General Studies Thematic

A Private, Liberal Arts College Education at CSU Cost

Since 1973, Freshman General Studies Thematic (GST) has been providing well-prepared, highly motivated freshmen the educational experience promised at small, intimate, pricey, private liberal arts colleges. GST is for students who want the excitement and opportunities of a large state university and the affordable price, but who do not want the anonymity of a passive classroom experience. GST is for students who, having done well in high school, want to make the most of their first year in college, working closely with other good students and professors in small, engaging classes where active participation is not just possible, but required.

GST provides one way for an entering freshman to participate in the Honors in GE program. GST covers all the lower division GE requirements in one year, except for a math course and one laboratory science course. In order to graduate with Honors in GE, GST students have to satisfy their remaining lower division requirements in Honors courses and have to satisfy the upper-division GE theme requirements by taking an upper-division Honors Theme.

How GST Works

The program admits about 34 students a year. They enroll in the same 6 classes in the fall semester for 17 units and the same 6 classes for the spring semester for 16 units. Yet the students experience GST as one class each semester, because they and the five GST faculty meet four days a week from 9-12:30 in a dedicated classroom, and spend the fifth day engaged in an art studio or other activities. After a three-day trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, the students and faculty spend the rest of the year working their way through the history of civilization from pre-history up to the present. In the first semester, as they work their way through the Classical Era of the Greeks and Romans, the Medieval Era, the Renaissance Era, they examine some of the major achievements of each era in science, art, religion, literature, philosophy, history, psychology, and economics. In the spring semester, they continue on with the Enlightened Era through the Contemporary Era where they take a multidisciplinary look at some of the major challenges of our own time and immediate future such as global warming, economic globalization, and the revolutions in biopsychology and genetic engineering. The year ends with a two-day field trip to the Chico State Biological Field Station at Eagle Lake.

Students and faculty participate in all class sessions with discussion, presentations, reports, drama, recitations, and hands-on activities beyond the weekly art studios and science labs. Making connections across academic disciplines helps students learn as does active class participation. Having students anonymously and passively take notes from a talking faculty head is not GST style. As one recent GST student remarked, "GST offers you the chance to get actively involved in learning. Make your own cave-painting, see a Shakespeare play live, see how your brain works, experience through doing."

Here is what GST offers:

  • An instant group of 33 friends and study partners, and 5 dedicated faculty. By the end of the first week of class, you'll all know each other.
  • Active classroom participation through small class size and a mix of hands-on experience and small group activities.
  • Field trips to Ashland, OR to experience drama; to San Francisco to see live art; and to Eagle Lake and local sites to study fragile, threatened eco-systems.
  • Completion of 33 units of the basic 39 unit GE requirement in one year in a team-taught, interdisciplinary class.
  • An ideal schedule: 9-12:30 four days a week, and a fifth day doing art and lab activities.
  • A curriculum that builds most of the lower-division GE requirements into a meaningful account of human achievement, so that by the end of the year you will be looking at yourself and your place in this history.
  • Membership in the Honors Program with its priority registration, and a chance to live in Honors housing.

The Students

Many of your college memories will come from the students you talk to and work with. GST students, except for being better prepared for college and more academically ambitious, resemble other college freshmen. With diverse backgrounds and interests, there are musicians, athletes, journalists, actors and actresses, computer people, and politicians. Their majors range from agriculture, business and computer graphics, to musical theater, political science, art, and physics. GST offers you, as one of its most important benefits, the opportunity to get to know and work with such diverse, bright students. GST alumni often cite the relationships they formed and the community they experienced as the best feature of the program.

The Faculty

The GST faculty come from such diverse disciplines as philosophy, psychology, physics, English, art, and agriculture. All chose to teach in GST because they believe it provides the best opportunity for giving freshmen the background and skills necessary for getting a good liberal arts education and getting the most out of the university experience.

Admission to GST

To apply, visit the GST Web site at Go to the application section and follow the directions to get the Honors Program application form. Make sure you check the box on page 1 indicating your interest in GST.

If you are interested in Honors Housing, go to the Housing and Food Service Web site at to find the date for securing on-campus housing. Then indicate your interest in Honors Housing in the Honors Program application form and get it in by that date.

To find those students most likely to succeed in GST, we rely on:

  • Cumulative high school GPA. Most GST students bring from high school a 3.5 GPA or better. (You will need a 3.5 or better to get into Honors Housing.)
  • Eligibility for college math and composition either by being exempt from or having passed the EPT and ELM placement exams.
  • Information in your application and the essay you submit with it.
  • In-person or telephone conversation.