Tag Archives: Claremont McKenna

Silencing Dissent Is Social Injustice

In an editorial published Wednesday, the editorial board of The Student Life—the Claremont Colleges’ newspaper funded almost exclusively by mandatory student fees—“wholeheartedly disavow[ed] the sanctions Claremont McKenna College imposed” on students who blockaded the entrances and exits to a scheduled appearance by conservative scholar Heather Mac Donald at the college in April.

The board rests its case against the sanctions on a black-and-white portrait of moral rectitude. While the protesters are fearless warriors for social justice forcing the college onto “the long path towards equity,” CMC plays the role of the evil conservative campus scrambling to preserve its antiquated and morally bankrupt institutions.

By punishing the protesters for their heroic act of aggression in the face of Mac Donald’s objectionable views, TSL believes, CMC shirked its duty to advance justice: in this case, apparently, the muzzling of Heather Mac Donald.

But this definition of social justice, which would empower any sufficiently motivated group of students to shutter the speech and assembly privileges of others, contravenes the very purpose of higher education and, ironically enough, would provide a sufficient basis for suppressing the speech that TSL would prefer to see pervade the campus debate. Continue reading Silencing Dissent Is Social Injustice

Editorial: The Importance of Free Expression

Free speech on campus has become a growing issue in the US and internationally as traditionally freer countries place more and more restrictions on speech. As students and journalists at the Claremont Colleges, we have seen the negative repercussions of this trend firsthand—in our classrooms, jobs, places of worship, and even in our coffee shops.

It’s sad what this culture has cost the colleges. We live in a community of bright, engaged students, but fear of radical left wing retribution too often stifles conversations before they start. We are fortunate to study under great professors but, going forward, the quality of many of our tenured faculty will be subject to how well a given professor fits into the Social Justice Warrior mold. Even our peers’ charitable efforts fall prey to the expanding reach of political correctness.

It’s our job as students to shape the community here on campus, but the administration has the power to set the tone and step in when our peers or teachers abuse their power. Too often, our administrations are compliant or even complicit in the destruction of our community’s cohesion and intellectual growth.

Yet last Thursday, President Chodosh and Dean Uvin stood up in favor of our rights in an email released to Claremont McKenna College’s student body and alumni. The email outlined the administration’s commitment to protecting free speech on campus, both inside and outside the classroom. By defending students’ and faculty members’ right to think and speak freely, Claremont McKenna College’s administration has made an important pivot away from the increasingly sensitive culture of censorship and toward a more positive academic community. This will serve students well both in Claremont and outside the bubble.

CMC’s announcement is a strong first step, and we’re hopeful that the administration will take this policy seriously in order to provide students with a well-rounded intellectual environment. We now call on the administrations at Pitzer College, Scripps College, Pomona College, and Harvey Mudd College to adopt the University of Chicago’s policies on speech as well. The Claremont Colleges have a great capacity to influence the world around us, but that can’t happen unless we are allowed to grow as thinkers and as people. We cannot overstate the importance of free expression on campus. Without it, education is impossible.

Steven Glick, Editor-in-Chief

Megan Keller, Publisher

Daniel Ludlam, Managing Editor

Featured Organization: Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program (VITA)

The CMC site of the student-run Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, sponsored by the IRS, began operations last spring, and in the year of its inception filed 60 tax returns and helped community members refund a total of $46,000. The group is composed entirely of volunteers who have committed their time to learning the tax preparation material and assisting members of the community. Every Saturday starting on February 7th, VITA will offer walk-in services from 9:00AM-12:00PM to anyone whose annual gross income is less than $53,000, double for couples filing jointly. Exact dates, times, and locations are listed below.

