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Blazing a Trail: Randy Hook ’12 Rides Again

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SUMMER/FALL 2020

ANDREW FARKAS ’59 RETIRED IN 2003 as library director emeritus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. More recently, he created a Current Year Scholarship at Oxy. Farkas recounts the path that brought him to Oxy, and explains why he chose to help others as the College helped him. When I was a third-year law student in Budapest, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was started by a demonstration organized by my university. Ten days after it began, the Russian army reoccupied Hungary and annihilated the revolutionary forces. Following the military defeat and taking advantage of the political confusion, I fled the country along with Farkas at his home 200,000 other Hungarians. I crossed the in Jacksonville, Fla. border on foot and arrived in the United States on Nov. 29, 1956, with the clothes I wore and without one cent in my pocket. In 1957, Occidental admitted two Hungarian refugees as special students—Robi Sarlos and myself. Our attendance was made possible by a full scholarship that covered tuition and housing. After Columbia University evaluated our respective academic transcripts from Hungary, we were given two years of college credits. Our scholarships were renewed for a second year and we both graduated in 1959. Robi went on to Yale on a Woodrow Wilson Scholarship and earned a doctorate; within weeks after graduation I was drafted into the U.S. Army and served a full tour of active duty (1959-61). While still in the Army, I applied to the UC Berkeley Library School. I entered school immediately upon my discharge, and after earning a master of library science degree, I began a highly successful 41-year career. In 1970, I became founding library director of

the newly established University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Concurrently, as professor of library science, I established an undergraduate library science program. I published five acclaimed books and several dozen articles and book chapters and the UNF faculty honored me with its Distinguished Professor Award in 1991. Without any doubt, it was my Occidental degree that made my career possible. It had to be the College’s reputation that prompted LeRoy C. Merritt, dean of the Berkeley Library School, to admit a simple soldier stationed overseas without an interview or even a phone conversation. He could not have possibly known my command of the language, erudition, general knowledge, or my suitability for the library profession— nothing beyond the fact that I earned an Oxy Photo courtesy Andrew Farkas ’59 diploma in two years. Only I knew how well the college experience had prepared me for life in my new homeland, where I have been residing now for 64 years. To show my gratitude to Oxy, I recently established a Current Year Scholarship based not on academic achievement but specifically aimed at helping needy students. I distinctly remember that my political science textbook cost $14.95—two weeks’ earnings at a time when my sole income was 75 cents an hour working parttime in the Mary Norton Clapp Library. Only a person with my experience can fully appreciate having zero resources, so I wish to help students who attend college under comparable fiscal challenges. I have been following the success of Occidental at a distance, and I am convinced that my life-changing experience with the College has been repeated many times over the years by generations of students—all of them proud Oxy alumni.

oxy.edu/magazine

Occidental College Office of Gift Planning M-36 | 1600 Campus Road Los Angeles CA 90041-3314 | Phone: 323-259-2644 Email: giftplanning@oxy.edu | oxy.edu/giftplanning | facebook.com/BenCulleySociety

INTO THE MATRIX: CRITICAL THEORY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE /// AUTHOR MARGOT MIFFLIN ’82 LOOKS FOR MISS AMERICA

My Boundless Gratitude to Oxy

Back to SCHOOL Dr. Kimberly Shriner ’80 brings her expertise to the College and the classroom as Oxy adapts to the challenges of COVID-19


OXYFARE 

Conversations, Connections, and Community Volume 42, Number 3 oxy.edu/magazine OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE

Harry J. Elam, Jr. President Wendy F. Sternberg Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Charlie Cardillo Vice President for Institutional Advancement Vince Cuseo Vice President of Enrollment and Dean of Admission Rob Flot Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Amos Himmelstein Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Marty Sharkey Vice President for Communications and Institutional Initiatives Jim Tranquada Director of Communications editorial staff

Dick Anderson Editor Laura Paisley, Jasmine Teran Contributing Writers Marc Campos Contributing Photographer Gail (Schulman) Ginell ’79 Class Notes Editor SanSoucie Design Design DLS Group Printing OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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Published quarterly by Occidental College Main number: 323-259-2500 To contact Occidental magazine By phone: 323-259-2679 By email: oxymag@oxy.edu By mail: Occidental College Office of Communications F-36 1600 Campus Road Los Angeles CA 90041-3314 Letters and class notes may be edited for length, content, and style. Occidental College online Homepage: oxy.edu Facebook: facebook.com/occidental Twitter: @occidental Instagram: instagram.com/occidentalcollege Cover photo by Kevin Burke Oxy Wear photos by Marc Campos

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Prior to starting my term July 1 as president of the Alumni Association Board of Governors, I envisioned accomplishing goals over the next two years. But as the pandemic wears on, some of those ideas don’t seem as relevant and other needs seem more pressing—like the need to come together as a community. As my predecessor as president, Brad Fauvre ’87, has frequently noted, the role of the Alumni Association is to be the voice of Oxy alumni from all generations. To better understand your perspectives and attitudes about Oxy, we conducted a comprehensive survey of our constituents last fall for the first time since 2012. The survey showed that alumni feel Oxy prepared them well for furthering graduate education, an appreciation for the public good, and for contributing to the community. In looking deeper at the results, one thing that struck me the most is how many alumni still feel connected to the College—and that they want more virtual programming that would allow them to connect because they can’t be physically present. (This survey was conducted before the current pandemic.) One consequence of social distancing is that this is the perfect time to try out some new ideas when it comes to virtual programming. Hundreds of alumni—

many of whom haven’t been back to campus in decades—have logged in from all over to watch a series of conversations with this year’s Alumni Seal honorees. Survey respondents also told us that they want to hear about all the great things that Oxy is doing and what our alumni have been up to. So where do we begin? More than ever, we need to come together as a community. We want to support our new president, Harry J. Elam, Jr., and we’re excited to learn more about his vision for Oxy. We want to see the College do well for our students and for society—but that’s going to require a tremendous amount of lift from everyone. How can you help Oxy? Get engaged. Tell a high school student how great Oxy is—and get them to apply. Participate in our programming—and if you want to do more, raise your hand. If there’s something you want to see, speak up. And please support the College— every gift counts. I hope to see you all back on campus when the time is right. But until then, I’ll catch you on the next Zoom call. Tuan Ngo ’07 President, Board of Governors

Alumni Attitude Survey Highlights by Generations While pride in Oxy is strong across generations, student experiences and opinions about the role of alumni can differ. 1973 and earlier History and tradition have a significant impact on their opinion of Oxy 1974-1980 Think Oxy did a great job in providing opportunities like athletics, Greek life, and student clubs 1981-1993 Believe it’s important for alumni to serve as ambassadors by promoting Oxy to others 1994-2000 A diverse and inclusive environment has a significant impact on their overall opinion of Oxy 2001-2008 Believe it’s important for alumni to mentor current students 2009-2014 More than half participated in a community service organization or activity while at Oxy 2015 and later Have a strong affiliation to a student organization or activity with which they were associated Survey results based on 1,854 respondents representing the classes of 1950 to 2019.  Among all respondents, 44.8% percent identified as male, and 54.3% identified as female. 

Oxy Pride Celebration, June 29 Like many events planned for Alumni Reunion Weekend, Oxy’s first Pride celebration pivoted from an in-person activity to a virtual format in June. Partnering with the Intercultural Community Center, the Alumni and Parent Engagement Department orchestrated the relaunch of the LGBTQIA+ affinity group, which aims to create space and a sense of community for queer, trans, and ally members of the Occidental network. Attendees included alumni spanning the classes of 1969 to 2019, faculty, staff, and a special appearance and introduction from President Harry J. Elam, Jr. prior to his July 1 start date. ICC Director Chris Arguedas shared an overview of queer life on campus and the range of resources available to students. Breakout group discussions were centered around topics ranging from the individual’s definition of Pride, their experience of queer life on campus and how it has evolved, and where there is room for continuous growth.

Prior to the informal happy hour, Maureen Royer, associate vice president of individual giving, and Alumni Association Board of Governors President Tuan Ngo ’07 shared words of appreciation for Oxy’s LGBTQIA+ community and relayed ways we hope our alumni community will reengage with the group. Alumni are encouraged to reach out to the ICC for opportunities to volunteer, provide philanthropic support, and connect with current queer and trans students. Want to get involved? Email Dana Brandsey ’02 (dbrandsey@oxy.edu), associate director of alumni and parent engagement, for a recording of this event and to receive notifications of future LGBTQIA+ events.

alumni.oxy.edu


SUMMER/FALL 2020

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Features 10

Compton Cowboys founder Randy Hook ’12 and his horse, Goldie, photographed outside his ranch on August 30. 15

Departments

Making It Work From remote worship to online meditation, and testing to teaching, these six alumni have mobilized in the fight against COVID-19.

15 Urban Cowboy Whether he’s ranching, riding, or rapping, Compton Cowboys leader Randy Hook ’12 brings swagger to the saddle.

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First Word President Elam finds common threads emerging during his opening conversations with the Oxy community. Also: What to expect from Occidental magazine in our centennial year.

From the Quad Oxy welcomes its largest entering group of tenuretrack faculty in recent memory. Also: Bob Winter cements his Oxy legacy posthumously with an endowed faculty fund in history and art.

OxyTalk Margot Mifflin ’82 goes Looking for Miss America.

Page 64 Steve Casner ’73 and wife Karen ’74 share a love for Occidental— and have endowed a computer science professorship to build on that protocol.

34 Tigerwire Alumni reflections on life during lockdown.

Fall Speed Ahead Introducing new courses, embracing technology, and challenging traditional approaches to classroom pedagogy, Oxy faculty reimagine the remote learning experience.

26 Everything’s Clicking No global pandemic can keep the Class of 2024 from chasing their academic dreams—only a bad Wi-Fi connection.

PHOTO CREDITS: Max S. Gerber Urban Cowboy | Marc Campos Everything’s Clicking, From the Quad, Page 64 | Michele Elam First Word | Margot Mifflin ’82 OxyTalk


FIRST WORD » FROM PRESIDENT ELAM

Opening Conversations and Common Threads Clearly, there has been nothing typical about this pandemic year— a year that has turned up the heat, both literally and figuratively. My wife, Michele, our two cats, Leland and Oswald, and I moved into the Annenberg President’s House over Labor Day weekend during what may have been the hottest days of the year in Los Angeles. We are thrilled to be living on campus, and we eagerly look forward to hosting the Occidental community at the Annenberg House— which Michele and I see as “the people’s house”—as soon as conditions allow. The challenges of the year to date have been many and required some extremely difficult, time-sensitive decisions to ensure the health and safety of the Oxy community as well as the fiscal stability of the College (page 8). Throughout this process, I have been moved and inspired by seeing how everyone has risen to the occasion under so many evolving and stressful circumstances. I have witnessed faculty designing innovative new online courses and mastering new virtual teaching tools (page 20); a reduced staff working nights and weekends to get the College’s essential business done; everyone together donating funds to support staff in need; and students passionately engaged with their classes despite being geographically scattered. In addition, alumni have reached out to offer support for students and families. Trustees and senior leadership have worked with me to ensure Oxy’s economic future and protect its higher educational mission. Our health and safety team has set up robust campus systems of testing and daily health monitoring. All these efforts have prepared the way so that we can begin welcoming our students and furloughed staff back this coming spring, if Los Angeles County public health mandates allow. Health and safety protocols have meant the active listening tour I embarked on four months ago could not be in person as I had so hoped. Nonetheless, I have had the great pleasure of virtually meeting with many of you, from members of the community, including the Alumni Board of Governors, Parents Council, and Associated Students of Occidental College, through webinars and online meetings, as well as with staff, faculty, and students through the biweekly virtual office hours that I started holding in September. I have learned much through these interactions. Like everyone else, I have been schooled in Zoom etiquette: Stay muted unless speaking; never backlight; virtual backgrounds can disappear; cultivate a sense of humor when a child wails in the background or a cat walks on the keyboard. But more importantly, I have learned a great deal about our extraordinary Oxy community. Certain common threads have emerged during my conversations. When I ask students and alumni why they love Oxy, invariably their answers are always a version of the same: “I found myself here,” “I found my people here,” “I found my calling here.” They also tell me about the relationships they had with peers, with staff, 2

OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE SUMMER/FALL 2020

Emmons Health Center nurse Claudia Ramos prepares to test President Elam for COVID-19 soon after his arrival on the Oxy campus in September.

Photo by Michele Elam

and especially with professors and mentors who developed relationships that opened up their thinking, changed their lives, and made them want to change the world. In fact, when I approached the two students on the presidential search committee and asked them what they felt was important to know about Oxy, both replied by citing its continuing legacy of student activism and public service. That desire to be a participant in change extends to their involvement with the College. It is apparent to me that even the sometimes-critical eye students or alumni may at times cast on the College, or on me, is an expression of the great love and care they have for the institution. In my view, ultimately, that kind of sincere engagement is a source of insight and strength for Occidental. Despite the many challenges we—and many other colleges— have faced these last few months, I remain incredibly excited about Oxy’s future. I look forward to working with all of you in helping Occidental achieve its fullest potential.

Harry J. Elam, Jr.


FIRST WORD

» FROM THE READERS Neighborhood Watch Thanks for creating such a great magazine. I always enjoy staying up to date at Oxy through the interesting stories and photos. I am writing because I am very concerned and upset by a comment printed in the class notes in the Spring magazine. In the 2006 column, an alumna wrote about moving back to Highland Park. “It’s pretty crazy to see how much the area has changed since we were in school,” she stated. “If it had been this cool back then, I bet more of us would still live around here!” I found the blatant disregard and disrespect to the historic Highland Park neighborhood to be, at best, offensive and thoughtless. Personally, when I went to Oxy back in the early 2000s, I found the neighborhood vibrant, comforting, and “cool.” It was a diverse, family neighborhood full of children and working-class people. There are many graduates of Oxy who happily stayed in the neighborhood post-graduation and it didn’t take it “becoming cool” to do so. Beth Berlin-Stephens ’08 Berkeley

Photo by Zachary Dammann

An August Occasion Many thanks for the recent Spring issue introducing Harry J. Elam, Jr. to us as Oxy’s 16th president. August Wilson— the focus of his academic studies—is a hero to many in Pittsburgh who have seen his plays and in the Hill District, where his talents began to develop. Pittsburgh Seminary and the University of Pittsburgh are nearby, where we lived for many years. Your piece on President Elam (“In Good Hands”) was excellent, and Doris and I look forward to meeting him and his wife, Michele. I also enjoyed “A Quiet Place,” about life on campus during the pandemic. We are grateful, Dick, to you and your team for your work on the magazine. Finally, our sincere best wishes and gratitude to President Jonathan Veitch for his contributions to Oxy during his leadership. He will have stories to write, no doubt. Sam Calian ’55 Evanston, Ill.

