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2006 Wig Award Winners

Students honor six professors for excellence in teaching, and retiring English Professor Martha Andresen receives special recognition.

Pomona College professors Pierre Englebert, Richard Hazlett, Slavi Slavov, Wayne Steinmetz, Nicole Weekes, and Samuel Yamashita have been elected to receive the 2006 Wig Distinguished Professor Awards for Excellence in Teaching, by a vote of students. The award recognizes exceptional teaching, concern for students and service to the College and community.

Wayne Steinmetz, Samuel Yamashita, Slavi Slavov, Pierre Englebert, Richard Hazlett and Nicole Weekes (not pictured) won the 2006 Wig Awards.

The recipients of the Wig Awards are elected by the junior and senior classes and then confirmed by a committee of trustees, faculty and students. The awards were announced at Pomona's 113th Commencement held on May 14, 2006. They were established by Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Wig in 1955.

In a first, this year's Wig Committee also adopted a resolution commending English Professor Martha Andresen "for a lifetime of distinguished and extraordinary teaching." Andresen, who came to Pomona in 1972 and is retiring this year, received the Wig Award every year for which she was eligible, a total of seven times.

Here are the details on this year's winners:

Pierre Englebert, an associate professor of politics, joined the Pomona College faculty in 1998 and teaches courses in international relations, with an emphasis on comparative politics and Africa. This is his second Wig Award.

Student comments included: “a great mentor who teaches with a passion and makes complex material easy to understand.” “Fabulous teacher both in and out of the classroom. Really interesting lectures and discussions that form a comprehensive body of knowledge for the class. Cares about and makes time for students more than any other teacher I have met.” “Not afraid of real debate.” “He takes the time to meet his students and learn what they are passionate about.” “Professor Englebert teaches his classes with both scholarly passion & a fun-loving attitude that often rivals stand-up comedy in its hilarity.”

Englebert focuses his research on the relationship between state-society relations and the economic performance in developing countries, with an emphasis on Sub-Saharan Africa. His publications include State Legitimacy and Development in Africa (2000); Burkina Faso: Unsteady Statehood in West Africa (1996); several book chapters; and articles in the journals African Affairs, Afrika Spectrum and Comparative Politics.

He holds a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, an M.A. from Johns Hopkins University, and a B.A. and M.A. from Free University of Brussels.

Richard W. Hazlett is the Stephen M. Pauley M.D. ’62 Professor or Environmental Studies, chair of the Environmental Analysis Program, and a professor of geology. He joined Pomona’s faculty in 1987 and teaches Introduction to Environmental Studies, Land Use and Abuse, Strategic Natural Resources, and Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology. This is his third Wig Award.

Student comments include: “[Hazlett] is an absolutely phenomenal professor.” “His passion is his students and subject matter, a fact that becomes evident 10 minutes after the first class period of a new semester begins. Professor Hazlett's willingness to engage students in and outside of the classroom makes him an amazingly effective instructor.” “He can instill excitement about the environmental sciences through well-reasoned discourse and scientific data that cut through the rhetoric that often surround that field.” “His concern for the environment is obvious, but instead of teaching a certain set of views he ensures that his students think thoroughly about issues and come to their own conclusions.” “He encourages students to push their own limits and trust their ability to make social change.”

In his research, Hazlett focuses on volcanology; igneous petrology; mineralogy; land use issues pertaining particularly to oil depletion, forestry and agriculture; and the role of selected natural resources in human conflict and history. His recent research has included work in the eastern Aleutian Islands on volcanic stratigraphy and more recently an exploration of land use issues focusing on the American West.

Hazlett received his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California, his M.A. from Dartmouth College, and his B.A. from Occidental College.

Slavi Slavov, an assistant professor of economics, joined the Pomona faculty in 2003 and teaches courses on macroeconomics, international economics, and international macroeconomic policy and monetary institutions. This is his first Wig Award and the first year he was eligible.

Student comments include: “He brings a true sense of exuberance to the material that he teaches.” “He is not only a brilliant and interesting lecturer, but he genuinely makes a connection with his students…. He genuinely cares about his students and the quality of the classes he teaches.” “He has the amazing capability to explain difficult concepts simply, logically, and creatively, despite his in depth knowledge of them.” “Always there for students - even when he's in his office till midnight running regressions.” “If I'd only taken economics earlier in my college career, I might have majored in it, just because [Slavov] is so wonderful. He made me think about the world around me in an entirely different way.”

