The Core Program is a cross-disciplinary array of courses required of all students providing the intellectual foundation for Occidental's commitment to excellence, equity, service, and community.
In addition to the First Year Seminars, students must complete courses in:
With the exception of the language proficiency requirement, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate examinations may not be used to satisfy any Core requirements. Transfer courses taken online may not be used to satisfy Core Requirements.
Since some courses meeting the U.S. Diversity, Regional Focus, and Global Connections requirements also meet the requirements for Arts and Pre-1800s, it is possible to meet two core requirements by taking one course. Individual courses can meet a maximum of two Core Requirements.
All Core requirements should be completed by the end of the sophomore year.
In addition to the primary goals of all FYS courses to develop effective college-level writing and enhance critical thinking, Fall FYS courses pay attention to and provide assistance with navigating the transition to college life; the writing focus is creation of multiple thesis-driven essays. Spring FYS courses center scholarly inquiry and research that includes an introduction to information literacy; the writing focus is the production of a long (10-12 pages) research paper.
- Effective College-Level Writing. Students will demonstrate proficiency in expository essay writing as they gain and refine their knowledge of the conventions of academic discourse.
- Critical Thinking. Students will be provided with opportunities to develop, strengthen, and demonstrate their ability to think critically and engage in academic discourse.
- Scholarly Inquiry. Students will demonstrate understanding of the practices of scholarly inquiry by identifying research questions; collecting, evaluating, and interpreting evidence; and communicating the findings.
- Transition to College. Students will become familiar with the norms of college academic life and demonstrate knowledge of the curricular and co-curricular resources available to promote their academic success.
- Information Literacy. Students will be introduced to the concept of information literacy and be expected to understand how to find and evaluate academic sources. They will also learn about scholarly citation methods and purposes, and become aware of the importance of academic honesty.
Student Learning Outcomes
- Effective College-Level Writing Outcome 1.1: Students will develop writing that responds with insight and originality to the criteria and requirements of the assignment, demonstrating their understanding of the course materials and topics through the use of specific examples and evidence from scholarly sources.
- Effective College-Level Writing Outcome 1.2: Students will develop writing using features appropriate for college-level expository papers including: thesis or main idea, clarity of focus, organization, and conventions of grammar, style, mechanics, and usage.
- Critical Thinking Outcome 2.1: Students will have the ability to clearly and accurately represent the precise question, problem, or issue under discussion.
- Critical Thinking Outcome 2.2: Students will have the ability to identify assumptions, implications, and practical consequences of the question, problem or issue under discussion.
- Scholarly Inquiry Outcome 3.1: Students will gain experience in crafting research questions, locating and evaluating sources, deploying evidence and situating their scholarly inquiry within scholarly conversations.
- Scholarly Inquiry Outcome 3.2: Students will construct well-reasoned conclusions or solutions with regard to the question, problem or issue under discussion, and test these conclusions or solutions against relevant criteria and standards.
- Transition to College Outcome 4.1: Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge about academic and co-curricular resources and support services.
- Transition to College Outcome 4.2: Students will be able to demonstrate knowledge about academic support services that aid in the transition to college from high school.
- Information Literacy 5.1: Students will be able to identify their information needs and match them with appropriate search strategies and tools.
Culture (12 units)
The Culture requirements continue and expand on the FYS courses by situating the study of culture and the arts in specific disciplinary, historical, and geographical contexts.
Every student is required to successfully complete a minimum of three courses in academic departments that provide significant experiences in U.S. Diversity, Regional Focus, and Global Connections. No course can be designated as more than one of U.S. Diversity, Regional Focus, and Global Connections.
U.S. Diversity (CPUD)
The purpose of the CPUD requirement is to deepen students' understanding of the processes, structures, and identities that shape and have shaped human experiences in the United States.
CPUD courses represent the full range of lived identities and experiences in U.S. culture, revealing the structures and processes that have led to historical, social, cultural, artistic, political, legal, scientific, and scholarly patterns of privilege, exclusion and marginalization.
