General Education Program


As a liberal arts college, Earlham offers more than 44 disciplinary and interdisciplinary majors and minors in which students cultivate deep and specific knowledge and experience. Equally important, the College expects every student to develop broad, general skills and proficiencies across the whole spectrum of the curriculum: the Fine Arts, the Humanities, the Social Sciences and the Natural Sciences. In a world that is increasingly interconnected, diverse and complex, it does not suffice to be narrowly well educated. We must be able to grasp and make use of new and unfamiliar ideas and to make significant connections not only within traditional spheres of knowledge, but across different intellectual and experiential boundaries. Thus, Earlham aims at a general and deeply multidisciplinary education for all students who seek an Earlham degree.

General Education must serve acknowledged goals. For the College's 1993 North Central Accreditation self-study, Earlham's Curricular Policy Committee presented, and the faculty approved, a statement of General Education goals. According to these goals, Earlham aims to graduate students who possess:

  • Excellent skills in reading, reflection, writing, oral communication
  • A grasp of the habits of thought and intellectual methods of different disciplines
  • An understanding of the scientific method and its application in a laboratory setting
  • The ability to interpret a work, idea, text or culture from different perspectives
  • Effective skills to gather and evaluate information from many sources, including print and electronic media
  • Experience in engaging interdisciplinary and integrative inquiries
  • Experience contextualizing disciplinary studies
  • A sense of the responsibility that comes with knowledge
  • Proficiency in at least one non-native language
  • A global awareness and solid knowledge of other cultures
  • An understanding of the formal dynamics of works of art
  • Personal creativity and confidence in one's own ideas
  • Skills in group and cooperative learning
  • An awareness of one's self as a biological organism, a political and social being, a maker of art, and a reflective and thoughtful moral agent
  • A desire and the skills to be a lifelong learner.

The Curriculum Policy Committee revised these requirements in 2002-03, adapting its long-term mission to the changing needs of the present. These goals inform not only the stated General Education requirements, but Earlham's curricular and co-curricular programs as well. Additionally, the College uses these goals in curricular assessment.

  1. Close and critical reading, thoughtful reflection, ready discussion and cogent writing.
  2. Increased adeptness in thoughtfully considering texts of all sorts, whether singly or in comparison with one another.
  3. Gaining an understanding of the scientific process through direct laboratory or field experience with natural processes.
  4. Systematic understanding and overt application of quantitative and/or abstract reasoning (analytic reasoning).
  5. Proficiency in a second language and the cultural insight that accompanies this proficiency.
  6. Multiculturalism in the study of domestic and international diversity.
  7. Informed understanding of the arts through performance or creative fashioning as well through theory and history.
  8. Practice and discipline in group learning. This includes thoughtful community membership and should culminate in collaborative inquiry.
  9. Learning athletic skills and considering the nature of and need for wellness.
  10. The ability to gather information from print and electronic sources and critical capacity to evaluate the data gathered and the ideas encountered.

Achieving These Goals

Earlham College is a liberal arts college, and its General Education Requirements are devised to prepare its students for a life of critical knowledge and informed action. The new requirements introduce students to ways of knowing rather than to specific disciplinary or divisional requirements.

In most cases, General Education classes are small and provide interaction and collaboration between students and faculty. Collaborative research, in fact, is part of the College's mission. Earlham's system of General Education allows as much student election of courses as is practical, and also invites faculty to introduce students to subjects of special interest and importance early in students' academic careers.

Earlham's exceptionally able and thoughtful faculty, at all levels, teach in the General Education Program. We understand that this teaching is central to the College's mission, and we also understand that, in a broad sense, everything beyond a student's major is part of General Education at Earlham.

Minimum Elective Course Requirement

A liberal education should include a breadth of engagement across the curriculum in addition to a depth of study in specific areas accomplished through a student's major. Students with single majors or double majors within a single division must complete 30 hours of work outside the division of their major(s). Double majors with majors in two different divisions and interdepartmental majors must complete 20 hours of work outside the divisions of their two majors.

General Education Policies

  • Students who matriculate as first-year students (but not transfer students) are expected to complete all or most of their General Education Requirements by taking Earlham courses (including approved courses on Earlham off-campus programs). The Committee on Academic Programs (CAP) is unlikely to approve the substitution of more than two non-Earlham courses to fulfill General Education Requirements, or the substitution of more than one non-Earlham course in any single General Education area. No more than eight credit hours can transfer toward General Education.

  • Transfer students and their advisers should work closely with the College Registrar at the earliest opportunity after admission to determine which courses, if any, may be accepted at the time of transfer to meet General Education Requirements. Only courses that clearly meet the General Education goals as specified will be approved as meeting Earlham's General Education Requirements.

  • Substituting other Earlham courses for General Education courses: Students who wish to fulfill a General Education Requirement by taking an Earlham course not designated as a General Education Requirement course (whether the course is offered on campus or as part of an Earlham off-campus program) must petition the Committee on Academic Programs (CAP). Petitions for substitutions are available from the Registrar's Office. It is the student's responsibility to complete the petition and to gather all necessary signatures from advisers and departments. Petitions from seniors must be filed by April 1st of the Junior year.

  • Substitutions for General Education courses from other academic institutions: Students who wish to fulfill a General Education Requirement by taking a non-Earlham course to meet a General Education Requirement (for example, a summer course at another institution, or a course through another institution's off-campus program) must seek approval in advance from the Registrar. Petitions for such substitutions are available from the Registrar's Office. The petition must be signed by the student's academic adviser.

  • AP credit: Neither Advanced Placement (AP) nor International Baccalaureate (IB) credit can be used to fulfill any of Earlham's General Education Requirements.

  • Senior petitions: Students (and their advisers) should be aware that CAP does not accept General Education petitions for waivers or substitutions from seniors later than the middle of the semester preceding their final semester at Earlham.

In its Statement on Liberal Learning (1988) the American Association of Colleges and Universities writes,

A truly liberal education is one that prepares us to live responsible, productive, and creative lives in a dramatically changing world. It is an education that fosters a well-grounded intellectual resilience, a disposition toward lifelong learning, and an acceptance of responsibility for the ethical consequences of our ideas and actions. Liberal education requires that we understand the foundations of knowledge and inquiry about nature, culture and society; that we master core skills of perception, analysis, and expression; that we cultivate a respect for truth; that we recognize the importance of historical and cultural context; and that we explore connections among formal learning, citizenship, and service to our communities. Because liberal learning aims to free us from the constraints of ignorance, sectarianism, and myopia, it prizes curiosity and seeks to expand the boundaries of human knowledge. By its nature, therefore, liberal learning is global and pluralistic. It embraces the diversity of ideas and experiences that characterize the social, natural, and intellectual world. To acknowledge such diversity in all its forms is both an intellectual commitment and a social responsibility, for nothing less will equip us to understand our world and to pursue fruitful lives.

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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

Earlham College
801 National Road West
Richmond, Indiana
1-765-983-1200 — Main Switchboard
1-800-EARLHAM (327-5426) — Admissions