Alumni Spotlight: Emily Kawahara

Alright, folks, you know how this goes. Our third and final Alumni Spotlight for this season is Emily Kawahara ’12, a tennis-playing international traveler and philosophy guru. Keep reading to find out her Pitzer story and what she is up to now.


Year of Graduation: 2012Davis SISS

Majors: 1. English and World Literature, emphasis in Creative Writing 2. Philosophy

Hometown: Sacramento, CA

High School: C.K. McClatchy High School

Current Job: International Student Intake Advisor at UC Davis

Pitzer Activities: Pomona-Pitzer Varsity Tennis for 4 years, APAC (Asian Pacific American Coalition) sponsor and head sponsor, Writing Center tutor, study abroad in Nepal

Fun Fact: 

Best friend of Mattie Ross (Assistant Director of Admission here at Pitzer and a member of the Class of 2012)


K: Thinking back to when you were a junior or senior in high school, what made you choose Pitzer?

E: So I did the whole Southern California trip with my mom, and we were on our way to Redlands, going on the 10, and we saw the sign for the Claremont Colleges. She mentioned that she had read about them in a college magazine. The first school we pulled up to happened to be Pitzer, and as soon as I got out of the car and stepped on campus I kind of knew. I don’t know what it was about it…maybe it was the landscape, maybe it was just a really perfect day in Claremont, but I got out of the car and just felt really at home. And then we went to the Office of Admission, talked with the admission counselor (I found out later that was actually my interview), and learned that they had a Creative Writing program, which I was definitely interested in. I was thinking about doing Philosophy but I wasn’t sure about it yet. The other thing was that I wanted to play tennis. I learned they had a Division III team – a top 10 team in the nation – and once I started reading a little bit more about the coach and what the team had done, it just seemed like a really great fit. I did an overnight stay with one of the girls on the team, Zoe. And I spent a lot of my stay with one of the girls another teammate, Alex Margolin, who was a senior when I was a freshman, and we’re still incredibly good friends. I’m actually going to be in her wedding next year. I kept in touch with her and all of the team throughout the application process…it was my first choice the entire time.

I don’t know what it was about it…maybe it was the landscape, maybe it was just a really perfect day in Claremont, but I got out of the car and just felt really at home.

K: What were the main things you got involved in and why did you involve yourself in those activities while at Pitzer?

E: Well the first one was definitely tennis. I had been playing since I was really young, and I knew I wanted to keep playing, but I knew that education was really important too, which is why I looked mainly at DIII schools. So I was on the team for all four years while I was there, and that took up almost all of my time. My freshman year I worked for the Office of Admission, giving campus tours, sitting at the front desk with Lesley, filing and all that. My sophomore year I was an overnight coordinator in the Office of Admission, and that was fun because I coordinated prospective student visits and spoke to students and parents about how great Pitzer is. I went abroad junior year, and when I came back I got a job at the Writing Center because I knew that I wanted to do something more along those lines. The other thing I was really involved with was APAC (the Asian Pacific American Coalition) – I was a sponsee my freshman year, and my sponsor was actually my teammate, Alex. My sophomore and junior year I was an APAC sponsor, and then my senior year I was the Head APAC sponsor. I also did the study abroad program in Nepal in the fall of 2010.

Pitzer AAPI Grad
Taken at the 5-C Asian American Pacific Islander graduation ceremony. Left to right: Chelsey Kitazawa ’12 (left), PZ prof Kathleen Yep, and Emily Kawahara ’12.
Tennis
Emily spent a huge amount of her time while at Pitzer playing tennis.

You found the hidden message!

 

K: So what made you want to get involved in things like APAC and study abroad?

E: I’m half Japanese and half Scandinavian, and I’ve always really identified with my Japanese heritage and culture. When I got to Pitzer on move-in day, I had a bunch of APAC sponsors help me move in. They were all really welcoming and nice, and invited me to their meetings. It took me a little while actually to start going to the meetings, but then I started understanding how important it was to really get a sense of your identity, that’s really what college is all about. So I learned a lot about the culture that I thought I already knew. And I got to meet a bunch of people from all different backgrounds; some were first generation students, some have families that have been here for a long time but still, like me, stay true to their Asian culture even though they may not appear that way on the outside. That’s why APAC had a huge impact on me and was a lot of what I did.

Studying abroad was one of the selling points for Pitzer. I knew I wanted to go abroad; I had caught the travel bug in high school  when I participated in an ambassador program. I originally planned on going to France or Morocco. I went to the Study Abroad Office, got the paperwork for France and Morocco, and as I was leaving some other student came in that I had never met and struck up a conversation because everyone at Pitzer is so nice and always does that. They basically said, I don’t know where you are thinking about going, but you should go to Nepal. And I said that I didn’t even know where Nepal was. He said it will change your life – you have got to go to Nepal. So I put down the paperwork I got, and picked up the Nepal one. I didn’t even know where it was, I didn’t look it up or anything. I just applied. I ended up going, and by far it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. That was awesome because that was the first time I really understood what college is about – the whole idea of taking that deliberate step into the unknown.  And that’s something I’ve tried to keep doing ever since I left.

