Advising Handbook

advising center handbook

Advising Handbook

Welcome to the Occidental College Advising Handbook! This resource is intended to provide students and their faculty advisors with information and guidance related to Occidental’s academic program. While this document is focused on advice for new first-year students, continuing students and transfer students may find it to be useful as well. Below you will find entries for each of the College’s more than thirty majors, as well as information about academic resources and supporting offices.

An Important Note about the College Catalog

The complete requirements for each major and minor can be found in the College Catalog. The Catalog is the contract between Occidental College and each student. Within it lies all of our academic policies and requirements that students must fulfill in order to earn their degree. Students are required to complete the degree requirements, including Core requirements, as found in the catalog for the year a student enters the College. The requirements for a major, minor, and/or any concentrations, however, are found in the catalog for the year in which a student declares their first major.  A student’s catalog year is displayed in the Grades & Academic Records/Advising Transcript module on myOxy. Catalogs dating back until Fall 2009 can be found online at:

Academic Resources

Advising Center Library/Center for Digital Library Arts (CDLA) Writing Center
Pre-Health Advising National and International Fellowship Academic Mastery Program (AMP)
Pre-Law Advising Peer Learning (Tutoring) Scientific Scholars Achievement Program (SSAP)



American Studies

Minor: Yes

Chair: Prof. Sharla Fett

American Studies is the interdisciplinary exploration of American culture, with an emphasis on the competing voices, actions, and visions of the American experience.  Offering multiple perspectives on American history, literature, politics, society, and culture, American Studies enables students to interrogate what it has meant to be an “American" both at home and abroad, to explore the relationship between the United States and other countries in the world, and to gain a more complex understanding of the tension between the national narrative of American exceptionalism and counternarratives centering the experiences of a range of Americans themselves.

The American Studies major consists of a minimum of 10 courses (40 units). Students must complete five required courses: one introductory course in U.S. history (HIST 101 or 102); one introductory course in U.S. literature (ENGL 189 or 289); one course on theory and methods (AMST 290); the junior seminar (AMST 390) or an approved 300-level AMST course; and the capstone senior seminar (AMST 490). In addition to these courses, students will take five electives. These will consist of two courses from each of the two thematic clusters (“cultural productions" and “historical perspectives"); and one additional elective chosen in consultation with the faculty adviser. Students are encouraged to take AMST 290 during their first or second year. AMST 101 is encouraged, but not required for the major.

The American Studies Minor consists of a minimum of 3 required courses (U.S. history, American literature, and theory and methods) and 2 electives for a total of 20 units.

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Art & Art History

Minor: Yes

Chair: Prof. Amy Lyford 

The mission of the department of Art and Art History (AAH) is to educate students in the richness and complexity of the visual arts. We offer a broad range of courses and students choose an emphasis either in Art History or in Studio Art. The curriculum is integrated with the vibrant art scene of Los Angeles (and beyond) through field trips, community based learning, site specific projects, collaboration with area arts organizations and research, and internships opportunities. Each emphasis consists of twelve courses or 48 units.

Students interested in pursuing the Art History emphasis should begin by taking one of the foundational ARTH survey courses: ARTH 150 (History of Urban Design), ARTH 160 (Introduction to East Asian Art), ARTH 170 (Introduction to Early European Art), or ARTH 180 (Introduction to Later European and American Art). Art History students must take three of these four courses as part of the major.

Students interested in the Studio Art should plan to complete the three beginning ARTS courses during their first and second years: ARTS 102 (Painting Fundamentals), ARTS 103 (Sculpture Fundamentals); or ARTS 105 (Printmaking Fundamentals). ARTS 101, ARTS 104, ARTS 106, and ARTS 109 may only be taken as electives and do not count as required beginning courses. In addition, Studio Arts students should complete ARTH 180 by the end of the sophomore year. Because the maturation of creative ability requires time as well as effort, students who may desire a major in studio art should consult with departmental advisors and begin taking studio courses as early as possible in their first year, and should declare a major early in the sophomore year.

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Minor: Yes

Program Co-Chairs: Prof. Andrew Udit and Prof. Gary Schindelman

Biochemistry is a dynamic field of study addressing the interests of students with aspirations in medicine/dentistry, biotechnology, life-science research, and science teaching. While all Biochemistry majors complete a core sequence of classes in the major, each student is expected to personalize their degree with upper-level elective options depending upon their aspiration.

While the major can be completed in three years, several required courses have year-long prerequisites and students are strongly advised to begin their study in their first year by taking the on-line Chemistry Placement Exam. This exam assesses current knowledge of Chemistry topics and the basic math skills necessary for success in general chemistry as well as advising an appropriate first-year starting course (Chem. 100, or 120, or 130).

A solid understanding of general chemistry topics is expected for students in Introduction to Cell and Molecular Biology (Bio 130), a course that is usually taken the semester after the first chemistry class.  Depending upon their background, students are also advised to begin mathematics in their first year. Typically, students working toward the Biochemistry Degree take two math/science classes each semester and are advised to actively participate in the AMP and SSAP programs associated with their math/science classes. For specific details, please see the program web page or contact one of the Co-Chairs.

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Minor: Yes

Chair: Prof. Joseph Schulz

Biology is a rapidly expanding, multifaceted discipline, full of possibilities for undergraduate research and for stimulating graduate study and employment after Occidental. Within an evolutionary framework, our program investigates the interactions between molecules, cells, organisms, populations, and ecosystems that constitute life on earth. Occidental’s Biology major includes optional emphases in Cell and Molecular Biology and Marine Biology, as well as an Environmental Science Concentration. All tracks start with the same group of gateway courses.

