Thurgood Marshall College

Thurgood Marshall College, formerly known as Third College, was founded in 1970. From its inception, the college has enriched the lives of undergraduates with its intellectual and philosophic commitment to the development of students as both scholars and citizens. In July of 1993, the college was renamed in honor of the famous lawyer and Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall. Justice Marshall was widely known and recognized for his historic contributions to American life and dedication to breaking down barriers to education, civil rights, freedom of speech, women’s rights, and the right to privacy. Thurgood Marshall College, its faculty, staff, and students are committed to furthering the ideals and dreams of Justice Marshall; accordingly, students are provided opportunities to develop as both scholars and citizens.

Thurgood Marshall’s 3,900 students pursue any major in a variety of disciplines. About 40 percent choose majors in biology, the physical sciences, mathematics, and engineering; 35 percent select majors in the social sciences; and 25 percent pursue majors in the humanities and fine arts areas. One of the primary aims of the college is to prepare its students for the pursuit of a rigorous academic curriculum which in turn promotes entry into graduate/professional schools or into the career of one’s choice.

Educational Philosophy

The educational philosophy of Thurgood Marshall College is guided by the belief that regardless of a student’s major, a broad liberal arts education must include an awareness and understanding of one’s role in society. Therefore, the distinctive core sequence, which serves as the centerpiece of the general-education requirements, emphasizes a critical examination of the human condition in our diverse American society. This three-quarter core sequence, “Dimensions of Culture—Diversity, Justice, and Imagination,” challenges students to develop an informed awareness of the many cultural perspectives that have shaped American society. The core sequence is designed as an interdisciplinary, contemporary issues-oriented curricular experience that explores both the diversity of American experiences across race, religion, class, and gender, and also the shared resources all Americans draw on when their different identities and interests conflict. Other general-education requirements include courses in mathematics, the physical and biological sciences, humanities, and the arts.

Wishing to uphold the ideals set forth by the college’s namesake, Thurgood Marshall students are encouraged to develop their skills not only as scholars, but also as citizens. Therefore, it is our belief that scholarship and social responsibility are mutually compatible. In this regard, our students receive academic credit for participating in the Partners-at-Learning Program (PAL) by taking courses which train and place them as tutors and mentors in local inner-city elementary schools and high schools, as well as the on-campus model school, The Preuss School, Gompers Preparatory Academy, and Lincoln High School in Southeast San Diego. Because this activity shares importance with other academic experiences, completion of one of these specific public service courses, offered through Education Studies, satisfies an upper-division general-education requirement.

Further underpinning the educational philosophy of Thurgood Marshall College is the belief that the best preparation for a complex, interdependent, and rapidly changing world is a broad liberal arts education, complemented by in-depth study in areas of the student’s choice. This educational approach has several major advantages:

  1. It guarantees a basic understanding of the principal branches of knowledge: the humanities and arts, social sciences, the natural sciences, and mathematics.
  2. It enables students with well-defined interests and goals to begin work in their chosen field of study as first-year students.
  3. It allows students who have not decided on a major to sample an array of potential majors while simultaneously satisfying the general-education requirements of the college.

General-Education Requirements

General-education requirements are established by Thurgood Marshall College faculty to be broad and flexible enough to encourage students to integrate other alternatives, such as public service, internships, study abroad, research, special studies, etc., into their academic program. This permits students flexibility in pursuit of their academic goals and in the practical application of their liberal arts degree, whether they wish to enter the work force or continue their education in graduate or professional school. These courses are designed to introduce students to the academic focus of the college, provide a broad liberal arts and science background, and furnish students with the academic skills and the basic knowledge necessary to pursue any departmental or interdisciplinary major.

