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Picking the Class of ’23: Oxy’s Admission Process

Horse Therapy: Bryan McQueeney ’80

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Thanks to the collective effort by GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) to raise the equivalent of a full financial aid package, Cheyanne Domalaon ’21 was named the first GOLD Scholar this fall. A media arts and culture major from Santa Clarita, Cheyanne is “in awe” of her close connections with her professors, and truly appreciative of the generosity of the Oxy community. Every gift makes a difference. Cheyanne, how did you choose your major? I love how there are so many aspects to making a movie or TV show. The amount of people working together to produce a work of art that is shown to millions of people is inspiring and an experience, in my opinion, not found in a lot of jobs. Getting to understand all the jobs in the film industry and experiencing them is another reason why I chose media arts and culture. What has been your favorite class at Oxy so far? Materiality of Religion [taught by Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, associate professor of religious studies]. Professor HolmesTagchungdarpa really engaged with me when I had questions— she was very passionate about what she was teaching but she would never devalue someone else’s opinion. Her passion has inspired me to find something that I am passionate about. What activities do you participate in outside the classroom? Dance Pro and Pulse. I have been dancing since elementary school so it was important for me to find a school that allowed me to dance for fun rather than for competition or as a career. Dancing helps me express myself in ways that I cannot explain. How did you fund your education? Being the oldest of three and the first one to go to a college and not a community college was an eye-opening experience. My first year at Oxy, I had to talk to the financial aid office and show them more tax forms so that I could receive more aid, which I thankfully did. Now all three of us are in college—my sister is in her second

TIGER CONNECTIONS: MEASURING ALUMNI ENGAGEMENT /// CHRISTY LEAVITT ’85 TAKES ON BIG PLASTIC

Meet GOLD Scholar Cheyanne Domalaon ’21

Photo by Marc Campos

year of college, and my brother started college this fall—so I will still be taking out loans as well as working at Oxy. Support from our young alumni community is strong and growing. What does it mean to know that recent graduates helped fund your education as the first GOLD Scholar? I am so thankful to our alumni because they not only helped fund my education at Oxy but also gave me the opportunity to attend Oxy. If it weren’t for alumni support, I probably would not be able to attend Oxy at all.

oxy.edu/giving

oxy.edu/magazine

GOLD classes, let’s do it again! Please consider giving to Oxy to support more students like Cheyanne. Make an impact For Good.

ChainReaction Michael Angelo Covino ’08 stole the hearts of the Cannes jury with his debut feature. Here’s the story of his 10-year climb to overnight success


OXYFARE 

Snapshots from Volume 41, Number 4 oxy.edu/magazine

Family & Homecoming Weekend October 18-19 Photos by Marc Campos, Don Milici, and Nick Jacob

OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE

Jonathan Veitch President Wendy F. Sternberg Vice President for Academic Aairs 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 Aairs and Dean of Students Amos Himmelstein Vice President & Chief Operating OďŹƒcer Marty Sharkey Vice President for Communications and Institutional Initiatives Jim Tranquada Director of Communications editorial staff

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

Kevin Mulroy College Librarian

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 OďŹƒce 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

“Occidental College 1887� 100% cotton polo shirt Available in vintage ash gray and vintage black Sizes S-XL, $35.95

Occidental College Bookstore oxybookstore.com To order by phone: 323-259-2951 All major credit cards accepted.

Cover photo by Max S. Gerber Oxy Wear photo by Marc Campos

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1. Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde ’77 extols the virtues of a liberal arts education to an enthusiastic audience in Thorne Hall. 2. Here’s something you don’t see every day: the stiltwalking, hoop-spinning, and foot-stomping collective known as MarchFourth (founded by band leader John Averill ’89) leading the party procession from Thorne Hall. 3. Oswald and Lucia Choi-Dalton ’89 groove to the music of MarchFourth in the Academic Quad. 4. Steve Robinson ’77 and Ian McKinnon ’89 meet at the net following a round-robin tournament prior to the dedication of the McKinnon Family Tennis Center and Robinson Family Terrace. 5. The family of the late Sammy Lee ’43 gather at the diving area named for the two-time Olympic gold medalist. 6. Members of the Oxy Hawai‘i Club share the aloha spirit during Oswald’s tailgate. 7. Oxy’s “Water Queen,â€? Jo Ann (Brobst) Hirsch ’58, and husband Vin Hirsch returned to campus for a ďŹ rst look at the long-awaited De Mandel Aquatics Center, which is expected to open early next year. 8. Shae Sakamoto ’20 and Obama Fellow Kayla Williams ’20 enjoy the view at a Homecoming after-party hosted by Lucia Choi-Dalton ’89, Greg Dalton ’89, and Queence and Henry Choi ’90. 9. Jason Frasca ’91 lays down the beat with his jazz quartet at the “Crepes and Jazzâ€? after-party.

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Blyth Fund alumni and past and current faculty advisers gathered September 26 to celebrate the success of one of the oldest continuously operating student-run investment funds in the nation. Created in 1977 by Richard Link in honor of banker Charles R. Blyth, the current 14-member Blyth Fund student committee includes a range of majors, from economics and physics to music and diplomacy and world aairs.

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Save the dates for Alumni Reunion Weekend: June 12-14, 2020

alumni.oxy.edu


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Features 12 ’23 and Me The Class of 2023 has a little bit of everything going for it—and brightness is definitely in its DNA.

18 Tom Trotter ’50 drew more than a dozen covers of the humor magazine Fang as an Oxy student, and his Tiger remains iconic. He died July 26.

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Departments

The Path to Enrollment With a nationwide scandal putting the college admission process under scrutiny, how does Oxy’s team piece together each incoming class? Simple answer: There are no short cuts.

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Their Time to Ride Bryan McQueeney ’80 harnesses the healing power of therapeutic horseback riding to enhance the quality of life for the disabled.

OxyTalk From volunteerism to conversation, Oxy takes a closer measure of alumni engagement.

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First Word President Veitch on the the inspirational and transformational powers of an Oxy education. Also: Alumni notes on Professor Mabel Barnes and educated guesses for our headshot gallery.

From the Quad Nine new tenure-track faculty discuss classroom life, the liberal arts, papers, and podcasting; Oxy’s Richter Research Program takes faculty and students on an international field trip.

Page 56 Christy Leavitt ’85 is working to secure meaningful corporate commitments to curb plastic pollution—and single-use items are at the top of her to-go list.

32 Tigerwire Class notes for even years.

Punch Drunk Love How did actor-producer-director Michael Angelo Covino ’08 become the sweetheart of the festival circuit with his feature film directorial debut, The Climb? It’s not as easy as riding a bicycle—even though he makes it look that way.

PHOTO CREDITS: Occidental College Special Collections Tom Trotter, First Word | Marc Campos ’23 and Me | Amber Stubler From the Quad | Tuan Ngo ’07 OxyTalk | Oceana Page 56


FIRST WORD » FROM PRESIDENT VEITCH

Inspiration, Transformation, and Giving One challenge I encountered early on of this work, carried out in partnership Early in my tenure at Oxy, I flew up to was a lingering stereotype that Oxy was with a growing number of dedicated and Palo Alto for one of the receptions we hold known for producing teachers and preachgenerous volunteers, has put us in the posiaround the country every year for newly ers whose modest means ruled out the pos- tion to launch the public phase of the most admitted students. There, in the shadow of ambitious fundraising effort in the College’s Stanford University, we invited alumni who sibility of major gifts. I quickly learned that history: The Oxy Campaign For Good. had braved the pouring rain that day to talk isn’t true. It was Oxy alumni, after all, who We’ve been fortunate to have many about their Oxy experience. As I listened to helped create the computer disc drive and streaming audio and video, pioneered the generous donors over the years. But for the them describe how Oxy had changed their use of the EKG, negotiated the SALT treaty campaign—and, ultimately, the College— lives, I realized that if I closed my eyes, I with the Soviet Union, invented the system to be successful, we need the participation wouldn’t have been able to distinguish the alumnus who graduated in Photo by Henry Barnes of the entire Oxy community, regardless of their previous 1969 from the alum who was a level of involvement. The allmember of the Class of 2009. too-human habit of thinking They were all describing that someone else will surely the same experience: faculty take care of it usually means who believed in them before that no one will. Out of the they believed in themselves; campaign, we believe, will discovering their intellectual emerge the next generation passions and finding their of volunteers and leaders who vocation; describing the benewill take ownership of Oxy. fits of attending a small colThe need is urgent. While lege in a big city; and the we have been successful in warmth of the lifelong friendgarnering support for a ships they formed. Some number of important capital spoke of Swan, Culley, and projects that have expanded Clancy; others spoke of CaldOxy’s distinctive urban/global well, Boesche, and Homiak; profile, we still must address but the themes of inspiration the fundamentals. Like every and transformation were all college and university, we face the same. Yet as I met more alumni President Veitch shares a laugh with Steven Miller ’74, director of the Belfer Center’s the reality that college tuition International Security Program at Harvard, at a campaign event in Boston in October. is increasingly beyond the and began to try to turn that reach of middle-class families. universally positive experiof simultaneous translation used at the This is why a new culture of giving and the ence into financial support for the College, United Nations, and became president of success of our $225 million comprehensive I found far less unanimity in their attitude the United States. Oxy alumni have won campaign are critical to Oxy’s future. This toward philanthropy. One of the secrets of Pulitzers, Emmys, Grammys, Oscars, is what is behind our top campaign goal: American society is people’s remarkable Tonys, and seven Olympic medals, among $100 million for endowed student scholargenerosity and their willingness to support countless other accolades. Outside the ships—financial aid that will allow future institutions and causes they believe in. spotlight, Oxy has produced many talented generations of students to participate in Overseas, many people are nonplussed by and successful people who, if asked, could the universal Oxy experience of inspiration the tradition of American giving. Board Chair Emeritus John Farmer P’98 once told provide financial support that would have a and transformation that I heard described major impact on the College. on that rainy afternoon in Palo Alto. me about his experience raising money for Over the last decade, we have worked the American School in London, which his hard to dispel that stereotype while buildchildren had attended. Asked for a gift, one ing the kind of professional staff organizawealthy parent was taken aback, saying, tion that is essential to support the growth “When I go to my Mercedes dealer, they of a new culture of philanthropy at Oxy. All don’t ask me for donations.” 2

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FIRST WORD

» FROM THE READERS Photos by Joe Friezer/From the Joe and Henk Friezer Photography Negatives, Occidental College Special Collections

Lasting Impressions “Where Were You in ’62?” (Summer), along with the obituary for Stuart Elliott, certainly brought back memories. In 1962, I was still in high school beginning to consider where to go to college. With its strong physics and math departments, Oxy stood out among liberal arts colleges. The three-quarter Introduction to Physics sequence with Drs. Hudson, Elliott, and Sanders was the most challenging and interesting set of classes I had seen to that point. I recall all three gentlemen as outstanding and accessible teachers. Dr. Segall was more intimidating, and I admit that his class on Electromagnetic Field Theory (though not the instructor) was the one that convinced me to switch my major to math. Dr. Mabel Barnes became my adviser and always impressed me with her kindness. Her Probability Theory class was probably at the graduate level, but it was most valuable during my later education. I didn’t know at that time how groundbreaking her career was. Finally, I took Comparative Religions from Dr. Josselyn as an elective in my senior year. It was eyeopening and certainly formative in my belief that no one religion is the “right” one. Dale Hockstra ’69 Coupeville, Wash.

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Zacek, assistant professor of history. He, too, arrived at Oxy in the fall of 1962; I remember him as the leader of my firstsemester History of Civ discussion group. On page 30, among those identified, I can say with certainty that the person you show as Chaplain John Smylie is not him. On page 10 of the 1964 La Encina, you will find a photo of the real Dr. Smylie. He was a warm and inspiring friend to many of us who were also new to Oxy in 1962. Jane (Phillips) Wehrey ’66 Hacienda Heights

Art, Barnes I enjoyed finding familiar faces of people I admired in “Where Were You in ’62?” Among my heroes from those days, Dr. Mabel Barnes was a standout, and I thought that the photo captured her personality: strong, keen, and gentle. I sketched her profile one day in class and though no doubt there are better portraits, I’ve sometimes wished that I’d given it to her. Walt Bethel ’62 Vista

Putting Names to Faces As an Oxy freshman in the fall of 1962, I remember well many of the faculty and staff featured in the remarkable photographic archive (“Where Were You in ’62?”) that you showcased in the Summer issue. Among the seven photos on page 29 in need of identification, the person on the top row left is almost certainly Joseph

The person in the middle of the top row of your unidentified set of photos is James McKelvy. The blurb on the back of the 1963 Glee Clubs album says: “The 1963 Glee Clubs are under the direction of Dr. James McKelvy while the permanent conductor, Dr. Howard Swan, chairman of the Music Department, is on a Ford Foundation research project. Dr. McKelvy is president of the California Choral Conductors Guild, conductor of the Sacramento Concert Choir, and formerly conducted the Chapman College Madrigal Singers. Next year he will be conducting the Glee Clubs and Madrigal Singers of the University of California at Berkeley.” As I recall, Dr. McKelvy was not held in high regard by many of the singers, though who would be, replacing Howard Swan? Gerry Gaintner ’64 El Cerrito

Thanks to our Eagle Rockeyed readers for their help in identifying five of our mystery men: 1. Joseph Zacek. 2. James McKelvy. 3. James Ferguson ’50 M’54 Ph.D.’63. 5. Robert Knox. 6. Joseph Stenek. Numbers 4 and 7 are still open for debate— any more guesses?

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The person in the top right corner is James Ferguson ’50 M’54 Ph.D.’63, an instructor in English and comparative literature. One of his colleagues gave him high praise, saying, “Jimmy can form entire polished paragraphs in his head, then set them down on paper,” or words to that effect—whereas the rest of us, students and faculty alike, drafted, edited, scratched out, tore it up, and started over. Brenda Rueger ’64 Pasadena

The portrait on the bottom row, second from the right, is of my father, Joseph Stenek. He was hired while a patient at the V.A. hospital in Sylmar as what we today would call a grant writer, and let go shortly afterward due to his alcoholism. Larry Stenek ’72 Honolulu

I’m pretty sure the fellow in the bottom row, far right, taught Russian at Oxy. I don’t remember his name. Wallace Gaye ’69 Portsmouth, N.H.

