Legal scholar Hiram E. Chodosh will be Claremont McKenna College’s next president, after current President Pamela Gann steps down at the end of the 2012-2013 school year. Gann, who has served the College since 1999, announced her coming resignation nearly six months ago.
The Board of Trustees announced the selection of Chodosh yesterday, and Chodosh met with the CMC community this morning in CMC’s Athenaeum. Afterwards, Chodosh sat down for an interview with the Port Side and other campus publications.
Leaders in academia have a job of creating the most transparent system possible.
A leading expert in comparative law and institutional justice reform, Chodosh has served as the dean of the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law since 2006. Chodosh has hands-on experience addressing legal and governmental issues, having served as an advisor to the State Department, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and United Nations. (Chodosh also notably showed off his funky dance moves to Utah law students in a YouTube video titled “Napoleon Dean-O-Mite.”)
A graduate of Wesleyan University and Yale Law School, Chodosh believes his own education has shaped how he has approached his work. “My leadership has been informed, motivated and shaped by my liberal arts education,” he said. “I have spent my whole career trying to reshape my liberal arts education.”
Chodosh cited peer-to-peer learning as an important aspect of a liberal arts education, and said CMC’s Athenaeum exemplifies that approach. He also said that a liberal arts education enables students to think creatively and critically in order to solve real-world problems.
“Liberal arts education confronts students with [obstacles] and allows students to transcend them,” said Chodosh. He said liberal arts students have “the ability to work across cultures… and anything else that divides people.”
Many students hope Chodosh’s focus on the importance of a liberal arts education will translate into increased communication with the CMC community he will serve. “I hope to see CMC’s new president take an initiative to get to know the student body right off the bat,” said Kelsey Gross CMC ‘13.
Some students have criticized current President Gann for how little she interacts with CMC students. “I am hoping he is pretty different than Gann in the way he leads the school,” said Lorien Giles CMC ‘14. “I’d love for the president to be involved with what the students care about and not just raising money for projects.”
At Utah, Chodosh expanded leadership opportunities for law students, emphasized interdisciplinary learning, and led the College of Law’s successful campaign for a new academic building. Chodosh also increased the College of Law’s prestige and its place in the rankings, and some students hope he also improves CMC’s reputation.
“What I am looking for from a president is exposure for CMC,” said Han Dinh CMC ‘14. “I want to walk on the street and have people know what I’m talking about when I say I go to CMC and know the brand name.”
Yet Chodosh comes to CMC in the wake of its controversial SAT scandal, in which former Dean of Admissions Richard Vos inflated SAT scores and other data of incoming freshmen. Though Vos acted alone, his actions seemed to be the product of an institutional culture focused on improving statistical markers and rising in the rankings.
Of CMC’s approach to the admissions process, Chodosh said that they need to be “value driven” and select students based on the College’s values. “Students need to be a good fit going forward.”
Chodosh questioned the validity of the rankings system and the culture that follows. “We need to be aware of various audiences that determine proxies… and that rankings are highly problematic,” he said.
Students need to be a good fit going forward.
Some students believe the Board of Trustees selected Chodosh as a response to the SAT scandal. Chodosh has a background in anti-corruption and global justice efforts, and helped Utah’s College of Law earn a ranking as one of the top 20 Most Transparent Schools, according to Transparency Law Schools.
“Leaders in academia have a job of creating the most transparent system possible,” said Chodosh.
In addition to hoping Chodosh will engage with the student body, CMC students have a number of issues they would like Chodosh to address.
Referring to the administration’s recent crackdown on CMC’s party scene, Jessica Jin CMC ‘16 said she is interested to see “how he is going to balance CMC’s greater image… and our existing culture that we have here.”
Shannon Miller CMC ‘16 said she hopes Chodosh addresses the cost of CMC’s attendance. “I’ll be interested to see going forward what specifically he can do to try to make our college more affordable for its students,” said Miller.
Chodosh, who will take over for Gann starting June 30, 2012, said he is excited to get to work and to find out more about the CMC community. “I have a lot I need to learn before I can lead the College.”
Karun Kiani, Russell M. Page and Rae Brookshire contributed reporting to this article.