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How President Oxtoby Spent His Fall Sabbatical

President David Oxtoby in Cambridge, England

President David Oxtoby in Cambridge, England

Pomona College President David Oxtoby has returned to campus after spending his fall 2012 sabbatical at Trinity College, part of Cambridge University in England.

Oxtoby spent part of his time at University Chemical Laboratories doing biophysical chemistry research on a theory for the stability of proteins in solution. In addition, he audited courses, attended seminars, and took part in book discussion groups in philosophy and history of science.

“Experiencing a great research university made me appreciate even more the outstanding undergraduate education offered by Pomona College,” Oxtoby wrote in an e-mail to TSL. “The close student-faculty interaction (including research opportunities), the small discussion-based classes at every level of study, and the breadth of a liberal arts education are not matched at a large university like Cambridge.”

Oxtoby reported that, to his surprise, Pomona was relatively well-recognized at Cambridge, despite the two institutions being over 5,000 miles apart.

“I was impressed by how many faculty at Cambridge knew about Pomona from our study abroad program and in other ways,” Oxtoby wrote.

Oxtoby wrote that he deferred all of his work to Acting President Cecilia Conrad and his senior staff. Conrad said that Oxtoby had given her and the administrative staff an agenda of tasks to complete while he was away.

“For someone who is only staying for so long, I just wanted to do no harm and to keep things moving and advance projects so that when the president comes back, he can pick them up again,” Conrad said.

Conrad said that no crises occurred during her stay and that she took pleasure in her work.

“I enjoyed all the ceremonial activities that occurred on campus, such as cutting the cake at Pomona’s 125th birthday in October and meeting visitors from foreign countries,” Conrad said.

Although Oxtoby’s hiatus halted his work on campus, he still managed to tend to some Pomona affairs abroad.

“I met with the recent Pomona graduates (six in all) who are now studying on fellowships at Cambridge,” Oxtoby wrote.

Oxtoby also visited Hong Kong for a joint 5C alumni event.

Now that President Oxtoby has returned to campus, he plans on continuing work on "Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds," which will run until the end of 2015 with a fundraising goal of $250 million.

Oxtoby is also engaged in two searches for important faculty members: Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, and Vice President for Advancement.

Besides these administrative tasks, Oxtoby is excited about new initiatives in a number of areas, including the arts, international programs, and the Draper Center for Community Partnerships.

“My time away gave me a good perspective on major issues in higher education, including the vital role of liberal education for the future,” Oxtoby said.

This article originally appeared in The Student Life on February 15, 2012.

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