Why a Liberal Arts Education Is Like a Thali

By Vidusshi Hingad ’25

leafy quad with building in backgroundA liberal arts education is like a thali. I promise you this analogy makes sense—just stick with me! Just like the thali is a large plate in which a plethora of dishes are served, a liberal arts education is like tasting different flavors of areas of knowledge which eventually develop your taste buds to their maximum potential. [At Pomona] you are required to explore six different area breadth requirements which all stimulate different parts of inquiry that equip you with important skills. A broad curriculum is often misunderstood, but, just like once you find your favorite entrée, you can guiltlessly savor your major and continue pursuing it. You can genuinely have the cake and eat it too (in fact not just cake but mithai or mochi donuts or fried cheesecake—the possibilities are limitless).

Vids standing on street cornerThis was my understanding of what liberal arts meant before I actually came to Pomona, but now that I am here and almost done with a semester, does the definition still hold truth? Here are the highlights of a week in my life at Pomona College.

  • Submit a psychology lab on the reconstructive nature of memory
  • Dance the American Viennese Waltz at a ballroom dance class with Dr. Machin
  • Attend a talk by Angela Davis about collaborations, communities, and collectives at the Big Bridges Auditorium
  • Dump your best friend into a fountain on her 18th birthday
  • Submit a collection of 3 poems to Agave Review for their fall issue
  • Complete a linguistic analysis on the indexicalities of verbal fillers and their effect on perceived competency in the corporate world
  • Go to Shaila Aunty (who is the campus mom)’s house for chai to feel connected to your roots
  • Meet with your academic advisor to discuss your spring semester schedule
  • Complete a psychology quiz on exposure-based therapy for phobias and anxiety and the effects of rumination
  • Enjoy a 2000’s themed party with life-sized arcade games
  • Attend a weekly mock-trial meeting and discuss cross-witness demeanor
  • Go to a mentor session to complete a macroeconomics problem set that analyzes whether the self-correcting mechanism or fiscal policies are more effective in closing recessionary gaps
  • Attend a Tamasha Bollywood dance workshop on Ainvayi Ainvayi and Hauli Hauli
  • Babysit your favorite theatre director’s daughter (she is adorable)
  • Meet with Professor Smiley—who doesn’t even teach you, but you find her research on child development interesting
  • Go to a Jeremy Zucker concert at the Novo in LA with your best friends
  • Discuss your upcoming paper on the derogatory language used in item songs in Bollywood during office hours with Professor Divita
  • Meet with the library assistant to find a special research collection on the effects on toddlers of gendered toy marketing
  • Jam at a fun karaoke session with your sponsor group in the student lounge (scream your lungs out when you sing “Bohemian Rhapsody”)
  • Submit a sociology essay proposal for professor Yeritsian’s class on digital media transformed romantic interactions in the pandemic
  • Eat a burrito bowl for dinner with your international mentor (ISMP mentor) and reflect on your well-being
  • Play antakshari at the Hindi-Urdu language tables at Oldenborg
  • Watch your roommate perform as Elle Woods at her musical theatre debut in “Don’t Tell Mama”
  • Perform a spoken word at the First-Year Open Mic event
  • Participate in a Mock Trial Scrimmage on the weekend
  • Celebrate Diwali by eating snacks and lighting diyas in the quad

And I know you’re reading this, mum. … Don’t worry, I got an average of 7 hours of sleep every day!

A liberal arts curriculum means holistic learning, both in terms of what you learn and how you learn it. It means taking a wide variety of subjects that better equips you to tackle obstacles in the future. It means engaging with your professors on a one-to-one basis as well as discussing your ideas in class. It means challenging yourself to think in different ways and arrive at innovative conclusions. My experience as a first-semester student at Pomona College has been extremely satisfying and personally rewarding. Every student, faculty, staff has depicted such resilience in the pandemic, and being able to interact with them in person was truly the light at the tunnel.