Students interested in majoring in Biology should start to taking bio classes as soon as possible! An ideal first year schedule is to take Marine Biology (BIO 105),  Organisms on Earth (Bio 110), or General Zoology (Bio 115) in the fall semester, along with Foundations of General Chemistry (CHEM 120 or 130). This would be followed in the spring semester by Cell and Molecular Biology (BIO 130) and Organic Chemistry I (Chem 220). Note that CHEM 120/130 is a prerequisite for both BIO 130 and CHEM 220.

The biology department has a very strong undergraduate research program. Students who are interested in research should start discussing these opportunities with the department during the first year.

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Black Studies

Minor: Yes

Chair: Prof. Erica Ball

Black Studies welcome students from all backgrounds who are interested in exploring Black diasporic intellectual traditions. With both a major and minor as well as a curriculum comprised of cross-listed courses, there are numerous ways to enhance ones studies in the humanities and social sciences.

Ideally, students will take BLST 110 before in enrolling in higher-level BLST courses. BLST 110 is currently being offered in the Spring semester. Additionally, there are other 100-level courses that first-year students might consider, including MUSC 111 (Topics in Jazz History), MUSC 104 (Music of Africa and the Middle East), and ENGL 142 (Joyful Noise! On Black Literature and Musicality).

There is no structured path, however, as an interdisciplinary major and minor, students can construct their own concentration by taking more courses in one of the three fields that comprise the major/minor: Expressive Forms, Historical Perspectives, and Politics and Theory. Students are encouraged to read the Black Studies mission statement and to talk with affiliated faculty, especially members of the advisory board (Courtney Baker and Erica Ball [AMST], Regina Freer and Ainsley Lesure [Politics], Sharla Fett [History], Movindri Reddy [Diplomacy and World Affairs], and James Ford [English]) for additional information about the program. They should also keep an eye out for the many events sponsored and co-sponsored by Black Studies. Follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date!

Black Studies will be hosting an event marking the launch of the major and minor on September 6, 2018.

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Minor: Yes

Chair: Prof. Michael Hill 

Chemistry is the study of change, and it has become critical to solving modern challenges in medicine, energy, materials, and more. The chemistry major is built around a core curriculum that students personalize to their specific interests with elective courses. At the core of Oxy’s chemistry major is a dedication to undergraduate research, and interested students should seek out research opportunities with chemistry faculty. Appropriate entry into the major is determined by the Chemistry Placement Exam.  This exam assesses current knowledge of Chemistry topics and the basic math skills necessary for success in general chemistry as well as advising an appropriate first-year starting course (Chem 100, or 120, or 130). Students are also strongly advised to begin mathematics in their first year. First-year students should consider only taking two math-science courses per semester.

A sample first-year course plan is as follows:

All chemistry students are encouraged to actively participate in the AMP and SSAP programs associated with their math-science classes.

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Chinese Studies

Minor: Yes

Major Coordinator: Prof. Meimei Zhang

The Chinese Studies major is offered by the Department of East Asian Studies and is intended for students primarily interested in the study of Chinese language and literature. The aim of the major is to help students attain a high degree of fluency, with much of the coursework done in Chinese.

First-year students who are interested in the Chinese Studies major are advised to take CHIN 101 (Elementary Chinese I) and CHIN 102 (Elementary Chinese II) in their first year as gateway courses. Please contact Major Coordinator Prof. Meimei Zhang ( with any questions. 

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Cognitive Science

Minor: Yes

Chair: Prof. Sasha Sherman

Cognitive Science brings together neuroscience, philosophy, psychology, computer science, and linguistics in an interdisciplinary study of the mind. Our major is flexible and has multiple introductory courses with no prerequisites, including COGS 101 (Introduction to Cognitive Science), COGS 104 (Introduction to Neuroscience), COGS 111 (The Origins of Knowledge), COGS 220 (Animal Cognition), and COGS 230 (Mind, Brain, and Behavior). All of these courses count towards the major.

For students interested in becoming majors, we suggest taking COGS 101 during the first year and COGS 201 (Empirical Methods in Cognitive Science) during sophomore year. All interested students should meet with a Cognitive Science faculty member early on to discuss opportunities for research, study abroad, and more. If you wish to be invited to our events (such as seminars, social events, and open advising sessions), please contact the department chair.

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Comparative Studies in Literature & Culture

Minor: Yes

Chair: Prof. Damian Stocking

As as a major and department almost entirely unique to Occidental, Comparative Studies in Literature and Culture (CSLC) invites its students to participate in an inquiry into the entangled fields of possibility and uncertainty that constitute the cultures of others—as well as our own. In particular, we seek to understand the role that language and literature play in the making (and unmaking) of those general horizons of intelligibility within which we and others dwell. Less interested in simply learning a certain number of nouns, verbs, and literary tropes, our real interest is in how those nouns, verbs, and tropes help constitute a world.

CSLC offers students the opportunity to design, in consultation with department faculty, a fully interdisciplinary major that engages at least one specific literature and language, and one specialized external discipline of their own choosing. Students might elect, for example, to study German literature in relation to music, Ancient Greek Lit in relation to biology, Russian prose and poetry in relation to film; alternatively, students might wish to compare the literature and culture forms of different language groups—Roman epic in relation to Spanish novel, Ancient Greek, and modern French philosophy, and so forth.