The general-education requirements for first-year students are composed of a core sequence and a menu of choices within a liberal arts framework:

  1. DIVERSITY, JUSTICE, AND IMAGINATION: This is a three-course interdisciplinary sequence. Two of the three courses are six-units and include intensive instruction in university-level writing. This is a required sequence for all first-year students. All courses must be completed at UCSD and taken on a letter-grade basis only. (See “Dimensions of Culture” in the departmental listings.)
  2. FINE ARTS: One course in either music, theatre, or visual arts (non-performance).
  3. NATURAL SCIENCES: Three courses. Choose one course each in biology, chemistry, and physics. Courses are available for science and non-science students.
  4. QUANTITATIVE/FORMAL SKILLS: Choose two courses in mathematics or one course in mathematics or statistics and one in computing or logic. Courses are available for majors and non-majors.
  5. HUMANITIES AND CULTURE: Two courses. Choose one course each from ethnic studies and Third World studies.
  6. DISCIPLINARY BREADTH: Four courses. Students choose four courses from a variety of disciplinary breadth areas: humanities/foreign language; social sciences; natural sciences; math/engineering. Courses used to satisfy the disciplinary breadth requirement come from fields outside the major field of study. Two of these courses must be upper- division. At least one upper-division course must include significant writing.
  7. PUBLIC SERVICE (optional): This four-unit public service option may be used to fulfill one course in Disciplinary Breadth for any major and fulfills the upper-division writing requirement. (See “Partners at Learning” and “Education Studies Program” listings.)

The Thurgood Marshall College Executive Committee publishes an annual fact sheet with specific course choices which may be used to meet these requirements. Contact the college academic advising office for additional information or refer to the college Web site.

Graduation Requirements

To receive a bachelor’s degree from Thurgood Marshall College, a student must

  1. Satisfy the university English Language Writing Requirement (ELWR). (See “Undergraduate Admissions, Policies and Procedures.”)
  2. Satisfy the university requirement in American History and Institutions. (See “Undergraduate Admissions, Policies and Procedures.”)
  3. Fulfill the general-education requirements as described.
  4. Complete a departmental or interdisciplinary major.
  5. Satisfy the college residency requirement (thirty-five of the last forty-five units must be completed as a registered Thurgood Marshall College student).
  6. Successfully complete a minimum of 180 units for the B.A./B.S. degree. At least 60 of these units must be completed at the upper-division level.
  7. A 2.0 or better GPA is required for graduation.

Transfer Students

Transfer students have a variety of academic options available to complete lower-division general education prior to transfer. Specific details regarding appropriate general-education agreement are in the section on “Undergraduate Admissions” and through the community college. Students may also contact UCSD Transfer Student Services prior to transfer. Also, the college Web site contains pertinent information.

Majors and Minors

Majors: Thurgood Marshall College students may pursue any of the departmental or interdisciplinary majors offered at UCSD. The majority of the academic departments have established lower-division prerequisites. Generally, these prerequisites must be completed prior to entry into upper-division major courses. Many of these courses may be counted for general-education credit as well. Students are strongly encouraged to work closely with department faculty and college advisors. For details on the specific major departments, refer to the “Courses, Curricula, and Programs of Instruction” section of this catalog.

Minors are optional. However, students are encouraged to keep as many options open as possible. A minor provides an excellent opportunity to complement the major field of study.

Students are required to complete twenty-eight units of interrelated work, of which at least twenty units must be upper-division. See your college or department for further information.

Pass/Not Pass Grading Option

  1. Courses to be counted toward a departmental major or as prerequisites to the major must be taken on a letter-grade basis.
  2. Only one upper-division course to be counted toward a college independent studies minor may be taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis.
  3. Courses taken toward completion of the college general-education requirements, with the exception of Dimensions of Culture (Diversity, Justice and Imagination), may be taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis, while at the same time the restrictions for prerequisites to majors and courses counted toward a minor must be observed.
  4. Courses taken as electives may be taken on a Pass/Not Pass basis, while at the same time the restrictions on the majors and minors must be observed.
  5. No more than one-fourth of the total University of California, San Diego units may be completed on a Pass/Not Pass basis.


Quarterly provost’s honors, honors at graduation, departmental honors, and Phi Beta Kappa are awarded to Thurgood Marshall College students. For additional information see “Honors” in the Index, speak with the academic honors program advisor in the academic advising office, or go to

Enhancing Your Education

Students are able to enhance their undergraduate education by participating in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP) and UCSD Opportunities Abroad Program (OAP) while still making regular progress toward graduation. Information on EAP/OAP is detailed in those sections in the General Catalog. Interested students should contact the Programs Abroad Office in the International Center and visit the Web site at Financial aid recipients may apply aid to the program, and special study abroad scholarships are readily available.

