CMC Parent Newsletter
Winter 2024

In this issue:

A Family Weekend Recap: Sharing the Experience!

Jumpstarting Students’ Futures: A Parent & Student Networking Event During Family Weekend

CMC Community Spotlight: Dr. Jessica Laser

Attending the Athenaeum: A Parent Perspective

Care Packages: Top Five Items Students Want to Receive | (Leer en español)

Parent Network Board Meeting Minutes

A Family Weekend Recap: Sharing the Experience!

By Dahlia Jabro P’26

Family posing with a "I Love CMC" cutout sign during Family Weekend 2024.

As a parent of a sophomore, I think I was anticipating this Family Weekend for different reasons than last year. This year I was looking forward to getting to know the college at a more intimate level by attending more of the 33 sessions offered, meet some of my son’s friends, and of course cheer on the Stag & Athena athletic teams.

The itinerary was rich and diverse, and included interesting lectures by CMC professors that discussed climate change, the interpretation of nuclear threats, and the historic debate between James Baldwin and William F. Buckley. One of the Professors featured was Lisa Koch, Associate Professor of History and winner of the 2023 Glenn R. Huntoon Award for Superior Teaching. Our students themselves voted to give Professor Koch this honor so it was a treat to have her in the line-up.

I was excited as well about opportunities to learn about campus resources, like the CARE Center and the Soll Center for Student Opportunity. Another highlight was the opportunity to “Lunch and Learn” with Professors Heather Ferguson and Jon Shields as they presented the Open Academy and how students are engaging one another in open dialogue on controversial topics.

The President’s Town Hall offered a clear vision of where the College is heading and reaffirming their commitment to prepare students for thoughtful and productive lives to be responsible leaders. There was a great crowd on hand with excellent questions and feedback.

My most memorable moments included reconnecting with the families that I met last year and meeting some new CMC parents! I am already blocking off my calendar for next year’s Family Weekend (February 15-17, 2025). Hope to see you there!

Jumpstarting Students’ Futures: A Parent & Student Networking Event During Family Weekend

By Arti Kumar P'27

Jumpstarting students' futures at Family Weekend.

The Parent Network Board Careers Committee and the Soll Center for Student Opportunity hosted an exciting afternoon of networking for students and parents at Kravis Center. This event was intended to help students jump-start their futures by connecting with parents who work in diverse fields. Upon arrival, guests found different areas marked out for conversation with parents in Technology/Entrepreneurship, Accounting/Financial Services, Consulting, Medicine/Healthcare, Science and Environment, Creative/Entertainment, and Government/Law/Non-Profit.

It was a fast-moving event in a "speed dating" style with students going around to their areas of interest, introducing themselves and getting advice and support from parents. It was impressive to see the range of disciplines covered and the depth of wisdom that parents shared. Many topics were covered and tips were shared ranging from how to make connections within an organization, to internship opportunities, to what employers look for in candidates. There were also conversations on how to view failure and learn from it, including fascinating personal stories of success and failure.

Parents who attended were authors, accountants, entrepreneurs, executives, management consultants, and managers, and all seemed to embrace taking risks and making things happen at their companies.

Students ranged from first-years to seniors, and all were at different stages in formulating their goals and aspirations. They were learning to communicate in a professional environment, and also making valuable connections while soaking up the accumulated wisdom of parents’ decades of experience in their areas of interest.

On this sunny afternoon the hope was that students would come away with the sense that the world of work that they were aspiring towards was going to be fun and challenging, and that they were supported by our wonderful CMC parent and alumni community. For those students new to this format of interaction, they learned that it is a pleasant exercise rather than something intimidating to be anxious about. That in itself was worth the time spent chatting and meeting so many wonderfully helpful and inspiring adults.

If you would like to help our CMC students with career advice, take a moment to join Engage.CMC and “offer the help.” If you are able to offer an internship or career opportunity, please fill out the Career Services Job Internship Posting Form to share your information with the Soll Center.

CMC Community Spotlight: Dr. Jessica Laser

Visiting Instructor of Literature - Poet Jessica Laser and the Language of Language

By Melanie J. Malinowski, Ph.D., P’27

Jessica Laser.

Because of geography, time, and generalized overwhelm, I did not interview Ms. Laser in person, relying on my own creative chutzpah to anchor our correspondence in something other than typical Question/Answer format, so one of my offbeat inquiries was, Do you prefer Sno-Cones or Italian Ices? “Italian ices,” she wrote. “Italian ices, of course, taste delicious: cold, densely flavored, uniformly colorful, tingly. They leave such a dark shading on the tongue with none of the blatant artificiality of a Sno-Cone, crystallized pellets jammed unforgivingly in an inverted dunce cap.” Ms. Laser’s response thrilled me, for not only did she indulge me my silliness, but this pedestrian question and her response stand in relief against the exquisite beauty of her other responses.

