Family Weekend: Experiencing what makes CMC special

Family Weekend 2023.

Photo by Gilien Silsby

Claremont McKenna’s Family Weekend offered ample opportunities to engage in activities and events, including a Town Hall address and Q&A with President Hiram Chodosh, a chance to show appreciation to veterans, and an exploration of how the College’s strategy and Campaign for CMC: Responsible Leadership will transform the campus for decades to come. Family members enjoyed a firsthand look at what it’s like to be a CMC student, by attending classes, sharing meals in Collins Dining Hall, and learning about career networking in an expert-led session.

Here is a sample of the activities and events families enjoyed with their CMCer.


Town Hall with President Chodosh

President Chodosh speaking at Town Hall during Family Weekend.

Photo by Anibal Ortiz

CMC parents and families gathered in Pickford Auditorium for a welcome and Town Hall presentation by President Hiram Chodosh. He encouraged interaction and discussion on motivation and shared CMC’s commitment to educating and preparing students to become future leaders.

Chodosh gave an in-depth look into CMC's innovative approach to liberal arts and leadership with the Kravis Department of Integrated Sciences; The Open Academy commitments in freedom of expression, viewpoint diversity, and constructive dialogue; and the host of CMC opportunities available to students to apply their learning and expand their experiences and opportunities.

"We are accelerating our pace because we have an unshakable belief in this generation — your kids — these amazing, young, emerging leaders. Our impact, our legacy, will be through them," Chodosh said.


Engaging with The Open Academy

Professors Jon Shields and Heather Ferguson, inaugural faculty co-directors of The Open Academy, addressed a classroom full of engaged Claremont McKenna family members interested in learning more about the campus-wide initiative, with its commitments in freedom of expression, viewpoint diversity, and constructive dialogue.

Ferguson is an associate professor of Ottoman and Middle Eastern history, while Shields, a professor of American politics, chairs the government department.


Photo by Laura Somoza Velez ’24

“Our central mission, really, is to enable our students and get them to cultivate their intellectual virtues,” said Shields as he described the goals of The Open Academy during the Sunday session.

A few of the parents in attendance had taken part in the Saturday Salon hosted by Ferguson and Shields, which Ferguson said was a good example of how she and Shields are creating “new spaces for conversations to occur in intimate settings that can quickly build trust, with speakers who may have different perspectives than usual on a given topic.”

Afterward, as Samuel Gregory P’26 headed across campus to the “Civility Access, Resources, and Expression” session hosted by the CARE Center, he shared how much he appreciated learning more about The Open Academy.

“I was blown away,” he said. “It helped me appreciate that we can all continue to learn and be sensitive to others and their concerns.”

In addition to The Open Academy session, Gregory said he was enjoying the entire range of Family Weekend activities. “I’ve had one of the best times of my life this week,” he said. “I’m thrilled with this place! It’s wonderful!”


Honoring CMC Veterans

Students writing letters to alumni service members.

Photo by Gilien Silsby

Students and families honored alumni service members by writing them personal letters at CMC’s Family Weekend booth managed by ROTC members.

“I personally have family in the military, so I know how important their service is,” said Aleeza Saeed ’26. “Writing a letter shows that we appreciate them and what they have done for the country. I hope they see this as a nice gesture when they open up the letters.”

Michael Sweeney ’26 said writing a letter to a CMC veteran is a “small gesture for their huge sacrifice.”

“I’m really appreciative and understand their commitment to keep our country safe,” he said.

Marilyn Baker P ’26 stopped by the letter-writing booth to check in with her son James ’26 who is an ROTC member. “It has been an incredible weekend,” she said. “CMC does a great job to show us an idea of daily life on campus.”


My Transformative CMC Moment

CMCers discussed My Transformative CMC Moment during a Spanish-language presentation covering pivotal moments in their CMC journeys and how they changed the way they lived, learned, worked, or pursued their degrees.

The intimate setting provided ample time for questions and conversation. Moderated by Rebecca Pelén, associate director of Alumni and Parent Engagement, the panel included: Edgar Warnholtz ’19, who is pursuing his MBA at New York University; Marycarmen Montanez ’22, an aspiring teacher whose CMC thesis was We’ve Been Here Before: A History of Mexican and Latinx Communities in Anaheim Schools; and Natalie Chavez ’23, an International Relations & Economics major and student ambassador for the Council on International Education Exchange.


Photo by Anibal Ortiz

“We began this program in 2018 to provide our Spanish-speaking parents and families with valuable information regarding the tools and resources CMC offers to students,” said Pelén. The supportive role parents play is pivotal in the lives of college students, so these Spanish sessions are imperative to ensure these families receive the information in the language in which they are most comfortable.”

From the importance of internships, scholarships, and the Athenaeum – to life-changing faculty and finding friendship and support across all areas of the campus – the session provided a wide-ranging discussion from the student and young alumni perspectives.

Warnholtz, who is active in the CMC Alumni Association as chair of the communications committee and was CMC’s first student from Monterrey, Mexico, said, “CMC is so core to who I am – I am always here to support the College and its students.”


The Art of Networking

Family Weekend 2023.

Photo by Sidney Smith IV ’25

Families filled Pickford Auditorium to learn how networking and the Soll Center for Student Opportunity can set up students for success. Ursula Diamond, director for student opportunities, shared that 60% of all jobs are found through networking, highlighting its deep importance. When asked if networking would have felt intimidating in their early 20s, most parents and family members raised their hands in agreement. Diamond’s advice was, “start early, start young” and shared how first-year and second-year students can practice networking before taking it to the next level as third and fourth-year students.

Two Robert Day Scholar students, Kira Hirsch ’23 and Jackson Aldrich ’24, shared their interview introduction pitches and words of encouragement as real-life examples of the benefits of networking. The final piece of advice for families: practice the question, “tell me about yourself,” with your students.


A Peek into the Future CMC

Michelle Chamberlain, Vice President for Advancement and Dean for Student Opportunities, shared an exciting look into CMC’s bold vision of its future campus.

Michelle Chamberlain.

Photo by Anibal Ortiz

Through the Roberts Campus Master Plan, families received a peek into how the College will double the footprint of its residential campus to more than 150 acres to prepare current and future generations of leaders in business, government, and the professions. The plan includes new academic facilities, such as the Robert Day Sciences Center, student housing, recreation spaces and playing fields, and enhanced pedestrian walkways and gathering spaces to encourage engagement and interaction.

Chamberlain answered questions about preserving the historic campus for academic, social, and residential opportunities, as well as how the new Robert Day Sciences Center is designed to benefit all students, with food options, study spaces, and areas for group gatherings.

“Through the generosity of George Roberts '66 P'93 and many current and future donors, the future of CMC is here,” Chamberlin said.


Noah Feldman Speaks at the Ath

President Chodosh speaking at Town Hall during Family Weekend.

Photo by Anibal Ortiz

On the final evening of Family Weekend, many parents joined their students at a Presidents' Day dinner and talk at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum. The event featured Harvard scholar of constitutional law Prof. Noah Feldman, who delivered the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World’s
“2023 Lofgren Lecture in American Constitutionalism.”

Discussing the subject of his recent book The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery & The Refounding of America, Feldman argued that President Lincoln had come to recognize that the Constitution was flawed because it made slavery lawful. He set out to reformulate it, essentially by first “breaking it” – in order to reformulate it. Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus and issued the Emancipation Proclamation during the Civil War, both saving the Union and changing the Constitution. Feldman explained that the president borrowed from “the mystery of religion” to make the moral case for ending slavery, justifying his actions.


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