Courses satisfying this requirement use frameworks from different academic fields (such as but not limited to history, ethnic studies, gender studies, cultural studies, and religious studies) to explore how U.S. identity and experience have been shaped by a diverse array of intellectual and cultural influences and traditions.
In courses meeting this requirement, at least two-thirds of the course topics and materials must examine the forces that create, contest, or maintain power, identity and difference in the United States, with a focus on race, religion, ethnicity, class, disability, immigration status, language, gender, and/or sexuality.
Courses satisfying this requirement develop in students two or more of the following outcomes:
A critical awareness of and ability to examine race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, class, disability, immigration status, language, ability, and/or religion in the U.S. through: historical inquiry; the study of artistic, cultural, social, political, legal, and economic expressions; and/or the analysis of social and/or scientific data.
A critical understanding of and ability to analyze the contingent and unstable nature of cultural identities and relationships, as well as the specific ways individual, collective, and institutional systems of power and oppression in the U.S. have worked to normalize and naturalize those contingent identities.
An ability to apply methodological and/or experience-based approaches to investigate issues of diversity, equity, and structural inequalities in the U.S.
Regional Focus (CPRF)
The purpose of the Core Program Regional Focus (CPRF) requirement is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of at least one specific geographical, national, or cultural region of the world outside of the U.S. A CPRF course focuses on a region through unifying characteristics, which could be literary, artistic, religious, philosophical, economic, ecological, ideological, political, social, intellectual, linguistic, scientific, etc.
Courses satisfying this requirement examine a region outside of the United States without privileging a U.S.-centric perspective. Course descriptions should indicate the specific region and the unifying characteristics that define the region. Note: if more than half of a course examines connections between multiple regions or is intended to focus on people, objects or ideas that circulate across boundaries, then that course might be better designated as fulfilling the Core Program Global Connections (CPGC) requirement.
In courses meeting this requirement, at least two-thirds of the course topics and materials must include a focus on a specified region outside of the United States.
Courses satisfying this requirement develop in students three or more of the following outcomes:
- A critical understanding of institutions, culture, intellectual traditions, history, physical environment, and/or other significant aspects of a region outside the U.S.
- A critical understanding of a region’s culture as constructed by individuals and/or groups in that region, and their perspective on the forces that create, contest, or maintain power, identity and difference.
- A critical understanding of the significance of the global and geopolitical position of the selected region.
- An ability to apply methodological and/or experience-based approaches to investigate institutions, culture, intellectual traditions, history, and/or the physical environment in the region.
Global Connections (CPGC)
The purpose of the Core Program Global Connections (CPGC) requirement is to help students develop a global, transnational and/or comparative understanding of geographical, national, political or cultural regions of the world as well as the circulation of people, objects, institutions, and ideas across their boundaries.
Courses satisfying this requirement have a global or transnational perspective and/or a comparative framework. CPGC courses must explore how systems, ideas, or themes are implemented or manifested in two or more regions. The systems, themes, or ideas may include but are not limited to: literary, artistic, religious, philosophical, economic, environmental, ideological, political, social, intellectual, scientific, linguistic, etc.
In courses meeting this requirement, the central learning objective of the course must focus on comparisons, interactions, and/or interconnected systems, institutions, themes or ideas in two or more regions of the world or include discussion of the circulation of people, objects, and/or ideas across boundaries.
Courses satisfying this requirement develop in students two or more of the following outcomes:
- An ability to apply methodological and/or experience-based approaches to investigate similarities and differences in how systems and forms of cultural expression are interconnected in two or more regions.
- A critical understanding of the topics, practices, systems, or issues that provide a basis for the circulation of people and ideas across geographic, regional, national, state, and imperial boundaries.
- A critical understanding of how global institutions and/or systemic structures produce, reinforce or challenge hierarchies and inequ(al)ities.
Arts and Pre-1800s
In addition to the three courses in Culture, every student will successfully complete the following two requirements:
Students must complete at least one 4-unit course (or a total of 4 units) that treats the theory or practice of the fine arts (designated CPFA).
