Pomona College recently announced that Associate Dean of the College Mary Coffey and the Dean of the College office would be responsible for coordinating the Orientation Book Committee, community book discussion, and pairing new students with pre-major academic advisers. These responsibilities were previously handled by Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum.
The Pomona faculty has always been involved in the first-year book selection. Since the Orientation Book Committee is a faculty committee with student members, Pomona’s administration decided that it should be supervised and coordinated by the Dean of the College’s office.
“Because the Orientation Book Committee is a faculty committee, it makes sense for the Dean of the College Office to provide support,” wrote Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Audrey Bilger in an email to TSL.
“It’s a faculty committee chaired by faculty members which also includes students. The Dean of Students has been staffing the committee, so the selection is not changing, but rather what’s changing is which office is staffing the committee,” Feldblum said.
Even though she is no longer directly coordinating the book selection process, Feldblum will continue to be an important part of the first-year book selection process.
“To have someone in the Dean of the College’s office facilitate [the book selection] lines up more appropriately with faculty. That said, I’m working closely with Dean Feldblum and keeping her in the loop on things, since she has such a long history with this and I want to take advantage of that,” Coffey said.
Student engagement in the orientation book selection process remains important, despite these administrative changes. As in past years, Coffey sent out an email soliciting ideas from students for the first-year book, as well as themes and areas of interest that students believed the committee should consider. The email also gave students an opportunity to apply to join the Orientation Book Committee. The students selected will be notified on Friday, Oct. 21.
According to Feldblum, the other logistical change that Pomona made to its orientation process is that the Dean of the College office, instead of the Dean of Students office, will now match students with pre-major academic advisers, who meet with new students during orientation. The Dean of the College office has always decided, and will continue to decide, which professors become first-year advisers.
Pomona “really wanted to have advising be taken seriously by faculty and wanted to work on what the role of advising in tenure and promotion is, [which is more straightforward] if the Dean of the College’s office is fully coordinating the advising process,” Feldblum said.
“My office continues with its work in terms of providing support for faculty in terms of first- and second-year students and in terms of providing information” to the advisers, based on student’s adviser match letters, Feldblum added.
The changes to new student orientation are largely administrative logistical changes, and will likely not affect students.
“The Dean of the College Office is taking a more of an active role this year in the process than it has in recent years; however, I don’t foresee that the process will differ greatly from past practices,” Bilger wrote in an email to TSL.
Overall, the Dean of the College office has taken a larger role in orientation during the last five years, according to Feldblum, including the introduction of a day dedicated to academic programs and advising.
Consequently, the Faculty Executive Committee (FEC) has set up a faculty committee to review the academic affairs portions of new student orientation. The committee will report to the FEC in the spring, according to Bilger.