From the Editor: A Century’s Tales A couple of years ago, when I was combing through the College’s Special Collections gathering fun facts and Oxy minutiae for a cover story devoted to College trivia, I came across the first edition of The Occidental Alumnus, the progenitor to the magazine you are reading today. It was published in June 1920—mere months after the last wave of the 1918 flu pandemic had passed. The nation and the world were getting back to some sense of normalcy. When I began my initial planning for the Summer 2020 issue—marking my 20th anniversary as editor, and the centennial of the magazine—I had hoped to revisit some of the stories and moments that we have covered over the last 100 years. Then along came COVID-19, and I won’t bore you with all the details (since we covered some of this in the Spring magazine) but I’ve been working from home since mid-March, meaning that frequent trips to the archives were out of the question—and that we would be devoting much of this space to covering history in the making: the pandemic and

1922: The first Oxy magazine with a cover photo.

the residual challenges of being a residential liberal arts college when much of the world is in lockdown. Suffice it to say, there is no shortage of things to write about. Given the budgetary limitations on the College’s resources this fiscal year (page 8), we’ve had to get creative in delivering this

The black box theater in Stanford University’s Roble Gym, created as part of a 2016 renovation project, has been named the Harry J. Elam, Jr. Theater to honor the director, theater scholar, and administrator who is now Occidental’s 16th president. Elam’s 30-year career at Stanford “left an indelible mark on university life, particularly in the arts where he worked to ensure the university was a vibrant home for art and artists,” Stanford said in its August 4 announcement. “It is fitting that his name now graces one of the principal performance spaces on campus.” For Elam, the naming of this theater “has a profound significance,” he said. “Theater has been central to my life’s work as a scholar, educator, and director. It’s also a space I know well, with lots of wonderful memories.” Elam was the artistic director for the first production there after the 2016 renovation and directed A Raisin in the Sun, above, in November 2018.

magazine to you without sacrificing the quality you have come to expect over the years. Consequently, we have adapted a slightly different model for the next couple of issues: a combined Summer/Fall 2020 edition, which should be arriving in your mailbox in mid-November (it is Election Day as I write this); and a combined Winter/ Spring issue, which we expect to publish in April 2021. (We’ll be revisiting the publishing calendar at the end of the school year.) The biggest change inside these pages is to the class notes: For this issue and next, alumni up to the Class of 1974 will receive class notes covering their years; alumni from 1975 to 2020 will receive a separate edition covering news from their classes. Anyone wishing to read class notes in their entirety will be able to do so by visiting the magazine online (oxy.edu/magazine). In between issues, we’ll be posting fresh content to the magazine website after the New Year. As always, I welcome your feedback. In the meantime, raise a glass— we’re 100!—and enjoy this issue. —DICK ANDERSON SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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FROM THE QUAD

Photos by Marc Campos (except MacManus, Marcinak, and Power)

top row, l-r: Stephen Klemm, Igor Logvinenko, Viviana Beatriz MacManus ’03, Katarzyna Marciniak, Will Power, and Irina Rabkina. bottom row: Robert Sanchez, Amanda Tasse, Mai Thai, Benjamin Weiss ’16, and Jason Wong.

Occidental’s Eleven Behind the screens with the College’s largest-ever entering group of tenure-track faculty

As a prospective student visiting campus, Benjamin Weiss ’16 recalls being “charmed by bucolic scenes of Oxy faculty walking and talking with students—an image of Professor Ford walking with a student near Booth Hall stands out in my mind. At Oxy, I formed strong relationships with academic mentors and got to participate in the post-class walk-and-talk.” Four years after his graduation, Weiss is back at Oxy on the other side of the conversation, as an assistant professor of sociology: “As a faculty member, I am excited to provide for my students the same empathetic and rigorous mentorship I benefited from so greatly while an undergraduate,” he says. Weiss is the youngest of 11 new tenure-track faculty to join the College this fall—the largest cohort in Oxy history. (All were hired before the pandemic; that number includes a holdover from 2019.) We asked them to tell us about themselves, the challenges of teaching remotely, and what they most look forward to upon returning to campus. Their answers have been abbreviated for space; to read their bios and an extended Q&A, visit oxy.edu/magazine. 4

OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020

What attracted you to Occidental? Stephen Klemm, assistant professor of comparative studies in literature and culture: The atmosphere of the small liberal arts college, especially here within such a dynamic place as Los Angeles, has always attracted me. I’m also particularly impressed with the students and the approach to learning that they have here. At Oxy, students demand that their education does not consist in a mere transfer of knowledge but involves active engagement intellectually, emotionally, and politically, which is something I admire. Irina Rabkina, assistant professor of computer science: I first visited Oxy with my parents as a high school junior (long before Oxy even had a computer science department!). That visit convinced me that I belonged at a liberal arts college for undergrad, and indirectly led me back here years later. I am particularly excited about how ingrained the Computer Science Department is with the liberal arts curriculum here at Oxy, and about how collaborative and interdisciplinary it is. Robert Sanchez, associate professor of philosophy: Professionally, it has always been my goal to teach at a small private liberal arts college, which I believe can offer the best overall education. Personally, coming to Oxy was coming home: I went to preschool in Eagle Rock before attending both Eagle Rock Elementary and Eagle Rock High School. I already feel a special commitment to the place, institution, and community. Igor Logvinenko, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs: I am a big fan of the liberal arts college experience, having attended one as a student and taught at another during the previous five years. But what attracted me to Oxy in particular was the diplomacy and world affairs program and the opportunities offered by the Young Initiative in Global Political Economy. The combination of scholarly rigor, high-caliber teaching, and possibilities for engagement in realworld policymaking—both at the local level in L.A. and at the global level with the United Nations—are one-of-a-kind here.


FROM THE QUAD

Jason Wong, assistant professor of economics: First and foremost, what attracted me to Oxy were the critical and engaged students, who are excited about intellectual inquiry and who are not shy to ask pointed questions and challenge underlying assumptions. I was also drawn to Oxy as a premier urban liberal arts college in the heart of Los Angeles. The region is stimulating to me as an urban and environmental economist. But if I am allowed to disclose: My interview for the job at Oxy was easily my favorite experience on the job market. My nowcolleagues from the Economics Department took a keen interest in my work and appreciated my development as a teacher. But above all, they really tried to get to hear my story and development as a scholar and as a person. I am so proud to join one of the most diverse economics departments, where three of four of our full professors are women and 50 percent are persons of color. That is not to say we don’t have work to do: We have formed three equity and inclusion working groups this semester and changes are underway in classroom climate and experience, curriculum, and access to resources. Mai Thai, assistant professor of sociology: I was drawn to Oxy’s institutional mission, its tight community, its vibrant sociology program, and its investment in faculty as scholars and teachers. Equally important is Oxy’s proximity to pho. And tacos. And pho tacos. How has remote learning impacted your approach to teaching? Amanda Tasse, assistant professor of media arts and culture: I’ve found it useful to balance screen-mediated experiences with those that are more physical, tangible, and embodied—such as journal writing, sketching, explorations of real-world spaces. I’ve deliberately built in space for students to have a sense of community and reflection, something that happens more organically when in person. Emerging media is my field, so I am personally very curious about how this unique moment in time is forcing all of us to radically question, experiment with, and innovate on our teaching. I am inspired by all of the interesting approaches fellow faculty are trying out, and their willingness to share as we all tackle this challenge. Katarzyna Marciniak, professor of global and transnational media: I am still very rigorous, but definitely more flexible as I allow my students to submit their work past the deadline. I also encourage them to revise work that hasn’t yet reached a level of excellence. In these complex times, when many of our students are confronting precarious circumstances, I want to make sure they feel fully supported in my classes. Will Power, assistant professor of theater: Over the summer, I put aside my writing for six or seven weeks to take advantage of the workshops that Occidental’s Center for Teaching Excellence was providing. Then I started to think about my courses through that lens of a heightened technological experience. So now I might talk for 10 or 15 minutes before we do breakout groups. Or I might do a PowerPoint presentation, show a video, or have a guest artist. I’m trying to make the remote experience dynamic. Rabkina: As I was planning my remote classes, it became clear that flipped classroom [an instruction model in which students watch recorded lectures for homework and complete their assignments, labs, and tests in class] was also a great way to give students the flexibility they need this semester. I am teaching from home in Eagle Rock, with one or both cats cuddled up behind my monitor— and occasionally making an on-screen appearance.

How have you been connecting to students? How are their spirits? Sanchez: I like to think of philosophy as a conversation, so to make sure my students and I have a meaningful discussion, and they with one another, I have scheduled small tutorial groups (roughly five to six per group) throughout the week. Each group meets for roughly 40 minutes and I believe our class discussion is very close to meeting in person. Students’ spirits seem high. Some have expressed their appreciation for the hard work their professors are putting in, and though the situation is challenging and not ideal, students have reported that they’re learning a lot and that it’s much better than last semester. I think we all have the sense that we’re doing our best and that we’ll get through this together. Logvinenko: Besides the usual office hours and in-class group work, I have attended (remotely) events organized by student organizations and also made myself available to our majors who are not currently enrolled in my classes. But none of this is a substitute for in-person communication. Overall, I doubt any students prefer remote learning over on-campus instruction, but I have been impressed with Oxy students and their willingness to deal with all these new challenges. My general sense is that both students and faculty think that the shift to remote instruction has gone better than anticipated. Viviana Beatriz MacManus ’03, assistant professor of Spanish and French studies: For many of my colleagues and students, the switch to online teaching and learning last March was difficult and disruptive. For me personally, it coincided with the start of my maternity leave (my son Leonardo Velázquez is now 6 months old), so it was a bit hectic arranging the remainder of my semester to move online, planning the arrival of my first child, and ensuring that the personal and academic needs of my students were being met. I am currently still on parental leave; however, I have missed my students very much and I am quite excited to resume teaching in the spring semester. Power: We don’t have a chance to have spontaneous connections on campus, which I was really looking forward to. Office hours have been pretty cool—we’re talking not just the classwork but also about what’s going on in life. We might also talk about the election. One student and I talk about basketball. As a professor, you’re like a mentor or a guide—you’re not a psychologist, but if a student has something on their mind, maybe you can offer some insight and support. Weiss: I’m so impressed by my students’ tenacity and goodnaturedness. Despite their many challenges and disappointments, students are engaging fully, extending empathy to their peers and to me, and even sometimes laughing at my jokes. Although relationship formation is tougher in the virtual environment, we’re getting to know each other more quickly than I imagined. Students in my Deviance class, for example, already make fun of me for using ketamine as my example every time I bring up drug use. How do you balance your research with your teaching, and how much do the two intersect? Klemm: Fortunately for me, my research and teaching do intersect. My research focuses on the intersections of aesthetic theory, philosophy, and the history of science in German literature and philosophy around 1800. I am particularly interested in the ways in which developments in the natural sciences opened a space for thinking about nature, culture, and subjectivity in non-teleological, open-ended ways. My current book project focuses on the way in which Romantic metaphysics and literary theory take up these ideas to develop a SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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FROM THE QUAD

theory of cultural transformation in which cultures and people are not seen as closed, static entities but opened up to the finitude of existence and with it, the possibility for open-ended transformation. My courses in German language and literature reflect these dynamics in everything from our discussions about Germany as a dynamic multicultural society to classes that address these ideas in texts as disparate as the literature of Kleist and Kafka to the reflections of Nietzsche in the lyric poetry of the Frankfurt hip-hop artist Azad. Sanchez: To cite just one example of how my research and teaching overlap, this spring I’m teaching a CSP titled The Color of Humanity, which will chart the history of dehumanization in Latin America and the philosophical theories that underwrite it, beginning with the conquest and colonization of the Americas and continuing today in all manner of exclusion based on the idea that some humans are not fully human (slavery, racism, anti-immigrant laws, police brutality, etc.). And I am starting a new book on the development of 20th-century Mexican humanism, which I will argue is a response to the legacy of the above history and which has the potential to theorize about what it means to be human but do so in an inclusive key. Wong: My research infiltrates my teaching both topically and methodologically. As I teach topics like global public goods and international cooperation, a natural extension is to connect to topics that I spend a lot of time thinking about, such as the Carbon Offsetting and Reduction Scheme for International Aviation. As I have gained experience in academic research, I am able to offer better guidance in shaping students’ research projects and provide workshops on formulating research questions and academic writing. A few of my new research projects have been inspired by conversations with my former students, who in turn work with me as research assistants. Teaching also helps me think deeper about the underlying mechanisms at play and the appropriateness of methodologies. My experiences as a teacher also helped me communicate

» MIXED MEDIA NEW FACULTY EDITION

Occidental’s new cohort of tenure-track faculty is nothing if not prolific. Here’s a sampling of forthcoming or recently published books for your reading pleasure: The Oxford Handbook of Communist Visual Cultures, co-edited by Katarzyna Marciniak (Oxford University Press) Disruptive Archives: Feminist Memories of Resistance in Latin America’s Dirty Wars, by Viviana Beatriz MacManus ’03 (University of Illinois Press, December) Latin American and Latinx Philosophy: A Collaborative Introduction, edited by Robert Sanchez (Routledge) Global Finance, Local Control: Corruption and Wealth in Contemporary Russia (tentative title), by Igor Logvinenko (Cornell University Press, 2021)

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OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020

my work more clearly and engagingly. So, I have my students to thank for my research progress! Logvinenko: I am very fortunate because in my current position my teaching and research interests overlap almost exactly. I teach courses on authoritarianism, Russian and Eurasian politics, global political economy, and international relations. These also happen to be the very topics of my academic research! In the next few years, I would like to introduce more practical, policy-relevant elements into both my teaching and research. But the inexhaustible opportunities for new discoveries is what I find most exciting about my profession. Amanda and Katarzyna, how does the liberal arts approach to film studies and other media forms differ from film schools? Tasse: In my experience at other film schools, technique and production polish are sometimes emphasized much more than content or critical thinking skills. Students create beautiful work but can be afraid to take risks or go beyond the status quo. The liberal arts approach provides a foundation for students to think beyond existing systems and structures, to dynamically engage with social issues, to know themselves, develop their voice, and to have a lot to say! Marciniak: One of my favorite courses I teach is Introduction to Visual Cultures and Critical Theory. It encourages creativity, experimentation, risk-taking, and critical thinking while grounding such approaches in a history of ideas—this is what distinguishes MAC from other programs teaching media. Viviana, how does it feel to be teaching back at your alma mater? How has Oxy changed since your student days? MacManus: There have been some obvious cosmetic changes since my time as an undergrad (Berkus Hall is new, as well as the Green Bean), but one notable change has to do with the student body. Most of the students I have taught demonstrate not only a sophisticated grasp of rigorous, theoretical academic material but they also exhibit a fervent commitment to challenging systemic inequalities in their communities and their worlds. What do you look forward to most about returning to campus? Marciniak: I am a gestural teacher. I love the theatrical aspect of our pedagogical performances, so I have missed the bodily realities of teaching the most. In my classes, I enjoy seeing how my students roll their eyes, how we laugh and sigh together, how we thrive in a climate generated by our enthusiasm and wonder. Wong: I look forward to those in-person interactions with students the most—those random conversations about the seemingly most trivial things that ends up turning into a meaningful and exciting research project. Seeing the faces light up in an “Aha!” moment, realizing how the economics model we had just learned can be applied to understand real-world challenges. I want to pop by the events of the language departments and converse with students and staff in German, Chinese, Japanese, and French. I still have much to learn! Thai: I look forward to experiencing what sociologists call a “collective effervescence.” You know the excitement and energy that come from shared experiences? That physical sensation when everyone is present and invigorated with each other? It’s hard to generate those emotions when people are muted or their videos lag. Alternatively, what I will miss from remote life is how we are all the same size online; smaller people don’t have to work as hard for others to see us. Weiss: The smell of the eucalyptus trees! And learning how tall my students are—I’ve only met them from the torso up.


FROM THE QUAD

Photos by David Gautreau (Winter) and Marc Campos (chairs)

» WORTH NOTING

A Well Crafted Fellowship

Winter inside his beloved Batchelder bungalow in 2004.