2015 VITA Walk-In Dates, Times, and Locations

Saturday, February 21, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

KRV Kravis Center 164

Saturday, February 28, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

KRV Kravis Center 164

Saturday, March 07, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

RN Roberts North 15

Saturday, March 28, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

KRV Kravis Center 164

Saturday, April 04, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

KRV Kravis Center 164

Saturday, April 11, 2015

9:00 AM – 12:00 PM

KRV Kravis Center 165

When coming in to get your tax return(s) filed, please bring the following items:

  • Proof of identification (picture ID)
  • Social Security cards for you, your spouse and dependents or a Social Security Number verification letter issued by the Social Security Administration or
  • Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) assignment letter for you, your spouse and dependents
  • Proof of foreign status, if applying for an ITIN
  • Birth dates for you, your spouse and dependents on the tax return
  • Wage and earning statement(s) Form W-2, W-2G, 1099-R, 1099-Misc from all employers
  • Interest and dividend statements from banks (Form 1099)
  • Information for other income
  • Information for all deductions/credits (for example, 1098-T for education credits)
  • Affordable Health Care Statements (1095-A, B, or C)
  • A copy of last year’s federal and state returns if available
  • Proof of bank account routing numbers and account numbers for Direct Deposit (such as a blank check)
  • Total paid for daycare provider and the daycare provider’s tax identifying number (the provider’s Social Security Number or the provider’s business Employer Identification Number) if appropriate
  • To file taxes electronically on a married-filing-joint tax return, both spouses must be present to sign the required forms

Please do not wait until the deadline to file your taxes!

For more information, or if you would like to join VITA, please contact Lina Pan at lpan16@cmc.edu, or follow the CMC VITA Facebook page for updates at the following link: https://www.facebook.com/CMCVITA.

Civilization Prospers with Computer Science

What you already know (or suspect) about Computer Science:

 Virtually all of us understand the value of computer science. Its practicality in the job market is constantly making headlines. We are told that being a software developer is the best gig in tech[1]. We are bombarded with figures from the federal labor bureau telling us that programmers are wealthy and the tech industry is booming[2]. We read that developers enjoy their jobs[3]. We might expect that at a school constantly boasting about being the happiest college in America, we would be self-selecting for the ‘happiest job in America’[4].

But we’re not.

According to Claremont McKenna College’s (CMC) common data set, last year only 1.66% of the graduating class majored in computer science (CS)[5]. According to our Computer Science Department, less than 5%[6] of the class of 2015 will graduate either as a CS major, or with a sequence in computer science.

Now, you might argue that CMCers are inherently not interested in computer science. 67%[7] of our recent graduates land somewhere in the trifecta of consulting, finance and government; the majority of us aren’t looking to be programmers. But when polled, CMCers unanimously agreed that computer science seems like an important topic, and 92.3% of students said they were interested in taking a class[8].

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Furthermore, even within consulting, finance, and government, computer science is becoming increasingly important. Both boutique and ‘big three’ consultancies are becoming more reliant on predictive software and big data analytics[9]. Professor Manfred Keil, who teaches statistics and econometrics at CMC, and quantitative data analysis for the Silicon Valley Program (SVP), explains: “To work in consulting you should have quantitative ability. Today, that means a solid foundation in statistics in order to understand and interpret the numbers, and a background in computer science in order to gather the data.” Professor Keil continues, saying that a recent alumna echoed this idea when describing her experience while working at the Federal Reserve. She told Professor Keil that she was tasked with narrowing down a large pool of potential analysts for a single position. In order to do this, her first step was to eliminate any candidates without programming experience on their resumes. This took out more than 2/3 of the applicants.

So, clearly computer science is important, and relevant to our grads. Then, why is it that at Claremont School of Economics, where as many as 50%[10] of our students graduate with a degree that incorporates an economics sequence, we appear to shy away from the quantitative challenge of Computer Science?

What is Stopping Us?

The biggest reason: we’re intimidated.

Of those polled who expressed a desire to take a computer science class, but had yet to do so, the primarily barriers fell into two categories; (1) fear of failure; such as literally failing the course, or being overwhelmed by the workload, and (2) institutional barriers like ‘finding the time’ and ‘over-enrollment’.

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At first glace, these two motives might not seem to be related. However, when taken in context of a phenomenon on campus that has been called ‘voting with your feet’ (or ‘revealed preferences’ for all the economists out there), it becomes obvious that the solutions to these two barriers are interrelated.

So, what is ‘voting with your feet’? It is what Harvey Mudd College is doing right. It is the flock of CMCers that walk up to Mudd two or three days a week to take Professor Dodds’ CS5 class. CS5 is Harvey Mudd’s introductory course, required for all Mudd freshmen, and taught in a way that is accessible to anyone. Prof Dodds explains the goal of CS5, as “we want everyone to be able to answer that question of ‘should I be here?’ with a ‘Yes!’ So we’re just conniving to try and make that happen.”

CS5 does this in a number of ways. For example, it focuses heavily on the conceptual framework of computer science. Professor Dodds says, “CS5’s design is meant to be a skillset and mindset”. The course is structured not to produce software engineers, per se, but to help students understand conceptual design so that they can “feel comfortable enough to use computation to [their] advantage for [their] own project; personal, professional, whatever”.

CS5 also adheres to a non-traditional course structure. The class is broken down into sections based on the student’s prior knowledge. This means the most advanced students are in a class together and are challenged, whereas the new students can focus on building basic concepts without being intimidated. Additionally, Harvey Mudd has a legion of tutors (who also grade homework, and are therefore called grutors) available every night of the week to help. If you do your work, it is virtually impossible to fail. If you show up to grutoring, then you can do your work. Additionally, the classes permit collaborative programming and focus on conceptual topics, like recursion, that are often not covered as extensively in introductory courses, but build a foundation for later understanding of computer science.

But if you are reading this as a CMCer, you are probably wondering what the specific outcomes of these policies were at Harvey Mudd. What is the concrete data? Well, at Mudd, computer science is the fastest growing major. In 2014, 26%[11] of the graduating class was computer science majors. That’s up from 12.7%[12] in 2008.

Of particular interest is Mudd’s data from before these policies were implemented in 2006. And although these policies are beneficial to all students, the class structure was actually a targeted (and successful) attempt to increase the number of women in computer science. At Mudd, over the last few years, up to 50% of computer science majors are women[13]. This is phenomenal considering that pre-2006 female participation in CS at Mudd hovered around 3-4%, and nationally, participation is typically less than 20%[14].

One of the barriers (among many) to increasing female participation in computer science is lack of confidence and experience in CS prior to college[15][16]. In this way, CMC is similar to Mudd. In my survey, fear of failure was the most commonly cited reason for not taking a CS class. Often this was because the participants said they had no prior background and weren’t confident that they could catch up to ‘whiz kids’ who had been tinkering with CS since they were in middle school. It makes sense that CMCers would be intimidated. Although the Registrar’s office was unable to release exact figures on the number of incoming freshmen with CS experience, computer science is neither a requirement nor recommendation for incoming freshman[17], nor is it a required GE for current CMCers. By the time we graduate, many of us have heard about the value of CS, but few have had experience programming.

The good news is that, as a school, we are choosing to change that. We are ‘voting with our feet’ and heading up to Mudd to take Professor Dodd’s CS5 class. In fact, after 106 CMCers (not to mention another ~100 students from the other 5Cs) took CS5 in the fall of 2013, Mudd became overwhelmed and had to limit enrollment to their own students during fall of 2014. This spring, CS5 has re-opened to off campus students, and we are back to beating down their doors. Currently, the 200-person class is full, with 223 students waiting on perm requests.

 We’re Still CMC

Now, many of you might be saying, “If I wanted to be a CS major, I’d have gone to Mudd in the first place.” We self-select to study government, economics, and finance; it is with good reason that we are known for these fields. They are as ingrained in our identity as an institution as our motto, ‘civilization prospers with commerce’. This doesn’t need to change, but we might need an addendum.

We can still be government and economics majors. But it’s imperative that we add some new skills. Even outside of consulting and finance, economists with a technical streak are extremely valuable. According to the Economist, “Tech giants like Google, Facebook and LinkedIn all hire economists… those drawn to the subject by the urge to understand the crisis or the lure of Wall Street might be better off shifting track, twinning economics with coding rather than trading.”[18]

Hiring directors at these same tech companies echo this idea. Tara Stewart, a Program Manager at Facebook, spoke to me about her experience interviewing and hiring new team members. She said that, “I actually prefer[ed] people for my past team, which was highly analytical, that weren’t computer science majors, and were liberal arts majors. I found that people thought differently… they would come up with more diverse ways of thinking about a problem.” In discussing an ideal candidate, she said that they look for individuals “who can find patterns, who are used to using analytical software, used to large data sets. [They are] fine with ambiguity and you can find patterns and tell stories”.

But, if you have not already begun racking up a few programming languages, all hope is not lost. Ms. Stewart also said “I really liked hiring people from that background because we found that the skills were really useful. People who had studied statistics, econometrics, macro or micro theory, anything like that could pick up more challenging concepts really quickly and could learn proprietary software on the job really quickly.”

Promoting Computer Science

In the past, CMC has had limited offerings for those interested in tech. In recent years this has begun to change. This is largely thanks to influential alumni like Steve Siegel (CMC ’87) and Bart Evans (CMC ’70), who helped found the Silicon Valley Program (SVP), as well as administration and faculty, who are working to broaden routes into the tech industry.

Professor Keil emphasizes that the mission of the SVP as he sees it and, as it was described by the late Bart Evans to him, was to “encourage CMCers to be productive, to make a mark in the next phase of product creation: Information technology. Converse to financial firms (like Goldman Sachs) which exist to move money and titles around and take a cut, the tech industry exists to create new and useful products… CMCers need to be part of it, and we need to help open those doors”.

For CMC administration, part of this process means forming a faculty committee focused on addressing the increasing demand for CS at CMC. Professor Nicholas Warner, our Dean of Faculty, emphasizes that CMC’s “approach to computer science courses is multidisciplinary”, and part of a “foundational skills-oriented curriculum”. At a school where many of us will need to use computing as a tool in whatever field we pursue, this integration is extremely important.

Equally important is keeping our CS offerings accessible to the student body. Professor Art Lee, Mathematics Department Chair and Professor of computer science at CMC, has recently designed a course specifically targeted at non-majors called Computing for the Web. Professor Lee says that it is for “those who may not have another opportunity to take a CS course, but want to understand computing fundamentals and web design”. The class shares some of the structure of CS5 (for example, in both courses students learn Python) but focuses more on building concrete data-analysis skills that will be practical for CMCers working in a broad array of fields.

But as an institution, we can (of course) be doing more. Candance Adelberg (CMC ’10), a recent graduate, and Program Manager at Google, says that to prepare students for jobs in tech “CMC can expose students to the [tech] industry in a much bigger way, bring it into the curriculum, socialize and popularize the industry, and give students more resources.”

The Bottom Line

As a school we are perfectly poised to join the tech world. Whether that means entering non-technical roles at software companies, technical roles at financial firms, or anything in between, is up to us. But, one thing that has been repeated by hiring professionals, professors, administrators, and alumni, including Ms. Adelberg is that “going in with some basic programming ability is critical.” So, as a school, let us do what we can to make CS classes accessible to everyone by following successful examples like Harvey Mudd’s. As a student body, let’s make the leap and find room for at least an introductory course. Maybe you will even feel like I did; that CS is not only useful, but also fun in its own right.

[1] http://money.usnews.com/careers/best-jobs/software-developer

[2] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/computer-and-information-technology/software-developers.htm

[3] http://www.payscale.com/top-tech-employers-compared-2012/job-satisfaction-survey-data

[4] http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2012/03/23/the-happiest-jobs-in-america/

[5] http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/ir/CDS_2014-15_Annotated.pdf

[6] http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/pages/faculty/alee/cs/students.html

[7] http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/outcomes/CSC-2014-OutcomesBrochure.pdf

[8] Poll of 47 5C students, 26 CMCers, conducted online between Jan 8th and Jan 15th 2015.

[9] https://hbr.org/2013/10/consulting-on-the-cusp-of-disruption

[10] Data source: CMC registrar

[11] https://www.hmc.edu/dean-of-faculty/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2013/12/CDS_2014-2015-to-web.pdf

[12] https://www.hmc.edu/dean-of-faculty/wp-content/uploads/sites/11/2013/12/CDS_J_Degrees_2009.pdf

[13]http://www.ncwit.org/sites/default/files/resources/harveymuddcollege_successfulsystemicapproach.pdf

[14] http://www.cs.hmc.edu/~alvarado/papers/fp068-alvarado.pdf

[15] http://www.cs.hmc.edu/~alvarado/papers/fp068-alvarado.pdf

[16] http://archive.cra.org/reports/r&rwomen.pdf

[17] http://www.claremontmckenna.edu/ir/CDS_2014-15_Annotated.pdf

[18] http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21638117-microeconomics-powered-data-shaping-tech-firms-trend-has-lessons-macroeconomics?frsc=dg%7Ca

 

What’s up, Pam Gann?

Former Claremont McKenna College President Pamela Gann gave way to a new era at the college and the Chodosh administration on July 1, 2013, stepping down from her post after 14 years on the job. Rumors as to what Gann has done post-presidency have swirled around the campus ever since then, ranging from climbing Mt. Everest and base-jumping the Shanghai Tower, to quelling and starting Third-World uprisings. The Independent contacted Gann about taking part in an interview April 5, and all of her responses were sent via email. We hope to set the record straight on CMC’s own “Most Interesting Woman In the World.”

CI: It has been almost a year now since you left for your sabbatical. CMC students have been curious as to what you have been doing and where you have traveled to during this time. Would you mind sharing your experience with us?

PG: I really love high altitude trekking, and I experienced two trips to the Himalaya. In August, I spent three weeks in Ladakh, which is in Northern India. We first acclimatized in Leh and the Indus River Valley and learned a great deal about Buddhist culture. Our trek of two weeks included over a week of camping above 16,000 feet and crossing a pass at 19,200 feet before arriving at Tso Moriri, a large sacred lake at 15,000.
In October, I left for a month in Nepal. I spent a full three weeks in the Mt. Everest area, including trekking through three valleys, hiking to the Ama Dablam and Everest basecamps, and crossing the Cho La pass (17,870 feet) in deep snow. This trip was the finest trekking experience in my life, and I would very much like to go again to this part of the Himalaya. Many years ago, I also trekked in northern Pakistan in the area leading to K2 and up the Hispar Glacier, another amazing experience.

CI: During your 14 years as CMC’s President, you instituted a number of different changes. Many of these changes were major endeavors, such as raising over $635 million in a five-year fundraising campaign, establishing the Roberts Day Scholars Program, and creating a Master Plan for the college. What motivated you to institute these changes? Did you fulfill all of the goals you had for CMC by the time you left office?

PG: A leader works with various constituents, particularly with the Board of Trustees, faculty, students, parents, administration and staff, and alumni, to determine how best to advance the excellence and effectiveness of the institution. We determined that CMC needed to work on all fronts, including support for faculty growth, student financial aid, and co-curricular and extra-curricular activities, a master plan and improvement of the campus functionally and aesthetically, and our outreach to alumni, parents, and friends. The Campaign enabled us to address successfully these variously identified areas of the College. Importantly, our constituents supported the Campaign, for without their enthusiastic and significant support, none of this would have happened. A leader’s motivation comes from many sources, but I was always motivated by wanting to help others in our community be successful and fulfill their own personal and professional goals in life.

One area about which I was disappointed was the inability to make further progress on a second building for the Keck Department of Science. CMC, Pitzer, and Scripps were able to provide additional temporary spaces, continue to hire new faculty, and make many other improvements under the leadership of Dean David Hansen and the Keck Science faculty; nevertheless, the growth in science enrollments clearly justifies another science building.

CI: Looking back, do you wish you had done anything differently during your time as President?

PG: A leader is provided an opportunity to lead at a given point in the history and evolution of an organization. One’s goals are to take advantage, the best that one can, of the opportunities present at that time. I think that it will be easier to answer your specific question in about five years with the benefit of hindsight!

CI: Upon examining the legacy you left behind at CMC, many faculty members and students recognized that CMC’s next President had very big shoes to fill. Since his inauguration at the beginning of this year, President Hiram Chodosh has already introduced multiple new initiatives to CMC, including The Student Imperative and The Mirza Summit on Personal and Social Responsibility. What is your initial impression of the Chodosh administration? Do you have any advice for him going forward?

PG: Fortunately, the CMC Board of Trustees selected President Chodosh in December 2012. Consequently, we had six months to work together on his transition at July 1, 2013. Whatever advice that I wanted to give was communicated during that time period!