“I didn’t even know where it was, I didn’t look it up or anything. I just applied. I ended up going, and by far it’s been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.”

Nepal Baujuu Nepal CATS

Nepal Climbing Elephant  Nepal The Girls

K: What are some other ways you stepped into the unknown while you were here are or after graduating? That’s something I think Pitzer students are really good at, or at least they find ways to do more of that than students at other colleges.

E: Definitely. Well after I got back from studying abroad, I knew I was interested in traveling abroad, living abroad, and putting myself in uncomfortable cross-cultural situations. So that’s why I had applied to a whole bunch of scholarships and grants for working and living abroad after graduating.  I was lucky enough to be offered a Fulbright, so I ended up doing a teaching Fulbright in Thailand. While I was on the Fulbright, I traveled quite a bit to different south Asian countries, and that’s actually why I am doing what I’m doing now. I found out I was interested in international education, and I knew I had to get that real world base understanding first before looking for a position where I could be a change maker.

I found out I was interested in international education, and I knew I had to get that real world base understanding first before looking for a position where I could be a change maker.

K: Can you describe what you do now?

E: I work for UC Davis, with the Services for International Students and Scholars. I am an International Student Intake Adviser, so I basically help students understand and stay within their legal status while they are in the U.S. It’s a lot of student advising. So if there’s a student here that wants to say, travel for a vacation, so not back to their home country and not somewhere in the U.S., they come in and talk to me about what they need to do to make sure they have the right travel documents and are in good standing, or that their U.S. Visa isn’t going to expire before they get back…From studying abroad and from working abroad, I know that there was a lot of paperwork, a lot of rules and regulations I wasn’t aware of, and a lot of those situations can be really uncomfortable situations because you just don’t know where the line is, or it’s in a language you’re not fluent in. So that first interaction can really either make or break their time here, or it can negatively affect the experience from the very beginning. I’m the first face or the first voice for international students, making sure information is clearly explained, so that students are understanding exactly what they need to stay legal here, because there are just so many crazy and complex rules. So that’s pretty much what I do now!

Davis GEM
Emily created a program at UC Davis called Global Engagement Mondays (GEM). Every Monday, international students, scholars, families, and domestic students and staff come together to discuss a variety of topics in a safe creative environment. Here Emily is leading a discussion on different forms of greetings and gestures.
Davis SISS
Halloween time at UC Davis!

 

K: So are you planning on staying in this field to continue to help international students in Higher Ed? Or do you have an idea of where you might want to go from here?

E: What I might want to do is go back and work for IIE or Fulbright, or work more at a policy level, but I really enjoy working in Higher Ed for now. I want to see what’s happening at the base level – what’s working and what’s not – and where students get confused. I want to understand what rules are put in place and why. And then maybe figure out what can be done to make it easier for students…I guess that kind of goes back to the Pitzer Core Value of Intercultural Understanding. You can’t have Intercultural Understanding if there are rules that people don’t know about; you can’t really have an environment to foster this understanding if people are uncomfortable when traveling abroad because they are afraid they might fall out of legal status. So I’m really happy where I’m starting, but I know there’s a whole ladder to climb, and there are a lot of other rules I won’t be made aware of until later. So hopefully I’ll be able to work more in the policy or government area in the future.

K: Let’s talk about how you’ve remained connected to Pitzer as an alumnae – are there ways you’ve managed to either come to campus or stay connected in other ways?

E: Yeah, I think tennis is really the main way. I feel that in playing a sport you’re part of a team for four years and for life; you want to know how they’re doing because each player is your teammate, whether or not you were actually on the team together, so I definitely stay updated on how the tennis team is. Now we can see videos of their final points (thanks to Jeremy and the Pomona-Pitzer Athletics Facebook page), which has been great. I was there a couple months ago now and watched some matches over spring break. I’m always excited any time I get the opportunity to go back to Pitzer. I got to go to the 50th Anniversary last year, and that was awesome. I try to keep updated as much as I can on everything that is happening there because it’s such a great college; you feel that sense of pride, even when you’re not there anymore.

Tennis Senior Year team Tennis Senior Year Nationals

K: What would you say was your biggest challenge while you were at Pitzer? And what helped you overcome it?