Bob Winter cements his Oxy legacy posthumously with an endowed faculty fund in history and art

For years, Bob Winter joked that he had left his landmark Craftsman house in Pasadena to Occidental to fund a new Myron Huntstyle façade for the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center, which he referred to in his famous guide to Southern California architecture as “the Chrysler showroom.” Today, the sale of the house that Winter, Arthur G. Coons Professor of the History of Ideas Emeritus, bought in 1971 for $46,500 has yielded more than $1.4 million to fund his real purpose: the creation of the Robert W. Winter Endowed Faculty Fellowship to underwrite faculty positions, research, or programs in the Core curriculum or the departments of history and art. The two-bedroom, two-bath house, designed in 1909 by master tilemaker Ernest Batchelder—the subject of one of Winter’s many books on the Arts and Crafts movement and architectural history—is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and needed the right buyer after Winter’s death in February 2019 at age 94. Careful marketing eventually found that buyer: a fellow Pasadena preservationist who was downsizing from her own landmark home designed by Greene and Greene. The Batchelder House “is one of those houses that is best lived in, in my view, preferably by someone who knew Bob and fully appreciates its importance as a hub of the Arroyo culture that Bob cared so deeply about,” says Ted Bosley, noted Greene and Greene scholar and friend of Winter’s. The contents of the house, which were not left to the College, were sold at a wellattended estate sale in June 2019. Prior to the sale, a team of Oxy faculty members and librarians reviewed Winter’s book collection and selected between 250 and 300 volumes on such subjects as Arts and Crafts and California regional arts for the Oxy library.

Winter’s personal and professional papers, memorabilia, and research files are now housed in Occidental Special Collections, where USC architectural librarian Ann Scheid is assisting with their processSo, when Brodhead Before and after: ing. (His extensive 35mm called out of the blue and Please be seated. slide collection of Southasked about helping with ern California architecture chair repairs “at a reasonwas transferred to the College a decade ago able cost,” Munoz was delighted. Brodhead, and is now available in digital form.) who lives in Arcadia, shopped around and found Ruiz Shoe Repair in Sierra Madre, More endowed chairs: When Johnson Stu- whose owner, Mike Kaladjian, gave him a dent Center was renovated and expanded quote of $230 per chair. That’s about onein 1998-99, 200 of the vintage wood-and- third of what the College has been paying to leather chairs that have served generations repair each chair in recent years, Munoz says. of students were completely restored. AnImpressed by the job Kaladjian did on a other 100 new wooden chairs that matched test chair, Brodhead proposed to his wife, the originals were also purchased at the time Alice ’60, that they pay for the restoration for use in Gresham Dining Hall. of 10 chairs. Alice mentioned the project to While the exact age and source of the Ginny Cushman ’55, and she and her husGresham chairs is unclear, their sturdy de- band, John Cushman ’55, volunteered to pay sign is synonymous with what was known as for another 10. “We had 20 chairs taken care Freeman Student Union when it opened in of, right off the bat,” Brodhead says. “I then 1928. “My dad [Ted Brodhead ’27] told me started contacting classmates and other peohe purchased them when was graduate man- ple I know—to see if anyone else wanted to ager at Oxy and gave me one which I still participate.” have,” says Loren Brodhead ’59. In just a few months, Brodhead’s grassSeveral months ago, Brodhead was walk- roots campaign has raised sufficient donaing through Gresham when he noticed how tions to refurbish 85 chairs, each of which dilapidated some of the chairs had become. will bear a small metal plaque with the Meanwhile, Amy Munoz, associate vice pres- donor’s name. “Now we’re talking about setident for hospitality services, was beginning ting up a fund to help pay for future restorato despair of her ability to keep the chairs in tions,” Munoz says. “I am extremely grateful use, given that purchasing new chairs would to Loren, he’s worked so diligently to get be cheaper than repairing the old ones. “I people to fund chairs. It’s been one of the feel like the custodian of the furniture and bright spots in the past few months.” fixtures in this building,” says Munoz, who “One couple I talked to said, ‘We met sends out about a dozen chairs each year for while sitting in those chairs!’ ” says Brodhead, needed repairs. “Frankly, I didn’t want to be who continues to urge alumni to join the one who got rid of these chairs.” effort. “People remember those chairs.” SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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Empty benches were a common sight in the Academic Quad as the campus remained closed to most visitors. Photos (pages 8-9) by Marc Campos

The Price of the Pandemic As COVID-19 lingers on, Oxy leadership addresses the economic fallout of a remote fall semester

Having made what proved to be the right decision in July to prioritize the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff by committing to remote learning for the fall semester, Occidental now must address significant financial impacts as a result. On July 15, President Harry J. Elam, Jr. announced that all instruction for the fall semester would be conducted remotely, based on surging numbers of COVID-19 cases both locally and nationally. Confirmation of the wisdom of that decision came one month later, when Los Angeles County public health officials announced that no in-person instruction could be offered by any colleges and universities in the county. Subsequently other schools around the country, citing pandemic-related health and safety concerns, suddenly changed plans at the last minute and moved to remote instruction, in some cases after classes had started. As soon as the extent of the pandemic became clear in mid-March, Oxy implemented a series of prudent belt-tightening budget measures. But it wasn’t until the decision to go remote this fall was made that the full impact on the College’s two largest sources of revenue—tuition and room and board, which together provide two-thirds of the operating budget—could be assessed. Overall enrollment this fall stands at around 1,835, or 11 percent less than last fall. 8

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That number includes a first-year class of 402, down about 20 percent—less than worst-case scenarios had predicted. A record 98 first-year students chose to defer admission for a year, meaning the College expects to welcome them to campus next fall. Reduced enrollment and a $1,500 credit awarded to each student has cut tuition revenue. With only 6 percent of students on campus—international students and others facing difficult circumstances—empty residence halls mean the loss of almost all room and board revenues. These negative impacts plus additional pandemic-related expenditures have created a deficit estimated at more than $30 million—about one-quarter of the College’s $118 million 2020-21 operating budget. While the deficit poses a substantial challenge, the College has been steadfast in preserving the integrity of the academic experience. “For all of us, it is paramount to address this operational deficit while holding fast to Occidental’s values and mission to deliver a rigorous and intellectually stimulating liberal arts education that is anchored in the cornerstones of excellence, equity, community, and service—as well as our emphasis on social justice,” Elam says. To reduce the deficit, the Board of Trustees authorized an increased percentage draw on the endowment and the repurposing of unrestricted endowment funds. Other measures

taken since March include a hiring freeze (37 positions currently unfilled) and a ban on overtime, travel, conferences, and new construction; voluntary pay cuts of 4 percent to 10 percent for senior staff and the president; cuts to departmental non-personnel budgets of up to 50 percent; and the reduction of the College’s 4 percent match for retirement benefits. “The budget cuts would have been far deeper had we not put aside a fair amount of money into our reserves—our one-time endowment funds—over the past decade,” says Amos Himmelstein, vice president and chief operating officer. “Years of prudent management gave us a cushion, but those reserves now are being depleted.” There are limits as to how much the College can draw on the endowment, Himmelstein notes. The majority of the endowment is made up of restricted funds dedicated to specific purposes designated by donors. “At the same time, we need to ensure that the endowment is preserved to guarantee the future and quality of Occidental in the years ahead,” he says. Unfortunately, because of the size of the deficit and the continuing uncertainty about the future, the College furloughed 129 staff members—27 percent of the College’s nonfaculty employees—who no longer have the same amount of work as they normally do. Reflecting the absence of students on campus, the departments most impacted are Student Affairs, Dining Services, and Facilities Management. The College imposed furloughs only after meeting with staff, faculty, the Faculty Council, the Administrator Staff Council, employee unions, and with the leadership of the ASOC to share budget numbers and hear their perspectives, suggestions, and concerns. To support their colleagues who have been furloughed or otherwise affected financially by the pandemic, Oxy faculty, staff, and students launched an Employee Relief Fund, which has raised over $109,000. College leadership is already looking ahead to the spring semester and beyond. “The health and safety of the Oxy community and the maintenance of the quality of an Oxy liberal arts education will continue to be the College’s top priorities,” Elam says. “Prudent financial management will continue to be essential as we seek to deal with the pandemic and operate in a planning environment filled with uncertainties.”—jim tranquada


FROM THE QUAD

A Future Without Football Amid a reevaluation of College priorities triggered by the pandemic’s impact, Oxy football is discontinued

On Nov. 16, 2019, at Jack Kemp Stadium, with 7:40 remaining in the fourth quarter and the game beyond reach, wide receiver Lucas Savoie caught a six-yard pass from quarterback Joshua Greaves for the final score of the game in a 67-12 loss to the 9-1 Redlands Bulldogs. For senior economics majors Greaves and Savoie and six of their classmates—who persevered through a tumultuous four years on and off the field—it marked the end of their gridiron careers. While the lopsided score reflected the uneven playing field that Oxy football has faced of late, no one knew at the time that it would be the Tigers’ final game. After careful consideration and consultation with members of the 2018 Athletics Task Force, football boosters, and the Board of Trustees, President Harry J. Elam, Jr. announced Oct. 13 that Occidental had made the “extremely painful decision” to discontinue its football program. Financial pressures brought by the pandemic required the College to re-examine the structural challenges facing football in light of other priorities, he wrote to the Oxy community. “This was a difficult decision by any measure, but the Board believes it is the right one for the College,” says Board chair Steve Rountree ’71. While those challenges have been the subject of ongoing conversation for the last three years, the timing of the announcement surprised many. With November application deadlines approaching, the College felt it had a responsibility to alert prospective applicants and provide current players with time to transfer, says Rob Flot, vice president for student affairs, who oversees Oxy athletics. Over its 126-year history, Oxy football has produced a host of professional players and coaches, among them Jack Kemp ’57, Jim Mora ’57, Bill Redell ’64, and Vance Mueller ’86, and 20 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships. In recent years, the program has struggled to remain competitive in SCIAC. Following three consecutive 5-4 seasons from 2013

to 2015, the Tigers went 1-22 over the next four seasons in conference play, dropping 21 straight games. Even so, individual players continued to make their mark: Quarterback Bryan Scott ’17 became the conference’s all-time leading passer and was named 2016 SCIAC Player of the Year. The abrupt retirement of Head Coach Doug Semones three weeks prior to training camp in July 2017 left the program reeling, and from the time Rob Cushman was named as his replacement August 1 to opening kickoff 38 days later, the squad shrank from 56 to 47 players. Once play began, injuries further decimated the roster, and concerns about Oxy’s ability to safely field a competitive team led the College to cancel most of the 2017 season. After a multi-constituent Athletics Task Force recommended continuing the program—with the conditions that it be “both safe and competitive,” while meeting recruiting and fundraising goals—Oxy returned to the field with rosters of 47 and 61 players in 2018 and 2019, respectively. In announcing the adoption of the recommendations, thenPresident Jonathan Veitch cautioned, “We can’t lose sight of the significant challenges that still exist. … We will continue to monitor and revisit the viability of the football program as circumstances require.” Despite the lingering questions, the undimmed enthusiasm for the program among football parents and alumni was evident in last April’s Day For Oxy Athletics, with 157 boosters supporting the program. But the COVID-19 pandemic—which necessitated the suspension of all Oxy sports activities since March—prompted a reevaluation of the larger landscape surrounding football. “We want to offer the best possible experience for our student-athletes,” Elam wrote, “and the College has determined that to do so for football would require a level of

investment that is not sustainable, especially relative to other priorities and given the financial impact of the pandemic.” To safely field a team roster that could withstand inevitable injuries and the rigors of competition, Occidental would need to matriculate up to 25 student-athletes a year —roughly 5 percent of each incoming class, Elam noted, adding, “Despite the best efforts of our dedicated coaching staff, we have found it increasingly difficult to consistently recruit at the level we would need.” Alumni emails to the president’s office supported the decision by a margin of more than 3-to-1, many of them calling it the right choice for the College. Since the announcement, Elam has spoken and listened to football parents and alumni critical of the decision. Football, together with men’s track and field and women’s basketball, has a high percentage of student-athletes of color, prompting some to question the decision’s impact on Oxy’s diversity. Football alone cannot be solely responsible for diversity, Flot responds: “We need to recruit more student-athletes of color in every other sport and in our admissions process generally.” Given that diversity is one of the College’s foundational principles, “We must and will make a concerted effort to recruit students of color in areas that we have not emphasized in the past,” Elam says. “Increasing our overall diversity in general, and the number of exceptional Black students in particular, at Oxy is a priority.” Elam, Flot and Athletics Director Shanda Ness stress that the decision is not a referendum on varsity athletics; Oxy will continue to field 20 men’s and women’s teams at the NCAA Division III level. “We maintain an unwavering commitment to athletics as a critical and necessary component of the Oxy liberal arts experience,” Elam wrote, “and we fundamentally believe in maintaining strong and well-supported athletic programs.” In spring 2021, Elam plans to convene a multi-stakeholder commission to study how to better value and support Oxy’s studentathletes and strengthen both the men’s and women’s athletic programs, with an eye on issues of diversity, academic support, community engagement, and campus culture. For more on football, visit oxy.edu/newsroom. SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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Making It Corral and Shriner photos (pages 10-13) by Kevin Burke

BY ANDY FAUGHT

From remote worship to online meditation, and testing to teaching, these six alumni have mobilized in the fight against COVID-19

T

Frances Shirley ’91 on the job, above, and safely outside of Sonoma Valley Hospital in late September. 10

Photos courtesy Sonoma Valley Hospital

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INY SCABS PEPPER THE bridge of Frances Shirley ’91’s nose—telltale marks of the N95 mask that helps armor her against COVID-19. Since April, the registered nurse at Sonoma Valley Hospital in Sonoma has been on the front lines in the battle against the coronavirus, which had claimed more than 230,000 American lives through the end of October. Single and childless, she rises to the challenge at hand, undaunted. “I don’t need to worry about exposing anybody at home,” says Shirley, who majored in art history at Oxy and decided to become a nurse after donating blood, and then platelets for chemotherapy patients, in her 20s. “I’m the perfect person to test folks. I’m here for the long haul.” In addition to the testing she does at the hospital, she’s a volunteer for the neighboring Napa County Health Department, which has tested more than 25,000 people, among the most comprehensive responses in California. At the hospital, nervous people arrive at the hospital’s ambulance bay—site of the makeshift testing station. Receiving a nasopharyngeal swab with a 6-inch Q-tip isn’t always greeted with enthusiasm. “I’ve never said so many times, ‘You can’t tell, but I’m smiling at you right now,’” says Shirley, a medical surgical nurse who does not work with critically ill COVID-19 patients.

“No matter how scared they are, I’m able to talk them through it. I’ve done so many thumbs up at people.” Shirley is one of a number of Occidental alumni who have responded to a pandemic that has strained them in myriad ways— physically, mentally, spiritually, and intellectually. But the liberal arts framework, and their Oxy experiences in particular, have given them the tools to confront a once-ina-lifetime crucible. “There’s a big emphasis in nursing on critical thinking,” Shirley says. “We have to have a really good reason to do something, and it needs to be evidence-based. And then we reevaluate. For a lot of people in nursing school, they hadn’t thought in those terms. But it’s a completely familiar idea to me.” A mile north of Occidental, Rev. Roberto Corral ’76 imparts guidance to his 3,000member congregation at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Eagle Rock. Ninety percent of his parishioners are Filipino, and many of them are so-called “essential workers” employed in health care professions. By Governor Gavin Newsom’s order, St. Dominic, like houses of worship throughout California, halted in-person Mass in March. Services were streamed on Facebook and YouTube, a practice that continues today. Indoor services were allowed again briefly in


Father Roberto Corral ’76 inside St. Dominic Catholic Church in Eagle Rock in September—six months after indoor worship services were suspended due to COVID-19. Opposite page: Under the tent for Sunday Mass.