At present, the department offers Ancient Greek, Latin, German, and Russian; in 2019 we will additionally be offering Chinese and Japanese. Students at present also have the opportunity to study (with associated faculty) the Uto-Aztecan language of Nahuatl, and Ancient and Modern Persian. The incorporation of other languages and literatures into the major (Arabic, French, etc) is also possible, by petition and in consultation with relevant faculty.

Students interested in pursuing a major, double-major, or minor with CSLC are encouraged to take any 100 or 200-level CSLC course in their first or second year, and to make an appointment with any one of our faculty members.  

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Computer Science

Minor: Yes

Chair: Prof. Kathryn Leonard 

At Occidental College, the study of Computer Science (CS) emphasizes an understanding not only of the process of computing, but also the promise and limitations of computers within an intellectual, societal, and ethical framework. All 100-level COMP courses—including 113 (Data Science), 146 (Statistics), 131 (Fundamentals of CS), and 149 (Math Foundations of CS)—are appropriate for students with no computer science experience. For students unsure if they want to major in CS, we recommend starting with 131, which will provide an introduction that should determine their levels of interest and enjoyment in the subject. Students with previous experience that includes object-oriented programming (such as a 4 or 5 in the AP CS exam) can obtain a waiver for 131. Once students have completed 131, they should enroll in 229 (Data Structures), the gateway course to upper division courses. Students may also take 239 (Computer Organization). Both courses are required for the major.

There are three pathways through the major: regular CS, CS+Math for students who have a more theoretical interest, and CS+X for students who want to link their computer science knowledge to another discipline (discipline X). CS+X requires a proposal that is linked from our website. Note that we typically offer only 2-3 upper division electives each semester, and that our junior writing requirement is spring of the junior year. Careful schedule planning is recommended for majors, and students who wish to study abroad should talk to their advisor.

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Critical Theory & Social Justice

Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Caroline Heldman

Critical Theory and Social Justice (CTSJ) is the only undergraduate academic department of its kind in the US. Since 2008, CTSJ students and faculty have engaged in a rigorous interdisciplinary analysis of our complex era of globalization and social injustice. CTSJ’s curriculum guides you through a rich intellectual history of cultural theories, civil rights struggles, and liberation movements in an integrated approach to the humanities and social sciences.

The major in Critical Theory & Social Justice requires eleven courses (44 units) These eleven courses must include: one course at the 100 level, one course at the 200 level, two courses at the 300 level and two methods courses.  Additionally, all students are required to take the Junior Seminar (Spring semester), the Senior Seminar (Fall semester), and the Social Justice Practicum. Students are encouraged to study abroad in the first semester of their junior year.

Courses at the 100- or 200-level are most suitable for first-year students, and we reserve seats in these courses for first-year students. If you are interested in majoring in CTSJ, you should consider taking CTSJ 186 (Introduction to Critical Theory), CTSJ 105 (Immigration and Education), or CTSJ 180 (Stupidity) in the Fall semester of 2018 and CTSJ 107 (Introduction to Postcolonial Theory) or CTSJ 160 (Introduction to Feminist Studies) in Spring 2019.

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Diplomacy & World Affairs

Minor Available: No

Chair: Prof. Lan Chu

Diplomacy and World Affairs (DWA) is Occidental College’s nationally recognized international relations major. This innovative department grounds students in international relations theory, security and human security, international organizations, economic development, and case studies regarding state-building, nationalism, religion, identity, and ethnic conflict. Recognizing the variety of academic connections that can inform the study of global politics, offerings in the Economics, History, Politics, Religious Studies, and Urban and Environmental Policy departments can be used by students to supplement the DWA major's core offerings.

The DWA major consists of six core courses (24 units), a language requirement, and at least four more courses in international relations, two of which must be DWA courses. Students interested in the major should consider taking DWA 101 (International Relations) and ECON 101 (Principles of Economics I) during their first year as these courses are prerequisites for DWA 103 (Introduction to Global Political Economy). To fulfill the major’s language requirement, students must complete the equivalent of four college semesters of one language (202-level), or two college semesters each of two languages (102-level).

DWA students are strongly encouraged to participate in study and research programs abroad and on Occidental's UN program in New York. Students interested in this rich array of opportunities should work with an advisor to plan their curriculum to include language and other prerequisite courses as early as possible.

East Asian Studies

Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Alexander Day

The East Asian Studies major is intended for students who wish to focus on a particular disciplinary issue in East Asian Studies—art history, history, politics, sociology, religion, or a transnational issue. First-year students who are interested in the East Asian Studies major are advised to take an East Asian survey course (History 141, Religious Studies 160, Art and Art History 160, or Politics 227) as a gateway course. Please contact the Department Chair for questions.

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Mary Lopez

Economics is the study of decision-making and policy-making in the context of a world constrained by scarcity. We aim to help our students understand how decisions are linked to incentives and how policies can help align individual incentives with social objectives, including an efficient use of the world's resources and an equitable distribution of its output. We also aim to equip our students with the rigorous theoretical and empirical tools of our profession to enable them to better analyze and guide the decision making of individuals, the conduct of businesses and nonprofit enterprises, and the policies of governments and international organizations.

The Department aims to ensure that students majoring in Economics (1) understand the framework that professional economists use to analyze social and economic issues; (2) recognize how economic behavior and policies can affect both the aggregate level of prosperity and differentials in prosperity across members of society distinguished by characteristics such as race, gender, and socioeconomic status; (3) have proficient decision-making and problem-solving skills; (4) are competent in writing and speaking; and (5) possess critical-thinking skills that enable them to apply the theoretical and empirical tools of professional economists to a wide range of issues.

