Strategic Vision for Pomona College

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At this moment, when the world is ever more interconnected in confronting vast problems and pursuing the search for solutions, the liberal arts education Pomona College offers is more essential than ever. Our focus on creative, holistic and rigorous education equips our students to lead the way in an ever-changing world. Our emphasis on building relationships and learning in a diverse community prepares our students to engage both locally and globally.

The Grand Challenges

Pomona students, faculty, staff and alumni have long distinguished themselves as leaders who know how to ask big questions, confront big challenges and solve big problems. Fulfilling our promise will require brilliant and committed faculty, as well as ideas that speak to the urgency of the present, the obligation to deepen knowledge of the past and the ability to seize new opportunities for the future.

Transformative Knowledge and Creativity

We will connect our students to the world through a newly imagined immersive language residential center and encourage curricular experimentation to enable students to engage the breadth of the liberal arts. We will seek to advance new understandings of the uses of technology across disciplines. The performing arts are a vital part of a Pomona education, and we will continue to revitalize our campus infrastructure in this area.

Flourishing and Inclusion

We aspire for all members of our community to flourish and develop lives of meaning. We will work to create more equitable experiences for our diverse community members. We will refine our mental health and wellness services for students and renovate our athletics center to support wellbeing for all. New career programs will further assist students and young alumni in finding their paths.

Equity and Access

In an era of rising economic inequality and financial distress for many, access to a Pomona education regardless of family income remains a bedrock value of the College. We will fortify our commitment to need-blind financial aid and seek to fully endow financial aid. We also seek to increase affordability for families across the income distribution to bring to campus a student body that better represents the U.S.

Strategic Vision

I. Introduction

A Message From the Strategic Vision Committee

Dear Sagehens,

We are pleased to present you with the Strategic Vision for Pomona College...

Since its founding in 1887, Pomona College has become one of the world’s premier small, residential liberal arts colleges. Pomona students, faculty, staff and alumni have long distinguished themselves as intellectual, professional and civic leaders who know how to ask big questions, confront big challenges and solve big problems. Pomona, as the founding institution in the renowned Claremont Colleges consortium, offers a transformative experience for students, faculty and staff.

Now in the first quarter of the twenty-first century, Pomona, like other institutions of higher education, faces a new landscape, one that provides challenges as well as opportunities. Costs of college make higher education seem out of reach for many families; K-12 education leaves many students unprepared for college or the world of work; and the pressures on institutional budgets threaten the very existence of many of the colleges and universities that have propelled the United States to the forefront of higher education worldwide.

We at Pomona believe that this time of rapid change and transformation makes small-scale, face-to-face, residential liberal arts education more important than ever. Pomona College is uniquely situated to lead the way in making profound and long-lasting contributions to liberal arts education thanks to its location, financial stability, infrastructural investment and commitments to knowledge, innovation, diversity, equity and inclusivity. Pomona is poised to embrace the future, so that all whom we admit may benefit from the transformative education we provide.

Our focus on liberal arts education – broad, creative, flexible, holistic and rigorous – equips our students to face an ever-changing world. Our emphasis on building relationships and learning in a diverse community prepares our students to engage both locally and globally. Our dedication to collaborative and fluid communication enables all of us to better work together for our common future. Pomona College represents the big impact of a small place that does things right.

In this strategic plan, we recommit to Pomona’s foundational values while looking to the future, and we have identified specific projects we believe best reflect those values today. At the same time, we acknowledge that we cannot predict the ways in which the environment will change during the duration of the strategic plan, nor can we anticipate the level of resources available to Pomona College. As such, we expect that the specific projects detailed here will evolve in both scope and form. We do know, however, that Pomona College – through our students, faculty, staff and alumni – can and will respond to the grand challenges of our time, bearing our added riches in trust for all.

II. Grand Challenges

The 21st century has brought growing levels of political and social division, inequality, climate change, pandemic, technological disruption, competition over natural resources and massive, often involuntary, human movement. But we recognize that for each grand challenge, there is a history that must be considered, both to understand the problem and to bring about the research--and the change--necessary to address it. Here we find yet again Pomona’s unique value: to provide a broad and balanced curriculum in which we study subjects not in isolation but in connection; for collaborative and experiential learning; for considered attention to big questions in a multi-perspectival conversation. We thus realize that at Pomona, taking on grand challenges is an ongoing discussion that is woven into the very fabric of our identity.

Indeed, having a transformative impact on the problems demands the diversity of individuals and intellects which Pomona has purposefully assembled. The flourishing of that community of individuals is fundamental to finding answers that meet the world's needs, and no undergraduate college is prepared to do this as well as Pomona. As they depart from our gates, we hope Pomona graduates will be able to navigate the world with agility and grace, leaving each space they pass through better than when they arrived, each of their communities strengthened by their contributions and service to others.