College-Sponsored Programs

Individual Studies Major

The Individual Studies major allows students to pursue a coherent course of study not formally offered at UCSD. To apply for the major, students must have a 3.25 grade point average. A written proposal with supporting documentation from a ladder-ranked faculty advisor, a list of prerequisite courses, and a proposed curriculum plan are required. Students pursuing this major must be goal-oriented and self-directed.

Partners-at-Learning Program (PAL)

Students may participate in the Partners-at-Learning Program (PAL) by taking specified Education Studies (EDS) courses that train and place them as tutors and mentors in local elementary and high schools, as well as the on-campus Preuss School, Gompers Preparatory Academy, and Lincoln High School in Southeast San Diego. Participation in the PAL program can be counted toward satisfying the Public Service option at Thurgood Marshall College. This campuswide program is open to all students in good standing and at the junior level. (See EDS in the department listing—specifically EDS 130, 134, 136, 138, and 139.)

Price Public Affairs Forum

The Price Public Affairs Forum invites leading public figures to speak on important contemporary issues. Such wide-ranging topics as “Race and Justice in America,” “Women’s Role in the Workplace,” and “The Modern American Family” have been presented. These forums are open to the general public.

Public Service Minor

Thurgood Marshall College sponsors the Public Service Minor at UCSD, which encourages students to understand the history and practices of public service and to participate in the development of civic skills. This minor is open to all UCSD students in good standing. Please see “Public Service Minor” in the departmental listings or visit the Web site at

African-American Studies Minor

The African-American Studies Minor is an interdisciplinary program that seeks to provide comprehensive understanding and appreciation of African-American history, social politics, culture, and art. Please see “African-American Studies Minor” in the departmental listings or visit the Web site at

Thurgood Marshall College Honors Program

The Thurgood Marshall College Honors Program sponsors activities and events designed to introduce students to the excitement of pioneering research and innovative scholarship in all disciplines at UCSD and to create opportunities for discussion on public issues with locally and nationally known figures. See Thurgood Marshall College Honors Program in the department listings or visit the Web site at

Thurgood Marshall Institute

The Thurgood Marshall Institute is deeply devoted to undergraduate research, public debate, and vital policy papers. The institute has organized and supported faculty and student group research projects in education and public law; hosted conferences and symposia on pressing issues; trained junior and senior high school instructors in the teaching of the United States Constitution and its amendments; commissioned political drama on radio and on stage; and created an active blog with political essays and interviews. Also, visit the Web site at

UCSD-Morehouse/Spelman Student Exchange Program

The UCSD-Morehouse/Spelman Student Exchange Program was established in the fall quarter of 1989. This formal exchange program was developed by Thurgood Marshall College and is open to all UCSD undergraduates. Morehouse and Spelman Colleges are located in Atlanta, Georgia.

The purpose of the program is to provide a unique opportunity for students to live and study at important institutions of higher learning that are significantly different from the social and educational environment typical of California state colleges and universities. Similarly, the exchange students coming to UCSD from Morehouse and Spelman will have an opportunity to experience an exciting and very different educational environment. See the program coordinator in the college academic advising office for additional information or visit the Web site at

Student Leadership Program

Complementary to its strong academic programs, Thurgood Marshall College is proud of its emphasis on the student as citizen. The Student Leadership Program is especially designed to encourage active involvement in the governance of the college and participation in community and public service programs. College life outside of the classroom and laboratory is a vital part of each student’s undergraduate experience. The college offers a wide variety of opportunities for students to shape the nature and character of student life. This active participation allows students to develop self-confidence and strong interpersonal, organizational, and leadership skills. The friendly and outgoing manner of Thurgood Marshall students contributes to a sense of community and mutual respect. This spirit of cooperation is a college hallmark.

Honorary Fellows of the College