Pomona College pursues a timeless mission in a changing world.
Our mission statement:
Throughout its history, Pomona College has educated students of exceptional promise. We gather individuals, regardless of financial circumstances, into a small residential community that is strongly rooted in Southern California yet global in its orientation. Through close ties among a diverse group of faculty, staff and classmates, Pomona students are inspired to engage in the probing inquiry and creative learning that enable them to identify and address their intellectual passions. This experience will continue to guide their contributions as the next generation of leaders, scholars, artists and engaged members of society to fulfill the vision of the College’s founders: to bear their added riches in trust for all.
Founded in 1887, Pomona is an independent, coeducational institution dedicated to the pursuit of knowledge and understanding through study in the liberal arts and sciences. It has an enrollment of approximately 1,650 students, evenly divided between men and women and composed of students representing a diverse mix of backgrounds and interests. With a student-faculty ratio of about eight to one and an average class size of just 15, Pomona offers its students a chance to work in close partnership with members of a world-class faculty, both in the classroom and through a range of opportunities for student research.
As a residential college with a strong sense of community, Pomona College provides students and faculty with an atmosphere stimulating to intellectual, artistic and athletic accomplishment, yet tranquil enough for the reflection, deliberation and free discourse upon which reason and imagination depend.
The College’s academic program encompasses all major areas of the arts, humanities, natural sciences and social sciences, as well as a range of interdisciplinary fields, including international and ethnic studies and a variety of emerging disciplines. Learning is encouraged through theory-building and empirical research, historical and linguistic analysis, practical experience and creative expression, critical inquiry and ethical debate.
As the founding member of The Claremont Colleges, a unique consortium of seven independent institutions on neighboring campuses, Pomona College offers its students both the intimate qualities of a small, academically elite liberal arts college and the breadth of resources to be found at a major university.
Pomona’s liberal arts curriculum and residential community prepare students for lives of personal fulfillment and social responsibility in a global context. Pomona graduates come to take very seriously the charge of former Pomona President James A. Blaisdell, carved years ago into Pomona’s gate: “They only are loyal to this college who, departing, bear their added riches in trust for mankind.”
The founding of Pomona College took place during a time of economic growth, immigration and cultural transformation. The arrival of the railroad, new industry and agricultural expansion in Southern California during the final decades of the 19th century brought a rush of new residents, many of whom settled in the inland valleys, setting the stage for the establishment of a range of new institutions, from churches to colleges. Pomona College was incorporated on October 14, 1887, by a group of Congregationalists who wanted to recreate on the West Coast “a college of the New England type”—one that would represent the very best of what they had experienced as students in the finest colleges of the Eastern and Midwestern United States.
Instruction began on September 12, 1888, in a small, rented house in the city of Pomona. The following January, an unfinished hotel (now Sumner Hall) in nearby Claremont—together with a considerable tract of adjacent land—was given to the College, which subsequently relocated there. Although this location was originally regarded as temporary, Claremont became the permanent home of the College. The name “Pomona College” however, had become so closely identified with the institution that it was retained.
Pomona awarded its first diplomas—seven bachelor of arts degrees, two bachelor of letters degrees and one bachelor of science degree—to the Class of 1894. In recognition of the College’s rapidly growing stature, Southern California’s first chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established there in 1913. With the freedom characteristic of colleges founded in the Congregationalist tradition (a distinguished list that also includes such institutions as Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Amherst, Smith, Wellesley, Oberlin, Carleton and Grinnell), Pomona was soon entrusted with its own governing board. Today, it stands as an independent college, with no sectarian affiliation.
Right from the start, Pomona was coeducational and—reflecting the 19th-century commitment of its Congregationalist founders to equity—open to students of all races. Pomona’s first African American student graduated in 1904, going on to Harvard Law School, but minorities remained very few in number at the College until the 1960s.
The College met a need for higher education in Southern California, and its growth over the years was steady and sure. In fact, by the mid-1920s, the growth of the College presented its leaders with a difficult choice: Should the College seek to retain its special character as a small college by limiting its expansion, or should it surrender the advantages of intimate size and allow growth to transform it into a university? Guided by President James A. Blaisdell, Pomona chose a third path. With the small colleges that make up the Oxford and Cambridge systems in England as a model, Pomona led the way in founding a consortium of institutions unlike any other in America. Over the next three quarters of a century, two graduate schools and four other undergraduate colleges joined Pomona as members of The Claremont Colleges consortium, with all but one located on contiguous campuses and all allowing cross-registration and sharing such important facilities as libraries and student health programs.
