2023 Year-end Message from President Starr

Dear Pomona College Community, 

I hope you and those you love are finding peace and respite as we reach the end of a tumultuous year for our world. 

Pomona is a place of global connection, and the strife and loss of life in the Middle East deeply affected our own campus during the closing months of 2023. For much of the semester, we’ve seen campus activism and fundamental disagreement among members of our community with strongly divergent political and social commitments.

As we acknowledge this reality, it is crucial that we remain committed to intellectual engagement and mutual respect. At a moment when institutions are called upon to issue denunciations, we also need to be clear about what we are for, and hold to the shared values of dialogue and compassion that help bind our community together. In line with those commitments, I am always willing to meet with students, whose views reach across the spectrum, to discuss these issues.

Seeking common ground, we will continue to:

  • advance our vital educational mission
  • actively oppose antisemitism, Islamophobia and all forms of hate
  • uphold open discourse and free inquiry
  • foster an atmosphere of mutual respect
  • affirm a supportive and fulfilling campus environment for all students.

Pomona has a role to play in healing the world’s divisions, even as we hold to such a wide range of views and commitments on our own campus. Our Strategic Vision calls for the College to equip our students to take on the world’s grand challenges and we envision this happening through collaboration, not solitary effort. In the semester ahead, we will continue to offer opportunities for students to learn deeply about global issues and engage in thoughtful discussion as part of life in our community.

While looking to the world, we are deepening our commitments to our region as well. In October, on the College’s traditional Founder’s Day, we opened a new community center in the heart of Pomona, our birthplace city. The Pomona College Community Engagement Center will offer after-school programs and college access information, serve as a location for faculty to hold classes and, in time, offer support for community-based research.

The College’s new space in Pomona is operated by the College’s Draper Center for Community Partnerships, which this past year also celebrated two decades of service for its signature program. Pomona College Academy for Youth Success (PAYS) has helped more than 600 local high-school students, typically from low-income and/or first-generation backgrounds, prepare to succeed at top colleges and universities across the nation. PAYS students have gone to schools such as Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford and UCLA as well as Pomona. 

We also are working to enroll more military veterans through multiple pathways such as community college transfers.

Even in contentious times, the daily life of our college community offers the chance to find countless sources of Sagehen inspiration, from our men’s cross-country seniors’ path to a second national championship, to community members taking small steps of care for nature, to students launching a tennis training program for children with autism.

Sagehens are reaching out to the world and preparing to confront problems through critical language study, public service and countless other paths. 

Only a few years after graduating, international relations major Ruben Murray ’19 is engaged in diplomacy in the East African nation of Djibouti while chemistry major Katrina Dank ’20 wrote a book to help children in Uganda with cancer. Politics major Julia Frankel ’23 started reporting from Jerusalem for The Associated Press just months after earning her Pomona diploma.

The year ahead will undoubtedly bring new challenges for our campus and our world. We are committed to finding common ground, and I and our entire team on campus are grateful for the tremendous care, talent and support that our extended Sagehen community provides. I look forward to ongoing engagement with you in 2024.


With best wishes and fervent hopes for peace,