Thanks also to Cathy Maynard West ’66, who identified Robert Knox (No. 5), assistant professor of psychology; and Eli Chartkoff, Oxy’s digitization specialist, who suggests that No. 4 may be John Pearce, assistant professor of English and comparative literature; and No. 7 may be Lawrence Arnold, instructor in mathematics. FALL 2019

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FROM THE QUAD Photo by Marc Campos

Seated, l-r: Celia Chen, Madeline Baer, Michael Amoruso, Sabrina Stierwalt, and Meimei Zhang. Standing: Seva Rodnyansky, Mariška Bolyanatz Brown, Jorgen Harris, and Timothy Rainone.

And Then There Were Nine Oxy’s new class of tenure-track faculty discuss the liberal arts, classroom life, papers, and podcasting

“Having lived in Los Angeles for 15 years, I developed a deep admiration for Oxy’s reputation, including its faculty and students,” says Madeline Baer, associate professor of diplomacy and world affairs. “Even so, when I came to campus to interview, I was completely blown away by the conversations I had with students. I knew that Occidental was home to some really exciting research, arts, and activism, but it was the students and their fierce commitment to engage with the world that made me so thrilled to join the Oxy community.” Baer is one of nine new tenure-track faculty to join the College this fall—the largest number since 2014. We asked them all to tell us about themselves, their research, and their thoughts about a liberal arts education. Their answers have been abbreviated for space; to read their bios and an extended Q&A, visit oxy.edu/magazine. 4

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What attracted you to Occidental? Sabrina Stierwalt, assistant professor of physics: Los Angeles is one of the best places in the world to do astrophysics research. There is a high density of top-tier institutions, observatories, and labs that form a leading astrophysics community. I was a staff scientist at Caltech but I found myself missing the creativity of teaching. Working with students who are learning how to approach problems in physics inspires me to think about things in new ways in my own research. Celia Chen, assistant professor of computer science: At first, it was the short commute. However, looking back at my experience as an adjunct instructor, I greatly value the supportive and diverse environment that Occidental provides, which was the deciding factor. Mariška Bolyanatz Brown, assistant professor of Spanish and French studies: So many things. The vibrant student population, the

engaged faculty, the diversity of the L.A. backdrop—Oxy has it all! What are your early impressions of classroom life? Meimei Zhang, assistant professor of comparative studies in literature and culture/Chinese: I’m quite surprised about how respectful some of my students are. They say thank you to me every time when I finish a lecture. Although some of my students are extroverts and others are more shy, I do feel they value their opportunities to learn. Timothy Rainone, assistant professor of mathematics: The students in STEM at Occidental are very talented; they are certainly capable of tackling tough concepts and handling a dense workload. I believe that it is up to us faculty to not let this talent go wasted. To that end I hope to engage and push my students miles from their comfort zone so that they may grow in maturity and in so doing meet far-reaching expectations. Seva Rodnyansky, assistant professor of urban and environmental policy: So far, students are engaged and engaging, the discussions robust, and new topics are continually brought up and explored in class and beyond. I feel lucky to have hard-working students, who care about the world and making it better generally, and especially for underserved populations.


FROM THE QUAD

What do you see as the value of a liberal arts education? Michael Amoruso, assistant professor of religious studies: It prepares students to be intellectually nimble in an increasingly complex and changing world. It’s hard to say where innovations like automation and machine learning—not to mention the rapidly shifting geopolitical order—will take us in the next 20 or 30 years. In the face of such uncertainty, it’s more crucial than ever to cultivate the transferrable habits of mind characteristic of a liberal arts education. Jorgen Harris, assistant professor of economics: The kind of thinking that a liberal arts education can teach can be really useful for learning as much as possible from your experience, for connecting your practical skills to as many domains as possible, and for guiding you through difficult decisions about how you want to spend your life. I’m not sure that a liberal arts education makes you a “better person,” but it can give you an ability to learn more, understand more, and be more thoughtful in your approach to life. Madeline, your research explores the relationship between states, markets, and human rights through the lens of water policy in Latin America. What are the implications of defining access to water and sanitation services as human rights? Baer: Defining water and sanitation services as human rights can be a very effective way to bring resources and attention to the stark inequities in access to water within and across countries. When the promise of equity and justice inherent in a human rights approach is combined with concrete policy, institutional and budgetary changes, access to water can be significantly improved in national contexts. However, rights alone are not enough—citizen participation in water governance, protection of the public character of water, and environmental stewardship are all necessary to make lasting improvements to water governance. Jorgen, the title of your job market paper asks the question “Do Wages Fall When Women Enter an Occupation?” What were your conclusions? Harris: I find that wages do fall when women enter an occupation—my estimates suggest that a 10 percentage point increase in the female share of an occupation’s workforce leads to a decrease in wages for men and women of about 7 to 8 percent. As to

why, I have considered two broad hypotheses. First, the presence of women in an occupation might lower the prestige of an occupation in a manner that results in lower demand and lower wages. In this case, the negative effect of a female workforce on wages may represent a form of discrimination against women. Alternatively, the presence of women in an occupation might lead employers to adopt costly practices that are valued more highly on average by female employees than by male employees, such as flexible scheduling. In this case, the negative effect of a female workforce on wages may represent useful accommodations to the preferences of workers. Celia, can you talk about your research into software understandability? Chen: Software understandability plays a pivotal role in software maintenance and evolution. A deeper understanding of code is the stepping stone for most software related activities, such as bug fixing. Being able to measure the understandability of a piece of code might help in estimating the effort required for a maintenance activity, in comparing the quality of alternative implementations, or even in predicting bugs. Unfortunately, existing research points out that there is no correlation between understandability and code readability, and metrics generally used for effort estimation and commonly associated with understandability, such as cyclomatic complexity, actually have low or no correlation with understandability. Therefore, new ways to capture facets of code understandability is essential. What I have been doing is to utilize natural language processing techniques to analyze comments, commit messages and other nonsource code software artifacts generated when producing source codes to examine whether these could be used to assess software understandability better. Mariška, of the classes you have taught at Oxy, which is your favorite and why? Bolyanatz Brown: I’d have to say two classes: Introduction to Linguistics (Ling 301) is a delightful way to introduce students to the world of thinking about language in a new way—or, perhaps, thinking about it consciously for the first time. Many of my former students have reported their excitement as they hear and can name a type of speech error on a podcast, or notice the close connection between variation in speech produc-

tion and discrimination in the United States. The second would have to be Spanish in the United States (Span 342). In this course, students conducted mini fieldwork projects in Spanish-speaking communities in L.A., and compiled original data currently being assembled for a publication. This course also drew close connections among current themes such as politics, racism, and education policy, as we explored the value-adding of maintaining Spanish as a heritage language. Tim, when did you discover you had a mind for mathematics? Rainone: Toward the end of high school and in my first years of college I was blessed to have professors who loved mathematics and, as a result, taught the subject carefully and precisely. They introduced me to the beauty of mathematics and to the art of writing rigorous proofs. I began to appreciate the apparent objectivity of math. I don’t think I had a “mind for mathematics” per se, but rather began to see the beauty therein. Like anything in this world, we end up loving what we pursue. Sabrina, what’s your podcast about? Stierwalt: I host a weekly science podcast called Everyday Einstein through Macmillan Publishers. Each episode is only about six minutes and breaks down the science behind current events and long-standing questions: How did water get on Earth? Do those ancestry DNA kits really work? Or what does the scientific evidence have to say about the latest health craze? I get around 50,000 downloads per episode and I’m always looking for ideas, so send me your burning science questions! Seva, you have a number of manuscripts at various stages of review. Can you talk about a favorite research topic, and what you have learned from it? Rodnyansky: My dissertation and some subsequent work is about moving: how often, where, and what type of people make residential moves. This seemingly trivial, yet understudied, portion of human lives has large ramifications for policy and planning. Moving is a dynamic process: who moves in and out dictates the level of service governments and private agencies need to provide, from free school lunches and public transit to affordable housing and translation services. Static processes are easier to conceptualize and count—but, without including moving, it is easy to provide inadequate type or level of policy response. FALL 2019

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FROM THE QUAD

research across the globe. For its golden anniversary, the International Programs Office and its faculty advisory committee decided to innovate by pairing Oxy Richter students with faculty members abroad. “Our goal was to create an opportunity that is mutually beneficial to the faculty’s scholarly or creative trajectory and the students’ continued academic development,” says Julie Santos, associate director of international programs. Over the summer, Oxy faculty members Darren Larsen, Alexandra Puerto, and Amber Stubler each took a group of three student collaborators to Iceland, Mexico, and Jamaica, respectively, for two to three weeks of handson research. Students explored questions related to their professor’s expertise and their own courses of study—a unique opportunity for them to work at a level normally reserved for graduate students. Each trip required advance preparation by the students, whether an intensive workshop, preparatory reading, or ocean diving certifications. But the most concentrated work took place in the field as they fully immersed themselves in their subjects, learning from—and with—their faculty guides.

“Being surrounded on all sides by so much biodiversity and plant life is incredible,” says Hannah Hoefs ’20 (examining aquatic life in Jamaica). “It’s like hiking underwater.” Photo courtesy Amber Stubler

Deep Dive Oxy’s Richter Research Program takes faculty and students on an international field trip

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As she stood in the humidity of the Mexican jungle, facing the mural of the woman with the blue hair, Natalia Guerra ’20 knew she had seen her before somewhere. It suddenly clicked: A professor back at Oxy had shown a photo of that very mural, painted on a wall of the indigenous school she was visiting, in a classroom lesson on the Zapatista movement. “To understand it anew in that depth and proximity was so special,” says Guerra, a critical theory and social justice major from Rancho Palos Verdes who traveled to Mexico as a participant in Oxy’s Richter Research Program. “I felt more intellectual curiosity during this three-week span than I probably have in my whole Oxy career.” For 50 years, Oxy’s Richter Research Program has been funding immersive student

In the remote central highlands of Iceland, soil erosion has been occurring at an exponential rate in recent centuries. Darren Larsen, assistant professor of geology, is trying to find out why. Larsen’s research looks at how climate variability has played out over the past 10,000 years and how the Arctic region has responded to modern climate change. He focuses on sedimentary systems, the primary archive available to scientists to understand past environments. Since Iceland has only been inhabited by humans since 871, it’s also a unique place to study the impact of human activities. “I find it very important for students to understand where scientific data comes from, and that’s all about going out to the field and actually getting your hands dirty,” Larsen says. His team, which included geology majors Ian Van Dusen ’20, Lori Berberian ’20, and Yiming Zhang ’19, spent 18 days in July gathering data and camping in tents beneath the midnight sun. They sampled sediment accumulations from lake beds and the rocky landscape between the Langjökull and Hofsjökull icecaps. They are analyzing the samples to


FROM THE QUAD

Mexico photos courtesy Natalia Guerra ’20 | Iceland photo courtesy Lori Berberian ’20

create a chronology that will illuminate rates of erosion since the last Ice Age. “The Richter isn’t just a ‘one-and-done’ type of experience,” Larsen explains. “My students will be working on this research throughout the year, and two are using it as the basis for their senior comps.” Berberian counts herself fortunate to have access to “unparalleled” opportunities for geology research at Oxy, both locally and abroad. This was her second trip to Iceland in three years, and back on campus, she was excited to present her findings at the Undergraduate Research Center Summer Research Conference on July 31. It’s a three-hour drive on a mountainous two-lane road from San Cristóbal de las Casas to Hospital San Carlos at the entrance to the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas, Mexico. Founded in 1969 by Bishop Samuel Ruiz García, the hospital serves the region’s indigenous Maya population as a hub for not just healthcare but community and political organizing as well. Since 2014, Alexandra Puerto, associate professor of history and a specialist in 20thcentury Mexico, has been studying the hospital’s role in the Maya liberation movement —the interdisciplinary theme of her research group this summer. Three students accompanied Puerto to Chiapas: Julia Viola Tello ’21, a history major from Oakland; Xiomara Rodriguez ’20, a computer science major from Chicago; and Guerra. Each student chose a subtopic relevant to her major. “All of us have different approaches and perspectives to this project,” Guerra says. “My connection was my family’s roots in indigenous culture in Peru. I was so happy to

find the space to do my own research about the liberation of indigenous communities.” Guerra explored autonomous education in indigenous communities while Rodriguez looked at how Maya communities used technology in the 1990s to organize politically. Viola Tello focused on indigenous healing practices and midwifery. The projects were rooted in archival research, sifting through thousands of documents, as well as oral history. Puerto took the students on field trips on weekends, and the group also worked closely with three local institutional partners that offered invaluable intellectual and logistical support. “I was so pleased for the students to see the themes of health, education, and liberation in the archive and then link that to every experiential activity we had,” Puerto says. On the last night, all three students told Puerto that the trip had been the highlight of their Oxy trajectory—a feeling she says is mutual. “Being engaged with the students that way was the first time that I was fully embodied as a teacher-scholar,” Puerto says. “I have no doubt that I’m a better historian and instructor from this experience.” It’s not every day that one encounters an all-female team of marine biology researchers. When Amber Stubler, assistant professor of biology, accompanied biology majors Hannah Hoefs ’20, Sarah Ashey ’20, and Skylar Wuelfing ’21 to track coral reef dynamics in Jamaica last July, the group was continuing a study that Stuber had begun as a Ph.D. student at Stony Brook University 10 years ago. “It’s a great opportunity because I’m still at the start of my career with this really long data set, so I’ll have so many potential projects that my students can be involved with

above left: Julia Viola Tello ’21, Xiomara Rodriguez ’20, and Natalia Guerra ’20 during a break from their research in Chiapas, Mexico, in July.center: A mural on a school building in a Zapatista community. right: Geology majors Yiming Zhang ’19, Lori Berberian ’20, and Ian Van Dusen ’20 examine the rocky landscape between Iceland’s Langjökull and Hofsjökull icecaps.