The purpose of the Core Program Arts (CPFA) requirement is to provide students with opportunities to pursue creative endeavors and study the importance of skillfully and critically responding to the arts and audiovisual culture. These courses are intended to help students understand how creative works are conceived, produced, and disseminated, as well as how they are analyzed and interpreted.
Courses satisfying this requirement focus on art-making and/or cultural and historical understandings about creative works of art. In courses meeting this requirement, at least two-thirds of the course must engage with creative production, art criticism, and/or art historical analysis.
Through completion of the Arts requirement students will achieve at least two of the five outcomes listed below:
- Cultivate artistic literacy through critical analysis, intensive looking or listening, repeated practice, and/or engagement with materials.
- Contextualize the role of artists and/or theorize creative works in relation to historical, political, social, cultural, aesthetic, and/or economic phenomena.
- Create works of art including, but not limited to, painting, sculpture, photography, film, interdisciplinary media, installation, performance, creative writing, theater, dance, and music.
- Develop proficiency in discipline-specific techniques of artistic expression.
- Establish an artistic voice through experimentation, collaboration, exhibition, critique, and presentation.
The purpose of the pre-1800 requirement is to demonstrate to students the importance of the past. Across a wide range of disciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches including those of the Humanities, Arts, and Humanistic Social Sciences the study of the past broadens our awareness of human conditions and experience, enables us to situate the present in an historical trajectory, and provides us with resources for crafting our future.
In courses meeting this requirement, at least 50% of the course topics and materials are drawn from before 1800 CE.
Courses satisfying this requirement develop in students two or more of the following outcomes:
- A critical awareness of how the past informs the present, providing an understanding of the conditions that made possible the break with or the persistence of social structures, organizational hierarchies, artistic productions, or patterns of thought.
- A critical awareness of artistic productions, social structures, organizational hierarchies, political economies, or patterns of thought and practices that characterize historical communities and the experiences of peoples of the past.
- A critical awareness of the past as a resource for imagining new ways of thinking, acting, organizing society, and forming community.
- The critical skills of impartially, reasonably, accurately, and fairly understanding and representing a variety of ways of thinking and acting and of engaging with unfamiliar worldviews, ideas, and practices, in turn enabling students to responsibly navigate the pluralistic world of the present.
Science and Mathematics
Every student is required to have a basic understanding of the theory and methods of the sciences. Accordingly, students are required to successfully complete a total of three courses (at least 12 units) that provide experiences in the sciences and mathematics. Of the three, at least one course (4-units) must be a laboratory science (CPLS).
The purpose of the Core Program Lab Science (CPLS) requirement is to engage students in the empirical study of phenomena, to support or falsify a hypothesis using a scientific approach of structured observations or experimentation, data analysis, and use of evidence. The course experience should simulate or replicate the methods of exploration and discovery used by analysts and experts working on problems or exploring hypotheses through hands-on data collection in a field or laboratory setting.
Courses that meet the Core Program Lab Science (CPLS) requirement include hands-on data collection through observation or experimentation in the field or laboratory; the use of numerical methods such as data analysis and modeling; and emphasize and demonstrate fundamental concepts of scientific inquiry (such as falsifiability and reproducibility, recognition of error, uncertainty, and bias).
CPLS courses are regularly scheduled classes typically held on a weekly basis, and are usually, composed of class meetings where some mixture of instructor-led explanation occurs (“lecture” sessions) coupled with practical sessions (“labs”). Labs are supplementary class meetings where students apply, experience, or practice what they have learned in “lecture” by building or running simulations, making observations, taking measurements, doing hypothesis-driven data collection and analysis, conducting experiments, and/or interpreting the results of these empirical experiences. NOTE: Neither independent studies nor directed research projects with individual faculty members can fulfill the CPLS requirement.
Through completion of the CPLS requirement all students will achieve all of the following learning outcomes listed below:
- Learn and practice disciplinary-specific scientific tools and strategies in a laboratory or field setting, such as observing phenomena, designing experiments, and gathering or collecting primary data.
