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Seven Exceptional Pomona College Faculty Members Voted Wig Professors by Students

Pomona College Professors Eleanor P. Brown, Stephan R. Garcia, Susan J. McWilliams, Gilda L. Ochoa, Ghassan Y. Sarkis, Tomás F. Summers Sandoval, Jr. and Jonathan C. Wright have received the 2009 Wig Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching. The Award recognizes exceptional teaching, concern for students and service to the College and the community.

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 116th Commencement held on May 17, 2009. The awards were established by Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Wig in 1955.

Eleanor P. Brown, the James Irvine Professor of Economics and the coordinator of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics Program, joined the faculty in 1986. She teaches Economics of Gender and the Family; Economics of the Public Sector; Freedom, Markets & Well-Being; and Microeconomic Theory. This is her fifth Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • Professor Brown is fair, clear, intelligent, strong, and subtly wry. A great teacher.
  • Brown teaches succinctly and clearly, giving students the sense that they actually understand the material.
  • A great professor, who makes economics easy to understand and conveys its importance in very tangible ways. Great professor and kind individual.
  • Professor Brown is a genuinely nice and caring individual, and her enthusiasm for economics and for learning in general is contagious.
  • I couldn’t have even dreamed that I’d find somebody as interesting, accessible and helpful as Prof. Brown to take an interest in my life and academic pursuits.

In her research, Brown focuses on personal philanthropy, tax policy, the market for volunteer labor and not-for-profit organizations. She is deputy editor of the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly Review. She earned her B.A. from Pomona College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University.

Stephan R. Garcia, assistant professor of mathematics, joined Pomona in 2006. He teaches Calculus II, Linear Algebra, Advanced Linear Algebra, and Principles of Real Analysis.

Student comments include:

  • He is exceptional at getting abstract points across, often using multiple methods to really hammer in concepts. Prof. Garcia truly makes learning enjoyable and knowledge concrete.
  • He is phenomenally organized: his lectures are planned well in advance. He types his own lecture notes that he posts online immediately after class ends, never springs topics on students, and regularly asks for feedback (and addresses student concerns)… Most impressive, however, is his commitment to students.
  • He enjoyed helping students and makes it his priority to be available in order to provide students with a deeper understanding of math.

Garcia’s research is primarily in operator theory, which is a cross between linear algebra and infinite dimensional analysis. It combines the algebraic aspects of matrix theory with the topological subtleties of real analysis and the powerful techniques of complex analysis. He earned his B.A. and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

Susan J. McWilliams, assistant professor of politics, joined Pomona in 2006. She teaches American Political Thought, Classical Political Theory, Modern Political Theory, American Democracy in Theory and Practice, Politics and Literature, Justice and the Family, and Dangerous Books.

Student comments include:

  • Her ability to break down complicated issues or texts by providing both a serious scholarly framework and a pop culture reference in the same breath is truly unparalleled.
  • She is a valuable mentor concerning both academic affairs and general life qualms.
  • She inspires all kinds of creative thought and urges students to engage and challenge the theories of seemingly inaccessible philosophers and political figures. I've never felt closer to Abraham Lincoln or more annoyed with Ralph Waldo Emerson in my life…. In her class, she encourages genuine reflection on the choices we make as young Americans. While she casts a critical eye toward our modern technologically-dependent lives, she is not cynical about the ability of her students to make a difference in the world.
  • Susan McWilliams is brilliant and vibrant!... She is able to impart a deep respect for history and politics in even the most apolitical of students.
  • Clearly loves what she does, which makes us love it, too.

McWilliams is currently working on two book projects. The first explores the travel-story tradition of Western political thought and the resources it offers for thinking about the problems and possibilities of present-day globalization. The second is an edited volume about the political thought of James Baldwin. She earned her B.A. from Amherst College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Princeton University.