as it continues on,” says Stubler, who joined the Oxy faculty in 2017. Since the outset of Stubler’s research, 180 terra cotta tiles have been screwed into the reef at multiple sites, providing a desirable place for coral larvae to reproduce and grow. She notes that it’s easy to see how many baby corals are produced each year; what’s less clear is whether they’re actually growing to maturity, since recovery has been spotty. Over three weeks, the researchers spent nearly 40 hours underwater, photographing and measuring coral formations. Diving is physically demanding, and Stubler’s students had to complete rigorous AAUS diving certifications prior to the trip. But she says the experience enhanced their growth as scientists and made it possible for them to be impressive ambassadors for women scientists in a country where that isn’t the norm. Hoefs, who grew up in St. Paul, Minn., says she has a new appreciation for how science actually gets done in the field. “Professor Stubler has been doing this for years, so it was really amazing to be able to work with her and see what goes into planning and carrying out an international research trip.” It was also special for students to have buy-in on the project, Stubler adds, and be able to brainstorm and problem-solve on the spot as a group. “That’s how field work is— it breaks the boundaries of who’s the professor and who’s the student and it makes you a collaborative team.”—laura paisley FALL 2019

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FROM THE QUAD

Photo credits: Occidental College Special Collections (baseball, Whitney), Kevin Burke (Provost), David Fulp (Browne), and USA Volleyball (Jorgensen)

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Clutch Performers Oxy’s seventh class of inductees into the Athletics Hall of Fame taps into a deep pool of Tiger greats

A dominating baseball team, an international volleyball star, an Olympic hurdler, a PGA tour champion, and an All-American water polo goalie were inducted into the Occidental Athletics Hall of Fame during a reception and ceremony on October 18 as part of Family & Homecoming Weekend. “This year’s inductees are as impressive a group as any in previous years—and that’s saying a lot, given Oxy’s long and storied tradition,” said Shanda Ness, Occidental’s athletic director, in announcing the 2019 class. In the spirit of the ceremony, let’s honor them in the order of their induction. 8

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Goalie Jackie Provost ’02 was the first woman in Oxy history to be named to the first-team All-American and All-SCIAC water polo squads for four consecutive years. With Provost and her intimidating glare in goal, the Tigers went to the Collegiate III national championships three times, winning it all in 2000. Provost was named tournament MVP in 2000 and 2002 and Division III National Player of the Year in 2000. “Jackie was the heart of our team. She was its engine, its visionary, and its largest cheerleader,” said teammate Kim Foulds ’02, who met Provost as a high school senior at

the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo. “Even if you hated going up against her, it wasn’t lost on opponents how special Jackie’s talent was.” A kinesiology major from Oakland, Provost thanked her mother for her sacrifice and vision, and added, “I’m here on this stage today because of our dear late Coach Fos”— Dennis Fosdick, who with Oxy made eight straight trips to the Division III nationals. Over the years, Provost has witnessed firsthand the growth of women’s water polo across the country. “Just to see how the sport took off, how women excelled and continue to dominate on the national level and the Olympic level, it is incredible what we’re able to accomplish,” she said. When Ron Whitney ’64 got to Oxy and was told to memorize “Io Triumphe,” he thought it was a freshman prank: “I come from Modesto,” recalled Whitney, who was the first in his family to graduate from high school. “I didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.”


FROM THE QUAD

Photo By Marc Campos

opposite page: 1. Coach Bill Anderson (front row, far left) and members of the 1954 baseball team. 2. Jackie Provost ’02 as a junior at Oxy. 3. Olin Browne ’81 on the PGA circuit in 2004. 4. Ninja Jorgensen ’61 (standing, third from left) and her teammates from the U.S. Women’s National volleyball team in 1967. 5. Ron Whitney ’64 after crossing the finish line. this page: 6. Provost tears up at the podium following an induction speech by teammate Kim Foulds ’02. 7. “I am grateful beyond belief,” Whitney said of the honor. 8. From left, Baseball coach Luke Wetmore, Bob Risley ’56, Murray Via ’54, and Shanda Ness, director of athletics. 9. Dorothy Meyer ’56, left, and longtime teammate Linda Murphy accepted Jorgensen’s posthumous honor.

partner Dorothy Meyer ’56. “Ninja had a heck of a drop shot and was a fabulous tennis player, but she couldn’t do lobs,” Meyer said. 6

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Whitney was a standout half-miler at Thomas Downey High School in Modesto. Working with Occidental Coach Jim Bush, he changed his focus to the 400-meter hurdles and was runner-up at the NCAA Championships in 1963. Four years later, Whitney was ranked No. 1 in the world and won the USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships in 1967 and 1968. Whitney arrived at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City as a favorite to win the gold in the 400-meter hurdles. But the new all-weather tracks there took some getting used to, and he finished sixth. “Coming to Occidental with very little prior formal education, I attended every class and did every homework assignment,” said Whitney, who was headmaster of the Heritage School in Calistoga for 24 years. At the time, he admitted, “I hated History of Civilization. And I will say that in the last 50 years I’ve never made it through a week without reflecting on what I learned in History of Civilization.”

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Ninja Jorgensen ’61 developed a passion for volleyball as a student at Oxy. As a middle blocker, she competed on the U.S. Women’s National Team from 1965 to 1973 and the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team in 1968. In 1967, Jorgensen earned a gold medal at the Pan American Games and a silver medal at the World Championship in Tokyo. In six seasons with the Long Beach Shamrocks, she won four straight national USA Volleyball championships starting in 1967. For all her success as a volleyball player, Jorgensen’s greatest legacy may be the work that she and her colleagues did at Glendale High School, “where they had teams and went to tournaments and taught people how to referee 10 years before Title IX,” said Linda Murphy, her former Shamrocks and U.S. Women’s National teammate. Accepting the honor for Jorgensen, who died in 2017, was longtime friend and tennis

Olin Browne ’81 is one of only five professional golfers to notch career wins on the PGA’s developmental tour, the PGA Tour, and the PGA Champions circuit. He began his pro golfing career in 1984 and is a three-time PGA Tour champion, winning in 1998, 1999, and 2005. In 2009, Browne played in his first Champions Tour and took home a victory two years later at the U.S. Senior Open. In prerecorded remarks, Browne thanked his wife, Pam (Harder) ’81; his Oxy golf coach, Bill McKinley; and his teammates “who were part of this four-year run. This game just grabbed me by the throat,” said Browne, who first picked up a golf club at age 19. “It’s been 40 years now and it happened in a blink.” The 1954 baseball team won Oxy’s fourth consecutive SCIAC title, finishing 8-0 in conference play and 18-3 overall. In his final season as coach, 10 of Bill Anderson’s players were selected All-SCIAC. The first team included the entire infield—first baseman Ken Wolters ’57, second baseman Gil McFadden ’54, third baseman Jim Burt ’55, and shortstop Ed Marshall ’56—as well as pitcher Frank Bennett ’54 and outfielders Pat Delaney ’55 and Murray Via ’54. Catcher Jim Hollinger ’56 and outfielders Gary Hess ’56 and Mike Bell ’55 were named to the second team. It’s the only time in Oxy history that two pitchers—Dick Sovde ’56 and Bennett— threw no-hitters in the same season. Batting cleanup, Via congratulated the selection committee for tackling the “impossible task to take 130 years of Oxy athletics, over 1,000 different sports teams, and over 10,000 athletes, and you picked four tonight and a team. Now, that’s tough to do.” FALL 2019

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FROM THE QUAD

» WORTH NOTING Photo courtesy the NCAA

Looking for Number 16 Presidential Search Committee narrows field to five, with an announcement expected in mid-February

The field of candidates to become Occidental’s 16th president has been narrowed to five “exceptional and accomplished” individuals by the 21-member, multi-constituent Presidential Search Committee. If all goes as planned, the committee will submit the names of two or three finalists to the Board of Trustees to make a final decision at its next meeting January 26. “It likely will be mid-February, however, before a public announcement can be made,” committee co-chairs Coit “Chip” Blacker ’72 and Wendy Sternberg, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College, wrote in an email to campus November 1. The committee was formed after Jonathan Veitch announced in February that he would be stepping down in June 2020 after 11 years as president. With faculty, staff, student, trustee, and alumni representatives, the committee has been working with Boston-based Isaacson, Miller, a national executive search firm with higher education expertise, to identify and screen candidates. Last spring the committee held a series of listening sessions and circulated an anonymous online survey to gather input from the campus community about its priorities and what qualities it would like to see in Oxy’s next president. “In consultation with faculty and students, we designed this process from the start to try and ensure that we got as much input as possible from the entire community,” Sternberg says. The initial field of candidates was narrowed to a short list of 10 individuals, all of whom were interviewed by the search committee in November. The five semifinalists are scheduled to participate in a second round of interviews in December. While each of the five semifinalists will participate in a full day of interviews, the candidates will not be participating in open campus forums dur10

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ing their visits, a decision announced at the start of the process. “The committee will be open and transparent to the greatest extent possible, but the world has changed since our last presidential search,” Sternberg says, citing the ubiquity of social media. “We need to take seriously our obligation to protect the privacy and confidentiality of candidates and give the College the chance to attract the highest caliber candidates.” To broaden the input into the process, the December interviews will include 11 additional members of the campus community drawn from students, faculty, and staff. Visit oxy.edu/presidential-search/newsupdates for details on the search process and committee membership. » In two separate elections overseen by the National Labor Relations Board over a recent six-month period, adjunct faculty and a group of Oxy administrative and support staff across multiple departments have voted to unionize. A majority of both groups chose to be represented by Service Employees International Union Local 721, the Los Angelesbased local that represents more than 95,000 public sector employees. Following both elections, College officials promptly announced that they would respect the outcome and bargain in good faith. “The faculty are at the heart of the educational enterprise at Oxy,” Dean Wendy Sternberg said after the adjunct faculty results were announced May 14. “Our students don’t distinguish rank and title in the classroom, and it is the faculty-student relationship that is fundamental to the Occidental experience.” Amos Himmelstein, chief operating officer, struck a similar note after the results of the

Track and field and volleyball standout Sabrina Degnan ’19 was among 30 semifinalists nationwide for the NCAA Woman of the Year Award. A psychology major from Atascadero, she is the first Oxy athlete to be among the NCAA’s Top 30 and was recognized with her peers at the NCAA’s awards dinner in Indianapolis on October 20. Degnan was a national qualifier in the javelin, won multiple SCIAC championships in both the hammer and javelin, and was named the SCIAC Field Athlete of the Year in 2019.

staff election were made public September 9. “Oxy staff across all departments have been and will be vital to carrying out the mission of the College. Regardless of what the final vote results were, the College will continue to develop stronger connections with staff.” Roughly 110 adjunct faculty make up one bargaining group; approximately 80 staff members are included in the other. Oxy’s facilities management and hospitality services staff has been represented by Teamsters Local 911 for decades. » Occidental maintained its No. 39 ranking among national liberal arts colleges in U.S. News & World Report’s 2020 Best Colleges survey. In competing college guide rankings, The Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education listed Oxy No. 36 among U.S. liberal arts colleges, while Forbes ranked Oxy at No. 38. Occidental receives four-star ratings for academics and quality of life from The Fiske Guide to Colleges, and ratings of 91 for academics and 96 for financial aid from Princeton Review’s The Best 385 Colleges. Oxy also appears on U.S. News’ and Kiplinger’s “Best Values” lists.


FROM THE QUAD

» MIXED MEDIA How Money Became Dangerous: The Inside Story of Our Turbulent Relationship with Modern Finance, by Christopher Varelas ’85 and Dan Stone (Ecco). Money used to be simple: a bank account, a mortgage, perhaps some basic investments. Wall Street didn’t have a reputation for greed and recklessness. That all began to change in the 1980s, as financial systems became increasingly complex and the financial world began to feel like an enigma—a rogue force seemingly controlled by no one. Drawing on firsthand involvement in the events that shaped modern money, Varelas journeys from the crimeridden L.A. jewelry district to the cutthroat Salomon Brothers trading floor, from the high-stakes world of investment banking to the center of the technology boom, capturing the key deals, developments, and players that made the financial world what it is today. How Money Became Dangerous also makes the case for why Wall Street needs to be saved, if only to save ourselves. Varelas is a founding partner of Riverwood Capital, a private-equity firm in Menlo Park, and an Occidental trustee. One Family: Indivisible, by Rev. Steven Greenebaum ’70 (MSI). Throughout history we have divided ourselves into groupings of “us” and “them.” In One Family: Indivisible, Greenebaum shares his own deeply spiritual and lifelong journey as a way to acknowledge our differences without dividing and subdividing ourselves into competing tribes. In a brief passage, he discusses “several wonderful awakenings” he experienced going to college, including choral music, the “incredible diversity and beauty of humanity’s myths,” and the “diversity of humanity” he met at Oxy. “I deeply believe in the importance of a liberal arts education,” writes Greenebaum, who retired last June as founding minister of the Living Interfaith Church in Lynnwood, Wash.

