An unprecedented classroom experience

August 31, 2021

CMC faculty, students, and staff have been preparing for this “back-to-school” moment for almost two years, wondering what it would be like to see each other in-person again, to learn together, eat together, and just hang out together.

And finally, on Monday, everyone’s calendars collectively announced the first day of class. It was time to be together again, meet in person, or see CMC for the first time since a high school campus tour.

Thanks to an unprecedented campus-wide effort, some classes are being held in traditional classrooms, modified for a return to in-person learning, with enhanced audio and video technology as well as social distancing and cleaning protocols.

Other classes have been adapted for the outdoors, with six tents erected to serve as fully appointed al fresco classrooms.

Students sitting around an outdoor classroom in sunny weather
 

On Monday morning, inside “Tent 3,” a butterfly fluttered by and a breeze wafted through as 22 students settled into their seats. In the middle stood Prof. Ken Miller, a white board at the ready, set to begin teaching Government 20, “Introduction to American Politics,” his first class of the semester.

Miller, who also serves as the director of the Rose Institute, told his class that in nearly two decades of teaching at CMC, this is the first time he’s taught outdoors.

“This is a real classroom, just outdoors,” he said. “I really appreciate the thought and effort that went into making this happen.”

Yet while the setting, under a canopy of cedar trees next to Bauer Center, is unprecedented, a lot remains the same. For instance, the reading list, which includes Alexis de Tocqueville’s “Democracy in America” and the Federalist Papers.

Miller was able to adapt to teaching virtually, but he’s excited about bringing back an assignment that would have been impossible last year: A field-research opportunity that gets his students off-campus and into the communities of Pomona and Claremont.

For Kenya Nuñez ’24, who spent her first year at CMC Zooming from her childhood home in Banning, Calif., learning in-person and outdoors was vastly different. “I really like it, especially the view!” she said with a laugh. Being back on campus provides the chance for Nuñez to meet her classmates in real life. “It’s great to see familiar faces and have spontaneous interactions with people I’ve only met virtually,” she said. “My roommate and I had so much fun this morning picking out our outfits!”

Rows of scattered students sitting in the auditorium-style lecture hall of Professor Aditi Vyas' class
 

Kushmir Onisemoh ’24, who hails from Chicago, said he was struck by the diversity of his classmates, whose hometowns include Missoula, Montana and Houston, Texas, while others are from countries such as Dubai. “I’m meeting people from such different perspectives and a lot of international students who are from everywhere you can think of!”

As class ended, Miller issued the first assignment, due by the time they meet again on Wednesday: To read the entire Declaration of Independence “from beginning to end.”

Anne Bergman

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