Pomona continues funding restriction on international opportunities for third consecutive summer

A shocked figure stands opposite a photo collage of international locations. A broken yellow arrow pointing to the latter connects the two places.
(Seohyeon Lee • The Student Life)

For the third consecutive summer, Pomona College will not provide funding for student internships, research and study opportunities outside the U.S. due to uncertainties and fluctuating travel restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Exceptions in the policy remain for students residing outside of the U.S. seeking opportunities in their home country, Associate Dean of the College Anne Dwyer said in a Feb. 7 email to students.

In summers prior to 2020, Pomona provided students with funding for domestic and international summer opportunities. The Pomona College Internship Program provided stipends covering the costs of living and travel expenses for internships, while the Summer Undergraduate Research Program connected students with faculty for summer research as well as with student-driven projects around the world.

The decision was made by Pomona’s Travel Risk Advisory Committee, which existed before the pandemic. The committee is comprised of the director of international and domestic programs, the associate dean who coordinates international initiatives and other administrators, Dwyer said.

“The Travel Risk Advisory Committee affirmed a recommendation made by a group of faculty and staff members who administer summer opportunities for students … student safety had to be the top consideration as we faced an unclear view of the summer,” Dwyer told TSL in an email.

The majority of funds for international summer projects will be reallocated to opportunities within the U.S., Dwyer said.

For students hoping to pursue summer opportunities abroad, the announcement was a disappointment. Riya Sivakumar PO ’23, a neuroscience major who secured a summer internship in January at the Max Planck Institute in Germany, said that she was “blindsided” by the announcement. 

“I’m a tour guide and I talk a lot about PCIP and SURP on my tours. I talk about how you’re able to find your own opportunities and the school will enable you to do it without a financial burden,” she said. Now, ineligible to have the opportunity funded, Sivakumar is trying to find alternative ways to pay for her summer internship in Germany. 

For Sivakumar, the decision is indicative of a decision-making process that doesn’t include transparency and student input.

“We have dialogue,” she said, “but maybe not about the most important things.”

Other students faced challenges in finding domestic alternatives to experiences they hoped to have abroad this summer. Riaan Dhankhar PO ’25 was planning to use college funding for an immersive Arabic-language program in the Middle East this summer. Dhankhar was hoping to spend time in the region after his freshman year to gain cultural and language expertise integral to a career in diplomacy and government affairs. 

“When you go to a small school, one of the things they talk a lot about is the access to incredible resources, internships and research for freshmen and underclassmen,” Dhankhar said. “But when you’re not given those resources, especially when this is something you’ve planned ahead for, it’s frustrating.” 

In 2019, 16 percent of students pursued international opportunities, so the policy will not likely affect the majority of Pomona students’ summer plans, according to Chelsea Ahn, director of the Pomona College Internship Program.

“Since the pandemic started, students have creatively found ways to engage in their global learning by pursuing virtual internships with international employers. Students have also engaged in their global learning with U.S. employers through international project topics or connections to international partners,” Ahn said in an email to TSL.

Ahn’s hopeful sentiments were echoed by David Tanenbaum, associate dean of the college and director of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program.

“In the past two years we have supported some domestic programs that support language acquisition skills, and some of the RAISE [Remote Alternative Independent Summer Experience] projects done remotely with Zoom and internet sources have been focused on international locations,” he said in an email. 

The other 5Cs have varying policies on summer funding.

Pitzer College’s policy currently aligns with Pomona’s, according to Pitzer spokesperson Kimberly Shiner. Its summer 2022 policy, however, is subject to change. 

Claremont McKenna College is taking a country-specific approach in providing summer funding, currently allowing students to work in eight countries including China and New Zealand, according to spokesperson Gilien Silsby.

Scripps College is providing summer funding for international opportunities, spokesperson Rachael Warecki told TSL via email. 

Harvey Mudd College’s resources are primarily directed toward on-campus research experiences, according to spokesperson Judy Augsburger, with travel abroad expected to be allowed after March 1 and subject to administrative approval. 

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