Game-Time Decision Making: HighScoring Business Strategies From the Biggest Names in Sports, by David Meltzer ’90 (McGraw-Hill Education). When the pressure is on, great coaches remain laserfocused, confident, and fully in charge of their roster. They’re the same way when it comes to developing strategies and game plans to succeed. In short, they always win because they have a superior decision-making process. Meltzer provides everything you need to build a championship-level business. Meltzer is co-founder and CEO of Sports 1 Marketing, a global sports and entertainment marketing agency. He lives in Ladera Ranch. Noir Librarian, by Marilyn N. Robertson ’70 (Alibris). Robertson is retired from the Los Angeles Unified School District, where she worked first as a teacher and eventually as coordinating field librarian, traveling to help the many elementary schools in the district. In her debut collection of poetry, she combats the “dreadful” stereotype of librarians, writing a dozen poems in the persona of “Noir Librarian,” a character she cooked up while studying with L.A. poet Suzanne Lummis. (Lummis praised the 50-poem collection as “deft, appealing poems with a swath of mischief, a dash of humor, and ample humanity.”) Robertson has been publishing poetry since 2006, including two poems in the 2015 anthology Wide Awake: Poets of Los Angeles and Beyond. “Although I have a doctorate in education from USC, this is my first published book that is not a dissertation,” she writes. The Well of Simplicity: Poems About Bodybuilding, by Suboh Suboh ’10 (writing as Almira Colby). With titles such as “Squats,” “Deadlifts,” “Dumbbell Rows,” and “Leg Curls,” Suboh examines the superabundance of intriguing knowledge that can be creatively articulated by bodybuilding poetry. “I read a lot of intriguing literature about bodybuilding by Steve Reeves and Arnold Schwarzenegger and I was inspired by the cerebral, creative, and cheerful elements

that were present in their work,” writes Suboh, who majored in critical theory and social justice and lives in Los Angeles. The Witches Are Coming, by Lindy West ’04 (Hachette Books). In a collection of essays that examine misogyny in the #MeToo era, West extolls the world-changing magic of truth, urging readers to reckon with dark lies in the heart of the American mythos, and unpacking the complicated politics of not being a white man in the 21st century. “For a long time, a certain set of men have called women like me ‘witches’ to silence and discredit us,” West told NPR—and The Witches Are Coming intends “to reclaim” that term. West is an opinion writer for The New York Times and author of the acclaimed memoir and Hulu series Shrill. She lives in Seattle. Stream this: Now in its second season, the comedic web series The North Pole (thenorthpoleshow.com) explores how three best friends from Oakland struggle to stay rooted as their neighborhood becomes a hostile environment. Co-creator and co-producer Darren Colston ’02 and director Yvan Iturriaga ’03 examine issues of gentrification and global warming as Nina, Marcus, and Benny combat evil landlords, crazy geoengineering plots, and the threat of deportation. “Since the early 1900s, what happens at the border has been very problematic,” Iturriaga told KQED arts writer Nastia Voynovskaya. “It’s something we need to be talking about, and we need to address why it’s happening.” Photo courtesy Martha Matsuoka ’83

The North Pole co-creator and co-producer Darren Colston ’02 and director Yvan Iturriaga ’03 came to Choi Auditorium on October 30 for a screening and discussion of their web series— and some of their Oxy buddies came out for the event. From left, Horacio Aceves ’03 (program coordinator of Upward Bound), Ricky Horne Jr. ’04, Colston, Iturriaga, and Will McFadden ’01. fall 2019  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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By PETER GILSTRAP Photos by MARC CAMPOS

olitics and activism are equal passions for Addie Alex ander , who grew up in the hotbed of both: Washington, d.c. Her interest in social justice began only a few miles from the White House, as a student at Woodrow Wilson High school (whose mascot is also a tiger). “We had a huge segregation issue, to the point where black kids were using one side of the stairs and white kids were using the other,” addie recalls. she joined a club called common Ground, which was created “to forge a bond between different ethnicities, races, and genders.” the group wanted to address the social justice issues “that we saw in our city, but also in our country,” says addie, who became co-president of the group. “so as a leader i led events to get the whole community to come together to really try to eradicate the segregation that we saw at our school. But it was also to give students a platform to speak out on social justice issues.” and it wasn’t just talk. one week after the election of donald trump as president in 2016, common Ground organized a citywide walkout of all d.c. public, private, and charter schools, drawing 5,000 participants. “We had 12

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a huge march from the White House to the capitol,” addie says, culminating at the Washington monument. in her junior year, addie also was part of a nonprofit program called operation Understanding dc, a yearlong program that brings together 12 Jewish students and 12 black students from the district. “We talked about each other’s cultures and histories, and then over the summer we went on an 18-day trip following the trail of the Freedom Riders through the south,” she explains. But addie spent time on a stage that had nothing to do with speeches. she acted in the musicals Hair, Urinetown, and Legally Blonde, and directed the plays Almost, Maine and 12 Angry Jurors. singing is a passion for her, and she’s been selected as a member of oxy’s treble a cappella ensemble, the accidentals. “one of the big misconceptions about d.c. is that it’s solely politics, but it has a lot of culture that’s very unique to the city that i think is often overlooked,” addie notes. “Growing up there i was very aware about what was going in our government, but i was also surrounded by a really big group of different cultures that all came together.” addie wound up nearly 2,700 miles from home in large part thanks to her mother, a former college counselor. “i knew i wanted a smaller liberal arts college, and that i didn’t want to be in the middle of nowhere,” she says. “my mom was making a checklist and she said, ‘i think occidental checks off a lot of these boxes.’ “a lot of the East coast liberal arts schools are in the middle of nowhere,” she adds. “i really do love it here.”


“I photograph my life to capture moments I want to remember and beauty I want to appreciate.”

Adrian Manhey is quite likely one of the few members of the Class of ’23 who has built a robot— at least a robot named Daisy. “We built a robot that kind of looked like a box on wheels,” says Adrian, who was part of the robotics program at Benjamin Franklin High School in his community of Oxyadjacent Highland Park. “And Daisy ended up looking like a box frame that was made out of metal with a couple of wheels. She didn’t have a face. It’s not as high-tech as you might think, but actually building it was kind of difficult.” Adrian took his building skills beyond robots at Franklin High. “I was part of this architecture, construction, and engineering program that they had,” he says. “We would build designs for buildings, like food courts or apartment buildings and things like that.” Deep-dive pursuits in learning, no doubt, but nothing compared to the Academic Decathlons during his junior and senior years. “They were the most rigorous experiences I’ve had in my academic career,” says Adrian, whose Franklin team won its firstever citywide competition over 54 competing LAUSD teams last February. “It was more studying than I’d ever done in my life. But you end up having a lot of fun studying with your teammates.” Growing up mere blocks away, Adrian was aware of Occidental, but when it came time to make a choice for life after high school, the College became a new home away from home. “I was lucky enough to find out that Franklin was part of the Oxy Centennial Scholarship,” he says of the program, which offers full tuition and board for one incoming student from each of four local high schools. “Oxy is its own space and it’s very enclosed. But once you walk a couple blocks, it’s the place where I grew up in. So I ended up being in an area I knew at a place that I really liked.”

although Mia Steinhaus-Shinkman was raised in nearby sherman oaks, she was adopted from an orphanage in china at 13 months. “i grew up in a Jewish household where we celebrated the holidays. We did shabbat, we did a lot of different Jewish cooking and everything,” she says. “But i think my family views Judaism as more of a culture than as a religious practice.” at north Hollywood High school, mia kept busy beyond just academics. she co-founded the UnicEF club, “and i was in our school’s business club, and our make-a-Wish club, and our american cancer society club. and then i was part of our Jewish student Union, which discussed different holidays and events in the history of Judaism.” mia’s mother suggested attending occidental, and the fit was good. “it seemed that such a small school would foster the same kind of inclusive community that i had in my high school,” says mia, who’s interested in cognitive science and economics. “i really liked its focus on social justice and the atmosphere of the campus.” she’s looking forward to exploring her new surroundings with camera in hand. “i first started taking pictures with my dad—he taught me how to use a camera,” she says. “it’s a way of connecting to others by showing them your perspective and what’s important to you.” fall 2019  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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Edin Custo was born and raised in the city of mostar in Bosnia and

Herzegovina. “it was really divided because there are two ethnic groups there, croatians and Bosnians, and a conflict between them has been going on for a long time,” he says. “the war has been over for almost 20 years, but the tensions can still be felt.” Edin grew up attending public schools, but a defining moment came when, as a junior in high school, he was accepted to the United World college in mostar, which was founded in 2006 by the nonprofit Education in action Foundation. “UWc is a global educational movement that makes education a force to unite people, nations, and cultures for peace and a sustainable future, and to help heal and mend communities that have been in conflict,” explains Edin, who shared a classroom with students from over 80 countries in a student body of 200. the college “opened so many doors for me,” he adds. after UWc, Edin spent a gap year in senegal in a U.s.-based program called Global citizen Year. “it’s not a ‘white savior’ program,” he says. “We didn’t go there to show them our way of the world. it was the other way around. i went there to learn about the cultural context of islam. senegal is a muslim majority country, and i’m a muslim myself. it was an amazing experience.” a self-described introvert, Edin turns to academics to “navigate the social dynamics” in his life. But at some point, everybody has to chill out. For him, that means doing mathematics. “math is something that relaxes me, when i’m able to use theorems and employ logic to solve problems, which is completely opposite to real-world problems,” he says. “You can’t approach all of them logically because they involve people, and math problems don’t.” it’s no shock that his focus at oxy—which Edin learned about from a friend in senegal—is leaning toward math. But he’s also interested in exploring biochemistry and neuroscience. “i’m fascinated by the human brain. there’s a series of nerves and neurons—100 billion of them—that are compressed in such a small area of space and made to function so sustainably. and we witness every day when individuals, thanks to their cognition, are able to produce and build and achieve. and i’m just fascinated with that.” 14

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“I always saw America as this kind of wondrous place with a world of opportunities,” says Bia Pinho , who left her hometown of Curitiba, capital of the Brazilian state of Paraná, to begin her junior year in high school in Miami. While that has ultimately proved to be true, it also has come with a few frustrations— and one huge misunderstanding. Because school officials misinterpreted her transcripts, she says, “They thought I was in 10th grade instead of 11th.” The only thing Bia knew about American high schools was the International Baccalaureate program, which is designed for young students to develop intercultural understanding and peaceful coexistence. Although Bia’s Miami counselors told her it was “way too late” for her to join the IB, she pursued the issue, ultimately landing four AP classes. As a result of the experience, she co-founded the Hi-Guides, a student group to rescue others from such pitfalls. “We decided it would really help inform students of what they’re coming into and all the opportunities that were at my high school, which was very big and confusing.” While dealing with all of this, Bia managed to care for her two younger siblings. “It was tough,” she admits. “My parents are divorced and I lived with my dad. By senior year I had a larger academic workload, and I took over cooking and cleaning and helping my brothers with homework.” Bia, who is interested in studying economics and music, became aware of Oxy through a school counselor. “I didn’t even know what a liberal arts education was but, after she told me about it, I realized it’s exactly what I needed.” Despite the hurdles, it’s paying off. “My first day here, I was really scared, but the campus is so small I can walk anywhere and find at least five people that I know. One of the main reasons I moved to Miami was to go to college in America, and to live this dream is more exciting than all the intimidation and all the crazy, scary aspects of it.”

“Miami is very diverse, but the diversity here is different. There’s just so many cultures and so many things to do in Los Angeles.”


Luke is pondering a DWA or political science major, he says,“but almost anything in the humanities is in play.”

Growing up multiracial presented a challenge for Delphi Drake-Mudede . “my dad’s from Zimbabwe and my mom is a white american,” says the seattle native. “i didn’t really understand my own identity.” as a high school sophomore, she joined the multiracial student union, taking a leadership position. “it was a way of taking control over my own identity, and hopefully helping other people, too.” delphi, who identifies as a person of color, attended Garfield High school in the central district of seattle. “it was a historically black school, but it’s growing more and more white,” she says. she worked on the school paper for three years, and the power of the press became another means for her to express herself. Holding down the arts and entertainment editor slot, “i edited and produced an entire issue with just black student voices and artists and poets and photographers,” she says. the issue featured a spread on gentrification “to highlight the injustice with the people in the neighborhood who had been here for decades, and we had a story about black excellence to highlight students at the school who were committed to good.” Reporting is in her blood. Her father, charles mudede, is associate editor at longtime seattle alternative weekly The Stranger. spending time in the newsroom, delphi learned about oxy through charles’ colleague, writer and activist lindy West ’04. “she’s an idol and inspiration for me,” says delphi of West, who wrote her a letter of recommendation. “i’ve enjoyed having her as a mentor.” delphi is considering a major in diplomacy and world affairs, sparked in part by her experience in Washington, d.c., learning about civil liberties in a program run by the close Up Foundation and the aclU. “We lobbied on capitol Hill for the rights of immigrants. all of the students got to talk to their own state senators about our concerns with the immigrant detention center and family separations.” Her experience on the Hill was formative in at least one way she didn’t expect, she says: “What i really took away was the ability of young people to rally around a common goal and just be so angry together.”

Luke Williams picked up his first tennis racket when he was 4 years old. He was captain of the tennis team at Canyon Crest Academy, a public high school in San Diego. ranking among the top 400 players in his grade nationally as a senior. Although tennis season is still a few months away, he’s already notched his first singles win as a Tiger in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s fall tournament in October. “I was really interested in playing tennis, and I wanted to go to a small liberal arts college on the West Coast that had awesome academics, so that already limits you to a few schools,” he says. “I really liked the tennis team here, and Coach David Bojalad ’94 is great.” Luke’s competitive nature spills over into his other unlikely passion: bridge, an intricate card game that the San Diego native is well familiar with. “I got into it because of my mom,” says Luke. “She got sick with a disease called scleroderma, so she had to get a stem-cell transplant back in 2008.” During her recovery, he and his older brother, Jake, lived with their grandparents. “Since there were four of us”—the optimal number for bridge—“they taught us how to play,” he says. Luckily, his mother recovered, and the benefit for Luke was the introduction to a game he fell in love with, so much so that he’s been a nationally ranked tournament player with the United States Bridge Federation ever since. Luke has found that his abilities in bridge and tennis complement one another. “There’s definitely a mental overlap in that you have to stay calm, and you have to stay focused. I think that I’ve been a lot better at being focused in tennis because of bridge.” Now he just needs to get a game going in Braun.