In his research, Slavov studies the impact of volatility among the three major currencies on small open economies; the impact of UN sanctions on third countries; and the impact of the introduction of the euro on exchange rate pass-through in the Euro area. He earned his Ph.D. from Stanford University and his B.A. from Grinnell College.

Wayne Steinmetz, the Carnegie Professor of Chemistry, joined the Pomona faculty in 1973 and teaches Environmental Chemistry, General Chemistry, Physical Chemistry in Molecular Biology, Physical Chemistry, Physical Measurements and Analysis, Molecular Structure and Modeling. This is his second Wig Award.

Student comments include: “His classes are challenging, but his lectures always contain detailed explanations and derivations of the principles and equations, making the information much more accessible.” “The class I took from Dr. Steinmetz was very challenging, yet he was always willing to take extra time to help me learn the material outside of class.” “Amazingly knowledgeable in many areas of science; ever-willing to help and explain.” “He is passionate and impressively knowledgeable about an interdisciplinary array of scientific topics…. He is extremely good at teaching and it is apparent that he deeply enjoys it because he's doing it all the time, in and out of the classroom.” “I'm always surprised by the written feedback he provides on assignments and the time he spends patiently with students during his office hours.”

In his research, Steinmetz employs modeling techniques and instrumental measurements to obtain the three-dimensional structure of molecules. He is the author of numerous professional articles in a variety of professional journals including the Journal of Physical Chemistry, Journal of Organic Chemistry, and the Journal of Medical Chemistry. He earned his Ph.D. and A.M. from Harvard University and his A.B. from Oberlin College.

Nicole Weekes, an associate professor of psychology, joined the Pomona faculty in 1998 and teaches Foundations in Neuroscience, Psychological Approaches, Human Neuropsychology, and Biological Basis of Psychopathology. In 2001, she was named the “California Professor of the Year” by the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) and the Carnegie Foundation.

Student comments include: “I have never met a more engaging speaker, a professor more dedicated to making sure her students learn the material and enjoy the process, or a teacher with more inventive and entertaining teaching methods.” “She made classes exciting….I even signed up for a Friday afternoon seminar because she was teaching it. She's amazing, full of energy and really cares about her students and makes learning really fun (honestly).” “I deeply admire her enthusiasm in her classroom, the clarity of her lectures, and her strong relationships with her students. I count myself lucky to have had the opportunity to be advised by Professor Weekes. In this capacity, she takes a personal approach to advising, and not only comes to know your intellectual work and aspirations, but also your personal struggles and triumphs.”

Weekes focuses her research on individual and group differences in neuropsychological functioning, with an emphasis on the effects of biological sex, handedness, and stress and hormone levels. In terms of neuropsychological functioning, she is interested in differences in hemispheric specialization, hemispheric communication and memory functioning. She has reported the results of her research in articles published in the professional journals Stress and Health, Brain and Cognition, Brain, and Brain and Language.

She earned her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles and her B.A. from Boston University.

Samuel Yamashita, the Henry E. Sheffield Professor of History, joined the Pomona faculty in 1983 and teaches Asian Traditions; State and Citizen in Modern Japan; Rethinking Modern Asian History; Tokugawa Thought; Early Modern Japan; and Modern Japan. This is his fifth Wig Award.

Student comments include: “He represents the excellence he demands of his students- preparation, broad education, and thorough analysis.” “Among the best intellectual experiences I've had at Pomona have been with Prof. Yamashita.” “Despite the three writing intensive classes he teaches per semester, Professor Yamashita somehow manages to make detailed typewritten comments and suggestions on each part of the research paper process for each and every one of his students.” “He opened me up to history when I was a freshman, and now I'm a history major. His lectures are brilliant and he is very dedicated.” “I honestly believe that a Pomona education is incomplete without taking one class with Prof. Yamashita.”

In his research, Yamashita examines the modern Japanese state and its ideological constructions. To understand how the general population responded to wartime ideology, he has read diaries and letters written by ordinary Japanese servicemen, civilians, women, and children during World War II. The resulting book, Leaves from an Autumn of Emergencies: Selections from the Wartime Diaries of Ordinary Japanese, was published by the University of Hawaii Press in fall 2005. His second research project is a study of the six Confucian academies that dominated the intellectual landscape in Japan between 1660 and 1760.

Yamashita earned his Ph.D. and M.A. from the University of Michigan and his B.A. from Macalester College.