Ever wanted to get involved with the Hive? Here’s your opportunity!


We are currently hiring a student staff to take on a variety of roles, from Community Builder/Stoker of the Flame to Graphic Designer/Maker of Visuals to Web Developer/Coverer of Web Assets. Please find a word doc with the application, as well as more job description details, here. These applications are due by September 9th and can either be emailed to hive@claremont.edu or brought in to the Hive at 130 E. 7th Street in Seeley G. Mudd. Please shoot us an email if you have any questions, concerns, or comments. We look forward to working with you!



By Fred Leichter


“Eyeballs are cool. You should go build one,” declared a Harvey Mudd summer researcher’s post-it note during a Hive workshop on creating a better research poster. That was my introduction to the Hive as I arrived to assume the role of Founding Director of the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity at The Claremont Colleges (the Hive).

IMG_7081The workshop was led by Gail Gallaher, Dominique Chua, Sophie Zagerman, and Olivia Cornfield – all summer interns at the Hive. What a great entry. Sixteen summer researchers led by Hive staff trying ideas out on each other and prototyping their research posters before they felt that they were ready. One lesson of the workshop: Know your audience. Could “Collagen/gelatin can be electrospun to create somewhat uniform mats that have the potential to be used on man-made cornea transplant” create a better narrative? Well, it all depends on who the intended audience is and whether one intends to have the poster tell the whole story or act as a backdrop. Students worked together to actively try out different messages, narratives, and layouts. The big takeaway: Try it, test it, change it. Don’t wait to print your first draft until the last minute.

Students at the Hive workshop on Research Poster Making create poster prototypes.

Students at the Hive workshop on Research Poster Making create poster prototypes.

I am thrilled to have finally arrived at the Hive. I have been fortunate to spend the last 25 years leading design, design thinking, and innovation at Fidelity Investments in Boston. I’ve also taught at the Stanford d.school part time over the last 10 years. All of that has hopefully prepared me to take the reins at the Hive. Our goal is to create a place that further connects the five undergraduate schools and to provide a home for collaboration between students of all five colleges. We’ll be building a program for liberal arts undergraduates that complements their education, whatever their field of study, whether it be sciences, arts, or the humanities.

There are big things underway over the summer and leading into the fall:

  • Renovation and expansion: Construction in the Hive space in Seeley G. Mudd is in full swing. The energy, excitement, and buzz that the space will generate is already palpable. Right now, there are wires, wet paint, and a rough floor. We have taken out walls and ceilings, opening the space up. The rafters and balconies are evident, and the architectural inspiration of Seeley G. Mudd has re-emerged. The studio spaces will provide places for teams to work together and places to make things easily with rough supplies, foam core, fabric, sticky notes, miscellaneous contraptions, and furniture. We are also working on a gallery area for display of student work and a place to hang out and focus in the “Vault.” Christie Zeeb, a new post-bac from HMC, is cataloging the space and helping us to define the activities supported in each area. Dominique Chua (from Scripps) is working to make our entryways more immediately accessible and engaging for anyone from the 5Cs and our visitors. Come by anytime for a tour. We will also offer a space workshop in which participants will help design the inside of the Hive “honeycomb.”


Soaring ceiling and ample vertical space at the Hive

Soaring ceiling and ample vertical space at the Hive.

New studio space

New studio space.