Students interested in Economics, typically complete the introductory sequence (Econ 101 and Econ 102) in their first year. We also recommend that students complete Calculus I, as well as statistics (Math 146), since these courses will be required for progression to the intermediate courses (Econ 250, 251 and Econ 272). The major can be completed in fewer than four years, but it is almost impossible to complete the major in less than three years.

For more information, please reach out to the department chair, as well as to the Economics Student Association (

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: James Ford

The English major consists of a sequence of courses designed first to familiarize students with the field and then to help them develop a more detailed knowledge of specific historical periods in British, American and Anglophone literature. Students interested in the English major are encouraged to begin in the second semester of their first year by taking one of our survey courses: ENGL 287 (a survey of English literature before 1660), ENGL 288 (a survey of British and Anglophone literature after 1660), ENGL 289 (a survey of American Literature from its origins to the present). English 289 is occasionally offered to first year students in the fall semester as English 189 and may be substituted for 289.

The English major also offers a creative writing emphasis. English 280 is our introduction to creative writing and is open to students in the second semester of first year. 

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Food Studies

Minor Only

Chair: Prof. John Lang

The Food Studies minor at Oxy invites you to advance your research and classroom studies of complex food-related issues across a broad range of curricula. With exposure to interdisciplinary resources across the breadth of liberal arts, you will learn to understand the complex contemporary and historical factors that affect food production and consumption as well as human physiological and dietary needs. You will consider food system options—comparing their environmental, sociocultural, economic and health impacts—and you will develop ideas about how you can contribute to solutions and explore multiple pathways to transformation.

Students must complete 20 units of food-related courses. Courses must be taken from a minimum of two different departments. At least three courses applied to the food studies minor must be taken outside the student’s major program.

Students must complete at least one course from the following: KINE 210, SOC 240, UEP 306. 

There are also a number of electives students may use to complete the minor: DWA 283, HIST 346, KINE 298, KINE 306, KINE 398, PSYC 490, RELS 205, UEP 101, UEP 246, UEP 247, UEP 303.

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Hanan Elsayed

Students majoring in French study the rich literary and cultural traditions of the Francophone world. They are strongly encouraged to study abroad in a French-speaking country and to avail themselves of other international opportunities such as the Richter and Maes scholarships. French may be combined with other areas of study in which a critical understanding of Francophone Africa, Canada, Caribbean, Europe is beneficial. Incoming students should take the French placement exam (or identify placement via AP or SAT II scores) and take at least one course in French every semester, starting as early as possible. Further information is available on the department webpage.

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Chris Oze

The mission of the Geology major is to foster in students an understanding of the Earth: the processes that affect its surface and interior; its formation and evolution through time; and its functioning as the physical environment for the living world. Geology majors learn to work together on inquiry-based laboratory and field projects, and each produces a Senior Thesis describing independent research they have undertaken with a faculty mentor. An optional Environmental Science concentration is available within the major.

Students interested in majoring in Geology should consider taking GEO 105 (Earth: Our Environment) or GEO 106 (Earth and the Human Future) during their first year. (Note that GEO 105 is only open to frosh and sophomores.) Either of these courses can be used to fulfill the prerequisite for subsequent courses in the major.

All Geology majors must complete Calculus I (MATH 110 or 114). In addition, majors must complete either Calculus II (MATH 120 or 128) or a department-approved statistics course. Geology is a global science, and so students who have made progress in the major as sophomores are encouraged to study abroad for a semester during their junior year.

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Group Language

Minor Available: No

Program Contact: Prof. Hanan Elsayed

Students interested in the study of two languages, or a language and linguistics, are encouraged to major in Group Language. This unique major allows students to pursue a single major that combines work in two complementary areas. Incoming students are encouraged to take the placement exam for the language(s) and begin taking courses as early as possible. For those students interested in linguistics, Ling 301 should be taken no later than the junior year. Further information is available on the program webpage.

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Alexandra Puerto

History is one of the most vital and comprehensive subjects in the Occidental College curriculum. Our department offers a broad diversity of courses and approaches covering every time period, and cultures from all over the globe.

The History major consists of ten courses, including: three survey courses (the 100 series and some of the 200 series); five additional electives; and HIST 300 (History Colloquium) and HIST 490 (Senior Seminar). The three survey courses should cover different geographic areas (Asia, Europe, Latin America, Middle East & Africa, and United States).

Most courses do not have prerequisites, though students interested in majoring in History may wish to start by taking a 100-level survey course during their first year.

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Independent Pattern of Study

Minor Available: No

Contact: Edmond Johnson (

Occidental offers students, with the consultation of faculty members, the opportunity to design an Independent Pattern of Study (IPS) in lieu of a major program. An Independent Pattern of Study is appropriate when a student has a strong and well-developed motivation to pursue interdisciplinary study in areas where the College does not have a defined program. Such a program is particularly appropriate in newly emerging areas of study. It must, however, be one which is feasible for both the College and the student. The student must demonstrate to the faculty members involved a record of success in completing previous work in courses, independent study and other programs.

A proposal for an IPS should include:

  1. A statement of academic purpose

  2. A program of at least 48 units, including 32 numbered 300 or greater

  3. A proposal for the Comprehensive Project

  4. Plans for faculty involvement, including regular meetings with the entire committee;

  5. An overall GPA of 3.25 or better at the time the IPS proposal is submitted for approval.

The program of study must be endorsed by an IPS committee, composed of three members of the faculty, with no more than two faculty from the same department.

