Students attending a lecture at The HiveAndy Reischling, center, a junior, at “The Essay as Resistance” at Pomona College. Jenna Schoenefeld for The New York Times

Why ‘The Hive’ Should Be Your Next Favorite Spot On Campus

“I am not a failure,” is what I would have told you six months ago. Today, I will proudly announce to you that I am a failure. But before you jump to any conclusions about my statement, let me explain myself.

It was my brother’s birthday and he begged me to attend the Hive’s “Introduction to Design Thinking” event. “What the heck is that?” I remember thinking to myself. As I entered the Hive for the first time, I became enthralled by the neon sticky notes and vibrant posters that encased the building. The classrooms, too, fascinated me. There were wheels attached to all the brightly colored tables and stools, sketches covering the walls, and most impressively, an abundance of Sharpie markers. At the event, I was introduced to human-centered design and fell in love with its innovative processes. That night, I wished my brother a happy birthday and thanked him.

Three months later, I am enrolled in the Hive’s human-centered design course. Through a series of workshops and design projects, I have learned to utilize innovation, collaboration, and experimental learning to tackle complex problems. Additionally, I have learned to celebrate failure as it is an essential part of the design process. Most importantly, through my experiences with The Hive, I have learned that every problem is solvable. Upon my many returns to the Hive, I have grown to see the value of each sticky note and ultimately each person behind its short, anonymous messages. Through my experiences at the Hive, I have discovered that design thinking creates more than just collaboration, but a community.  

‘The Hive’ is…

A place and a set of mindsets for students from all five of the Claremont Colleges to come to learn to be more creative, learn to gain confidence in their creativity that they already have, learn to sharpen those creative skills, and to learn how to collaborate. Students ultimately learn how to be creative in team environments as working in groups helps us learn that often the best ideas come from teams.

 Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity (The Hive)

“The Hive attracts students that have an appetite to sharpen their creative skills and make and try things.” –Fred Leichter, Director of the Hive

Students from all five colleges and different majors come to experiment, build, and meet new people. At the Hive, you’ll find button makers, rolls of colored paper, paint, glue, wood, pipe cleaners, cardboard, scissors, and much more!

What is Human-Centered Design?

Image result for human centered design
Human-Centered Design Process, Courtesy of Stanford Center on Longevity

The backbone of the Hive is Human-centered design (design thinking).  Human-centered design is a creative approach to problem-solving with an emphasis on empathy.  It begins with finding the unmet needs of the users you are designing for and ends with a solution for that individual.  This process includes generating tons of (extreme) ideas, rapid prototyping, testing and sharing your innovative solutions!

What Can You Do at The Hive

Rick and Susan Sontag Center for Collaborative Creativity (The Hive), 2018-2019 Skillshares and Workshops

“It is a place to experiment and play and where failure is just fine”–Fred Leichter,  Director of the Hive


The Hive offers Skillshares for students, faculty, and staff.  Skillshares are mini-workshops for more complicated and dangerous activities, such as woodworking and screenprinting.  Students often come to prototype, bring their ideas to life, or just to experiment.


The Hive also offers non-credited Workshops that are oriented around personal skills.  Workshops are evening events are lead by guest speakers and/or Hive Staff. Some of this year’s most popular workshops include:

  • 36 Questions to Make Friends With Anyone
  • Empathetic Listening
  • Introduction to Product Management
  • Design Your Personal Brand
  • Creating New Habits
  • Halloween Costume Making Workshop
  • 3 Steps to Improving Your Future
  • Powerpoint Karaoke: Improve Your Presenter Skills

For Credit Classes

Courtesy of The Hive

The Hive offers a one-credit course for students who want a deeper understanding of design thinking. Introduction to Human-Centered Design (ENGR180HMC) is offered during the spring and fall and uses human-centered design as its underlying methodology. The course will include fundamental readings in design thinking, interactive design methods and processes, and hands-on projects. Students will learn how user research, synthesis, idea generation, and prototyping can be integrated into different phases of the design process. Although the course does not require technical knowledge, it is incredibly valuable for engineers and students studying psychology, English, economics, or philosophy, biology…the list goes on!