Gilda L. Ochoa, associate professor of sociology and Chicano Studies, joined the faculty in 1997. She teaches Introduction to Sociology; History and Development of Sociological Theory II: Contemporary Theories; Qualitative Research Methods; Los Angeles Communities: Transformations, Inequality and Activism; Chicanas/os-Latinas/os in Contemporary Society; and Chicanos/Latinas and Education. This is her second Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • With compassion, honesty and encouragement every student that passes through her doors leaves them having worked harder than they ever thought they could and having learned more than they could have imagined.
  • The most engaging professor I have had at Pomona, breaks down traditional classroom and teaching style to help us engage with the material in new ways.
  • Dr. Gilda Ochoa is the best professor I've had during my four years at Pomona College due to her simultaneous commitment to providing challenging courses while caring for her students’ personal, academic and emotional growth… One of her strongest points is her dedication to students outside of the classroom. As a woman of color, I honestly cannot imagine a Pomona College without Professor Ochoa, taking her sociological courses has opened my eyes to the world.

Ghassan Y. Sarkis, assistant professor of mathematics, joined the faculty in 2002. He teaches Abstract Algebra, Calculus, Introduction to Statistics, and Linear Algebra.

Student comments include:

  • Professor Sarkis is a great lecturer. Everyone in his classes is interested by the lectures. [He] helped to deepen my excitement about math and was one of the reasons that I became a math major. He encourages his students to try and helps them to succeed.
  • Challenged and inspired me to become a better mathematician than I ever thought possible. Ghassan Sarkis is a ‘mathemagician.’
  • Fantastic, engaging, interesting, insightful lecturer. Great in explaining concepts.
  • Amazing professor/mentor.

Sarkis focuses his research on exploring minimal conditions under which power series are formal endomorphisms. He earned his B.S. from the University of Chicago and his M.A. and Ph.D. from Brown University.

Tomás F. Summers Sandoval, Jr., assistant professor of history and Chicano Studies, joined the faculty in 2006. He teaches All Power to the People! Social Movements for Justice; American Inequality, Chicana/Latina Feminist Histories, Chincana/o and Latina/o Histories, and Latina/o Oral Histories.

Student comments include:

  • He has been one of the most influential professors of my college experience, and I only had him for one class!
  • Professor Summers Sandoval is a passionate, introspective, intelligent, and kind teacher. I learned a great deal in his class and have used what I learned in other courses. He was always extremely kind and understanding, open to his students, and in touch with our needs and experiences.
  • His classes are informative and interesting, and he does a good job of communicating with the students.
  • So incredibly friendly and encouraging, clearly passionate about what he does, and when he lived on campus was always welcoming students into his home and his family.

Summers Sandoval's research interests revolve around the history of race and racial inequality in the United States. An expert in the histories of people of Latin American descent in the U.S., he is currently at work on Latinos at the Golden Gate, a book manuscript on the formation of Latino community in San Francisco, from the Gold Rush to the 1970s. He earned his B.A. from Claremont McKenna College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

Jonathan C. Wright, an associate professor of biology, joined the faculty in 1998. He teaches Animal Physiology with Laboratory and Introduction to Ecological and Evolutionary Biology with Laboratory. This is his second Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • Dr. Wright gives teaching maximum effort and thought, and it shows in his fun and interesting classes and labs…. Dr. Wright's sense of wonder and interest about biology is truly infectious,
  • A true mentor, role model, and friend to his pupils, as well as an excellent professor and an incredibly knowledgeable biologist and natural historian.
  • Not only is he always willing to talk and help, he is genuinely excited about whatever project a student may be tackling. His enthusiasm for student research is unmatched, and he dedicates more time and energy than I would have ever thought possible.
  • He's at his best hiking around the BFS or Evey Canyon grabbing snakes from behind bushes and diving into streams to find salamanders.

A comparative physiologist, Wright studies the physiological systems of land isopods (sub-order Oniscidea) and how particular systems have been modified in the evolutionary transition from an aquatic to a terrestrial habit. He is particularly interested in water vapor absorption by organisms, in the absence of liquid water. He earned his B.A., M.A. and D. Phil. from Oxford University.

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, is known for its small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, providing a range of opportunities for student research, and meeting the full financial aid need of each accepted student. In 2009, it was named to the “Best Value” college lists of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine and Princeton Review.