Now that the haze of reading season has cleared, it is time for another Alumni Spotlight. This time we hear from Mitchell Felton, a recent graduate from Pitzer and apparently a fan of pandas.
(If you missed the first post in the Alumni Spotlight Series, click here to read the interview with Tim Campos.)
Here’s the low-down on Mitchell:
Year of Graduation: 2013
Major(s): Asian Studies with a focus on History
Home: From Hong Kong originally (where he attended Chinese International School), though he went to high school at Bullard High School in Fresno
Current Job: Campus Constituents Gift and Engagement Officer, Office of Development, University of San Francisco
Pitzer Activities: (Once again, an overwhelming amount) Admission Fellow, Admission Office Junior Staff Member, Senate Member on the Student-Alumni Relations Committee, President/Secretary/Member of the 5-C Circle K International Club, Secretary/Member of the Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC), Member of the Student Investment Committee, Member of Dining with Democracy, First-Year Mentor, Member of the Senior Class Gift Committee
- He is a self-proclaimed boba connoisseur.
- He currently is the VP for Alumni Giving on the Pitzer Alumni Board.
- Podge’s is his favorite place to eat in the Village, but nothing beats the Grove House.
- He won a donut eating competition.
- He has a wooden bow tie, one of the many members of his growing bow tie collection.
Katie: What made you choose Pitzer College?
Mitchell: I was really attracted to the core values, specifically (at the time it was called) student autonomy as well as intercultural understanding. I really liked the fact that so many students studied abroad and that there were so many options. In terms of student autonomy, I really liked and appreciated the fact that you had the option to design your own major, that there was no strict set of courses you had to take. Rather, there was the option to take many courses which overlapped with multiple disciplines, allowing for a truly interdisciplinary experience. And I appreciate the fact that students have a vote, equal to their faculty and staff counterparts on almost any committee at Pitzer, including the hiring and tenure committee. Lastly, the fact that Pitzer was SAT optional was a big selling point. It meant a lot to me that a college was willing to look at me as an applicant more by my actual course work rather than just some test scores.
“In terms of student autonomy, I really liked and appreciated the fact that you had the option to design your own major, that there was no strict set of courses you had to take. Rather, there was the option to take many courses which overlapped with multiple disciplines, allowing for a truly interdisciplinary experience.”
K: What is one of your favorite Pitzer classroom experiences?
M: One of my favorite classroom experiences was in Contemporary Central Asia with Professor Azamat Junisbai during my freshman year. First of all, Azamat is a pretty cool guy to begin with. Second, how much do you currently know about Central Asia? After this course you’ll know anything and everything you need to know about it! This class only had about ten people, so it was pretty small, which provided for a great discussion of the readings and current events in the region. We were able to analyze many different facets of life and history in Central Asia through in-class discussions and outside readings…one time we had a movie night, where we watched a movie from the region (I voted for Borat, but we went with something a little more traditional), and Azamat brought in some really delicious, homemade snacks from Kazakhstan. This class was one of the first of many very small classes that I had in Claremont, and I really liked the fact that we got to know the professor and learn the material on a much deeper level than your typical lecture style class would. I still keep in touch with Azamat even six years after taking his class.
Another class that I took that I have very fond (and sometimes painful- because of how difficult the class was) memories of was my Advanced Chinese class at Pomona. The class was also very small with only eight people in it. We were a very tight-knit group of students, we got to know each other pretty well, and our Chinese abilities improved a lot because of it. One time our professor invited us over to her house where she cooked us dinner and we all made dumplings together! This professor, also had a sense of humor, and always cracked jokes with us. When we were taking our final I said to her, “Oh my God, Yao Lao Shi (professor’s name), this final is so hard!” Her response (keep in mind that English is not her native language), without even blinking an eye was, “God can’t save you now!”
K: What has been your career path after Pitzer?
M: I am currently working at the University of San Francisco in their Development (code for Fundraising) Office. In my role, I focus on all of our on campus fundraising from students (through the Senior Class Gift), faculty, and staff. As part of this, I handle all of the mail solicitations for these groups, I meet one-on-one with faculty, staff and alumni to talk with them about their USF experience about getting them more involved in the school, and I raise money for things like student scholarships and academic programs. I also get to work very closely with the Student Philanthropy Committee, a group of students who are passionate about helping others and helping to educate the USF community on the importance of donations. I really enjoy my job because I get to work closely with so many students, faculty, and staff, and every day is different and poses new and unique challenges. I was attracted to USF because of the similarities in mission to Pitzer’s. I knew I wanted to stay in higher education after I graduated, and both schools focus heavily on social justice and serving others, trying to educate students who want to go out and change the world.
K: How did Pitzer prepare you for life after college?
