Pomona College Faculty Recognized for Excellence in Teaching, Service

Five faculty wearing regalia standing on steps

Six members of the Pomona College faculty have been named winners of the 2024 Wig Distinguished Professor Award, which recognizes excellence in teaching, commitment to students and service to the College and the community. Students in their junior and senior years vote for the awards, which are confirmed by a committee comprised of students, faculty and members of the Board of Trustees. Winners of the award are announced and recognized at Commencement, held this year on May 12.

The Wig awards have been presented annually since 1955. They were established by Rudolph J. Wig, a member of the College’s Board of Trustees for 38 years and president of the Board from 1948 to 1961, and his wife, Anna.

This year’s Wig Award winners are:

Students cast anonymous ballots for the Wig Award and can also include comments about the professor they are nominating. Below are some of these commendations:

Ellie Anderson

Anderson’s research areas include the philosophy of love, selfhood and personal identity and sexual ethics. She is a specialist in continental European philosophy, especially 20th century French philosophy and feminist theory.

“I took Professor Anderson’s ID1 and still think about it often! Her conference of non-monogamies was so interesting and valuable to attend.”

“I took Philosophy of Gender with Professor Anderson after having so many people recommend the class to me. Professor Anderson is extremely knowledgeable, and she can easily turn the most dense philosophical theories into digestible lectures. Love her podcast as well!”

Nicholas Ball

Ball's areas of expertise include organometallic chemistry, physical organometallic chemistry, homogenous catalysis, and organic chemistry. He previously won the Wig Award in 2018.

“Professor Ball is an extremely kind and caring professor and makes an extremely conscious effort to be mindful both of students’ mental health, and also shape an inclusive class environment. He is really great at explaining difficult concepts, and keeps the classroom a fun and light-hearted space, while we still learn so much. He is extremely available during office hours, and is doing super interesting research at Pomona. He brings great energy to the chemistry department, and is also a great role model for students who come from underrepresented backgrounds.”

“Prof. Ball is exceptional both as a lecturer and as a person. His lectures are engaging and fun, which make me interested in the subject. He utilizes multimodal strategies to help students of all types learn, whether it’s classroom instruction, group work, or going out behind Seaver to draw organic molecules on the floor. As a person, he is accommodating and understands most students’ frustrations.”

David Kauchak

Kauchak’s research focuses on natural language processing. His areas of expertise also include machine learning and text simplification. He previously won a Wig Award in 2017.

“Dr. Dave (as he goes by) is a very kind individual and a fantastic lecturer. He fosters a welcoming and inclusive learning environment.”

“Professor Kauchak is not only an amazing professor, but is also personable and understanding. He is available outside of lectures to thoroughly explain concepts and is very good at doing so.”

“Best professor I’ve had in college. Pushes me really hard, yet makes this challenge enjoyable by including cartoons on the test, making our assignments feel like we are solving real world problems, and being always open to help.”

“Incredibly helpful and effective professor that is willing to put in more work than is necessary to help students succeed in his classes.”

“The most supportive professor I’ve ever had in my time at Pomona. Will go above and beyond to encourage student learning and success, and is so approachable, kind, and brilliant.”

Susan McWilliams Barndt

This is the fourth time Barndt has won a Wig Award, having previously received the award in 2009, 2014 and 2019. Her areas of expertise include political theory, civic education, the history of political thought and liberal arts education.

“One of Professor McWilliams’ most remarkable qualities is her genuine care for her students. She goes above and beyond to ensure that each student feels supported and valued in her classroom. . . . Countless students have found solace and encouragement in Professor McWilliams’ mentorship, as she readily lends an empathetic ear and offers invaluable advice. Furthermore, Professor McWilliams’ teaching prowess is truly exceptional. Her ability to convey complex concepts with clarity and enthusiasm fosters a stimulating learning environment that inspires academic growth and curiosity among her students.”

“Professor McWilliams is so awesome. She’s unbelievably smart and always pushes her students to do their very best in a supportive and caring way. I’ve often described to friends that her lectures are like TEDTalks for how brilliant and engaging they are and the discussions she leads in seminars are equally so. She’s hilarious and kind and she genuinely cares about her students.”

Ami Radunskaya

Radunskaya’s research includes mathematical modeling of tumor growth and treatment. Her expertise also includes dynamical systems, stochastic processes and non-linear models of power systems. She previously won a Wig Award in 2012.

“My first year, I took linear algebra with Dr. Rad online and got a taste of college mathematics. From there, I continued to take math courses and learn about the world of mathematics. This year, I took a mathematical modeling class with Dr. Rad, which was very challenging. I would consistently show up to office hours confused and with so many questions, and she always takes the time to answer questions and ensure success for her students.”

“Dr. Rad was an incredible teacher who put so much effort and time into trying to make all of the students in her class not only feel comfortable with the material but also with math in general. She is also one of the funniest and kind individuals I’ve met at Pomona and in life so far.”

“Exceptionally committed to helping her students in office hours or discussing different math ideas. Always a pleasure to talk with! Makes learning math very fun and enjoyable.”

“Extremely supportive advisor and great at teaching. Cares about her students.”

Kyle Wilson

Wilson focuses on industrial organization, applied econometrics and telecommunications. In his research he uses estimation techniques to explore how companies make strategic decisions.

“Professor Wilson is the epitome of what a Pomona College professor should be—he pushes you to deeply understand topics, ask why when you don’t understand, and above all cares deeply about your success as a student and human. As he equips students to be comprehensive economists, he also makes them better humans through his class.”

“One of the best professors I’ve ever had—so clear and truly cares about student learning above all. He teaches even the most complex topics with so much clarity, and he’s so thoughtful and understanding pedagogically and as a person.”

“His lectures are a sublime combination of theory and practical math. He is perfect.”

“I’ve never had another professor that is as well rounded as he is. His lectures, problem sets, engagement, passion, and office hours make him THE best professor at Pomona College in my opinion.”