Jessica Laser grew up in Chicago—"in the city! Not the burbs. One house from 0-18”—the youngest child by seventeen years in her family! She earned a B.A. from Brown, an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and is currently completing her Ph.D. in Literature at the University of California—Berkeley.  Laser has published two volumes of poetry—Sergei Kuzmich From All Sides (2019) and Planet Drill (2022)—as well as a forthcoming volume The Goner School (2024).  Lately, she listens to Pony Bradshaw and Miranda Lambert, on a bit of a “country music kick,” with Palace Music’s “New Partner” a song she could listen to on repeat. Currently reading? Mating, by Normal Rush. Just finished reading? Fruit Punch, Kendra Allen’s “excellent memoir.”  I asked, Who is your favorite author? To which she replied, “a cruel and unusual question.” Yes! Complicated. Complex. Not easily codifiable. Poetic. Poet. Asking a writer to identify her favorite writer is a little like asking a parent to choose her favorite child: can’t, or won’t, or won’t tell you regardless. Her friends make her laugh, and when I asked who or what inspires her, she offered this: “My friends and my students and stories in which someone has a vision and realizes it despite all adversity.”  

Arriving to Claremont McKenna as a Visiting Instructor, Laser said she “felt like the new kid in school,” but now she just wish[es] she “could see her first-years through to the end.” She teaches a Creative Writing Workshop and two Freshman Writing Seminars in which the topic is “Intelligence.”  She told me, “We are about to move into a unit that explores computer intelligence and human creativity.” Her favorite place on campus is her office, “a luxury" that she recognizes every day with "a mountain view that is outstanding." She describes her experience as a visiting professor at CMC thus far as “invigorating, fun, lively, curious, sweet.”

As I read and reread Ms. Laser’s responses, I thought of the late, great Tom Petty and his song, “Walls,” most especially the lyric, “Some days are diamonds; some days are rocks,” for this lovely nugget beautifully encapsulates the undulations of teaching. I asked Laser, What makes you so happy about teaching? What frustrates you?

“I hope so much to create space where it’s ok to be wrong, and it’s ok not to know enough and never to become an expert—a space where we can all be curious together and recognize that in order to learn, you have to first not know something. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be learning it. What frustrates me is when I can’t get an organic conversation to arise from my interaction with my students. I am also frustrated when I feel like students aren’t honest with me about what it feels like to them to do their assignments. I want to know!” Ms. Laser’s insights on poetry further animate and enliven this conversation: “The techniques poetry made available to me made me feel like I could finally say things that other media had not quite allowed me to say as fully. Poetry made me feel like I was part of something, a larger conversation about how meaning is made—a conversation across time, space, identity, politics and nationality.”

My own interests in Ms. Laser’s work center on her own poetry and her academic work, so I invited her to tell me about both. Her dissertation is “about Robert Frost, and how his work, for being easy to read on the surface, and more difficult to read beneath that surface, calls for a new vocabulary to talk about what is valuable about poems.” She continues, “Frost was writing ‘easy’ poems during a time when his contemporaries like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound were developing a new kind of artistic difficulty” and “a vital, truly inspired language with which to talk about it and value it. What I think was never developed from that time was a language that might value the kinds of difficulty that spring from poetry that reads as easy, that seems to be easily understood, like Frost’s. So my dissertation tries to talk about what is most interesting about Frost’s poems without resorting to language that was used to justify aesthetics he was explicitly writing against.”

I also wanted to explore Ms. Laser’s own poetry, her own writing practice: Do you have a certain theme that recurs in your poetry?

“I would say what most recurs in my poetry is a concern with what poetry is, what counts as poetry, and a concern especially with lines and why one might break them, so my themes are more formal than subject-based.”

In her poem “Kings” (The Paris Review, Summer 2023), I see this in action. The poem is a narrative and a poem and a story and a lyrical song. The narrativity is constantly disrupted by the angularity of the syntax yet also stitched together by that same technique.

“At some point in my coming to devote my life to poetry, I realized that this devotion was made up of two distinct loves: one was reading and writing poetry, and the other was finding language with which to talk about it with other people. When I realized that the work of finding language to talk about it and value it and make it accessible was different from the practice of writing it, it became clear to me that I would have to teach in order to exercise a major part of what seemed meaningful to me about a life in literature.”

I also asked Jessica Laser if she would rather be a dolphin or a hawk, to which she poetically responded: “Hawk somedays; dolphin others.” To which I wistfully think again of Tom Petty who sang, “Half of me is ocean, half of me is sky.” The honesty, self-awareness, vulnerability, and lyricism inherent in both of these poets’s responses to what makes them humans make the world a better place, an easier place for us to exist as fellow humans.

Finally, I asked a rather cliched question: What piece of advice would you offer your child-self?

“There is nothing wrong with you,” Jessica Laser answered.

Attending the Athenaeum: A Parent Perspective

By AJ Yates P'27

Students dining at the Athenaeum.

In a past life, my wife and I worked at an independent school that offered, “Head’s Invites.” What that really meant was, “your attendance is required.” Although attendance at an Athenaeum (“the Ath”) event might not be required, it is definitely highly recommended.