“It’s about tackling big ambiguous problems” — Fred Leichter,  Director of the Hive

Hive Director, Fred Leichter is always on the look for challenges where designers are needed both on and off campus. This spring 2019 semester, Fred’s students helped contribute to the redesigning of Pomona’s Center for Modern Languages and International Relations, Oldenborg.  Hive students have also tackled natural disaster response and recovery challenges as well as enhancing the organ donation experience, Claremont Consortium Library, and Hickson Center for Sustainability.


Courtesy of The Hive, Sparkathon Fall 2018

The Hive also hosts Claremont’s biennial Sparkathon Competition! Sparkathon is an impact-driven design thinking competition that challenges students to work collaboratively to solve some of the world’s most pressing societal challenges.  Sparkathon brings in students from all over California to embark on this seven-hour challenge. Winners of this challenge receive mentorship, resources, and generous funding, to implement their solutions in the real world!


Rick and Susan Center for Collaborative Creativity (The Hive)
130 E 7th St, Claremont, CA 91711

Click here to learn more about the events, opportunities, and resources offered at the Hive!


Posted by Kelly Chang ’22 on April 30, 2019

Kelly Chang ’22, Product Design and Communications
Fountain on Pitzer College campus

Faculty Spotlight: Elizabeth Affuso

Next up on the Spotlight series is Professor Elizabeth Affuso, interviewed by Kat ’18. Topics in this interview range from interdisciplinary youth culture to social media after the recession!

Elizabeth AffusoAffuso_faculty_013

Professor and Academic Director of Intercollegiate Media Studies

Field Group: Media Studies
Research Interests: Spectatorship, Fandom, Branding, Technology, Architecture, Moving image media art, and Reality television
Some Classes She’s Taught: Social/Media, Introduction to Media Studies
Little Known Fact: She graduated from NYU and worked in television advertising and film programming prior to working at Pitzer!

Kat Harhai: What makes Pitzer stand out from other institutions?

Elizabeth Affuso: Pitzer stands out in that it really is an institution that values many forms of community building and intellectual expression. Students are encouraged to pursue these practices in creative ways both in the classroom and in the larger campus environment.  For me, this practice is most visible in the murals on Mead Hall, which evolve and change in relationship to the campus community climate.


KH: How would you describe a Pitzer student?

EA: Pitzer students are intellectually curious, confident, creative, and political.

21412024022_b5b2a1a234_o“Pitzer students are intellectually curious, confident, creative, and political.”








KH: What are your relationships with students like?

EA: I have close relationships with many students, which is something that the Pitzer environment fosters.  It’s a small school, so often you have students in a variety of courses over their time here, which allows you to see them evolve.  Pitzer’s campus design also creates an intimacy between students and faculty, so that you see students not only in class, but also outside the classroom in the dining hall, at special events, and in the gym!


KH: What do you love about what you do?

EA: I feel very lucky to teach Media Studies because students have a lot of exposure to media texts outside the classroom and it’s fun to give them the tools to reframe these objects in theoretical/historical ways.  Additionally, contemporary culture is very media based and I think it’s important for everyone to have the tools of media literacy to navigate this 24/7 media environment regardless of the profession they end up working in.  

“I think it’s important for everyone to have the tools of media literacy to navigate this 24/7 media environment regardless of the profession they end up working in.”

KH: What is your favorite course to teach, or favorite course you have taught in the past?

EA: Introduction to Media Studies is my favorite course to teach because it is the first exposure many students have to field of Media Studies.


KH: One of Pitzer’s Core Values is interdisciplinary learning; how has this played into your research, academic focus, or learning objectives for your classes?

