and plan their next steps for off-campus learning during or beyond college. Must be taken in the term following the completion of the non-internship off-campus experience. Permission required if a student has already taken WSP299. Pre-req: WSP101.

WSP 401 – Senior Project Workshop 1 credit


In this workshop, students review their peers’ senior projects as works-in-progress while they complete their own senior project. Pre-req: WSP301. 


WSP 495 – Interdisciplinary Independent Study 1-4 credit


Students for whom no course is offered that will serve as a senior seminar may take this independent study course with either the project sponsor or another faculty member, as decided in the Progress Report meeting. Pre-req: WSP301. 

WSP 499 – Senior Symposium 1 credit

Generally taken during graduating semester. Practice for, attendance at, and presentation of the senior symposium and final Educational Design Portfolio. Pre-req or co-req: WSP 401.