  • Staffing: We are actively recruiting to fill three open positions: A senior associate director, an assistant director for communications and design, and a second post-bac. Jobs have been posted in the community, and applicants are eager to come in to be considered. We will also be hiring part-time student staff in the fall.
  • National attention: While we will use the Stanford d.school and other programs as general reference points, the Hive will focus on fostering the creative potential of undergraduate students and creating opportunities for students of each of the 5Cs to work together on challenging, ambiguous, real-world issues. We’ll also focus on the creative methods that help enhance a Liberal Arts and Humanities curriculum. We are starting to gain national visibility in this effort. Before I left Fidelity, I had the chance to meet with Borjana Mikic, Professor of Engineering from Smith College. She had attended the AALAC conference on “Design Thinking in the Liberal Arts” hosted at the Hive last year. Borjana raved to me about the program, in particular, the agency and initiative shown by our students. We’ll also be learning from and interacting with programs at Boise State, Northwestern, Middlebury, Swarthmore, Arizona State, and MassArt, to name a few.
  • Beyond the Hive: While the Hive building will house our buzz, we will be visible across all five campuses. A “Hive Trail” that will run through the 5Cs is in the works. Activities for orientation and into September are taking shape. One of the highlights we are planning will be a sound tour of the five campuses that Hive staff will offer in September.
  • Programming: We will be offering mini workshops often taught by students (please propose one that you would like to lead), workshops, one- to three-day pop up activities, and full term for credit classes.
  • Course grants: We’ve approved grants to support a number of incredible courses. Hive grants can be used to experiment with infusing creative collaboration and active learning into classes at the 5Cs. Support can aid in materials, transportation, or use of the Hive facilities. Here is a list of courses that we will be supporting this fall:
  • ARHI 138B Art Field Group/Native American Collections Research
  • French 102 Eat, Drink, Shop; French 106 Creative Writing
  • EA135 Environmental Analysis/NatureWorks: Aesthetics and Praxis in the Anthropocene
  • CORE III: Mobilizing Art; CORE III: Creating and Recreating Genji
  • ONT 105 Urban Studies; ONT 101 Environmental Analysis; ONT 78 Educational Studies
  • THEA001G Introduction to Acting: Acting for Social Change/Theatre and Dance/Intercollegiate Asian American Studies
  • ART 109 Painting as Experiment
  • Soc 76 Indigenous Decolonization and Anti-racist Movements: Commonalities, Differences, and Intersections
  • HIST/PHIL 172 Fundamentalism and Rationalism in Comparative Context: Medieval Islam and Enlightenment Europe
  • ASAM115 Methodologies/Intercollegiate Department of Asian American Studies

Course grants will again be offered for the spring semester for classes, pop ups, and mini workshops that meet those goals.

I have landed at the Hive, and it is great to be here. I look forward to being part of the vibrant 5C culture, following our Hive core principles. We will make the Hive a truly 5C experience, open to everyone – offering spaces to collaborate; play and reflect; nurture connections between students, faculty, staff, and community members; present ambitious challenges; cultivate generative mindsets; and infuse some doing into all learning.

The Hive will also exist outside of the building in different places about campus. Please come visit and find your spot. My message is simple: Engage actively and collaborate to build a network of creative connections at The Claremont Colleges.


By Patrick Little and Dwight Whitaker

More than anything, the Hive is the creation of many, many people working toward a common vision of increasing the creative capacity of the students and faculty at the 5Cs. While we want to thank all of the people who made the Hive possible, it is impossible to thank each of them. In this, our last post as interim co-directors, we want to call out a few individuals who exemplify the generosity of spirit and willingness to work that characterizes all of you.

We start with Rick and Susan Sontag, whose extraordinary generosity makes the Hive possible in its present and emerging form. Our appreciation of them, however, is not based so much on a signature on a check or even a name on the door as on the inspiration they provided from the earliest stages. Rick and Susan are alums from Harvey Mudd and Pomona Colleges, and they challenged us to find ways to unite students from all the 5Cs in a genuinely creative environment. Their recollections of student experience profoundly influenced our own approach.

The students are, of course, the central characters in what the Hive is and is becoming. Starting from their enthusiastic engagement in the 5C Student Advisory Committee in 2014-15 and continuing into essentially every activity during our first “live” year, students have shaped the Hive. It was students who taught us that they longed for new experiences that would introduce them to knowledge outside their major and to people outside their traditional orbits. Literally hundreds of students designed, led and participated in the various workshops. Students serve on the Steering Committee that advises us on policy, hiring, and even faculty grants. Student staff members create the welcoming environment that characterizes the Hive. Although we face limits of time and space, we want to call out several students who have most profoundly affected this place. Estela Sanchez not only engaged and found a home here; she literally named it the Hive. Gail Gallaher took the reins for our programming, guiding peers to put active into our activities. Nicki Maslan worked tirelessly at supporting other students’ experimentation and demonstrated our process by designing and conducting several workshops. We cannot name all of the students who help make the Hive what it is, but we invite you to explore our web pages to see a little of what they do and ask you to stop in and meet them.

Faculty also profoundly shaped the Hive. From the outset a small group of faculty expressed their deep hopes and aspirations. They were insistent that the Hive should be a collaborative space that prepares students and faculty to work on great, messy problems. Deb Mashek, who participated in founding the Hive from the earliest times, described a vision of “a really great party with all the people you want to meet and be with, full of energy and life.” What started as a series of conversations over lunches led us to a vision of a place that welcomed each of us and encouraged us to share our passions. Other faculty inspired us with proposals to make their courses more active, collaborative, and creative. Again, there are too many faculty to mention each by name, but several must be called out. Fernando Lozano was relentless in his support for the Hive, offering visions that would tie us to academic rigor. Lance Neckar, Brian Keeley, Raquel Vega-Duran, Ronnie Brosterman, and Dave Bachman all faithfully participated in the early planning and transitioned into the prototype that was our first year. There is a list of Friends of the Hive that includes many others who to whom we are grateful, and even that list comes up short.


