Ask a CMCer why they came here. Do it. I dare you. And be ready. Because any and every student at this college will be ready with points, counterpoints and statistics to show you exactly why they believe that this school is the absolute best in the country. It is just a reflex honed by the frustration of going to an excellent school that most people have never heard of.
But we know why we’re here. And, in general, this is the right place for us. The average CMC student could get into a wide variety of schools, some with wider reputations than CMC, but the unique nature of the college and its specific features offer a new and different kind of experience, one not so easily found at other institutions.
I was defending my choice to a friend over Skype a few weeks ago, and I happened to bring up the professors at CMC. While I was arguing their merits, a thought occurred to me: why are they here?
If the students who attend CMC are seen as the cream of the crop, then the faculty is even more so. We’re constantly surrounded by leading minds in some of the most competitive intellectual fields in the world, men and women who we can confidently say have mastered a profession. We have the honor of being taught by some of the smartest people in this country.
Why are they here?
CMC is a great school, but, again, these professors are brilliant enough to have their choice of top tier institutions. Many of them have previously taught at those schools, including Professor Colin Wright, who was a professor of economics for eight years at Northwestern University before moving to Claremont.
I sat down with Professor Wright, government professor Andrew Busch, and math professor Andrew Krumm to ask them about their choices to come to Claremont, and if there is one thing that I definitively learned, it’s that there is no common reason. That seemed to be just about the one thing all three agreed on. A few factors were emphasized, however, especially the theory of “quality attracts quality.” Professor Busch explained by saying: “Once a school gets to the level that CMC is at, it’s very easy to recruit extremely skilled professors, and professors want to work at an institution with skilled colleagues. That applies to the students too… A professor can’t work at his full potential without good students, and CMC has plenty of them.” Other recurring draws were the small size of the school, the amazing weather, the level of research, and many other qualities that I had thought were present at plenty of other universities.
After my interviews, I found myself frustrated by what I found to be a lack of a coherent answer. Professor Wright believed that “there are too many different factors that go into the decision for there to be one common reason,” and so did the rest of my professors. The reasons that they had given me were good ones, but there are plenty of other universities that have those characteristics.
But, as I was looking over my notes, I saw one thought I had previously disregarded. Before I ended the interview with Professor Wright, I asked him to tell me, if he could, in a sentence or less, why he still teaches at CMC, and he simply said “because I enjoy it.” I began to realize that being a professor at CMC is just like being a student here: professors experience the Claremont effect. They are exposed to this strange and unique college that creates the kind of environment that attracts and fosters our teachers as much as it does us. Professor Krumm said he was comfortably surprised at coming to a “small school where you can really get to know students and where people really value teaching.”
The Claremont “Package” is as comprehensive for its professors as it is for its students, and I think that’s the big takeaway here. Our professors teach here because they share with us a love for this school and the environment it creates, and because, in the simplest way possible, there’s no place like Claremont.