Live-in sponsors to return to Pomona next fall

Two doors with a blue square on them are behind a single door with a yellow star on it. The hallway is decorated with streamers and has a floor mat, sandals and a greenbox.
(Bella Pettengill • The Student Life)

On Sunday, March. 12 before spring break, Pomona College’s sponsor applications for the fall 2023 semester closed. For the first time in two years, sponsors will live in the same dorm as their first-year “sponsees” under the newly reinstated live-in sponsor policy. 

Pomona’s Sponsor Program matches a student sponsor, usually a sophomore, with groups of around 15-20 incoming first-year sponsees within the same residence hallway. These sponsors work in collaboration with co-sponsors, head sponsors and resident advisors to ease first years in their transition to college life, such as helping students on move-in day and providing guidance class registration.

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, sponsors lived in the same hall as their sponsor group. When students later returned to campus in September 2021, the live-in aspect of Sponsor programs had not resurfaced. Many sponsors and their sponsees were separated by floor levels or dorms. 

Students like resident advisor Nick Nguyen PO ’23 felt the continued separation within sponsor groups inhibited interpersonal bonding and would, consequently, be detrimental to the program. In October 2022, Pomona assistant director of residence life and the first year experience Joel Petty invited Nguyen to speak with Pomona’s Board of Trustees and advocate for sponsor policy change, so that live-in sponsors could return. 

“I expressed how valuable that was to the Board of Trustees when I spoke to them as an RA but also as someone who has had meaningful sponsors really make a big impact in his first year,” Nguyen said.

Head sponsor Oluyemisi Bolonduro PO ’23 was pleased to hear about this return toward pre-pandemic policy. As a first-year in 2019, Bolonduro recalled her own experience of how much more effectively live-in sponsors could facilitate community on campus more organically.

“One thing that makes the Sponsor Program so special is having that live-in mentor and someone who’s just genuinely invested in your well-being and your sense of belonging on campus,” Bolonduro said. “When sponsors live in close proximity to their sponsees, relationships form more naturally and less formally.”

Some students have speculated that the suspension of live-in sponsors may have been due to the college’s over-enrollment and lack of available housing during the return to campus. Bolonduro explained that while sponsors had been guaranteed singles in the past, many of these rooms were converted into doubles to fit more students on campus. Without the live-in element of the Sponsor program, these singles have not been offered to sponsors for the past two years. 

According to sponsor Adam Osman-Krinsky PO ’25, without live-in sponsors, many RAs were obligated to step into more of a sponsor-like role in the dorms.

“In a lot of ways RAs have acted in the past two years … as pseudo sponsors, in addition to their RA roles, because they’re the only ones in the hall that had that relationship,” he said. “So I think it’ll take a lot of the social flak off the RAs.” 

Head sponsor David D’attile PO ’23 explained that the removal of live-in sponsors for the Class of 2025 changed students’ relationships with the Sponsor program after transitioning back from online classes.

But with the reinstatement of the live-in sponsor policy, D’attle is confident that the experience will increase community cohesion, and encourage all eligible students to participate. 

“I think the people that used to take on that role [were] the people who felt a desire to push forward the community that was provided to them when they got here, and that was a really impactful experience,” said D’attile.

Pomona’s 2023-2024 Sponsor Program will see sponsors and head sponsors participate in Residence Hall Staff Fall training in mid-August before first-years arrive on campus.

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