August 30, 2017

How Do You Survive Grad School? Frank Advice at Orientation

Mark Chapin Johnson at 2017 Fall Orientation
Trustee Mark Chapin Johnson speaks at the 2017 fall orientation.

“Read the small print. Be sure you understand what you’re getting into.”

That was some of the advice that keynote speaker Mark Chapin Johnson imparted to several hundred students during this year’s opening orientation ceremony, which was held in Little Bridges auditorium on the Pomona College campus.

Chapin Johnson, who is a CGU trustee and alumnus (MA, Politics and Policy, 2009; PhD, 2012), achieved great success in real estate and the pharmaceutical industry before deciding, in his 50s, to return to graduate school.

“I had already lived the American dream,” he told the new students. “Then I came into this institution, thinking I knew everything already, and do you know what happened? I discovered that many of the things I had always thought were correct were absolutely wrong.”

That discovery, he explained, opened his mind and set the stage for his transformative experience at graduate school.

Other speakers during the orientation ceremony included Senior Admissions Director Jake Campbell (who served as emcee), Interim President Jacob Adams, Provost Patricia Easton, Assistant Vice President of Student Services Lisa Flores Griffith, Interim Dean of Students Quamina Carter, Career Development Office Director Christine Kelly, and Graduate Student Council President Marquisha Spencer, among others.

Speakers expressed similar messages, blending practical information about campus life with statements about the life-changing stage that the new master’s and doctoral students are entering.

Also attending the ceremony were Trustees Ernie Maldonado (PhD, Criminal Justice, 1983) and Beverly Ryder.


What was some of the other advice delivered by Chapin Johnson to the new students? Here are some of his rules to live by:

  • “You must reach out to your professors and ask them for their counsel and mentorship. You will learn so much from them if you do.” (Chapin Johnson praised Professors Jean Schroedel, Sallama Shaker, and Michael Ullmann for inspiring him.)
  • “You will all live in Hagelbarger’s. Open up an account there because that is where you are going to live.”
  • “You’re going to invest the most precious part of who you are in this place. Don’t waste it.”

Chapin Johnson’s remarks were followed by those of Provost Easton, who offered a warm welcome to the students.

“I want to congratulate all of you for answering a question that sounds like something out of Shakespeare: To go, or not to go?” she said. “For some students thinking about graduate school, that question is difficult to answer. But not for you.”

In addition to urging students to seek out the university’s student support services, and giving them a brief history lesson about the university’s founding by James Blaisdell in 1925, Easton also presided over a special induction ceremony known as the “Ignite the Flame” ceremony.

“Today is the start of your journey,” she said, “and we are pleased you chose Claremont Graduate University to be part of it. I believe you made the right choice.”

Then Easton directed the students to take their lapel pins, embossed with the university’s flame logo, and pin them on one another’s shirts and lapels after she recited the school motto: “Multa lumina, una lux” (many lamps, one light).

“Congratulations,” she said, when the pinning was over, “you are now official members of the Claremont Graduate University community of scholars!”

Ignite the Flame pinning ceremony
Students pin the CGU flame on one another during the “Ignite the Flame” ceremony.