By Giuliano Richetta ‘25
Taking a college class for the first time can seem daunting. I grew up hearing rumors about weed-out classes, huge lecture auditoriums, and professors who are not interested in getting to know you. A lot of times, the first response I got when I told people I wanted to major in STEM was “good luck!” Before being accepted to Pomona, I prepared myself mentally for the seemingly huge challenge of taking college-level STEM classes.
To my delight, I learned about Pomona’s student cohorts the summer before starting college. The Quantitative Skills Center—a great academic resource on campus open to all students— offers to first-generation and low-income students the possibility of joining one of two academic cohorts: Pomona Scholars of Science or Pomona Scholars of Math.
For many students coming from underrepresented backgrounds, a STEM career seems intimidating. The goal of the academic cohorts is to provide students with a space to develop their academic interests, encourage their intellectual passions, meet other students from all over the country and world, and ease the transition into college. I had no doubts: as a student interested in the natural sciences, coming from a very different high school experience, and with no experience taking a college class, Pomona Scholars of Science (also known as PSS) seemed like an ideal fit for me.
As part of the PSS 9 cohort, we were able to take our classes in cohort-only sections with students from Posse Miami and Posse Chicago, and engage with our classmates and professors. For example, our Intro to Cell Bio class with Prof. Olson was centered around teamwork and group discussions. Additionally, cohort students benefit from biweekly one-on-one meetings with our PSS faculty members, Prof. Sara Olson and Prof. Chuck Taylor.
But, in my opinion, the social component was the best aspect of PSS. Because we spent lots of time together in lectures, labs, mentor sessions, and midterm reviews, the cohort bonded almost immediately. We also had weekly lunch meetings every Friday before Chemistry lab—with great food options like Chipotle, Panera, or Saca’s—where we would debrief about our week, how our classes were going, and even enjoy guest speakers, like Prof. Kara Wittman from the Writing Center.
Each year, there are a group of PSS mentors, Pomona students who were part of the cohort the previous year. During our year, we had amazing mentors: Fernie, Timi, Diana C., Diana T., and Mohamad. Our mentors were always organizing social events like movie nights, ice cream runs in the Village, food nights, or more unique activities like… going roller skating after a tough Chemistry midterm! Having mentors who were once first-year PSS members is a great way to help navigate the transition to college, as they’re always eager to answer your questions and help you sort through the many challenges of college.
Joining PSS was one of the best decisions I made in college: I was able to take my intro STEM classes in cohort-only sections, got to meet amazing people, and became more confident in my skills as a STEM student. Before coming to Pomona, I was unaware of the cohorts, how they worked, or their advantages. A year later (and after having an incredible experience) I can definitely vouch for Pomona Scholars of Science!