top of page

CMC’s Presidents and Our Evolving Mission

December 15, 2016

by Connor Bloom

CMC’s Presidents and Our Evolving Mission

At CMC, we pride ourselves on being a college rooted in tradition. Particularly in our liberal arts approach to learning with a twist that emphasizes a practical “learning to do” knowledge and a strong focus on Government, Economics and matters relating to politics such as International Relations (IR). In 2015, 87 students graduated with Economics on their diploma, 49 with Government, 25 with IR, and 33 with a Leadership Sequence.[i] Clearly our founding focus on business, government, and leadership is still present in CMC’s current iteration. However, today’s leaders in these sectors require vastly different skills than our peers that graduated in 1946 did. In his book, Roots of Malcolm Carnegie McKenna, Donald C. McKenna notes that on June 4th, 1946, the Claremont Board of Fellows officially approved what would become CMC. They unanimously voted that “an undergraduate School for Men with emphasis on Business and Public Administration be undertaken under Claremont College.” McKenna later lays out the 1946 Statement of Purpose, the college’s first mission, published in the first addition of the school’s catalog. 

It states:

“It is clear that modern business leadership must respect the public interest and the demands of social responsibility. It is also clear that public administration must understand the techniques and the spirit of private enterprise if government is to operate effectively… Business administration and public administration are to be taught in combination so that their numerous interlocking aspects can be clearly studied from a bi-partisan viewpoint…[an] emphasis on training leadership in public and private administration… For those who are to guide corporate and public affairs in modern society, the importance of ethical foundations can hardly be overstated.”

From day one, CMC’s priorities centered on training leaders in the public and private sectors or government and business in a liberal arts style approach—ensuring that CMCers had the ethical foundations to fulfill those roles.

Over the years, CMC and its Presidents have faced the challenge of keeping the college’s education up to date with the changing world, ensuring today’s graduates can effectively function as tomorrow’s leaders. This evolution of curricula, programming, centers, and more has taken many forms; the rest of this article will explore a few of the ways CMC has changed in the intervening years since 1946.

John Faranda ‘79 notes that the introduction of the research institutes to the college as “a way for students and faculty to work together on various academic projects” helped to more fully realize our “focus on the practical, on the real world, [which] became more of a reality through the research institutes.” Another integral part of today’s CMC education, the Athenaeum, was originally derived from Donald McKenna’s childhood experiences. When he was young and later studying at Pomona, McKenna’s father would hold “hot chocolate sessions” at the old Claremont Inn where various faculty members would gather to “talk about the events of the day,” something that McKenna felt was extraordinarily valuable.

In the course of our discussion, Faranda also noted that CMC’s second president, Jack Stark, began CMC’s modern study abroad program. Stark created the policy that allowed students on financial aid to take that with them abroad, thereby making it a much more realistic goal. Faranda also pointed out that we’ve always had an international community on campus—a student from Hong Kong received the very first CMC diploma. Through the introduction of the research institutes and the Athenaeum we more holistically fulfilled our founding doctrine; our strong study abroad programs and diversity on campus allowed CMC students to escape the “Claremont bubble” and get real world experience.

During her tenure as President, Pamela Gann brought her extensive experience of law, international economics, and nonprofits to CMC—in doing so, modernizing the college’s financial and global studies programs. In her time serving as President, 65% of CMC’s current faculty was hired; to that point, Gann remarked, “good students will come primarily for academic reasons, and when you have a good faculty.” She also pointed out that most of the hiring was done in several key areas, those being finance and areas relating to globalization—comparative politics, History, IR, and Languages. Gann also echoed our founding statements saying that she believes in, “educating students for the arena […] of public affairs, public policy, and the private for-profit sector.” However, she pointed out that when she arrived on campus there was one “third prong” that she felt was missing from CMC: the non-profit sector. This led to the creation of the Kravis Prize and a few new foci for the Kravis Leadership Institute and Career Services. In Gann’s words, the non-profit sector is important because she firmly believes that “our kinds of students will work for them, they may create one, and they may be very involved in their communities and they will be on the boards of non-profits. They’re a big part of our civil society.”

Pivoting to today, President Chodosh discussed how he believes CMC can continue to evolve to best prepare our graduates to be tomorrow’s leaders. President Chodosh framed this strategic initiative in terms of three virtues that he believes bridge the gap, and moreover, overlap CMC’s pragmatic focus and its liberal arts heritage. These three values are: creativity, empathy, and courage. He noted that our application to be an Ashoka U Changemaker Campus featured these values prominently.

Chodosh noted that early in his time at CMC he directed what is now called Student Opportunities Center to ascertain what employers were actually looking for; this was synthesized down into “complex problem solving and leadership in diverse settings”.  From the three virtues and the two qualities, President Chodosh has pursued a strategy that pushes Claremont McKenna to be a campus that is a center for innovation, as well as for cross collaboration between the sciences. He noted that some of CMC’s most popular majors are Economics-Engineering, Management-Engineering, and Science & Management, all three of which are interdisciplinary between economics and science. He also stressed that in today’s world, knowledge of computer science, or at least approaching problems from a computer science angle, is imperative. Therefore, he is pursuing an aggressive strategy of “horizontal integration” in that department. President Chodosh was drawn to CMC because, “At other colleges, students study poverty, at CMC they want to solve it. It’s this impulse that makes us special.” To help facilitate CMC’s natural entrepreneurial spirit, President Chodosh directed the hiring of Scott Sherman, Senior Director of Social Innovation and Co-Curricular Programming for the Kravis Leadership Institute. Chodosh noted, “Innovation animates our leadership mission.”

Our Admissions page states, “Claremont McKenna College educates its students for thoughtful and productive lives and responsible leadership in economics, government and public affairs” and CMC “attracts students who approach education pragmatically and who intend to make a difference in the world. […] graduates leave CMC well prepared for the challenges of the 21st century.” While the challenges that faced the leaders in our first graduating class of 1948 may have been very different from their modern day peers, at our core, CMC’s mission has always remained the same. In the words of John Faranda ’79, “CMC has not succumbed to the temptation to try to do everything.” As we step into the future with a renewed focus on the sciences, our global world, and social innovation and entrepreneurship, I am confident that Claremont McKenna will continue its promise to produce the leaders that tomorrow needs. In the words of President Emeritus Gann, “A great leader is working always for his/her successors, you have to be courageous.”

[i] Source: CMC 2015 Factbook, values represent students who majored, doubled, or dualed

bottom of page