This is an introductory article, originally published for South Asian Productions.
Straddling the border between Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County in Southern California, a group of seven institutions is huddled together in the city of “trees and PhDs”:
Comprised of five distinct colleges, each with its own faculty, admissions, and specific resources, the Claremont Consortium provides a symbiotic structure for undergraduate students to thrive together. The five undergraduate schools are, in order of founding, Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd, and Pitzer. The two graduate schools are Claremont Graduate University and Keck Graduate Institute, with its undergraduate offshoot, the Minerva School. We share a library, health services, several if not all our classes, common study spaces, our campuses, and, most importantly, our dining halls.
Every time I step onto the Consortium’s campus, I am immediately transported – by the Pitzer cacti, by the maze of dorm buildings in Pomona, by the Harvey Mudd students on skateboards and wheelies, by the constantly-bustling Claremont McKenna Hub, and by the Scripps Rose Garden on a quiet Tuesday afternoon. On this tranquil 640 acre—or one square mile—campus, you’ll rarely find the noise and chaos of most college campuses.
However, the Claremont Colleges are small, insular, and begging for a break in the daily grind’s monotony.
Enter the South Asians, the desis, the few hundreds of nonwhite students in a Predominantly White Institution, with our dozens of student organizations and events.
As a first-year in 2018, I was lucky to have met a few fellow South Asian students in the Asian American Sponsorship Program (AASP), a Scripps College organization. But, I quickly realized that the 5Cs had only a fledgling South Asian community.
As a second year, I was introduced to a dizzying array of niche South Asian organizations across the campuses. The South Asian Student Association (SASA) hosts an annual retreat and several events, including a campus-wide party, Desi Beats. The dance group Claremont Tamasha started in 2012. Additionally, the Pomona-based South Asian Mentorship Program (SAMP) started a few years later, along with the Committee of South Asian Voices (CSAV) operating under the umbrella of Pomona’s Asian American Resource Center. Furthermore, international students make up a large portion of the South Asian population in Claremont. Their spaces, like Claremont McKenna’s International Place and the New International Student and Scholar Organization (NISSO), traditionally have been used to host several South-Asian-centric events, like SASA’s Chai and Chills.
Claremont’s first celebration of South Asian culture, Sanskriti, was in 2012 and a collaborative effort of several South-Asian-centric organizations. Each year since, with the exception of 2020, Sanskriti has brought desi joy and culture to the forefront. Albeit with a few cheesy skits and heavy student-run overtones, it was an incredible sight to behold, and the entire community came together to watch the performance. Sanskriti welcomes all levels, and all ethnicities, to participate in the festivities each Spring. Every year, Sanskriti gets bigger and better, owing to the growing South Asian population and the willingness of students to participate.
Claremont also has a few delightful South Asian faculty members, notably Scripps College’s Piya Chatterjee from the Feminist Gender and Sexuality Studies (FGSS) department and the Pomona College English department’s poet, Prageeta Sharma.
Claremont’s South Asian community is rapidly expanding, with a collective of South Asians creatives in the process. While we may be all around the world for the next several months, I anticipate our community to find novel and interesting ways to collaborate, innovate, and create.
As an incoming third-year at Scripps, I am incredibly excited to share with you—dear supporters of South Asian Productions—the creative faces and voices of the Claremont Colleges’ community.