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Compassion on Wheels

Meals on Wheels program

A new Meals on Wheels program, operating since November 2020 out of Pomona’s previously idle dining facilities, was designed with more needs than one in mind. In the midst of the pandemic, furloughed dining and catering staff prepare meals for 180 homebound seniors in the area. The result is mutually beneficial. Senior citizens receive breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week, and furloughed staff are able to use their skills on a limited basis and be paid their regular wages.

The program is a partnership between Pomona College, the Hospitality Training Academy and UNITE HERE Local 11, a labor union that represents Pomona’s dining workers.

Staff members cook and package food and prepare the meals for delivery by the Hospitality Training Academy. Jose Martinez Jimenez, general manager of dining services, says a total of 22 furloughed staff members are working the county meal program—16 dining staff and six dining managers.

To ensure their safety during the pandemic, returning dining staff work in tightly controlled “bubbles” of two teams, are regularly tested for COVID-19 and follow strict health and safety guidelines and protocols, according to Robert Robinson, assistant vice president for facilities and campus services.

As of mid-January, more than 20,000 meals had been served. And we’re not talking about peanut butter and jelly sandwiches here. The cyclical menu includes plant-based meals such as mushroom ropa vieja, al pastor tofu with grilled pineapple, miso-glazed buckwheat soba noodles and other Sagehen favorites.

Catering chef Benigno Avina treasures this opportunity to use his talent, and he calls it one of his greatest experiences. “I’m so happy to be working in this program, helping people that really need help in these extraordinary times.”

The Coding Twins

Evelyn and Summer Hasama

Pandemic or not, Evelyn and Summer Hasama ’24 just keep on coding. The first-year twin sisters have already won first place not once but twice this academic year for apps they’ve developed together.

In November they won first place in the virtual 5C Hackathon for their app Event Check, which allows users to go through health and safety checks to gain access to a campus event. Even so, the sisters didn’t expect to win a month later when they presented their new app, called DonateIt, to a panel of judges from Facebook, Reddit, Instagram and Visa for a competition at the conclusion of their CodePath IOS mobile development course. “We honestly thought we had no chance of winning,” says Summer. “We were a team of two, while all the other teams had three or four—we were outnumbered. And we are just freshmen, while some of other students were juniors and seniors.”

DonateIt allows users to donate unwanted items to neighbors who might want them. Explaining their inspiration, the sisters said, “Instead of throwing things in the trash, we wanted to create something that would make use of these things by donating them to individuals within our community.”

Two to Tango

Two to Tango

It takes two to tango, even if they’re a thousand miles apart.

Members of the Claremont Colleges Ballroom Dance Company have spent the last several months practicing their moves solo, but while physically apart because of the pandemic, the students have continued to practice and compete via a collaboration app called Discord.

“I knew I wanted the team to keep interacting and having some sort of plan, and after talking to the student officers from all 5Cs, they were the ones who said, ‘Discord is where it is at now,’” says Denise Machin, director of the ballroom dance company and assistant director of the Smith Campus Center. “That’s why we started Discord. They were the ones with the insight into what students need, and what they need is a platform to connect.”

To work around the company members’ being in multiple time zones, Zoom meetings are held on different days at various times so that more people have the opportunity to participate. Other colleges in the ballroom scene are hosting online group classes open to other collegiate dancers, and that’s giving “our students a chance to learn from people outside of our organization and build a community,” Machin says. “It’s really nice that the different campuses are supporting each other during this time.”

There were even opportunities to dance in virtual competitions, including the Zoom Ball on Halloween, where participants uploaded videos of their routines to be judged live—a way for them to safely receive feedback on their dancing. “It’s a difficult time, and I’m really impressed by the resilience of our students,” Machin says. “They are going through a lot and managing a lot, and I’m inspired by them. They are just good at this—they are so good at connecting online and coming up with creative ideas.”

Women in Math Award

Elena Kim ’21 has won a national undergraduate mathematics award after being selected as the recipient of the Alice T. Shafer Mathematics

Prize established by the Association for Women in Mathematics. The annual prize is presented to one undergraduate woman for excellence in the field. During her time at Pomona, Kim developed a strong research background and set of skills thanks to two summer research experiences for undergraduates (REU) programs. She did one REU at the University of Michigan-Dearborn the summer after her sophomore year and another, virtually, last summer through Williams College, working for Professor Steven J. Miller, who nominated her for the prize.

Winning Inspiration

A bright idea from Christine Cannon ’23 may help light up the world in these dark days. It also won her a $25,000 award for tuition costs from the organizers of the Reimagine Challenge, sponsored by Schmidt Futures. The molecular biology major was one of 20 college and university students from around the world selected for their innovative solutions to the problems of building back from COVID-19 and sparking global movements for change. Cannon’s bright idea took the form of a virtual hub called WeCan, designed to keep users connected to a range of social justice movements. On the app, individuals will be able to receive updates and action items from the movements they care about in one centralized feed and create group message communities with friends and family where, together, they can share and track their action plans.

RAISE

The RAISE Program (Remote Alternative Independent Summer Experience) was created last summer to fill the void left when the Summer Undergraduate Research Program was canceled due to the pandemic. Through stipends of $2,500 or more, RAISE supports a broad array of research projects, with more than 400 Pomona students participating last year and a similar number expected to take part in 2021. As a sample of the research being done, here are three stories of RAISE students at work:

Makeda Bullock Floyd ’22, an environmental analysis major, studied wild plants growing on Windermere Ranch in Santa Barbara, cataloging and reporting on the plant life at the ranch in an accessible guidebook. This collection of case studies contains personal narratives, Western science, Indigenous knowledge and community experience, explains Bullock Floyd. She adds that it highlights a mix of native, invasive, edible and nonedible plants, each with unique strengths and properties explored in detail.

