President-elect Hiram E. Chodosh addressed a crowd of faculty, administrators, and students at the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum last Friday, December 7. The event began at 9 a.m. and lasted less than an hour.
Appearing alongside current President Pamela Gann, Chodosh introduced himself to the community. Chodosh, 50, holds a B.A. from Wesleyan University and a J.D. from Yale Law School.
Chodosh grew up in New Jersey in what he recalled was “the last community forcefully desegregated” in the state. He noted that his integrated high school was comprised of students who had graduated from segregated elementary schools. For CMC’s future, he stressed the importance of “cross cultural competence” among “gender, race, [and] class.”
Chodosh repeatedly called CMC’s joint emphasis on both the liberal arts and leadership a “double helix” that sets it apart from other liberal arts colleges. He referred to CMC’s pragmatic emphasis as a “bridge to somewhere.”
Going forward, Chodosh argued CMC will need to have a greater conversation, not only about what role the college will play in the liberal arts community, but also about what role liberal arts will play in the world.
Liberal arts colleges, Chodosh noted, currently face a “value proposition” in light of the recent economic downturn, which left many graduates jobless. As a result, Chodosh wants to seek “new revenues that don’t depend on tuition.”
Upon conclusion of his remarks, President-elect Chodosh opened the floor for questions. Shriya Ravishankar ’14 asked about CMC’s lack of arts facilities on campus.
“I love the arts,” Chodosh replied. “I spent a lot of my formative years studying theatre, studying dance.” Chodosh’s Curriculum Vitae, published on the University of Utah’s website, notes that (besides being in the top 1% of his class at Wesleyan) he was an undergraduate teaching apprentice in both “Russian Drama” and ”West African Dance.”
Chodosh noted that the Claremont Consortium model was explicitly designed so that the schools could specialize, but told Ravishankar, “If that [model] is not working for you, I want to know about it.”
Chodosh believes that “too linear of a perspective” may hold both students and professionals back.
When asked what the last book he read was, Chodosh replied that he was currently reading statistician Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise: Why Most Predictions Fail But Some Don’t.
In a subsequent interview with campus press, Chodosh told reporters he believes that “character is something that is built through a strong liberal arts education.”
Chodosh reflected fondly on his own undergraduate years and attributed much of his success to his education. ”My whole career I’ve been trying to recreate my liberal arts college experience,” he said.
When asked about CMC’s admission process going forward, Chodosh described attending a “poor public high school” that lacked the resources of many other other secondary schools. When it came to his own college selection process, Chodosh admitted, “I’m sure my scores reflected the fact that I didn’t have those resources.”
“Now, rankings [are] a highly imperfect, but nonetheless [an] important responsibility of an academic leader [of] an institution that is as high-quality as CMC,” he stated.
Chodosh recalled hearing about Claremont McKenna College for the first time around 1994 when he heard the college’s name mentioned during a radio station broadcast in Cleveland. Chodosh explained that the station was covering a high school student who had perfect SAT scores that year. The student had committed to attend CMC the following year.
When asked on a scale of one to ten how much he currently knows about CMC and its history, President-elect Chodosh said, “Given the time I’ve had, I’d maybe give myself an eight. In the larger perspective of how much I have to learn, I’d give myself a three or a four.”
“I’ve done the very best I could in a very short period of time,” Chodosh said. He admitted there was room to grow: “I have a lot to learn to be in a position to lead.”
Board of Trustees and Presidential Search Committee member David Mgrublian ’82 urged students to help by writing to President-elect Chodosh through the feedback page on the Presidential Search Committee website.
“That’ll be good,” Chodosh said. “I’ll write back.”
An earlier version of this article identified Shriya Ravishankar as a member of the class of 2015. She is a member of the class of 2014.