By Margaret Duden
When I was in Claremont, CA for the IECA Summer Training Institute, I had an opportunity to visit Pitzer College. Pitzer is a member of the Claremont Consortium of Colleges. Founded in the 1960s, it was created with the mission of advancing social and environmental justice. Pitzer’s motto is Provida Futuri, which means “mindful of the future” in Latin.
Pitzer’s campus is beautiful, clean, and reflects the college’s commitment to environmental, social, and political activism. The campus features an outdoor classroom, a student-run farm (complete with chickens), a student-run cafe, native plants, LEED-certified buildings, murals with social justice themes, a student-run eaterie (the Shakedown Cafe), and plenty of green space. Across the street from Pitzer’s main campus is the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability, where students can do field research.
Just 35 miles east of Los Angeles, Pitzer’s campus is in the heart of Claremont, California, a wealthy town of 36,000. About a 15-minute walk from campus is Claremont Village, an upscale, tree-lined shopping district brimming with boutiques, coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants. Pitzer’s campus adjoins the campuses of Harvey Mudd and Claremont McKenna College, and it is within easy walking distance of all of the colleges in the Claremont Consortium.
All freshmen take a first-year writing seminar taught by their freshman advisor, which allows them to get to know their advisor very well. Class sizes are small, with an average size of 15 students. There are no physical education requirements, but students can take an unlimited number of no-credit PE courses for free.
Students at Pitzer can choose any major across all of the majors offered by the five colleges in the Claremont Consortium, and there are no limits to how many classes you can take at the other colleges. Pitzer just requires its students to take eight Breadth of Knowledge courses, which include one natural science with a lab, one math course, two social sciences classes, two humanities courses, a freshman writing seminar, and a combined social justice theory and praxis course.
Pitzer students can study abroad up to three times, and no prior knowledge of a language is required for study-abroad programs. Students take language classes abroad so when they come back, they are ahead in credits. Many students use the extra credits they gain while studying abroad to graduate early or to reduce their course load senior year.
Pitzer is a residential college with a culture that revolves around its five core values: environmental sustainability, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning, student engagement, and social responsibility.
Pitzer has one of the most engaged student bodies of any college; my student guide told me that Pitzer boasts the largest student governing body in the US. There is a student-run farm, a student-run cafe, a student-run house (the Grove house), and student-run PE classes. In addition, Pitzer ensures that all committees have at least one student voting member, which means Pitzer students have a say in which faculty get tenure.
Although Pitzer students live on one of the most beautiful campuses in Southern California, the Pitzer curriculum makes sure they engage with the community off-campus. The social justice praxis class gets students off campus to explore real-world issues such as environmental toxicology, and Inside Out Prison Exchange Program allows students to take classes with inmates in Prison Alley.
Housing and Dining
On-campus housing is guaranteed all four years, and the dorms are gender inclusive, which means students can live with roommates of any gender they choose. The students and staff claim that Pitzer has the best dining hall of all the options in the Claremont Consortium. Although I did not have a chance to eat there myself, I was able to peek through the windows into the dining area in McConnell Center, and the buffet options certainly looked and smelled fabulous!
Pitzer is a test-optional school that offers Early Decision I and II. Early Decision is binding but comes with a higher acceptance rate. Demonstrated interest is an important factor in admissions decisions. The average SAT score for incoming students is 1350 ACT and the average ACT is 31.
Admissions are need-blind, and students are given generous need-based financial aid. The first time students study abroad, they also get a travel stipend that covers the cost of their flight, visas, and passports. My student guide told me that students can study abroad with no out-of-pocket costs; she even was given a stipend so she could go out to eat while abroad.
- Pitzer was founded on an orange grove, which is why its logo features an orange tree.
- Pitzer is divested of all investments in fossil fuels.
- Campus features signs of California spelled backwards to remind people that the land was taken from indigenous peoples. Many natives teach Pitzer courses.
- All students have a dedicated study abroad advisor from Day 1 who helps them figure out study abroad plans.
- Pitzer faculty are housed in “field groups” related to academic areas of interest that cut across disciplinary boundaries, so there are no buildings dedicated to single disciplines on campus.
- Pitzer and Pomona have shared athletic teams: their mascot is Cecil the Sagehen. The Sagehens compete against the combined Claremont-Mudd-Scripps (CMS) athletics teams, who boast Stags and Athenas as mascots.