Pomona College’s head sponsors for the 2011-2012 school year were announced Feb. 7. Alex Garver PO ‘12, Thuy Ly PO ‘12, Mindy Hagan PO ’12, and Seanna Leath PO ‘13 were chosen for the position.
According to Dean of Campus Life Ric Townes, twelve students applied for the position of head sponsor this year, the largest applicant pool Townes has ever reviewed.
“It wasn’t easy to distill it down to four because this particular pool was really strong,” Townes said. “I think what made these four stand out was their sense of what they think could be improved in the program and their sense of specific things that they think they want to do to make those improvements.”
As a sponsor in Gibson this year, Leath has been able to see the different areas that work within the sponsor program and the areas that can be improved. She applied to be a head sponsor because she wanted to make the program more successful for all students.
“Specifically, I want to work on improving the relationship in the sponsor groups throughout the year,” Leath said. “Sponsors get so busy that the community between sponsor groups ceases throughout the year. I want to form supportive and cohesive sponsor groups that stay together throughout the year.”
Garver, who was a sponsor last year in Blaisdell, also pointed to his experience as a sponsor as a crucial factor in his decision to apply for head sponsor.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a while because I’ve thought about my experience going through the program as a first year and then as a sponsor and that was an important part of my experience at Pomona,” Garver said. “I think this is a great opportunity to be part of a process where people transform, grow, and flourish. If I can be part of a process that allows first years to start off a great four years of college, that would be really rewarding.”
Though Townes said there are no specific requirements for students who apply to be head sponsor, all but one of the applicants in the last two years was a sponsor prior to applying for the head sponsor position. Garver, Leath, and Hagan have all served as sponsors, while Ly was a Residence Hall Programmer this year.
Townes also denied that substance use was a consideration in picking this year’s head sponsors or that it was a focus for the sponsor program next year. Nonetheless, two of the new head sponsors lived in substance-free sponsor groups.
In the past three years, two sponsors have been de-sponsored for possession of substances in their room. Some students expressed the suspicion that RHS is placing emphasis on lower substance use in their program, in light of these events.
“After Andrew’s desponsoring, no one really knows what’s going on,” said Michael Maltese PO ‘14, who plans to apply for a sponsor position next year. “It’s just sort of who they’re looking for. There are some people more likely to follow the rules.”
Still, Townes insisted that substance use was not an important factor.
“We have not been focusing on substance culture like that’s a central problem we have to deal with,” Townes said. “We’ve just been more clear about what’s the purpose, what’s the focus of the program, and how were going to deliver that. If we do that I think those other things will take care of themselves.”
According to Hagan, having head sponsors who have lived in sub-free should not have any real impact on the way the sponsor program is run.
“I personally don’t think it will have any effect,” Hagan said. “It may benefit the program because we may bring a different perspective than someone who wasn’t in sub-free, but I don’t think someone who wasn’t in sub-free would be un-relatable to someone who is sub-free. I don’t really see the connection between the de-sponsorings and having head sponsors who have been in sub-free. I don’t think it would change or alter my opinion as to dealing with policy violations as a head sponsor.”
According to Townes, though he does not expect there to be many changes to the sponsor program next year, the new head sponsors have all talked about building a stronger relationship between the sponsor program and the various mentor programs on campus in order to better support first-year students.
“We haven’t had an intentional and formal working relationship with the mentor programs,” Townes said. “Each head sponsor now is going to reach out to a mentor program and try to build a relationship with them so there is a more direct, formalized relationship with them.”
According to Leath, creating a better relationship between the sponsor program and the mentor programs is important especially for students who in the past have felt marginalized within their sponsor groups. She hopes that creating less of a divide between the mentor programs and the sponsor programs will give all students a better support system.
Townes added that there has been talk about forming a better relationship between the sponsor program and the Draper Center, in order to pursue more community outreach activities, as well as reaching out to the Career Development Office so that student have more career support during their first year.