The procedure for proposing an IPS begins with the submission of a proposal to the Student Progress Committee no later than six weeks before the end of the sophomore year. (Appropriate forms are available in the Registrar’s Office.) The proposal, after any necessary revisions, will be presented by the student to the assembled IPS committee in preparation for final submission. Final proposals for IPS must be approved no later than the end of the sophomore year.

The student’s transcript will have “Independent Pattern of Study" listed under the heading of “Major." The title chosen for the IPS will be identified on the transcript as an emphasis in the major.

Questions about the Independent Pattern of Study and the proposal process can be referred to the Director of Advising (Edmond Johnson; 

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Japanese Studies

Minor Available: Yes

Major Coordinator: Prof. Motoko Ezaki

The Japanese Studies major is offered by the Department of East Asian Studies and is intended for students primarily interested in the study of Japanese language and literature. The aim of the major is to help students attain a high degree of fluency, with much of the coursework done in Japanese.

First-year students who are interested in the Japanese Studies major are advised to take JAPN 101 Elementary Japanese I and JAPN 102 Elementary Japanese II in their first year as gateway courses. Please contact Major Coordinator Professor Motoko Ezaki for questions.

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Stuart Rugg

Kinesiology encompasses the study of human development, anatomy, physiology, mechanics, and motor learning. The purpose of this major is to develop and integrate the concepts and principles from each sub-discipline to understand the complexity of the human mind and body. This major prepares students for advanced studies in medicine, physical therapy, dentistry, kinesiology, and other related life science programs.

First-year students interested in pursuing the Kinesiology major should CHEM 120 or 130 during the fall semester and CHEM 240 in the spring semester, and it is strongly recommended that PSYC 101 be completed during their first year. Additionally, Calculus I (MATH 110 or 114); Calculus II (MATH 120 or 128); and Biology 110, 115, or 130 should be taken by the end of the sophomore year. See sample schedule below:

Students interested in Physical Therapy are encouraged to contact Professor Kirk Bentzen ( Students interested in other health related professions, other than Physical Therapy, are encouraged to make an appointment with the Director of the Office of Pre-Health Advising, Angela Wood (

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Latino/a & Latin American Studies

Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Dolores Trevizo

The Latino/a and Latin American Studies (LLAS) major offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of the societies and cultures of Latin America and the Latino and Chicano experience in the United States. By extending the study of "Latin America" beyond the geopolitical borders of the region to include the Caribbean and the United States, the major emphasizes the importance of migrations, interethnic interactions, and cultural exchanges of Indigenous, European, African, and Asian peoples throughout the Americas.

Students interested in the LLAS major should consider taking LLAS 101 (Introduction to Latina/o and Latin American Studies) and/or HIST 150/LLAS 150 (Colonial Latin America) during their first year. (Both are required for the major.) The LLAS major also requires students to complete SPAN 202 (Advanced Spanish) or SPAN 211 (Advanced Spanish for Native Speakers).

LLAS majors are strongly encouraged to participate in study abroad and summer research programs in Latin America or Spain. Our program also encourages students to engage in community-based learning through the different activities available in the Latino and Latin American communities that are integral to the city of Los Angeles.

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Jim L. Brown

The Mathematics department is committed to engaging a diverse range of students in the active study and creative application of the principles, ideas, and methods that characterize mathematics and the mathematical sciences, and offering preparation toward a wide variety of careers and educational pursuits.The major can be structured to provide a solid foundation in the mathematical sciences—pure and applied mathematics, statistics, and operations research—and fields close to mathematics like computer science, actuarial science, and engineering.

The Mathematics major requires all students to complete Calculus I (MATH 110 or 114) and Calculus II (MATH 120 or 128). New students should take the online placement exam or use a qualifying AP score to determine an appropriate starting point. Any student who places out of a Calculus 1 or Calculus 2 class satisfies the corresponding requirement for the Math Major. Additional courses in the required fundamental sequence include MATH 210 (Discrete Mathematics), MATH 212 (Multivariable Calculus), and MATH 214 (Linear Algebra).

The Mathematics department has prepared guidelines for majors considering future study or careers in pure and applied mathematics, education, actuarial science, and computer science. These guidelines are available on our website.

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Media Arts & Culture

Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Allison de Fren

The Media Arts & Culture Department (MAC) integrates media history, theory, and practice, helping students develop critical and creative skills for engaging in an increasingly participatory media culture. We integrate a range of community-based learning, internship, and study abroad opportunities into our curriculum, encouraging students to seek out ways to use media to effect social change and equipping students to stay at the forefront of the rapidly-changing global media landscape. Students majoring in MAC produce senior comprehensives work in one of two concentrations: Critical Media or Media Production. We also offer a 5-course minor. 

In your first year, to find out if MAC is right for you, you’re encouraged to take one of our gateway courses (Fall: MAC 143; Spring: MAC 145, 146) for which we hold seats for first-years, or one of our 200-level elective classes, most of which do not have prerequisites. 

Note that given its rigor and course sequencing, it is not possible to complete the MAC major in less than three years. Please review the full major requirements in the College Catalog carefully. Students must declare the major by the end of their sophomore year. In order to do so they must have successfully completed both of their two required gateway courses with a C+ or better and have met with a MAC faculty advisor to map out a formal plan of study. It is therefore strongly recommended that students intending to major initiate gateway coursework and faculty consultation in their first year. At least one gateway course must be completed by the end of the fall sophomore semester to ensure students are on track for the declaration deadline. 

