A Visit to Whittier College

The problem with going to conferences in sunny locations in November – particularly when one lives in the Midwest, where November is often met with the first snow flurries of the year (!) – is that, while the weather outside is typically gorgeous, the schedule of the conference itself is very often not conducive to getting outside to actually enjoy the sunshine.

Whittier 1
Whittier’s main campus quadrangle on a warm fall day.

This is (one of the reasons) why I love the pre-conference campus tours that always coincide with the fall conference of the Independent Educational Consultants Association (IECA) – after landing in balmy Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon, I awakened Wednesday morning, hopped on a bus, and was whisked over to the campus of nearby Whittier College for a chance to learn about what makes it a special place and enjoy some California sunshine!

Home to the Poets (their mascot), Whittier was founded by the Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) in 1887, at the same time the town of Whittier itself was founded. The Poet mascot is, in fact, a direct reference to the ideals of the Quaker religion in that “the pen is mightier than the sword.” (But don’t worry athletes, they’re still a very competitive NCAA Division III school!) And while the college is no longer directly affiliated with the church, it’s still a very community-based institution that relies on a broad perspective of ideas and thoughts to inform both its curriculum and its campus life.

Whittier 2
The science building is on the site of the original football field, which has moved up the mountain.

Two places where this really stands out are in the Whittier Scholars Program – a chance not for students to simply design their major, but to design an entire self-propelled curriculum to guide their path of study through the college – as well as in the Faculty Masters Program, which allows two faculty members to live right on campus for a period of three years, making each a faculty member in (literal) residence and forming a system wherein those professors host a series of intellectual and intercultural gatherings in their home to foster learning outside the classroom.

Neat, huh?

And while Whittier Scholars might sound easy, it really does require students to put a lot of conscious thought into why they select each course for their major and what their ultimate goal(s) are after graduation. Students can’t apply to the program until after they’ve matriculated onto Whittier’s campus and then a series of introductory courses helps them plan each step they’re going to take on their way to graduation. Faculty are extremely keen to guide these students and – as is in line with the ideals of the campus community – upperclass students are part of the committee that ultimately approves (or denies) the applications of new students for the program.

Equestrians who are interested by the opportunities offered by the academic programs at Whittier can join the campus equestrian club or find opportunities to ride in the nearby community. I didn’t have the opportunity to ask current students about riding at Whittier during my time on campus and a quick Internet search shows that the club was most recently active in 2016 – though I welcome anyone with current information to post it in the comments so we can all share in the update.

Could Whittier be worth putting on your list of prospective colleges? Contact me to discuss or pick up a copy of my book to guide your personalized search!


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