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Outstanding Faculty Mentors at Pomona College Recognized With Fellowships

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, has recognized five of its faculty members for their particularly outstanding work as mentors and advisors to students of color, students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, and first-generation college students.

Those faculty members, George Gorse, Marcelle Holmes, Daniel O’Leary, Ami Radunskaya, and Valorie Thomas, were announced as the 2004 Irvine Distinguished Faculty Fellows, at the college’s February 13 faculty meeting. Each fellowship is funded at $7,000.

“The awarding of the fellowship,” explained Gary Kates, dean of the college, “is meant to recognize and honor the important work of mentoring our students. These faculty members have been truly outstanding in that regard. The monetary support will enhance their ability to pursue their individual research or teaching projects.”

Viola Horton Professor of Art and Art History George Gorse is well known among faculty members for consistently testifying to the benefits of diversity. He has served as faculty adviser in the African American Student Mentoring Program and has guided the Affirmative Action Committee as they undertake to redraft the college’s Affirmative Action Policy. He also successfully campaigned to convert a minority scholar fellowship, in his department, to a tenure-track position.

Since joining the faculty in 2001, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Black Studies Marcelle Holmes has worked with five student research assistants and included one student as a “teaching assistant” in her Introduction to Psychology class. She has been active in the Intercollegiate Black Studies Department and at Women’s Studies events, and has presented papers about mental health and diversity issues in many different venues at The Claremont Colleges.

Associate Professor of Chemistry Daniel O’Leary plans to donate $2,500 of his award to the American Chemical Society’s Scholars Program, a committee on which he sits, and whose work involves providing financial support and mentoring to more than 1,200 minority students interested in chemistry. With the rest of his award, he will establish a research lab supplies budget specifically for students who work in his group. The minority students O’Leary has worked with at Pomona have pursued various careers in chemistry, science journalism, and business.

In addition to mentoring Pomona students, Associate Professor of Mathematics Ami Radunskaya has participated in more than one program designed to make math more user-friendly for students of all ages. She has taught 8th graders on a Navaho reservation about chaos theory. Since 1998, she has been a faculty member in EDGE [Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education], a program that provides math instruction during the summer and mentoring throughout the year, targeting female graduate students in mathematics who have traditionally had a poor success rate in graduate school. In 2003, she coordinated the first EDGE program held at Pomona.

Assistant Professor of English Valorie Thomas has a joint appointment in the Intercollegiate Department of Black Studies at The Claremont Colleges and the English Department at Pomona College. She acts as an intermediary and negotiator between these entities with great skill. From the beginning of her tenure at Pomona College in 1998, she has been a presence in all public arenas that touch on diversity. Recently, she started the on-campus organization Black Achievement Network that aims to bring together alums, parents, students, and faculty to support black students at the college.

The Irvine Distinguished Faculty Fellowship awards were made possible as part of a major grant, to Pomona College, from the James Irvine Foundation's Campus Diversity Initiative in 2002. Part of the CDI grant provides for a total of fifteen faculty fellowships to be awarded over a period of three years. The selection of the fellowship recipients is made by a committee composed of Pomona faculty, staff and students.

The first awards were made in 2003. Those recipients were: Associate Professor of Biology Clarissa Cheney, Associate Professor of Chemistry Roberto Garza-Lopez, Associate Professor of Psychology Sharon Goto, Associate Professor of Art History and Black Studies Phyllis Jackson, Associate Professor of History and Black Studies Sidney Lemelle, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Chicana/o Studies Gilda Ochoa, and Associate Professor of History, Chicano/a and Latin American Studies Miguel Tinker Salas.