EA: I developed Youth Culture, my first year seminar, to be an interdisciplinary course. The course takes theoretical texts and objects of study from Media Studies, Literature, Music, Art, and Cultural Studies.  It was fun for me to be able to teach a course that brought in some of my areas of interest that are outside of my home discipline.


KH: What research are you doing here at Pitzer?

EA: I’m currently working on a book project that examines post-feminist consumer cultures in the digital era, especially as related to the sharing economies that developed in spaces like YouTube, Pinterest, and Instagram after the recession. I think much of my interest in this topic stems from my conversations with students about how they exist in digital culture. These conversations also inspired me to develop Social/Media, a new course that I’m currently teaching.

Posted by Kat Harhai ’18, Environmental Analysis & Feminist Studies and Katie Shepherd, Admission Counselor

Harhai, Kat    10868036_10152997844937755_6688470008344748156_n


Fountain on Pitzer College campus

Faculty Spotlight: Linus Yamane

Hi readers!

Last year we highlighted 3 outstanding alumni in the spring (if you missed those posts, check them out here!), which gave us a fuller view of how Pitzer graduates tackle the world after their 4 years on campus. This year, we are changing things up a bit and featuring some of our many talented and passionate faculty members.

Topics will range from labor market discrimination research to the importance of teaching at Pitzer, and from postfeminist consumer culture to the Mead Hall murals. Our first professor up is Linus Yamane, Professor of Economics and Associate Dean of Faculty, who was interviewed by AJ ’18 who majors in  Economics & Environmental Public Policy Analysis. Stay tuned for other Faculty Spotlights in the months to come!

Linus YamaneLinus Yamane, professor of economics, in 2007. With Pitzer since 1988.

Professor of Economics & Associate Dean of Faculty

With Pitzer since: 1988
Field Group: Economics and Asian American Studies
Research Interests: Macroeconomics, Japanese Economy, Econometrics,  Labor Market Discrimination, Asian American Studies
Some Classes He’s Taught: Statistics, Macroeconomic Theory, Macroeconomic Policy
Little Known Fact: He was state Tae Kwon Do champion, and tried out for the U.S. Olympic Tae Kwon Do team in 1988.

AJ asked Professor Yamane questions about his views of Pitzer, his research, and what he loves about his job.

AJ Leon: What makes Pitzer stand out from other institutions?

Linus Yamane: Pitzer, compared to all the other institutions I have worked at, offers students and faculty with a sense of liberty unlike no other. At Pitzer, students have a lot more freedom to develop an undergraduate program of study that is tailored to their specific interests. Faculty have sovereignty in choosing what they want to teach and the way in which they want to teach. Since Pitzer was founded in the 1960s, some elements of the New Left political movement like free speech and academic freedom remain an intrinsic part of the academic fabric.

In that vein, Pitzer is also anti-authoritarian. The power structure at Pitzer is bottom up. If a student or a faculty member wants to start a new club or a new program, and they are willing to do the work to get the ball rolling, it will happen. If the President wants to start a new program, there is not much the President can do without the support of students and faculty. All that being said, Pitzer College is a good place for students and faculty with initiative. With some work, they will be able to see their initiatives come into fruition. It is a place where individuals can make things happen and make a difference.

AJ: What research are you doing here at Pitzer?

LY: Economists are generally interested in understanding how the world works so that society can make it better. My research has evolved over time from income inequality in Brazil to unemployment in the United States to labor unions in Japan to labor market discrimination and Asian Americans.

My current work is on the labor market discrimination faced by Asian Americans, generally wage discrimination and glass ceiling issues. Asian Americans earn less than comparable non-Hispanic white Americans, and are less likely to be promoted into managerial positions than comparable non-Hispanic white Americans. However, the amount of discrimination depends on whether the individual is male or female, native born or foreign born, more educated or less educated, Asian or biracial, the particular ethnic group, and where they live. The world is a complicated place, and understanding all the factors at play in this puzzle is endlessly fascinating.

“Choosing a favorite course is like choosing a favorite child. You love them all, though perhaps for different reasons.”

