President Starr's Weekly Update (10/19/21)

Dear Pomona College Community,

Let me start this week’s message by thanking everyone who participated in Family Weekend. I deeply appreciate both the families who showed great flexibility in the midst of the pandemic, and the staff and faculty who worked so hard to offer our visitors a glimpse of all that goes on here.

My conversations with families and students offered a wonderful reminder of the “why” of Pomona. Students come to this place from around the globe to engage the big issues in our small setting, one that allows for greater depth and breadth. Pomona offers the opportunity to develop deeper ties and connections on a personal level and the chance to spark real change and innovation on a global level.

On-campus learning is so central to our Pomona education, and I’m grateful for the commitment of our community to promote safety in the immediate crisis of the pandemic. Last week, we had two COVID-19 positive cases among students (please note that one case had briefly been double-counted on our dashboard), and none among faculty and staff, making for a 0.09 percent positivity rate for the nearly 2,000 tests conducted. Let’s stay on track with our community safety steps, as Los Angeles County continues to show progress in the pandemic with the test positivity rate dropping below 1 percent.

The pandemic, of course, brought significant change and disruption to higher education, particularly when Pomona and so many other institutions needed to temporarily shift to remote teaching. In a panel discussion this week with UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, Daphne Kis, CEO of WorldQuant University; and Jeff Maggioncalda, CEO of Coursera, I had the opportunity to discuss the advantages of the small, intimate settings of Pomona and other liberal arts colleges in creating connection, deeper learning and the chance to work across disciplines.

The outcomes of a Pomona education are so evident when you meet our students and alumni. Let me mention one who has been in the news this week. Gator Halpern ’12, an environmental analysis major who works to save coral reefs through his organization Coral Vita, this past weekend received the new £1 million Earthshot Prize to advance his work.

This is just one of countless examples of Sagehens tackling the big problems. Through our Strategic Vision, we will push forward to equip the next generation of students to work with partners around the globe to solve the world’s most pressing challenges. I look forward to working with every member of our community to make our vision a reality in the months and years ahead.


All the best,