Wig Award Winners 2017

The heart of a Pomona College education is the connection between students and professors. Each spring, juniors and seniors honor a group of outstanding and influential professors, recognizing their excellence in teaching. The Wig Distinguished Professor Award is the highest honor bestowed on faculty, and this year's recipients are:

Tzu-Yi Chen

Tzu-Yi Chen

Tzu-Yi Chen, professor and chair of computer science, teaches such courses as Intro to Computer Science, Computer Systems and Algorithms. She has been at Pomona College since 2002. This is her first Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Professor Chen has done so much for the CS department and for the students in the department. Professor Chen’s door is always open. She takes the time to get to know students and serves as a mentor to so many students. At some point, she had 30-plus advisees!”
  • “Pillar of the CS department. Always open to talk and support students despite doing so much already.”

Philip Choi

Philip Choi Wig 2017

Philip Choi, associate professor of physics and astronomy, teaches such courses as Techniques in Observational Astrophysics and Stellar Structure and Evolution. He has been at Pomona since 2007. This is his first Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “One of the kindest and most considerate professors at Pomona, really getting to know his students. Not to mention fantastic and captivating lectures, hands-on student participation, well-crafted syllabi, and the ability to conjure fascination in the topic at hand. Professor Choi is also very active in the Physics Department community, working tirelessly to make it more inclusive.”
  • “Professor Choi is one of the most helpful and contemplative professors I have met. He not only is a gifted instructor and mentor, but he truly cares about his students and their successes.”

John Alldredge Clithero

John Clithero Wig 2017

John Alldredge Clithero ’05, assistant professor of economics, teaches courses including Behavioral Economics and Experimental Economics. He has been teaching at Pomona College since 2014. This is his first Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Professor Clithero is a master teacher. He's exceptionally attuned to the needs and interests of students, and brings energy, perspective and downright brilliance into his classroom. He epitomizes accessibility: He holds office hours past 10 p.m. on nights before tests and answers email until midnight every night. His courses are designed such that lectures, assignments and projects complement each other and never get repetitive. He encourages students (even when we're doing poorly) by writing thoughtful messages on our tests and with short, inspiring talks in class. He creates an environment in class that is both challenging and safe; where your ideas may be challenged, but your intellect and background never are.”
  • “Concise lecturer follows up with students a lot after they have finished taking his course. One of the most knowledgeable professors at Pomona College by far!”

Vin de Silva

Vin de Silva Wig 2017

Vin de Silva, associate professor of mathematics, teaches such courses as Topics in Topology and Geometry, and Combinatorial Mathematics. He has been with Pomona since 2005. This is his second Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Professor de Silva has a very inspiring teaching style. He showed me, and I'm sure other students as well, what active research in math is like. He once said to me, ‘It’s the attitude about mathematics, not the math itself, that a professor should deliver in his/her lectures.’”
  • “Professor de Silva is simply brilliant. His lectures are very insightful. I also got to have him in my ID1, ‘I Disagree,’ and his arguments and lessons were often extraordinary.”

Donna Di Grazia

Donna Di Grazia Wig 2017

Donna Di Grazia, David J. Baldwin Professor of Music and choral conductor, teaches courses like Engaging Music and conducts the Pomona College Choir and Pomona College Glee Club. She has been with the College since 1998. This is her second Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Professor Di Grazia consistently goes above and beyond with her students. She offers her full self to her teaching, to her committee work and to her performances.”
  • “It would be difficult to attempt to describe this professor's impact on my undergraduate journey. I have found a mentor, a standard, and a long-lasting friend for the rest of my life. Professor Di Grazia has taught me how to compete against my own self, to value excellent and sophisticated scholarship and performance, and to appreciate beauty wherever and in whomever it exists. My respect and admiration of Professor Di Grazia has kept me centered and grateful in a period of political and civil turbulence. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of this award.”

David R. Kauchak

David Kauchak Wig

David R. Kauchak, assistant professor of computer science, teaches courses that include Natural Language Processing, and Computation and Cognition.  He has been at Pomona College since 2014. This is his first Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Professor Kauchak is simultaneously so qualified in his field and also so down to earth when talking to students one on one. From his matter-of-fact, clear lectures to his fair and balanced tests and assignments, Professor Kauchak is an excellent communicator, whether in a lecture-based class or in a seminar course. He also gives great post-graduation career advice as well! Give this man the award already!”
  • “Professor Kauchak is a dedicated professor. His lectures are always clear, his teaching style is very accessible and engaging. His lecture slides are some of the best I’ve ever had. He never fails to keep me engaged during lecture. He is also very flexible, understanding and patient. He works very hard to make computer science accessible.”

Michael K.  Kuehlwein

Michael Kuehlwein Wig 2017

Michael K.  Kuehlwein, George E. and Nancy O. Moss Professor of Economics, teaches such courses as Principles: Macroeconomics and Advanced Macroeconomic Analysis. He has been with Pomona since 1987. This is Kuehlwein’s sixth Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Professor Kuehlwein is one of the best professors and mentors I have ever had in both my life and my time at Pomona…his patience and ability to teach any complex topic in an understandable way is quite amazing. Overall, it is because of his classes and the times we've talked together that I chose to pursue a career in economics.”
  • “Professor Kuehlwein deserves the Wig Award due to his accessibility. He brings learning off the page and expresses sincerity when he says that he’s interested in hearing our opinions. As the material can sometimes be challenging, his generation of discussion prods us to evaluate our understanding and application of the material. His open-minded approach makes him a facilitator of learning and academic growth rather than having his students serve as mere recipients of knowledge.”

Pardis Mahdavi

Pardis Mahdavi Wig 2017

Pardis Mahdavi is associate professor and chair of anthropology; dean of women; director of the Pacific Basin Institute; and coordinator of gender and women's studies. Mahdavi teaches courses such as Love, Labor and the Law Across Borders and Sexuality/Sexual Politics in the Mideast. She has been with the College since 2006. This is her second Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Pardis sparks my desire to learn, to improve myself, and to fight so others can have equal opportunities in this world. She's unmatched in talent and in her ability to inspire courage in all her students.”
  • “Brilliant, witty, goes 10 extra miles for students, unusual yet amazing coursework.”

The Wig Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching is the highest honor bestowed on Pomona faculty and recognizes exceptional teaching, concern for students, and service to the College and the community. Recipients are selected by students, confirmed by a committee of trustees, faculty and students, and then honored during Commencement.