"Pomona has changed me to have a better understanding of who I am and who the people around me are."
Between chemistry labs, theatre rehearsals and student events, Courtland Kouassiaman also finds time to feed chickens. Working alongside Professor of Geology Rick Hazlett and a handful of student volunteers at Pomona's Organic Farm, the pre-med environmental analysis major is getting his hands dirty learning the intricacies of farm ecology-and he's having a blast. "It's been absolutely amazing," he says. "It's been good to see so many people take care of [the Farm]."
Though planning to go to medical school, Kouassiaman was inspired to take up environmental analysis after enrolling in one of Hazlett's introductory courses. He's still dedicated to fulfilling his med school course requirements, he says, but these days he's also keeping a keen eye on environmental scholarship. "I have a lot of varied interests," Courtland adds, "And I really like the interdisciplinary thinking that goes on at Pomona."
Add to that a minor in Theatre and you have the makings of Kouassiaman's rigorous and varied academic schedule. Balancing science, EA and theatre coursework has been a challenge for him, but it's really what a Pomona education is all about. "Being a student at Pomona takes a lot of your time academically, but there are a lot of opportunities," he says.
Outside of the classroom, Courtland keeps just as busy. He's been the head lifeguard for the Pomona-Pitzer pools, worked as an overnight hosting intern in the Admissions office, and been involved with the Red Cross Club.
The majority of his extracurricular time is spent working on campus productions with peers and professors in the Theatre Department having served as a stage manager for two plays, including the first staging of the famous Chicano musical Zoot Suit in 30 years.
"It's been one of my homes at Pomona," he says. "The department is so full of warm-hearted people, and each faculty member has their own flavor."
Courtland was originally cast in the play, a musical with energetic dance numbers, but broke his leg soon after. He found the support at Pomona crucial during that time. Rather than having to sit out on Zoot Suit, he was invited to be the assistant stage manager. And the Dean of Students office was there to make sure he could keep up with his health and his studies. "The deans were very helpful, whether it was getting me to my doctor's appointments and back or helping me catch up with my classes or talking to my professors."
Support at Pomona doesn't just come from the administration and faculty; it's built into the student experience as well. Courtland also makes time for Pomona's unique "sponsor group" mentoring program, which brings groups of freshman together under the guidance of sophomores to help them navigate their first year. Having split his high school years between Burkina Faso and suburban Michigan, Courtland came to appreciate the diversity of the friends he made in his own sponsor group and wanted to share the experience with others by becoming a sponsor. "It's quite an opportunity to get to know other students and get to know where they're from," says Courtland.
"It's hard to not have support [at Pomona] because the support is pretty much overwhelmingly there, especially for freshman. You have the sponsor group. You have people from your Orientation Adventure, you have people you met in your ID1 [critical inquiry classes taken during freshman year], and just people that you met randomly."
With so much already on his plate and so much more he wants to pursue, Courtland isn't really sure what's next for him at Pomona, but he's happy to have the support of faculty and peers each step of the way. "Pomona has changed me to have a better understanding of who I am and who the people around me are," he says. "No one should have to miss out on that opportunity."