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Though it might seem like a contradiction in terms to say that a cheerleading captain suffered from social anxiety, that issue was the catalyst for Kenya Sterns to join the cheer squad at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix. “Growing up, it was very hard for me to be outgoing because I was always the youngest kid in the room,” says Kenya, who comes from a family of five children (four girls, one boy). “Every time I opened up my mouth, it was always like, ‘Well, you don’t really know what you’re talking about.’ “I joined cheer as a way to become more outgoing and confident. It eventually worked,” continues Kenya, who worked her way up to cheerleading captain. “It branched out to all other parts in my life, in class and in my academics, and it also led me to become leader of multiple clubs.” In case you’re wondering where her first name comes from, so is Kenya. “My aunt picked my name but I don’t know why she picked Kenya,” she says. “My middle name is Capri, which is an island off the coast of Italy. And so I always joke that my mom and aunt closed their eyes and pointed on the map and that was my first and middle name!”

the key to Adrian Aviles’ potential future began on his skateboard. cruising around los angeles on his beloved deck allowed him to get an intimate look at his hometown, particularly some of its problems. “it was really eye-opening to bigger issues—homelessness for sure,” he says. “You’re able to see how they’ve set up their own communities and how isolated they’ve become from the rest of society. and i saw the bigger picture of gentrification happening in neighborhoods that were close to mine. that’s what encouraged me to want to do something about it and be in urban and environmental planning, which is the reason i came here.” adrian grew up in East l.a., where “it was very comfortable because it’s a predominantly Hispanic community. there was a lot of cultural comfort, being around people similar to you.” though 38 percent of the class of ’23 are from california, adrian has met plenty of fellow freshmen to whom the Golden state is a brave new world. “it’s funny to me because i’m getting all these outside perspectives of los angeles,” he says. “i’ve lived here my whole life and people are always amazed by it, but i can see why. it’s a beautiful city, despite the problems it has.” along with his older brother, adrian is a first-generation college student. “since i was young, my mom would talk to me about how i had to do good in school so i could get an education one day. Both of my parents came from mexico, so they didn’t have the same opportunities to study.” His opportunity came thanks to oxy’s centennial scholars program, which provides tuition, room, and board to high-achieving students from area high schools. “i think it’s great,” says adrian, a graduate of Franklin High school. “i’m very at peace here. i don’t think there’s anybody that i’ve met so far that isn’t always smiling.” 16

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Geography also played a part in her decision to come to Occidental. “At my high school, college wasn’t really pushed very much,” she says. “I did most of my own research regarding colleges out of state. I knew I wanted to go to California, and since Occidental is in Los Angeles, I was like, ‘Oh, that sounds cool.’ And when I found that Obama went there I thought I might as well apply.” If all goes as planned, she sees her future going in the same direction as did “Barry” Obama ’83. “I don’t see myself majoring in anything but politics,” says Kenya. She’s interested in participating in Campaign Semester, the biennial program that offers students academic credit volunteering in a presidential, Senate, House, or gubernatorial campaign over a 10-week period. “It was something that drew me to Oxy as well, because none of the schools I was looking at had anything like it.” And for someone who once battled social anxiety, Kenya feels Occidental is a warm place to be. “I visited another small school and it just didn’t have the same sense of community,” she says. “There weren’t really people going out, being active. Everyone stayed in all the time. Oxy is like a constant, jostling community. We’re not sedentary here—we’re always doing things.”


For Joaquin Madrid Larragañga , coming to oxy was on the table for a long time. literally. His father, Juan Fidel larragañga ’95, made sure of that. “He was definitely pushing for it,” admits Joaquin. “He would drop little hints and occidental merchandise would show up in my room every once in a while.” to say that Joaquin has done well in school so far is a breathtaking understatement. He had a spotless record of straight a’s throughout his secondary education. He completed 14 aP classes and his GPa of 4.9 won him the sole valedictorian slot at albuquerque (n.m.) High school. so, what’s his secret? ceaseless studying? natural brilliance? Unparalleled nerd powers? “i would say a little bit of everything,” admits Joaquin. “i worked really hard and i know when to ask for help. i make sure that hard work comes first before everything else.” “Everything else” throws a wide net in his case. He’s played guitar since first grade, piano since fourth, percussion since sixth. “i was in the marching band all four years, and sophomore year i was promoted to percussion section leader,” Joaquin says. “in my senior year i was a band captain, which is a large leadership position that i was able to help with.” already at oxy, he’s a percussionist with the occidental orchestra and the chamber ensemble. during high school, Joaquin was active in science fairs, creating projects based on computer science. “in my freshman year i created a computer program to show how preventative measures could be effective in stopping the spread of Ebola,” offers Joaquin. “my sophomore year i did a project about self-driving cars. then in my junior and senior years i really focused on theoretical computing.” in the wake of the Parkland High school shooting, Joaquin lobbied his school for increased safety measures. “i didn’t want something to happen,” he says, “and then in hindsight say, ‘this horrible thing happened, let’s fix it.’ We need to take preventative measures in order to make sure that it doesn’t happen in the first place.” at occidental, Joaquin plans to major in computer science, or possibly education. His only problem is time. too much of it. “all through high school i was doing so many things that i didn’t have time to do a lot. now that i’m in college, i do my schoolwork, and then i’m involved in a variety of activities, but then i still have a lot of downtime. i’m trying to figure out how to be productive in that. downtime is the biggest challenge for me, to make sure that i’m not wasting it.” Based on first impressions, that seems doubtful.

One admission officer describes Joaquin as an “academic rock star.”

Elili Brown has done her fair share of globetrotting, from her native New York to England to Colorado to Los Angeles and Occidental. It’s all been a learning experience, but not necessarily an easy one. “When I lived in England, I never really thought about being biracial and what that meant,” says Elili, whose mother is from Sri Lanka and father is European. “But Colorado is much more predominantly white. And so I eventually started thinking about being biracial and what that meant.” She arrived in Colorado at age 9 with an English accent and no idea where the city of Boulder was. Within a year she’d lost the accent and discovered a lot about her new home. “Boulder sees itself as such a liberal place that people are often implicitly racist, so they don’t realize it,” she says. “It was a big adjustment to realize that you don’t look the same as everyone else and have people comment on that. But my high school experience was good. It was the same size as Oxy, and I realized how much I liked a small school where teachers can get to know students.” Elili says her experience as a biracial person drew her to issues of social injustice, something she says will be a focus of her Oxy studies. “Growing up, seeing the differences between being with my mom and being with my dad has made me very alert to the differences in how people treat people. It’s all based off of this protein expression.” Because Sri Lanka is very hot, Elili explains, “You need more protection against the sun so your body produces more melanin. Racism is essentially based off of melanin production, how much melanin is in someone’s skin, which annoys me. It’s such a minor difference yet it affects so much of our lives. And so that makes me want to do something to change that.”

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The

With a nationwide scandal putting the college admission process under scrutiny, how does Oxy’s team piece together each incoming class? Simple answer: There are no short cuts

PATH to ENROLLMENT

By JIM TRANQUADA | Illustration by GWEN KERAVAL

n the morning of March 12, news broke that federal prosecutors in Boston were accusing dozens of wealthy parents of participating in what the Los Angeles Times called “an audacious scheme to get their children into elite universities through fraud, bribes, and lies”—a story that immediately raised larger questions about the integrity of the college admission process. Later that day, as her cellphone buzzed with messages about the investigation, Maricela Martinez, Oxy’s senior associate dean of admission, was interviewing finalists for the College’s prestigious Centennial Scholarship. One candidate started to cry, Martinez recalls, as she described how hard she had worked and how much her parents had sacrificed to give her the opportunity to attend college. “To her, the scandal was a reminder of the advantages others had and the obstacles she faced—and would continue to face—to be the first in her family to graduate from college,” Martinez says. At the nexus of the investigation, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues, is disgraced college consultant William “Rick” Singer, who has admitted to rigging SAT and ACT scores, falsely representing his wealthy clients’ children as athletes, and bribing college officials to get them into top universities. Singer has yet to be sentenced after pleading guilty to a host of charges in March. On November 6, The Wall Street Journal published a story about a small liberal arts college in Los Angeles that rebuffed Singer’s overtures in 2012—a school that “charted a

different path” than those that seem to have yielded to the temptation to use backdoor strategies to attract affluent students. That college, you may have heard, is Oxy. “There are hundreds of admission offices and peers of ours across the country that do their work with a high degree of integrity, and Oxy is no exception,” says Vince Cuseo, Occidental’s vice president of enrollment and dean of admission since 2010 and a 20year veteran of the admission office. “I have never been asked to increase the applicant pool by x percent or selectivity by y percent, or told that I need to admit this wealthy family’s child,” Cuseo says, sitting in his office in Collins House, where thousands of prospective students and their families get their first impression of Occidental each year. “I like to think it reflects the culture of Oxy. I think we have been able to be successful over time while maintaining certain values and a level of integrity that is consistent with the College as a whole.” Since 1997, applications to Oxy have increased more than 300 percent. The 7,501 applications the College received for the Class of 2023 represent an all-time high, the result of a confluence of factors including Oxy’s strong academic reputation, its Los Angeles location, the international visibility bestowed by President Barack Obama ’83, and the rise of the web-based Common Application, which has boosted the number of students who apply to multiple schools. At 37 percent, Oxy’s selectivity rate has never been lower—or student qualifications

higher. “There’s a significant amount of selfselection that goes on in any college admission process, and we have benefited from the prevailing Oxy culture that consistently has attracted a high-achieving, intellectually curious, and diverse set of students,” Cuseo says. In assembling each year’s class, he and his staff seek to balance three critical elements: academic quality; diversity, from racial and socioeconomic to geography, gender, and academic interests; and institutional budget concerns. “Our commitment to diversity requires significant investment by the College,” Cuseo says. “We have to maintain a delicate balance in a tuition-dependent institution like Occidental and assemble each class in a way that addresses access and excellence and meets revenue targets for that year.” (Increasing the endowment to support financial aid is the top priority of the $225 million Oxy Campaign For Good.) It’s a process that begins each September, when Cuseo and the other 11 admission officers hit the road to start recruiting next year’s class. “People usually think of someone standing behind a table at a college fair, but that’s usually not the case,” says Charlie Leizear, Oxy’s director of first-year admission. “The vast majority of our time is spent during the school day visiting from four to six high schools, meeting with students and counselors, and doing individual interviews in the evenings.” Relationships with counselors loom large, as they are a key source of information for high school students deciding where to apply. “Singer advertised himself as an independent Fall 2019  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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college consultant, but there are hundreds of others that are doing good work and not preying on student fears,” Leizear notes. Admission officers also meet regularly with regional and national community-based organizations (CBOs) that work with underrepresented, first-generation, and low-income students to improve their chances of getting into college, says Martinez. Throughout the year CBOs bring groups of students to Oxy to tour the campus and meet with current Occidental students. “A significant number of our first-generation students have worked with a CBO,” she says. In addition to meeting students at their high schools and in their hometowns, admission officers welcome over 15,000 guests to Occidental each year. “The campus visit is a critical piece of showcasing any college, but it is immediately clear to our guests that one of Oxy’s greatest draws is our dynamic and warm community,” says Chris Ferguson, associate vice president of enrollment. “Our enthusiastic cohort of student ambassadors gives tours, hosts students overnight, shares research and study abroad experiences, and even welcomes prospective students to join them for lunch.” A short question on the application asks prospective students to reflect on what attracted them to apply to Occidental. “The No. 1 response is easily the warm reception that applicants felt from students and faculty when they visited campus,” Leizear says. “Applicants frequently share that Occidental stood out from other institutions because our tour guides in particular gave such authentic and candid insights into the Oxy student experience.” Like many colleges and universities, Oxy licenses contact information of high school sophomores and juniors who have taken the PSAT or SAT from the College Board (a practice that was also the focus of a Wall Street Journal article in November). The purpose is not to artificially boost the number of applications but to help the College target certain geographic areas in another effort to identify underrepresented students. “We’re not an institution that prides itself on how many people we can turn away,”

Leizear says. “We don’t believe a single-digit admit rate is a good thing.” To more effectively reach rural and international students, Oxy also has been offering regular online information sessions. On top of the College’s outreach efforts, the first time Oxy hears from a large portion of prospects is when they submit their application. “Hundreds of applications show up within 48 hours of the application deadline from students we’ve never met before,” says Leizear, who offers a handful of reasons why: “Occidental is highly ranked, people know the name in part because of the Obama connection, and we’re in Los Angeles.” After the January application deadline, all those applications have to be read and evaluated in little more than two months. That’s a tall order at Oxy, because “about 85 percent of applications are read twice, and some more than that—the ones that fall more in the middle of the pool,” Leizear says. Applicants who fall into that category are usually discussed in a regular meeting of senior admission staff members. To give applications the attention they deserve, Oxy—like many of its peers —hires seasonal readers, who give some applications their first reading. “We are identifying potential as much as we are assessing accomplishments, so we train everyone who reads applications on the nuances and biases present in assessing letters of recommendations, essays, and standardized test scores,” Leizear says. Building on that training, each admission officer is assigned a specific region of the United States or the world, which enables them to become experts in assessing the rigor of high schools, coursework, and transcripts from those regions. To get his clients’ children into college, Singer took advantage of the special treatment athletes and wealthy donors can get in the admission process—what he referred to as “side doors.” (The Journal article details a 2012 attempt by Singer to get Occidental to reconsider “an application from an academically challenged daughter of a wealthy family.” Cuseo flatly replied, “No.”)

When applicants are asked why they applied to Oxy, the No. 1 response is the warm reception that they felt from students and faculty when they visited campus.

