Pitzer College

Founded in 1963, Pitzer College was built upon four core values that reimagine the purpose of a college education in a progressively changing world. These values are social responsibility, intercultural understanding, interdisciplinary learning and student autonomy. Almost 50 years later, our students feel that our founding values help prepare them to address the issues of their time. How do you feel these values will help you find solutions to the evolving challenges of your generation?

More than even before, we live in a time of constant change. Sometimes slow, building changes which are often unrealized until they finally take hold, but also change which comes quickly— two years, a year, a few months. In the relatively brief period that I have been alive to witness these changes, the world is dramatically different. Yet even with changes in technology, law, and many other areas of life, many cultural narratives and societal ideals are virtually the same as fifty years ago and beyond. Some of these narratives serve us in a positive way, but to accept all of them on the basis of their familiarity or the fact that they have survived the ‘test of time’ is detrimental. More than anything it is important that my generation realize blindly accepting change as a sign of improvement or letting little change be enough change, regardless of circumstance, not only fails to advance us, it allows backslide. A commitment to social responsibility, one of Pitzer’s basic tenants, is key to such realizations and understanding.

Accepting social responsibilities means also accepting difference, accepting that different peoples hold different ideals and goals. Intercultural understanding is necessary make things better for all, rather than better for some— and subsequently worse for others. The necessity of intercultural understanding exists not just when dealing across countries and continents, but in daily and personal life. The United States is full of cultural and ethnic diversity and complexity, which should be embraced and celebrated.

Interdisciplinary learning and student autonomy are values that I find to be especially complementary because they encourage exploration and innovation. The problems faced by my generation, be they social or otherwise, require a willingness to step outside the box of preconceived notions. Not everyone wants to be a doctor, or an engineer, or a politician— people should not be forced into pursuits that others believe to be ‘necessary’ or ‘productive,’ instead they should be encouraged to what inspires them. Furthermore, what it means to be a doctor, or an engineer, or a politician is rapidly changing— they requiring people thrilled to undertake the challenge, not drones pushed into the field. The best that can be done is to encourage people to explore what they are passionate about, something which Pitzer does through emphasis on student autonomy. Only by investigating the full extent of our interests and the diverse directions they may lead will lasting improvements be made.