Through the years, Pomona also became an academic innovator. Located on what would later be known as the Pacific Rim, Pomona became a leader in Asian studies as early as the 1930s, long before such programs were common. Pomona was also an early leader among liberal arts colleges in preparing students to excel in the natural sciences. Today, Pomona continues to innovate with a range of interdisciplinary programs that bridge the traditional boundaries between academic fields.
From modest origins as a small college serving an undeveloped corner of Southern California, Pomona has grown into a college of national and international importance. In the mid-1980s, students from outside the state of California outnumbered in-state students for the first time. Since then, Pomona has firmly established itself as one of the preeminent liberal arts colleges in the nation, with a world-class faculty and a student body drawn from across the nation and around the world.
The College has seen enormous changes since its founders first looked out over a landscape of granite and sagebrush and envisioned “a college in a garden.” One thing hasn’t changed, however. Throughout its history, Pomona has maintained its dedication to both excellence and equity—offering deserving students, whatever their financial means or their backgrounds, a life-enhancing education through study of the liberal arts.
Pomona’s curriculum provides a balance between the breadth of a traditional liberal arts education and the depth necessary for advancement in a specific field. At Pomona, students find great educational rigor, but also the freedom to pursue their individual interests.
Classes are demanding, ensuring that students’ intellectual capabilities are stretched. Readings are intensive; projects often require new ways of thinking and innovative methods of analysis. Part of the intellectual experience in this community involves listening to others and considering different points of view. Journalist Walter Lippmann said, “Where all men think alike, no one thinks very much.” At Pomona, bright, intellectually active students learn from one another in an environment that deliberately encourages collegiality, not competition.
At Pomona, no specific course or department is prescribed for graduation. Even the first-year seminars called Critical Inquiry courses offer first-year students a wide array of choices among classes with such titles as War and Art; Penguins, Polar Bears, People and Politics; The TV Novel; Stages of Conscience; and Living with Our Genes. Likewise, in place of specific course requirements, Pomona’s Breadth of Study Requirements are designed to encourage exploration while providing significant freedom of choice. Students take at least one course in each of five areas: creative expression; social institutions and human behavior; history, values, ethics and cultural studies; physical and biological sciences; and mathematical reasoning. Whatever their fields of concentration, Pomona students explore widely among a variety of disciplines, not only to help them make informed choices about special areas of interest, but also to see their own disciplines in the broadest academic context.
For in-depth study, Pomona offers a choice of 48 majors, including all of the traditional disciplines of the humanities, fine arts, social sciences and natural sciences, as well as a variety of interdisciplinary fields. Majors at Pomona are not designed primarily to prepare students for specific careers, but rather to sharpen their ability to think critically and in depth using the analytical methods of the discipline. As part of the overall Pomona education, however, all majors have been shown to provide an outstanding foundation for success in whatever follows graduation—whether it be further study or a career.
Enrolling at Pomona is joining a community rich in diversity and opportunity. The residential nature of Pomona’s campus encourages students to share their talents, develop new ones and benefit from the varied social and intellectual backgrounds of their classmates and teachers. Pomona students are musicians and long-distance runners, computer whizzes and small business owners, aspiring poets and published scientists—in short, people with their own distinctive interests and abilities who share impressive academic backgrounds and a great enthusiasm for learning. From departmental gatherings to five-college dances, from a discussion over dinner to a varsity soccer game, Pomona people combine social, cultural, artistic and athletic activities with their academic pursuits to create their own Pomona experience.
A testament to the quality of life on campus is that fewer than five percent of students choose to live elsewhere. The scale and arrangement of Pomona’s 14 residence halls encourage students to get to know each other. Ranging in size from 60 to 250 students, with an average of about 120 each, these coeducational residences are large enough to bring together students with a variety of interests and experiences, but small enough to allow residents to work as a cohesive group. First-year students are divided into “sponsor groups” of 10 to 20 classmates who live in close proximity, along with their sophomore sponsors, who serve as informal organizers, guides and advisers. Resident advisers, usually seniors, live in each residence, serving as administrative liaisons and peer counselors, but each hall decides upon its own organizational, governing and planning structure.
