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Seven Professors Receive 2012 Wig Excellence in Teaching Award

Wig Award winners, from left: Frederick Grieman, Pardis Mahdavi, David Menefee-Libey, Ami Radunskaya, Vin de Silva, Joti Rockwell, and Jessica Borelli

Wig Award winners, from left: Frederick Grieman, Pardis Mahdavi, David Menefee-Libey, Ami Radunskaya, Vin de Silva, Joti Rockwell, and Jessica Borelli

Pomona College Professors Jessica Borelli, Vin de Silva, Frederick Grieman, Pardis Mahdavi, David Menefee-Libey, Ami Radunskaya and C. Joti Rockwell have received the 2012 Wig Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award is the highest honor bestowed on Pomona faculty and recognizes exceptional teaching, concern for students and service to the College and the community.

The recipients of the Wig Award 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 119th Commencement, held on May 13, 2012. They were established by Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Wig in 1955.

Jessica Borelli, an assistant professor of psychology, joined the Pomona faculty in 2009 and teaches Psychological Approaches to the Study of People, Clinical Psychology, Field Work in Clinical Psychology and Abnormal Psychology.

Student comments included:

  • Cares immensely for her students, makes classes very enjoyable, enriches class time by sharing stories from her own clinical experience.
  • Professor Borelli's lectures are inspirational, knowledgeable and truly fun. Also, she is easily approachable and supportive. She is a wonderful professor who truly deserves this award.
  • Amazing mentor, opens up a world of opportunities for her students in terms of research and work, both on campus and outside Pomona.
  • Her guidance as an advisor and research director has shaped me and my future in innumerable ways. There is no one who better embodies the intelligent, productive, connected and compassionate spirit of a Pomona professor.

Borelli’s research examines the links between close relationships and emotion in children and adults, with a specific focus on the parent-child relationship. She earned her B.A. from UC Berkeley and her M.S., M.Phil. and Ph.D. from Yale University.

Vin de Silva, an associate professor of mathematics, joined the faculty in 2005 and teaches Combinatronics, Differential Equations/Modeling, Linear Algebra, Topics in Geometry and Topology and Vector Calculus.

Student comments include:

  • Class with Professor De Silva is a treat. His expectations are clear. He is a great lecturer. He pushes you, but genuinely wants you to succeed.
  • Vin de Silva is an exemplary scholar of not only math but of life; perpetually available to students, a leader in his field, engaged and palpably present in his classes, willing to go above and beyond at the drop of a hat, interested in higher level math AND organizing reunion lunches for his students.
  • Professor De Silva's clarity, organization and dry humor make his classes not only understandable, but enjoyable. As an advisor, he encourages students to do what is best for them, and offers advice as needed.

De Silva earned his B.A. from Cambridge University and his D. Phil. from Oxford University. His research focuses on computational topology and geometry; nonlinear dimensionality reduction; and tensor approximation.

Frederick Grieman, the Roscoe Moss Professor of Chemistry, came to Pomona College in 1982 and teaches General Chemistry with Laboratory and Physical Chemistry. This is his third Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • Best professor I've had at Pomona! He makes a sincere effort to get to know his students and help them throughout college. It tells you something about his character when he is known as one of the most challenging professors and yet his general chemistry courses are over-enrolled every semester.
  • I really enjoyed taking general chemistry because of how well the course was taught. I felt like, more than anything, you wanted your students to completely understand the material and be just as awed by chemistry. Your enthusiasm for chemistry made me enthusiastic too and made a subject that I hated interesting.
  • Prof. Grieman is a great mentor and is extremely in touch with his students outside of class, something I have come to value ever so much while at Pomona.

Grieman focuses his research on gas-phase spectroscopy of molecular ions and transition metal compounds via electron impact and laser excitation of free-jet expansions. He earned his B.S. from UC Irvine and his M.S. and Ph.D. from UC Berkeley.

Pardis Mahdavi, an associate professor of anthropology, joined the Pomona faculty in 2006 and teaches Applied Anthropology, Medical Anthropology, Methods in Anthropological Inquiry, Sexuality and Sexual Politics in the Middle East and Social Anthropology.

