Associate Dean and Title IX Coordinator Daren Mooko will be leaving Pomona College at the end of the year to become vice president of student affairs and dean of students at Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington, according to a Feb. 24 email from Pomona College Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum.
Mooko has been with Pomona College since 1997 in various roles. He first served as the director of the Asian American Resource Center, where he helped create the 5C Asian American Advisory Board, the Pomona Bias Incident Response team, and the Claremont Colleges Department of Asian American Studies.
In 2008, he became the Associate Dean of Students for Student Leadership and Development. In this role, he watched over judicial affairs and launched new leadership programs at Pomona. During this time, he also started to work as Title IX coordinator. He was officially promoted to Title IX coordinator and Clery Officer by Pomona President David Oxtoby in 2015.
TSL had the opportunity to interview Daren Mooko following news of his departure and asked him about how the college has changed, how it can continue to improve, and what he will miss most.
TSL: How have you seen Pomona grow and change in your 20 years here—especially in the areas you work in?
Daren Mooko: I’ve seen growth in many forms of diversity, in terms of religion, racial diversity, ethnic diversity. I’ve seen this community grow tighter together. I’ve seen faculty, staff, and students continue to develop very strong relationships that I think make Pomona such a special place. I think accordingly, we attract faculty, staff, and students who are looking for something like that.
With respect to Title IX, I’ve seen the college make tremendous strides from 1997 until today and probably none more significant than the last five to six years and I think that was a result of federal guidance and students voicing their concern—pushing the college to be better. I think there is a lot more work to be done, but I think we have made huge strides.
TSL: Would you be comfortable saying Pomona is a good model for other schools to follow, with respect to these issues?
DM: That is difficult to say. Three to four years ago I might have been more likely to say that, but the reason I’m less likely to say that [now] is because other colleges and universities have their own cultures and when I look at the intricacies of how we do things here, I realize that it just doesn’t work with their culture. You don’t even have to look far. There are policies and procedures at the other 5Cs that work perfectly for them but might not work perfectly for us. So, it’s hard to say we are a model for other schools.
The one area where I think we do very well—I think there is a sense of transparency at this college that may not always be that true at other places. Everyone from the chair of the Board of Trustees all the way to me, there is a privilege and priority given to transparency—of process, numbers, policy, procedures—we are always erring on the side of transparency.
TSL: What do you hope for Pomona in the future for Student Affairs, Title IX, and Diversity?
DM: What I hope for Pomona with respect to student affairs, diversity, Title IX … is to stay on a very similar trajectory. I think what we are doing is good work. We have more work to do but we are headed in the right direction. With respect to diversity issues, President Oxtoby really set a tone when he came in and created the President’s Advisory Committee on Diversity.
The fact that he set up an advisory committee was not that earth-shattering but [what] was insightful on his part when he did it was that he included faculty, staff, and students on that committee. As a result, that committee, and therefore the college, really views diversity through a lens of how faculty, staff, and students interact with each other.
I would love to see that community, that kind of problem-solving, goal-reaching, aspirational work that weaves in and out of all faculty, students, and staff. That to me is something valuable.
I think with respect to Title IX, I would love to see it continue on a trajectory where we are always open to student feedback—we are always being responsive to what students are telling us is happening, what is working, what is not working—and with the EmPOWER Center coming on board in the last year, I would love to see more educational intervention in the years to come.
TSL: What will you miss most about Pomona?
DM: The list is too long. First and foremost, I will always miss the people here, starting with the students and all my colleagues—faculty and staff. It’s just a world-class institution with world-class people.
It has been such an honor and privilege to be around so many people that I constantly learn from. I think that one area that is overlooked a lot is how faculty and staff learn from students. That has been such a blessing—so I think first and foremost, the people.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length.