With a virtual welcome, Class of 2024 begins first chapter of CMC story

The story of 2020 and the story of the Class of 2024 will forever be linked.

As President Hiram E. Chodosh posed in a series of questions to class members and their families during CMC’s virtual Welcome Orientation on Saturday, it’s a story that—5, 10, 15 years from now—will lead to important reflections and conclusions. A story, as guided by the COVID-19 pandemic and a summer of social justice protests, that will speak to not only how the world shaped us, but how we shaped the world in this moment of history.

“What is the story we would like to tell about how we responded to our current challenges?” Chodosh asked. “What did we do? What did we contribute? What did we learn?”

For the Class of 2024, the formative first chapter of their CMC story began with greetings and remarks from a variety of staff, faculty, student, and parent representatives. The Welcome to CMC livestream opened with a video, “Great Stories Begin Here,” followed by individual speakers offering words of support and community.

Evan Rutter '06, assistant vice president for alumni and parent engagement, introduced the group of “small but mighty” CMC alumni who will help students every step of the way in their journey.

For the Class of 2024, the formative first chapter of their CMC story began with greetings and remarks from a variety of staff, faculty, student, and parent representatives. The Welcome to CMC livestream opened with a video, “Great Stories Begin Here,” followed by individual speakers offering words of support and community.

Evan Rutter '06, assistant vice president for alumni and parent engagement, introduced the group of “small but mighty” CMC alumni who will help students every step of the way in their journey.

Jennifer Sandoval-Dancs, associate vice president for admission and financial aid, commended first-years for the close bonds they’ve already formed during a summer of virtual-only interaction. “It has been nothing short of inspirational,” she said.

Georgia Wood ’21, a government and psychology dual major, recalled her own wide-eyed wonder as a first-year. She encouraged students to “look outside their plan and take advantage of as many different opportunities as possible.” And most important of all: “Breathe. You made it. You’re a student at Claremont McKenna College.”

Shana Levin, associate dean of the faculty, Crown Professor of Psychology, and George R. Roberts Fellow, championed the benefits of an interdisciplinary liberal arts curriculum guided by principles of academic freedom, open dialogue, diversity, and inclusion. Levin also implored the class to “turn the challenge of online learning into opportunity,” to assert more agency by embracing the creativity and flexibility of projects that don’t require the four walls of a classroom. Through it all, on or off-campus, supportive faculty will be there to help, she promised.

K.K. Streator P’19 P’21, president of the CMC Parent Network, encouraged parents to join their first-years as invested members of the greater community. Given the at-home conditions of the moment, she also reminded them to allow students the space they would have enjoyed as young adult leaders embarking on their own for the first time.

Sharon Basso, vice president for student affairs, echoed the integral role parents will play during the next four years by officially welcoming them as “partners” with CMC. She offered five main points of guidance for nervous newcomers.

  • You belong here. All of you.
  • You can do this. And do this well.
  • We are here to support you. We walk beside you.
  • This is your story. And it doesn’t have to look or read like anyone else’s.
  • Take care of yourselves and one another. Reach out and reach across.

Basso also shared with students that they will be receiving a mailed box of CMC swag and other supplies soon to help them with remote learning. The gesture is a reminder of the new virtual reality before us, added Chodosh—what he called “the fog of COVID-19” and the disorienting circumstances that have led first-years to adapt to online community building while losing out on milestone moments stretching back to the end of their senior years of high school.

Hiram-Chodosh
President Hiram Chodosh delivers welcome remarks from his CMC office.

And yet, Chodosh said, it’s important to remember that even if dispersed physically, “CMC is a state of mind.” CMCers, old and new, can still honor the mission of the College—and exercise a shared responsibility to the growth and learning of one another—without the benefit of the Claremont campus. In fact, CMC Nation is closer than ever because of this year’s commitment, he said.

“You’ve each written the first few chapters already by persevering through the past few months, applying your leadership, and extending your social warmth. And instead of sitting it out on the sidelines, by choosing to learn. To learn with us,” Chodosh said.

“So, keep writing your own story and you will make even more out of each and every moment this year, and for many to come.”

—Thomas Rozwadowski