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Volume 47, Number 2

CONGRATULATIONS From the President

Dear Class of 2014,

Commencement 2014 Opening Remarks

We had a beautiful, joyous commencement and once again congratulations to you all. While every graduation marks a milestone,yours was particularly meaningful as it marked our half-century birthday. Pitzer College’s 50th Anniversary Commencement included a procession of alumni from the past 49 years, led by Katherine Gibbs ’65, one of the three women who made up Pitzer’s entire first graduating class. Kathleen Kile ’97 created special anniversary stoles for you and her fellow alumni to wear and Professor Brent Armendinger delivered a poem he wrote especially for the occasion, a fitting bookend for the first commencement where poet James Dickey spoke. Van Jones, who was so pleased to be selected as your speaker, gave a glorious commencement address and certainly honored our values and ethos. A question that has been repeatedly in the news, particularly since the 2008 recession, concerns whether a college education is “worth it.” Setting aside the argument about the intellectual benefits, a recent article in The New York Times unequivocally declares: “Yes, college is worth it, and it’s not even close. For all the struggles that many young college graduates face, a four-year degree has probably never been more valuable." A recent article in Science posited the interesting perspective: “Over the long run, college is cheaper than free. Not going to college will cost you about half a million dollars.” On May 17, 2014, we celebrated our learning journey together and looked forward to the next 50 years. The alumni who returned to campus that day embody our belief that your Pitzer education does not end with graduation. A diploma doesn’t sum up your time at college. What you have learned, the work you have created, the friends you have made, the places you have gone, the professors you have inspired—these are the things you take with you and they can’t be calculated or measured or framed. You made Pitzer College a better place, and I cannot wait to see what you do for the rest of world. Provida Futuri, Laura Skandera Trombley Pitzer College President

Charge to the Class of 2014

PITZER COLLEGE Commencement 2014

Visions & Voices | Commencement 2014

50th Anniversary Commencement Highlights Video

Commencement Speaker Van Jones, environmental advocate, civil rights activist and host of CNN’s Crossfire

Senior Class Memories Slideshow

Senior Class Speaker Brian Robbins ’14

Special Announcement: Pitzer’s Climate Action Plan Jessica Grady-Benson ’14 and Donald Gould, member, Board of Trustees

50th Anniversary Poem: Accepting the Charges Brent Armendinger, associate professor of English and World Literature/Creative Writing

Alumni Greeting Tracy McDonald Tindle ’82, president, Alumni Association Board

PITZER COLLEGE Commencement 2014

Pitzer College held its 50th Anniversary Commencement ceremony on Saturday, May 17, 2014. Hundreds of friends and family members turned out to celebrate the Class of 2014.


for more Commencement 2014 photos

CLASS OF 2014 Next Chapters

represent 28 states, 9 countries and range in age from 20 to 50


designed their own majors and graduated with degrees in: • Healing as a Form of Resistance • The Culture and Labor of Food • Technology and Social Change • Embodied Knowledge

22% were double majors 30% had minors were STEM (science, technology, 14% engineering and math) majors 75% studied abroad Top 10 Majors 1. Psychology 2. Special/Self-Designed 3. Environmental Analysis 4. Economics 5. Sociology 6. Political Studies 7. Media Studies 8. English & World Literature 9. Human Biology 10. Anthropology