AJ: What is your favorite course to teach, or favorite course you have taught in the past?

LY: The best way to learn about something is to teach a course in it. Since I love learning about lots of different things, I have had the enormous privilege of teaching about 20 different courses over the years. These include all the core economics courses, numerous upper level economics courses, first year seminars, and Asian American Studies courses. I doubt that any other institution would have given me the freedom to teach such a wide range of classes. When faculty are excited about teaching what they are teaching, we get better courses for our students.

Choosing a favorite course is like choosing a favorite child. You love them all, though perhaps for different reasons. But if I had to choose, I might go with statistics and econometrics. I think every undergraduate should take a statistics class. Of course, I think every undergraduate should take an economics class. While we can talk about different theories about the world all day long, at the end of the day, we want to look at the data. In statistics and econometrics we learn to think very clearly about the world, and how to learn as much as we can from the increasingly large amounts of data that are available to us. We are living in exciting times when we have enormous amounts of data and the computing power to make sense of it.

AJ: What do you love about what you do?

LY: The academic life is a privileged life. The rest of society feeds me, clothes me, and shelters me so that I have time to think about the world. My number one responsibility is to do research which gives us a better understanding of the world. We need to understand how the world works if we are going to make changes which improve social welfare. My second largest responsibility is to share this knowledge with the future generations. We have to equip our students with the tools and skills necessary to make a difference in this world. I love doing both of these things.

I have the best job in the world. I love learning about the world, and I love sharing that knowledge with students. I get to read the books that I find most interesting, play on the computer with large datasets, write about what I care about, and talk with students about all this. When you enjoy what you are doing, you can’t call it work. Even if students don’t always say “thank you,” I can see gratitude and enlightenment in their eyes. This makes all the difference in the world to me.

This photo was not taken at the same time as this interview, but we think it is pretty relevant!

“I have the best job in the world. I love learning about the world, and I love sharing that knowledge with students.”

AJ: What are your relationships with students like?

LY: The whole point of being at a small liberal arts college is to spend time with your professors. I do not believe in graders, tutors, or teaching assistants. No one should come between the students and the professors. Teaching is the most important thing we do here at Pitzer.

At Pitzer we teach the whole student. Thus our relationships with students are extensive and wide-ranging. Every Friday I try to have lunch with students in McConnell Dining Hall at our “Economics Lunch” table. We talk about problem set questions, current events, or anything for that matter. I take my senior seminar students out for dim sum every Fall, and try to have them over to my house for dinner in the Spring. I have taken students on field trips around Los Angeles, and also on study tours to Hong Kong and throughout Japan. I have gone to the local jail, the local courthouse, and the local hospital on behalf of students, but prefer to go to their weddings. I once made the mistake of trying to play tennis with a student on the Varsity tennis team. Now I just go to watch their matches.

I often say that students pay four years of tuition, but they get a lifetime of advising. I continue to write letters of recommendation for former students years after they graduate. Alumni call me for career advice, and even ask me questions about econometrics. These relationships sometimes continue for generations. I currently have an advisee who is graduating in May. His father was a student of mine two and a half decades ago!

“I once made the mistake of trying to play tennis with a student on the Varsity tennis team. Now I just go to watch their matches.”

AJ: How would you describe a Pitzer student?

LY: For the bacon and egg breakfast, they say that the chicken is involved but the pig is committed. In Fall of 1999 several dozen students from all five Claremont Colleges went to Seattle to protest the World Trade Organization, but only the Pitzer students got arrested! That’s commitment.

While Pitzer students tend to be passionate, they come in all shapes and sizes. Pitzer students study more psychology, political studies, and economics than anything else. They are now taking more math classes than sociology classes. They are taking twice as many courses in the Keck Science Department than a decade ago. And when they go off campus, they take a lot of music, dance, and computer science. The vast majority of our students study abroad at some point, and really do think globally and locally.

