From the Perspective of a Trilobite

Interim Dean of the College Bob Gaines holds a fossil of elrathia kingii, more  commonly known as a trilobite.

Interim Dean of the College Bob Gaines holds a fossil of elrathia kingii, more commonly known as a trilobite.

Interim Dean of the College and Professor of Geology Bob Gaines threw a geological twist into the College’s opening convocation on the first day of the fall 2019 semester by presenting a very small but very old gift to each member of the entering class. The gift—a 504-million-year-old fossil trilobite from the Wheeler Shale in western Utah, was both a memento of the students’ first day of classes at Pomona and a focal point for his welcoming speech, which focused on time, on both the geological scale and the human scale of the four-year college journey upon which each of the new members of the Class of 2023 has now embarked.

“What you hold,” Gaines explained, “is an animal half a billion years old. In Earth terms, this beast is a mere youngster. It appeared after 89 percent of Earth’s history had already elapsed. The last 500-plus million years—which constitute the entire history of complex life on Earth, represent only the most recent 11 percent of Earth’s history and a far, far lesser proportion of the history of our universe.”

After tracing the very long journey each of those tiny fossils had taken through ancient seabeds, rock formations, geological uplifts and ice ages to the present day, he quipped: “So, this is the perspective from which I speak when I remind you that four years is actually a relatively brief expanse of time.”

On the Fringe

On the first day of her Devising Theatre class last spring, when Assistant Professor of Theatre and Dance Jessie Mills proposed the idea of developing a student-produced play as part of the Hollywood Fringe Festival, five of her students leapt at the opportunity. The festival—an open-access celebration of theatre in L.A.—brings hundreds of new plays to professional theatres each summer. And so, for one week in June at the Broadwater Black Box theatre, Ally Center ’21, Roei Cohen ’21, Alex Collado ’20, Noah Plasse ’21 and Abdullah Shahid ’19 brought to life onstage their own serio-comedy, titled How to Adult. Recent graduates Rachel Tils ’19 and Jonathan Wilson ’19 were also involved as directors.

The students not only had to create their own play; they also had to produce it, including negotiating a contract with a venue for dates and times and setting up and breaking down their own sets. “Creating and producing this work is truly at the center of the liberal arts,” says Mills. “These students pulled from a myriad of sources, experiences and materials to collaboratively synthesize their ideas into one cohesive vision.”

Award-Winning Food

fishTry not to drool when you read the menu that won Pomona College chefs Amanda Castillo, John Hames, Marvin Love and Angel Villa a silver medal in a recent national cooking competition.

First course: branzino with kohlrabi slaw, ginger-scented maitake fish broth and tempura snap peas.

Second course: pork belly and shrimp with herb-roasted mashed potatoes, tomato purée and roasted corn.

Third course: vegan almond cake with caramelized peaches, bionda ganache, raspberry sauce and cashew and popcorn brittle.

Buffet course: Korean spiced tri-tip with moong bean pancakes, pickled cauliflower and jasmine rice.

The event was the team competition sponsored by the American Culinary Federation during its 25th Annual Chef Culinary Conference at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, last June.

Generationally Speaking

Esther Brimmer with her father, Andrew Brimmer, at the 1983 commencement exercises.

Esther Brimmer with her father, Andrew Brimmer, at the 1983 commencement exercises.

Last May, when foreign policy expert and former member of the Obama administration Esther Brimmer ’83 stepped up to the podium in Marston Quad as the featured speaker for the 2019 commencement exercises, she was following in some big footsteps—her father’s. Andrew Brimmer, then governor of the Federal Reserve, was Pomona’s featured commencement speaker in 1983, the year his daughter graduated from Pomona. In her address, Esther Brimmer recalled her father’s advice to her: “Run with the swift. … Whatever you do, you should try to learn from the best.”



Esther receives an honorary degree at Pomona’s 2019 Commencement

Esther receives an honorary degree at Pomona’s 2019 Commencement

Beyond Writing

Pomona College’s Writing Center isn’t just about writing any more.

Last summer, the center received a $250,000 grant from the Arthur Vining Davis Foundations to expand its mission to support oral and visual communication as well. The two-year grant will fund programs in which students can hone not only their writing skills but also their speaking ability and their competency in dealing with visual communications in an increasingly image-driven world.