M: Pitzer helped me build connections and skills to make those connections after college. I would also say, as cheesy as it is, Pitzer helped me to be more of a critical thinker, allowing me to succeed in my work in an efficient and thorough fashion.
K: How have you remained connected to Pitzer as an alumnus?
I am very active in the alumni network. Not only do I sit on the Alumni Board, but I also lead the pillar for alumni giving within the Alumni Board. (Our board has four pillars that have main responsibilities with regards to engaging our alumni). On top of this, I host alumni events in the SF Bay Area. I don’t interview prospective students but would like to if the option became available. I have met with prospective students in the bay in the past at the request of the Admission office. I visit campus four times a year for alumni board meetings and then once or twice additionally for personal trips.
K: How do you see Pitzer growing or changing in the next 10 years?
M: I can see Pitzer becoming more focused, and excelling even further in the areas it currently excels in, and becoming a leader in those areas. I think with the recent divestment in fossil fuels and the beginning of the Robert Redford Conservancy for Southern California Sustainability we can really see Pitzer growing and excelling in the environmental sciences. I also see the Pitzer student body becoming more diverse.
K: What advice would you give to current Pitzer students and prospective Pitzer students about college and the process of finding the right college for you?
M: I think today, just like the current job market for millennials, it is more about finding the school that has a similar mission to your own, or has a mission that resonates with you. If you are interested in Pitzer, apply because you love the mission and the values that we expound, not for its ranking or access to the other colleges. I also recommend that you, if you can, sit in on classes, spend the night on campus, visit with the Admission staff, so that you can get the best sense of the community and be able to make a well-informed decision come May. For students who decide to matriculate to Pitzer, make sure you get involved in as many things as possible. Claremont has so much to offer that by your senior year, you will regret having not gotten involved sooner. Plus, four years whizzes by!
“If you are interested in Pitzer, apply because you love the mission and the values that we expound, not for its ranking or access to the other colleges.”
K: How have Pitzer’s core values continued to play a role in your life after college?
M: The core value of student engagement I believe still plays the biggest role in my life after Pitzer. I have continued to stay engaged with Pitzer by joining the alumni board, and I have also used that to further my career and work in development at USF.
K: What was your favorite thing about Pitzer (if you can choose)?
M: The people. When I was in Claremont and giving tours for the Admission Office, people always asked which school was the friendliest. I always said (I’m not biased or anything) “People say Pitzer has the friendliest people”. I was usually validated by a random student passing by. And it is absolutely true – it is hard to walk through campus without saying hello to at least one person, whether it be someone from your OA (Orientation Adventure), or a staff or faculty member. People at Pitzer are just awesome; not only are they friendly, but they are always doing really cool things and are very genuine. One of the things I loved about the people is there never was this need to feel like you had to “one up” everyone else, no one pressured you into doing things you were not comfortable with, they let you be you and allowed you to flourish as you wanted to. My other favorite thing about Pitzer was the food! The dining hall food is definitely top notch – it doesn’t get better than what they serve at Pitzer’s dining hall. Believe me, I work at a University that uses the same catering company… I wish it was close to being as good as Pitzer. The Grove House is simply AMAZING as is the Shake Down. Seriously, if you have a chance to eat at either, DO IT. In my opinion, they rival some of the restaurants in the Village.
“One of the things I loved about the people is there never was this need to feel like you had to ‘one up’ everyone else, no one pressured you into doing things you were not comfortable with, they let you be you and allowed you to flourish as you wanted to.”
K: What would you say was the biggest takeaway from your Pitzer education?
M: To be more conscious of the world that we live in, and to consider all angles/approaches to a solution. I think that while I may not fit some of Pitzer’s Core Values as some of my peers might, Pitzer really taught me to be more thoughtful and aware of others in the world, and how to take into consideration and be respectful of people’s different backgrounds. For example, had I not gone to Pitzer, I probably would not have learned about the environmental impacts of unsustainable food sourcing, or things like PGP’s (Preferred Gender Pronouns) or heteronormativity, etc.
K: What are some of your fondest memories from your time at Pitzer?
M: I have a few very fond memories of Pitzer, the first was when I was a first year mentor. The RA and I used to take the whole floor out to do weekly In-n-Out runs. We borrowed a couple of the Pitzer Vans and booked it down Foothill to In-n-Out. It was a great time for the hall to get together, take a study break and hang out. My other very fond memory was during my junior year for Admitted Students Day in the Admission Office; I organized a flash mob that many students, faculty, and staff participated in, including the President (who danced and jumped in heels), our VP for Admissions, and our Dean of Students.
Turns out there is a video of said flash mob:
Thank you to Mitchell for answering my questions and providing a great Pitzer alum perspective! Coming up next month, our third and final Alumni Spotlight…who will be featured? I guess you’ll have to wait and see!
Posted by Katie Shepherd, Admission Counselor