We now affirm our commitment to taking on grand challenges. We will do so by bringing together students, faculty and staff from different backgrounds who are open to embracing a transformative, rigorous liberal arts education, in a face-to-face environment where we can all flourish—together. We will strive to deepen our knowledge of the past, address the urgency of the present and seize new intellectual opportunities for the future.

III. Transformative Knowledge and Creativity

The exciting and transformative occurs not only when people dive deeply into fields of study, but also when they work at the intersection of fields. Pomona, in its commitment to the liberal arts, excels at allowing people to explore these intersections while also providing opportunity for prolonged critical inquiry. We consider a Pomona education to be the foundation for a lifetime of learning and flourishing, where graduates are inspired continuously to learn more, while also recognizing that some of the most interesting (and unanswered) questions have been asked before and will continue to be asked for a long time. A Pomona education is not simply about the first, second or third job after graduation. It is about establishing a foundation for lifelong flourishing.

To establish that foundation, we must support the personal relationships that are at the heart of small-scale, residential liberal arts education and commit to cultivating those relationships in the context of a diverse community. At Pomona, we know that it is in relationships with others who have different backgrounds, experiences, ideas and passions that we have the interdisciplinary and intergenerational and intersectional conversations that make possible transformative learning. Our small size, broad and balanced curriculum and close-knit intellectual communities have set us apart since Pomona’s founding, and these features will remain the basis of our big impact.

Our next phase of exploration and the search for solutions must provide space, infrastructure and programming to connect our students in Southern California to the world. At the heart will be a newly imagined international center for engagement across languages, cultures and disciplines. This residential center will provide space for the immersive language learning that has been a hallmark of a Pomona education for half a century. In this way, it will be the center for global engagement and cross-disciplinary programming across Claremont and the world.

In reaffirming our commitment to a broad liberal arts curriculum, we recognize that the performing arts are a vital part of a Pomona education. Thus, as we continue to revitalize our campus infrastructure to enhance our core curricular endeavors in this area, we must fully realize the potential of the arts corridor that stretches across South Campus by rebuilding our dance and music facilities to better support teaching in the 21st century.

As a residential college and the founding member of the Claremont University Consortium, we commit to continued support of the Honnold-Mudd Library that sustains our academic community and curriculum. Even as we embrace modern technologies and pursue new electronic acquisitions, we also affirm the library’s central location and recognize the critical importance of housing physical materials there.

Encouraging curricular experimentation will allow our students to engage with the full breadth of our brand of liberal arts education. We will support disciplinary and cross-disciplinary approaches, enable new experiential learning opportunities and encourage early and generative thinking about life after college.

The 21st century provides opportunities to engage with technology, new pedagogies and sustainability. We seek to explore and advance the values, uses and purposes of technology across disciplines. We imagine a future in which information technology, teaching and advising, creativity and scholarship interact fluidly for engaging in the pursuit of truth, beauty and understanding of the human condition and the world around us.

We aspire to inclusive pedagogy and will invest in developing vibrant new pedagogies across the disciplines while supporting the already excellent teaching that has distinguished Pomona for more than a century. In addition, we must provide our students opportunities to engage in a diversity of experiences: in the classroom (broadly conceived), in their extracurricular activities and even in their work.

Last, but certainly not least, we reaffirm our commitment to sustainability on the campus and in the many communities we touch. We will support work across the disciplines that explores the implications and remediation of climate change, recognizing that we must continue to seek out new opportunities to make a transformative impact. We aim to better connect our institutional initiatives in this area to our curriculum and to raise the visibility of our efforts across our entire community.

IV. Flourishing and Inclusion

We aspire for all members of the Pomona community to flourish. Such flourishing requires a commitment to collaboration and fluid communication that is marked by listening, talking and observation among faculty, trustees, administration, staff, students and alumni.

We want all constituencies to achieve a healthy work-life balance in order to form those meaningful relationships, strengthen community connections, materialize the potential of their research and study and fully inhabit their lives.

We pledge to continue to work toward greater inclusivity and equity for our diverse community members. In doing so, we affirm the core principles, vision and long-term plans outlined in “Lighting the Path to 2025: A Vision for Diversity,” which include: excellence and rigorous learning in which diverse perspectives and backgrounds are essential in their pursuit; full participation through the creation of healthy environments in which all members of the campus community feel welcomed, respected, valued, supported and fully able to achieve and contribute; preparing students for lives of leadership, achievement and fulfillment in pluralistic societies; and developing the capacity of the College to leverage diversity as a critical resource in accomplishing its mission. We must place diversity at the center of the College’s mission and its values in hiring and bring to light the important opportunities for intellectual, emotional and ethical growth that are occasioned by living and working in such a diverse space.

We aspire for our students to achieve academic success in harmony with their overall wellness. This requires us to refine mental health and wellness services for students, both in prevention and crisis care. A renovated Rains Center for Athletics and Wellness will provide meaningful support for whole-body well-being. We challenge ourselves both to adopt policy and cultivate an ethos that will allow Pomona students to leave the College healthier than when they arrived.