The two new initiatives that you mention are very important. Access and affordability to attend college are critical issues being addressed by The Student Imperative. When I was the Dean of the Duke Law School, I would always tell students that they were almost surely experiencing the most “ideal” community that they would ever encounter. It is the role of institutions of higher education to model the most “ideal” communities that they can create, and I’m sure that The Mirza Summit on Personal and Social Responsibility is rightly pursuing this honorable goal for CMC.

CI: I understand that you will be returning to CMC this fall as the Trustee Professor of Legal Studies. What made you want to be a professor again after all this time? What aspect of teaching did you miss most?

PG: I went into the academy as a young professor, and I always enjoyed the core activities of teaching and research. I could not be happier to be returning to these activities. I very much look forward to teaching the students at CMC and the other Claremont Colleges and the relationships that one builds with students through the classroom.

CI: What courses will you be teaching this fall? Is there an area of legal studies that you would like to specialize in?

PG: I am thrilled to be teaching again next year. In the fall I will be teaching a course entitled “What Do Universities Do?: Public Policy and Leadership in Higher Education.” This new course is an outgrowth of my entire professional life in higher education. We will look at many of the most important issues in contemporary higher education: the shifting historical and contemporary concerns; the discrepant purposes, values and responsibilities of colleges and universities and their intentional and unintentional social implications; the economics of the sector including finance and productivity; issues concerning the students’ academic experiences and engagement and the outcomes of higher education; issues pertaining to admission and financial aid, including shifting demographics and access; issues pertaining to accountability and risk; and pathways to globalization. Throughout the course, we will be addressing leadership issues pertaining to the topic and how one would go about leading a college campus through these issues.

In the fall, I will also be teaching a version of this course at the School of Education, Claremont Graduate University, to students enrolled in master and Ph.D. degree programs.

In the spring semester, I will introduce two new courses.

The first is also an outgrowth of my professional work, and it is entitled “Philanthropy, Voluntarism, and Nonprofits: Law, Public Policy and Leadership.” I always tell students that they are likely to work or volunteer for, lead, or govern a nonprofit organization. Why? The nonprofit area is so very broad and important in American society and increasingly outside the United States. It includes foundations, such as the Gates Foundation and the Ford Foundation, think-tanks such as The Brookings Institution and the American Enterprise Institute, museums such as the Metropolitan Art Museum and the Getty Museum, public benefit organizations like The Salvation Army and the United Way, religious organizations, civil rights organizations, and on-line organizations such as www.givedirectly.org or www.globalgiving.org. I am very pleased to introduce this new course at The Claremont Colleges. It will broadly address many key topics including: leadership, governance, accountability, who gives and why, and the appropriate public policy and legal framework for determining ideal allocations of social problem-solving among government, for-profit, and the nonprofit sectors.

The second new course is “International Law.” Citizens of the United States and other nations are impacted by transactions and activities outside of and across their national borders. They are increasingly affected by the norms and activities of international and regional organizations (e.g., the UN, WTO, NAFTA, and EU), and by the obligations of international agreements. Many international activities take place frequently in structured ways (such as cross-border trade in goods), but they may also take place in a more complex context such as economic sanctions against Iran. Collective force may be used in Libya causing regime change, while collective force may not occur with respect to Darfur, Rwanda, and Syria. These international organizations, international agreements, international norms, and international action and inaction may impact U.S. foreign policy and the range of realistic and legal options available to address U.S. strategic interests. International law is a legal system that affects all of these activities. This course is designed to introduce students to a framework for understanding international law, including what it means for anyone today – legislator, policy-maker, human rights advocate, environmentalist – who has an interest in politics and international relations. It will provide a foundation for more specialized courses.

I hope that all of these new courses will appeal to students, and I am thrilled to be teaching each of them.

CI: Once you return to campus, do you plan to still be involved in administrative decisions? If so, which issues would you most like to address and get involved in?

PG: I will not be involved in any governance or administrative decisions.

CI: After your experience as CMC’s President and your time on sabbatical, do you have any advice you would like to offer to CMC students?

PG: I do not think that there has ever been a time more exciting and important to be a student. You are fortunate to be at CMC. I would simply urge you to take advantage of everything that CMC has to offer, to be bold and intellectually adventuresome, and to be engaged with your faculty. Finally, always leave CMC a better place than when you first entered the College; and you should think about how best you individually or in groups can accomplish this.