Father Corral serves communion to St. Dominic’s parishioners in the outdoor school pavilion.

June—to no more than 100 mask-wearing, socially distanced congregants. But in July, the state again banned indoor services amid a spike in coronavirus infections. Corral, a priest for 32 years, has since been saying Mass—as well as conducting baptisms, weddings and funerals—in the parish parking lot. He joined St. Dominic in March 2019, after having served pastoral duties in the Bay Area. “It’s been a learning curve, and it’s forced us to be a bit more creative about reaching out to people,” he says. “We had wanted to reach more of our congregation through the Internet, but we just hadn’t gotten around to it. This really forced us to get our act together.” COVID-19, Corral says, is “the everpresent reality.” In his homilies, he preaches patience, and he urges congregants to follow state guidelines. “There are some religious organizations that are defying those orders, but we’ve been given common-sense instructions by the archdiocese,” he says. “My message is one of faith in God, that somehow we’ll get through this, and that these kinds of things happen now and then.” Even among the faithful, Corral, a mathematics major at Oxy, says there are those who struggle to believe in a God that would allow COVID-19 to cause such destruction to life and livelihoods. Corral admits his own struggles to understand “why things aren’t working out.” Now in his mid-60s, he relies on a faith hewn by time and experience. “God does not make evil but allows things like this to challenge us, to help us to be more faith-filled and trusting in Him in spite of the difficult circumstances,” Corral says. “If there’s a natural disaster, like an earthquake or something beyond our human control, it’s part of being alive in an imperfect world. We’re not going to experience perfection until the afterlife.” 12

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When the United States documented its first COVID-19 infection in January, few knew what lay ahead. Amid early mixed messages about the efficacy of face masks, California in June mandated wearing face coverings in public spaces. Prior to that, many residents wore them, but masks weren’t always readily available. Jeremy Castro ’99 helped to offset the shortage. He’s the founder and “chief catalyst” of Brand Marinade, a San Leandro-based T-shirt company whose clients include local and corporate businesses, and celebrities. When Governor Newsom ordered Californians to shelter in place on March 19, Castro was talking on the phone to the mother of his girlfriend, Danielle Siegler ’11. “She said, ‘Castro, you need to start making masks. You have all of these T-shirts. You can make masks with them,’ ” he recalls. “I then had a corporate client that also called that day who said, ‘Jeremy, we need 100,000 masks to give to our employees.’ ” The company went on to make 60,000 masks of various colors—“Tmasks,” Castro calls them—from April 1 until the first week of May. He procured 190,000 additional surgical masks from his suppliers in China. He sold more than half of his creations and distributed the rest to local hospitals, food banks, and homeless shelters. He distributed the masks with a longtime client, Oakland native and pro football player Marshawn Lynch. The pair handed out their wares throughout the Bay Area while riding electric tricycles.

above: Jeremy Castro ’99 shifted gears from making T-shirts to “Tmasks” at the height of the protective-mask shortage last spring. right: Castro with cap, sans mask.

“It was something that I had the ability to do, and it needed to be done,” says Castro, who earned his degree in cognitive science. “This is a time when, if you’re in a position to help, then you have a duty to do it.” That mindset is what brought Dr. Kimberly Shriner ’80 back to her alma mater. The College enlisted Shriner, an infectious disease expert at Huntington Hospital in Pasadena, in May as an expert consultant. It will be with Shriner’s input that the Occidental administration will decide when to reopen campus to in-person classes. (A decision is expected about plans for next semester in December.) As fall semester approached, “We had to make some really tough decisions,” Shriner says. “It just became very clear that the density of disease in L.A. County was getting worse and worse, and our inability to do really rapid, frequent testing on campus was going to be problematic. The safety of the students and the safety of the staff was really paramount.” Shriner’s involvement isn’t limited to her advisory capacity. She’s also co-teaching a class titled The Biology and Epidemiology of COVID-19 with Roberta Pollock, professor of biology. In real time, students are exploring the biology of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the cause of COVID-19, and discussing the human immune response and factors affect-

Photos by Jonathan Shorter/courtesy Jeremy Castro ’99


ing the disease’s outcome. Shriner leveraged her connections in the medical field to assemble an impressive group of guest speakers, including primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall and Dr. Ying-Ying Goh, Pasadena’s director of public health and health officer. “It’s a historic moment,” Pollock says. “As an immunologist, being able to work with someone of Dr. Shriner’s caliber and have real-world, real-people applications for what I’ve studied my entire life is incredible.” A marine science major at Oxy, Shriner looks back fondly on her days as a student researcher on the Vantuna: “It really honed my skills as a scientist; we did a lot of electrophoresis and calorimetry, and things like that.” She joined the teaching faculty of Huntington Hospital in 1992 and founded the Phil Simon AIDS Clinic four years later. Since 2002, she has made regular trips to Tanzania, where she and Huntington colleagues provide basic health care, medication, HIV and anti-retroviral education in the impoverished African nation. Her interest in infectious diseases bloomed when she was attending medical school at Case Western Reserve University, at the same time HIV emerged as a global crisis. These days she’s treating COVID-19 patients, in whom she has witnessed profound suffering. “They’re drowning in their own secretions,” Shriner says. “Their lungs become these giant, leathery, inefficient machines for breathing. Therapies are few and far between, so it’s a struggle.” While President Donald J. Trump was espousing the potential curative powers of sunlight in treating COVID-19 last spring— an idea that was met with more than a little skepticism—San Francisco-based scientist William Grant ’63 was busy studying the role that Vitamin D might play in reducing COVID-19 infections and death. Vitamin D, acquired by diet or supplements and activated by sunlight, has long been known to boost the immune system. Grant is director of the Sunlight, Nutrition and Health Research Center, an organization devoted to research, education, and advocacy relating to the prevention of chronic disease through changes in diet and lifestyle. In his writings, he has called out the health care industry for failing to recognize the potential of Vitamin D.

“When I went on to medical school, I was able to draw on my liberal arts education,” says Dr. Kimberly Shriner ’80 (outside of Huntington Hospital).

“We have a disease treatment health system,” Grant says. “All participants, from physicians to hospitals to Big Pharma, derive income and profit from treating—not preventing—disease. Since Vitamin D is inexpensive and effective at reducing the risk of many types of disease, our medical system tries to discredit it at every opportunity.” Grant, who majored in physics at Oxy and earned his doctorate at UC Berkeley, made national headlines in 1997, when he reported that diet plays an important role in the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. He has published more than 60 peer-reviewed journal articles on the role of Vitamin D in helping to reduce the risk of 100 types of disease and has been studying its merits since 1999.

His advocacy builds on recent findings presented by Italian researchers at a meeting of the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research. Their analysis showed that people who died of COVID-19 in Italian hospitals often had lower Vitamin D levels than those who survived the disease. “Oxy gave me a good background in the liberal arts and humanities, and it helped me decide not to go into a profession just to make money, but also to help society,” says Grant. He worked as an atmospheric scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia prior to his Vitamin D research. A self-described “armchair health researcher,” Grant made a Zoom presentation to several thousand physicians in India—at SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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Grant photo by David Assmann | Mowe photo by Elizabeth Mowe

above: When he’s not busy “reading widely in the health literature,” William Grant ’63 enjoys birdwatching at Fort Mason Park in San Francisco. right: Sam Mowe ’07 relaxes outside his home in Portland, Ore. Tricycle magazine is named after the “three jewels” that form the heart of Buddhism: the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha.

that time home to the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world—on the treatment of COVID-19 with Vitamin D in late August. “Doing this occasionally leads to making connections that others have not thought of.” Since the outbreak of COVID-19, circulation of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, a quarterly compendium of Buddhist teachings and practices, has surged 120 percent to about 25,000, as subscribers seek spiritual intervention in the absence of a vaccine. “So many of us are self-isolating, and people are looking for ways to reduce stress and anxiety,” says associate publisher Sam Mowe ’07, whose role at the magazine is to increase subscriptions and donors, and to schedule speakers for Tricycle-sponsored online courses. In May, more than 30,000 people took part in a Tricycle-sponsored guided meditation by the nun and teacher Pema Chodron. (Other meditations have been led by mindfulness luminaries such as Jack Kornfield, Sharon Salzberg, and Tara Branch.) “People are coming for a deeper steadiness, for meaning and purpose and ways to make sense of everything that feels so uncertain now,” Mowe says from his home in Portland, Ore. “Meditation is credited with reducing negative emotions, building stress management skills, and easing high blood pressure.” While meditation and mindfulness apps have netted millions of new users in the United States since the outbreak, Tricycle, he says, has been teaching meditation tech14

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niques to the uninitiated: “My hope is we go a bit deeper than the meditation apps.” Between tending to the needs of his daughters (Ruth, born on April 28, and Lila, who turned 3 in September) with his wife, Elizabeth, Mowe tries to fit in daily personal meditations lasting up to 30 minutes. He majored in religious studies at Oxy, studying his junior year in Bodh Gaya, India, a place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. Mowe went on to complete a Fulbright research project in Lumbini, Nepal, Buddha’s birthplace. The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism address suffering and finding a path that leads to the end of suffering. Mowe’s faith was emboldened by the teachings of Dale Wright, the David B. and Mary H. Gamble Professor in Religion and Religious Studies Emeritus. “It’s hard to imagine my life now without that introduction to Buddhism at Oxy,” says Mowe, who joined the Tricycle staff in April 2018 after nearly four years as a communications manager and editor with the Garri-

son Institute in Garrison, N.Y. “It’s informed my personal and professional life.” Back in Sonoma, September temperatures topped 100 degrees and wildfire smoke fouled the air as Frances Shirley administered tests on the blacktop. When she’s home, she sleeps or talks to friends on Zoom. “I haven’t been within six feet of a loved one since this all started,” she says. (Dating back to her grandmother, the late Mercedes Shirley ’32, Frances comes from a large Oxy family, including her parents, Christine Grage ’66 and Gary Shirley ’65; brothers Geoffrey ’88 and Joseph ’90; and her aunt and uncle, Mary Shirley ’66 and Frans Kok ’67.) “We are still looking for good things to happen in the future,” she adds. “Eventually, we’ll get a vaccine and we can convert our testing site to a vaccination drive-through, hopefully.” And then, at last, Shirley can plan a long-overdue family reunion. Faught wrote “Class Disrupted” in the Spring issue.


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BY DICK ANDERSON PHOTO BY MAX S. GERBER

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ZZZ

ANDY HOOK ’12 WAS 7 years old the first time he saddled up for an equestrian competition. “I was going to ride my big cousin’s horse—super athletic, very smart,” he recalls. “He would never try to hurt anybody—he just wanted to win. I was so little, they had to put these baby stirrups on the saddle. My horse was all antsy and ready to go and I was nervous and anxious—but I was excited to get my shot.” Hook’s aunt, Mayisha Akbar, looked up at young Randy and asked him, “Are you ready?” “I don’t even remember saying anything,” he recalls. “Then she told me, ‘You can do it. You’ve got the skills. All you have to do is stay on the horse. He knows the patterns and 16

OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020

Photo by Max S. Gerber

he’s going to go fast, but you just hang in there with him and you can do it.’ “I just remember being so calm and confident in that moment,” Hook continues. “So, I said, ‘OK, let’s go.’ My horse took off and we did the pattern and I ended up winning that event against the bigger kids.” That memory has stuck with Hook to this day. “Every time I’m facing a big moment where I feel nervous or anxious, I always think back to that moment and just tell myself: ‘You know what to do—just go out there and do it.’ And I end up making it through and I always do well.” For the next seven years Hook rode with his peers as a member of the Compton Junior Posse, the program created by his aunt in

1988 following her son’s shooting in a gangrelated incident. “He didn’t die, but that was very traumatic for our family,” says Hook, who grew up in the Compton community of Richland Farms on a 2½-acre equestrian ranch in a house adjacent to his aunt’s. “She just wanted to make a change after that and said the horses would be the way that she would enact change.” Akbar grew up watching westerns on TV with her father, who was born in Oklahoma and moved to the L.A. neighborhood of Harbor City with his wife to raise their family. In 1988, Akbar moved to Richland Farms after finding out about the area through her work as a Realtor. A prodigious fundraiser, she kept the Compton Junior Posse afloat for nearly three decades working with Randy’s father, Louis Hook ’80, and helped generations of inner-city kids through equine therapy. Akbar used the horses to incentivize the children to stay in school and stay out of trouble, Hook remembers. “She knew how much the kids around here loved the horses —she told them, ‘If you want a ride, you got to show me your report card and your attendance report.’ And slowly but surely the horses started correcting the kids, making their lives better. They made my life better. “Growing up, we were just cowboy kids,” he adds. “After school, we had horse practice. On the weekends, we had competitions and events. Sometimes we would just go camping and enjoy the outdoors. To be in this green neighborhood in the middle of Compton and having horses in our lives was really special because we don’t get a lot of experience here with nature.” By the time he reached high school, Hook was veering away from horses to pursue other interests, such as football and basketball and girls. “It’s not that I wanted to get away from the horses—they lived on my property,” he says. “I just wanted to explore new things.” Hook was encouraged to go to college by his father (who in June received Occidental’s Alumni Seal for service to the community, most notably his work with the Compton Junior Posse). “He never specifically forced Oxy on me or made it a big deal,” Hook says. But a weekend cultural visit to Oxy as a high school senior sold him on his dad’s alma mater. And then he did the College’s twoweek Multicultural Summer Institute, “which I really loved,” he recalls. “I was excited to be an Oxy student.”


Photos by Walter Thompson-Hernández

Hook briefly entertained the idea of following in his father’s footsteps as an economics major, but an Econ 101 course with “one of the more popular professors teaching at that time” quickly dissuaded him: “I was like, ‘Oh, hell no, I’m not doing this.’ ” After a passing flirtation with psychology (“really technical”), he took Sociology 101 and “loved it. Sociology gave me the basis of how I operate. Everything I do is based on what I learned about people and places and things. Oxy helped me formulate the way I view the world,” Hook adds, “and the way I view the world is what guides my efforts to this day, every day.” With Akbar nearing retirement in 2015, the future of the Compton Junior Posse— and of the family ranch itself—was in doubt. “Just two years earlier she had suffered a stroke that left her bedridden for a month,” Walter Thompson-Hernández writes in The Compton Cowboys: The New Generation of Cowboys in America’s Urban Heartland (William Morrow). “She had slowly eased her way into the background of the ranch’s daily operations.” Hook, meanwhile, was completing a graduate degree in music industry administration from Cal State Northridge and was living in the San Fernando Valley with his longtime girlfriend, Mariah, and their young son, Lux. Running the ranch and a nonprofit wasn’t in his five-year plan “because I wanted to be a big music star,” he says—more on that later—but he stepped into the role on one condition: “If I’m going to do the horse thing, I have to do it my way.” The catalyst for the Compton Cowboys as a brand came in mid-2017. “We got a call to do a Guinness commercial,” Hook says. “We were just these cool Black cowboys in this high-level marketing campaign. We spent three days on set shooting—just like filming a movie—and it’s a beautiful piece of art. It’s still the best work we’ve done.”