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At Oxy, everyone has to come through the front door, admission staff and coaches say. While the vast majority of student-athletes who compete for Oxy are recruited in some fashion, “We don’t have slots reserved for athletes,” said Colm McFeely, head women’s soccer coach and assistant director of athletics, who has worked at Oxy since 1992. “They are students first, and athletes second.” It’s possible to do both well, he adds, pointing to goalie Sydney Tomlinson ’19, an All-American selection and biochemistry major who graduated Phi Beta Kappa. As for the children of donors or potential donors, “Family wealth is not a factor when we make admission decisions,” President Jonathan Veitch says. The College is sometimes aware of the giving potential of some applicants’ families, and those families may be engaged after their student enrolls at Oxy. “But it has long been Occidental’s practice to disregard giving potential when considering students for admission,” Veitch says. “Without a clear bright line, the ethics of the admission process would be hopelessly compromised.” With college admissions under scrutiny, preferential treatment for the children of alumni, or legacies, also has come under fire. Fueling the criticism is a National Bureau of Economic Research study that found that 42 percent of white students admitted to Harvard between 2014 and 2019 were athletes, legacies, or children of potential donors. In contrast, over the last six years at Oxy 18 percent of admitted white applicants were recruited student-athletes or legacies. The most common legacy students at Oxy are the siblings of current students and recent alumni, rather than children of alumni. “We do flag legacies, but in the end it has a very modest influence on the ultimate decision in those cases where all else is equal,” Cuseo says. “When you have a holistic admission process that is not formulaic, as we do, you will always have people who are critical of the way you render your decisions,” he adds. “Still, we have tried to be scrupulously consistent and transparent in the way we have rendered our decisions over the last 20 years.” The fevered anxiety about college admission that Singer preyed upon, he says, “seems removed from the day-to-day of our admission process.”


Their Time to

Ride

Bryan McQueeney ’80 harnesses the healing power of therapeutic horseback riding to enhance the quality of life for the disabled By ER IC B U TT ER MA N

Photos by K EV IN B UR KE


T

HIRTY-FIvE YEARS AGO, Bryan McQueeney ’80 was on a date with riding instructor Gloria Hamblin when he was introduced to the world of hippotherapy—the use of horseback riding as a therapeutic treatment. “I went out on a beautiful clear Saturday morning to this ranch out in the hills in the San Fernando valley and I just saw this universe of people helping others,” he remembers. “And it spoke to me, because I’m here all these years later.” In 1985, McQueeney married Hamblin, who holds a bachelor’s degree in recreational therapy from Cal State Northridge and has worked with the physically and developmentally disabled throughout her career. And in 1994, the couple co-founded Ride On Therapeutic Horsemanship, which teaches riding skills to children and adults with mental and physical disabilities and uses the movement of the horse to improve a host of medical conditions through occupational and physical therapy. With a staff of nine certified instructors, six therapists, and 30 horses, Ride On works with approximately 240 riders a week and has given more than 120,000 lessons over its 25-year history. “They have the same dreams and aspirations that you or I have,” says McQueeney, who worked as a technical writer prior to becoming Ride On’s full-time CEO in 2000. “If you get on a horse, you feel power, control, like you’re on top of the world. These are all metaphors our riders might feel, too. They just don’t have the ability to go out and do it on their own.” While riding may evoke images of galloping to many, quiet steps can make all the difference with Ride On’s clientele. Working with young kids who may have problems walking, McQueeney says, “You may not be able to put them on a treadmill to walk but you put them on a horse and the horse walks for them. A horse can take 1,000 steps and each step can strengthen their core and neck. Obviously steps have to be taken to make sure it’s safe, appropriate, therapeutic, and effective but that’s part of what we do.” The path to sustaining a nonprofit with a $1 million annual operating budget is not an easy one, even for a seasoned executive 22 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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“They have the same dreams and aspirations that you or I have,” McQueeney says of Ride On’s young clientele.

like McQueeney. “Finding clients is not the problem,” he says. “The issue is getting the staff, facility, horses, volunteers, and funding to support it.” “You have to have a plan to keep going and somehow figure out what will work,” says Hamblin, who serves as Ride On’s program director. “Bryan’s the guy who does that—planning ahead. He’s amazing.” Therapeutic riding dates back more than half a century, prompting the formation in 1969 of the North American Riding for the Handicapped Association (today known as the Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship International). Ride On is among the largest of 873 PATH-certified member centers worldwide, which collectively work with about 69,000 children and adults each year. The organization was born out of necessity in 1994, when the nonprofit teaching adaptive riding program where Hamblin was working as head instructor closed down. “Gloria had all her clients and no way to serve them, so we decided to open Ride On,” McQueeney says. “The first lessons were at a borrowed arena with horses ridden in from five area ranches by volunteers.” Soon after, Ride On found a permanent home on a three-acre ranch in Chatsworth. “I had just finished designing and building our house and, after the Northridge earthquake, had to spend some more time fixing

things,” McQueeney says. (Seven years later, the Conejo Recreation and Park District offered a 40-year lease on the Walnut Grove Equestrian Center in Newbury Park at a cost of $40 per year.) In addition to offering nearly 40 varieties of programs, Ride On was among a handful of centers in the country selected by Columbia University to participate in a study for the Man O’ War Project, which examines the efficacy of equine-assisted therapy in treating veterans with PTSD, according to McQueeney. Each May, Ride On also puts on the CALNET Show for more than 130 riders with disabilities, with competitions ranging from trail to dressage. The event takes place at the Los Angeles Equestrian Center, as did the 2015 Special Olympics World Games Equine Competition. With McQueeney as competition manager, Ride On was charged with finding 85 horses suitable for 123 athletes, ages 11 to 60, hailing from 35 countries, speaking 16 languages, and competing in four disciplines. “None of our athletes had a horse so we had to find the horses that were safe and appropriate for international competition,” McQueeney recalls. They wound up with a team of roughly 100 people to manage the competition and the event was a rousing success. “You work so hard so these athletes can get their due,” he says. “That they can enjoy something that is rare for any of us— to be celebrated.”


Photos 2-6 courtesy Ride On

In 1998, McQueeney’s daughter, Megan— who participated in the 2015 World Games as a PATH-certified advanced instructor alongside Hamblin—became temporarily paralyzed following a bone infection in her hip. “She went from healthy to paralyzed overnight,” McQueeney recalls. As she relearned how to walk—a process that took three months— Megan utilized the Chatsworth stable as a rider, eventually recovering completely. “I gained a deep appreciation for parents who have to juggle life when a child becomes seriously ill,” McQueeney says of the experience. “Many of our families manage illness over a lifetime; we were lucky that Megan recovered completely. When we started Ride On we had no conception that we would one day need it and benefit from it.” As a political science major at Occidental, McQueeney found a mentor in Roger Boesche, who joined the faculty as an assistant professor during his sophomore year. “Roger was the first professor who saw something in me, and it was his faith in my ability that inspired me to do better,” he says. “I loved being challenged and challenging others.” In addition to his major, he was also close to having enough credits for an economics minor. “Economics gave you a prescriptive understanding of how you should behave and see the real world,” he says. That understanding has helped him navigate many a monetary storm, from the financial crisis of the previous decade to the inevitable loss of a portion of benefactors who develop other interests. Ride On has a four-legged financial approach: donations, special events, grants and fee for service. And each accounts for roughly one quarter of the funding, he says, which helps to reduce the risk from a downturn in any one of them. Ride On marked its 25th anniversary with its annual fundraiser at its Chatsworth ranch. The event raised nearly $180,000 and drew around 300 people, including longtime supporter Harrison Ford. (McQueeney’s mother, agent and manager Pat McQueeney, met Ford in 1970 and represented him until her death in 2005.) Hollywood notables such as Ellen DeGeneres and Kaley Cuoco have been generously with their time at past events. McQueeney credits much of the success of Ride On to his wife, as he didn’t have much experience with horses growing up.

1-2. Lending a hand at Ride On’s Chatsworth ranch. 3-5. Scenes from the annual CALNET Horse Show. 6. McQueeney and Harrison Ford in front of the Pat McQueeney Education and Therapy Building, named for Craig’s mother and Ford’s longtime manager.

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“Gloria’s mother was a rehab nurse and that’s how she got interested in rehab,” he says. “She always had what I call the ‘horse gene,’” he adds with a laugh. “There’s a certain class of human beings who love horses and would be happy to be around them all day.” After nearly 20 years in the saddle as CEO, McQueeney isn’t riding off into the sunset just yet, but he understands the importance of knowing when to hand over the reins. “The founders’ classic scenario for nonprofits is that they tend to be very controlling and

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afraid to let go,” he says. “Our theory always was in opposition to that. The more you include an independent board or an empowered board, the broader your base of support and the further you can go as an organization.” When he needs to get away, McQueeney often turns to his horse, Luke—half draft, half palomino—whom he loves to take for a ride on a sunny Southern California day. But today he’ll stay inside so others can have their day in the sun. Eric Butterman is a freelance writer based in McKinney, Texas. Fall 2019  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 23


Following a whirlwind tour of the fall festival circuit, Covino winged his way to New Mexico for his first major film role—playing a bad guy opposite Tom Hanks in the post-Civil War drama News of the World, directed by Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips, The Bourne Supremacy). Opposite page: Kyle Marvin and Covino in the opening scene of The Climb.

Punch Drunk

Love By DICK ANDERSON Photo by MAX S. GERBER


How did actor-producer-director Michael Angelo Covino ’08 become the sweetheart of the festival circuit with his feature film directorial debut, The Climb? It’s not as easy as riding a bicycle—even though he makes it look that way here’s a very French sensibility to director Michael Angelo Covino ’08’s feature film debut, The Climb. From its opening sequence (which entailed 28 takes on a two-lane road in the South of France) to the chanson-heavy soundtrack to a historic movie theater in Chatham, N.Y., playing director Pierre Étaix’s Le Grand Amour (1969), the movie is awash in the country’s language and culture. In May 2018, when he was riding bicycles in the French countryside and scouting locations for the film, Covino and his writing and producing partner, Kyle Marvin, were both thinking, “God, we just want to premiere this movie at Cannes.” But they didn’t want to say it out loud. Fast-forward to 2019. Nearly four months after its triumph at Cannes, The Climb had its North American premiere at the Telluride Film Festival and was an opening-night selection at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 5. Nine days after TIFF, it won the jury prize at the Deauville American Film Festival. And in November, Covino’s film was listed among the Film Independent Spirit Award nominees for Best First Feature (alongside the likes of Booksmart, The Mustang, and The Last Black Man in San Francisco). All this affection bodes well for The Climb’s release on March 20, 2020. Life since Cannes has been largely nonstop for Covino, who spent a lot of time writing a new screenplay with Marvin before setting out on the fall festival circuit. “We’re going on a little bit of a ride with the movie,” he says. “The primary thing is making sure that we’re there to promote the movie and do whatever we have to. And the cool thing is we didn’t come into this with no ideas. We’ve got this drawer full of ideas and scripts that we’ve already written. We’re just trying to figure out what we can do and how to spend our time and what the best strategy is.”

While Covino’s narrative has the making of an overnight success story, there were a lot of sleepless nights getting there. He grew up in Westchester, N.Y., about an hour north of New York City, and went to high school in Connecticut. He transferred to Oxy from Iona College as a junior after attending Iona and Fordham University. “I was studying business administration and finance, and I was living on the East Coast and playing at a higher level football,” says Covino, who had been starting quarterback on the 2003 state champion New Canaan (Conn.) Rams. “I just realized one day that probably my football career was going to end pretty soon, and all I ever really wanted to do with my life was make movies. So why was I not studying film and being in the place where films are made?” In Occidental, he found a school with a football program and a film program right in the heart of Los Angeles. “It felt perfect,” he says, “so I applied, I went on a visit, and I got in.” Covino played for two seasons at Oxy—first as a backup to Andy Collins ’07 his senior year, and then behind Justin Goltz ’09. Coach Dale Widolff, he says, “created such a beautiful community for players. The competitiveness was there but in a very healthy way.” As for his classroom experience, “I found myself taking classes that I didn’t expect to take and learning things and having discussions and arguments that I didn’t expect to be having. It was very rewarding in that capacity, and I got to establish a foundation for my film studies. This was really an opportunity to put it to the test and actually start creating films in an academic environment.” For his senior film, he made The Liberation of Teddy Wendin, which The Occidental Weekly described as “a comedy about a mishap concerning a misconstrued child kidnapping from a perceived abusive mother.” “It was a bit of a Coen Brothers knockoff,” says Covino, who co-emceed the Senior Film Comps presentation in Thorne Hall, “but I wanted to explore these heightened stakes and characters Fall 2019  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 25


Keep in Touch Images courtesy Michael Covino ’08 | Kicks images courtesy Focus Features

left: Covino (with Ryan Patrick Bachand) co-wrote, co-produced, and co-starred in Keep in Touch (2015). The festival darling got only a modest release in theaters but pops up frequently on a PBS affiliate in New York. below: Covino had a hand in producing Kicks, the acclaimed 2016 debut feature of director Justin Tipping starring Jahking Guillory, below right.

being placed in positions that they didn’t expect to find themselves in. “We didn’t learn the technical side of film at Oxy, so I didn’t come out knowing a lot about cinematography or lenses or anything like that. But that wasn’t the way the program was structured—that was a thing that I would have had to do on my own. What I didn’t understand at the time, but what actually gave me a leg up later on, was that Brody [Fox] and some of our other film professors really ingrained in us the idea of story first and the importance of how and why you’re telling the story you’re telling.” Graduating from Oxy in the midst of the Great Recession, “There was not a job in sight,” he says, “and I didn’t have any connections in the film industry.” He lived in Los Angeles for a while, working at a call center and tearing tickets as an usher at the Wiltern and Palladium for minimum wage. Things began to look up when he landed a job as a production assistant on the movie On the Road, working with director Walter Salles, but the financing fell through and the production shut down. After a while, Covino moved back home with his parents and started directing spec commercials with his brother, Chris, “who had just graduated from a more technical film school,” he says. “We sold a bunch of spec commercials and won contests and were able to support ourselves that way for a little bit.” Along the way he met some other young filmmakers in New York, and “As things unfolded, you kind of align with people who you admire and can support and help.” One of those people was Kyle Marvin, his co-star in The Climb. Covino and Marvin formed a company together—today they have an office in Silver Lake within walking distance “of at least nine coffee shops,” Covino says—and for the next five or six years, they made a decent living creating commercials and branded content. “That was a beautiful training ground for honing our skills as filmmakers because less is at stake,” he says. “You’re getting paid by brands to pick up a camera and tell a minute story, but it’s not like your creative vision is on the line where you told this story and no one liked it. “What we really got to do is get the craft down as a producer and as a director and try things and use equipment that we wouldn’t be able to afford otherwise to do,” he continues. “And out of that came a really solid confidence in filmmaking that we could then translate into our own personal storytelling.” 26 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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Covino fell into producing feature films for others by chance. “When I was 25 or 26, I had this script that I’d written and I wanted to get it made. I was thinking, ‘I have to direct a movie.’ It was eating away at me.” After raising $100,000 in financing—$200,000 shy of what he would need to make the film—he came to the conclusion that it wasn’t happening. But then he realized that perhaps the path of least resistance was to try to make other people’s films. “I’m good at solving problems and it would be easier for me to sell them instead of trying to sell myself, because I didn’t have anyone to produce for me,” Covino says. “So I decided to champion other filmmakers and storytellers and find ways to bring their movies to fruition.” Working with director Sam Kretchmar, Covino co-wrote Keep in Touch, a bittersweet drama laced with comic moments. With a cast of unknowns, including Covino in a supporting role, the film became a crowd pleaser on the regional festival circuit, winning the 2015 Discovery Award at the Calgary International Film Festival and the Audience Award for Narrative Feature at the Austin Film Festival. “That was a bit of a breakthrough,” Covino says. But, reflecting the economic realities of the arthouse film circuit, “There’s a very low ceiling in terms of what price you can get for distribution rights,” he adds. “And it limits your exposure because there are just so many movies out there. “It is one of those films that I think plays on repeat on PBS in the Tri-State area in New York,” he adds. “On Saturday nights, my parents will just call me and say, ‘Keep in Touch is on again.’ I think it’s a film that will find an audience down the road.” Expectations were admittedly higher for Kicks, a well-reviewed coming-of-age story about an inner-city teen who covets a pair of original Air Jordans. With a higher-profile cast including Mahershala Ali as the boy’s father, the film, co-produced by Covino and directed


