The 2022 Wig Distinguished Professor awards were announced May 15 at the first in-person Pomona College Commencement in three years. The Wig 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.
This year’s seven recipients are:
- Tzu-Yi Chen, professor of computer science
- Malte Dold, assistant professor of economics
- Pierre Englebert, H. Russell Smith Professor of International Relations and professor of politics
- Ryan Engley, assistant professor of media studies
- Amanda Hollis-Brusky, associate professor of politics
- Nina Karnovsky, Willard George Halstead Zoology Professor of Biology
- Jordan Kirk, associate professor of English
In anonymous comments, students lauded these faculty members for their teaching, care for students and mentorship. Below are selected quotes from students for each recipient.
Chen, computer science professor, has been at Pomona since 2002. This is her second Wig Award, having previously won in 2017. Her current research interests include network/graph analysis, combinatorial scientific computing and societally relevant computer science education.
“Professor Chen is always thinking about how to be a better teacher and resource for her students. This shows through her thoughtful class surveys, warmth in office hours and attentiveness to student reactions and responses during lecture. This has paid off immensely, as she is one of the most considerate and thorough—not to mention genius—professors I have had during my almost four years at Pomona.”
“Her classes are hard, but she devotes so much time and energy to make sure all your questions are answered and that you understand the material. She is so kind and views you as a human being outside of your work. I learned so much from her classes, and I always enjoy having a conversation with her.”
Dold, economics professor, has been at Pomona since 2019. This is his first Wig Award. His research lies at the intersection of economics, psychology and philosophy, with a focus on normative implications of behavioral economics.
“Professor Dold made economics accessible and interesting to everyone. He recommended me summer readings tailored to the interests I expressed in class and was even willing to meet with me afterward to discuss despite my area of interest being outside of his expertise. He is incredibly organized and thoughtful. His good intentions shine through in his adaptability and preparedness to field questions. He made economics fun and help established frameworks I still use today when coming across complicated real-world problems.”
“Having taken Professor Dold's behavioral economics class, I have been able to foster an increased awareness of how humans inherently behave and how those choices may affect them. I took his class during the semester when we were sent home because of COVID, and the way he handled the situation was unmatched to any other professor. He was seamlessly able to change the learning environment into one that was inclusive, accommodate to students struggling with the pandemic, and overall, understand the complexity of learning online.”
Englebert, international relations and politics professor, has spent more than 30 years studying African politics and development, with a particular focus on Francophone West and Central Africa. He has been at Pomona since 1998, and this is his fifth Wig Award, also winning in 2001, 2006, 2011 and 2016.
“What can be said about Professor Englebert that hasn't been said before? Students love him and for very good reasons. He is the reason I study what I study, and he has always been extremely supportive, accommodating and kind. His classes are engaging, fascinating and eye-opening. We are truly blessed to have a scholar of his caliber at Pomona. Office hours and one-on-ones with Prof. Englebert are such a boost of serotonin, and I’ve never heard his name from others outside of praise.”
“Professor Englebert is hands-down one of the kindest and funniest professors I have ever had in my four years. Beyond being incredibly talented at what he does, he takes the time to get to know his students, even when it’s nearly 50 of us in a class. I am beyond grateful for his wisdom he shared with me even when he wasn’t my thesis reader and I just needed some extra help with data because data is not my strong suit. Truly an incredibly human and talented musician!”
Engley, media studies professor, has been at Pomona since 2019. This is his first Wig Award. He researches the intersection of psychoanalytic theory and media studies and co-hosts the podcast Why Theory.
“I sincerely have never had a professor’s class I have looked forward to more than Ryan’s. He is genuinely a friend to any student that enters his classroom and is somehow the most knowable yet knowledgeable person you’ll ever meet…. He is able to take very complex subject matter and make it accessible without oversimplifying issues…. Across the two classes of his I took on Zoom and the two of his I took in person on campus, it was evident that he was the most caring and accommodating professor I have ever had regarding accessibility, disability and mental health, and this care shone deeply in his Disability and Media class….”
“Professor Engley is one of the most considerate and caring professors that I have known at Pomona College. He inspires great interest in every course that he teaches, and I always feel that I learnt a lot, all while being flexible, accommodating and understanding of each student’s differing needs and what they need to do their best in the class. One of the best professors but also just genuinely one of the best people I have had the pleasure of meeting.”
Hollis-Brusky, politics professor, teaches courses on American politics, constitutional law and legal institutions and is a go-to expert on Supreme Court politics. She won her first Wig Award in 2014 after arriving at Pomona in 2011.
“Prof. HB is one of the best teachers I’ve had. She is always prepared, always engaged with students and with discussion and always has important insight and knowledge to offer in response to student perspectives and questions. She is appropriately tough on students. I’ve felt pushed by her and her assignments, and the way that she has students interact with each other has also helped me build confidence in the classroom.”
“I have taken three courses with Professor Hollis-Brusky this year. My time with her thus far has been a tremendously rewarding experience. Even though I initially entered her classroom with minimal knowledge of legal theory, I feel like I have already made leaps and bounds in my understanding. I have felt academically challenged yet supported. Courses with Professor Hollis-Brusky have led me to produce some of the most thoughtful, polished and consistent work of my undergraduate career.”
Karnovsky, biology professor, has been at Pomona since 2004. Her areas of expertise include ecology research, ornithology, climate change and polar research. This is her first Wig Award.
“The best professor I have had at Pomona, the school would not be the same about her. I have never had a professor that cared more about their students, both academically and for their wellbeing, than her. She advocates for students like no other and relentlessly pushes students to find their place in biology and enables them to thrive in the field. Her classes are extremely inclusive and comfortable. She genuinely loves what she teaches and instills an interest in biology in her classes; she is the most engaging professor I have ever had. She has been an amazingly positive impact on my life, and I am forever grateful to her for it.”
“Professor Karnovsky was a key figure in making me feel like I belonged in the Biology Department. I had the pleasure of having her be my thesis advisor, and her unconditional support and mentorship throughout the entire process certainly made me and my work feel validated. I thank Professor Karnovsky for the intentionality she brings to the class environment she creates and will carry her wisdom with me long after my time here.”
Kirk, English professor, has been at Pomona since 2013. His current research is in the history and theory of interpretation, psychotropics in the Middle Ages, and premodern contact across Afro-Eurasia. This is his first Wig Award.
“Professor Kirk is not only composed, thoughtful and truly intelligent, but he also puts students at ease with his wit and charisma. He has been more than willing to hear my thoughts when trying to express my voice in assignments. He invites students to take liberties on assignments and encourages curiosity in a way that I had not anticipated in an introductory course. No other introductory course has been as stimulating and interesting, and I am a junior in a completely unrelated discipline. His feedback is both encouraging and thoughtful. I would gladly restart the semester if it meant getting to hear his insights for the first time again.”
“Professor Kirk is fabulous! He makes reading anything—especially closely—feel fun, stimulating and meaningful.”