Pomona Votes

students gathering to watch the midterm 2018 election returns

In the midterm elections of 2014, according to a Tufts University survey, only 17 percent of Pomona College students cast a vote. Four years later, a group of concerned Pomona students turned to an online voting support site to give those numbers a boost.

Student leaders Michaela Shelton ’21 and Lucas Carmel ’19 led the outreach effort, encouraging their fellow students to sign up with TurboVote, an online tool that helps users take the first steps to register to vote or to request an absentee ballot.

“A recent Pew study revealed that about 75 percent of nonvoters are not voting due to logistical concerns, confusion,” says Carmel. “Where to get a stamp? How to request an absentee ballot? Where’s their polling place? The same thing is true for college kids—but if you’re concrete with people and help them with the process, you can eliminate many of those barriers.”

Ethel Starr

A portrait of President Starr’s grandmother, Ethel Starr, whose dedication to voting was featured in an op-ed in the Washington Post.

President G. Gabrielle Starr joined in encouraging students to get out and vote, not only on our own campus but across the nation. In an op-ed titled “Dear College Students: My grandmother waited 70 years for the right to vote. Don’t ignore this chance,” published in The Washington Post in late October, Starr told the story of her grandmother, Ethel Starr, who was nearly 70 when the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965. “As a child in the 1970s and ’80s, I always knew when it was Election Day,” she wrote. “My grandma got dressed in her Sunday best, put on her black shoes, hoisted her hard, black pocketbook, adjusted her hat and waited by the door for my father to drive her to the polls. She never missed an election. …”

“Do something no one else can do for you,” Starr concluded. “The students I’ve worked with know I love a good dare. And I send one back. I dare you.”

The efforts at Pomona seem to have succeeded in stimulating greater interest in voting, as TurboVote reports that about 40 percent of all Pomona students—703 to be exact—signed up for the service prior to Election Day.

Suits, Shorts and the Working World

Suits, Shorts and the Working WorldAt Goldman Sachs in San Francisco, the ambience was formal and there were plenty of suits. At the consulting firm Accenture, one of the leaders wore jeans and sneakers but kept a blazer handy. At another company across the bay, the highest-paid employees wore shorts. (That would be the Golden State Warriors.)

In the working world, clothes are a clue, but they might not tell the whole story. That’s just one of the lessons 12 Pomona College sophomores who identify as low-income or first-generation college students learned last fall in an innovative new program. Smart Start Career Fellows is designed to teach students about a working world unfamiliar to many of them. The program concluded in January with a three-day trip to the offices of seven Bay Area businesses.

One of the things Smart Start taught Leisan Garifullina ’20, an economics major from Russia, was the difference between business casual and business formal.

“I had this awkward situation last semester where I went to an information session—I think it was Citibank. I showed up in shorts and the nicest, nicest T-shirt that I had,” she says. Now, with the help of a stipend from the program, “I have business casual,” Garifullina says.

On the Bay Area trip, the students connected with new contacts as well as Pomona College alumni, visiting the offices of Kate Walker Brown ’07, an attorney at the National Center for Youth Law; Natalie Casey ’17, a software engineer at Salesforce; and Adam Rogers ’92, deputy editor at Wired magazine. The group also went to LumiGrow, a startup company that offers high-tech, energy-efficient horticultural lighting solutions, in addition to Goldman Sachs, Accenture and both the business offices of the NBA’s Warriors and a game that night against the Los Angeles Clippers.

Created with grants from Accenture and John Gingrich ’91, a managing director at the firm, the Smart Start program began last fall with a series of two-hour Friday night dinner sessions where the students took part in self-assessment exercises and various networking, résumé and career-coaching sessions.

“Every single place we went to in San Francisco, you could ask yourself, ‘OK, could I see myself coming in here every single day for a long period of time, maybe two, three or 10 years?’” mused Shy Lavasani ’20, an economics major from Millbrae, California, whose family emigrated from Iran. “Could I see myself really enjoying this job? It just really helped me thinking about that at every single location, what I really want, what I really need. It gave me a clear direction in terms of what I want to do.”

No job seemed out of reach, except maybe one. “I don’t think any of us were considering pro basketball,” he says. “It’s always nice to dream.”

Who’s the Most?

“The Most,” a SoundCloud podcastRosalind Faulkner ‘19 is podcasting superlatives.

Earlier this year, Faulkner launched “The Most,” a SoundCloud podcast in which she interviews Pomona students who embody a particular characteristic the most of anyone on campus—the most quirky, the most flirty, the most existential. Students nominate potential interviewees on Faulkner’s Facebook page, and whoever receives the most votes joins her in her KSPC studio for a 15-minute breakdown of the chosen adjective and what it means to them.

Faulkner, who has been interested in podcasting since she created her first podcast during her study abroad in Morocco last year, wanted to use an interview format to explore the idea of social reputation. “So many people here have really big personalities or things that distinguish them in different ways,” Faulkner says, and boiling that nuanced personality down to a single label—like “the most existential”—seems limiting.

