Academics | Occidental College


Occidental offers a transformational liberal arts education with a distinct approach that is anchored by our exceptional faculty and the resources of one of the world’s great urban centers.

We provide a gifted, diverse group of students with a total educational experience of the highest quality, preparing them for leadership in an increasingly complex, interdependent and pluralistic world. Our rigorous curriculum produces graduates who are well-equipped to address society’s biggest challenges—globally minded thinkers who draw from multiple disciplines to help solve complex problems.

An Oxy education hones your ability to critically analyze and synthesize information, communicate effectively and think creatively. At the heart of the intellectual experience is our distinguished faculty, who take their teaching as seriously as their research. Understanding that learning and knowing are rooted in doing, Oxy faculty and students continually seek ways to link theory to practice.

Undergraduate research, global engagement and close mentoring relationships with faculty epitomize the academic experience. Take advantage of one-of-a-kind Oxy programs like Campaign Semester and the U.N. program. Choose from more than 40 majors and programs, or work with your professors to chart your own interdisciplinary path. The Core Program is the cornerstone of Oxy’s liberal arts approach, and our nationally recognized capstone requirement, senior comps, culminate your educational experience.

The Occidental College curriculum embodies these guiding principles:

Our faculty and our curriculum embody a commitment to equity, diversity, inclusion, and social justice in which students develop their capacity to learn from and about difference, to understand inequality, and to apply these values in the wider world. From the core program’s US Diversity requirement, to the content and structure of many major programs, to individual courses, to co-curricular programs, and to inclusive pedagogical strategies, Oxy students acquire knowledge, cultivate skills, and build tools to contribute meaningfully to making a more just world.

Departments understand these values to be not merely held in the abstract and not merely a feature of our campus community, but also a hallmark feature of our curriculum. Many departments note the centrality of these values to department learning objectives, offer individual courses on these subjects from their unique disciplinary vantage, offer tracks or concentrations within their major on these subjects, and/or aspire to one of the former. In short, students--no matter their major and minor--should graduate from Oxy with a more critically informed sense of social inequality and a capacity to contribute to the public good.

No matter what students major in, they will become well-versed in the knowledge and methods of their chosen discipline. There will be opportunities to develop critical thinking skills through a focus on research in the classroom, independently, and in close contact with faculty. Students master the theoretical frameworks within the discipline and achieve depth in their chosen subject through multiple levels of analysis. And they learn to be effective communicators in their disciplines.

Both within and between departments, our curriculum regularly crosses disciplinary boundaries and draws on multiple types of expertise--from the team-taught CSP lab courses, to the guest faculty program support for linked courses sponsored by the Center for Teaching Excellence, and to cross-listed courses throughout the curriculum. Students learn how concepts and methods of multiple disciplines add richness and context to a variety of subjects.

Occidental possesses the distinct privilege of being a liberal arts college in the heart of a major global city, one of the largest and most diverse metropolitan areas in the United States. Across divisions, our curriculum engages its local geographical resources (both the natural and the built environment), community-based organizations and institutions, and the cultural richness that represents the larger world. Through community-based learning and community-based research, geological and biological fieldwork, partnerships with cultural institutions and local industries, internship programs, Professors of the Practice, and a formal partnership with the City of Los Angeles, students’ learning in the classroom is deeply connected to learning in the community.

Students at Oxy are also afforded many opportunities to connect their learning to the wider world. Whether through study of a foreign language, a semester spent at the United Nations, or our international programs, or through interactions on campus with students that come from all over the world, Oxy students gain an appreciation for the global context of their educational experiences.

Undergraduate research is a hallmark of an Occidental education--from their first-year CSP course, to the notable Summer Undergraduate Research program, to Richter- and ASP-funded research abroad, to CCBL- and ASP-supported community research, to Senior Comprehensive projects. Moreover, Oxy students take research-rich courses that give them hands-on experience in the lab, archives, community and field. The goal is for students to become creators of knowledge in collaborative partnerships with faculty members, other students, and members of local and international communities.

Students on the Liberal Arts

Alana Duvall '23
Alana Duvall ’23
Music major, Little Rock, AR
The liberal arts approach has provided me with knowledge of a little bit of everything, so I feel as though I have more freedom in what I choose to do with my future.
Joseph Shiina
Joseph Shiina ’22
Biology major, Osaka, Japan
The liberal arts approach helped me reflect on the broader impacts of science and how scientists can bring about social change through outreach.
Frannie DiBona '23
Frannie DiBona ’23
Media Arts & Culture major, Bainbridge Island, WA
The best part of a liberal arts education is the interdisciplinarity and being able to apply the theory you learn in classes from your major and minor to many other areas of study.