As for career preparation, the alumni we spoke with told us that their extracurricular activities at Pomona were among their most valuable experiences there. Louis DiPalma described his involvement with the Associated Students of Pomona College (the student government) and serving as Junior Class President: “It gave me a really interesting look at the politics and inner workings of the school as well as helping me learn things like long-term planning, coordinating for an event, and finding funding for a project. In the end, some things I did were big successes, others were failures, but I took a lot of learning from what worked and what didn’t that has helped me since.” Alumna Jordan Pedraza, a Senior Program Manager at Google for Education, had been involved on campus as a mentor with the Office of Black Student Affairs, a student tutor, and a student technology consultant (among other activities). She told us: “Although it wasn’t always clear during college how my trajectory would pan out, I was lucky to have wonderful mentors encouraging me to learn new skills and knowledge that would round out my background for the future. The writing, thinking, and analytical skills I developed at Pomona influenced my interest in becoming a professor; my classes tutoring and mentoring jobs influenced my passion for education and social justice; and my work with the technology department influenced my interest in technology.” She continued, “The most valuable experience I had was developing my world view: All the readings, papers, discussions, and presentations inspired confidence to form an opinion, consider alternative perspectives, communicate my thoughts in a compelling way, and engage with response or feedback. . . . I find deep joy and fulfillment in thinking critically and sharing my viewed in my professional and personal lives, and Pomona has enabled me to experience that.”
“Pomona College,” says one Spanish major, “is all about sustainability, diversity, and equality.” The school strives to stay on top of the latest environmental issues, from sustainability to climate change, and adjust its policies accordingly. Pomona already had eight LEED certified buildings, and the under-construction Millikan Science Hall is being built to meet at least LEED Gold-certification standards. Instead of purchasing offsets (also known as renewable energy credits), Pomona plans to focus on behavior modification, conservation efforts campus wide, efficiency, and renewable energy sources. One molecular biology major says that Pomona’s greatest strength is that the school and its student body is “environmentally, socially, and politically aware.” In the dining halls, as part of the school’s Sustainability Action Plan, the goal is to have 15 percent of the total food purchases qualify as sustainable by 2015 and 20 percent of total food purchases qualify as sustainable by 2020. That year is also the deadline for Pomona’s objective to have 50 percent of produce purchased be local. Outside of the classroom—and the dining halls—students looking to get back to nature have the opportunity to join the Claremont Colleges’ popular outdoor club, On the Loose, which helps organize backpacking, hiking, climbing, and rafting trips in California and the Southwestern states for interested students. According to OTL’s website, the club “welcome[s] students of all ability levels, from the most hardened sherpas to the freshest greenhorns,” so freshmen who want to take up a new sport, as well as those who are seasoned hikers, should join. As one international relations major puts it, “On the Loose, the outdoors club, is a huge part of campus culture. Most students will gladly work a Friday night to go climb rocks, surf, or hike early on Saturday with friends.” Pomona also offers the resources of the Outdoor Education Center, one of the country’s premier outdoor education programs. The Center provides hands-on opportunities for students in outdoor education and recreation and, as an added environmental bonus, the building where the Center is housed is Platinum-certified by LEED standards.
While a foreign language requirement in college is nothing new, Pomona offers students a unique opportunity to immerse themselves in another language. The Oldenborg Center for Modern Languages and International Relations provides not only conversation courses in six major languages—Mandarin Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Russian, and Spanish—but also provides a select number of students the option of living in a language dorm, where not only will the students take the normal language courses but they’ll be surrounded by the language all day long. One Spanish major praises the language programs at Pomona, saying that the school’s “Foreign Language Resource Center has free tutoring from students in high-level language courses.” The living requirements for Pomona’s language dorms, which are supervised by language residents who are native speakers in the foreign language the students are learning, are fairly routine, with all residents needing to take a year of college-level language study and also be open to joining in Oldenborg’s many extracurricular activities. These activities are open to all Pomona students, regardless of if they are residents in the Oldenborg language dorm. One popular gathering place at lunch are the language tables in the Oldenborg Center dining hall, where students congregate to practice their conversational foreign language skills with native speakers. Every day, tables are set up to accommodate the six major languages but for students who are interested in practicing a new language—or those international students who want to reconnect with a piece of their native country—the language tables also offer other options on a rotating basis, from Tagalog and Hindu/Urdu to Persian, Swedish, and Armenian. In addition to the language lunch tables, the Oldenborg Center also sponsors the Oldenborg Lunch Colloquium, and special events like the International Karaoke Klub Nite.
Since Pomona students are all taught by professors, rather than teaching assistants or graduate students, opportunities abound to assist these professors in their lab or with other research projects. One philosophy, politics, and economics major notes, “I am a freshman and I am already working with a professor doing research,” which seems to be the norm rather than the exception to the rule at Pomona. One member of Pomona’s science faculty underscores that her fellow professors all mentor students for research projects. “Students (even first-year students) are able to participate in research at all levels,” says this professor, “from study design, data collection, analysis, writing, presenting and sometimes publishing. Just recently [six] students from my lab presented their research at a professional scientific meeting on five separate research projects!” For students looking to pursue careers in the sciences, two key Pomona facilities where they can get more hands-on experience are the Table Mountain Observatory and the Scanning Electron Microscope. The Observatory, which is used primarily by the physics and astronomy department, includes instruments such as the Pomona College 1-Meter Telescope, which is housed at NASA JPL’s Table Mountain Facility and located in the mountains above Wrightwood, California. This telescope is used to study dense interstellar clouds and star-forming regions. The Department of Physics and Astronomy, in conjunction with Harvey Mudd, also operates a Scanning Electron Microscope (SEM), the funding for which came from a grant from the National Science Foundation. Students, after attending a mandatory training session, are allowed to use the SEM for projects and research reaching beyond physics into fields such as chemistry, biology and geology. The Millikan Planetarium, also maintained by the Department of Physics and Astronomy, is undergoing renovations but will reopen in 2015 with a state of the art facility called the Digital Immersive Theatre. This new addition will include an “all-dome visualization capability that will enable us to fly through galaxies, land on planets, and to visualize datasets for all of the sciences, humanities, and art within [the] theatre.”