CMC Study Examines School Image

Claremont McKenna College is
currently reviewing the results of a study on its school image carried out
last
spring. CMC hired Cohl group, a consulting firm, to conduct
the study, which was completed in May. In a recent follow up, Associate Vice President for Public Affairs and Communications Max Benavidez visited the Nov. 24 Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College meeting to present the study’s findings. 

According to an email to TSL from Benavidez, the study included
a 10-day immersion visit by the firm; interviews with President Chodosh,
trustees, senior leadership and faculty; and 8 discussion groups with 56
students as well as alumni and parents.

Benavidez wrote that the study was
meant to give CMC an “objective outside look at what we are about, at what we
are saying about ourselves, and also an opportunity to get a better sense of
our strengths and challenges.”

This was the first time that CMC used immersive research to examine its image, according to Benavidez. The study
ended with a “Narrative Summit” May 1 for students, staff, faculty and administration
to review the findings and their relation to CMC’s institutional self-narrative.

Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College
Vice
President Will Su CM ’16, who participated in the study, wrote in
an email to TSL that students were selected to participate in the discussions
from a wide range of groups at CMC, such as student government
leadership, RAs, international students and athletes.

“I
thought they tried their best to capture a representative sample of the CMC
population through the various sessions,” Su wrote.

Benavidez wrote that the study found that
some of CMC’s defining characteristics are as follows: a strong, people-oriented and “students-first” community; academic excellence; a civil and collaborative
culture; an exceptionally positive regard for faculty; and a practical,
globally-attuned approach to “learning for the sake of doing.” The unique consortium set-up, Southern California weather and proximity to Los Angeles were also listed as integral to CMC’s
identity.

“Presenting the
research findings to the Student Senate was an essential step in the process,” Benavidez wrote.  “Feedback from students
is critical to whatever we do on the communications front.”

Su wrote that ASCMC’s response to the
study was positive.

“The
general reaction was very agreeable to the findings suggested,” Su wrote. “I
think it’s great that we’re being introspective as a campus and examining how we
and outsiders perceive CMC. It challenges us and gives us space to evaluate
our values and priorities.”

Tanvi Bhargava CM ’17 said that she didn’t hear
about the study before being informed by TSL.
She said that the results in general sounded accurate to her
experience at CMC, and specifically agreed with the finding that
student-faculty relationships are very strong.

“The faculty treats you more like friends,”
Bhargava said. “You feel like you can easily talk to them about whatever you
want, it doesn’t need to be class related.” 

Despite agreeing with the results overall, Bhargava said she
was surprised that Benavidez’s email to TSL didn’t
mention
CMC’s social scene and “party culture,” which she believes is widely recognized
by students as a prominent part of the school’s image.

“I think the main focus here on the weekend is a party kind
of life,” Bhargava said. “I
think it’s a very good thing that CMC has this party scene and this
social scene, but at the same time I feel like the alcohol needs to go
down.”

Annushka Shivnani CM ’17 also said that she didn’t hear about
this study before being informed by TSL. She referenced the Athenaeum as an important resource for students to learn from people in their disciplines and to “gain exposure to real life applications” of academic study.

Shivnani and Bhargava both agreed that CMC’s strength lies in a practical approach to education. Bhargava noted the strength of CMC’s Career Services Center. Shivnani pointed out that this focus on practical education can create a negative perception of CMC as being highly career-oriented, but that she does not necessarily think that such an approach is problematic.

“I think there is a focus on what job you’re going to have after
college… but I think that’s also realistic. People need to think about that,” Shivani said.

Benavidez wrote
that the results of the study are being presented to various members of the CMC
community including students, alumni, leadership and trustees, who have been
offered a chance to respond, and said that the results of the study will be
used to help shape CMC’s communications “across the board.”

“The combined results and the exploration of
narrative themes will be drawn upon as we produce new content about the College
for our various audiences,” Benavidez wrote. 

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