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

Cecil Skateboarding


From sculptors to screenwriters, creative Sagehens get the spotlight.

Cecil Skateboarding

Looking Back


Pomona’s Marine Laboratory, 1913–43

Pomona’s Marine Laboratory, 1913–43

Marine Zoology Program Ends

Pomona’s summer marine zoology program, which dated back, with a few interruptions, to the early part of the 1900s, ended in 1967. From 1913 until 1943, it took place in a College-owned marine biology laboratory in Laguna Beach. After the facility was sold, it continued as a six-week summer program at a rented facility, Caltech’s Kerckhoff Marine Lab in Corona del Mar, until 1967.



Escaping Internment

In April 1942, just days before all Japanese Americans in the Claremont area were due to be interned, President E. Wilson Lyon arranged with President Ernest Wilkins of Oberlin College in Ohio for Pomona junior Itsue “Sue” Hisanaga ‘43 to transfer there. The next day, President Lyon, Dean of Men William Nicholl and a crowd of Pomona students accompanied her and her brother, Kazuo “Casey” Hisanaga ‘42—who would be allowed to graduate in May despite his April departure—to the train station, where the College band played for them. “Everybody cried,” one student later told Dean of Women Jessie Gibson. After completing her work at Oberlin, Sue was awarded her degree from Pomona in absentia during Oberlin’s commencement. (See “Farewell to Pomona” on page 35.)



The Cosmopolitan Club

The year 1917 saw the first appearance of the Cosmopolitan Club, a college organization created to help grow the number of students from beyond Southern California. Membership in the club was restricted to students who were from Northern California or out of state. Club members were given literature about the College to distribute to friends, in an effort to “broaden the local atmosphere and bring in students with new ideas and new and different viewpoints.”

For more tidbits of Pomona College history, go to

Sagehen Now Part of Rock History

ben-murphy-sagehen-formationSagehen Pride is now part of the very landscape of California.

Four years ago, while still at Pomona, geology-physics double-major Benjamin Murphy ’13did his senior thesis on a geologic formation in Eastern California near Mammoth Lakes. Thanks to a serendipitously-located road, Murphy and his mentors, geology professors Jade Star Lackey and Robert Gaines, came up with the idea of naming it the Sagehen Formation. 

A few years and some revisions later, their paper was recently published in the Journal of Sedimentary Research, making it all official.

Geologically speaking, the Sagehen Formation is a package of coarse-grained sedimentary rocks (sandstones and conglomerates) that were deposited within a lake in the Long Valley Caldera in California between 500,000 and 100,000 years ago, according to Murphy, now in his third year in a Ph.D. program at Oregon State University’s College of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences.

How did they manage to name it after our mascot? A newly discovered formation must be named after some local landmark that is as near as possible to the “type section”– the place where the formation is best exposed and representative, says Gaines.

It turned out that Sagehen Road was one of the only named features anywhere near the type section. “Once we realized that, there was no need for discussion! It was obvious that it was both scientifically appropriate and awfully fun,” says Gaines.  

For those new to Pomona, nobody is quite sure how the sage hen, also known as the sage grouse, became our mascot a century or so ago. A sizeable bird with spiky tail feathers, the sage grouse ranges over much of the West, but is not found in the Claremont area. In fact, the region where the Sagehen Formation stands is one of the only places in California where these birds roam, making the name a rock-solid choice.

By the Numbers: Trees

According to the tree database kept by Pomona’s Office of Facilities and Campus Services, the most common trees on campus, in order of frequency, are:


1. Coast live oak (Quercus agrifolia)* 





pcm-fall2016text39_page_07_image_00072. California sycamore (Platanus racemosa)*





3. Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)pcm-fall2016text39_page_07_image_0008





pcm-fall2016text39_page_07_image_00094. Coast redwood (Sequoia sempervirens)*





5. California redbud (Cercis occidentalis)*pcm-fall2016text39_page_07_image_0010





pcm-fall2016text39_page_07_image_00116. Mesa oak (Quercus englemannii)*





7. Camphor tree (Cinnamomum camphora)pcm-fall2016text39_page_07_image_0012





pcm-fall2016text39_page_07_image_00138. Canary Island palm (Phoenix canariensis)





9. Red ironbark (Eucalyptus sideroxylon)pcm-fall2016text39_page_07_image_0014





pcm-fall2016text39_page_07_image_001510. Sweetshade Hymenosporum flavum)




*California native

Critical Inquiries

You can always find some of Pomona’s most distinctive courses among the array of Critical Inquiry (ID1) classes offered each year to introduce first-year students to both the rigors and the pleasures of academic life at Pomona. An intellectual rite of passage, ID1 classes require new students to think, talk and write about some interesting, often cross-disciplinary topic. They also give Pomona faculty members an opportunity to create something new based on their own interests and passions. Here are a few of this year’s new offerings.

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Flightless to the Bone

pcm-fall2016text39_page_07_image_0001Jeffrey Allen ’17 (center), a teaching assistant in Professor of Biology Nina Karnovsky’s Avian Ecology class, joins Ellie Harris ’18 (left) and Vanessa Machuca ’18, students in the class, to examine the skeleton of an ostrich, part of the vertebrate specimens collection housed in the Biology Department. “From one look at the breastbone you can tell that this bird can’t fly,” Karnovsky notes. “There is no keel for flight muscles—it is totally smooth—plus the wings are tiny. It dramatically shows adaptations for running—lots of area for attaching leg muscles. I use this in my Vertebrate Biology class as well. I have no idea where it came from or how long we have had it. I just love it.”

A Chirping Start


In late August, the Class of 2020 continued the Pomona tradition of “chirping through the gates” to begin their first semester at the College.

After School Specials at the White House

PCM-summer2016text58-web2_Page_12_Image_0003The 5C a cappella group The After School Specials performed at the White House in April, singing their powerful rendition of Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens to You,” a song about sexual violence written for the documentary The Hunting Ground. Their performance was part of a White House Champions of Change event hosted by Vice President Joe Biden and attended by advocates for various causes from across the country.

The singers’ path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue was paved by both activism and talent. As participants in the It’s On Us campaign to address the problem of sexual assault on college campuses, the singers won first place at the national Sing for Survivors competition, in which their video performance was judged by such pop music luminaries as Diane Warren, David Foster and LL Cool J.

The 18-member ensemble received the White House invitation just a few days before the event was scheduled, so the students took a red-eye flight into Washington, D.C., for their whirlwind visit. Amelia DeSnoo ’16 says they knew the song inside and out and were prepared to deliver a solid performance for the vice president, other senior administration officials and their fellow advocates.

“The fact that we sang at the White House means that our voices, advocating for such an important cause, are being heard on a national scale,” DeSnoo says.

Tenor Niko Tutland ’17 says he was struck by “the amount of exposure this is going to bring to the message of the song.”

DeSnoo believes the initial goal in this effort to combat sexual violence is to increase awareness of the problem. “The first step and the larger point of this campaign specifically in the short run is to allow college students to lean into the discomfort of knowing that this is an issue that is pervasive on all college campuses, even colleges like the 5Cs, which we consider to be a very safe space. … We also need to recognize that no one can put themselves into the mindset of a survivor of sexual assault.”

To see the group’s winning video performance, go to

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).