The Climb Images (pages 25, 27) courtesy Sony Pictures Classics | Cannes photo by Alberto Pizzoli/Getty Images

left: GLOW actress Gayle Rankin shared a ski lift with best buddies Kyle Marvin, center, and Covino in a scene from The Climb. Rankin plays Marvin’s fiancé, while Covino plays the role of romantic saboteur. below: Covino and Judith Godrèche, who plays the role of Marvin’s earlier fiancé (and that’s all we’re going to tell you). below left: Godrèche, Covino, Rankin, and Marvin answer the photo call in front of the paparazzi prior to the film’s premiere at Cannes.

by Justin Tipping, was sold to Focus Features and premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in April 2016. But a corporate shakeup prompted the departure of Focus CEO Peter Schlessel a couple of months before Tribeca, and the new regime “didn’t release the film with the panache or the excitement that we expected them to,” Covino says. “But as a whole that film is very well regarded, and within the film industry, Kicks became my biggest calling card.” Another film he produced, Hunter Gatherer, was nominated for a 2017 Film Independent Spirit Award (the John Cassavetes Award, for best feature under $500,000), and all of a sudden Covino found himself “sitting back-to-back” with acting nominee Viggo Mortensen at the awards ceremony on Santa Monica Pier: “How did I get here?” Despite their growing reputation in the industry, “There was definitely a ceiling to this idea of being an independent producer and focusing on producing for other people,” Covino says. “The money wasn’t there, you do all this work and then the director goes on to get a big movie on the next one, and you don’t go along with them.” Besides, it was never what they saw themselves doing. So he and Marvin decided to take a step back and really focus on writing—“to create things that people will appreciate and want to pay us for,” Covino says. “We were basically stepping away from commercials and stepping into a new arena. There was no reason to assume that anyone would pay us for anything.”

Then one day Covino had an idea for a short, which he knew that he needed to direct. He wanted to do something simple with two actors—himself and Marvin, playing two guys named Mike and Kyle. It would be conversational and captivating, and so it would be shot in one continuous take. And it entailed riding bicycles up a hill. The logline for The Climb goes like this: Kyle is depressed and a weekend bike ride with his best friend, Mike, should help. Fresh air. Camaraderie. Exercise. But Mike has something to say that might ruin the ride. The short was shot on a Sunday in summer 2017 in Lake View Terrace in the San Fernando Valley, on a road that loops around an area called Kagel Canyon. In true indie spirit, Covino and Marvin pulled the shoot together on a shoestring budget. “We had a commercial on Friday and a commercial on Monday, so I had the camera over the weekend,” Covino recalls, “so I said to the crew, ‘Hey, we’re already paying you on both jobs. Can you just come out for Sunday?’ “Then I rented a van and some other stuff and I got my director of photography from Hunter Gatherer, and we shot the short in 11 or 12 takes. When we got to the end of the shoot, I said, ‘Ooh, I don’t know, but I think we have something here.’ ” After they cut the film together and submitted it to Sundance, “We forgot about it,” Covino says. “We went on with our lives and kept working on the movies that we were producing. I had written another script that I was trying to get to a place where we could go raise money for it. And then I was in Paris right before Thanksgiving when I got a call and a text from this person I knew who worked at Sundance. I was wondering, ‘Why would she be texting me?’ ” When he called her back, she broke the news to him: “So, you’re in.’’ The Climb would be playing at Sundance in the U.S. Narrative Short Films section. And Covino—who was standing over the Seine at 3 in the morning outside a bar—just broke down crying. “I wasn’t crying because of how much Sundance means to me,” he says. “I think I was crying because I had so much context for it. I understood that it meant I would get to make movies now.” When The Climb short premiered at Sundance in January 2018, Covino was allotted all of four tickets as a filmmaker for his own movie. In order to get his family and friends and crew into the screening, he says, “I think I bought 20 tickets at $50 a ticket. You got to just come prepared with money to spend at Sundance if you want to even get people into your film.” Fall 2019  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 27


Leading up to Sundance, Covino and Marvin hatched an idea for a feature building on their 8-minute short. Armed with a pitch deck and an agent, the two took a dozen meetings with financiers during the festival. “Being able to explain it in very simple terms was super helpful in getting people to have confidence in a firsttime feature filmmaker,” Covino says. “We got two offers for the feature while we were at Sundance, and we went with the one that felt the most right.” There’s a confidence that one needs to survive in Hollywood, Marvin says, “and I think that confidence is shaken all the time when you haven’t been acknowledged for your work. The hardest thing to keep is the confidence in your own particular vision, which is a critical component for anyone who succeeds in our industry. There’s a level of delusion in all of this you have to be insanely confident in your choices.” Covino and Marvin wrote the script in six weeks, handing it over to their financiers just before Cannes last year. “They read the script on the plane and they said, ‘This is great. We have some notes, but let’s start preproduction in summer,’” Covino recalls. As the pair fine-tuned the script, other cast members fell into place, including Gayle Rankin (GLOW) as the female lead and Talia Balsam and George Wendt as Kyle’s parents in the movie. The film is structured in seven sections, spanning multiple years and locations, and Wendt was game for playing along with the unconventional filmmaking process, Covino says. “Each scene is shot in one long take, so these characters have to live in these scenes “When we shot the short, Kyle hadn’t ridden a bike for eight or nine minutes without saying lines sometimes like that in probably 10 and then walk through the background. All the actors years,” Covino recalls. “So were such troopers—no one was annoyed that they had for the first five takes I’m riding with the camera to be there for a scene where other people were talking and he’s maybe a quarterthe whole time. And it was really beautiful to have somemile down the road yelling one like George, who brought this familiarity to the role.” at me. And I’m telling him, ‘If you can’t get up the hill, For most of the last decade, Cannes has functioned there’s no way we have a as a working vacation for Covino, setting up projects short film.’’’ with financiers and distributors and watching as many movies as his schedule would allow. “Cannes was this untouchable thing that I just was in awe of,” he says. “I remember being there in 2012 and I saw Rust and Bone and The Hunt and Reality all within a Photo by Max S. Gerber couple of days. This festival was completely redefining my view of cinema.” In looking through the Cannes lineups for the we’re accepting it, because it’s not done, and how are you going to last 20 years, American comedies were few and far between, Covino get this done by January?’ And to their point, thank God they didn’t says. But in the classic tradition of the cinematic underdog, he accept it because I would have rushed to get it done.” thought, “All right, let’s see if this little cocktail that we’re putting After some internal jockeying among the festival’s programmers, together will actually respond.” the film was slotted for the prestigious Un Certain Regard section of When Covino submitted The Climb to Cannes, “It was still rough. Cannes. Festival director Thierry Frémaux, an avid cyclist himself, We got into South by Southwest and we weren’t able to go because extended the invitation to Covino personally one night before the anwe still had 15 minutes of the film to shoot—these big, pivotal scenes nouncement went public. (A festival programmer sent Frémaux a link that take place in the deep winter and very cold weather. We submit- to The Climb on a Saturday night, and he wrote her the next morning ted to Sundance before that, but we were missing maybe 25 minutes “this French poem about what he loved about the film,” Covino says.) because there was a whole winter section of the film that we hadn’t Going to Cannes with a film was “very, very different” than anyshot yet. Sundance said, “Look, we like the film but there’s no way thing Covino had experienced before: “I never thought something 28 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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dict. The first text he got came from a friend who is head of acquisitions at a distribution company. “This film’s amazing,” he wrote. By the time of his photo call, Covino had been showered with texts from other distribution people he knew, he says, “because I’ve developed relationships with all the people who buy movies in the film industry. So that made the day a little bit easier. I could go into the photo call excited and happy and knowing that like, all right, we’re going to have an OK premiere.’ ” Less than 12 hours later, The Climb had its world premiere at the Claude Debussy Theater, the second-largest venue at Cannes, with a capacity of 1,068 (nearly 300 seats more than Thorne Hall). “It’s massive. It’s got a balcony,” Covino says. And premiering The Climb before a full house was “like nothing I’ve ever experienced.” In the lead-up to the screening, Covino and his cast shared the red carpet with Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, and director Pedro Almodóvar, whose 21st feature and sixth Cannes entry, Pain and Glory, was unspooling in the neighboring Louis Lumière Auditorium. When Covino took to the Debussy stage, he introduced his film in French and then watched it with the audience. Before the close of the festival, The Climb was sold to Sony Pictures Classics, which will release the film theatrically this coming spring. “Everyone told me, ‘Cannes is not a marketplace for films,’ but it ended up being a marketplace for our film,” Covino says. “We had the dream distributors that we could ask for making offers on the film and having to decide on one. And we went with Sony Pictures Classics, and they’re great.” Putting a slipper on Covino’s Cinderella story, the Un Certain Regard sidebar jury awarded The Climb (alongside A Brother’s Love, a Canadian comedy-drama) with the Coup de Coeur. “Basically it means we stole the heart of the jury,” he says. “I was again surprised. I was thinking, ‘Being at Cannes was enough, now we’re winning an award. What is happening?’ ”

like that would happen that fast. It’s such a spectacle, like the Oscars. There’s paparazzi and it’s a bit overwhelming.” On the morning of May 17, while The Climb screened for critics in advance of its red-carpet premiere, Covino readied himself for another ritual of the Cannes experience: the photo call. (In preparation for the event, he and Marvin went with their costume designer to Brooklyn Tailors, which loaned them out “a bunch of free suits’’ for Cannes. “We had to give them back, but it was great. I just went with the most outrageous things I could find.”) Covino’s photo call coincided roughly with the end of the press screening, which took place at 8:30 a.m. The Climb clocks in at about 95 minutes, so shortly after 10, he braced himself for the critics’ ver-

Covino has the face of a character actor, which is meant as a compliment. His weathered good looks suggest a life that’s been lived by a guy who’s got stories to tell. He could have come of age in an earlier era, alongside the Hoffmans and Pacinos and Nicholsons who redefined the image of a leading man in the 1970s. “My first passion has been acting since I was little,” he says. “There’s an immediacy and an excitement to just be playing a character and being in the moment, and I’ve always loved doing that. In some ways I probably pursued filmmaking as a way to give myself an opportunity to act.” When he decided he wanted to write and tell stories, it only seemed natural to write something for himself. “Then I could play in it and direct it and have control over how the performance turns out,” he says. “Now I just love the opportunity if I get to act at all professionally. It’s just like candy for me.” Next year promises to be a banner one for Covino, who is trading his bicycle for a horse opposite Tom Hanks in director Paul Greengrass’ adaptation of the 2016 novel News of the World, which is set in the days following the Civil War. The film is scheduled to premiere on Christmas Day 2020. Just don’t look for The Liberation of Teddy Wendin to resurface online: Covino asked the short’s composer to take it off YouTube. “I’m sure Brody has a DVD somewhere,” he notes with a laugh. Fall 2019  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE 29


OXYTALK Photos courtesy Tuan Ngo ’07 and Steve Case ’80

left: From left, Vince Karlen ’08, Sara Porkalob, Walter Impert ’96 and wife Celine, and Andrea Chin ’82 gather for dinner at the Redmond, Wash., home of Tuan Ngo ’07 in September. above: Alumni and friends from the New York area gathered to watch the Mets take on the Dodgers at Citi Field in September.