Tom Maiorana and Vida Mia García of Red Cover Studios guided our design process over the past 2 years, and cannot be thanked enough. Never allowing us to be captured by “paralysis by analysis,” they relentlessly moved the process along, surprising us with their insightful summaries from the previous meeting and inviting us to continue to progress. Once we were up and running, they hired and trained the student staff, ran workshops, counseled us, and provided presence in the building. It is hard to imagine the Hive without them.

Linda Shimoda has supported us almost from the start. Linda brings an artist’s eye, curatorial experience, and administrative rigor that was hugely important to getting things off the ground, welcoming and displaying student work, tracking faculty grants disbursed across five colleges, and providing a steady, warm and humorous presence. In many ways we moved from a concept to a center when she joined us from Alexander Hall.

Alexander Hall is, of course, the starting point for the vision that became the Hive. Pomona President David Oxtoby realized the need and opportunity for a creativity center, encouraged faculty, staff and students to articulate what that might look like, and provided exceptionally generous support. Part of his support included the tireless efforts of other people from his team, including Pam Besnard and Mary Lou Ferry. No one, however, gave us greater help than Teresa Shaw. Teresa liaised with David, but did much more – she insisted on high standards, found resources whenever we needed them, took part in leadership meetings for the full two years of the startup, and was obviously deeply committed to our success.

Finally, on a personal note, we want to thank our spouses. They listened to our grousing, celebrated our successes, and made us remember what collaboration really means. Thanks, Tracy and Judy.

– Pat and Dwight (with genuine thanks to Sophie Zagerman for patiently helping us post the long goodbye)


By Patrick Little and Dwight Whitaker

Through programming, we design experiences that are in line with our core principles and make us better at collaborative creativity. All of the activities we sponsor at the Hive are active and engage students through working together to learn by doing. Programming is also part of our process of testing ideas through rapid prototyping.

As we mentioned in our post on process, we created an activity matrix of experiences that last from as little as an hour to longer than a semester and allow people to engage in a way that is suitable for them. While this matrix initially came from a participant desire for different levels of involvement, the chart can also be thought of as describing the level of risk for leading a new activity.


A non-comprehensive list of events offered at the Hive.

At the bottom of the chart, the stakes are low with mini-workshops that let participants try out new concepts, new skills, or even new problems. Student-led mini-workshops such as 3D modeling and printing by William Lamb, talking with strangers by Estela Sanchez and Michelle Sun, and creating a business in an hour by Quinntin Ruiz let students share their excitement and gain experience in guiding others. These workshops also provided an opportunity for faculty and staff to get involved. We hosted workshops by Terri Geis, curator of academic programs at the Pomona College Museum of Art, about slow looking and psychologist Deb Mashek from Harvey Mudd College about forming relationships. Finally, the mini-workshops provided a forum for experimentation and play with events such as making Halloween costumes or Valentines. As well as being fun, mini-workshops increase our exposure to a broader audience and build a community of people who are making things.


Students working at a Design Thinking workshop in the Harvey Mudd E4 Studio.

For a deeper experience than a mini-workshop, we also offered workshops and pop-up courses that lasted between two hours and a few days. The most frequently offered of these was a workshop that takes the user through the Design Thinking process in only two hours. The Design Thinking workshops were incorporated into the syllabi of several courses, including the introductory engineering design class at Harvey Mudd and the Senior Project course in Environmental Analysis at Pomona. Workshops were initially led by Tom and Vida Mia, with student staff support. This acted as training for staff who eventually led their own workshops, such as Gail Gallaher and Nicki Maslan’s winter workshop on designing your life. As an example of a longer pop-up course, student teams spent several Fridays working with Honnold Library on a project to reimagine the GIS labs.


Students working with Tom on Human Centered Design projects.

Finally, at the level that requires the greatest investment from both the instructors and students, Human Centered Design (or ENGR 190AB) was a full-credit course team-taught by Pat, Tom and Vida Mia in the Spring. This course taught students to listen deeply to others and design responses to the needs they heard. Starting with a simple on-campus project, the students learned to unpack user interviews and translate their insights into prototypes. The course culminated in a design project in collaboration with the City of Hope to reimagine wellness among women over the age of 60.