The experience got him to thinking: “What if we could make this a career?” he says. “What if we could be these cool Black cowboys that shoot movies? I’m like, ‘Boom.’ But if we’re going to do that, it has to be cool. It has to be dope. It has to be fresh. So, I said to my boys, ‘What if we just call ourselves the Compton Cowboys? We can make an Instagram page, make a website, do a logo. Let’s just run with it, man.’ ” By the time the Guinness campaign came out, the Compton Cowboys were in lockstep as a brand. “We did all our contracts and our trademarks and everything,” Hook says. “I knew once that commercial came out, there would be a storm of interest in what we were doing. And that’s precisely what happened. “The Compton Cowboys is like an alumni club of the Compton Junior Posse. And that cool brand and aesthetic allows us to tell our story and raise money that we can give back to our nonprofit. That was my vision. I said, ‘If I’m gonna run the nonprofit, I can’t be knocking on doors begging for money. I can’t

left: Charles Harris and Randy Hook sit on their horses during the Compton Christmas Parade. below left: “I found out Randy had graduated from Occidental minutes into first interviewing him,” says former New York Times reporter Walter ThompsonHernandez, son of Kerry Thompson, associate professor of biology. “I really feel like that helped us connect on a much deeper level.” below right: Carlton Hook, Keenan Abercrombia, and Kenneth Atkins wait for their food outside the local Louisiana Fried Chicken restaurant in Compton.

just go and do GoFundMes. It’s too much work and it’s going to take away from my dream.’ Then I thought, ‘What if I built the whole entertainment business based on the horse thing?’ So, Compton Cowboys is the big engine that drives everything.” Having decided that, it was important to Hook to distinguish the messaging between the for-profit Compton Cowboys and nonprofit community organization. “I wanted the Compton Cowboys to be the brilliant, edgy side of things,” Hook says. This was not his aunt’s uniformly dressed junior riders. “We got tattoos. We might be drinking or smoking weed, but we’re all good people and we’re all about community,” he says. With his aunt retiring, he adds, “I wanted her to be able to have that name as her takeaway—she built the Compton Junior Posse and that’s now a legacy name.” So they rebranded the nonprofit as the Compton Junior Equestrians, or CJE for short. “CJE is the extension of my oversight, my management,” Hook says. “Equestrian is a lot cleaner to me.” SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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“STREETS RAISED US. HORSES SAVED US.” —The Compton Cowboys’ motto

Before COVID-19 shut down operations in March, the CJE had about 12 active riders and an equal number of horses. “I like to keep a 1:1 ratio of horses to kids,” Hook says, “because it’s about that hyperfocus on that partnership between a horse and a kid. It’s not about creating summer camp vibes. It’s about focusing on these kids that are underserved and at-risk to give them the attention they need to help them grow up. I’m excited for all this stuff to hopefully clear up soon so we can get back to serving our kids.” With the ranch closed to his students, who range in age from 10 to 18, Hook is busy planning for their return. “I have two new horses that are in training right now,” he says. “They are young, beautiful, athletic horses from a great stock that came from a championship cowboy out in Texas who donated these horses to our program. But they were so green, and so raw, that you couldn’t ride

them. But now that they’re in training, they are going to be ready for my kids when they get back.” One of Hook’s students is really excited about doing rodeo, he adds, and one of the horses that’s being trained is the one she is eager to ride. “I am excited to put them on a journey together to see how they do,” he says. Another recent participant in the program is now chasing his dream of being a bull-riding professional. “He’s in camps and doing circuits and junior rodeos, just trying to make a career out of that,” Hook says. “He grew up rough and tough and he had a potentially negative path that he could’ve gone down. But once he came into the ranch, we just coached him up and now he’s fully committed to the Western sports industry. That’s what it’s all about.” On the Compton Cowboys side of the equation, Hook says, “We’re doing some

incredible stuff out here in the culture right now—and I’m actually about to take it to another level.” Which brings us back to the music. Back in June, Hook spent several weeks in the home studio of rapper/producer Andre Young—the legendary Dr. Dre—on Hook’s debut single, “Colorblind,” which he released July 4 under the name Randy Savvy. “I had been trying to get connected with him anyway because the whole spirit of our brand is N.W.A plus horses,” Hook says. “It’s anti-establishment but it’s community. We’re breaking barriers, standing up, fighting the power. We just added horses to the mix.” In addition to supporting the work of the CJE, Dre listened to Hook’s music, loved it, and invited him over to his home studio. “He’s like a big homie—like an uncle to me, you know what I mean?” Hook says with a smile. “Now my music video is coming out and he produced my song. It’s super exciting.” In spite of the pandemic, Hook is having a year for the ages. About a month after California (and much of the country) went into lockdown, Thompson-Hernández published The Compton Cowboys. The book grew out of a feature story that he wrote for The New York Times in March 2018.

Photos by Max S. Gerber and Walter Thompson-Hernández (right)

left: Randy and his father, Louis Hook ’80. The elder Hook describes himself as a “hood rat” growing up. above: Randy poses with his son, Lux. 18

OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020


Hook, center, and the Compton Cowboys organized a peace ride in Compton on June 6, following the murder of George Floyd. Photo by Kemal Cilengir

“To be honest, I didn’t know this had the makings of a book until the Times story came out and dozens of literary agents contacted me,” says the KPCC radio host and podcaster, who spent a year and a half embedded with the Cowboys, experiencing the joys and pains of their daily lives. “I just wanted to create something that was true to their story,” he adds. “Horses have the power to heal, and writing this book helped me understand that.” Thompson-Hernández, who has a master’s in Latin American studies from Stanford, was in a Ph.D. program in Chicano studies at UCLA prior to becoming a reporter for the Times. (He’s also the son of Kerry Thompson, associate professor of biology at Oxy.) “The access I gained was driven by sincere trust and admiration and connection,” he says. “I grew up minutes away from the Cowboys’ ranch and have so much in common with them. It sometimes felt like I was hanging out with old friends, and I hope that comes out in the book. “Randy is such an incredible leader,” he adds. “He understands that each person in the Cowboys has different needs and he succeeds in understanding how to interact with everyone. He has really earned their trust.”

The response to the book has been “overwhelmingly positive and supportive,” Hook says. “It’s just been beautiful. The book has helped us raise more money and tell our story and just get people aware about this culture.” In an era scarred by divisive language and systemic racism, the Cowboys’ story has been “such a positive, uplifting thing for so many people, and they express that through our channels,” he adds. “They come to our social media or websites or send us letters in the mail and tell us how much we are inspiring them. When I start getting down on myself or anything, sometimes I’ll just look at fan mail and it keeps me going.” Over time, Hook would like to expand the Compton Cowboys aesthetic into a host of lifestyle categories, from breweries and restaurants (“One of our members is a chef”) to clothing and, of course, music. The other side of the operation is fine-tuning the equestrian program and scaling it to ranches all around the world—not just in the inner cities but wherever kids are underserved. “We’re taking it one day at a time, but that’s the bigger mission—to have global operations that are both building business enterprises and doing great work in the community.”

Following the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in May, Hook and his fellow cowboys were compelled to take action. They joined a peace walk in Compton on June 6, inviting other riders to join them with their horses. “At least 100 other Black cowboys and cowgirls showed up,” Thompson-Hernández says. “It was a powerful experience because horses have tended to be used by mounted police units. Seeing Black men and women on horses with the demonstrators was something I had never seen.” Hook himself describes the experience as “definitely emotional—so many emotions that it’s hard to even articulate. First of all, the whole time I was overwhelmed with joy, just being out there with all the people on horses. We showed up for the walk, and there were all these fans there that brought their own horses. “Then I was thinking about the legacy of my family and what my aunt’s vision was for changing our community and looking around and thinking, ‘Wow, this was her dream.’ And she gets to see it and we get to live it every day. Finally, I was thinking about the future. Look what we started, look what we’ve done —and look what we can do now.” SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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FALL

SPEED

AHEAD

Introducing new courses, embracing technology, and challenging traditional approaches to classroom pedagogy, Oxy faculty reimagine the remote learning experience BY DICK ANDERSON | ILLUSTRATION BY ADRIAN FORROW Photo by Sabrina Stierwalt

We all have those recurring dreams about college—the ones where you didn’t show up for class all semester, or didn’t study for the test that your grade depends on. Or that it’s the start of the fall semester in the middle of a pandemic and you’re logging into your classroom—wait, come to think of it, you’re wide awake. This is no dream. “We just had our first day of classes,” reports Sabrina Stierwalt, assistant professor of physics, “and I was nervous about little things—will the webcam work this time? Will I accidentally click ‘End Meeting for All’ in our Zoom classroom—my new recurring nightmare? “But as soon as we got into the rhythm of class, I could tell these Oxy students had shown up ready to take all of this on together,” she continues. “Everything has been turned upside down for them—for all of us— but they all showed up ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work. I’m so impressed by their resilience.” Resilience has been a byword of the fall semester—likewise, adaptability and creativity. Well before the College announced July 10 that all instruction would be remote for the fall semester—and that, with limited exceptions, Oxy would not be bringing students

Students in Sabrina Stierwalt’s Astronomy course (Physics 162) were mailed Google cardboard virtual reality headsets prior to the semester. Stierwalt worked with Oxy’s Center for Digital Liberal Arts to develop new VR-oriented lessons.

back to campus—faculty and administrators were making plans for a remote learning curriculum. Stierwalt, along with many of her peers, took advantage of the workshops offered by Oxy’s Center for Teaching Excellence throughout the summer. “We did a lot of brainstorming and planning not just how we can use technology to re-create the parts of in-person class we want to keep,” she says, “but also how to inspire creativity in this remote environment.” Before coming to Oxy last fall, Stierwalt worked on producing virtual reality content for NASA. Last year, her classes borrowed VR headsets from the library and went on

physical field trips to “the fantastic piece of Los Angeles history that is Griffith Observatory.” With neither of those options available this fall, she worked with Oxy’s Center for Digital Liberal Arts (CDLA) to develop new lessons that incorporated VR experiences. Then she mailed each student in her Astronomy course (a physics class for non-physics majors) their own Google cardboard virtual reality headset prior to the start of the semester. Once they download an app and pop their smartphone inside, she says, “The universe is theirs to explore.” The sudden switch to remote learning last March created a mad dash for faculty to quickly pivot their coursework to the virtual space. To be asynchronous (prerecorded, that is) or synchronous (live and interactive)? That was the question for many. In Stierwalt’s case, remote learning “has made me think more about how we spend our precious class time together. I’ve moved most of my lecturing to prerecorded videos that students can watch before they come to class. This frees up class time for discussions and small-group work where we can go into the material more in depth. This way I’m even taking advantage of the remote aspect rather than trying to push through in spite of it.” SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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left: In partnership with the In Plain Sight Coalition, Oxy Arts created a virtual 3-D exhibit for WE LIVE! Memories of Resistance, a group exhibition of 14 artists. “By embracing memory as a living source of reinvention and transformation, these artists scrutinize the underlying conditions of immigrant detention to inspire acts of resistance that challenge our culture of incarceration and racial injustice,” write curators Kyle Stephan and Paulina Lara.

During the first week of classes, Oxy logged more than 4,000 Zoom meetings—1,096 of them a single day. (That doesn’t count the number of meetings on BlueJeans, Oxy’s secondary platform.) “The numbers for Zoom are just astounding,” says James Uhrich, vice president for information technology services and chief information officer. With the notable exception of labs tied to science classes, the fall curriculum at Oxy is remarkably intact. In fall 2019, the College offered 625 courses, all of them in person. This fall, Oxy is offering 555 courses, all of them remote. But pedagogy never stands still, not even in the middle of a pandemic:

Student groups jumped into the planning as well. Oxy’s Student Leadership, Involvement, and Community Engagement (SLICE) office staged its Fall Involvement Fair virtually August 27, and the Intercultural Community Center (ICC) facilitated a series of social gatherings for various identity groups at the College to kick off the semester in September. From Glee Club performances to Dance Production auditions, the student experience has adapted to the virtual world. “When we talk about online initiatives, we’re taking the same care that we would have if students were here in person,” says Marcus Rodriguez, director of SLICE.

“We have had to hit ‘pause’ on so much in our lives—but not on our chance for learning, thinking, and growing.” JESSICA DIRKES, adjunct assistant professor of public health Oxy professors are teaching 48 new courses this fall. A number of them are tied directly to the coronavirus, while others are using technology to expand their academic reach. While COVID-19 put the brakes on Oxy’s study abroad program this fall, other activities have persevered, adapting to the circumstances. Under new director Cynthia Rothschild, the Kahane United Nations Program is taking place virtually for the first time in its 35-year history, with a cohort of 18 students working remotely for nine different U.N. initiatives. 22 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020

“Our hope and our vision for the fall is to create dynamic opportunities for students to connect with each other, faculty, staff, and alumni to make sure that we build a network of folks who can support each other,” adds Chris Arguedas, ICC director. Since the end of the 2020-21 school year, “I’ve had tons of meetings with colleagues where we just share ideas, or we throw around something that we designed in the spring,” says Clair Morrissey, associate professor of philosophy and department chair. “The big

idea is it doesn’t matter what the mode of communication is—it matters what we’re doing with each other.” Embracing the remote learning model, four programs are being offered this fall— Arts in Los Angeles, PPE Portrait Project, California Environment and Conservation Corps, and Computing IRL—as part of the new Oxy Immersive Program. Individual programs vary between eight and 14 credits and explore a specific topic of study through a cluster of coursework and community-based or internship components. Each course is team-taught and reserved for first-years. For her part, Morrissey is teaching a Core Studies Program class titled Being With People as part of the Oxy immersive semester PPE Portrait Project led by Art Professor Mary Beth Heffernan (who is teaching both an arts course and an internship community practice-based course). In Morrissey’s CSP, “We’re focusing on the relationship between healthcare workers and their patients in particular, because that’s the context for the PPE Portrait Project: How do you stand with respect to each other? How do we relate to each other? What do we owe each other?” The L.A. Arts Semester is designed to bring students into contact with “one of the most vibrant, internationally important and powerful artistic communities in the world,” says Amy Lyford, professor of art, who developed the class with Sarah Kozinn, associate professor of theater. “The arts fully shape and drive many of the ways that people work, live, and advocate for social change and social justice in this incredible international city.” “The Oxy Arts semester is really the best of a liberal arts education,” Kozinn says. “Through the arts, we see responses to vast questions about the world—issues about social justice, science, politics, and injustice.” Case in point: Oxy Arts’ In Plain Sight project WE LIVE! Memories of Resistance, a group exhibition of 14 artists running through November 29, examines immigration detention facilities around the country through


Video stills from CTSJ’s The Matrix webinar series (oxy.edu/matrix)