Lerick Gordon ’22, a history major, reviewed 60 years of military history to analyze factors leading to a growing number of Latinos in the U.S. Armed Forces. “I conducted my research primarily by searching through online databases, historical archives, oral history interviews and various books and scholarly articles on Latinx U.S. military history/service,” he explains. “I was even able to conduct my own oral history interview, where I interviewed my dad, who is currently an active-duty soldier in the U.S. Army.”

Alexandra Werner ’22, a cognitive science major, used prior studies on speech bilinguals to examine the interaction between emotion and bilingualism in decision-making and offered insights on how her research might translate for an overlooked group: bimodal bilinguals or bilinguals who know both a signed and a spoken language. “The inclusion of bimodal bilinguals offers valuable insights into how signed and spoken languages interact across modalities at the lexical and conceptual levels,” she explains.

Fulbright Honors

Pomona College has been named one of the top producers among bachelor’s institutions for the Fulbright U.S. Student and Scholar programs for 2020–21. Pomona is tied for the No. 2 spot in its category for Fulbright scholars, and the No. 8 spot on the list of top producers of Fulbright students. Two scholars and nine students from Pomona were awarded Fulbright awards for 2020-–21. The Fulbright competition is administered at Pomona through the Career Development Office.

Screen Breakers

Screen BreakersHave a meeting to run? When Zoom gets tiresome or you’re trying to build a team online, finding a way to connect the people in the boxes is important.

Four students from the Human-Centered Design course taught last spring at The Claremont Colleges’ Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity—popularly known as the Hive—spent the summer creating icebreakers for the Zoom age

The result is the Screen Breakers website at meltbreakshatter.com, where anyone can search for icebreakers with names like Shakedown, Fail Test and Lemonade. At Pomona, Orientation leaders introduced the activities to new students as a way to begin to create community among people who have never met in person. The site’s creators hoped faculty and people beyond campus will use them as well.

“We realized that Orientation was such a big part of our first-year experience; so our idea was: What if you introduced Orientation to every class?” says Yurie Muramatsu ’22, the project leader on a team with website designer Abdul Ajeigbe ’22, Riley Knowles PZ ’22 and Eda Topuz CMC ’22.

Creative Passport Shelved, Not Lost

Creative Passport Shelved, Not LostWinning a Watson Fellowship is both a creative passport and a generous provision to wander the world and do independent research for a full year after graduation. However, just as it did to best-laid plans around the world, COVID-19 interrupted those of this year’s Watson winners.

But for Watson recipients Adin Becker ’20 and Zed Hopkins ’20, the disruption is only a delay, not a dead end. The Watson Foundation has granted each of them a two-year deferral period.

Becker, a politics and Middle Eastern studies major from Portland, Ore., learned of his big win amid the frenzy of packing up to go home due to the pandemic.

“The news of my acceptance allowed me to take a step back from the stress of the current moment and concentrate on the passion that had led to me apply in the first place. In times of crisis, it is wonderful to have something extraordinary to look forward to, especially if it happens to be a project you have dreamed of doing for over a decade,” says Becker.

His dream is to explore small, isolated international Jewish settlements in Peru, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan, Tunisia and Poland to gain insight into their persistence and survival despite perpetual threats to their existence.

Hopkins, a theatre major from Brisbane, Australia, has plans to travel and do research in South Africa, Uganda, Greece, India, Indonesia, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. He is grateful for the award but says, “Traveling the world seems like the last thing you want to be doing right now.” However, he plans to do so as soon as it becomes feasible—hopefully by early 2021.

Hopkins’ proposal is to analyze the six pillars of theatre performance and how they connect the imaginative and physical worlds of diverse cultures. The specifics of his project may evolve depending on the economic and social repercussions of the pandemic, so he has been busy brainstorming alternatives. “But if Pomona has taught me anything,” he says, “it’s that you have to lean into that discomfort and embrace and enjoy the challenge.”

Broadcasting Live from My Home to Yours

Broadcasting Live from My Home to YoursPlenty of folks consider campus radio station KSPC 88.7 FM an essential part of their daily routines.

When California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued a statewide stay-at-home order in March, that became official in a manner of speaking: Broadcasting was deemed an essential service along with other media.

The only problem was that all the student DJs were gone after the closing of campus. But Erica Tyron SC ’92, Pomona’s director of student media and KSPC station manager, kept the station going at first by patching together pre-recorded or archival shows and public service announcements. Soon students and alumni began sending in prerecorded shows on MP3 files though Box or Dropbox. A few local community and alumni DJs dropped by the studio.

But one student, Hannah Avalos ’21, started broadcasting her Friday show live from her home in Whittier, spanning the 25 miles to campus via a Zoom connection that gives her mouse-control access to the KSPC studio in Thatcher Music Building.

For Avalos, the high-wire adrenaline of being live sustains her in the stay-at-home era—all via technology undreamed of when KSPC first signed on to the airwaves in 1956.

“It’s kind of like an outing for me,” Avalos says. “It’s an activity, more than another task I have to do. It’s a really nuanced difference, but I think having it at a set time is more like having an appointment or a fun activity, rather than another homework assignment or a work assignment.”

Bookshelf

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

Cecil Skateboarding