Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Claremont Colleges—the appeal of a liberal arts consortium

My daughter Abby and I just returned from a road trip to LA where we visited the Claremont Colleges, Occidental and USC.  After attending information sessions, campus tours and wandering around campus observing and talking with students, I am sold on the advantages of a liberal arts college consortium—as it combines the best of a small school with the resources of a larger one.

The Claremont Colleges are five liberal arts schools and two small graduate programs all located
Clock Tower at Pomona
within one square mile in the city of Claremont, about 35 miles east of downtown Los Angeles.  The five schools range in size from about 800 (Harvey Mudd) to 1500 students (Pomona). 

Each of the five colleges has a distinct mission, focus and curriculum yet all five share common resources including a shared course catalogue accessed by all students who can take up to 30% of their courses at any of the other institutions, a library of 2 million volumes, a concert hall, bookstore, facilities and joint sports teams (Pomona/Pitzer and Claremont McKenna/Harvey Mudd/Scripps).  Students can eat at any one of seven dining halls and many social and social justice activities occur outside individual school boundaries. 

Meanwhile on each campus, class sizes are small, student-professor
Residence Hall Courtyard at Pomona
relationships are warm and nurturing and students can pursue their own passions surrounded by like-minded friends.  Pomona is the traditional liberal arts school; Pitzer is the ‘60s activist campus; Claremont McKenna focuses on politics and leadership while Harvey Mudd features engineering and science and Scripps is a women’s college. 

Mural at Pizter
Abby was drawn to both Pomona and Pitzer so we visited those campuses more in depth and we were both favourably impressed by our student guides and the engaged yet casual “vibe” on each campus.  In recent years following Pomona all of the Claremont schools have become quite competitive so admittance is very selective.  If you are drawn to a liberal arts curriculum and want to attend college in the west, any of the Claremont schools is a very attractive option.
Desert landscaping at Pitzer

Organic Garden at Pitzer
(If you want the liberal arts consortium advantage but prefer to leave California you might consider the Massachusetts Five College Consortium of Amherst, Hampshire, Smith, Mt. Holyoke and U Mass Amherst or the Tri-College Consortium of Bryn Mawr, Haverford and Swarthmore outside Philadelphia.)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Jesuit Universities—a Great Choice for Social Justice Oriented Students

This week I visited Santa Clara University for an in-depth look at a Jesuit university.  Santa Clara is one of three Jesuit institutions in California along with Loyola Marymount and the University of San Francisco. 

The Jesuits, an order of Catholics, have been known for their dedication to the education of the whole person.  Contrary to what some students might assume, a student at Santa Clara or another Jesuit University does not need to be Catholic or even Christian to attend. 

Santa Clara’s curriculum reflects the Jesuit approach to develop well-rounded individuals through broad and deep studies of many disciplines.
Santa Clara University Library

Key elements include:
--a core curriculum that features the liberal arts
--emphasis on global citizenship and service learning
--community engagement

Here are a few highlights of what I learned during my tour:

*Santa Clara was founded in 1851, the older higher education institution in California. It houses three undergraduate/graduate schools: Arts and Sciences, Business and Engineering.
University Residence Hall

*Current enrollment is 5,400 undergraduates.  In 2014 over 15,000 applications were submitted.

*The fastest growing major at Santa Clara is environmental studies.  There is a strong pre-med program with excellent medical school placement.

*The university offer many internship opportunities in high technology companies.

*In 2003 the Global Social Benefit Institute was founded to help solve international poverty through a sustainable impact business model.

*Multiple immersion trip opportunities give students the chance to encounter challenging situations within a safe environment.

*Santa Clara boasts a 97% retention rate from freshman to sophomore year.

While Santa Clara is not a smaller Stanford, it does offer rigorous and stimulating academics in a similar Silicon Valley environment.  For students with an international perspective who want to make a positive impact on the world it’s worth a careful consideration for the college list.