INSIDE THE MATRIX

Oxy’s Critical Theory & Social Justice Department puts social justice upfront Mary Christianakis’ son is a not a COVID-19 researcher per se, but as a Ph.D. student at UC Berkeley, Anastasios Angelopoulos analyzes statistical reliability in relation to health and high-risk settings. In January he implored his mother, “‘Stock the pantry, go buy masks,’” recalls Christianakis, professor of language, literacy, and culture in the Department of Critical Theory & Social Justice (CTSJ). After the College moved to remote learning last March, she found that a number of her students were struggling, particularly those living in the New York tri-state area. A member of the Occidental faculty since 2002, Christianakis reached out to a number of her former students that she knew back East—many of whom who are now education administrators—to figure out how to connect students with alumni in meaningful ways. With the support of the College’s Institutional Advancement team, she enlisted colleagues Caroline Heldman, CTSJ professor and department chair, and Malek MoazzamDoulat ’92, adjunct assistant professor, to make these connections nationwide. In addition to the tri-state area, Oxy has fostered internships in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, Denver, Milwaukee, and Washington, D.C. Working with alumni at the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles (CHIRLA), including executive director Angélica Salas ’93 and managing attorney Maritza R. Agundez ’06, Oxy secured over 30 internships working with students in L.A.’s public schools. This semester, a total of 108 Oxy students are interning at public and charter schools nationwide. Christened the Oxy Student-Alumni Generations Project—OxyGen for short— “We also have students placed at UNICEF

and students who are going to do journalism internships,” Christianakis says. “It’s a very business school-kind of model, but for social justice purposes, not for capital-making.” With 37 majors and 11 minors enrolled in the program, CTSJ has long emphasized rigorous training in critical theory and transformative political practice. The addition of Heldman and Moazzam-Doulat—who have taught at Oxy since 2006 and 2002, respectively—to the department’s ranks prompted a reimagining of the major with a commitment to shore up the “SJ” end of things. “We might be the only interdisciplinary undergraduate major of our kind in the United States,” Heldman says. “We’ve always been good about the critical theory side of our major but now we’re putting all of our chips in on social justice.” “We’re asking our students to reimagine the world right—to rethink why things are the way they are and how they could be different,” Christianakis adds. At the start of the CTSJ experience, all students take a Justice Bootcamp, which introduces them to the tools and technologies used in political and activist campaigns, from electoral politics to nonprofit, non-governmental and community campaigns. “The bootcamp provides a historical context for successful social movements—or important but unsuccessful ones—and the techniques that they used,” Moazzam-Doulat says. “It also teaches the students real-world, usable skills for inventing their own campaigns.” Deeper into the major, in the Social Justice Practicum, students select an internship site whose mission is to address matters of inequality and social justice. “We had the practicum before, but we had it sort of com-

above: Participants in CTSJ’s ongoing Matrix webinar series: From left, filmmaker Christine Swanson; Mary Christianakis, professor of language, literacy, and culture; Larissa Sousa of Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique; Malek Moazzam-Doulat ’92, adjunct assistant professor of critical theory and social justice; Caroline Heldman, professor of critical theory and social justice; D’Angela Proctor, CEO of Wayfarer Entertainment; Kelly Simon, interim legal director of ACLU of Oregon; and punk rocker and activist Alicia Armendariz (aka “Alice Bag”).

partmentalized,” Christianakis says. “Now we have embedded it in everything.” In the midst of remote learning, one thing that is anchoring all of their students to a common experience is CTSJ’s video podcast, The Matrix. Launched in June, the webinar series draws a dedicated live viewership every Wednesday, Heldman says. Even more people are watching the videos later on, “which makes us happy,” she adds. For a July 31 webinar on the Black Lives Matter protests and police violence in Portland, Ore., the professors talked to two protesters on the ground (one of whom, Nonda Hanneman ’10, is a third-year medical student at Oregon Health and Science University in her native Portland) as well as a constitutional attorney with the ACLU. Other Matrix panelists “are often people that we know or we have worked with,” Moazzam-Doulat says, “so we can connect our students to them and help them grow not only their understanding, but also own social or political or activist reach.” One teachable lesson that the pandemic has revealed, Heldman says, is that “people are highly dependent upon other people for their own well-being. The challenge of creating a virtual community that serves the heart and mind is appealing to all of us.” SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 23


PIVOTING MID-CAMPAIGN Campaign Semester takes on many forms as Oxy students get out the vote Video still via Facebook

As the 2020 election was going into the home stretch, Oxy students were busy getting out the vote as part of Campaign Semester, the only undergraduate program in the country that offers a full semester’s credit for a fully immersive experience into the American political process. Given the peculiarities of campaigning in the midst of a pandemic, that “fully immersive experience” feels a little different this year. After it looked like COVID-19 might put the biennial program into lockdown this fall, nine students persevered and worked up until Election Day full-time on campaigns in Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Texas. “Four are actually on-site working under strict COVID-19 protocols including mandatory mask-wearing, physical distancing, daily temperature checks, and regular testing,” explains Regina Freer, professor of politics and program co-director. With the heightened interest in the 2020 presidential election—which, with 89 million ballots cast before Halloween, was on pace to shatter all voting records in the United States—31 students signed an “intent to participate” form for Campaign Semester. Those students were encouraged to continue making contact with campaigns to secure an internship for the fall. But when it became apparent that campaign season would be like none before—without in-person fundraisers, house meetings, or door-knocking—the Politics Department pivoted to a hybrid model. Now, the College is offering a seminar on political campaigns (POLS 204, Campaigns and Elections) to provide students with a deep understanding of the theory and practice of electoral politics in the United States. Ten students are taking the class in conjunction with a Campaign 2020 Internship course (POLS 203) that requires they actively participate in either an internship with a campaign of their choosing in their hometown or the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s contest, which New York Times writer Jill Cowan called “one of the most consequential races in the country,” attracting more than $14 million in campaign contributions. 24 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020

Congressional candidate Wendy Davis of Texas on a Zoom town hall 11 days before the election.

The addition of the two classes was meant to ensure that students had the opportunity to gain the campaign experience even if they could not volunteer on-site. (First-year students were allowed to participate in Campaign 2020 but could not do Campaign Semester.) “Occidental is probably doing more than any other school in the country to get people involved,” says program co-director Peter Dreier, the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics. “One of the guidelines for this Campaign Semester program is that you can’t work in your home state,” says Elina Woolever ’22, a diplomacy and world affairs major from Brunswick, Maine. She’s a constituent of Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who cast the deciding vote to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court in 2018 (and faces a tough reelection herself this year). “That was a real wakeup call to me,” says Woolever, who chose a campaign to advance her primary objective: flipping the Senate. “In order to maintain the kinds of checks and balances that are supposed to go on in a democracy, we need to have a Senate that will be working for the people,” Woolever says. Consequently, she’s been working to unseat Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona (who was appointed in 2018 to fill out the remainder of the late John McCain’s term by the state’s Republican governor) as part of Mission for

Arizona, a joint effort to elect Democrats up and down the ballot in 2020. As a member of the organizing team, Woolever’s main role is direct voter outreach —making sure that all those mail-in ballots that went out are getting returned on time. If the polling is correct, McSally is facing a tough challenge from Democratic candidate Mark Kelly, former astronaut and husband of former Rep. Gabby Giffords. “If 2016 taught us anything, you don’t win elections based on poll numbers,” Woolever notes. “You really have to wait and see what the votes say.” If not for the pandemic, “I would be in Texas right now,” says Campaign Semester student Madeline Aubry ’23, an undeclared major from San Francisco. Instead, she’s been in Los Angeles, working with the communications team for former Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis, who is looking to unseat freshman Republican Chip Roy in his bid for reelection in Texas’ 21st Congressional District. The coronavirus has overshadowed all other campaign issues—especially given that Davis and Roy, a Trump loyalist, “basically take an opposite stance on every aspect of COVID,” Aubry adds. Every Friday, Davis invites a guest to have a Facebook town hall on various topics, and Aubry helps with choosing the topic, finding the guests, and preparing background materials. She also answers questionnaires from nonprofits asking about Davis’ policies before endorsing the candidate: “It has been a really great way to get to know her and understand her campaign more in depth,” Aubry says. As part of the Campaign 2020 class, Cheer Huang ’23, an undeclared major from Taiquan, China, is interning remotely with Republican Daniel Gade, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel and American University professor looking to upset Democrat incumbent Sen. Mark Warner of Virginia, who is running for a third term. The reason why she chose his campaign is that “I’m watching what is changing in the United States as an outsider,” says Huang, who is living on the Oxy campus this fall. “I basically want to get to know the other side of U.S. democracy.”


Photo by Marc Campos

“I’m not a politics major but I thought it would be really important to get engaged, especially this year,” says Campaign Semester participant Aya Sugiura ’23, an undeclared major from Menlo Park. More than 2,600 miles from Oxy, she’s working on-site for Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger, the incumbent for Virginia’s 7th District (who in 2018 became the first Democrat elected to that district since 1969, winning by just over 6,000 votes). Spanberger is locked in a tight race with Green Beret combat veteran Nick Freitas, and Sugiura is one of two field organizers tasked with handling out-ofdistrict volunteers. “We are doing so many phone calls trying to reach our volunteer base and then those volunteers will be the ones who will hop on the phones and reach our voters.” She is still a little surprised that she is working on-site. “It came together at the end pretty quickly,” Sugiura says. “I originally assumed I would be working from my home in the Bay Area for the rest of the year, but I’m actually in our campaign office right now.” While the campaign team is holding all its meetings virtually and volunteers are not canvassing door-to-door, “I do think Virginia is a little more relaxed on COVID than California maybe is,” she adds. “I know the cases here are a little scary.” As someone who has spent her whole life in California, “Coming here to this extremely competitive district has been really enriching for me personally,” Sugiura says. The experience has really helped to ground her in terms of political strategy: “We can talk about theory all day but how are we going to plant our feet on the ground?” Regardless of the setting, Oxy’s Campaign Semester students are “working harder than they ever have before,” Freer says. “We are really impressed with their maturity, flexibility and dedication. They are having robust experiences and continuing the rich tradition of the program.” One of the lessons that Sugiura has learned outside of what she calls her “little liberal bubble” is that politics is inherently personal: “A lot of people say, ‘Oh, I don’t do politics.’ Just living your life, you’re doing politics every day.”

Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, co-chair of the House Progressive Caucus, visits with students (as well as President Elam, top, third from right) in Professor Peter Dreier’s Politics 101 (Intro) and UEP 310 (Community Organizing) classes October 8. Jayapal represents Washington’s 7th Congressional District, where she won reelection in 2018. Dreier’s students are reading her recent memoir, Use the Power You Have: A Brown Woman’s Guide to Politics and Political Change (The New Press).

works of art. And the plays in Kozinn’s course range in subject matter from viruses and epidemics to science and even police violence. “We look at visual culture not as an accessory to life,” she says, “but as integral to how we view, and can change, the world.” Both professors view art as an oasis in uncertain times. “We understand the suffering and anxiety and a kind of upended world that are impacting all of our students and also ourselves,” Lyford says—and Kozinn adds: “One of my tenets of this semester is through this work to find community and joy. I think we can, and we will.” In preparing for the fall semester, “I have spent a lot of time thinking of ways to make my classes engaging, thought-provoking, and relevant,” says Jessica Dirkes, who joined the College last year as adjunct assistant professor of public health. “Living through the biggest public health crisis of our lifetime, while also teaching public health, has underscored the relevance.” Public health is “grounded in science, inherently political, and frequently at the center of controversy,” she says. “One thing I have focused on, in terms of facilitating engagement in this virtual world, is how to offer a platform for students to connect and discuss with each other.”

COVID-19 “is a real-time case study that we will discuss throughout the semester and in the years to come,” adds Dirkes, who is teaching Introduction to Public Health and Women’s Health this semester. But that doesn’t mean other health problems have gone away, she says—in fact, the pandemic has exacerbated some health problems and highlighted the inequity that many communities face. “In my classes, we will draw connections between the underlying causes of health inequity and what we are witnessing with the disproportionate impact COVID-19 is having on communities of color.” Over the summer, Dirkes worked with seven Oxy students who were selected for paid public health internships at various organizations across Los Angeles, gaining hands-on experience in the field. “It is a good time to be interested in public health,” she says. “I hope that one outcome of this disaster is a shift in how the U.S. prioritizes public health—and in that regard, I look forward to a new generation of bold and courageous public health leaders.” Speaking as an education and public health professional, Dirkes encourages students to keep working toward their goals. “We have had to hit pause on so much in our lives,” she says, “but not on our chance for learning, thinking, and growing.” SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 25


Everything’s Clicking No global pandemic can keep the Class of 2024 from chasing their academic dreams—only a bad Wi-Fi connection BY PETER GILSTRAP PHOTOS BY MARC CAMPOS

Leslie Garcia

EAGLE ROCK HIGH SCHOOL, LOS ANGELES

Leslie Garcia is one first-year student who already knows her way around the Oxy campus. “I grew up on the border of Eagle Rock and Highland Park,” she says. “My neighbor would take me on hikes around the campus, then we would sit down on the grass and have lunch. Oxy has always been part of my life.” As her graduation from Eagle Rock High School neared, Leslie hadn’t seriously considered Oxy as her top choice: “I wanted to get as far away from home as I could,” she admits. “But in light of the pandemic, going out of state would be very difficult for my family. And my connection with Oxy was so deeply rooted, it felt kind of destined to be.” Leslie hopes to major in psychology and go on to medical school, but music is her first love. She began playing saxophone in eighth grade in her school’s Latin jazz combo. By high school, she was a fan of hard bop sax legend Cannonball Adderley. She became adept on soprano and alto horns, which led her to become co-president of the school’s music program. “Having the opportunity to play music here was one of the reasons I chose Oxy. I’m currently taking the jazz course that’s offered in place of the band, and the professor is always 26 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020

talking about past performances. It really makes me look forward to when we actually get to play with one another.” Despite everything that’s on hold due to COVID-19, Leslie has found a couple of silver linings. One thing is being able to help K-12 students whose education was impacted by the pandemic. She and fellow ERHS student Nicholas Padilla created NELA Impact, a free virtual tutoring program that matched tutors with more than three dozen students in Northeast Los Angeles. “Just being able to provide that sort of “My connection with Oxy was so small-scale help in my community has been very positive for me.” deeply rooted, When it comes to making virtual conit felt kind of nections at Occidental, Leslie has found destined to be.” communing with fellow first-years to be surprisingly easy. “Everybody’s as enthusiastic as you are to make friends. I’ve had classmates reach out to me to form study groups and to create Zoom sessions where we can get to know each other and make friendships that can continue when we’re on campus.”


Christopher Haliburton

THE WEBB SCHOOLS, CLAREMONT

“I can’t wait to set foot on campus,” says Christopher Haliburton, who is staying in his hometown of Fontana with his family during the pandemic. “I can’t wait to move into my dorm. I can’t wait to meet people.” He echoes the feelings of the Class of ’24, but the physical separation hasn’t stopped him from bonding with his classmates. He took two summer courses online, Thinking Through COVID-19 and Race and Commu-

nity Exposures, and joined the Oxy group chat on GroupMe, a popular messaging app. “It’s harder to get a feel of how people are, harder to make those trusting connections virtually, but through group chat, it’s a lot easier.” Of his many activities at the Webb Schools in nearby Claremont, his time as honor committee co-chair sparked an interest in law. “If the student makes a mistake that breaks one of the school rules, they would meet in front of the honor committee,” he explains. “They’d tell us what they did, why they did it, and how they would want to improve. And then we would give the administration a recommendation. Let’s say a student cheated on a test. They’ll probably do a work crew, like helping out the kitchen staff or raking leaves. No one ever got paddled or was cleaning toilets,” he notes with a laugh.