Student comments include:

  • Professor Mahdavi’s Medical Anthropology class turned my interest in public health into a passion. Professor Mahdavi brought firsthand knowledge, insight, energy and humor to each topic we studied… Her lectures were comprehensive, illuminating and above all, stimulating.
  • Professor Mahdavi's courses have changed the way I think about choice, agency and human interaction. What I've learned from her will carry through to my future learning and career.
  • She makes a subject such as anthropology, which has the tendency to verge on the abstract and esoteric, incredibly practical and amazingly relevant to the events of the world and the betterment of humanity in general.

In her research, Mahdavi examines sociocultural aspects of health and healing, gender and sexuality in the Muslim world and advocacy within anthropology. She earned her B.A. from Occidental College and her M.I.A., M. Phil. and Ph.D. from Columbia University.

David Menefee-Libey, professor of politics, joined the faculty in 1989 and teaches Introduction to American Politics, The United States Congress, Campaigns and Elections, Policy Implementation and Evaluation, Education Politics and Policy, Education Policy Data Workshop and the Public Policy Analysis thesis seminar. This is his fifth Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • I can't think of anyone else who cares about his students as much as DML. Even though he's incredibly busy, he always makes time to discuss classes, extracurriculars, or future plans. Amazingly insightful about all things politics, and a dear friend to me.
  • DML is one of the best professors I have ever had. He is incredibly knowledgeable in his subject areas, functioning as one of the go-to professors if you have a question about politics, are trying to plan an event around politics, or just want to have a long political discussion.
  • Professor Menefee-Libey perfectly balances lecture and discussion to create consistently thought-provoking classes… I still refer to notes and readings from his valuable course and plan to continue doing so. I am grateful for Professor Menefee-Libey's enthusiasm, wit, passion and inspiring policy wonkiness. His dedication to his students is manifest.

Menefee-Libey’s research has focused on the politics of reform in urban public school districts, particularly in the Los Angeles region, and in the area of campaigns and elections, especially candidate and party strategy and campaign finance. He earned his B.A. from St. Olaf College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago.

Ami Radunskaya, a professor of mathematics, came to Pomona in 1994, and teaches Calculus, Calculus III with Applications to Life Sciences, Differential Equations/Modeling, Discrete Dynamical Systems and Chaos, Mathematical Methods for the Life Sciences, Introduction to Probability and Statistical Theory.

Student comments include:

  • Professor Radunskaya is the most amazing educator and mentor I have met during my four years at Pomona College.
  • I really, really hated math, but had to take a math class. Luckily, I had the privilege of being in Dr. Rad's class, and my hatred of math is no more! She made math intelligible, relevant and even downright interesting!
  • She dedicates herself to her work and her students, more than any other professor I've taken classes with at Pomona, and I haven't even taken a class with Ami. Ami is my Posse mentor, but she did not confine her role as a personal mentor… In addition to being a great professor, Ami is a phenomenal role model.

Radunskaya earned her B.A. from UC Berkeley and her Ph.D. from Stanford University. Her research investigates dynamical systems and stochastic processes; applications of dynamical systems to instrument modeling, sound generation and interactive composition; mathematical modeling and analysis of non-linear models; and mathematical models of tumor growth and immunotherapy.

C. Joti Rockwell, an assistant professor of music, joined the Pomona faculty in 2007 and teaches Materials of Music, Music Theory 1 and III, and Listening to American Popular Music.

Student comments include:

  • He's one of the toughest professors I've had, but his expertise in his subject areas makes him an inspiring example and an engaging teacher. He fills class time with hands-on musical demonstrations, and frequently shows students that they possess talent they didn't even know they had.
  • He makes difficult theoretical ideas clear and musical innovations in history very exciting. He is also generous with his time and efforts, and does everything he can to help his students. The way in which he brings popular culture and popular music into the academic realm and into the context of classical music is also very exciting.
  • Professor Rockwell is a phenomenal professor–he seeks to involve students in creating music and being a part of it so that they can better understand it

Rockwell received his B.S. from Haverford College and his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He does research in the realms of American popular music, mathematical music theory, roots music, rhythm and meter, genre, and analysis.

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, is known for the close relationships between students and faculty, providing a range of opportunities for student research and leadership, and meeting the full financial aid need of each accepted student with financial aid packages that do not include loans.