Sunday, October 25, 2009

Beyond Buzzwords, part 2

Hi, readers! For those of you who have been following along for a while, welcome back! If this is your first time reading Admission Unpeeled, welcome! We created this blog over a year ago to provide behind-the-scenes insights into the Pitzer College Office of Admission, and to discuss the admission process in general. Last week we began a four-part series designed to demystify and move beyond the “buzzwords” that we use to define Pitzer’s values. We started with Social Responsibility. This week we’ll be talking about Intercultural Understanding. But first, as usual, some numbers from my travels this week:


  • The Roo (my 1999 Subaru Outback) had the week off, since I spent the whole week in Chicago with a rental car (a Hyundai Elantra named “Ellie”). Ellie gets better mileage than the Roo, so the approximate number of gallons of unleaded fuel consumed: 22.
  • Number of BLT sandwiches I ate: 3.
  • Slices of “Chicago-style” pizza I ate: 0.
  • Days in a row that “Balloon Boy” beat out Health Care as the leading news story: 3.


The importance we place on Intercultural Understanding stems from a strong belief that our world, and the ways that we hope to make it better, require us to see things from perspectives that might not come naturally to us. Few people reading this blog will honestly disagree that this is a good thing. But what does it mean specifically? Are we talking about diversity? What kinds of diversity? What kinds of cultures are we referring to, and how does this idea play out in our admission process as well as at Pitzer on a daily basis?


For prospective students, this means two things: one, we’re looking for students who contribute in some way to the diversity of our community; and two, that students value the diversity around them. We want an intellectually diverse student body in which you can find friends interested in Neuroscience, Environmentalism, Literature, Art, etc. We want an ethnically diverse student body in which your relationships with your peers become genuine learning opportunities every day. We want a geographically diverse student body from which you can know a good place to get a home cooked meal anywhere in the world. We want a racially diverse student body that reflects the world we live in. Diversity comes in many forms and part of your job in the application is to explain how you contribute to, and value, our diverse community.


Significantly, we want this same diversity from the faculty who guide our education. Pitzer already has one of the most diverse faculties of any liberal arts college in the country, and the administration has made it clear that continuing to diversify our faculty is a real institutional priority.


Aside from who you (the prospective student) already are, we want to see that you crave a diverse environment. Maybe you grew up in the middle of Manhattan with a cacophony of languages and cultures all around you. Or maybe you’re from a small town where almost everyone around you knows your first, middle, and last name. Either way, we want to bring students to Pitzer who can articulate what they’re excited to contribute to the community, as well as their desire to learn from others in it.


The journey only begins once students arrive at Pitzer on move-in day! All of our academic programs require students to incorporate some cultural study that takes them outside of their own community. The major you select or create will need to include at least one course on a non-Western or non-American subject.


Moving beyond the classroom, more than 70% of Pitzer students study abroad before they graduate! Our students go abroad more than those from almost any other school for a number of reasons. First, we actively look for prospective students who are excited to take this opportunity. Second, we think of studying abroad as an integral part of a progressive liberal arts education, not an optional luxury. As a result, all of our Financial Aid packages apply to studying abroad. If students are admitted to Pitzer, then they can study abroad through Pitzer. Finally, our students are encouraged to study abroad by their faculty and peers because we know the value of a community that is enriched by other cultures. When at least three out of four people around a table have spent a significant chunk of time in a foreign country, it changes the kinds of conversations one can have. It will also change what you and your peers do after you leave Pitzer.


Since 2002, Pitzer has been awarded more Fulbright Fellowships than any other school in America per capita. After graduation you can find Pitzer alumni scattered across the globe, literally. Many choose to return to countries in which they studied, others join organizations that allow them to serve a totally new community, and still others simply seem to throw a dart at a map and take off to explore themselves and their world. As a community, we believe that the world would be a better place if more people shared this attitude!


I hope that this gives you a better idea of what we mean when we talk about Intercultural Understanding. If you have any questions or comments we would love to hear from you. Before you go though, take a minute to check out where Cecil the Sagehen has been this week! While everyone in the office is running around the country meeting students this season, we snap shots of Cecil in various locations. If you can figure out where Cecil has been in these pictures, then we’ll send you a prize. Honest! We’ve already had two winners: congratulations to Katie Kecso of West Des Moines, Iowa and Benjamin Levine of Providence, Rhode Island. Keep up the good work!


