Students often talk about breaking out of what they call the “Oxy bubble," but the College is still very much part of our larger society.
As we enter the new year, it’s clear that Americans remain deeply divided and that no bubble can isolate Oxy from the push and pull of that conversation. The fact is that college campuses have always been at the forefront of messy, difficult debates about divisive issues.
Such debates are central to our role as institutions of higher learning. Yet the headlines they generate often obscure the remarkable achievements of our students and faculty that are, in fact, more representative of what happens at Oxy on a day-to-day basis. For example:
An Oxy education has a national reputation.
- Oxy remains one of the country’s top liberal arts colleges in major rankings, including U.S. News & World Report, Fiske, and Princeton Review. Oxy is 27th in a new Wall Street Journal ranking of liberal arts colleges; the New York Times rates Oxy as one of America’s most economically diverse campuses.
- According to the 2016 PayScale Salary Survey, an Oxy education produces real value: our graduates rank No. 6 among liberal arts college graduates in terms of salary potential and No. 17 among all U.S. colleges and universities.
Oxy students and faculty maintain high standards of excellence.
- For the 10th consecutive year, Oxy was one of the country's top producers of student Fulbright Awards. Five Oxy students and alumni won two top science awards: the Barry Goldwater Scholarship and the NSF Graduate Student Fellowship. (Last year, just 17 percent of Goldwaters went to liberal arts colleges; Oxy is one of only six to win three.)
- In addition to winning prestigious fellowships at Harvard and the European University Institute, having their music performed at the Hollywood Bowl, and being selected as the Huntington Library’s first artist-in-residence, Oxy faculty are regularly quoted by the Washington Post, New York Times, Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, and other major media outlets.
- Our drive to bring athletics back to its winning ways continues to pay off, with a men’s cross country team that went to the national championships and a quarterback -- Bryan Scott '17 – who set new SCIAC and Oxy career passing records.
Oxy has programs and resources available nowhere else.
- This fall, 30 students participated in two unique programs: Oxy’s Campaign Semester, in which they earned course credit while working House, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns nationwide, and the Kahane United Nations program in New York City.
- Thanks to the generosity of the Cosman Family, the 100,000–piece Cosman Shell Collection has come to Occidental. Combined with the Moore Collection of Mexican and Central American birds, we have a treasure trove of genetic material that will have a major impact on our understanding of evolution and serve as the foundation for a marquee environmental sciences program.
Oxy makes every dollar count.
- Oxy’s financial management continues to draw kudos: Moody’s Investors Service confirmed our impressive Aa3 credit rating based on our financial health, strong management, and academic reputation. Forbes’ most recent Top Colleges Financial Grade list of private colleges gave Oxy an A.
Of course, many challenges lie ahead: addressing the rising cost of college; building Oxy’s endowment to reduce our dependence on tuition revenue and provide even more student scholarships; making Oxy a truly diverse and inclusive institution; and countering the widespread but utterly mistaken notion that a liberal arts education is a frivolous luxury. I plan to keep in touch with you regularly as we address these and other important issues.
Whatever the inevitable challenges and needs that remain to be met, the Oxy community should take well-deserved satisfaction in its many achievements. It is these institutional strengths that have sustained the College for almost 130 years and will continue to do so in the years ahead. All of us play an important role in making Oxy the special place we all love.
I want to wish you all the best for 2017.