Pomona College Professors Eleanor Brown, Erica Flapan, Amanda Hollis-Brusky, Karl Johnson, Susan McWilliams, Ghassan Sarkis, Darryl Smith and Tomás Summers Sandoval have received the 2014 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 community.

Prof. Karl Johnson

The recipients 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 121st Commencement, held earlier today.

Eleanor Brown ‘75, the James Irvine Professor of Economics, teaches Economics of Gender and the Family, Freedom, Markets and Well-Being, and Microeconomic Theory. This is her sixth Wig Award.

Student comments:

  • The way she is so prepared for all of her classes, the extent to which she clearly cares about the subjects she teaches…the clarity of her explanations and responses to questions, and her steady compassion make her the type of professor you know you could go talk to in times of need.
  • [She] knows how to make economics exciting and help instill a desire to learn in her students.
  • "This material will not be on the midterm, but it's good for your soul." This sums up Professor Brown in my eyes. She is quirky and lovable, but expects the highest level of understanding. [She] has been an amazing professor and mentor in the years I've known her.

Erica Flapan, the Lingurn H. Burkhead Professor of Mathematics, teaches Calculus I, Introduction to Analysis, Problem Solving and Topology.

Student comments:

  • [She] knows the material so well you'd think she wrote the theorems [and teaches] somehow always at the right pace for everyone. [She is] a brilliant mathematician and full of legitimately inspiring stories about coming up in a male-dominated field.
  • She's been fantastic both as an especially engaging classroom instructor and as a research advisor.
  • Her classes are consistently difficult but always leave me feeling proud of my work and grateful for her fantastic teaching and support. She is a wonderful teacher and mentor.
  • Hardly a lecture goes by in which a student has not contributed to a proof presented. This style demands whole-class participation, and ensures that her students are staying on top of the material.

Amanda Hollis-Brusky, an assistant professor of politics, teaches American Constitutionalism I & II, Law & Politics, and Introduction to American Politics.

Student comments:

  • She has made learning about the U.S. Constitution and judicial branch exciting and intriguing. I was excited each day to be in class and discuss with her and my fellow classmates the important issues that faced our country and its law.
  • Hard working. Impassioned. Awesome. Feminist.
  • She's brilliant, inspirational, and brings out the best in her students. Her classes and assignments encourage you to push yourself further than you thought possible.
  • Being in [her] American Constitutionalism course gave me a newfound appreciation for the structural dynamics of the federal government. Her engaging assignments and unique lecturing style single handedly ignited my interest in public policy.

Karl Johnson, the Sarah Rempel and Herbert S. Rempel Professor of Neuroscience and an associate professor of biology, teaches Introduction to Cell Chemistry and Cell Biology, and Vertebrate Systems. This is his second Wig Award.

Student comments:

  • [He] inspires students to think beyond the traditional boundaries of science. He has an incredible understanding of the liberal arts pedagogy and is able to transform the most meticulous scientific information into something that students are engaged and excited about.
  • Every lecture is well thought out, very organized, and easy to learn from. Even more important is that his love and passion for what he teaches shines through and inspires me to want to learn more and dive deeper into the topics.
  • [He] provides awesome discussion in class. His enthusiasm is felt daily and his hilarious remarks makes his lectures seem more of a performance enjoyed by the students.

Susan McWilliams, an associate professor of politics, teaches American Democracy in Theory and Practice, American Political Thought, Classical Political Theory, Modern Political Theory, Politics and Literature, Senior Seminar in Contemporary Politics and Theory and the ID1 Class: Dangerous Books. This is her second Wig Award.

Student comments:

  • For many Pomona students, her courses have truly changed the way we perceive political dynamics, human relationships and ourselves. Her thoughtful and detailed feedback is invaluable and plays a significant role in making us better writers and thinkers.
  • Her critiques are full; she is incredibly accessible for further help; and her analysis, whether in lecture or off the cuff, is nuanced and fascinating. She has a great sense of humor, too!
  • Susan McWilliams is such an inspiration. Her knowledge of and passion for her subject may be intimidating, but she makes sure to show students how much she cares about them and their learning.

Ghassan Sarkis, an associate professor of mathematics, teaches Abstract Algebra I & II, Calculus III, Introduction to Statistics and Linear Algebra. This is his second Wig Award.

Student comments:

  • His lectures and the textbook that he authored were exceptionally clear and easy-to-follow. He managed to sneak in hilarious stories and insightful musings into each class.
  • Professor Sarkis has some of the clearest, most colorful chalk notes I have ever seen. His linear algebra lectures were extremely clear and peppered with humor and anecdotes as a cherry on top. He is always willing to explain and work with you until you have no uncertainty left about a topic.
  • Sarkis does a fantastic job of supporting students both academically and outside of class, encouraging students to enjoy what they're learning and to pursue directions of further study that they find exciting, bringing interdisciplinary ideas into traditional straightforward math classes.

Darryl Smith, an associate professor of religious studies, teaches Interpreting Religious Worlds, The Problem of Evil: African-American Engagements With(in) Western Thought, The Art of Living and The Holy Fool: Comic/Ugly/Madness.

Student comments:

  • Professor Smith makes me challenge everything I think I'm sure about, everything I know to be "true." He has taught me to think critically, to be articulate and to be empathetic. 
  • Never has a teacher captured my attention and motivated me to be so active in my world - and through philosophy too, which was what blew me away.
  • Professor Smith has an intoxicating view of knowledge that is truly inspiring. He has an amazing ability to conduct meaningful class discussions, and he creates an academic environment where students can grow, challenge themselves, think critically, and think in ways that seemed unimaginable.

Tomás Summers Sandoval, an associate professor of history and Chicano/a-Latino/a studies and the faculty coordinator of the Pomona College Draper Center for Community Partnerships, Summers Sandoval teaches All Power to All People!, American Inequality, Chicana/Latina Histories, Chicano/Latino History, Community Partnerships and Latina/o Oral Histories. This is his second Wig Award.

Student comments:

  • He is a great professor with motivational lectures that really make you think. Although there are no answers to some of his questions, he makes you try to think of ways to implement them in society.
  • He is very good at getting students to think outside of what they had been previously taught. I also am very grateful for his perspectives on social issues on and off campus, and his eagerness to share this perspective with students.
  • He is affirming and is conscious of how and when he takes up space in an otherwise all female classroom. I think he is someone who truly practices what he teaches.
  • Great enthusiasm in the classroom and outside the classroom. His dedication to community engagement is inspirational!

Pomona College, one of the nation's best 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. The founding member of the prestigious Claremont Colleges, Pomona is also a leader in higher education sustainability