New Veterans Find Their Place on Pomona’s Campus

Pomona College students Christian Lopez, left, and Phily Oey

Among the new transfer students at Pomona College are two Army veterans who found the campus’ charm and surrounding community too inviting to pass up.

Half-way through the fall semester, they have been embraced by other veterans and transfer students and hope to maximize their time at Pomona, which will propel them into the next chapter of their lives.

Christian Lopez ’25

As counterintuitive as it sounds, the military is an easy line of work, according to Christian Lopez ’25.

“People tell you where to be, where to go and you do what you’re told,” he adds.

College, Lopez continues, isn’t quite that simple.

A junior transfer from Chaffey College in his hometown Rancho Cucamonga, California, the 24-year-old veteran of the Army chose Pomona College to expand his range of critical thinking as he pursues a career in filmmaking.

Enrolling at a liberal arts college “is what I needed to kick start my brain a little bit,” he says.

Lopez, who plans to double major in philosophy and media studies, worked in the media studies department at Pitzer College while at Chaffey, so he was already familiar with the Claremont Colleges when he applied to Pomona.

He has enjoyed the challenge of acclimating to a rigorous class schedule, and fellow transfer students have helped him transition to a four-year college. Additionally, campus life has afforded Lopez the opportunity to pick up dancing as not only a hobby, but another way to meet new people, he says.

After only a couple of months, Lopez has found that Pomona’s size allows for “a lot more diversity of ideas from people from all different backgrounds.”

Working collaboratively with peers who come from all walks of life is something Lopez says he learned how to do in the military, and continuing to do so at Pomona will only help him as an aspiring filmmaker.

“Pomona has definitely been a little more academically challenging than I expected, but there’s only so much you can expect until you’re in it,” he says. “It’s been good for me. I’ve definitely gotten used to where I’m at.”

Phily Oey ’26

Phily Oey ’26 calls Pomona College “a well-kept secret.” So much so that a friend had to tell him about the place.

“Pomona College is my dream college,” says the sophomore by way of El Monte, California. “You hear all the time about the small classrooms, but it’s really the people, and all the professors I’ve met have been absolutely amazing. You get intimate connections with people here.”

After taking a semester off from his studies at Pasadena City College (PCC), Oey enlisted in the Army National Guard before returning to PCC for the 2022-23 school year. The Army National Guard mobilized Oey in November 2022, and from a remote location, he supported military intelligence operations in the Middle East.

Then, this summer, Oey was in Sacramento, helping firefighters track and combat blazes.

“I’ve always wanted to help out with natural disasters,” the 21-year-old says. “I’ve always feared the ‘big earthquake’ that’s supposed to happen, and if it happened, or any other emergency, I wouldn’t want to be the one who’s in trouble. I’d want to be trained to help other people.”

Oey earned associate degrees from PCC in social and behavioral studies, communication arts, speech communication, humanities, and communication studies.

This first semester at Pomona, he has enjoyed such extracurricular activities as ballroom dance and singing, while the Balinese gamelan ensemble and Indonesian language tables at Oldenborg have given him the chance to “reconnect with my culture,” he says.

“It’s really rare to find these things,” the media studies and theatre double major adds.

In addition to his professors, Oey says fellow transfer students and veterans have been invaluable resources for all things Pomona.

“Though the veteran community here is small,” he adds, “it’s getting bigger. The more vets we get at Pomona, the bigger and better community we’ll be able to build. Vets here are amazing and have so many life experiences to offer.”

Veterans who are interested in Pomona College can find information on our veterans admissions page.