Core Program

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. Core courses ask students to engage in analytic and creative thinking: posing questions from different points of view, solving problems, formulating hypotheses, gathering evidence to support claims and arguments, drawing appropriate conclusions, and expressing ideas clearly. These courses explore the large questions which we believe all students must address in order to participate fully in their academic careers, their vocations, and their lives: questions of human cultures and beliefs, of creativity, and of the physical world.  Students are asked to examine previously held ideas in the context of new and challenging ones, to experiment imaginatively, to articulate similarities and differences, and to revise both ideas and written work. Methods and materials vary, in disciplines ranging from the humanities to the social sciences, to science, mathematics, and art; and analytic thinking may take place in the context of a lab, in the close reading of a text, on a stage, in a lecture hall, on a computer screen, in a screening room, or in the field. Assignments will also vary from papers, to arguing a thesis, to problem sets, to research term papers, to lab reports, to paintings.

All Core requirements should be completed by the end of the junior year.  Individual courses can meet a maximum of two Core Requirements. 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.

CSP Seminars (8 units)

The first-year CSP Seminars are the centerpiece of the Core Program. These are small first-year writing seminars, each designed by a faculty member around a topic in their field of expertise, emphasizing discussion, critical analysis, and intensive instruction in writing. Incoming first-year students are required to take one seminar in the fall and one in the spring, for a minimum of eight units. CSP Seminars are graded on a S/U basis only.
Passing both CSP Seminars is required to partially satisfy the College’s First Stage Writing Proficiency Requirement. Exactly how to satisfy College’s First Stage Writing Proficiency Requirement is described in detail here. Students may not drop or withdraw from a CSP seminar unless they withdraw from the College for that semester. A student who earns a grade of U in one or both CSP Seminars will be required to take WRD 201 to complete their First-Stage Writing Proficiency requirement.

Culture and Fine Arts, Science and Mathematics, and Foreign Language (24-40 units)

In addition to the CSP Seminars all students participate in the study of culture as embodied in the arts and sciences as well as in the humanities and social sciences by taking courses across the academic program meeting the following requirements:

Culture and Fine Arts (12-20)

The Culture and Fine Arts requirements continue and expand on the first-year CSP seminars 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 the following three areas (at least one 4-unit course must be chosen from each of the categories i, ii, and iii, totaling at least 12 units):

 (i) U.S. Diversity (CPUD)

These courses allow students to gain a greater appreciation of the myriad of perspectives found in a multicultural society and an understanding of the forces that create, contest, or maintain power, identity and difference.

Courses satisfying this requirement study difference in the U.S., with a focus on race, religion, ethnicity, class, gender, and/or sexuality; and use frameworks from different academic fields (such as but not limited to ethnic studies, gender 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.

(ii) Global Connections  (CPGC)

These courses provide students with an understanding of the interconnectedness of cultural, socioeconomic, and political systems on a global level.

Courses satisfying this requirement have a global or transnational perspective and a comparative framework, exploring at least two nations or regions and their global interactions; and address in their content at least two interconnected systems (literary, artistic, religious, philological, economic, ecological, ideological, political, social, intellectual, scientific, etc.).

(iii) Regional Focus (CPRF)

The purpose of this requirement is to provide students with an  in-depth understand of a least one specific geographical, national, or cultural region of the world outside the U.S. A CPRF course focuses on a region through unifying characteristics, which could be literary, artistic, religious, philosophical, economic, ecological, ideological, political, 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. 

Note: No course can be designated as more than one of CPUD, CPGC, or CPRF.

In addition to these three areas, every student will successfully complete the following two requirements:

(iv)  At least one 4-unit course with a focus on a historical period prior to 1800 (designated CPPE).

The purpose of this 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 provide 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 C.E.

(v)  At least one 4-unit course (or a total of 4 units) that treats the theory or practice of the fine arts (designated CPFA).

Since some courses meeting the requirements in (i), (ii), or (iii) also meet the requirements in (iv) or (v), it is possible to meet two of the Culture and Fine Arts requirements by taking one course. No single course can be used to meet more than two Culture and Fine Arts requirements, and it is recommended that students take at least four or five courses (16-20 units) to meet their Culture and Fine Arts Requirements. 

Science & 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 of courses designated CPMS or CPLS) that provide experiences in the sciences and mathematics. Of the three, at least one course (4-units) must be a laboratory science (CPLS).

Foreign Language (0-8 units)

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:

  1. By completing a language course numbered 102 at Occidental, or the equivalent course in any foreign language at another accredited institution.
  2. By receiving an exemption-level score on Occidental's placement and/or exemption exam given during orientation.
  3. 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)
  4. By earning an Advanced Placement test score of 4 or above on a language exam.
  5. For some languages not taught at Occidental, students may by taking the ACTFL oral proficiency interview (OPI) and the writing proficiency test (WPT) in the languages currently available. Please see the Keck Language and Culture Studio about demonstrating proficiency via ACTFL.

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.

Transfer Students

Except for the CSP Seminar 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 the CSP seminars, but are expected to complete the equivalent of two CSP Seminars (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.


Cultural Studies Program Fall Writing Seminars

Cultural Studies Program Spring Research Seminars

CORE Courses


Regular Faculty

Ron Buckmire, chair

Associate Dean for Curricular Affairs; Professor, Mathematics

B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

On Special Appointment

Devin Fromm

Non-Tenure Track Assistant Professor

B.A., University of Montana; M.A., University of Pittsburgh; Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara

Nathan Graeser

Non-Tenure Track Assistant Professor

B.A., Indiana University, Bloomington; M.S., Ph.D., University of Southern California

Peter Lanfer

Non-Tenure Track Assistant Professor

B.A., Dartmouth College; M.A.R., Yale University Divinity School; Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles