Claremont McKenna on the Today Show

Claremont McKenna College was highlighted on the Today Show this morning because Newsweek named it one of America’s Hottest 25 Schools, specifically "Hottest Place to Be During an Election Year". 2 in 5 students major in Government. It has the largest and wisest government department of any liberal arts college in the country.

And while it sometimes attracts the label as a conservative school (thanks to the Claremont Institute or the Claremont Review of Books), it in fact is "conservative" because it’s balanced: the faculty and student body are 50/50 liberal/conservative. Compared to its peers in American higher ed, this statistic is astounding. Last year, both conservative supreme court justice Justice Antonin Scalia and President Bill Clinton spoke on campus.

If CMC were on its own — like Middlebury, Williams, Macalester, Swarthmore, Kenyon, or any other liberal arts college that operates independently — such a politically intense atmosphere might be overwhelming. Fortunately, it is nestled within the Claremont Consortia of colleges (Pomona, Pitzer, Harvey Mudd, Scripps, CGU), offering students access to all the curricula, faculty, and students of the sister colleges. Unlike the Seven Sisters colleges back east, though, these colleges are literally across the street from one another.

If you’re a high school student (or parent) thinking about college admissions, and you’re interested in liberal arts education in a Southern California climate that draws students who are at once talented and driven but also laid back in a California kind of way, check out the Claremont Colleges. With CMC’s admission rate at 16%, it is highly selective but well worth an application.

Naturally, I’ll have more to report once I’m down there in less than three weeks!

Claremont Fifth Best Place to Live

Claremont, CA, the "city of trees and PhD’s," was named the fifth best place to live in America among 100 towns under 50,000 in population.

It is an ideal location to pursue higher education. I’m excited.

Small College, Big Speakers

The spring ’07 speaking lineup at Claremont has already included Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. In a month, Bill Clinton will be visiting.

Side benefit of a gap year: it makes you more ready / excited to go to college.

L.A. Diversity May Decrease Trust, But Optimism Reigns

Where’s the most ethnically diverse place in the world? New York maybe? London? Nope. It’s Los Angeles. The Financial Times reported on acclaimed political scientist Robert "Bowling Alone" Putnam’s new report on the corrosive effects of diversity on communities:

Prof Putnam found trust was lowest in Los Angeles, “the most diverse human habitation in human history”, but his findings also held for rural South Dakota, where “diversity means inviting Swedes to a Norwegians’ picnic”.

Trust among neighbors may be low in L.A., but optimism still seems to be at a California high, according to this amusing NYT piece:

”What I hate about L.A. is that you have to seem young, happy and successful at all times,” said a Showtime producer I know who dared not speak for attribution for fear of alienating colleagues. ”In New York you can whine and complain, and everybody lets it roll off because they accept ups and downs. In L.A. if you’re negative, you get treated as if you have some kind of emotional cancer and people are scared to be near you.”

Today’s NYT travel section also notes L.A.’s diversity — and one of its many pluses:

There are probably more Chinese in Los Angeles than in any metropolitan area outside of China. The same very likely could be said of Mexicans, Iranians, Koreans, Japanese and more, which is what makes Los Angeles the best international eating city in the world.

To wrap up our L.A. report, the Los Angeles Times today puts its stamp of approval on Claremont, CA, where I’ll be living for a few years starting in the fall:

You’re as likely to hear young lovers discussing epistemic theories of truth as you are to see them smooching.

It’s referring, of course, to the Claremont Consortium, or what the Fiske guide once called "The most extraordinary assemblage of educational excellence in the nation." 

CMC Students Start "Fantasy Congress"

For those who have no idea how many yards Peyton Manning threw for on Sunday but can cite every legislative amendment proposed by Senator Richard Durbin, Democrat of Illinois, the game could be an alternative to the prevailing fantasy sports culture.

This has Claremont written all over it. Congrats to the four Claremont McKenna College students featured in yesterday’s New York Times on their clever new invention "Fantasy Congress".

My College Admissions Decision: Claremont McKenna College

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In fall ’07 I will start at Claremont McKenna College!

What is Claremont McKenna College?
CMC is a small, liberal arts college in Southern California. Statistically, it is one of the most selective colleges in the country and, with Pomona College, represents the west coast in the top tier of liberal arts colleges. But the beauty of CMC is its qualitative characteristics.

Unlike many elite liberal arts colleges which all blend together, CMC is distinctive. It has carved out a niche in higher education and, frankly, dominates it. Claremont is all about leadership, government, business, and public policy. The College embraces "life entrepreneurship" more than any other school I visited.

Why Did I Choose Claremont?

