Twenty-five-year-old Xiangyu Ma, now a junior at Pomona College, didn’t like the person he felt he was being pushed to become at Claremont McKenna.

Previously a philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) and sociology major at CMC, he now concentrates on sociology at Pomona. Ma, who prefers to go by XY, won a Singaporean government scholarship that not only pays for his undergraduate and graduate education, but also guarantees him a professorship at one of Singapore’s three public universities. He already knows that he will be a career sociology professor.

One problem for XY was the academics. CMC felt overwhelmingly preprofessional, “even on the learning side,” XY said. A future professor, XY takes academics seriously, and is bothered when others do not do the same. “It was not so much the professors as the students – no one really cared,” XY recalled. “I could see myself being infected with that attitude, and I didn’t want that. I wanted to make this my life.”

XY finds he relates more to the student body at Pomona. CMC students tend to have a “work hard, play hard” mentality, and CMC’s social environment is more of a monoculture than Pomona’s, he said. At Pomona, XY does not even see students drinking. “I haven’t had a conversation that revolves around alcohol for two weeks,” he related, “but every day at CMC I have a conversation that revolves around alcohol or drugs.” He says he is tired of hearing about how much Smirnoff Apple someone drank last weekend and how disgusting it tastes.

The academic environment is not as different as one might think. XY does not see any big difference in his classes, although his sociology classes are much more diverse. “There are very few white people in sociology,” he explained. He prefers classes at Pomona to CMC, saying, “The discussions have been better. I feel more confident that my Pomona classmates do the readings, and that is true even for PPE.”

XY does not think CMC is bad; it just does not align with his academic interests and personality. “I think the CMC focus on professionalism is good because then people actually get jobs, which is pretty important,” he says. “Students at Pomona are content to coast along.”

(Written by Andrew Sheets, edited by Terril Y. Jones; Sept. 17, 2015)

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