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

Cecil Skateboarding


From sculptors to screenwriters, creative Sagehens get the spotlight.

Cecil Skateboarding

Rooftop Gardeners

PCM-summer2016text58-web2_Page_12_Image_0001At right, Soleil Ball Van Zee ’19, a volunteer mentor for the the Rooftop Garden Mentoring Program, works with local high school students in the container garden atop Pomona’s Sontag Hall. A collaboration between the Pomona College Draper Center and Teen Green, a program organized by the local nonprofit Uncommon Good, the 5-year-old venture aims to increase activism and awareness around environmental justice, sustainability and gardening, as well as build leadership and presentation skills, according to Maya Kaul ’17, one of the program’s student coordinators. “When I see our hard work in the garden succeeding,” Kaul says, “with a lot of our seeds sprouting, it reminds me of the other ways in which our investments in the program have ‘blossomed’ via the growth of community within our mentoring program.”

Healing Labyrinth

PCM-summer2016text58-web2_Page_12_Image_0002As part of April’s Healing Ways Week, students built a stone-lined labyrinth at the Organic Farm to be used in walking meditations. “We wanted to involve our community in making a public art installation that can be used for ongoing contemplaton, practice, and study,” explains Associate Professor of English and Africana Studies Valorie Thomas, one of the orgqanizers of the weeklong event.

Titled “Healing Ways: Decolonizing Our Minds, Our Bodies, Ourselves,” the series of healing-related events also included workshops, lectures, practitioner presentations, art, and performance focused on healing and social justice.“We particularly intended to offer support to students who have been feeling traumatized and stressed by current social events and who are shouldering the work of doing critical thinking and activism,” says Thomas.

In an informal ceremony following the completion of the first stage of labyrinth construction, Thomas (above) stepped to the center of the labyrinth to read a passage from Jorge Luis Borges’ short story, “The Garden of Forking Paths,” which she describes as “a meditation on labyrinths and the benefits of occasionally losing your way.”

EnviroLab Asia


Madi Vorva ’17 (right) on the Baram River in Malaysia

Madi Vorva ’17 has been an environmental activist since the sixth grade, when she and a fellow Girl Scout started a national campaign to pressure the organization to commit to using deforestation-free palm oil in their cookies. However, until this spring, when she joined a clinic trip to Malaysia and Singapore with the 5C initiative EnviroLab Asia, she had never actually visited the region she was working to save.

“This was the first time I’ve been on the ground with these issues, so it was a really meaningful moment for me, and I really appreciated the chance to finally connect my advocacy with my school,” says Vorva.

EnviroLab Asia, begun last fall with a Luce Initiative on Asian Studies and the Environment (LIASE) grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, allows participants from The Claremont Colleges to study big environmental issues like water quality, forest health, social justice and deforestation of rainforests to produce palm oil.

“One of the reasons EnviroLab Asia is important is that it has helped us understand the global nature of local environmental issues,” says Professor of Environmental Analysis Char Miller. “It’s a way for us to understand our complicity in these issues and the ramifications.”

Among the 5C students and faculty who accompanied Vorva on the trip were Ki’amber Thompson ’18 and professors Marc Los Huertos (environmental analysis), Zayn Kassam (religious studies), Stephen Marks (economics), Wallace Meyer (biology) and James Taylor (theatre).

Bryan Stevenson on Change

PCM-summer2016text58-web2_Page_11_Image_0001“For change, you have to get proximate. You have to change the narratives that are behind the problems that you’re trying to address—there’s a narrative behind the issues that we are dealing with. You have to be hopeful—that’s my third piece of advice. You cannot change things if you are hopeless about what you can do. That’s absolutely vital. And you have to be willing to do uncomfortable things. I don’t think anything changes when you only do what’s comfortable and convenient.”

—Acclaimed lawyer and social justice activist Bryan Stevenson, author of Just Mercy and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, spoke at Bridges Auditorium and conducted a master class at Pomona as part of the three-day Pomona College Criminal Justice Symposium held on campus in March.

The Accolades of Spring

As usual, springtime at Pomona brought news of a flurry of highly competitive student and graduate awards, including:


16 Fulbright Awards

7 Research Fellowships

  • Benjamin Cohen ’16 (Ukraine)
  • Madeleine Colvin ’16 (China)
  • Amelia DeSnoo ’16 (China)
  • Nathalie Folkerts ’16 (United Kingdom)
  • Alexandra Goss ’16 (declined in favor of Watson Fellowship)
  • Elisabeth Hanson ’16 (France)
  • Marek Zorawski ’16 (Poland)

9 English Teaching Assistantships

  • Angeli Bi ’16 (Colombia)
  • Jamila Espinosa ’16 (Portugal)
  • Mia Hahn ’16 (Taiwan)
  • Janet Herrera ’16 (Peru)
  • Nana-Korantema Koranteng ’16 (Bahrain)
  • Thuy Tien Le ’16 (South Korea)
  • Edmund Pacleb ’16 (Indonesia)
  • Isaac Levy-Rubinett ’16 (Colombia)
  • Duong (Cody) Thach ’16 (Vietnam)

2 Watson Fellowships

  • Harrison Goodall ’16 (Canada, Denmark, Ethiopia, India)
  • Alexandra Goss ’16 (Argentina, Bolivia, Morocco, United Kingdom)

2 Downing Scholarships

  • Fiker Tadesse Bekele ’16
  • Conner Samuel Kummerlow ’16

3 Goldwater Scholarships

  • Tanner Byer ’17
  • Ziv Epstein ’17
  • Nathan Sandford ’17

2 Boren Scholarships

  • Dallon Asnes ’18 (India)
  • Eli Tanenbaum ’18 (Jordan)

President Oxtoby Plans to Step Down in 2017

President David Oxtoby portraitPresident David Oxtoby has announced plans to step down as president of Pomona College at the end of June 2017, bringing to a close what will then be a 14-year tenure. He informed the Board of Trustees of his plans at their February meeting to give the institution ample time to conduct a search for his successor.