I went out one night in Chicago and Cecil was unable to join me (past Cecil’s bedtime). I was able to capture some video from the night before a security guard asked me not to film inside the club (sheesh!). If you can figure out who’s singing on stage, then you’ll not only get a prize from Pitzer, but a special nod of approval from me. And we all know how satisfying a nod of approval can be. Until next week, my friends!




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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Beyond Buzzwords, part 1

Hello readers! I’m writing to you from Wallingford, Connecticut. I’m sitting at a place called Half Moon Coffee and Grille Café. This place serves up a perfect combination of hearty, Italian-inspired meals alongside genuine Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee; and if you know me at all, you know how happy I am!

Now that we are fully engulfed in the crisp autumn air of October, many more of you are beginning to get your first real looks at college applications. You’re reading brochures, navigating websites, talking to counselors, and imagining yourself in different schools around the country. Throughout your literal and figurative journey, you will “try different colleges on for size,” see how you look in their colors, listen to how the names of different schools sound in your voice, and increasingly notice places where the fit is too loose, too tight, or just right. You will hear and read about how schools define themselves, and you will wait to feel a resonation between their values and yours. I call the values by which schools define themselves, for this reason, buzzwords.

Pitzer’s buzzwords include Social Responsibility, Student Autonomy, Intercultural Understanding, and Intercultural Learning. They are alternatively known as our core values.

Over the next weeks I will write about each one of these values, providing real life examples, to help us get beyond buzzwords. Our goal is to clear the air of static and really get down to the way that these values play out in our day-to-day lives at Pitzer. Hopefully, you’ll find something that resonates with you!

But first, some quick numbers from this week’s travels:
•Miles on The Roo (see last week’s post if you’re not familiar with The Roo): 960.
•Approximate number of gallons of unleaded fuel consumed by The Roo: 48.
•Approximate number of gallons of coffee (good…and bad) consumed by me: 2.5.
•Number of live deer observed from the road: 2.
•Number of deceased deer observed from the road: 5.

But I digress…

This week I want to talk about Social Responsibility. When students ask me to talk about the “typical” Pitzer student, this is often the first thing I think of. Our definition of Social Responsibility is intentionally broad (think of it as inclusive rather than ambiguous). Quite simply, Social Responsibility at Pitzer is the shared agreement that knowledge has ethical implications. The opportunity to live and learn at Pitzer imbues us with a responsibility to help a larger community, and empowers us to do so.

Everyone at Pitzer has a fire burning inside them about something in the world. It may be environmental justice, education, national politics, international development, human rights, gender equality, sexual liberation, medicine… Not everyone is passionate about the same thing, but everyone is passionate about something. Learning about the issues that are meaningful to other students is an important part of the intellectual diversity that we love at Pitzer.

In the admission process we are looking for students who have already demonstrated their commitment to something outside of themselves: a community service placement, an independent project, responsibility within one’s own family, activism and leadership in a community organization, the list goes on indefinitely; our understanding of social responsibility is as diverse as our student body.

As a Pitzer student, one is expected to continue learning and working on behalf of a larger community. The Center for California Cultural and Social Issues (CCCSI) is one of the best places in Claremont to get connected to a local organization that is doing valuable community work. Funding, transportation, and guidance is always available for students to pursue a totally unique social engagement project. All Pitzer study abroad programs include a community service component. Pitzer students are required to complete at least one semester’s worth of a community commitment, which can be fulfilled by any of the opportunities listed above, or by working in one of several positions on campus to strengthen and support our immediate community.

It is no surprise that most Pitzer graduates go on to jobs, activities and careers after college that reflect the value of Social Responsibility. Many alumni can be found teaching, working, and volunteering around the country and abroad with an organization they discovered during their time at Pitzer. Others are working for socially oriented law firms, NGOs, or private companies. The ways that Pitzer students choose to make the world a better place, again, are as diverse as the students themselves.

So as you think about Pitzer, and think about yourself, we hope you find your values matching ours. We’re excited for you to teach us about social responsibility in your life! While you strut your stuff in front of the metaphorical mirror, enrobed in Pitzer orange, take a moment to see if you can spot where Cecil has been this week. You may notice a certain theme between this week's pictures and this article! Email me at adam_rosenzweig@pitzer.edu if you think you know where Cecil is in the pictures below, or if you have any questions about social responsibility, or any other part of the application. Thanks for reading, see you soon!Here's a hint for this video clip. The band you're seeing is called Rude Mechanical Orchestra, one of several social activist street bands to perform at this festival. Name the festival, and the city, and you'll get a prize!