The 5-course MAC minor is much more flexible and can be combined with other department’s majors in impactful ways. 

Given the demand for the MAC major and the particular sequencing of classes, transfer students are not able to pursue the MAC major but are welcomed to consult with MAC faculty in developing a MAC minor.

A student-produced video about MAC is accessible on the department webpage ( Contact the department chair for more information.

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Minor Available: Yes (see below)

Chair: Prof. David Kasunic

The Occidental Music Department is a community that values and cultivates the creation, performance, and critical study of the world's music. We believe that music, as one of the original liberal arts, is best studied in the context of the liberal arts, and thus aspire for our students to become well-rounded scholar-musicians. Students majoring in Music must choose one of the following tracks to pursue: music production; composition; instrumental performance; vocal performance; ethnomusicology or popular music; musicology; or music theory and analysis.

Students considering any of these tracks should begin by taking the appropriate entry-level music theory course in their first year. All tracks require music theory, and many Music courses (including all the production courses) have a music theory prerequisite. Students with no prior music theory experience must take MUSC 101, offered in the fall semester. Students with some experience in music theory should take the Music Theory Placement Exam to see if they can pass into MUSC 151, offered in the spring semester. 

Students considering studying abroad in their junior year must begin the music theory sequence in their first year and should only consider study abroad programs that can advance them in their particular Music major track. A minor is offered in Ethnomusicology and Popular Music. 

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Clair Morrissey

The practice of philosophy provides students with the skills of conceptual analysis, logical reasoning, and critical thinking. These skills are intrinsically valuable throughout one's life and apply to a wide variety of professions, including law, medicine, education, journalism, business, public policy, and government. In addition, the methods and skills developed in a philosophical education aim to provide students with the intellectual grounds for reflecting on their beliefs, to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of alternative beliefs, and to understand how philosophical ideas have shaped their culture and history.

First year students interested in studying philosophy can start with any course at the 100 or 200-level in the department. Both 100-level courses are required for the major. Philosophy 101: Introduction to Philosophy introduces students to the central philosophical skills of critical thinking, careful reading, and analytical writing through studying a range of philosophical questions that reflect the four content areas that structure our curriculum: (1) History of Philosophy, (2) Diversity in Philosophy, (3) Self & Community, and (4) Mind & World; and Philosophy 150: Formal Logic introduces students to symbolic models of the structure of arguments, and to tools for representing those structures and evaluating them as patterns of good or bad arguments. Our many 200-level courses are more narrowly focused and fulfill distribution requirements within our major, but are accessible to students with no prior experience in the field. Our major and minor build in significant flexibility, so the best advice is to follow your interests and dive into a class that asks questions you find compelling and important. For more information about a particular course or the curriculum more generally, please feel free to reach out to any member of the department!

For more information about a particular course or the curriculum more generally, please feel free to reach out to any member of the department!

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Alec Schramm

The physics department provides an education in the fundamental processes of the physical world with thorough study in both the classroom and laboratory. In addition to the full spectrum of undergraduate coursework, we offer many opportunities to participate in research projects both on and off campus. Qualified students may begin research projects as early as their first year. We also have a combined Engineering 3-2 program with Caltech and Columbia University.

First-year students interested in majoring in physics should start with Physics 110 in the fall of their first year. Next they should take Physics 117 in the spring of their first year. In addition, students should have completed at least Calculus I (MATH 110 or 114) and Calculus II (MATH 120 or 129) by the end of their first year. Students who come to the college with a more advanced background in physics have the option of taking exemption exams.

We have six options for our physics major: Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Geology, Education and Computer Science. See the curriculum roadmaps on the department webpage more information. Or even better, stop by one of our offices on the first floor of Hameetman to talk to us about any of our programs. We would be happy to advise you if you are interested in physics.

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Regina Freer

The mission of the Department of Politics is to provide our students with an understanding of politics, government, and public policy to prepare them to become well informed, curious, and engaged leaders in their communities, in their societies, and in our increasingly complex, interdependent, and pluralistic world. Graduates of the Politics Department have found this major provides an excellent basis for careers in politics, law, education, business, public service, international affairs, and media.

Students interested in the Politics major should consider taking POLS 101 (American Politics and Public Policy) during their first year. (POLS 101 is a prerequisite for several upper-level courses in the major.) In addition, the Politics major requires students to complete a course in each of the following six subfields:  International Relations, Comparative Politics, American Politics, Political Theory, and Public Law. For additional information, including lists of qualifying courses for each of the subfields, please refer to the College Catalog.

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Minor Available: No

Chair: Prof. Andrew Shtulman

Psychology concerns the study and understanding of thoughts, feelings, and behavior. The courses offered by the department are directed toward the study and appreciation of the complex factors that influence behavior and covert experience in people and other animals, using methodology designed to enhance objectivity and responsibility.

The Psychology major consists of twelve courses: PSYC 101, PSYC 200, PSYC 201, six fundamentals courses (at least one in each of our four fundamentals domains and at least two at the 400-level), and three electives. In your first three semesters at Oxy, take PSYC 101: Introduction to Psychology (or pass out due to AP credit) and explore areas of psychology. Once you decide to major, take PSYC 200: Methods in Psychological Science (and PSYC 201: Statistics in Psychological Science soon after) to gain the skills needed to absorb as much as possible from every course taken afterward. In your second and third years, gain breadth and build a strong base of psychology knowledge through fundamentals courses and electives. By your fourth year, make sure that you have learned a topic area in great depth and built some advanced-level skills that will prepare you for graduate school or careers after college. The chart below highlights major milestones in the development of a psychology major.