First, I believe in the liberal arts college model. Second, the College’s mission fits my life mission perfectly. Third, I love California. Fourth, my Dad had a great experience at CMC. Finally, I had a good visit — the students I stayed with were impressive. My host was an undergraduate doing deep research on the WTO and Taiwan (he chose CMC over UC Berkeley for its economics program), his good friend was involved in political life (he chose CMC over Georgetown for its personalized approach within the famous government department). Also during my visit, the professor of a class I audited asked me if I wanted to have lunch afterwards. She cared.

The Consortia — Claremont McKenna is literally across the street from Pomona College, Pitzer College, Scripps College, Harvey Mudd College, Claremont Graduate University, and a variety of research institutes. All the colleges share resources which means students can take classes at any of the colleges. This means CMC, for example, can have a government department of 40 professors — an insane number given the 2,000 students at the school — and not offer any arts or engineering. Students who want art and engineering take their classes at Pomona or Harvey Mudd (arguably the best liberal arts college in the country for engineering students). Moreover, while you receive the personal attention of a liberal arts education, you are in a town with over 6,000 students, faculty and staff of 3,300, and 2,500 total courses. The Claremont Colleges is perhaps the only place in the country where you can get the best of both worlds in such close proximity — personal attention on the one hand, and the resources and feeling of a university on the other.

Curricular Focus — Among the top 10 liberal arts colleges there is little to distinguish a college like Swarthmore from Amherst, or Carlton from Pomona. CMC has taken a different approach. They have branded themselves as a school devoted to educating leaders. The Kravis Leadership Institute, the Drucker School of Business, and a variety of other programs on campus promote a theme of leadership, business, exploration, and impact.

Peter Drucker — Perhaps the greatest management thinker of our time, Peter Drucker taught at Claremont for the last 40 years of his life. Hence the Drucker School of Business; not a terribly prestigious business school, but an energetic one, with expert faculty, research output, and high level business courses.

The Government Department — After Harry Jaffa, a protege of Leo Strauss at the University of Chicago, went to Claremont and founded his "Sousa" school of Straussianism, the Claremont government department has attained national profile. As the chair of the dept wrote to me, "CMC’s government department is the largest and wisest of any liberal arts college in the country." One Government major actually dropped out of CMC a couple years ago to be George W. Bush’s personal secretary (he’s now going to be the first HBS student who doesn’t have an undergrad degree).

Faculty — You probably haven’t heard of many of Claremont’s professors. After all, they focus on teaching undergraduates, not appearing on CNN. This is fine by me — I want a professor who I can have dinner with! That said, there are a couple people on-campus who fire me up by name alone. David Foster Wallace, one of the best American writers in his generation, teaches at Pomona. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, author of Flow: The Psychology of the Optimal Experience, one of my all time favorite books and a landmark in positive psychology, teaches at Claremont Graduate University. A friend from my high school is a freshman at CMC and his government professor is Charles Kesler, the famous head of the Claremont Institute and editor of the Claremont Review of Books, a conservative counterweight to the New York Review of Books. His economics professor served in an advisory capacity to the current Bush administration. (The faculty and student political split is 50/50 liberal and conservative.)

Athenaeum — CMC hosts guest speakers for lunch and dinner four days a week, every single week of the academic year. Definitely the most guest speakers in an organized fashion than any other liberal arts college, and probably most large universities too. Top speakers — Janet Reno, George Will, etc — are invited for dinner inside the Athenaeum dining room. You must make reservations, wear nice clothes, and not only listen to the speaker but discuss the relevant issue at your table. This is one of CMC’s shining points and given my propensity to meet new people and discuss all sorts of issues, it suits me perfectly.

Los Angeles — Even as a San Franciscan I can admit that Los Angeles is a tremendous city. My company Comcate works with many cities in LA County, including a big contract with the City of Pomona, CA. Claremont is an hour east of LA.

    • Weather — Incredible weather. BBQs and sandals. I’m told Claremont is sheltered a bit from the smog.
    • Platform — Great city for me to operate on. Tons of interesting people and companies.
    • VC/Entrepreneurship — Southern California may soon eclipse Boston as the #2 most active VC region in the country, behind Silicon Valley
    • Brains — UCLA, USC, Occidental, California Institute of Technology, and the Claremont Colleges all make Los Angeles full of bright students.
    • In-N-Out Burger — SoCal is home to the original In-N-Out Burger location, and there are two in the City of Pomona alone.

Networking — Because so many CMC grads go into business or the professions, the network of CMC alumni is incredible for a small college. I’m not even at the college yet and I’ve already tapped into it.  Every day I find someone new who’s a CMC alum — Patrick Lencioni, author of the popular business fable books, or Jonathan Rosenberg, one of the top Google executives.

Henry Kravis – Kravis is one of the most successful investment banker in U.S. history, with a legacy that will stand alongside J.P. Morgan as one of the titans in American finance, says Achievement.org. Kravis, a CMC alumnus, is perhaps Claremont’s most notable patron. I hope to develop a relationship with him while I’m there.

If you don’t know much about Claremont, don’t worry, that will change over the next five years!