The Campaign For Community From career advice to volunteerism to conversation, Oxy takes a closer measure of alumni engagement

In New York City this past July, about 50 alumni, parents, and friends of Occidental got an insider’s tour of Manhattan’s Hudson Yards neighborhood, the largest private real estate development of its kind in the nation. Six months earlier, an outing to the Whitney Museum of American Art for a guided tour of the acclaimed Andy Warhol retrospective From A to B and Back Again drew a similarly enthusiastic crowd. “My goal is to do things that appeal to different demographics, to create engagement among the almost 1,000 Oxy people in the New York area,” explains New York City regional alumni chair Steve Case ’80. “Through these outreach efforts, we continue to learn together, with a liberal arts passion.” As part of The Oxy Campaign For Good, Occidental is promoting increased community building—between Oxy and its alumni and parents, and between these groups themselves—as a measure of success, notes Charlie Cardillo, vice president of institutional advancement. 30 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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Maintaining a culture of philanthropy, he adds, means making anybody with an affinity for Oxy a steward to ensure its future success. The College more than ever is working to engage alumni and parent communities “in a comprehensive, connected way,” he says. “That is what ultimately supports the students and the faculty, whether through engagement of alumni and career conversations with students, or even participating in the classroom or supporting one another after graduation,” Cardillo says. “Their presence at events and activities bolsters the experience for others who may be coming for the first time or in a long time, and so the participation of members of our community is invaluable.” For the first time, the College is weighing alumni involvement with a variety of nonfinancial metrics, such as how many alumni respond to a survey or submit a class note to Occidental magazine. The campaign also is tracking volunteerism and the number of

alumni professionals who want to serve as career advisers to younger classes. Case, an economics major who is a partner with an investment consulting firm, says he is less a ringleader than “a prompter of other people to volunteer to lead events.” Parents of current Oxy students are also doing their part to foster ties to the College, even from far away. Erika and Bill Brewer of New York City, whose daughter Elizabeth ’21 is a politics and English major, serve as co-chairs of Oxy’s Parents Council, a group committed to taking a leadership role within the Occidental community. Parents Council allows the Brewers “to become involved in an appropriate, supportive way while honoring Elizabeth’s growing independence,” says Erika, a former banker and now director of parent giving at Westminster School in Connecticut. “One of the greatest rewards of working with Parents Council is our connection to other Oxy parents,” adds Bill, a partner at an international law firm. When the Brewers are unable to follow Elizabeth’s swim meets in person, they livestream competitions and follow the team on social media. “The swimming and diving parents are an exceptionally friendly group, with lots of photo sharing and snack coordination, which is fun for all of us,” Erika says. Yelka Kamara ’12 is building community in other ways. For nearly four years, she has worked with some of the College’s most dedicated and loyal volunteers on the Board of Governors, the 32-member body that over-


OXYTALK

Photos by Henry Downes (NYC) and Nancy Gould (Boston)

Scenes from New York City (October 22): above left: Jessie Evans ’06 and Steve Coll ’80. above right: Eleven Oxy seniors participating in the 2019 Kahane U.N. Program—aka the G15—convene for a photo. Standing, l-r: Malcolm Sowah, Aracely Ruvalcaba, Selasi Amoani, Saya Maeda, 1 Xixi Yang, John Chen, Isabel Morales, Micah Kirscher, and Jack Fernandes. Kneeling: Snigdha Suvarna and Henry Butenschoen. left: Yelka Kamara ’12, Claire Gruppo, campaign co-chair Anne Wilson Cannon ’74, and trustee Gordon MacInnes ’63.

sees the work of the Alumni Association. Her motivation? “I love the College,” she says. “Oxy had a tremendous impact on my life, even helping me to discover my passion, which is fundraising,” adds Kamara, assistant director of annual leadership giving programs at The New School in New York City. Giving, however, isn’t about expecting alumni to meet benchmarks, notes Kamara, who majored in diplomacy and world affairs. “What’s important is that you give back in a way that’s meaningful to you. The biggest thing is to try to get people to reevaluate their understanding of philanthropy.” In October, Kamara was among about 180 alumni, parents, and friends of Occidental on hand for an event at the United Nations that celebrated the Kahane U.N. Program and the regional launch of the campaign. The following week, approximately 70 Tigers gathered in Boston for Oxy’s first alumni gathering in New England in at least six years. (Similar outreach events are on the docket for other regions in 2020.) In the Pacific Northwest, Tuan Ngo ’07 brings his Oxy passion to the dinner table, where he and his partner, Mac Powell, have invited alumni they previously didn’t know to sup on fresh-caught king salmon, roasted broccolini with pine nuts and olive oil, and duck fat-roasted baby potatoes. “I try to connect with people on an individual level,” says Ngo, who specializes in international tax law as an associate with a

global law firm in the Greater Seattle area. “We can share our Oxy experiences.” Ngo, who is president-elect of the Alumni Board of Governors, recalls the days when his parents first arrived in the country as immigrants from Vietnam. They didn’t speak English and lacked the financial means to send their son to college. Occidental saw his potential and granted Ngo, a DWA major, the access and opportunity he needed. He believes the College’s commitment made the difference for his subsequent success: “Whenever I see a car that has an Oxy bumper sticker, or if I meet someone who went to Oxy, there’s an instantaneous connection.”

“Alumni are the representatives of the strength and value of the liberal arts experience,” Cardillo says. “The strength of the community is what will ensure the future of Oxy—its adherence to a set of values and a mission that can enrich the lives of the students who come after them.” —andy faught

Snapshots from Boston (October 28): above: Derya Samadi ’86, Carl Nagy-Koechlin, Beth (Jacklin) Nagy ’86, and Eric Robb ’86 raise a glass. above right: President Jonathan Veitch moderates a talk with Barry Posen ’74, left, and Steven Miller ’74. right: Adam Portnoy ’93 and Evita Chavez ’15. fall 2016  OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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PAGE 56

Waste Not, Want Not Christy Leavitt ’85 is working to secure meaningful corporate commitments to curb plastic pollution— and single-use items are at the top of her to-go list

At a congressional hearing on September 19—her first in her new role as plastics campaign director at Oceana, the international organization dedicated to protecting and cleaning up Earth’s oceans—Christy Leavitt ’85 testified about the devastating effects of single-use plastics on oceans and marine life. The next day, she marched with her family down the streets of Washington, D.C., as part of the global climate strike. She was one of about 4 million people worldwide demanding drastic changes to environmental policies for a sustainable future. “People coming together to call for more action from our leaders inspires me to keep going,” says Leavitt, who graduated cum laude with a major in American studies at Occidental. “If we don’t take action, change isn’t going to happen. We need people to get involved and push for change.” Getting people—particularly legislators and businesses—motivated to take action is part of Leavitt’s job description at Oceana, whose mission is to restore the world’s oceans through science-based policy campaigns. Her particular focus is on single-use plastics, such as plastic bags, water bottles, to-go cups, and takeout containers. Leavitt says the design is flawed—these items are meant to be thrown away after one use, yet they’re made from material that lasts forever. Because recycling alone isn’t enough to solve the crisis, Leavitt’s campaign urges companies to accept responsibility for their role in the problem and offer consumers more non-plastic options, such as compostable or reusable containers. She also lobbies local, state, and national legislators to pass policies that reduce single-use plastics. After only two months on the job at Oceana, Leavitt was invited to speak before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related 56 OCCIDENTAL MAGAZINE

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Photo by Patrick Mustain/courtesy Oceana

Leavitt testifies before a House subcommittee on September 19.

Agencies, which is under the House Appropriations Committee. Speaking at the hearing as part of two panels of environmental activists and scientists, Leavitt feels encouraged by the increased interest in the issue from both sides of the political aisle. “Democrats and Republicans are trying to understand what’s going on with plastics— the scope of the problem, the impact, what more do we need to research, and what they can do about it,” says Leavitt, who hopes the subcommittee will increase funding for research at agencies it oversees. “My main message was that the federal government should address the crisis by regulating single-use plastics. National policies are critical to doing that.” Policy changes also happen at the local and state level, which is the focus of most of her numerous projects. Currently she and her staff are working to cut California’s consumption of single-use plastics by 70 percent by 2030. In New York City, she’s pushing for citywide limits on plastic foodware. She’s also fighting in Florida to revoke the state’s restrictions on its cities’ ability to take local

action on plastic and foam. Leavitt works closely with scientists to ensure Oceana’s work reflects the facts. Growing up in Santa Rosa, Leavitt says, “You drive 10 minutes in any direction and there’s farmlands or woodlands or mountains. There were such beautiful places—the coast, redwoods, Yosemite National Park— so I had an early interest in the natural environment and wanting to protect it.” Leavitt brings more than 20 years of experience working on environmental protection issues—from campaign planning and lobbying to grassroots organizing and fundraising—to Oceana. But she credits her Oxy studies with her strong foundation in history and literature as well as her ability to think through problems and find solutions. While at Oxy, Leavitt took a class called Movements for Social Justice taught by Peter Dreier, E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, developing a strong interest in becoming a political organizer. “She’s the kind of student Oxy prides itself on developing—smart, with a desire to change the world and give back to the community,” Dreier says. At Dreier’s recommendation, Leavitt accepted a job at CALPIRG—California Public Interest Research Group—which fit her interest of becoming an organizer and being involved with environmental issues. Starting as a campus organizer at UC Davis, she rallied students to speak out at a time when Congress was rolling back key environmental protections. About this time, Leavitt began working with Anna Aurilio, then-director of Environment America’s Washington, D.C., office. In the decades since, they have worked together on a number of projects, and Aurilio recalls Leavitt’s unflappable nature. “I tend to be passionate about my work and excitable, but over the years, I’ve come to admire Christy and try to be more like her,” says Aurilio, who now does consulting for the Economic Security Project. “I haven’t given up the passion, but sometimes it’s a more effective leadership style to be calm.” In addition to her Oxy experience, Leavitt enjoyed her time in Los Angeles because she had so many opportunities to volunteer in the surrounding communities: “I felt like I was doing something good for the world.” She hopes, and believes, she still is. —ashley festa


OXYFARE 

Snapshots from Volume 41, Number 4 oxy.edu/magazine

Family & Homecoming Weekend October 18-19 Photos by Marc Campos, Don Milici, and Nick Jacob

OCCIDENTAL COLLEGE

Jonathan Veitch President Wendy F. Sternberg Vice President for Academic Aairs 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 Aairs and Dean of Students Amos Himmelstein Vice President & Chief Operating OďŹƒcer Marty Sharkey Vice President for Communications and Institutional Initiatives Jim Tranquada Director of Communications editorial staff

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

Kevin Mulroy College Librarian

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 OďŹƒce 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

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Occidental College Bookstore oxybookstore.com To order by phone: 323-259-2951 All major credit cards accepted.

Cover photo by Max S. Gerber Oxy Wear photo by Marc Campos

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1. Disney Imagineer Joe Rohde ’77 extols the virtues of a liberal arts education to an enthusiastic audience in Thorne Hall. 2. Here’s something you don’t see every day: the stiltwalking, hoop-spinning, and foot-stomping collective known as MarchFourth (founded by band leader John Averill ’89) leading the party procession from Thorne Hall. 3. Oswald and Lucia Choi-Dalton ’89 groove to the music of MarchFourth in the Academic Quad. 4. Steve Robinson ’77 and Ian McKinnon ’89 meet at the net following a round-robin tournament prior to the dedication of the McKinnon Family Tennis Center and Robinson Family Terrace. 5. The family of the late Sammy Lee ’43 gather at the diving area named for the two-time Olympic gold medalist. 6. Members of the Oxy Hawai‘i Club share the aloha spirit during Oswald’s tailgate. 7. Oxy’s “Water Queen,â€? Jo Ann (Brobst) Hirsch ’58, and husband Vin Hirsch returned to campus for a ďŹ rst look at the long-awaited De Mandel Aquatics Center, which is expected to open early next year. 8. Shae Sakamoto ’20 and Obama Fellow Kayla Williams ’20 enjoy the view at a Homecoming after-party hosted by Lucia Choi-Dalton ’89, Greg Dalton ’89, and Queence and Henry Choi ’90. 9. Jason Frasca ’91 lays down the beat with his jazz quartet at the “Crepes and Jazzâ€? after-party.

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Blyth Fund alumni and past and current faculty advisers gathered September 26 to celebrate the success of one of the oldest continuously operating student-run investment funds in the nation. Created in 1977 by Richard Link in honor of banker Charles R. Blyth, the current 14-member Blyth Fund student committee includes a range of majors, from economics and physics to music and diplomacy and world aairs.

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Save the dates for Alumni Reunion Weekend: June 12-14, 2020

alumni.oxy.edu


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FALL 2019

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FALL 2019

Thanks to the collective effort by GOLD (Graduates of the Last Decade) to raise the equivalent of a full financial aid package, Cheyanne Domalaon ’21 was named the first GOLD Scholar this fall. A media arts and culture major from Santa Clarita, Cheyanne is “in awe” of her close connections with her professors, and truly appreciative of the generosity of the Oxy community. Every gift makes a difference. Cheyanne, how did you choose your major? I love how there are so many aspects to making a movie or TV show. The amount of people working together to produce a work of art that is shown to millions of people is inspiring and an experience, in my opinion, not found in a lot of jobs. Getting to understand all the jobs in the film industry and experiencing them is another reason why I chose media arts and culture. What has been your favorite class at Oxy so far? Materiality of Religion [taught by Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, associate professor of religious studies]. Professor HolmesTagchungdarpa really engaged with me when I had questions— she was very passionate about what she was teaching but she would never devalue someone else’s opinion. Her passion has inspired me to find something that I am passionate about. What activities do you participate in outside the classroom? Dance Pro and Pulse. I have been dancing since elementary school so it was important for me to find a school that allowed me to dance for fun rather than for competition or as a career. Dancing helps me express myself in ways that I cannot explain. How did you fund your education? Being the oldest of three and the first one to go to a college and not a community college was an eye-opening experience. My first year at Oxy, I had to talk to the financial aid office and show them more tax forms so that I could receive more aid, which I thankfully did. Now all three of us are in college—my sister is in her second

TIGER CONNECTIONS: MEASURING ALUMNI ENGAGEMENT /// CHRISTY LEAVITT ’85 TAKES ON BIG PLASTIC

Meet GOLD Scholar Cheyanne Domalaon ’21

Photo by Marc Campos

year of college, and my brother started college this fall—so I will still be taking out loans as well as working at Oxy. Support from our young alumni community is strong and growing. What does it mean to know that recent graduates helped fund your education as the first GOLD Scholar? I am so thankful to our alumni because they not only helped fund my education at Oxy but also gave me the opportunity to attend Oxy. If it weren’t for alumni support, I probably would not be able to attend Oxy at all.

oxy.edu/giving

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GOLD classes, let’s do it again! Please consider giving to Oxy to support more students like Cheyanne. Make an impact For Good.

ChainReaction Michael Angelo Covino ’08 stole the hearts of the Cannes jury with his debut feature. Here’s the story of his 10-year climb to overnight success

Profile for Occidental College

Occidental Magazine - Fall 2019  

Occidental Magazine - Fall 2019