Alfredo Valencia will master the elements in Harvard’s chemical biology PhD program and Samantha Morse will turn the next page as an English doctoral student at UCLA Dahnya Nicole Hernandez-Roach will design youth programs at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History in Washington DC and Rachel Silbert will work to create a low-carbon future at The Climate Group in London Kelsey Frenck will study Arabic at the American University in Cairo and Shawn Thuris will be all business as he earns his MBA in Shanghai Sage Schaftel will create community partnerships at the Governor of Colorado’s office in Denver and Andrea Mariana Frias Graterol will co-facilitate youth programs for Spectrum LGBT Center in the Bay Area Evan Slovak will set the bar as he pursues his JD at the University of Pennsylvania Law School and Hannah Tannenbaum will plunge into a new career teaching scuba diving in the Caribbean Rachel Kipnes will coordinate outreach at the Vietnamese American Youth Leadership Association in New Orleans while Leora Paradise choreographs an Israeli dance program for a Jewish community center in Vancouver Braden Holstege will finesse finances as an analyst for Payden & Rygel in Los Angeles and Somer Drummond will cure critters at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in New Jersey Joanna Hong will pursue an MA in human rights at University College London and Natasha Silfanus will begin a master’s in management at City University London Haley Irving-Ruffing will mix it up as a chemistry teacher for Exploration School in New Haven and Jaya Williams will serve as manager/designer for Barbareño restaurant in Santa Barbara Aiko Uytterhaegen is bound for Brussels to pursue an MA in art history and Jennifer Burleigh will head to Columbia University for a master of social work degree Justine Oesterle will explore the ecosystem at JPL in Pasadena and Annelise Stabenau will intern for Nordic by Nature in Berlin Matthew Hoffer will embark on his MA in economics at USC and Emily India Richter will pursue a master of public health degree at Johns Hopkins University

Next Chapters: The Class of 2014

274 Graduates…

CLASS OF 2014 Athletics

Teaming with Talent Over the past four years, Pitzer’s student-athletes have won seven SCIAC championships, including in Men’s Soccer, Women’s Tennis and Men’s Water Polo. This year, Women’s Water Polo claimed the conference title for the third year in a row and Women’s Lacrosse qualified for the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time in team history. Baseball Jackson Badger ’14 and Coleman Lukas ’14 helped the Sagehens rack up 97 wins over four seasons and qualify for the 2013 NCAA Division III Tournament. A Coaches Award winner, Lukas served on the Sagehens advisory committee. Men’s Basketball This season, Xavyr Moss ’14 contributed to the team’s highest win total since 2004. Moss has been a first-team All-SCIAC and SCIAC All-Academic team selection. Women’s Lacrosse Co-captains Kaitlin Jones ’14, Rachel Kessler ’14 and Jana London ’14 propelled Lacrosse to finish 2nd in the SCIAC and qualify for the NCAA Division III Tournament for the first time. With a SCIAC-leading 68 goals this season, London was named Pitzer’s Most Outstanding Student Athlete, as well as first-team All-SCIAC and first-team IWLCA All-West Region. Kessler was first-team AllSCIAC and second-team IWLCA All-West Region. Jones won the 2014 Julie and Frank Fenton Award for Athletic Leadership and was a SCIAC All-Academic team selection. Men’s Soccer Andrew Lind ’14 played midfield and was a key member of the starting lineup for the 2012 SCIAC title-winning team. Women’s Soccer Sara Ach ’14 helped the Sagehens set a new team record with 13 wins this season and finish a close 2nd in the SCIAC. Men’s and Women’s Swimming and Diving Both Men’s and Women’s Swimming & Diving finished 2nd in the SCIAC and ranked in the top five nationally in Division III team GPA. Men’s Swimming &

Diving team captain Gabriel Leggott ’14 was a SCIAC All-Academic team selection for both swimming and track & field. Men’s Tennis Christopher Wiechert ’14, the 2011 ITA National Rookie of the Year and West Region Rookie of the Year, won Pitzer’s Most Outstanding Student Athlete Award and was named first-team All-SCIAC all four years. He helped the team finish 2nd in the SCIAC, reach No. 10 nationally and advance to the NCAA regional finals. Women’s Tennis Women’s Tennis reached No. 6 in the national rankings and advanced to the NCAA regional finals. Claire Willey ’14 provided the clinching singles victory in the SCIAC quarterfinals and contributed an 8-1 doubles win during the NCAA regional finals. Men’s Track and Field Gregory Hook ’14, the team’s 2012 MVP, was part of a 4×400 relay team that finished 2nd in SCIAC this year with the second-best time in program history. Brian Cohn ’14, who runs the 400, was selected for the SCIAC All-Academic team. Women’s Track and Field Alexandra Oxborough-Yankus ’14 ranks 6th in school history in the hammer throw and 8th in the javelin. She has received All-SCIAC honors and been named to the SCIAC AllAcademic team. Men’s Water Polo Center Jarrod Gaut ’14 overcame injury to finish 2nd on the team with 48 goals and be named first-team All-SCIAC and first-team All-America. He plans to play professional water polo in Spain.