The flourishing of our campus requires Pomona to recruit and retain faculty who are devoted to teaching, research/creative production and service to the College. We recognize that across the trajectory of each individual faculty member’s career, the relative importance of each of these aspects will rise and fall, but that regular engagement in all three areas is essential for the equitable and sustainable pursuit of our common educational endeavor.

We take pride in our staff, who through their daily efforts across our campus contribute mightily to the richness of relationships that define Pomona. Without them, the College could not function. Pomona should be the employer of choice for our staff: they should have competitive salaries and benefits, tangible recognition of their work and well-defined pathways toward promotion.

We should further invest in faculty and staff through three key areas: professional development, through mentoring and ongoing learning opportunities; financial well-being, through meaningful recognition of the cost of living in Southern California; and mental wellness, through a balanced distribution of College service.

Because personal, face-to-face relationships are central to our educational values, we commit to strategic long-term investment in renewing and expanding our tenure-track faculty in order to maintain our commitment to holistic education and a balanced, residential liberal arts curriculum.

Through their rigorous scholarship and artistic endeavors, our faculty model lifelong learning both professionally and pedagogically. Because faculty research and creativity are central pillars of our institutional mission, the College commits to continued robust support for faculty research, through external and internal sources, across all divisions.

Providing students opportunities to engage in research and creative endeavors, both in courses and beyond, on- and off-campus, prepares them to tackle grand challenges of the future, even those that we cannot imagine today. With an eye on students’ academic balance and personal well-being, we commit to developing an approach to summer immersive experiences that simultaneously expands the breadth of experiences available to students and optimizes the use of time and support (both financial and processional) for faculty, students and staff.

To support students as they progress toward graduation and begin thinking about their lives after Pomona, we envision a redesigned Career Development Office, one that is strengthened by the collaborative efforts of faculty, staff and alumni. Recognizing that a liberal arts education is not about getting a single job but about cultivating lifelong skills and sensibilities, a renewed CDO could assist both students and alumni in showcasing their added wisdom beyond the gates of the College.

For our alumni, flourishing includes creating new opportunities to reflect on, and to continue, their Pomona education. We hope alumni relations will continue to evolve, with enhanced opportunities for our alums to form mentor connections with current students and to participate in activities that show our community what a Pomona education looks like over time.

V. Equity and Access

Pomona College is among a handful of institutions nationwide that is able to practice need-blind domestic admission while also guaranteeing to meet full demonstrated financial need. In an era of rising economic inequality, access to a Pomona education regardless of family income remains a bedrock value of the College, and we are uniquely qualified to rethink the future of financial aid and the role of work-study as part of a student’s full educational experience. We must ensure that any student accepted at Pomona can attend and flourish.

As we look to a more equitable future for our students, we identify an ambitious goal: to fully endow financial aid as part of our commitment to need-blind admissions.

To be equitable, financial aid must address key issues of academic equity: for example, providing textbooks and other instructional materials, laptops and health insurance. Thus, we aspire to cover more of the fundamental costs of attending Pomona College with grant aid.

Increasingly, America’s most prestigious colleges have provided access for some of the most economically disadvantaged students. Yet higher education as a whole has not enhanced access for median-income families, especially those just a few thousand dollars above the poverty line. We seek to increase affordability for families across the income distribution in order to bring to campus a student body that better represents the diversity of the United States. We will also design and institute a cost guarantee to clarify financial aid for families and students.

As we address concerns of access and equity, we must consider the ramifications of potentially increasing the size of the College and whether it is possible to do so while preserving the deep and transformative relationships that are the basis of our work. Any discussion along those lines must involve all stakeholders.

VI. Conclusion

We end this Strategic Vision statement where we began.

Pomona will continue its work in providing a foundational education in a dynamically diverse and inclusive community to prepare students to face the grand challenges of our time. In the upcoming years, we also pose challenges to ourselves:

  • Expressing to a broader public why Pomona’s residential liberal arts education has become yet more vital as we confront extraordinary and dramatic changes; and
  • Cultivating an educational environment that can adapt to changing circumstances while also providing a setting that welcomes all students, faculty and staff, and nurtures full, in-person engagement among all members of our campus community.

We are a college located in a region unparalleled for the richness of its human diversity and biodiversity and for its cultural and social influence. Indeed, Southern California provides an exceptional setting for examining the many challenges that face our planet. We also affirm that, like Southern California, our college is home to many kinds of communities, and it is through face-to-face collaboration that we can best support each other while making a big impact through great ideas done right.

Foresight, imagination, intellectual rigor and the generosity of generations of alumni and friends have elevated Pomona to a fortunate position in American higher education. The aim of this plan is to move the College forward in a manner that promotes true flourishing both on our campus and, through our extended community, far beyond our gates. Making it a reality will require the support of that global Pomona family, one that has always stood together to bear our added riches in trust for all.

Endorsed by the faculty on May 14, 2020 and affirmed by the Pomona College Board of Trustees on May 15, 2020.