Spring 2014 /California/

Team Player

For Matt O'Connor '15, the Pomona experience has been all about seizing opportunities and making connections.

Matt O’Connor ’15 wanted two things out of college—rigorous academics and the opportunity to play football. As a starting linebacker and double major in theatre and the interdisciplinary field of philosophy, politics and economics, Matt says he found both at Pomona, along with something else he considers just as important: fellow students who are collaborative, open and involved. A native of Louisville, Colo., Matt also competes in the shot put and participates in musical theatre and the Pomona College Choir. He founded Claremont Christian Athletes and is active in Nourish International, a student-run nonprofit that works to fight global poverty.

“Choir is like a football practice in a way; you go through songs over and over, crafting what you’re doing and perfecting it to get the best product in the concert, just like you do in practice when you run plays over and over again to get the best product on the field. When you’re doing a musical, you’re in a much more intimate setting; it’s more of a family environment. We’re in this together, you have people you can rely on as your family, people you really grow close to and get really deep connections with just like athletics.”

A Conversation about Faith
“I’m very active in the faith community, and Claremont Christian Athletes was a route for me to open up a conversation about religion in an athletic environment. It’s very refreshing to see how open people at a secular school like Pomona have been, and how wildly successful the organization has been in its first year.”

Three Professors Who Made a Difference
“Three professors who’ve had an impact are Lorn Foster, who is like my father away from home and one of the smartest people I’ve met; Fernando Lozano, who was the first professor to really engage me at Pomona and make me feel comfortable; and Art Horowitz, who has such passion for teaching and for each of his students. Art drove all the way to Occidental to watch me and another of his students compete in a track meet. He climbed up what seemed like 10,000 freakin’ stairs to cheer us on. All three are wonderful professors, but way more important, wonderful, wonderful human beings”

Breaking the Mold
“Sometimes American higher education tries to make students fit a certain mold. We’re told to think a certain way in order to achieve a certain societal status and get a certain job. Pomona doesn’t put you in a box; it puts you in this  un house of intellectual stimulation and encourages you to get outside your comfort zone, to craft your own path. That’s what I think really defines the idea of Daring Minds. I’ve opened my eyes to the fact that success is not defined by a paycheck or resume but instead how I use my talents to make this world we live in a better place.”

A Valentine’s Day Serenade
“We had a fundraiser for Nourish International on Valentine’s Day, where I serenaded random people in the dining hall for $3 each. We raised over $70 in two hours. My voice was completely gone by the end of it, but it was extremely fun, and I think people either really enjoyed it or were really uncomfortable but applauded to diffuse the tension. One of the two. Or both.”

Why I Sing
“In my Theatre for Young Audiences class, we go to the city of Pomona and work at Fremont Academy. We’ve talked with the students about things that make you feel like you’re flying, and I think that gets to the root of music for me. Singing makes me feel whole, it makes me feel like I don’t have a care in this world, and to remember to smile and laugh and live a little. I can let go of all the frustrations of my day and just feel. That’s why I’m always singing.”