We also strived to make connections to the community in other ways. The Hive provided a meeting space for a diverse set of student groups. We were proud to host regular meetings of The TEA, a 5C art collective of artists of color, and THRIVE, a student group dedicated to improving student mental health. Other student groups used the Hive for assistance at crucial moments, such as when the Quest Scholars prototyped their permanent space and when IDEAS jump-started an advocacy campaign in support of undocumented students. The Hive also supported faculty in their coursework, providing meeting space for classes, in-class modules on design thinking concepts, and course grants to add creative elements to existing courses. Over the past year, about 50 courses at all five colleges were supported by the Hive.

Programming provides a structure to help build a community of creative people who will nurture each other and go on to effect change. To do this, we need to offer opportunities for people to interact and share ideas as well as develop useful skills and generative mindsets. We evaluate the success of our programming by the impact it has on the college community. We will talk more about the centrality of people at the Hive in tomorrow’s final post.

Pat and Dwight

By Patrick Little and Dwight Whitaker

Place is a loaded and complex term. It can signal domination (“know your place”) or freedom (“a place of one’s own”), or it can reflect the connection between our selves and the spaces we inhabit. Because the term is complicated and fraught with meaning, we often substitute physical space for place, looking at the size of a room, the assessed value of a home, or the presence or absence of desirable features like windows. As we reflect back on our time at the Hive, we are reminded that sometimes we did exactly that, but we also had the chance to experience what a place for collaborative creativity might feel like.

At the celebration of Rick and Susan Sontag’s gift, Estela Sanchez spoke of how she had not really felt she had a place at the colleges, and how she had questioned her own sense of belonging. She then went on to describe how the Hive was that space she had sought, and how it filled her with joy to be able to help shape it. Later, during the campus-wide conversation led by students of color at CMC, Estela spoke out at a rally and invited the students and their allies to the Hive as a safe space. Her spirit of ownership of the Hive reflected one of our core values of the Hive as an open and welcoming place.

The core values also informed much of our attitude about designing the Hive as a physical space, using a portion of the Seeley G. Mudd library made available by President Oxtoby. “Creating permission to experiment and play” translated into creating a space that is not precious, where mistakes, marks, or changes are welcome. We wanted students to be unafraid to write or paint on a wall, to display their creations, and to share their work and expect feedback. Clovis Ogilvie-Laing created an artwork that crossed several rooms and reminded us about embracing failure.


From the beginning, the Hive has been a prototype of itself where we learned what spaces were too big, too small, too dark and sometimes just right. Each of the rooms acquired an informal name, such as the Inner Meadow and Scandinavia. Scandinavia, named for its IKEA furniture, surprised us because we were sure that a room with a sink, cinderblock walls and no natural light would likely be underutilized. Instead, the room’s sense of enclosure provides students a sense of privacy that allows them to share personally significant experiences safely.

The rough nature of the physical space also didn’t keep people from using it in beautiful and imaginative ways. A narrow hallway became an art gallery for work from Rachel Levy and Ken Fandell’s fluids and photography class, and for Albert Dato and Sarah Gilbert’s class uniting materials science and sculpture.

Glass Bulbs

Perhaps the most striking use of the space was by Christy Spackman’s food and culture class, which transformed the Outer Meadow into a tasting place.

Hanging Roses

The Outer Meadow also became the home for dozens of mini-workshops, which filled the space with sketches, 3D printed objects, sticky noted on foam core boards, and Haitian art dolls. These workshops and classes hosted in the Hive taught us that the space we were using was too small, so this summer we are expanding the space to more double its size.

Estela gave voice to students who come to the 5Cs looking for a place that is inclusive, welcoming and generative. Our hope has been for the Hive to be a focal place, where students have a profound sense of belonging, connecting, and creating.

– Pat and Dwight

By Patrick Little and Dwight Whitaker

The Hive emerged from conversations that began during the 2014-15 academic year among faculty and students at Pomona and quickly came to include the other undergraduate colleges. The central thrust of these conversations was to find ways to improve the creative capacity of our students. Guided by designers Tom Maiorana and Vida Mia Garcia, parallel faculty and student steering committees took part in a series of discussions of what a creativity initiative might mean and what it would look like. Tom and Vida Mia come from a background in Design Thinking and applied its methods to help the 5Cs create a vision for the center.


Dwight Whitaker and Brian Keeley, of the faculty steering committee, participate in a values finding exercise for the Hive.

