Western Heritage in a Global Context

General Education

Dear Students in the Class of 2016:


Welcome to Western Heritage in a Global Context (WHGC), the two-course sequence which is the centerpiece of your first year academic program at Eckerd College.  This course is also the foundation of your liberal arts education.  According to Harvard President Derek Bok, the goal of a liberal education is “to awaken intellectual interests and help undergraduates comprehend the world and their place in it with a greater breadth of understanding than they could achieve by concentrating on a single discipline or special field of study.”[1]

Because you chose Eckerd College, you have chosen not just to gain the skills to enter the workforce, but to become a liberally educated individual in the process.  What does it mean to be liberally educated?  Simply put, a liberally educated individual interacts meaningfully with the world around them.  According to environmental historian William Cronon[2], meaningful interactions can take place only after a person develops the skills of listening and hearing; of reading and understanding; of speaking and writing persuasively and passionately; and of problem-solving.  Further, Cronon states, the liberally educated person loves learning and wisdom; practices humility, tolerance, and self criticism; and nurtures and empowers those around them.  And most importantly, liberally educated individuals seek to make the world a better place for not just themselves, but for others.  Are these goals that you have set for yourself?  If so, you're in the right place and we're here to help you achieve these goals.

At the end the two-semester sequence of WHGC, you should be well on your way to thinking critically about the world around you.  Moreover, you will be on the path to thinking about your place in this world; after all, “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Socrates).  But remember, this is only the beginning of your liberal education.  By the time you arrive at your senior year, having laid the foundation with WHGC and fortified it with a breadth of courses outside of your intended major, you will be ready to examine global issues in our capstone course, Quest for Meaning, and to contemplate “What if we did it this way?” And then, when you leave Eckerd College after four years, you will be ready to make it happen.

We are delighted that you have chosen Eckerd College to begin your journey, and we look forward to being your guides.

Best regards,

Dean Margie Sanfilippo
Chair of Foundations



[1] Bok, D.  (2006). Our underachieving colleges: A candid look at how much students learn and why they should be learning more.  Princeton: Princeton University Press.

[2] Cronon, W.  (1998). “Only connect”: The goals of a liberal education.  The American Scholar, 67, 73-80.

What is WHGC?

Western Heritage in a Global Context (known as WHGC) will engage some of the influential works and ideas of Western civilization in a conversation with important works of non-Western civilizations. We will also listen to voices that have often gone unrecognized in traditional Western Civilization courses. What we envision is a journey through time that creates cross-cultural communication and allows students to consider alternatives to the received wisdom of their own culture.