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Sunday, October 4, 2009

On The Road

Goodbye, September! Hello, October! Goodbye, summer; hello autumn. Goodbye flip-flops, hello flannels (except in Claremont, where we never say goodbye to flip-flops). This week found me moving farther away from Boston. In fact, I visited a school in Bethel, Maine that is about as far away from Pitzer as any of the admission staff will travel this year. I have to say, despite my California blood, that I am completely in love with New England! The leaves are fully in transition out here and the process is awesome. I drove through White Mountains National Park in New Hampshire and a number of times I almost pulled over and wandered up into the enticing hills. It looked like what an ant would see from inside a bowl of Fruity Pebbles. Amazing. Consequently, this week I want to talk about the lives that we live while we’re “on the road.”


First, for perspective, some numbers from this week:

  • Miles I drove in my 1999 Subaru Outback (affectionately known as Roo, or The Roo): 801.
  • Approximate number of gallons of regular unleaded fuel The Roo consumed: 40.
  • Approximate number of fluid ounces of coffee I consumed: 200.
  • Average number of hours slept each night: 6.


As you can see, I spend a lot of time in my car. I was thinking about why my colleagues and I do this. Why we wake up with the sun and drive for hours to visit students and schools in locations that are seemingly designed to befuddle our precious GPS devices. Why we say goodbye to friends and family in exchange for hotel rooms and toll booths. I decided to ask my colleagues what are their favorite and least favorite parts of travel season, as well as what music they’ve been listening to on the road.

Assistant Director of Admission, Constance Perez’s favorite part of traveling is meeting students, though she knows it’s cheesy, and going to Sadie’s (the restaurant, not the dance) in New Mexico. Her least favorite part is flying. This week Constance’s playlist includes Stevie Wonder, Prince, and the 500 Days of Summer soundtrack.


Admission Counselor Danny Irving’s favorite part of traveling is getting to start his day as late as ten o’clock in the morning sometimes. That happens on the “almost never” side of “sometimes,” but you can’t blame a man for dreaming. His least favorite is visiting five schools in a day and then having to catch a flight. He also hates white Tic-Tacs (he knows that hate is a strong word). Danny forgot his iPod at home this week, so he has been listening to the distant but familiar memory of his mother nagging him as a child to double check that he’s packed everything before he leaves the house.


Associate Director of Admission Justin Voss’ favorite part of traveling is meeting students, finding good food, and experiencing different weather. His least favorite part is being away from his family. Justin’s playlist this week includes Monsters of Folk and 7 Worlds Collide, as well as Ryan Bingham and the Dead Horses.


Director of Admission Angel Perez’s favorite part of traveling is seeing students in their own elements and environments. He also loves eating regional food! Angel’s least favorite part is airport delays. This week, Angel has been digging Camisa Negra by Juanes, a Colombian artist.


My least favorite part of traveling is the food. I refuse to eat another Hampton Inn breakfast sandwich. I simply refuse. I did, however, find an excellent cup of coffee at a café called The Met in North Conway, New Hampshire! Songs on heavy rotation in my car this week include “I Lost It,” by Lucinda Williams and “No Rest for the Weary,” by the Blue Scholars. I love finding beautiful places in nature, as well as experiencing new and often bizarre scenes of American life. Ultimately, like my colleagues, my favorite part of traveling is getting to meet students and talk about college. It’s the fundamental reason why we deal with late flights, long days, homesickness and headaches. We really believe that Pitzer is an amazing place and we love hitting the road to find the next class of amazing people who will make it their own!


Last but certainly not least, Cecil the Sagehen loves traveling! The proof will be here every week for the next couple of months. Below are some more candid shots of Cecil on the road. Email me at adam_rosenzweig@pitzer.edu if you think you know where Cecil’s been this week and we’ll send you a prize! Cecil’s favorite part of traveling is escaping from predators (which include just about everything) and collecting travel-size shampoo bottles from hotels. Cecil’s least favorite part of travel is all the flying (go figure). Cecil’s favorite band this week is Ryan Adams and the Cardinals (Cecil has a thing for redheads, but who doesn’t?).