All In on Voter Turnout

At a ceremony in Washington, D.C., in November, Lucas Carmel ’19 was honored as one of 10 students from across the country on the “All In” Campus Democracy Challenge Student Honor Role. The award is in recognition of his leadership last year in a nonpartisan voter participation drive on Pomona College’s campus.

Carmel, along with Michaela Shelton ’21, led efforts to get out the vote at Pomona. Their work paid off with voter turnout among Pomona College students almost tripling from the 2014 to 2018 midterm elections, according to a report released Sept. 20 by the National Study of Learning, Voting and Engagement (NSLVE). In 2018, 50.4% of Pomona College students voted compared to 17.4% in 2014.

A group of students at Pomona College led by Carmel and Shelton began to organize a nonpartisan effort to get out the vote in the summer of 2018. That’s when the group joined the “All In” Campus Democracy Challenge, a national awards program that encourages colleges and universities to increase student voting rates.

“So many people worked to promote voting on campus last fall, and today we get to see proof of just how successful that effort was,” Carmel said in September when the results were announced. “I think Pomona’s status as a leader in college voting has been cemented. The challenge now becomes: How do we maintain and continue to promote voter engagement on campus?”

Carmel, who graduated last May, recently launched Vote for Astra, his organization dedicated to making it easier for college students to vote.

Art on the Move

fragile art objects from the museum’s old storage Sometime this fall, the Pomona College Museum of Art will cease to exist, and the Benton Museum of Art at Pomona College will be born in its beautiful new quarters on the opposite corner of the intersection of College and Second. To prepare for that change, for the past few months, the museum’s associate director and registrar, Steve Comba, has been overseeing the effort to inventory, pack and safely move approximately 15,000 valuable and often fragile art objects from the museum’s old storage into the new. Already in their new home are the artifacts of the museum’s Native American collection, previously stored in the basement of Bridges Auditorium and brought out mainly for visiting schoolchildren.

Papers, Politics, Policy

Prof. Amanda Hollis-Brusky’s paper on the promotion of a theory of executive power and its consequences is making its way to the other two branches of government

How Prof. Amanda Hollis-Brusky’s paper on the promotion of a theory of executive power and its consequences is making its way to the other two branches of government

In 2011, during her first year at Pomona College, Politics Professor Amanda Hollis-Brusky wrote a paper on the rise of the “unitary executive theory,” used in recent decades to promote the notion of the primacy of presidential power and limit the autonomy of federal agencies. The paper was part of Hollis-Brusky’s larger work on the conservative legal movement.

In January, U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse, Richard Blumenthal and Mazie Hirono cited and relied heavily on Professor Hollis-Brusky’s in their amicus curiae brief filed in a big U.S. Supreme Court case Seila Law v. CFPB, which may decide the fate of the Obama-era Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Arguments are set for March 3.

100 Years Ago

It’s 1920, and Pomona College is entering the Roaring Twenties—facing, among other things, the challenges of dancing and Hollywood.

Everybody Dance

With the close of World War I came a push to overturn the strict college rules against dancing on campus. As recently as 1918, an editorial in The Student Life had lamented that “The principle of non-dancing has become ingrained into the very fiber of the institution for reasons which the executives can best express, and it is worse than futile for us to oppose it.” The post-war culture shift, however, soon carried away that prohibition, and, as informal campus dances became common, the efforts of the administration turned to managing them. A floor committee of four men and four women supervisors were authorized “to reprimand any undesirable form of dancing or to request any person to leave the floor.” By 1922–23, four all-college formal dances were being conducted annually in the “Big Gym”—the Senior-Freshman Dance, the Christian Dance, the Military Ball and the Junior Prom.

Silence is Golden

As Hollywood became the movie capital of the world, the Pomona campus soon came into demand as a collegiate set. The Charm School, a silent feature starring Wallace Reid, was the first known movie to be shot on campus, with much of it filmed around Pomona’s Sumner Hall in 1920.

1,000 Strong

The 1921 Metate (published in 1920) notes that for the first time the number of Pomona alumni has topped 1,000.

For more tidbits of Pomona history, go to Pomona College Timeline.

In Brief

Marshall Scholar

Isaac Cui ’20 has won a prestigious Marshall Scholarship to fund his graduate studies in the United Kingdom next year. During his two years in the U.K., Cui hopes to study at the London School of Economics as well as study political science at the University of Manchester.

Churchill Scholar

Elise Koskelo ’20 has been named one of only 16 American students to win this year’s Winston Churchill Foundation Scholarship to study and conduct research at the University of Cambridge. She plans to study quantum magnetism and superconductivity.

Sustainable Thesis

The senior thesis of Sara Sherburne ’19, titled “Let’s Get Sorted: The Path to Zero Waste,” was recognized last fall by the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education as one of six winners of the national Campus Sustainability Research Award.

Solar Cell Grant

Pomona and Harvey Mudd were recently awarded a National Science Foundation Major Research Instrumentation Grant of $442,960 for new lab equipment to support research and development of next generation solar cells.

Paralympic App

While attending the 2015 Paralympic National Games in his home country of India, Arhan Bagati ’21 saw athletes literally crawling up stairs. So he created an app to guide Paralympians to locations that are accessible, including bathrooms, restaurants, theatres and more. The result was InRio and its successor, the IndTokyo app for the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, available on iTunes and Google Play.


The theme of the Humanities Studio’s 2019–20 speaker series is “post/truth,” exploring the various facets of today’s post-truth (un)reality through a series of speakers and seminars, including a “Fake News” Colloquium.

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.


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

Cecil Skateboarding