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.

In 2015, the Earlham faculty approved the following Learning Goals developed by the Curricular Policy Committee. Students should be able to:

  • Communicate effectively and work collaboratively across diverse contexts via multiple media. Effective communication involves both social and expressive skills and the ability to communicate in multiple settings and cultures.
  • Investigate and analyze information, materials, problems and texts using a variety of techniques. Thoughtful and careful analysis requires the ability to collect, understand, interpret and evaluate multiple pieces of evidence, with systematic understanding and overt application of qualitative, quantitative, analytical and abstract reasoning.
  • Integrate knowledge, experience, and skills across domains and contexts. Integration involves connecting and developing ideas, as well as synthesizing and transferring learning to new and complex situations.
  • Diversify personal and cultural experiences, ways of knowing, and social relationships. The practice of diversity involves embracing opportunities to explore outside their interests and typical frame of reference.
  • Create and innovate across a variety of disciplines. Creativity and innovation require a willingness to take risks, be open to new possibilities, and produce new knowledge and artistic and social forms.
  • Reflect critically on their learning experiences, ethical and vocational choices, lifestyle, and beliefs in light of multiple understandings of the world. Reflection involves the ability to examine past experiences and apply their lessons to future contexts.
  • Apply knowledge and skills to real world problems and situations as well as to improve their own mental, spiritual and physical well-being. Applying learning effectively is a key skill of a lifelong learner.

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 must be filed by April 1st of the third 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.

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