Mission, Values & History

Mission Statement

Pitzer College produces engaged, socially responsible citizens of the world through an academically rigorous, interdisciplinary liberal arts education emphasizing social justice, intercultural understanding and environmental sensitivity. The meaningful participation of students, faculty and staff in college governance and academic program design is a Pitzer core value. Our community thrives within the mutually supportive framework of The Claremont Colleges, which provide an unsurpassed breadth of academic, athletic and social opportunities.

Pitzer Core Values

At Pitzer, five core values distinguish our approach to education:

  • Social Responsibility: At Pitzer, students spend four years examining the ethical implications of knowledge and individual responsibility in making the world better. They learn to evaluate the impact of individual and collective actions manifested in social and political policies.
  • Intercultural Understanding: Individual perspective and approach to the world are informed by the culture in which one resides.  Intercultural Understanding enables Pitzer students to comprehend issues and events from cultural lenses beyond their own. From Los Angeles to Botswana to Nepal, Pitzer students are educated to thrive and succeed in an ever-changing global community.
  • Interdisciplinary Learning: Pitzer College students are taught to challenge traditional ways of learning and to make immediate connections between academic disciplines. Faculty is organized by field groups instead of traditional academic departments. Scientists, sociologists, historians, writers and artists influence each other’s work and often teach courses together.
  • Student Engagement: Pitzer’s unique curriculum allows students the flexibility to direct their own educational and career paths by creating their own majors. In addition, students are active members of college governance – making decisions on everything from academic policies and faculty and staff hiring to public art displays and building design.
  • Environmental Sustainability: Sensitivity for and preservation of the environment is a key value of Pitzer College.  Campus landscaping utilizes drought-resistant, native plants and the College is proud of its many LEED-certified sustainable buildings. Students shape their daily activities, programming and studies to ensure they leave the environment and the world stronger than how they found it. Students interested in environmental issues will find Pitzer an exciting living and learning laboratory.

Community Values

These aspirations for all members of our community are not enforceable requirements but rather ideals that promote ethical practices in a diverse community built upon trust.

Community – We come together to live and work in a shared learning environment where every member is valued, respected, and entitled to dignity and honor founded upon the following rights and responsibilities:
Diversity  – We learn from the rich and complex histories, view points, and life experiences in our community. We value and celebrate the synergy created by our differences and similarities.
Dialogue  – We support the thoughtful exchange of ideas to increase understanding and awareness, and to work across difference without intimidation. We have the right to be heard and the responsibility to listen. Communication, even at its most vigorous, should be respectful and without the intent to harm.
Inquiry – We prize the powerful possibilities of learning and the principles reflected in our educational objectives including our dedication to access and justice, civic involvement and environmental sustainability, and our respect for pluralism, freedom of expression, and the sustained effort necessary for achieving academic excellence.
Action -These values are mere words until we practice them. We expect to see them evidenced, hear them named, debate their integrity, and demand change on their behalf. We are committed to the hard work and dedication this will demand.

This is a living document to be revisited annually by the community to affirm and measure its progress; to suggest new aspirations; and to support demands for institutional change. We prize the conversation, and even tension, that may arise from contradictions at the heart of these values, for this is where they first might inspire action.

Pitzer College History

Pitzer College was named for benefactor, noted philanthropist and orange grower Russell K. Pitzer (1878-1978). Founded in 1963 as the sixth institution of The Claremont Colleges, Pitzer began as a residential liberal arts campus for women with a curricular emphasis in the social and behavioral sciences. Pitzer was the first independent women’s college to open in the United States since Bennington College in 1932.

The College began in 1964 with an entering class of 153 students. The founding faculty, students, and staff designed Pitzer as an innovative liberal arts institution. The College’s pioneering programs embraced interdisciplinarity in teaching and learning, creative and cooperative classroom experience, and community governance, encouraging every voice to be heard equally and fully.

Pitzer College received accreditation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 1965. By 1968, the College’s enrollment had grown to some 550 students, and in 1970, Pitzer became co educational with a student population of 618 women and 80 men.

Today, Pitzer enrolls approximately 1,000 students in more than 40 fields of study leading to the bachelor of arts degree. Some of the more popular concentrations are psychology, sociology, political studies, media studies, environmental studies and art.

Students continue to create their own academic programs in close collaboration with faculty advisers. There are no formal lists of requirements at the College; rather, students are guided by a unique set of six educational objectives: Breadth of Knowledge; Understanding in Depth; Critical Thinking, Formal Analysis and Effective Expression; Interdisciplinary Perspective; Intercultural Understanding; and Concern with Social Responsibility and the Ethical Implications of Knowledge and Action.

In keeping with its distinctive heritage, Pitzer remains dedicated to individual growth while building community. Students are expected to engage in community service learning, and the campus is now a leader in sustainability, intercultural understanding and global study and inquiry.

Students of ethnically diverse backgrounds come from all parts of the United States, as well as from nearly 20 other countries to attend Pitzer College. In addition to learning from one another, students are encouraged to participate in one of Pitzer’s study abroad and international programs. Pitzer challenges students to develop a set of courses that will expose and engage them with issues from the perspective of at least two cultures and two disciplines. Students are also invited to take advantage of the many other Claremont resources that enrich and strengthen their appreciation of global diversity.

Seven educational institutions now comprise The Claremont Colleges: Pomona College, founded in 1887; Claremont Graduate University, 1925; Scripps College, 1926: Claremont McKenna College, 1946; Harvey Mudd College, 1955; Pitzer College, 1963; and the Keck Graduate Institute for Applied Life Sciences, 1997.

From its founding years to the present, Pitzer College remains a maverick in American higher education. The College continues to embrace a spirit of inquiry, participation, and adventure that is a hallmark of the Pitzer education.

Presidents of Pitzer College

John W. Atherton 1963 – 1970
Robert H. Atwell 1970 – 1978
James B. Jamieson
Acting President
1978 – 1979
Frank L. Ellsworth 1979 – 1991
Paul B. Ranslow
Interim President
1991 – 1992
Marilyn Chapin Massey 1992 – 2002
Laura Skandera Trombley 2002 – Present