CMC announces new Kravis Department of Integrated Sciences
Claremont McKenna College has announced the naming of its new Kravis Department of Integrated Sciences. The department, rooted in CMC’s foundational liberal arts and leadership mission, is unique in its approach to organizing science education around socio-scientific grand challenges, leveraging computation as a powerful vehicle for discovery and systemic solutions, and integrating CMC’s core strengths in the social sciences and humanities.
This next-generation program honors philanthropist, trustee, and alumnus Henry Kravis ’67 and his wife, Marie-Josée, who have made a transformative commitment of up to $215 million in support of CMC’s vision for integrated sciences. The gift will support the appointment of 25 world-class liberal arts faculty, including 12 Kravis Chairs in Integrated Sciences.
The Kravis Department of Integrated Sciences will be housed in the iconic Robert Day Sciences Center (the “Center”). The naming of the Center was announced in December as part of the College’s commitment to preparing future leaders to meet the challenges of our time.
“The tools we give students will influence their success and impact in any field they undertake. And this new integrated sciences program brings it all together,” Kravis said. “We need broader thinkers, deeper thinkers, and people who see the whole landscape—not just an isolated issue at a time. This has the potential to be the best integrated sciences platform one can offer. I continue to be so inspired by CMC and I’m really excited to see this come together to solve global issues.”
“Henry and Marie-Josée share our ambitious vision to build a singular program that harnesses and leverages our greatest strengths and prepares our students to lead at critical intersections not yet crossed,” said CMC President Hiram E. Chodosh. “We are extremely grateful and moved by their extraordinary support in the creation of this next-generation program.”
The Kravis gift has allowed the College to develop an expansive vision for integrated sciences and hire Ran Libeskind-Hadas, the Founding Chair for Integrated Sciences, and Muriel Poston, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives. Both have worked with Heather Antecol, Vice President for Academic Affairs and the Dean of the Faculty, and Emily Wiley, Associate Dean of the Faculty, to shape CMC’s immediate plans for the Kravis Department of Integrated Sciences and its focus on three grand interdisciplinary, socio-scientific challenges:
- Health (Genomics, Systems Biology, and Health)—the exploration of molecular data to understand the function and regulation of genes, the biological systems that they control, and the development of predictive models that ultimately contribute to improving human health;
- Brain (Brain, Learning, and Decision)—the investigation of mental processes, behavior, and decision making, including aspects of neuroscience, cognitive science, artificial intelligence, and machine learning; and
- Planet (Climate, Energy, and the Environment)—the examination of atmospheric processes and the chemical, physical, and biological aspects of climate change, and the interactions of human activities and the natural and built environments.
The program will respond to a growing need for computationally-rich science curricula, hands-on learning opportunities, and “science in the public sphere,” especially for non-science majors, Libeskind-Hadas said. This will include building a “common on-ramp to the sciences” through general education courses and creating meaningful conversations around the impact of science on society—for instance, in cross-disciplinary areas like neuroeconomics, climate policy, bioethics, science journalism, and the ethics of algorithms.
“As science and technology continue to transform all aspects of society, the new program will deepen fluency in evolving sciences and technologies so that students understand their influences and impacts,” Libeskind-Hadas said. “Our approach is a real game changer for CMC. It is designed to allow students to engage with the world in new ways, whether it’s through government and economics, philosophy, literature, and other humanities and social sciences.”
“Our program is unique in creating this kind of common science experience for all students. We want to make everyone a better thinker so they’re able to synthesize the complexities of the world, which simply don’t arrive in neat and tidy disciplinary boxes.”
The program will further foster student and faculty collaborations, particularly within areas of leadership development at CMC’s institutes, centers, and labs. This will include more hands-on opportunities for internships and research experiences—starting as early as a student’s first year—along with group capstone projects and novel pedagogies across all CMC strategic priorities, including the advancement of its leadership mission and the expansion of student opportunity.
“Science is best understood when you can truly experience it in the world through observation and experimentation,” Poston said. “The new program provides us with an exciting opportunity to create collaborations with CMC partners who are already doing great work and further position the sciences with our strategic initiatives. These connections will give our students the tools to ask key questions and create their own leadership paths centered on multiple disciplines and perspectives, all informed by science.”
The College has constituted several faculty advisory groups, including a Humanities and Social Sciences group comprising CMC faculty; and three science faculty advisory groups—one for each of the departmental themes—comprising faculty from across The Claremont Colleges. Collectively, these groups are exploring the socio-scientific themes for the department and opportunities for collaboration in teaching, writing, and communication; ethics and philosophy of science; entrepreneurship and leadership; science history and policy; and data science and computing. In addition, conversations have begun with students and alumni; advisory groups for those important partners will be announced soon.
In an effort to gain both broad perspectives and disciplinary depth, CMC has also named 13 highly accomplished scientists and science educators to its inaugural Integrated Sciences Advisory Council.
“It’s an incredible cohort, and we’re very excited about what they see as the big challenges and opportunities for undergraduate science education in this country,” said Libeskind-Hadas, who will convene the group virtually for the first time in March. “By working with CMC leadership and advisors, our hope is that the Council will continuously provide us with insights into emerging challenges and opportunities so that our program will be at the forefront of undergraduate science education for many decades to come.”