Learning Clusters

The Learning Cluster is a research seminar designed to bridge theory and practice in the investigation of a specific question, and to elicit in the way of a specific product an educated outcome or response. Students work collaboratively in teams with a Learning Cluster instructor to propose, research, and model constructive approaches to local, regional, and/or global issues. The course is designed to help students learn to apply a range of investigative and analytical tools in discovering and presenting trends and ideas, including policy recommendations that bear upon the quality of the human condition. Learning Clusters are 3.5 weeks long and take place during the Winter Block, allowing students to take full advantage of opportunities, where appropriate, for field and service learning.

The Learning Cluster experience is intended to:

  1. Develop in students habits of independent inquiry and study.
  2. Engender analytical and investigative skills and the ability to apply them to a specific problem or question.
  3. Enhance the ability to work collaboratively with other students and their instructor toward the completion of a common project.
  4. Foster a contributive ethic by working on issues that have a larger social significance or meaning.
  5. Prepare students for their role as engaged global citizens and leaders.

Students are able to choose a Learning Cluster in one of two ways. Working with an instructor, they can develop and submit a proposal for a Learning Cluster where there is an interest in the topic and no more than twelve students in a section. The proposal should clearly state the nature and purpose of the Learning Cluster and conform to the goals and objectives of the Learning Cluster in general. Alternatively, students may, at registration time, select their Learning Cluster from a list of offerings first initiated and developed by an instructor.

All Clusters receive support from the university in the form of course development funds that can be used to purchase materials, provide honoraria for guest speakers, and for of campus field trips. A limited number of grants are also available to support fieldwork (maximum twelve days) outside of southern California. Such grants require a detailed application and are awarded on a competitive basis.

Two Learning Cluster courses are a degree requirement.  Learning Cluster courses are normally taken during the first and second years and are optional in the third year only.  Should a student not take a Learning Cluster during the first or second year, they may take the second required Learning Cluster in their third year, but need to be aware that this choice may interfere with some Study Abroad destinations. Students need to understand that the impact of taking a Learning Cluster during their third year on their Study Abroad choices or graduation eligibility is their own responsibility. Learning Cluster during the fourth year is not permitted as it conflicts with the Capstone sequence.

Students will take the following Learning Cluster course:



(required for first and second year students, optional for third year students.)