Through interviews with dozens of people, we learned that there was a deep desire to prepare ourselves to solve the “wicked problems” society faces. These complex yet important problems often do not fall easily into a discipline and are sometimes hard to even articulate. To make headway on these messy problems requires people to work across disciplinary boundaries and to share each other’s mindsets. It quickly became apparent that the participants wanted to cross these lines of discipline, department, college, and even between student and teacher. The act of sharing mindsets and expertise to generate previously unavailable solutions is what we have come to call “collaborative creativity.”

It was also clear that we wanted to find ways to lower the “cost” and “risk” of moving outside traditional boundaries, whether that entailed exploring new disciplines or addressing new problems. Lowering barriers to entry not only allows us to fail safely, but also to regain the delight of learning new things – exploration is fun.

As it turned out, the approach of listening respectfully and enthusiastically became a central element of how people at the Hive approach almost everything. The early process also revealed a desire for action and fearless prototyping. During that pre-Hive year, Mark Allen offered a Studio Art course that moved his students into collaborations with art students throughout the region. Dwight led a three-day workshop on 3D printing. Tom and Vida Mia conducted several one-hour mini-workshops on topics such as visual communication and re-imagining an everyday object. Among the things we learned from these were that students would move quickly in response to opportunity and that these activities take time and other resources. These prototypes showed that engagement can take many forms with different levels of investment by the participants. Ultimately, this led to a menu of offerings as short as a one-hour mini workshop up through a multi-semester engagement with a project.

Granularity Figure

The process that we see at the Hive has its roots in human-centered design, design thinking, and simply listening and acting as a model for getting things done. We have come to respect process as a key element in approaching messy problems (and also fun activities), but at its core, process is an approach rather than an ideology.

The process that has emerged can be characterized as:

  • Listen and empathize
  • Organize thoughts and key themes
  • Try a solution (quickly and cheaply)
  • See what happens
  • Iterate again and again

Anyone who has read a text in engineering design, design thinking, or problem solving will recognize this process and perhaps even want to name it as their own. We think that’s great. Frankly, we don’t really care much about what it is called so much as we care about empowering students and faculty. Listening, acting, and observing create the opportunity for the connections that are central to collaborative creativity.

Pat and Dwight 

By Patrick Little and Dwight Whitaker

In just a few days, we will stand down from our roles as interim co-directors of the Hive and turn things over to our new full-time director, Fred Leichter. For both of us, watching the Hive come into being has been one of the most compelling and rewarding experiences in our careers. The Sontag Center was designed to influence the entire 5C community by creating opportunities for students, faculty and staff to work together in a truly collaborative and creative environment. In little more than a year, the Hive has grown from an idea to a nationally recognized center for the development of the creativity of undergraduates.


Interim co-directors Dwight Whitaker and Patrick Little

Over the next few days, we want to reflect on the past year at the Hive, how it came to be, what people have done, and who made these great things happen. (We’ll leave it to Fred to talk about the future of the Hive when he gets here.) To add structure to these reflections, we’ve tried to align our thoughts in terms of 4 P’s: process, place, programming and people. We’ll start with process, since that gives us a chance to share some of the history (and rewrite it on our own terms). We’ll talk place next, since our space is where so much has happened, and it illustrates our approach to prototyping almost everything. The things that happened will be discussed when we write about programming, although too much happened for us to do everything justice. We’ll save people for last, because, quite simply, it is people who have made all the difference in changing the Hive from a concept to a culture. We also want to use that post to say thanks to the many, many, many folks who have participated.


Someone’s always making something at the Hive. In this case, students from Human Centered Design prototype self-expression.

Each of these goodbye posts is informed by the core values of the Hive, but in different ways. The central mission of the Hive is to “accelerate the creative development of students across the 5Cs.” To accomplish this, we seek to:

  • Nurture connections
  • Show everyone how they can fit in
  • Infuse doing into all learning experiences
  • Make it feel truly 5C
  • Cultivate generative mindsets
  • Present ambitious challenges
  • Create permission to experiment and play

Tomorrow’s process post remembers how these core values created a dynamic culture.

– Pat and Dwight

A great read for folks interested in some of the psychology behind some of the mindsets we should be fostering in this initiative.

We often talk about the need to be able to embrace failure. That’s much easier with a growth mindset.

I’ve seen so many people with this one consuming goal of proving themselves— in the classroom, in their careers, and in their relationships. Every situation calls for a confirmation of their intelligence, personality, or character. Every situation is evaluated: Will I succeed or fail? Will I look smart or dumb? Will I be accepted or rejected? Will I feel like a winner or a loser?