- Learn appropriate technical vocabulary and create relevant scientific communication data products (such as graphs, summary tables of results, laboratory reports, etc.).
- Apply the fundamental concepts in, and prior knowledge of, the discipline to guide what questions are asked, and which discipline-specific methods should be used to answer those questions
- Consider the nature, scope, limitations, and broader impacts of empirical scientific investigation (i.e. data analysis, controlled experiments, statistics, applied mathematical modeling, etc.).
The purpose of the Core Program Math/Science (CPMS) requirement is to ensure that students have significant exposure to, and experience with, disciplinary-specific thinking based on systematic observation, the analysis of data, and/or the use of mathematical concepts and formal methods of reasoning.
Courses that meet the Core Program Math or Science (CPMS) requirement include all of the following:
- provide instruction in or require mathematical, quantitative, computational or analytical skills;
- engage students in scientific thinking and its application to the world around them;
- include discussion of "the scientific world view, scientific methods of inquiry and the nature of the scientific enterprise" (American Association for the Advancement of Science's Project 2061).
Through completion of the CPMS requirement all students will achieve three or more of the outcomes listed below:
- Demonstrate understanding of the scientific method by doing the following: making observations, articulating hypotheses, testing hypotheses, and drawing conclusions.
- Demonstrate understanding of formal descriptions of abstract concepts in science or mathematics by correctly using and interpreting mathematical notation or discipline-specific scientific/technical vocabulary.
- Describe, develop, implement, and/or replicate an ordered sequence of steps to demonstrate scientific or mathematical results (e.g., execute algorithms, solve problems, prove theorems, create chemical products, conduct experiments, produce software, make observations, etc).
- Describe, identify, explain, observe and/or critically examine multiple examples of scientific phenomena or mathematical concepts.
- Discuss specific examples of social, practical or ethical implications of mathematics and/or science.
All students must achieve Language 102-level proficiency in a language other than English. Students may not take Language 101 for credit if they have taken more than one quarter in college or more than one year in high school (grades 10-12).
Placement: Students may begin study of a new language at the 101 level if they have not taken it previously for more than one quarter in college or more than one year in high school (grades 10-12). They are not required to take the College’s placement exam. First-year students may take the Occidental College Placement Exam either on-line for French, German, and Spanish, or during orientation for other languages taught at Occidental if:
They have taken more than one quarter in college or more than one year in high school (grades 10-12)
They have participated in after-school or weekend language programs; or
They have extensive background in but no formal training in a language.
Students can fulfill Occidental's language requirement in one of five ways:
By completing a language course numbered 102 at Occidental, or the equivalent course in any foreign language at another accredited institution.
By receiving an exemption-level score on Occidental's placement and/or exemption exam given during orientation.
By earning an appropriate Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) II score (560 or above on French, Spanish, or Latin; 550 or above on German or Chinese; 540 or above on Japanese; or 560 for other languages)
By earning an Advanced Placement test score of 4 or above on a language exam.
For some languages not taught at Occidental, students may fulfill the language requirement by taking the ACTFL oral proficiency interview (OPI) and the writing proficiency test (WPT) in the languages currently available. Please contact the Specialist for Language Education about demonstrating proficiency for a language not currently taught at Occidental College.
International students whose language of education has been in a language other than English and who have completed six years of elementary education or more in a foreign language are exempt from the foreign language requirement. Such students should contact the chair of one of the foreign language departments to confirm their fulfillment of the foreign language requirement.
Except for the FYS requirement, the Core Requirements for Transfer Students are identical to the Core Requirements for students matriculating at Occidental in their first year. Transfer students are not required to take FYS courses, but are expected to complete the equivalent of two FYS courses (8 units or 2 courses). Transfer students may meet their Core Requirements through equivalent courses taken before matriculation at Occidental, or through the courses designated as meeting Core Requirements taken at Occidental, or (as is the case for most transfer students) through a combination of both. Appropriate equivalents to Occidental’s Core Requirements are determined in consultation with the Core Program Office and the Registrar's Office.