AJ: One of Pitzer’s Core Values is interdisciplinary learning; how has this played into your research, academic focus, or learning objectives for your classes?

When I was an undergraduate I had difficulty choosing a major because I found everything to be interesting. I used to have a “major of the week” sign on my door. But I ultimately decided on economics because it was a way to choose a major without really choosing a major. In order to become a good economist, you need to study economics, but you also need to study mathematics and history and philosophy and politics. You cannot understand economics without understanding all these things. When we think about economic development, it is clear that economic policy matters, but history also matters, and politics, and culture.

At Pitzer, my office neighbors have included artists, mathematicians, psychologists, sociologists, political scientists, and anthropologists. I routinely become engaged in conversations with scholars in other fields about various questions about the world. One day I was talking with a psychologist about her work. She studied the health outcomes of workers who experienced discrimination in the workplace using self-reported measures of discrimination. In my work as an economist I routinely estimate the amount of wage discrimination experienced by workers. We started wondering if there was any relationship between the amount of discrimination I could measure and the self-reported levels of discrimination. This was an interesting question, but not one that psychologists or economists would ever ask. This is the power of interdisciplinary work. Being around scholars from different intellectual traditions makes us more creative, more diligent, harder-working, and ultimately generates a better understanding of the world.

Pitzer College Commencement - May 16, 2015
“Being around scholars from different intellectual traditions makes us more creative, more diligent, harder-working, and ultimately generates a better understanding of the world.”



Posted by AJ Leon ’18,  Economics & Environmental Public Policy Analysis and Katie Shepherd, Admission Counselor

Leon, AJ      10868036_10152997844937755_6688470008344748156_n

Finals Week Stress

A typical not-so-fun part of college is of course the intense workload.  It tends to ramp up even more towards the end of the semester and for me it has been essential to take advantage of the on-campus resources to help me manage these stressful times. One of the most helpful services for me has been the Pitzer writing center.  The writing center employs students who are trained and experienced at providing advice and suggestions about how to improve your work. They have helped me write all kinds of papers from research to personal essays. You can go in for help at any step in the writing process, which is excellent. Professors also tend to have more office hours and availability to hold review sessions or to go over any material you still need to master.

Our campus also holds a few late night snack events so that students who are up late studying can take a break and get some nourishment. There are also stress-relieving events held, like this Saturday pit bulls are being brought to campus so we can play with them. We also have our usual yoga and workout classes offered which is a great way to escape some of the stress. Overall there are many ways to manage the stress of finals week and in the end we all here, in it together.

Posted by Anna Pleskunas ’15, Philosophy and Art

Anna Pleskunas Tour Guide

The “Testing Option” Debate

Our Director of Admission, Angel Perez, was quoted today in the Chronicle of Higher Education as part of a discussion on colleges that no longer require standardized test scores from their applicants. We’re proud of our testing option and grateful to be included in this nation-wide discussion.

Applicants to Pitzer College have many choices to consider in lieu of standardized test scores. Students with a cumulative 3.5 unweighted and academic GPA (without Health and P.E., for example) as well as students in the top ten percent of their high school class (for schools that rank their own students) are completely exempt from submitting testing. Students who do not meet those requirements and still would like to forgo standardized tests may submit AP or IB test scores in English and Math, or simply submit a graded math test from Algebra II or a more advanced course, as well as a graded essay from their most current English course.

Our testing option is designed to give students as much freedom as possible to represent themselves academically. Some people love the tests, some people don’t. We get it! We have found that a demonstrated commitment to hard work is a much more consistent indicator of academic success at Pitzer than high test scores.

Happy reading!

Posted by Adam Rosenzweig, Admission Counselor


Beyond Buzzwords, Part 3

Interdisciplinary Learning…I can almost see all of your eyes rolling at just the thought of these words together. This term represents perhaps the most overused buzzword in higher education today. For more than a century, the “modern” social science disciplines like Sociology, Economics, Psychology, and Anthropology have battled each other professionally and intellectually. In a very literal sense, college and university faculty argue with each other and with administrations to justify expanding their particular departments. More generally, debates continue about which discipline best prepares students to study and understand the world around them. In fact, traditional higher education in America is based on these debates.