“The biggest thing for me about Oxy was the fact that many people from different cultures will be on campus. And I love that. You get to learn a lot about them.” As a high school senior, Christopher cofounded an initiative for students of color, advocating for change. “We faced a lot of microaggressions,” he says. “We took a lot of our concerns to the administration so they could put in new guidelines for protection.” The group’s initiative influenced the curriculum as well. “We wanted it to stop being so heavy on the postcolonial history of people of color, so we’re not just learning about slavery, Jim Crow, and the civil rights movement,” he says. “Instead we’re learning about things that helped empower these people.” Oxy’s cultural mix was a major draw for Christopher. “That’s what I’m looking forward to the most, being with people and opening up my mind to different views and beliefs and just educating myself.” SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 27


Coby Constantino

LOS ANGELES CITY COLLEGE

Though Barack Obama ’83 looms large in Occidental lore, few students have had the chance to meet the 44th president, let alone provide him with direct support for diplomatic airlift missions. Sophomore transfer student Coby Constantino is the exception. As an operations intelligence analyst in the Air Force, the L.A. native served for four years with a top-secret clearance designation. Working at Andrews Air Force Base, Coby’s job was to support Air Force One and Air Force Two missions— the aircraft carrying the president and vice president, respectively. Among his tasks was collecting information from the CIA and other intelligence agencies on security threats and sharing those with the pilots and administration members. “I was lucky to serve the Obama administration during the final year, and then transitioned to the Trump administration,” says Coby, who left the service in June 2019. Coby lives with his family in neighboring Silver Lake and is transferring to Oxy from Los Angeles City College,

which he attended for three semesters: “It prepped me for a four-year institution.” He intends to major in sociology in preparation for master’s studies in occupational therapy. The pandemic hasn’t been too bad on a personal level, Coby says, “because my family’s and my health have not been affected. Compared to other people around the world who are dealing with way more hardships—not just the pandemic—I feel pretty blessed. Other people have definitely had it worse.” Coby’s connections to Occidental included an unlikely trifecta culminating with Obama. “I told some of the pilots that I was getting out of the military and a cabinet member who was present was talking about how Obama attended Oxy,” he recalls. “My Boy Scout leader, James McGlynn ’83, lived across from Obama in his dorm, and my high school AP teacher, Reiner Kolodinski ’81 M’01, was there at the same time. So these are three individuals whom I’ve connected with, which is pretty cool.”

Catrina Wolfe

HOME SCHOOLED, THOUSAND OAKS

Your average 15-year-old with a budding interest in politics is likely running for a position on high school student council. Catrina Wolfe was not your average 15-year-old. As a sophomore, she began working as a full-time staffer on the campaign for a progressive candidate in her California congressional district. “I learned so much more than I ever would have imagined,” says Catrina, who hails from Thousand Oaks. Her duties went far beyond fetching lattes. “In 2018, I was a field organizer, so one of my main jobs was to kick off all of our canvasses,” Catrina explains. “If we had celebrities or politicians there, I would introduce them. And then I would train volunteers— sometimes it was 30 people, sometimes it was 400. I would have to get up on a stage and walk all of these people through how to convey our message to voters at the doors.” Catrina, who was home schooled, discovered Occidental from an alumnus who taught ethics at a local learning center. “He always had really awesome things to say about Oxy,” 28 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020

says Catrina, who is considering a biology or psychology major with a neuroscience minor. “I didn’t want to just be a number. I wanted to have small, discussion-based classes. I think a liberal arts education creates a really well-rounded person.” As well as things are going online, Catrina is eager for the boots-on-the-ground Oxy experience. “Living away from home for the first time and being able to actually meet all of the people that I’m meeting online will be awesome,” she says. “I definitely want to get involved in research and get into a lab on campus. It’s hard when everything’s remote.” But the stay-at-home result of the pandemic has allowed Catrina to spend quality time with her animal tribe: five dogs, two cats, and two horses. “I grew up showing Arabian horses, so getting to just be with them, that’s really nice. I’ve always been very close with my parents,” she adds, “but I feel like we got even closer during this quarantine. I wanted to stay a little bit closer to my family and friends, and Oxy seemed like the perfect fit.”


“Compared to other people around the world who are dealing with way more hardships—not just the pandemic— I feel pretty blessed.”

Ally Fukada

SINGAPORE AMERICAN SCHOOL, JAPAN

We don’t have the testing to prove it, but Ally Fukada’s blood definitely runs Oxy orange. Dad Allen Fukada ’86 (pictured, right, with Ally) is an alumnus, and older sister Aime is a senior sociology major. “They both absolutely love Occidental and have had great experiences there— that was definitely a selling point for me,” says the Singapore native, who is planning to major in cognitive science. “Also, there was so much diversity it was easy to picture myself there.” Ally is riding out the COVID storm in Tokyo, her adopted hometown. “I was born in Singapore and I spent 16 years living there,” she explains. “My mom is Japanese-Greek and my dad is Japanese-American. Home has been so many different places when you’re a third culture kid.” While Ally’s last semester at Singapore American School was online, that experience didn’t prepare her for the shock of the alarm clock. “It’s kind of difficult,” she admits. “My classes are really early in the morning for me.” She’s not kidding: Given the time difference, a 10 a.m. class in L.A. begins at 2 a.m. Tokyo time. Once she shakes off the jet lag, Ally has a to-do list ready for her arrival on campus: working on her art, taking exercise classes at the gym, and grazing her way

“My classes are really early in the morning for me. That’s definitely one of the biggest challenges—that and trying to find a group of friends when I haven’t had the opportunity to meet them yet.”

through Eagle Rock’s many dining options. “I don’t think I’m going to be deprived of good, fun food,” she says. Academically speaking, she hopes to continue her studies beyond Oxy at UCLA or USC to study nursing—a path that the pandemic has brought into focus. “Everyone keeps asking me if COVID has scared me into changing my occupation,” Ally says. “This just affirms to me the need to go out there and put myself in a situation where I can help others get better. That’s been a great plus from this experience.” SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 29


Maria Paula Munoz

INSTITUTO TECNOLÓGICO Y DE ESTUDIOS SUPERIORES DE MONTERREY

When people anguish over a commute in Los Angeles, they’re generally referring to the tedious horrors of east-west freeway jams. For Maria Paula Munoz, her commute has been international. “I was born in El Paso, but I was raised in Ciudad Juarez,” Maria explains, calling from the border city. “They’re right next to each other. From first to sixth grade, I commuted to El Paso, crossing the border every day.” After elementary school, Maria came back to Mexico for her studies, even though the prospect of leaving her friends in El Paso made her “nervous and scared.” But after the first week of classes, “I was thanking my parents,” she says. “The school environment in Mexico was very different. I felt liberated. I became this whole new person— someone who was more certain of herself, who wasn’t afraid to use her voice and creativity.” 30 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020

After finishing high school, that newly liberated person decided to take a gap year and travel to France—seeing the country and learning the language. To raise funds for the trip, Munoz worked as a waitress in El Paso, with a morning shift that started at 6 a.m. Despite the stress of her morning commute—the express lane at the border opened at 6, so she would be 10 or 15 minutes late to her job each day—the tips got her across a new border. She went to France in February; then in March, COVID hit. “After three weeks in quarantine, I was in a little university town,” Maria recalls. “I was all alone, living with this elderly lady who had diabetes. She cooked these amazing meals, but I couldn’t go out, even for a walk. She stopped speaking English to me, and I knew barely any French. I sounded like a little caveman: ‘Oh, no, me like this,’ ‘Me don't like that,’ ” she adds with a laugh. But while she was in France, a bright note from the States arrived—an acceptance letter from Occidental. “I really wanted to be in L.A.,” says Maria, who wants a broad education with a focus on English literature. “Oxy was my dream come true—amazing scholarship, amazing school. I’m really grateful.” As one of about 15 first-years in Oxy’s immersive arts semester, Maria has found it “very easy to get to know my classmates and make friends with them. It’s something different, it’s a change,” she says. “There’s always something new to learn with something that is unknown to you.”


Zander Patent

MERCERSBURG ACADEMY, MERCERSBURG, PA.

Chances are Zander Patent knows some words that you don’t know—such as humuhumunukunukuapua’a, the name of a Hawaiian triggerfish. “There are certain words that the judges like to give you, so you try and figure out what words are likely to come up each year,” says the Chicago native, who competed alongside 280 of his peers in the 86th Scripps National Spelling Bee in May 2013. “It was at least two to three hours of just studying spelling every night on top of homework and sports and stuff.” “And stuff ” encompasses an impressive portfolio of activities. While attending Mercersburg Academy in Pennsylvania, Patent started his own “modern urban apparel” company, Solo Fashion Co. “I was interning for a T-shirt printing company that did designs for fraternities and sororities,” says Zander. “I got interested in that and took a class on Photoshop and design. I didn’t really care whether or not it was successful, I just felt the need to start a fashion company.” Zander’s online company is still going strong, offering T-shirts as well as hoodies. Solo’s “Rainbow Bomb”

design, for example, reimagines a photo of an atomic explosion going off in the desert in colorful hues. Not all of Zander’s adolescent activities—such as designing and baking cakes “out of boredom”—were so harmless. “I had a little bit of my own problem with vaping,” he admits. “Luckily, I quit, but re- “My grandfather’s a alizing how hard that was for me made me more baker, so I got into aware of mental health and substance abuse.” baking at a pretty In the hopes of helping others, Zander got a young age. I’d come licensed counselor to come and talk to students home from boarding every week at his school. “We were quite sucschool and I wouldn’t cessful in talking to some kids, and a lot of them have a lot to do. So have quit vaping or other substances.” I designed cakes.” Zander, who is considering a major in media arts and culture, moved to Koreatown this summer, where he’s currently living with two first-year classmates, and is working on his newest quarantine-fueled hobby: “trying to play the guitar. That’s developed a greater interest in music for me. So now I’m learning how to make songs on my own.”

Kel Kline

WILLIAM PENN CHARTER SCHOOL, PHILADELPHIA

If Kel Kline has one regret about Occidental, it’s that the College lacks an ax-throwing club. He just likes throwing axes at targets—an unlikely passion that began when he saw actor Jason Momoa doing the same on an episode of Ellen (the Aquaman star was throwing them for charity). “That seemed kind of weird,” Kel recalls. Then a friend invited him to visit the Poconos. “It was winter and I didn’t ski or snowboard, so I thought, ‘What the hell am I going to do?’ ” So he bought some axes off of Amazon, went in the woods, and threw axes. After that, Kel and his dad turned ax time into bonding time, joining a league together (“There’s all different kinds of people— they’re all cool”). Beyond the sheer pleasure of simply hurling an ax, what does he get out of it? “It’s like a Zen thing,” Kel says. “It provides the same feeling as when I’m playing music. I’m not really thinking about anything else in the moment.”

The Philadelphia native comes to Oxy from the 331-year-old William Penn Charter School, where he made an impression playing music and basketball—even on the same night, when a basketball game and talent showcase had the misfortune to overlap. Undaunted, he played the first half of the basketball game, ran off the court, and emerged minutes later, wearing his school clothes, to pound away at the piano. Kel, who is considering a cognitive science major, took a look at Oxy at a teacher’s suggestion, and he instantly sparked to its liberal arts curriculum. “There’s a lot of opportunities in Los Angeles,” he adds, “and one thing that really appealed to me is that Oxy offers a lot of internships. Being able to make those kinds of connections—and with students and professors as well—can set me up for success later in life. It’s like a dream come true.”

Until the pandemic is under control, Kline tries to set a plan for each day and stay positive. “I just try to take life one day at a time,” he says—and when the going gets tough, the tough get throwing. Gilstrap profiled the Class of 2023 for the Fall 2019 issue. SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

31


OXYTALK

Under the Boardwalk From swimsuit competition to social platform, Margot Mifflin ’82 goes Looking for Miss America

When she first arrived at Occidental, Margot Mifflin ’82 didn’t want to take a required American history course and was told to plead her case to legendary professor John Rodes, who chaired the History Department at that time. “Why don’t you want to take history?” he asked her. Mifflin replied, “I’m really just interested in literature.” What she failed to understand, she now says, is “that literature is history—and to understand literature, you have to understand history.” As irony would have it, the budding English major went on to become a journalist—and then started writing cultural history. A professor at the City University of New York, she wrote the first history of women’s tattoo culture, Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo (first published in 1997) and The Blue Tattoo: The Life of Olive Oatman (2009). For her latest book, Looking for Miss America: A Pageant’s 100-Year Quest to Define Womanhood (Counterpoint Press), Mifflin found a subject about as far removed from tattoos as one could get. The Miss America pageant was the brainchild of hoteliers in Atlantic City, N.J., intended to extend tourism season into fall. It has weathered many cultural changes since its inception nearly a century ago. Growing up, Mifflin watched the pageant but she wouldn’t consider herself a fan. “If you love it, you’re offered this thing every year,” she says. “If you don’t love it, every year this thing is foisted on us. So the question of how well do these contestants actually represent our country was of interest to me.” The idea for the book came after she stumbled onto a pageant broadcast five or six years ago “and was astonished to see women still being evaluated in swimsuits, still doing ventriloquism routines, still wear32 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020

Photo by Thea Dery ’17

ing evening gowns—not a standard part of young women’s wardrobes at that point. I also wondered why no feminist historian had examined it at length when it had endured for almost a century.” Echoing the sentiments of Last Week Tonight’s John Oliver, who memorably skewered the pageant in 2014, she asked herself: “Why is this still a thing?” Mifflin recalls from her home in Nyack, N.Y. “Because it’s presented as symbolic of national identity, I wanted to explore how that was or was not achieved.” Why is the pageant of interest now? Miss America has always promoted binary gender presentation, social conformity, and cultural tradition, all of which are being questioned and upended today. The book chronicles the gender expectations women were up against for most of a century, and how they used—and sometimes subverted— them through Miss America in a culture that denied them opportunities in areas where beauty wasn’t a factor. Gloria Steinem, Diane

Sawyer, and Oprah Winfrey all used pageantry as a stepping stone. Also, its history includes some really fascinating women. The social strictures the pageant imposed on women regularly backfired, and the winners who rebelled are among the most interesting Miss Americas— the ones who wouldn’t conform. Yolande Betbeze refused to appear in a swimsuit after her crowning in 1950, prompting a key sponsor, Catalina Swimwear, to withdraw and start the rival Miss USA contest, which Donald Trump later owned. She not only changed the course of pageant history, but also turned her back on Miss America in the 1960s and 1970s for its sexism and racism. The first Black winner, Vanessa Williams, wasn’t crowned until 1983, and Black women were actively banned from competing in the 1940s and early 1950s. There’s also Kathy Huppe, Miss Montana 1970, who quit after she was told to muzzle her antiwar views, and then appeared in Life magazine in her pageant regalia with her fist raised. How has the Miss America pageant evolved over time? When it was founded in 1921, it was largely a bathing beauty competition. This was a year after women won the vote; the pageant rewarded tradition-bound, marriageable women who were not likely to be out marching for their rights or exercising them in professions outside entertainment. In the 1930s, a new director, Lenora Slaughter, added a talent component because she didn’t want them to just be standing around in their swimsuits. In 1945, the scholarship was added under her direction as well. She wanted to ramp it up into something that was more substantial for the women who competed. That was a huge change and it also set it apart from other pageants. In the 1990s, the social issues platform was added, where contestants had to pick a cause they would advocate for during what used to be called their reign. Now it’s called their “year of service.” The last big change was in 2018, when they scrapped the swimsuits. That was an interesting transitional year: Once you take away the swimsuits, having added all these other things, is Miss America still the thing it originally set out to be? If not, what is it? A scholarship competition? A talent show? Or is it a job, as it’s now advertised by the Miss America Organization?