CLASS OF 2014 Awards

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Environmental Analysis Fellowships Evelyn Byer ’14 Jessica Grady-Benson ’14

Sophia Baldwin ’14 Vanessa Gonzalez ’14

Shiyana Gunasekara ’14 Nicholas Romo ’14

McNair Scholarship

Community Water Solutions Fellowship Jeremy Brecher-Haimson ’14

Marcela Jones ’14

Shiyana Gunasekara ’14 Aidan Lukomnik ’14 Romarilyn Ralston ’14

Newman Civic Fellowship Arthur Levine ’14 Nicholas Romo ’14 Samantha Morse ’14 Elizabeth Pedersen ’14 Autumn Pham ’14 Nicole Pilar ’14 Alexander Rawding ’14 Claire Thoman Tedford ’14 Cesar Vargas ’14 Mia Yamashiro ’14

Freeman Awards for Study in Asia Nicholas Romo ’14

German Academic Exchange Service Scholarship Autumn Pham ’14

Gilman International Scholarship Nicholas Romo ’14

Harvard National Model United Nations Braden Holstege ’14 Benjamin Levine ’14 Elizabeth Pedersen ’14

Japan Exchange and Teaching Fellowship Harisimran Paton ’14

Joint Mathematics Meetings Outstanding Presentation Karly Brint ’14

Uriel Rafael ’14 Alfredo Valencia ’14

Napier Award for Creative Leadership

Coro Fellowships

Alaitz Aritza ’14 Samantha Bromley-Coolidge ’14 Evelyn Byer ’14 Katherine Cabrera ’14 Hannah Engles ’14 Shiyana Gunasekara ’14 Minji Lee ’14 Benjamin Levine ’14 Zoey Martin-Lockhart ’14

Leonardo Flores ’14

Lingnan University Teaching Fellowships

Capital Fellows Programs

Fulbright Fellowships

Kemper Scholarship

Princeton in Africa Fellowship Emily India Richter ’14

Princeton in Asia Fellowship Sophie Howard ’14

Robert Day Scholarship Braden Holstege ’14

Teach For America

Lillian Barrett-O’Keefe ’14 Danielle Frankel ’14 Andrea Gochi ’14 Noemi Larrondo ’14 Benjamin Levine ’14 Elizabeth Pedersen ’14 Madeleine Ranson ’14

Udall Scholarship

Keiko Budech ’14 Jessica Grady-Benson ’14

US Department of State Critical Language Scholarship Samantha Morse ’14

US Teaching Assistantships at Austrian Secondary Schools Autumn Pham ’14

W.M. Keck Foundation Summer Research Fellow Peter Rominger ’14

Congratulations to Pitzer College's Class of 2014 award winners!