Since the 1960s, however, a new way of looking at the world has begun to earn a place in the academy. Pitzer, founded in 1963, has always embraced the interdisciplinary approach to learning. Interdisciplinary learning is an acknowledgment that people are multi-faceted, that the world does not conform to traditional academic disciplines. As a result, we are looking for students and faculty who agree that the learning process is best served when we ask what traditional disciplines can do together, rather than how they differ.

One of the ways you can see this value manifested on campus is in the structure of our Field Groups. Most colleges and universities place their faculty within traditional departments. We’re not most colleges. At Pitzer, faculty members can choose to identify with different Field Groups, allowing for a freer exchange of intellectual perspectives. We have professors here at Pitzer who may have been “trained” in graduate school as Anthropologists or Neuroscientists, but they choose to teach courses in History or Psychology. Further, we don’t physically separate our faculty by subject area. You won’t find the “Sociology building” on campus, or the “English/World Literature” building either. You will find Economists sitting next to Psychologists and Poets sitting next to Mathematicians.

Andre Wakefield, Professor of History at Pitzer, teaches a course on the History of the Disciplines and is currently working on a new project that will consider the historical, intellectual, and practical issues surrounding academic disciplines in higher education.

Another example of Interdisciplinary Learning has been the rise of the “Studies” in higher education, and particularly at Pitzer. Several of our Field Groups and majors fall into inherently interdisciplinary categories such as Media Studies, Chicano/Latino Studies, Political Studies, and Organizational Studies (to name but a few). The idea behind these degree programs is to provide room for students to explore a subject from a variety of perspectives. For example, in Environmental Studies when we talk about water usage in the Southern California area, we are forced to acknowledge that we are really talking about a political issue, and a sociological issue, and an economic issue, and an historical issue, as well as a scientific issue.

Christine Zarker Primomo is currently a Senior at Pitzer College and an Admission Fellow here in our office, among other things. Her major – Science, Technology, and Society (STS) – is a great example of Interdisciplinary Learning. Christine says, “These classes span across multiple disciplines including but not limited to: history, philosophy, anthropology, politics and public policy, and sociology. After taking Governing India my first semester, I discovered my interest in global water issues. STS has allowed me to combine my love for science with my passion for improving the health of and access to water resources. One of the best parts about Pitzer, especially majoring in an interdisciplinary field, is that each semester, without consciously trying, my classes all come together. Learning takes on a new face when in addition to taking classes I love, I see that they are all somehow connected under a bigger idea, one not tied to a specific discipline but rather have a diversity of views and practices. Part of the excitement of the semester involves discovering new links between classes like Environmental Chemistry, Language and Society, the Politics of Water and Philosophy of Science.”

For prospective students, we’re interested to know how the idea of Interdisciplinary Learning helps you look at your world. What are the theoretical and methodological tools that you need to take on challenges in your community? What kinds of multi-dimensional issues pique your interest? If you could create your own major, what would it include?

If you are excited to answer these questions, then you have gone beyond the buzzword. I encourage you to think about how your education will challenge you to find questions and answers in curious places. Tell us how you see the world, its problems, its successes, and why you want to continue your explorations at Pitzer. Read faculty bios and course descriptions at the various institutions that you’re considering right now; if they’re not assigning readings from different fields, then they’re not interdisciplinary. If they’re not assigning men and women on their reading lists, then they’re not interdisciplinary. If they’re not assigning ethnically and racially diverse sources, then they’re not interdisciplinary. Put institutions of higher education to the test.

Thanks for coming back to Admission Unpeeled. There’s a lot more information coming in the days ahead so stay tuned and keep reading!

Posted by Adam Rosenzweig, Admission Counselor