OXYTALK

How many Miss Americas did you talk to for the book? Was the organization cooperative while you were working on this? They verified some facts and led me to a few people I needed to speak to, but they weren’t generally helpful; I had to track down the people I wanted to talk to independently. I interviewed 15 state and national winners as well as local contestants, judges, fans, volunteers, and some state program directors—to understand the workings of Miss America and also the state competitions, each of which functions a little differently. What was the most surprising takeaway for you from all this? The fact that no winner of Hispanic heritage has ever won. [Sharlene Wells, Miss America 1985, was born in Paraguay to American parents.] There’s also never been a Muslim winner and there’s been just one Jewish winner—Bess Myerson. All but two Miss Americas have been Christian. The other surprise was that even women who had some very negative experiences— while or as a result of competing—did not regret it. They either felt it served as a springboard for getting somewhere in life or they learned from it. What other aspects of the pageant do you explore? As the pageant evolved and was refined in the 1930s, it became like a middle-class debutante ball that borrowed many of those rituals: putting marriageable women on display, with an emphasis on etiquette, walking, sitting, pedigree and charm, and expensive formal gowns. But while debutante balls protected class status, Miss America tried to propel women into the upper classes—and sometimes did. Many lower-income women enjoyed social mobility and later educational opportunities because of it. This is one of the unexpected benefits of pageantry that many people don’t know about. So it does still yield concrete benefits; the question is just why women have to compete with each other to get them when men don’t. Going back to the 1980s, did the controversy around Vanessa Williams stoke new interest in Miss America at a time when it might have been on the wane? It absolutely did. People suddenly took notice and wanted to understand what had happened and had very different views of her

Wearing her Lady Liberty crown, the very first Miss America, Margaret Gorman, receives the key to Atlantic City, N.J., from King Neptune in preparation for the 1922 pageant.

Photo courtesy Margot Mifflin ’82

and whether or not she was the victim in this scandal. [Williams lost the crown in July 1984 after suggestive images of her from an old photo shoot surfaced in Penthouse.] Conversely she’s probably the best known Miss America because of her success as a singer and actress—one who succeeded in spite of, not because of the pageant. I interviewed a woman who competed the year after that who talked about how difficult it was for them because they were feeling like the choice for that year’s winner [Sharlene Wells of Utah] was directly in response to Williams. She was the antiVanessa Williams—a very proper Mormon. Does it feel weird to be putting this book out right now with no pageant on the horizon because of the pandemic? It feels like just the right time, because I think Miss America is really winding down. They are planning their 100th anniversary

but I’m not sure what will happen after that. The ratings have declined. Participation has declined. The whole project of naming one woman as representative of American womanhood is out of step at a time when we’re grappling with the importance of recognizing diversity in every field, and especially as women are entering politics in record numbers and no longer need Miss America as a public platform as they might have 50 years ago. What do you feel its legacy will be? Miss America will go down as a long-running pop culture ritual that was a precursor to reality TV, one that reflected dominant ideas about American womanhood, race, beauty, and patriotism. As for whether or not it represents America, I didn’t mention a central paradox of the pageant: There’s nothing less American than a crown. —dick anderson SUMMER/FALL 2020  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 33


PAGE 64

Islands in the Stream Steve Casner ’73 and wife Karen ’74 share a love for Occidental—and have endowed a computer science professorship to build on that protocol

“Karen and I always felt that we have gotten a lot out of Oxy, and that it made sense to contribute to the extent we could,” Steve says. Photo by Marc Campos

When Steve Casner ’73 accepted the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers’ prestigious Internet Award in May, he had to do so remotely, thanks to COVID-19. In his videotaped acceptance speech, Casner noted, “Somehow it seems appropriate that these remarks are coming to you via the very network protocols we helped develop.” The breakthrough Casner helped engineer in the 1990s—the Real-time Transport Protocol (RTP)—enabled audio and video streaming. Even before the pandemic made “Zooming” a household word, streaming was the main source of music consumption in the United States. Last year, there were 705 billion on-demand audio streams. Add on-demand video streams, and the total tops 1 trillion. Casner’s “vision and leadership … in developing multimedia standards and protocols for the Internet have driven the success of IP-based telephony, video streaming, and multimedia conferencing we take for granted today,” the IEEE citation reads. 64 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE  SUMMER/FALL 2020

While proud of his legacy, the soft-spoken software engineer is quick to point out that RTP is the product of many minds. “The standards were produced through the combined efforts of many individuals,” he says. “They are the result of several years of tireless work by my co-authors and collaborators.” Steve and his wife of 43 years, Karen Johnson Casner ’74, have attended all their Oxy class reunions but one—not surprising, given that Karen has been class secretary for more than 40 years and once worked for the legendary Addie McMenamin ’40 in the Alumni Office. It was a gift planning session at Karen’s last reunion, in fact, that prompted the couple to create the Stephen L. Casner ’73 and Karen Johnson Casner ’74 Endowed Professorship for Computer Science—the first of its kind for Oxy’s fastest-growing department (which now boasts 72 majors). “The Casner professorship underscores the strong support of the Oxy community for our vision of computer science as an integral part of the liberal arts,” says Kathryn Leonard, professor of computer science and department chair. “It’s appropriate that our first named professorship recognizes such a valuable contribution to technology.” For a college that didn’t have a computer science department until 2017, Oxy has produced a sizable number of alumni who have made major contributions to computer and digital technology, including William Goddard ’36, co-inventor of the magnetic disk drive; Jack Shemer ’62, co-founder and CEO of Teradata, developer of the first database management system for parallel data processing; and Gary Chapman ’79, a pioneer in the formulation of Internet policy and ethics. A mathematics major at Oxy, Steve’s fascination with electronics quickly led him to the College’s first computer, a room-sized IBM 1620 housed in the Arthur G. Coons Administrative Center. After studying For-

tran with Mathematics Professor Charles Seekins, he took computer science through Oxy’s partnership with Caltech, and was hired by JPL part-time as a programmer. “My experience with the 1620 really set my direction toward computers,” Steve says. “I enjoyed writing programs because it was both creative and challenging.” During his junior and senior years he worked with Physics Professor Rex Nelson on an independent study project to connect the 1620 to a D17B guidance computer from a Minuteman missile that the College had acquired as government surplus. “We wanted to use the analog-to-digital converters of the D17B in the physics lab to acquire experimental data,” he adds. Karen, meanwhile, majored in psychology and played principal second violin in the Occidental College Orchestra. “That was my relaxation, two times a week, to just go and play my violin.” She and Steve didn’t meet until a chance encounter in Haines during his senior year. Soon Steve, working on his master’s in computer science at USC, was making regular trips back to Oxy to see Karen. The schematics Steve designed for his independent study project helped him land a research assistant position at USC’s Information Sciences Institute. After finishing his master’s, he spent two decades at ISI and was exposed to ARPANET—the Advanced Research Project Agency Network, whose technology served as the basis for the Internet. Working with collaborators on three continents, he developed RTP while at ISI. “We started just with voice on ARPANET and tried to figure out how to take a continuous stream of information, chop it into little pieces, and send it across the network where it could be reassembled,” Steve explains. His success at ISI led to an invitation to join a Silicon Valley startup to work on Internet-related product development for another 20 years until he retired in 2014. Endowing a professorship—a priority of The Oxy Campaign For Good—was an easy decision, the Casners say, as easy as Steve’s decision to join a team of volunteers at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View that restored an IBM 1620. “Now I’m working on a project to enable visitors to experience operating it,” he says. “They will be able to write programs and then run them by pushing the buttons and typing on the typewriter just as I did at Oxy 45 years ago.”


OXYFARE 

Conversations, Connections, and Community Volume 42, Number 3 oxy.edu/magazine OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE

Harry J. Elam, Jr. President Wendy F. Sternberg Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Charlie Cardillo Vice President for Institutional Advancement Vince Cuseo Vice President of Enrollment and Dean of Admission Rob Flot Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Amos Himmelstein Vice President & Chief Operating Officer Marty Sharkey Vice President for Communications and Institutional Initiatives Jim Tranquada Director of Communications editorial staff

Dick Anderson Editor Laura Paisley, Jasmine Teran Contributing Writers Marc Campos Contributing Photographer Gail (Schulman) Ginell ’79 Class Notes Editor SanSoucie Design Design DLS Group Printing OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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Published quarterly by Occidental College Main number: 323-259-2500 To contact Occidental magazine By phone: 323-259-2679 By email: oxymag@oxy.edu By mail: Occidental College Office of Communications F-36 1600 Campus Road Los Angeles CA 90041-3314 Letters and class notes may be edited for length, content, and style. Occidental College online Homepage: oxy.edu Facebook: facebook.com/occidental Twitter: @occidental Instagram: instagram.com/occidentalcollege Cover photo by Kevin Burke Oxy Wear photos by Marc Campos

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Prior to starting my term July 1 as president of the Alumni Association Board of Governors, I envisioned accomplishing goals over the next two years. But as the pandemic wears on, some of those ideas don’t seem as relevant and other needs seem more pressing—like the need to come together as a community. As my predecessor as president, Brad Fauvre ’87, has frequently noted, the role of the Alumni Association is to be the voice of Oxy alumni from all generations. To better understand your perspectives and attitudes about Oxy, we conducted a comprehensive survey of our constituents last fall for the first time since 2012. The survey showed that alumni feel Oxy prepared them well for furthering graduate education, an appreciation for the public good, and for contributing to the community. In looking deeper at the results, one thing that struck me the most is how many alumni still feel connected to the College—and that they want more virtual programming that would allow them to connect because they can’t be physically present. (This survey was conducted before the current pandemic.) One consequence of social distancing is that this is the perfect time to try out some new ideas when it comes to virtual programming. Hundreds of alumni—

many of whom haven’t been back to campus in decades—have logged in from all over to watch a series of conversations with this year’s Alumni Seal honorees. Survey respondents also told us that they want to hear about all the great things that Oxy is doing and what our alumni have been up to. So where do we begin? More than ever, we need to come together as a community. We want to support our new president, Harry J. Elam, Jr., and we’re excited to learn more about his vision for Oxy. We want to see the College do well for our students and for society—but that’s going to require a tremendous amount of lift from everyone. How can you help Oxy? Get engaged. Tell a high school student how great Oxy is—and get them to apply. Participate in our programming—and if you want to do more, raise your hand. If there’s something you want to see, speak up. And please support the College— every gift counts. I hope to see you all back on campus when the time is right. But until then, I’ll catch you on the next Zoom call. Tuan Ngo ’07 President, Board of Governors

Alumni Attitude Survey Highlights by Generations While pride in Oxy is strong across generations, student experiences and opinions about the role of alumni can differ. 1973 and earlier History and tradition have a significant impact on their opinion of Oxy 1974-1980 Think Oxy did a great job in providing opportunities like athletics, Greek life, and student clubs 1981-1993 Believe it’s important for alumni to serve as ambassadors by promoting Oxy to others 1994-2000 A diverse and inclusive environment has a significant impact on their overall opinion of Oxy 2001-2008 Believe it’s important for alumni to mentor current students 2009-2014 More than half participated in a community service organization or activity while at Oxy 2015 and later Have a strong affiliation to a student organization or activity with which they were associated Survey results based on 1,854 respondents representing the classes of 1950 to 2019.  Among all respondents, 44.8% percent identified as male, and 54.3% identified as female. 

Oxy Pride Celebration, June 29 Like many events planned for Alumni Reunion Weekend, Oxy’s first Pride celebration pivoted from an in-person activity to a virtual format in June. Partnering with the Intercultural Community Center, the Alumni and Parent Engagement Department orchestrated the relaunch of the LGBTQIA+ affinity group, which aims to create space and a sense of community for queer, trans, and ally members of the Occidental network. Attendees included alumni spanning the classes of 1969 to 2019, faculty, staff, and a special appearance and introduction from President Harry J. Elam, Jr. prior to his July 1 start date. ICC Director Chris Arguedas shared an overview of queer life on campus and the range of resources available to students. Breakout group discussions were centered around topics ranging from the individual’s definition of Pride, their experience of queer life on campus and how it has evolved, and where there is room for continuous growth.

Prior to the informal happy hour, Maureen Royer, associate vice president of individual giving, and Alumni Association Board of Governors President Tuan Ngo ’07 shared words of appreciation for Oxy’s LGBTQIA+ community and relayed ways we hope our alumni community will reengage with the group. Alumni are encouraged to reach out to the ICC for opportunities to volunteer, provide philanthropic support, and connect with current queer and trans students. Want to get involved? Email Dana Brandsey ’02 (dbrandsey@oxy.edu), associate director of alumni and parent engagement, for a recording of this event and to receive notifications of future LGBTQIA+ events.

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ANDREW FARKAS ’59 RETIRED IN 2003 as library director emeritus of the University of North Florida in Jacksonville. More recently, he created a Current Year Scholarship at Oxy. Farkas recounts the path that brought him to Oxy, and explains why he chose to help others as the College helped him. When I was a third-year law student in Budapest, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 was started by a demonstration organized by my university. Ten days after it began, the Russian army reoccupied Hungary and annihilated the revolutionary forces. Following the military defeat and taking advantage of the political confusion, I fled the country along with Farkas at his home 200,000 other Hungarians. I crossed the in Jacksonville, Fla. border on foot and arrived in the United States on Nov. 29, 1956, with the clothes I wore and without one cent in my pocket. In 1957, Occidental admitted two Hungarian refugees as special students—Robi Sarlos and myself. Our attendance was made possible by a full scholarship that covered tuition and housing. After Columbia University evaluated our respective academic transcripts from Hungary, we were given two years of college credits. Our scholarships were renewed for a second year and we both graduated in 1959. Robi went on to Yale on a Woodrow Wilson Scholarship and earned a doctorate; within weeks after graduation I was drafted into the U.S. Army and served a full tour of active duty (1959-61). While still in the Army, I applied to the UC Berkeley Library School. I entered school immediately upon my discharge, and after earning a master of library science degree, I began a highly successful 41-year career. In 1970, I became founding library director of

the newly established University of North Florida in Jacksonville. Concurrently, as professor of library science, I established an undergraduate library science program. I published five acclaimed books and several dozen articles and book chapters and the UNF faculty honored me with its Distinguished Professor Award in 1991. Without any doubt, it was my Occidental degree that made my career possible. It had to be the College’s reputation that prompted LeRoy C. Merritt, dean of the Berkeley Library School, to admit a simple soldier stationed overseas without an interview or even a phone conversation. He could not have possibly known my command of the language, erudition, general knowledge, or my suitability for the library profession— nothing beyond the fact that I earned an Oxy Photo courtesy Andrew Farkas ’59 diploma in two years. Only I knew how well the college experience had prepared me for life in my new homeland, where I have been residing now for 64 years. To show my gratitude to Oxy, I recently established a Current Year Scholarship based not on academic achievement but specifically aimed at helping needy students. I distinctly remember that my political science textbook cost $14.95—two weeks’ earnings at a time when my sole income was 75 cents an hour working parttime in the Mary Norton Clapp Library. Only a person with my experience can fully appreciate having zero resources, so I wish to help students who attend college under comparable fiscal challenges. I have been following the success of Occidental at a distance, and I am convinced that my life-changing experience with the College has been repeated many times over the years by generations of students—all of them proud Oxy alumni.

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INTO THE MATRIX: CRITICAL THEORY AND SOCIAL JUSTICE /// AUTHOR MARGOT MIFFLIN ’82 LOOKS FOR MISS AMERICA

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Occidental Magazine - Summer/Fall 2020  

Occidental Magazine - Summer/Fall 2020