Students, Alumni Brought Together at Campaign Openings

Pomona College students are participating in launching events for the new “Daring Minds” campaign, taking place this fall on the East and West Coasts. Approximately eight to 10 Pomona sophomores, juniors, and seniors attend each event.

“Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds,” Pomona’s ambitious five-year campaign to raise a minimum of $250 million, was launched on campus on Oct. 16. Two regional fundraising events occurred in Seattle and San Francisco the weekend of Oct. 29, and two more are scheduled for New York and Washington, D.C. the weekend of Nov. 12.

Invitations to the four regional events are extended to all alumni, parents, and friends “within a certain radius near eachevent location”said Christopher Ponce, Vice President of Institutional Advancement. Attendees also include college trustees, faculty, and senior staff, as well as students.

The student selection process, which started over a year ago, “was certainly not entirely scientific,” Ponce said. “My staff and I asked Dean [of Students Miriam] Feldblum and other people in Student Affairs and [President David Oxtoby] and basically people who have a lot of interaction with students to just suggest a whole range of names of students that they felt would be good representatives of the college … sort of the best of Pomona students, which isn’t so hard to find, I have to admit.”

At each event, students and guests mingle and talk for 30 minutes during a reception and then attend a 40-minute program, consisting of campaign videos as well as remarks from Pomona College President David Oxtoby and others. Dinner is then served to tables of eight.

“Pretty much at every table we’ve got at least one student seated along with guests and then one faculty member, trustee or senior staff from the college,” Ponce said.

Rico Chenyek PO ’11, who attended both the Seattle and San Francisco fundraising events, said the conversation at the tables was largely casual, adding that it was interesting to converse with the people who make it possible to fund our school.

“It was really important, as a student, to see how Pomona goes about getting money and solidifying a billion-dollar endowment,” Chenyek said.

Bjorn Commers PO ’11, who attended the San Francisco event, said that he found the experience to be “mutually beneficial,” as both students and alumni were able to ask each other questions.

“I didn’t talk to that many alumni,” Commers said, “but the alumni I did talk to I talked to for quite a while, so it was nice to have more in-depth conversations.”

Commers said he felt the students were there to connect the alumni with the college and “to remind the alumni who they were donating for.”

Another San Francisco attendee, Meredith Willis PO ’11, said that the guests with whom she struck up conversation were very receptive to her questions, and she appreciated the advice they had to offer on life after Pomona.

Recalling a trustee seated at her table who had never had the opportunity to visit Pomona, Willis said she ended up feeling that having students participate in the event “was a really generous thing for Pomona to do: to give people who could otherwise not come to Pomona an insight into what kind of people Pomona was fashioning with their donations.”

Ponce said that his office has gotten positive feedback about the openings so far. He added that the videos of people at Pomona that are shown at the events are “very affecting.”

Ponce also said that the name “Daring Minds” has also received a positive response.

“My own interpretation is that everyone likes to read themselves into that phrase,” he said. “It’s nice to be thought of as a daring mind, whether you’re a student or a faculty member or a graduate.”

Chenyek said his own interest in the idea of daring minds was behind his excitement to be a part of the campaign.

“I think that in promoting daring minds you are promoting a notion of loving something and being critical of it at the same time,” Chenyek said. “The name to me sounds very daring, very critical and conscious, striving to keep an open mind and always learn more, and even challenge Pomona and other institutions.”

However, in terms of bringing up ideas about what it means to have a daring mind at the event itself, Chenyek said the excitement of attending a fancy dinner on Pomona’s bill, as well as having event coordinators seated at his table, “definitely filtered what I said, even though I think that’s the most important thing about the Daring Minds campaign.”

“I would have liked to comment on how Workers for Justice is a prime example of organized ‘daring minds’ doing some important, critical work on Pomona’s campus,” Chenyek said. “And that this example of daring minds is equally—if not more—worthy of bringing in funding for Pomona in comparison to the examples raised in the Daring Minds Film.”

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