Eight Professors Awarded Wig Distinguished Professor Awards

Eight faculty members stand side by side.

Faculty advising, interactions and teaching, in both formal and informal ways, are an integral part of students’ lives at Pomona College. These connections begin as soon as students arrive on campus and only continue to blossom throughout their four years here.

Each spring, a group of outstanding professors is elected by juniors and seniors, and confirmed by a committee of trustees, faculty and students, to receive the Wig Distinguished Professor Award. It is the highest honor bestowed on Pomona faculty and recognizes exceptional teaching, concern for students and service to the College and the community.

Here are this year’s recipients:

Nicholas Ball

Nicholas Ball, assistant professor of chemistry, teaches such courses as Organic Chemistry and Inorganic Chemistry. He also runs the Ball Lab, and organometallic chemistry and catalysis lab that is interested in turning pollution into products, by using the power of transition-metal catalysis. Ball has been at Pomona since 2015. This is his first Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Professor Ball is the hardest working professor I know, working to both establish himself as a strong young investigator and working hard to make sure all of his students succeed. As a professor, he is kind, clear, and eager to help at every turn. … At the same time, he is creating his own course and running one of the biggest research labs in the Chemistry Department.”
  • “He is an excellent role model, researcher, and friend who makes students feel comfortable and engaged inside and outside of the classroom.”

Clarissa “Cris” Cheney

Clarissa Cheney, associate professor of biology, teaches such courses as Introductory Genetics with Laboratory and Developmental Biology with Laboratory. Cheney focuses primarily on the study of vesicle transport and Rab GDI interactors in Drosophila melanogaster, the common fruit fly. She has been at Pomona since 1997. This is her first Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Prof. Cheney is the best professor I have had at Pomona. She is always engaging and upbeat in lecture, but also knows how to explain difficult material. She's also an excellent lab instructor and has been an invaluable resource in my senior year as I figure out my post-graduation plans.”
  • “Also at the forefront in making [the Biology Department] an inclusive space for low-income students of color. Always allows students of all experiences to work in her lab to gain experience as well as make money as jobs are hard to come by on campus.”

Oona Eisenstadt

Oona Eisenstadt, Fred Krinsky Professor of Jewish Studies and professor of religious studies, teaches courses including Ideas of Love, Religious Ethics, Ritual and Magic in Children’s Literature and Philosophical Responses to the Holocaust. Eisenstadt specializes in continental philosophy and Judaism, as well as religious themes in children’s literature. She has been at Pomona since 2004. This is her second Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Professor Eisenstadt’s class pushed my thinking beyond the realms which it had previously occupied and caused me to more deeply consider the ways some of the most fundamental aspects of humanity manifest themselves and how art and literature reflects on who we are as people.”
  • “Professor Eisenstadt is a genius, a kind and motivating mentor, and a voice for reason at Pomona. The gall that she brings to class meetings enables students to broach discussions that could not be had anywhere else on campus. She challenges students to read old texts with an eye to how its ideas have played out historically and in the contemporary moment, building up a critical understanding of how and why people read.

Janice Hudgings

Janice Hudgings, Seeley W. Mudd Professor of Physics, teaches such courses as Foundations of Modern Physics with Laboratory and Electronics with Laboratory. She focuses on practical applications in optics and semiconductor devices, including solar cells, energy efficient lighting and lasers. Hudgings has been with Pomona since 2013. This is her first Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Professor Hudgings is the reason I'm a physics major. Her enthusiasm for physics, for learning, and for making the world a better place is infectious. She didn't just teach me physics, she taught me to think critically about the practice of science and showed me that diversity in the classroom leads to more objective science in practice..”
  • “What sets Professor Hudgings apart is that she does a great job at being super-inclusive. She's not afraid to address historical imbalances in physics but also in society, and she didn't treat my class of non-major mostly juniors with any less attention or effort as a class of majors/potential majors. She really does embody what I think it means to study STEM at a liberal arts college — the understanding that implications of history and politics affect STEM as much as it affects anything else.”

David Menefee-Libey

David Menefee-Libey, professor of politics and coordinator of public policy analysis, teaches courses such as Introduction to American Politics, The United States Congress, Campaigns and Elections, Policy Implementation and Evaluation and Education Politics and Policy. His areas of expertise include elementary and secondary education policy, school reform politics, U.S. elections and campaigns and U.S. politics and culture. He has been at Pomona since 1989. This is his sixth Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “David Menefee-Libey is the reason that I'm graduating college. Throughout my four years here, he's been a mentor, a teacher, a guide, and a friend.
  • “Professor Menefee-Libey epitomizes the intelligent and passionate professor that I hoped to have at Pomona. His combination of brilliance and approachability allows students to engage in challenging but fruitful discussion to develop as scholars. He effortlessly weaves together political theory with political reality and invites our minds to analyze what and how groups are impacted by political systems.”

Daniel O’Leary

Daniel O’Leary, Carnegie Professor of Chemistry, teaches courses such as Organic Chemistry with Laboratory and NMR Spectroscopy. O’Leary is an organic chemist who is interested in new methods for determining the solution conformation of molecules. He has been at Pomona since 1994. This is his fifth Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Changed my life and academic perspective in a way I thought no one could. He relentlessly devotes his energy to every one of his student to ensure the highest quality of education and mentorship. My life is forever changed because of my relationship with Prof. O'Leary, and he inspires me to achieve more and have a greater positive impact on others.”
  • “I have never had so much fun and entertainment in one class. Every lecture is a brilliant show interwoven with organic chemistry concepts and processes. I am amazed by his ability to raise the energy in the room, during every single 8 a.m. lecture..”

Shahriar Shahriari

Shahriar Shahriari, William Polk Russell Professor of Mathematics, teaches courses such as Honors Topics in Calculus II, Linear Algebra, Combinatorial Mathematics, Vector Calculus, Mathematics Research Circle, Abstract Algebra I and II, Advanced Topics in Algebra and Deterministic Operations Research. His areas of expertise include combinatorics of posets, extremal set theory and surreal numbers among other areas. Shahriari has been at Pomona since 1989. This is his fifth Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “The level of engagement Prof. Shahriari shows towards his students is amazing. He is so approachable, and his contributions to student research and programs on campus such as PAYS are tremendous.”
  • “Professor Shahriari is so active in the Math Department, and not just within mathematics. His commitment to creating a culturally responsive learning environment is inspirational (e.g., even small details like using non-traditional/ non-Western names in his textbooks make a difference), and I know that he genuinely cares about his students.”

Julie Tannenbaum

Julie Tannenbaum, chair and associate professor of philosophy, teaches courses such as Introduction to Ethics, Ethical Theory: Ancient to Early Modern, Ethical Theory: Contemporary, Well-Being and Autonomy, and Topics in Value Theory. Tannenbaum is interested in the role of emotions in moral action, the conditions for having and satisfying one’s moral obligations and responsibility for the outcome of one’s action. She has been at Pomona since 2009. This is her first Wig Award.

Students said:

  • “Professor Tannenbaum is the type of professor I came to Pomona College for. She recognizes different learning styles and is an amazing teacher.…. She is unafraid to challenge popular narratives and ideas. She is supportive of students with different backgrounds, reaches out when students struggle, and is simultaneously able to push them to discover what they are capable of learning and understanding.”
  • “I count Intro Ethics with Prof. Tannenbaum among the most influential classes I’ve taken at Pomona. Her incredible intellectual sharpness is something to behold, especially during class discussions and conversations where she often is able to, on the fly, not only re-articulate my arguments better than I can, but also present three more counterarguments I hadn’t thought of, and then a couple more in my defense.”

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.