“Through the new center, we propose a transformative reconceptualization of how we understand literacy and how we teach key forms of communication in the 21st century,” says Kara Wittman, director of college writing and assistant professor of English. “Flexibility, thoughtfulness and deliberateness in all these areas will ensure that all Pomona graduates leave the College able to write and speak effectively, advocate compellingly and have an impact on the real-world issues they care about.”

The new Center for Speaking, Writing and the Image will be a leader among liberal arts colleges in supporting written, oral and visual literacies at a single site.

Fulbright Fellows

Nine Pomona College recipients of Fulbright fellowships boarded airplanes this fall, headed everywhere from Indonesia to Lithuania. Four others declined the award   to pursue other plans. Here’s the list of new Fulbright fellows, with their majors and destinations:

  • Natasha Anis ’19, English major, teaching in Indonesia
  • Ellena Basada ’16, English major. teaching in Germany
  • Sarah Binau ’19, cognitive science major, teaching in Brazil.
  • Tiffany Mi ’19, anthropology and French major, teaching in Spain
  • Andrew Nguy ’19, Asian studies major, studying contemporary tea culture in China
  • Jessica Phan ’19, molecular biology major, studying the chemistry of addiction in Portugal
  • Megan Rohn ’18, international relations major, teaching in Lithuania
  • Ivan Solomon ’19, international relations and Middle Eastern studies major, teaching in Morocco
  • Laura Zhang ’19, cognitive science major, teaching in Taiwan

Sagecast The Podcast of Pomona College

The first season of Sagecast, titled “Backstories,” features Pomona faculty members discussing how they came to study what they study, teach what they teach and love the field they love. Sagecast offers our extended community a chance to listen in on vibrant intellectual conversations—whether on the train, in the car, at the gym or at home. Listen at Pomona College Sagecast or look us up on the podcast sites of Apple, Google or Spotify. Here’s a look at season 1:

Episode 1
Nicole Holliday
Linguistics & Cognitive Science
How does language build our own identities and vice versa?

Episode 2
Miguel Tinker Salas
History & Latin American Studies
Oil and politics: Growing up in Venezuela

Episode 3
Erica Dobbs
Citizenship as it relates to immigration and social protections

Episode 4
Lynne Miyake
Japanese literature: From the Tales of Genji to Manga

Episode 5
Kevin Dettmar
The beginnings of literature and rock and roll

Episode 6
Guillermo Douglass-Jaimes
Environmental Analysis
When the environment, technology and public health tell untold stories

Episode 7
Gizem Karaali
Math, the liberal arts, and math education

Episode 8
Tony Shay
The politics of choreography and dance

Episode 9
Lupe Bacio
Psychology & Chicana/o-Latina/o Studies
Addiction among immigrant communities

Episode 10
Sandeep Mukherjee
How an industrial engineer became an artist

Episode 11
Genevieve Lee
The life of a concert pianist

Episode 12
Nicole Weekes
The physical and psychological sides of stress

Inside the Data

A team of math students from Pomona and Harvey Mudd took home one of the three top prizes at UCLA’s 2019 DataFest, winning for Best Use of External Data. Given a data set from the Canadian women’s national rugby team, Amy Watt ’20, Adam Rees ’20, Ethan Ashby ’21, Connor Ford ’20, and Madelyn Andersen (HMC ’22) found something important hidden in the data.“The really creative thing they did was to find flight information from looking at the social media proathletes,” explains Pomona Math Professor Jo Hardin. “They were able to come up with a very clear relationship between fatigue and flying.”

Watson Winners

Three Pomona seniors will follow their passions around the globe as recipients of Watson Fellowships, claiming three of the 41 $30,000 grants awarded nationwide. Here are Pomona’s winners:

  • Eli Cohen ’19 plans to explore the relationship between technology and daily life in India, Norway, Spain, Malta and Burma.
  • Blake Plante ’19 will study aspects of corporeal mime and physical theatre in France, Canada, Spain, Japan, Italy, England and South Korea.
  • Jeremy Snyder ’19 will visit China, Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador and Chile to capture on film the real and conceptual characters evoked by rivers around the world.

Tops in Fulbrights

Again this year, Pomona has been named one of the top producers of U.S. Fulbright Scholars among bachelor’s institutions. At number 6, Pomona is the only California institution in the top 10. A total of 14 Pomona students and alumni were awarded Fulbrights for 2018–19, with two declining. The Fulbright competition is administered at Pomona through the Career Development Office.


Sagehens publish prolifically. The latest books from Pomona alumni and faculty.

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