- Preparing for fall return.
- Vaccination ramping up in L.A. County.
- County plans for some students to return in March on hold and unlikely.
- Summer opportunities for students.
- Steps to help furloughed employees.
- New stimulus aid for students.
Dear Pomona College Community,
We are writing to you on the cusp of a new semester and at an important point in our 134-year history as a College. Amid the many difficulties of the ongoing pandemic, we see much hope with the arrival of vaccines and want to offer more details on how our community will move forward in the months ahead.
We are planning for everyone to be back at Pomona for fall semester. The campus is ready. We are ready. Our detailed Pomona Safe program of testing and tracing is already in place for the faculty and staff members who must work from campus. Extensive upgrades, from air filtration systems to hands-free door openers, have been put in place so we are ready to meet any ongoing public health requirements.
Vaccines are at the center of focus right now. Under the state’s vaccination plan, education employees are in phase 1B tier one. We encourage all Pomona College faculty and staff members to get vaccinated once they become eligible and supply becomes available, and we will assist all such employees in presenting verification of their work in the education sector.
To support this critical effort, the Claremont Colleges Student Health Service is continuing apace in the process to be approved to provide vaccines. However, with supplies greatly constrained right now, we do not know when vaccines will arrive on campus or even whether SHS will be allocated any supply. If you are otherwise eligible to receive vaccination per your local health authority’s guidelines and are able to secure an appointment, we encourage you to use that process to get vaccinated now instead of waiting for a campus-based vaccination clinic.
As the wider vaccination effort accelerates in the region, and as state vaccination tiers change or evolve, we will provide information and resources to our community, and an update will go out to faculty and staff next week.
With classes set to begin remotely on Monday, we continue to sharpen and refine our online instruction and community-building as we move into spring semester. We encourage all students to revisit the opportunities for participation in clubs and a wide range of activities and events, and we urge you to reach out to your class dean with any questions.
We also recognize the need for students to get a sustained break in the midst of remote instruction, so spring break will be March 8-12, and that is also when some students will move back on campus if we receive approval from the county.
At this time, county public health officials have informed us that plans for a pilot/waiver program, which would allow some colleges to return up to 500 students to campus in spring, continue to be on hold as the region has been enduring a severe spike in cases and hospitalizations and a dire public health crisis.
While officials have not completely shut the door on such a program, they have told us approval for a March return as we have sought is now unlikely. This is due to the severity of the pandemic in our region, a situation that remains quite dire despite some recent improvement, and public health officials don’t expect the case count to drop enough in time.
For the summer ahead, after such strong participation last year, the College will once again offer the Remote Alternative Independent Summer Experience Program. RAISE provides a multi-week fellowship that either facilitates independent projects or connects students with faculty research programs, and we encourage all interested returning students to identify a line of inquiry or a creative project that they are eager to pursue.
The Career Development Office will launch the 2021 Summer Pomona College Internship Program (PCIP) in early March for unpaid internships conducted remotely. The CDO will accept PCIP applications from students with secured opportunities from March 1 through April 25, and awardees will be notified on May 7. The staff in the CDO is available to provide students with more information and guidance on the application process.
For graduating seniors, the CDO advising staff is excited to work with Sagehens on their individualized job search strategy, including interview practice and application support. Additionally, those who attended at least three sessions of last week’s Level Up with Cecil: Senior Class Career Strategies program will be matched with a mentor.
The CDO will host a number of workshops, events and information sessions this spring to connect students to recruiters, alumni and industry professionals. The CDO encourages students to refer to their weekly email (Sneak Peek of the Week) to stay up to date with weekly events.
Financial Support for Employees Under Temporary Furlough
We also are continuing efforts to support our staff members under full or partial furloughs. The College will continue providing and paying the full cost of health coverage of all furloughed employees until they return to work.
The College, through a combination of philanthropy and CARES Act funding, also has provided tax-free grants to furloughed employees to help provide some financial cushion in addition to unemployment benefits. In addition, we have offered no-interest loans to furloughed workers to help them manage any economic hardship they are facing.
A group of furloughed employees already has returned to assist with a county program providing meals to homebound seniors. When our plans for student return to campus become clearer, we will bring all furloughed workers back as soon as possible, but no later than July 1.
New Financial Support for Students
On the financial front, we anticipate providing students with additional funds to help manage the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This will come from funds provided by Congress in the recent Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act. We are working out details and expect to have them available by the middle of next month.
Campus Planning and Preparation
We are making strategic use of the remaining time with an empty campus. Safety preparations needed for the return of students to campus are complete. In addition, next week, we will be sending out details on our plans to break ground on the new athletic, recreation and wellness center in order to save money and minimize campus disruption from construction when students return. We had held off on this donor-supported project for nearly a year in the uncertainty of the pandemic, and now we are ready to move ahead on this facility supporting wellness for all.
The Year Ahead
Even in the midst of the pandemic, we will push forward with our Strategic Vision, equipping our students to take on the globe’s grand challenges through our exceptional liberal arts experience.
In the course of this crisis, we have all been through a lot together. Now let’s look forward to a brighter future together.
Thank you so much for your care, support and commitment as we press on into the New Year.
G. Gabrielle Starr, president
Seth Allen, vice president for strategy & dean of admissions and financial aid
Christina Ciambriello, chief of staff and secretary to the Board of Trustees
Robert Gaines, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the college
Robert Goldberg, vice president, COO and treasurer
Avis Hinkson, vice president for student affairs and dean of students
Mark Kendall, assistant vice president for communications & strategic content
Janet Russell, interim vice president and chief information officer
Maria Watson, vice president for advancement