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.


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, 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.”

Fulbright Winners

Eight Pomona seniors were awarded prestigious Fulbright fellowships for world travel and teaching English, though the Fulbright program also delayed the start of its fellowships until after January 1, 2021. Here are the winners from the Class of 2020.

Tyler Bunton, an English major from Hamden, Conn., has been selected to teach English in Brazil.

Jordan Carethers, an international relations and French double major from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., was selected to teach English in rural Taiwan.

Evan Chuu, a linguistics major from Arcadia, Calif., will teach English in Malaysia.

Oliver Dubon, a music major from Palmyra, Va., was selected to go to Estonia on a research award.

Netta Kaplan, a linguistics major from St. Paul, Minn., was selected to teach English in Turkey.

Daphnide Nicole, an international relations major from Portland, Ore., was selected to teach English in Senegal.

Aleksandr Thomas, an international relations major from Pasadena, Calif., was selected to teach English in Russia.

Kim Tran, a public policy analysis major from Chicago, Ill., plans to teach English in Vietnam.

Wildlife on Campus


With the campus closed, there have been lots of wildlife sightings, including everything from owls to coyotes. In this photo, a family of raccoons peeks out of their hiding place in a storm drain on College Avenue, between the President’s House and Carnegie Hall. —Photo by Lupe Castaneda

Sagecast: A Few Highlights

Listen in on enlightening conversations with some of Pomona’s most interesting alumni with Sagecast, the podcast of Pomona College. Here is a sampling of this season’s offerings, now available at

Jennifer Doudna ’85
winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize for Chemistry for her work with a gene-editing tool that has revolutionized  genetic research

Mac Barnett ’04
author of such beloved children’s books as Extra Yarn and The Wolf, the Duck and the Mouse

Anjali Kamat ’00
award-winning investigative reporter who covered the Arab uprisings in Egypt and Libya for Al Jazeera

Lynda Obst ‘72
renowned film producer of such groundbreaking films as The Fisher King, Sleepless in Seattle, Interstellar and more

Bill Keller ’70
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former executive editor of The New York Times 

Richard Preston ’76
New York Times best-selling author of The Hot Zone, among other books, and expert on emerging viruses

Starr Named to Academy

President G. Gabrielle Starr

President G. Gabrielle Starr has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences joining a new class of members recognized for outstanding achievements in academia, the arts, business, government and public affairs.

Starr is a highly regarded scholar of English literature whose work reaches into neuroscience and the arts. Her research looks closely at the brain, through the use of fMRI, to help get to the heart of how people respond to paintings, music and other forms of art. She is a national voice on access to college for students of all backgrounds, the future of higher education, women in leadership and the importance of the arts. She took office as the 10th president of Pomona College in 2017.

The Academy was chartered in 1780 to “cultivate every art and science which may tend to advance the interest, honor, dignity and happiness of a free, independent and virtuous people.” Academy members are elected on the basis of their leadership in academics, the arts, business or public affairs and have ranged from Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson to such 20th-century luminaries as Margaret Mead, Martin Luther King Jr. and Akira Kurosawa.

For 2020, the Academy elected 276 new members. In addition to Starr, the group includes singer Joan C. Baez, former Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr., author Ann Patchett, poet and former Pomona College professor Claudia Rankine, among others.

Starr joins a number of exemplary Pomona alumni and former faculty in the AAAS, including scientists Jennifer Doudna ’85, J. Andrew McCammon ’69 and Tom Pollard ’64; author Louis Menand ’73; art historian Ingrid Rowland ’74; artist James Turrell ’65; journalist Joe Palca ’74; and genomic biologist Sarah Elgin ’67.

The Academy is led by Pomona College President Emeritus David Oxtoby, who was inducted into the Academy in 2012 and was named its president in 2018. He served as president of Pomona College from 2003 until 2017.

Starr becomes the third Pomona College president to join the Academy. David Alexander, who served as president of Pomona from 1969 to 1991, was inducted into the Academy in 2006.


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

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