CLASS OF 2014 Graduate Profile

Making the Right Moment: Marcela Jones ’14


Click to watch Marcela Jones profile video p

nother person might have called off the meeting. A few people had canceled and dark clouds threatened rain. But Marcela Jones ’14 is not easily deterred. At a picnic table in the Huerta del Valle Community Garden, she switched seamlessly between Spanish and English, laughing, cajoling and inspiring as she spoke with Pitzer students and residents of Ontario, Calif. about launching a reading program for children. She didn’t mind the nearby noisy chickens or the roaming dogs she called “free-range Chihuahuas.” “The saddest thing in life is when people wait for the right moment,” she said. “Conditions are never going to be perfect, so just do it and figure it out later.” For Jones, timing isn’t everything, tenacity is. In 2007, she and her husband were in the process of franchising a fast food restaurant in Ventura, Calif. when a car accident left her unable to walk. After months in rehab, she decided she needed to pursue a college education. “If you’re in a wheelchair and don’t have a degree, you don’t have a lot of options,” Jones said. “So I thought, OK. Plan B.” She began taking classes at a community college, where a counselor told her about Pitzer. Jones enrolled at the College through the New Resources Program for non-traditional college-aged students and was one of 18 New Resources graduates in May. An international & intercultural studies major, she taught English to day laborers, worked at the Community Engagement Center, spent a semester in the Pitzer in Ontario (PIO) program and, in her spare time, wrote a novel, feeding her “dorky passion” for everything literary. This February, she won a Napier Award for Creative Leadership and is using the award’s $10,000 stipend to start a literacy project for the children of families who have plots at Huerta del Valle, an urban garden created by PIO and community members. Jones knows the challenges many children in the neighborhood face—she grew up less than two miles from the garden and spoke Spanish at home with her parents, who were born in Mexico. “I just want to do something that helps people,” she said. And she knows that right now—whatever the conditions—is the perfect time to start.

CLASS OF 2014 Graduate Profile

Click to hear Nicholas Romo talk about heading to China during his junior year p

加油 Keep Going: Nicholas Romo ’14


hen Nicholas Romo ’14 applied to college, he wasn’t one of those students with a mile-long list of extracurriculars. “I didn’t start my own nonprofit in high school,” Romo said. “I was struggling with some of the things nonprofits are created to help.” His father passed away when Romo was three and his mother had to support four sons on a special education teacher’s salary. Growing up in northeastern Los Angeles, Romo worked in a shoe store after school, helped his family any way he could and studied hard, determined to get into a good college. When Romo’s mother applied to undergraduate schools in the ’60s, The Claremont Colleges seemed as distant and unattainable as Harvard, especially for Latino/a students, Romo said. Five decades later, Pitzer’s bright orange acceptance envelope arrived in Romo’s mailbox and “it was like the dream had made it home.” “I came to Pitzer with the attitude that I had to cherish everything; I had to take advantage of everything,” Romo said. He says he started college with an 18-year-old’s hubris and a newcomer’s uncertainty. “I felt like, I’m this kid from this place and I’ll need help.” So he looked for mentors and found them all over campus: professors, students, alumni, staff members, and the dining hall and facilities workers who treated him like family. By the time he graduated, Romo seemed to have done everything but start a nonprofit. He had earned honors as a political studies and sociology major, been elected chair of the Student Senate, tutored low-income children as an Americorps member, served on the Latino

I came to Pitzer with the attitude that I had to cherish everything; I had to take advantage of everything.

Leadership Council, conducted summer research in Canada and helped coordinate Pitzer’s Native American program. He represented Pitzer at conferences across the country, from the Debating for Democracy Conference in New York City to the Public Policy and Leadership Conference at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. He won a slew of scholarships and fellowships, including a Gilman Scholarship to study in China and a Newman Civic Fellows Award for leadership and community involvement. In May, Romo was named a California Senate Fellow by the Capital Fellows Program in Sacramento. He will work in the Los Angeles Mayor’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development this summer before joining the legislative staff at the state capitol in the fall. Today, Romo closes his emails with a Chinese saying he learned from his roommate in Beijing-加油 (jiā yóu)! He says it translates roughly as “Add energy, keep going.”