Outside the classroom, students may choose from a practically limitless number of organized and spontaneous activities—from sports to the arts, community service to simply hanging around with friends. With the enormous number of public events available on the five undergraduate campuses—from lectures to concerts to films and plays, the danger of indecision far exceeds the danger of boredom.
Living together in such a lively and diverse atmosphere affords students a valuable opportunity to learn how to pursue their own interests and honor their personal values as part of a real community. One of the central purposes of residential life at Pomona is to embed knowledge in its daily social context and to enlighten daily life with an awareness of the balance of freedom and responsibility that lies at the foundations of civil society.
Pomona College is the founding member of The Claremont Colleges, a unique consortium of seven affiliated institutions that also includes Claremont Graduate University, Scripps College, Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College and Keck Graduate Institute of Applied Life Sciences. Each college serves its own distinctive purposes, determines its own policies and requirements, possesses legal autonomy and has an independent board of trustees and faculty.
The Claremont Colleges arose from Pomona College’s desire to maintain the advantages of a small college and to provide, in Claremont, an educational opportunity for the increasing number of young men and women who sought admission to the College. Under the leadership of James A. Blaisdell, president of Pomona College (1910-28), and Pomona’s Board of Trustees, the institution known as “Claremont Colleges” was incorporated on October 14, 1925. This institution assumed the responsibilities of a central coordinating agency, directed graduate instruction and founded new institutions. It was renamed “Claremont Graduate School and University” in 1963 and redesignated “Claremont University Center” in 1967. In July 2000, the central coordinating and support organization was split off from Claremont Graduate University and incorporated independently as Claremont University Consortium.
All members of The Claremont Colleges are highly regarded in the world of higher education, and all five undergraduate institutions are ranked among the nation’s academically elite liberal arts colleges.
The other members of The Claremont Colleges, in order of their founding, are:
Claremont Graduate University, founded in 1925, offers masters and doctoral degrees in many traditional academic and professional disciplines. Its enrollment is approximately 2,000.
Scripps College, founded in 1926 and named in honor of founder Ellen Browning Scripps, is a women’s college with an enrollment of about 1,060. It is noted for its core humanities curriculum that emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach to learning.
Claremont McKenna College was established in 1946 as Claremont Men’s College, a liberal arts college to educate men for leadership in business and government. The college became coeducational in 1976 and was renamed after Pomona alumnus Donald C. McKenna ‘29. Enrollment is approximately 1,300 students.
Harvey Mudd College, named in memory of a former chairman of the Board of Fellows of The Claremont Colleges, was incorporated as the fourth undergraduate college in 1955. This coeducational institution offers programs specializing in the natural sciences, engineering, mathematics and computer science for approximately 900 students.
Pitzer College, a coeducational liberal arts college best known for its strength in the social and behavioral sciences, was established in 1963 through a gift from Russell K. Pitzer, a Pomona alumnus of the Class of 1900. Its enrollment is approximately 1,060.
Keck Graduate Institute (KGI), founded in 1997 with a gift from the W.M. Keck Foundation, is the newest member of The Claremont Colleges, dedicated to education and research related to the applied life sciences. With more than 600 students, KGI offers postgraduate degrees and certificates that integrate life and health sciences, business, pharmacy, engineering and genetics.
The seven institutions in the group cooperate in their academic programs and in the use of certain common facilities. Within the limitations described elsewhere in this catalog, the undergraduate colleges open their classes, without tuition charge, to students at the other undergraduate institutions. Also, selected courses at Claremont Graduate University are open to undergraduate students. Central facilities and services available to all Claremont students include the libraries, student health services, counseling and religious centers, an international student center, ethnic student centers, a health education office, a biological field station and a bookstore. Intercollegiate programs in Africana studies, Asian American studies, Chicanx-Latinx studies and gender & women’s studies are jointly supported by the undergraduate colleges.
The joint facilities and services of The Claremont Colleges are coordinated and supported by The Claremont Colleges Services (TCCS) as determined by the governing board made up of the presidents, CEO, board chairs and at-large members. Printed copies of the constitution of The Claremont Colleges may be obtained from the president of any of the institutions or from the Office of the Chief Executive Officer of The Claremont Colleges Services.