But though she expected many people to resist being defined by a lone adjective, most students have embraced their superlatives. “My original intention was to subvert it, but some people do genuinely think of themselves in these big ways,” Faulkner says. “At least two of the three were so thrilled to be chosen for these adjectives. They were so happy.”

On-The-Job Training

Noor Dhingra ’20 & Tulika Mohan ’20

Noor Dhingra ’20 likes to start her Fridays with a cup of coffee in the Claremont Village before wandering over to Claremont Depot, the gorgeous 1927 Spanish Colonial Revival train station where she catches the 8:42 Metrolink to Los Angeles.

Her roommate, Tulika Mohan ’20 takes a different approach. “I should be getting up at 7:45. I don’t,” Mohan laughs. “I usually end up getting up at 8:10, and then I run.”

Together, with headphones on or book in hand, they ride to one-day-a-week internships in L.A. subsidized by the Pomona College Internship Program (PCIP), a program that provides a stipend that turns an unpaid internship into a paid one, along with an allowance for transportation—in this case, train tickets for Dhingra and Mohan.

Taking the train to L.A. for an internship during the school year takes time—students often start work at 10 to allow for the commute—but many say the train beats fighting traffic even if someone has access to a car.

“I just find it fun. You don’t feel like a student when you’re on the train, which is a really good feeling to have once a week,” Dhingra says. “You’re so used to seeing professors or students on campus, so it’s just nice being with people of different ages. I always hear conversations, and sometimes it turns into a story I write.”

Zero-Waste Commencement

Zero-WasteJust before her own senior year arrived, Abby Lewis ’19 was working to send off Pomona’s 2018 graduates in the most environmentally-responsible way possible—with a zero-waste commencement.

Armed with information and data from the Office of Sustainability, where she works during the year, Lewis noticed a significant spike in the College’s waste production during the month of May, when thousands come to campus for the annual Commencement ceremony. Working closely with Alexis Reyes, assistant director of sustainability, she started working on a zero-waste event model.

An event is deemed ‘zero-waste’ when organizers plan ahead to reduce solid waste, reuse some event elements in future years and set up compost and recycling stations in order to divert at least 90 percent of waste from landfills. For Pomona’s 2018 Commencement Weekend, Lewis focused, among other things, on the catered food and products served at the reception on Commencement Day.

Backed by a President’s Sustainability Fund grant, Lewis worked with Pomona’s catering management on details ranging from the type of wax paper used to wrap food, to proposing utensils that are compostable and the use of reusable sugar containers instead of sugar packets.

Instead of trash bins, Commencement attendees found recycling and composting stations where they could sort their waste. Nearly all food waste generated, such as plates, cups and napkins, was diverted to either compost or recycling. The disposable products used at Commencement were made from either corn starch or recycled paper.

Another key partnership that Lewis secured with the help of the Office of the President’s Christina Ciambriello and Reyes was a deal with Burrtec, the College’s disposal contractor. Lewis and her allies were able to convince the company to collect and process ‘industrially-compostable’ items such as specially labeled plates and napkins—something they usually don’t do as part of their service to the College.

Fulbright Fellows Criss-cross the Globe

FulbrightsTwelve Pomona College recipients of the prestigious Fulbright fellowships are criss-crossing the globe this fall, doing research on independent projects or teaching English. Here’s a brief description of their plans:

Audrey DePaepe, a neuroscience major from Tualatin, Ore., takes her Fulbright to the Cognition & Brain Plasticity Unit of Barcelona in Spain and focuses her research on Huntington’s disease.

Jack Gomberg, a neuroscience major from Chicago, Ill., travels to Israel to explore the biopsychological effects of medical clowning on patient outcomes.

Laurel Hilliker, an Asian studies and history double major, from Pittsburgh, Penn., goes to Japan, intending to uncover the history of Zainichi Korean political activism within Osaka and Tokyo in the aftermath of the Pacific War.

Emily Rockhill, a biology major from Redmond, Wash., conducts research in southern Brazil, assisting on a project at Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul to identify and describe new species of crayfish of the genus Parastacus.

Elizabeth Sun ’17, a French major from Albuquerque, N.M., is studying the teaching of English and French in Saarland, a region in western Germany that has historically been a space of French-German interactions.

Rory Taylor, an international relations major from Minneapolis, Minn., travels to New Zealand to examine how the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples acts as a tool of legal advocacy for indigenous groups.

Victoria Vardanega, an economics and Asian studies double major from Fair Oaks, Calif., goes to South Korea to research the relationship between the press and government.

Don Chen, an international relations major from Normal, Ill., is teaching in Taiwan. He plans to focus on storytelling by hosting exhibitions of family history projects by students and an oral history event featuring local elders.

Lauren Callans, a neuroscience major from Ardmore, Penn., is teaching in Estonia. In addition to her love for teaching, she wants to explore her heritage as a third-generation Estonian and share her American culture.

Minah Choi, an environmental analysis major from Olympia, Wash., is teaching in Argentina. She hopes to contribute to the existing literature on Asian communities in Latin America.

Rhiannon Moore, a music major from South Pasadena, Calif., is teaching in Malaysia. Her interest in that country is rooted in her love for Southeast Asian music and desire to explore Malaysian music.