“I am very proud of Pomona College and grateful for the years spent here, and for the successful conclusion of Campaign Pomona: Daring Minds,” he said in an email to the college community. “While I am considering opportunities I might pursue, my highest priority will remain leading this amazing institution in the months ahead. I am confident that the leadership and expertise of our faculty, the experience of our staff, the determination and talent of our students, and the time we have to partner together on shared goals will make this a smooth transition and allow us to remain focused on the critical work at hand. We also have so much to enjoy and learn each day on our campus and in our classrooms. I appreciate the support I received from Board members and I am committed to continuing to advance the College’s key priorities and the successful operations of the institution.”

Board Chair Sam Glick ’04 said the College will make plans to celebrate President Oxtoby’s many contributions to the College at an appropriate time. Meanwhile, he said, the Board will begin the task of choosing the 10th president of Pomona College. “Selecting a new leader is the highest duty a governing body has—a duty that my colleagues on the Board and I intend to carry out with humility and careful deliberation.” Glick said.

10-Minute Theatre

Students performing on stageFamily Weekend this year featured the world premiere of five new plays—each no more than 10 minutes long. The plays, written by members of the 5-college community around the theme of self-discovery, were all part of the eighth annual 10-Minute Play Festival, sponsored by Pomona’s Department of Theatre and Dance, organized by Carolyn Ratteray, visiting assistant professor of theatre and dance, who said the plays ranged “from the silly to the absurd, as well as the moving and the heartfelt.” At right, Peter Brown ’15 directs a group of Pomona actors in “While Away,” his play about three siblings dealing with the aftermath of their grandmother’s death, simultaneously bonding and fighting over her less-than-perfect legacy. Pictured, from left, are Rachel Tils ’19, Brown, Barbara Peisch ’19 and Ben Hogoboom ’19.

Michael J. Fox on Optimism

Professor Nicole Weekes and Michael J. Fox in conversation on-stage

“I just feel like if you throw a penny in the air a hundred times, at least 51 times it’s going to come up heads. It’s not that I’m blind to the possibilities. I’m not reckless, and I don’t put my family in jeopardy because—’Don’t worry. It’ll be okay. It’s just a bear. It’ll be okay. We’ll make friends.’ I can be pragmatic and realistic too, but I do believe that if we let it happen, it’ll happen the right way. And the times it doesn’t make you grateful for the times it does.”

—Actor, author and activist Michael J. Fox
in conversation with Neuroscience Professor Nicole Weekes
at Bridges Auditorium, Feb. 12, 2016


Tend Your Garden

A three-month agricultural calendarSpring is here, and the Organic Farm is bustling, as Pomona students welcome the season by following Voltaire’s advice to “tend your garden.” According to Farm Manager Scott Fleeman, March harvests have already included kale, collards, broccoli, Swiss chard, radishes, snap peas, fava beans, bunching onions and tangerines, as well as the first artichokes. Here’s a partial harvest schedule for the rest of the spring:

Treasured Map

Professors Robert Gaines and Jade Star Lackey lean over the map

Professors Robert Gaines and Jade Star Lackey examine the restored map.

Two centuries ago, surveyor and geologist William Smith completed the ambitious task of mapping the geology of an entire nation. His detailed, hand-colored geological maps of England and Wales, published in 1815, changed the course of geology and remain among the field’s most treasured artifacts. (One of the remaining maps was recently made available for sale in Great Britain for £150,000.)

So it’s something of a feather in the cap of Pomona’s Geology Department that it is the proud owner of not one, but two of the historic maps. And with the bicentennial of the map’s release last year, one of them was brought out of safekeeping in the Special Collections of Honnold-Mudd Library to be restored.

“Because of the bicentennial, we felt it was the right time to renovate the map,” says Geology Professor and Chair of the Geology Department Jade Star Lackey. “It’s a great piece of history that we think all geology majors should be able to come and see.”

Because of the map’s size (more than two and a half meters wide), the restorers had to set up an aluminum platform over the top of the map to work from. Even so, the conservation process took nearly two months, including dry cleaning front and back, removal of a damaged cloth backing, wet cleaning, lining with Japanese paper and wheat starch paste, and mending tears.

The result is impressive to behold, not just for the brilliant and colorful detail in drawing and watercolor, but also for the rich history and monumental shift it caused in the field of geology.

“The map is a turning point of understanding that the pattern of nature has an order, that resources like coal or limestone are not just randomly scattered about the surface of the Earth,” says Geology Professor Robert Gaines. “This map actually makes predictions about what’s going on underground, and it suggests there is a recognizable order.”