I scanned the Ath calendar for something that would be interesting for my wife and I (also, hopefully, our CMC first year daughter). Schedules aligned and I decided to register for an evening discussion by Liz Thomas ’07. Liz is an author, environmentalist, adventurer, and champion thru-hiker. She is the former women’s unassisted speed record holder for the Appalachian Trail.

My wife and I arrived at the Ath and were greeted with beverages and appetizers. The folks in attendance were a mix of students and others, who I assume were parents and faculty members. Within minutes of walking into the Ath, my wife and I were engaged in conversation with a CMC senior. Through the course of our small talk, we discovered that we attended the same middle and high schools, and that her neighbor was my junior prom date. We also discovered that this student has attended hundreds of Ath talks during her CMC career. Not because of the sit-down dinner or required attendance, but because of the “free learning.” She went on to describe the variety of speakers and wide array of topics and the opportunity to learn and engage during each Ath talk.

My daughter and a few of her friends joined us at our table for dinner. I found it to be a great way to catch up with her. It was also great to see that her limited lessons in etiquette kept her elbows off the table and her arms from reaching across the table. My wife and I were able to get a close-up view of our daughter in her environment.

Liz was great sharing her story of CMC student to champion adventurer. She was relatable and inspiring to the students in attendance. Her stories of The Continental Divide, Urban “Brew” Hikes and environmental work kept the attention of everyone in the room.

My wife purchased two books that Liz had for sale, “Hiking Waterfalls Southern California” and “Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike.” If my wife has the final say, I imagine some sort of adventure might be in our future. One thing that is definitely in our future is another trip to the Ath. Parents, if you are able, I highly recommend joining an Ath talk in the future. You can register for the next two Ath programs by clicking this link:

Care Packages: Top Five Items Students Want to Receive

By Michael Gadinis ’24

A student dressed as the Athena mascot alongside the Stag mascot.

The interns of the Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement surveyed several students and asked them what they would most like to receive in a care package sent from family. Here are the results!

  1. Coffee / Boba Tea Gift cards
    Since we polled students during midterms, we're not surprised by this answer! Some of our local coffee and tea shops favorites are Iron & Kin, Lucky’s, and Krak Boba.
  2. Homemade / Home-bought Snacks
    Send your student their favorite homemade (or home-bought, if you’re not a baker) snack! Nothing will excite your student more than opening up a container of their favorite treats from their local area.
  3. Stuffed Animals
    Midterm season is tough, and your student will need some comfort to get them through, so consider sending a stuffed friend! My personal favorite is the stuffed stag from the CMC Supply Shop, which can be hand-delivered to their mailbox ;)
  4. Self-Care Supplies
    Help your student destress with some face masks, lotions, stress balls, fidget toys, diffusers, blankets, or whatever else helps your student relax!
  5. School Supplies
    Fresh supplies are always fun! You can send them pens, pencils, highlighters, notebooks, post-it notes, or whatever else they need to make it through their classes!

Paquetes de Cariño: las cinco cosas principales que los estudiantes desean recibir de sus padres

por Michael Gadinis ’24

A student dressed as the Athena mascot alongside the Stag mascot.

Al momento, nuestros estudiantes están recuperando de sus exámenes y merecen unos regalos. La Oficina Alumni and Parent Engagement encuestó a varios estudiantes y les preguntó qué les gustaría recibir en un paquete de cariño enviado por su familia. ¡Aquí están los resultados!

  1. Café / Té Boba Tarjetas de Regalo: ¡Esta respuesta no nos sorprende! Algunas de nuestras cafeterías y tiendas de té favoritas son Iron & Kin, Lucky’s, and Krak Boba.
  2. Snacks Caseros: ¡Envíe a su estudiante su refrigerio casero favorito (o comprado en casa, si no es panadero)! Nada emocionará más a su estudiante que abrir un recipiente con sus delicias favoritas desde su casa en su área local.
  3. Peluches: Nuestros exámenes son difíciles y su estudiante necesitará algo de consuelo para superarlo, ¡así que considere enviar un amigo de peluche! Mi favorito personal es el ciervo de peluche de CMC Supply Shop, que se puede entregar personalmente en su buzón de correo ;)
  4. Regalos de “Self Care”: Ayude a su estudiante a liberarse del estrés con mascarillas, lociones, pelotas antiestrés, juguetes inquietos, difusores, mantas o cualquier otra cosa que ayude a su estudiante a relajarse.
  5. Suministros escolares: ¡Los suministros frescos siempre son divertidos! ¡Puedes enviarles bolígrafos, lápices, resaltadores, cuadernos, notas adhesivas o cualquier otra cosa que necesiten para estudiar sus clases!!

Parent Network Board Meetings

The Parent Network Board meets quarterly to discuss ways to enhance the College experience and to hear from College leadership. Read the February 2024 Board meeting minutes here.

Read the Meeting Minutes

Stay in Touch

Follow these links to learn more about how you can get involved as a CMC Parent.