Inga Van Buren, a molecular biology major from Portland, Ore., is teaching in Taiwan. Drawing from her own multilingual background, she hopes to convey to her students the usefulness of being bilingual.

Solving the Mystery of Clark I-III-V


Generations of North Campus residents have wondered: “Why Clark I, III and V?”

This basic site plan, which appeared in the program of the 1929 building dedication for Clark I and Frary Dining Hall, provides the answer. When architect Sumner Spaulding was hired in 1926 to design what was to be known then as the “men’s campus,” his proposal included four dormitories and a refectory, assembly hall, lounge and office—a total of eight buildings. As seen here, each was assigned a number.

Only the first two phases of the project were completed, however—Clark I and Frary Dining Hall in fall 1929, and Clark III and Clark V in fall 1930. The numbers appear to have been simply for reference purposes. Over the years, more than a few creative theories have been spun to explain the absence of a Clark II and IV, but, as often happens, the truth is far simpler and more mundane than might have been hoped. The dormitories were named in honor of trustee and donor Eli P. Clark. Frary Hall, gift of trustee George W. Marston, was named for Lucien H. Frary, former pastor of Pilgrim Congregational Church.

A Leg Up for Bikes


In the competition between bikes and skateboards to be the top means of foot-powered transportation on campus, bikes just got a big leg up (so to speak).

In February, Pomona College and the dockless bike-sharing company ofo rolled out the firm’s first college pilot program in California. Founded in 2014, ofo is the world’s first and largest station-free bicycle-sharing platform. To date, the firm has connected over 200 million global users with more than 10 million bikes in 20 countries.

What makes this bike-sharing program unique is that ofo’s signature yellow bikes are unlocked by way of a smartphone. They can be shared among riders and parked at any bike rack on the campuses of The Claremont Colleges. To celebrate the February launch of the partnership, all rides for students, faculty and staff were free during the bike-sharing program’s first two weeks of operation.

Pomona College Assistant Director of Sustainability Alexis Reyes sees these bikes as a key tool for the community. “As a top performer in sustainability, Pomona is always looking for ways to support opportunities for low or zero-emission commuting,” says Reyes. “Adding ofo’s services to our resources available to our students, faculty and staff helps Pomona on its quest to become carbon-neutral by 2030.”

Pomona Rewind: 80 Years Ago

Four score years ago, the sciences were alive and well at Pomona, as evidenced by these brief stories from the mid-1930s.


20,000 Year-Old Sloth Poop

20,000 Year-Old Sloth PoopPomona professors Jerome D. Laudermilk and Philip A. Munz made headlines after traveling to the Grand Canyon to study a rare find: 20,000-year-old giant-sloth dung. According to an article in the Sept. 20, 1937, issue of Life magazine, the dung covered the floor of a cave believed to be home to giant ground sloths, which waddled on two legs and could grow as large as elephants. Laudermilk and Munz hoped to uncover the sloths’ diet and what it might reveal about plant and climate conditions of the era.


Shark Embalming 101

Shark Embalming 101As a Pomona student, the late Lee Potter ’38 had a simple plan to pay his way through college: sell his skills embalming animals. Potter, a pre-med student, had more than four years of embalming experience by the time the LA Times profiled him on June 1, 1937. He embalmed fish, frogs, rats, earthworms, crayfish and sharks and sold them to schools for anatomical study in their labs. His best seller: sharks—once, he sent an order of 200 embalmed sharks to a nearby college. His ultimate goal was to embalm an elephant.


Crime Lab Pomona

 Crime Lab PomonaIn August 1936, a Riverside woman named Ruth Muir was found brutally murdered in the San Diego woods, and the case ignited a media frenzy. A suspect claiming he “knows plenty” about Muir’s murder was found with 20 hairs that appeared to belong to a woman. In their rush to test whether the hairs were Muir’s, police turned to an unlikely source to conduct the analysis—Pomona College. Though the hairs do not seem to have matched Muir’s in the end, at least we can say: For a brief moment, Pomona operated a crime lab.

Failing Better

In its first year, Pomona’s Humanities Studio will take as its inaugural theme a line from Samuel Beckett, “Fail Better,” according to its founding director, Kevin Dettmar, the W.M. Keck Professor of English.

Each year the program will bring together a select group of faculty, postdoctoral and student fellows in the humanities for a year of engaged intellectual discussion and research on interdisciplinary topics of scholarly and public interest. Programming will also include visiting speakers, professional development workshops and other community events.

Dettmar said the theme honors the late Arden Reed, professor of English, who spoke on the topic last year. Reed’s career, Dettmar notes, “was anything but a failure. But we will honor his memory by applying ourselves to the twin concepts of failure and its kissing cousin, error—seeking better to understand the uses of failure and the importance of error in the ecosystem of scholarly discovery. Together with the studio director, faculty and postdoctoral fellows, and a group of visiting speakers, writers and thinkers, Humanities Studio undergraduate fellows will take a deep dive into failure, to bring back the treasures only it has to offer.”


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