Frequently Asked Questions

What is it?

The Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity, aka the Hive, will accelerate the creative development of students across the 5Cs (that is, the five undergraduate colleges in Claremont, CA—Claremont McKenna College, Harvey Mudd College, Pitzer College, Pomona College, and Scripps College). It is a place where the varied disciplines come together in order to harness the power of the liberal arts and to deepen – or revive – students’ creative practice, however it may show up within their discipline.

Why does it matter?

We believe that creativity is something that all people possess and that consciously deepening their own creative process will benefit students across all disciplines.  At the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity, we give students experience wrestling with problems in a variety of ways and help them accept ambiguity, gain confidence to take risks, learn from failure, and get inspired by different perspectives. We believe these mindsets can help them get even more out of their education and find a deeper passion for their core academic disciplines. And perhaps most importantly, we believe that these mindsets will foster audacious thinkers and doers who can work creatively across disciplines and, ultimately, in collaboration with diverse groups, which is exactly what the world needs.

What do you actually do in the center?

The Hive is a host to a wide range of activities that are exploratory, collaborative or experiential. As an example, last week, a student dropped in to brainstorm topics for an upcoming audition. Shortly afterwards, human rights group on campus met in order to prototype an upcoming campaign. Students from across the 5Cs gathered to take part in a mini-workshop on visual communication. Another team of students gathered to work on 3-week project during which they will redesign the experience of a digital maker space in the library. In addition to supporting these, and more co-curricular activities, we’re working with existing courses to help students and faculty bring creative problem solving and framing into their existing classes. All that is to say, we do lots of things here in the Hive, and while those activities are as diverse as the student interests at the 5Cs, all the activities support the creative development of students. 

How did the center come about?

Faculty and students began discussions and brainstorming about the value of creativity, innovation, and collaboration in a liberal arts environment in 2014. With the support of a generous planning grant, we were able to prototype exploratory activities, workshops, and teaching experiments that informed our understanding of the Claremont Colleges’ unique needs, as well as student and faculty strengths and desires. Through a series of in-depth ethnographic interviews with students, faculty, alumni, and staff across the 5Cs, we learned more about how creativity and innovation could be integrated more fully into the undergraduate experience at the Claremont Colleges. 

Who is it for?

All are welcome. The Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity, or the Hive, was conceived specifically for students and faculty at all of the five undergraduate institutions at the Claremont Colleges. The Hive is for people from all disciplines and with varying levels of “creative confidence,” who all share a desire to work in a collaborative, experiential way on ambitious challenges and messy problems with no clear solutions. Fundamentally, we believe that everyone is creative and we support everyone who wants to deepen their creative practice.

How and when can it be accessed?

The Hive is open from 8AM to 9PM on weekdays and 12PM to 6PM on weekends. The Hive is accessible through the entrance facing 7th Street (north entrance), the entrance facing College Ave (west entrance), and the entrance adjacent to Millikan Laboratory and the Cowart ITS building (east entrance). For accommodations, please contact the Hive via Facebook message, email (, or phone call (909-607-9248).

Hive Map

How specifically can faculty be involved?

From the outset, the Hive has received an enthusiastic reception from faculty across the 5Cs who are excited about collaborative work and experimenting with their pedagogy. The Spring 2015 semester featured a number of course prototypes in which faculty explored innovative teaching formats such as near-peer teaching, novel workshop structures, and hands-on thought experiments. Bolstered by their successes (and learning from our interesting failures), the Sontag Center sponsored a formal set of grants for existing Fall 2015 courses, awarding 22 grants to individual and interdisciplinary teams of faculty members across the 5Cs.

What are the key things students “get” from The Hive?

Based on the needs and desires we heard from students and faculty across the 5Cs, the Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity organizes all of its activities around three themes: exploration, collaboration, and experiential learning.

  • Exploration: Provide a space to fail safely. Offer opportunities to explore new interests with low- to no-cost and a low barrier to entry. Explore a wider range of ideas and possibilities, and learn to empathize with radically different outlooks and approaches.
  • Collaboration: Share mindsets, not just tools. Be in the intellectual muck together, figure out ways of tackling problems together, and accomplish things together.
  • Experiential learning: Students will learn by doing. Gain skills to translate thinking into action. Develop resilience through making.

Is this curricular or co-curricular?

It’s both. In order to help students explore, it was critical to develop a variety of ways for students and faculty to plug in to this initiative. Our activities range from a large number of brief 1-hour experiences (for those students who might be testing the waters) to a few full term courses linked to the Center (for faculty and students who are willing to commit more time and effort).

Where is it?

The Hive is located on the northern border of Pomona’s campus, in renovated space on the first floor of Seeley G. Mudd Hall.

Who’s running it?

Our current director is Fred Leichter. In the past, Professors Patrick Little (Engineering, HMC) and Dwight Whitaker (Physics, Pomona) served as Co-Directors of The Hive.

The five colleges will collectively manage and oversee the center, with input from participating college presidents and deans (governance committee), faculty members and students (steering committee), and an alumni advisory committee.

Can students earn credits?

Not directly at this time, although with the large number of faculty engaged in the Center, there are a lot of courses that are being taught that have or will have been impacted by Center activities. This term, for example, faculty are using Center resources to bring in dance teachers, to take bus tours looking at water resources in the region, and even to develop sustainability related databases. In each of these, we look for ways to enhance active learning and collaborative creativity.

Ultimately, we hope to see full courses developed that support the goals of the Center.

Are there student fees?


How does the Sontag Center relate to other resources and programs around the 5Cs?

The Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity will connect, through its activities as well as engaged students and faculty, with many other centers and resources in Claremont, including the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Claremont McKenna College, the LASPA Center for Leadership at Scripps, the Redford Conservancy at Pitzer, the Clinic Program at Harvey Mudd, the Draper Center for Community Partnerships at Pomona, and others. The Sontag Center will help build the ecosystem of initiatives around engaged and experiential learning, creativity and innovation, and hands-on collaboration at the 5Cs. The Hive will be a place that fosters connections, linking people to each other and to shared opportunities.

Is this just a Pomona thing?

No way! In fact it’s the collaborative nature of this initiative, which harnesses the intellectual and creative energies of five diverse undergraduate institutions, that makes it more powerful and unique among other creative or innovative centers across higher education.