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Religious Studies

Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Kristi Upson-Saia

To study religions is to better understand how humans find meaning, how we make sense of the world, and how religion is enfolded in many aspects of society. Whether students identify as religious or not, taking courses in the Department of Religious Studies will provide you with basic fluency in a range of religious traditions and help you understand and navigate a complex world permeated by religion.

Most RELS courses meet one or more of the College’s Core requirements, including pre-1800, Global Connections, Regional Focus, and US Diversity. Courses at the 100- or 200-level are most suitable for first-year students, and we reserve seats in these courses for first-year students.

Students interested in a range of Majors—including DWA, Politics, Sociology, History, English, etc.—should consider complementing their work in these fields with a minor in Religious Studies (which involves 5 courses total) or consider the Religious Studies interdisciplinary concentration that allows you to pair your study of religion with another field/area. Majors and minors go on to have careers in law, medicine, business, social services, government and NGO work, and religious vocation.

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Jan Lin

Sociology is concerned primarily with the scientific study of social groups and social relations. Sociologists seek to understand how societies, institutions, organizations and other social forces shape and are shaped by individuals. One of the department's primary aims is to provide students with the analytical critical skills needed to understand and evaluate social institutions and social change more effectively.

Eleven courses (44 units) are required to complete the major. The Sociology Department encourages students to declare the major by the end of their first year.

If you declare at the end of your first year, you should:

  • Take Classical (SOC 200) or Contemporary Sociological Theory (SOC 205) in your sophomore year.

  • Take Sociological Inquiry (SOC 304) in your sophomore year

If you declare during your sophomore year, you should:

  • Take Classical (SOC 200) or Contemporary Sociological Theory (SOC 205) as soon as possible.

  • Take Sociological Inquiry (SOC 304) as soon as possible.

All student should take  a research methods course (SOC 305, SOC 306, or SOC 310) in their junior year, as well as the Senior Seminar (SOC 490) in the fall of their senior year.

Sociology students are encouraged to consider studying abroad for a semester. The ideal plan ensures that students study abroad, have taken at least two Sociology electives, and have taken the following courses prior to senior year: SOC 101; SOC 200 or SOC 205; SOC 304; and SOC 305, SOC 306, or SOC 310. Up to two courses taken in Sociology departments while abroad count towards the major electives.

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Minor Available: Yes   

Chair: Prof. Hanan Elsayed

Students majoring in Spanish pursue coursework in Spanish-language literature, culture, and linguistics. They are strongly encouraged to study abroad in a Spanish-speaking country and to avail themselves of other international opportunities such as the Richter and Maes scholarships. For many students, Spanish is an attractive double major that complements other fields of study which are enriched by an understanding of the diversity in the language and cultures of the Spanish-speaking world. Incoming students should take the Spanish placement exam (or identify placement via AP or SAT II scores) and take at least one course in Spanish every semester, starting as early as possible. Students who grew up speaking Spanish at home should enroll in SPAN 211. Further information is available on the department webpage.

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Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Susan Gratch

Students in the Department of Theater explore the art of theater through theory, performance, and production. Each student experiences the essentially collaborative nature of theater through participation in theater productions. In addition to preparing our students for further study and related careers in theater or film, we encourage each student to explore ideas of self and community and to express these discoveries through one or more aspects of theater.

Because the development of a theater artist is enhanced by time as well as training, we encourage students considering a Theater major or minor to consult with department faculty and begin taking courses in the first year. In addition, students interested in the major should consider taking THEA 101 (Dramatic Literature: The Art of Reading Scripts) during the fall of their first year. In addition, students wishing to major in Theater will ideally complete THEA 110 (Introduction to Performance), THEA 120 (Introduction to Technical Theater), and THEA 175 (Introduction to Design) by the end of their second year.

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Urban & Environmental Policy

Minor Available: Yes

Chair: Prof. Bhavna Shamasunder

Occidental's Urban and Environmental Policy (UEP) major is an interdisciplinary program for students who want to change the world. The UEP major combines politics, planning, environmental policy, public health, urban studies, economics, sociology, community engaged research, and other disciplinary approaches. Students interested in the UEP major should have a strong commitment to public service and social justice and change, be interested in working on group projects with other students, and be interested in engaging in community activities and internships.

A significant dimension of UEP’s problem-solving and social change-related curriculum is its connection to the research, education, and community-based activities of the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute (UEPI).

Gateway courses:
  • UEP 101 – Environment and Society
  • Politics 101 – American Politics and Public Policy
  • Economics 101 – Principles of Economics 1

For the Core Math/Science requirement, we strongly encourage UEP majors to take at least one of the following:

  • UEP 201 – Environmental Health and Policy
  • UEP 305 – Urban Data Analysis
  • Geology 150 – Geographic Information Science 1
  • Geology 245 – Earth’s Climate: Past and Future
  • Geology 255 – Spatial Analysis with Geographic Information Science
  • Geology 150, 245, and 255 satisfy the lab science requirement

3-2 Engineering Program

Program Liason: Prof. Alec Schramm

The 3/2 Combined Plan Program requires completion of three years of work in the liberal arts and sciences at Occidental followed by two years of regular session work at Caltech or the School of Engineering of Columbia University. This leads to the degree of Bachelor of Arts in the Combined Plan from Occidental and the degree of Bachelor of Science in the selected field of engineering from either Caltech or Columbia. Students interested in the 3/2 program gain entrance into the engineering school through a strong academic record at Occidental and a recommendation by the Occidental liaison officer on behalf of the faculty. At least a 3.5 grade point average, both in science/mathematics and overall, is required.

