In recognition of its 125-year anniversary, Pomona College’s annual Trustee-Student Retreat, held last Friday, focused on Pomona’s values and its image as an institution in the national spotlight.
The theme of this year’s retreat was “Internal Values and Perceptions: Who are We? What are our Values?” One reason for choosing this theme was to celebrate the halfway mark for a ten-year strategic plan designed in 2007 to expand opportunities for Pomona students and enhance the Pomona community.
The retreat was also inspired by questions about community and values at Pomona that were raised around the Workers for Justice conflict last year, Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum said.
“It also came about because of last year, of really the introspection that went on about the importance of community and engagement, and of the great distress that students, faculty and staff across the college experienced with the events of last year,” Feldblum said.
She added that Pomona also has received a greater amount of national attention from collegiate ranking services such as U.S. News, Forbes and Princeton Review, which added to the importance of developing a comprehensive image for the college.
“For a long time, Pomona didn’t get any coverage,” she said. “Coverage for coverage itself has never been a Pomona priority. But it is in our interest that we do a better job in communicating who we are, what we are, what we stand for.”
To begin analyzing these questions, the Office of Student Affairs, in conjunction with the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC), sent out a survey in September to all students asking them to rank their individual values and the values that the college prioritizes as perceived by students. A total of 324 students (20 percent of the student body) and 26 trustees (49 percent of the board) responded to the survey.
The survey asked students and trustees to rate their level of agreement with statements such as “Pomona values providing support for a diverse student population” and “Pomona students desire contact with trustees.”
Students and trustees also ranked what they believed Pomona is known for externally. The top two characteristics, according to the survey, were “Ability, promise and character of students,” and “Affordability and access for all students.”
Vice President for Campus Activities Joseph Reynolds PO ’15 said that the focus of the retreat was a welcome change of pace from last year’s theme.
“Last year had a much clearer goal,” he said. “It was sort of like, ‘What are we going to do with the [Career Development Office]?’, whereas this year was more, ‘Let’s take a look at ourselves.’ This one was a bit more toned down and very introspective, and I appreciated that because it develops a new motivation for trustees and students and the college for the years to come.”
Reynolds added that projecting a collective image as a nationally recognized institution is a necessity.
“As we get better in the rankings and we get into the public eye more often we need to have something to say for ourselves,” he said.
Rishi Sangani PO ’15, who attended the retreat, said that he thought the retreat was too concerned with promoting the college’s image instead of addressing concrete issues.
“I like the fact that people don’t necessarily know who we are, but the people who know who we are know our student body self-selects,” he said. “Last year, it felt more productive, but not this year.”