CLASS OF 2014 Graduate Profile

Click to continue the conversation with Meng Xu p

The Art of Communication: Meng Xu ’14


eng Xu ’14 studied abroad twice during college: for one semester in Tokyo, Japan and for seven semesters in Claremont, USA. Originally from Shanghai, China, Xu is one of nine international students who graduated from Pitzer College in May. Just as many students travel to Nepal or Costa Rica during college, Xu came to Pitzer to learn a foreign language and experience a culture different from his own. He viewed his initial discomfort as a desirable inevitability—a kind of prerequisite for a global education. “I wanted to give myself a hard time, to push my limits,” Xu said. Xu lived in Anaheim for two years during high school, but he spent much of his time there with other Chinese students. During Pitzer’s New Student Orientation, Xu was afraid he would embarrass himself if he spoke English. “I couldn’t talk for like a week,” he said. Today Xu speaks not only English, but Japanese, in addition to his native Mandarin. The media studies major has been fascinated by Japan’s popular culture since he was a child and began studying Japanese his first semester in college. For many in his parents’ generation, relations between China and Japan are often strained by historic tensions stemming from the World War II era. Xu says his generation sees the world differently. “For young people, the feeling is less strong,” Xu said. “I am a big fan of Japan.”

One of the first students Xu met at Pitzer was Yo Wakita ’14, who is from Japan but lived in Beijing as a child. Now good friends, Xu often speaks with Wakita in Japanese while Wakita answers in English, with a Chinese saying tossed in every once in a while. Xu’s interest in how people communicate and break cultural barriers drew him to media studies at Pitzer. He says he has learned both inside and outside the classroom from professors and fellow students alike. “Everyone is such a good example to me—I just copy and paste a little bit,” Xu said. The international student who was afraid to speak English when he arrived on campus is now a funny, outgoing college graduate who enjoys chatting in multiple languages about media theory, fashion, and issues of identity and culture. He plans to work in guest relations with a Japanese travel company in Hawaii before pursuing graduate studies in media, communications and governance in Japan. “Pitzer College remade me,” Xu said. “A liberal arts education is about more than learning the language and American culture; it is also about human liberty and learning how to be yourself.”

CLASS OF 2014 Graduate Essay

we learned… the urgency for change, the endurance of commitment, and the audacity of action and social activism.

What’s So Right about Being Wrong

(once in a while)

by Benjamin Levine ’14


didn’t get to Pitzer College alone—none of us did. My dad and sister helped move me in. I remember the orange-clad upperclassmen clapping and cheering while I dragged my luggage up the stairs of my first-year dorm. My new home was on the second floor of Pitzer Hall, nestled in between the residence director’s office and the garbage room. Wow, I thought, I’m not going to be able to get away with anything. The only other thing I remember from move-in day was the scorching heat, which was the source of some personal discomfort and my first disagreement with my new roommate. He, being from Southern California, suggested turning off the room’s air conditioning and opening the window because temperatures dropped quickly in the late afternoon, while I, the stubborn New Englander, wanted the AC cranked and all doors, vents and windows closed— sustainability be damned. Well, after four years of familiarizing myself with the weather here, I am finally ready to admit that temperatures do, in fact, drop quickly at night. That was just the start of me learning by being proven wrong at Pitzer. ■■■

In the capstone to my major, the Senior Seminar in Economics, Professor Linus Yamane gave a lecture about life after Pitzer. I think he could feel the collective anxiety in the room so he ended with a quote by

the playwright William Saroyan. “Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep, really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell, and when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough.” Saroyan’s quote highlights perhaps my biggest misconception about college, and its most valuable lesson. Like many of my classmates, I came here thinking I was going to learn everything in my chosen field, as well as philosophy, sociology, biology, political science, art and environmental analysis. But, once again, Pitzer proved me wrong. Yes, I learned economics, and all my classmates learned their disciplines. But what we learned collectively as part of the Pitzer experience was the urgency for change, the endurance of commitment, and the audacity of action and social activism. We learned how to live, and what we take with us is insight and a passion for improving the lives of others. If we seize our postgraduate lives with the same noble intent, idealistic passion and thoughtful pragmatism, we will leave this Earth in better shape than we found it. I will be wrong again, but in this, I am sure. Benjamin Levine ’14 was awarded a 2014–15 Fulbright Fellowship to teach English in Indonesia. Last year, he found a nice cave in Joshua Tree National Park and is looking forward to returning to it after his Fulbright year.

The new participants