The program of studies for the first three years consists of all of the required courses leading to the degree of Bachelor of Arts as outlined. Unless otherwise exempted, students must begin Mathematics 110 or 114 and either Physics 110, Chemistry 120, or Chemistry 130 (depending on the sequence chosen) in the first year. The Occidental comprehensive examination is waived for 3/2 Combined Plan students. All other Occidental requirements must be met by spring semester of the junior year.

For additional information, including suggested course sequences and a comprehensive FAQ, see the 3-2 Program webpage.

Academic Resources

Advising Center

Location: Johnson Student Center 134

Phone: 323-259-1341


While faculty advisors are the primary source of academic advising at Occidental, the Advising Center is an additional resource for students on routine academic matters, including questions about academic policies and procedures, tracking Core Requirements, placement exams, transfering credit from other institutions, and so on. Advising Center advisors also frequently meet with students who are undecided about a major or minor and wish to discuss the various options, and it’s a good first stop for students who aren't sure which office or faculty member to talk to regarding a specific program or objective.

Visit the Advising Center web page for the current hours and other helpful information!

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Pre-health Advising

Location: Hameetman Career Center

Director: Angela Wood (

Phone: 323-259-2665

The Office of Pre-Health Advising (OPHA) at Occidental College provides information, resources, and in-depth advisement to students and alumni who are interested in matriculating to professional graduate programs in various health professions. Students who are possibly interested in pursuing a health profession are encouraged to register with the Office of Pre-Health Advising so that they can receive important information and announcements. To register, students should write to Angela Wood with their full name, email address, major and minor (if declared), graduation year, and medical interest.

Find information about courses commonly required by medical programs

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Pre-law Advising

Pre-Law advising is provided by Professor of Politics Thalia González.

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Library / Center for the Digital Liberal Arts

The Library / Center for Digital Liberal Arts (CDLA) at the Academic Commons is the place where expertise and resources—human, print, electronic, spatial, and technological—come together. It is a primary node in Oxy's intellectual network, staffed by research/resource savvy professionals.

A few things to know about the Library / CDLA:

  • You can borrow materials from the collection using your ID card. To access online resources from off-campus, sign in using your Oxy username and password when prompted.

  • OASys is the search engine for our collection.

  • The Link+ and Camino systems allow you to borrow materials from libraries in our local California network.

  • There are over 200 searchable databases to support the research of any topic.

  • Special Collections and College Archives holds rare books, visual media, sound recordings and other primary source and rare materials.

  • The CDLA offers one-on-one consultations on research assignments.

  • Students can use the Critical Making Studio, a digital media production space equipped with recording and editing tools, 360 video cameras, virtual reality headsets, 3D scanning and  modeling, physical computing kits, and even sewing machines! Equipment is available for check out.

  • The building is open 24/5 all semester and 24/7 during finals.

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National and International Fellowships

Location: Hameetman Career Center

Director: Jennifer Locke (

Phone: 323-259-2742

The National and International Fellowships Office provides individualized advising appointments for students and alumni to help them identify sources of external funding (through foundations, governments, organizations) relevant to their short and long-term interests and goals. The office also works closely with students on their application materials and proposals, provides interview preparation, and conducts mock interviews for the fellowships that require them.

Fellowship opportunities exist for first years, sophomores, juniors, seniors, and alumni. Fellowships fund a wide variety of activities: language learning, independent research, leadership training, research assistant opportunities, academic experiences, study abroad, graduate training/programs/school, professional development/work experiences, teaching English, and public service opportunities. While some programs require a high GPA, many others value effective leadership and involvement as much as or more so than grades.

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Peer Learning (Tutoring)

Location: Academic Commons and Johnson Hall

The Center for Digital Liberal Arts oversees the Subject and Language peer advising (tutoring) programs. The Subject Advisers are available in the Academic Commons on the ground floor for all academic disciplines offered at Oxy and Language Advisers are available in Johnson Hall for all languages taught at Oxy. For more details, visit the CDLA’s Peer Learning webpage.

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Writing Center

Location: Academic Commons (Ground Floor)

Director: Prof. Julie Prebel (

The Writing Center offers students from all disciplines two types of support to work on their writing: peer-to-peer, drop-in consultations with knowledgeable Writing Advisers and appointments with Faculty Writing Specialists from the Writing and Rhetoric department. For more information, visit the Writing Center webpage.

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Academic Mastery Program

The Academic Mastery Program (AMP) provides challenging workshops for students enrolled in general chemistry, organic chemistry, introductory physics, cellular and molecular biology, and basic calculus courses. These workshops are led by upper-level students and provide an opportunity to test knowledge and skills in the context of new and challenging problems. The workshops provide a time to work intensively and collaboratively with other committed students in an atmosphere that is demanding yet relaxed. Information about these workshops is provided in the relevant courses at the beginning of each semester.

Scientific Scholars Acheivement Program


The mission of the Scientific Scholars Achievement Program (SSAP) is to support the development of a diverse body of individuals who will advance and enhance STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) professional fields in an endeavor to meet the complex and evolving demands of a culturally heterogeneous society.

SSAP provides tutoring in introductory and gateway STEM courses and encourages collaboration among classmates. All questions and learning styles from students are welcomed and encouraged in our program. Through educational and social events, SSAP aims to build community between faculty and students studying math and science at Occidental.

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