E: I’d say kind of like what we talked about before, just taking that big step – a deliberate big step into the unknown. When I went to Pitzer I knew I was going to be playing tennis, I knew I was going to be taking English or Literature classes, I had a pretty good focus on what I wanted to do, mainly Creative Writing…but I also learned to make the time to fit in other random things too. I had a pretty packed schedule between working and APAC and tennis and classes. The philosophy major was actually really random – I was interested in ethics and ended up taking a bunch of philosophy classes for fun, and in my junior year during office hours with one of my favorite professors, Julie Tannenbaum at Pomona, she asked me why I wasn’t majoring in philosophy. She knew I was only a couple classes short. One of the main reasons was that I didn’t want to take Logic, and another reason was that I was just really intimidated in every single class I took. I was really interested in the theories and how they were applied, but I would go and sit in the back and talk as minimally as I needed to. And she pretty much told me to suck it up and that I should just do it if it was something I cared about. I actually took a Seminar class with her that started out with 20 people, and by the second week I think we were down to maybe 4 or 5 – it was such a hard class that everyone just dropped it. Philosophy classes were generally mostly male, and I was the only girl left in that Seminar class. So she helped me make that deliberate step towards diving into an unknown by adding the philosophy major, and I feel that again it goes back to the Pitzer Core Values (by the way, Pitzer is so good at maintaining its mission throughout the entire time you’re there, from the moment you get there until the moment you leave)…I think I just learned how to do the things that I cared about without knowing exactly where it would lead – because a lot of people will talk and say things like “I like doing this, but I’m not really going to do anything about it”. I think that the education I got and my interactions with my professors really made me able to take a deliberate next step in solving a problem. If you have a plan, you need to stick to it, and rather than just telling everyone, you need to show it by action. I think that that wasn’t something I was as used to when I got to Pitzer.Fulbright Group

I think that the education I got and my interactions with my professors really made me able to take a deliberate next step in solving a problem.

 

 

 

 

 

K: Are there ways you’ve seen the Core Values play out in your life after college?

E: The Core Value of Intercultural Understanding has really guided me since graduating. After my Fulbright, I had a tough time coming back to America because reverse culture shock was way worse than culture shock. Then I had a hard time finding a job because I was torn between getting a job that I cared about and getting a job just because I needed to pay off my student loans. I knew that I wanted to have some sort of positive effect on the global community, and I knew that I wanted to get involved in international education…you can’t just walk in and say this is what I think needs to improve or this is what needs to be worked on. You need to start at the bottom. So I feel that I’ve always kept the end goal of promoting Intercultural Understanding in mind, and that’s why I like to think that what I do I do with a purpose. There’s a reason why I got the job at Davis, first in programming and outreach, and there’s a reason why I decided that within that department I wanted to switch over and do international student advising. So instead of doing the programming and outreach which I was really used to from being in APAC, I wanted to get more into the government and immigration policy side of it. I think Intercultural Understanding has kind of been my catch phrase since I was a senior and applying to Fulbright and all of those programs. It’s an important framework to keep in mind in this growing global community, and I think Pitzer does a really good job of introducing that. Especially being at Davis, there’s a huge population – way bigger than Pitzer and the Claremont Colleges – and unfortunately I think there are a lot of people that think that international students are taking up the places of California residents, or international students are taking all of these opportunities for Americans, and it’s really unfortunate because that’s one very shallow perspective of what’s happening. What’s really happening is you now have the opportunity, without even going abroad, to learn about cultures from all of the international students and scholars who are taking advantage of the available exchange programs. So I think that the idea of Intercultural Understanding has really stuck with me in everything I’ve done. I’ve even taken some programs I ran in APAC and altered them for trainings and workshops here at Davis.

K: Do you have any advice for current, prospective, or admitted Pitzer students about college in general?

E: I think it’s really important to be honest with what you want in your college, meaning what you want from your education but also from your experience as a whole. I appreciated Pitzer while I was there, but I don’t think I really truly appreciated it until after I left. Since graduating, I’ve met people who attended a variety of other colleges, and from discussions I’ve had with them, it’s clear that the education from Pitzer and the Claremont Colleges is something you can’t get anywhere else. We, as Claremont College alumni and students, have these opportunities that I think we sometimes take for granted – like the ability to study abroad on programs like the Nepal program, or Botswana or Costa Rica, on programs that aren’t exchanges. You are living with families and not just going to universities. I think just knowing that you have a choice in what you want to do is important. If it’s really important for you to go to a big school and be lost among that, or go to a small school and have that experience where it’s an 8:1 student-to-faculty ratio…either way I think it’s super important to keep in mind that it’s really about the experience as a whole. I was applying for this graduate program recently, writing all of these essays, and I had to get letters of recommendation. I asked Kathy Yep, who I actually never had as a professor but she was just an amazing mentor for APAC and for life in general. I still talk to her, so I sent her a text super last minute and asked her for a letter of recommendation. My friends who went to bigger schools told me that there’s no way that three years out of college they could text a professor that they didn’t even have, or even one that they did have in college, to ask them for a letter of recommendation and expect to get anything back. There’s nothing wrong with going to a big school or going to a small school – there are so many great options out there, though I am super biased.

Nepal Trekking the Annapurna

Since graduating, I’ve met people who attended a variety of other colleges, and from discussions I’ve had with them, it’s clear that the education from Pitzer and the Claremont Colleges is something you can’t get anywhere else. We, as Claremont College alumni and students, have these opportunities that I think we sometimes take for granted – like the ability to study abroad on programs like the Nepal program, or Botswana or Costa Rica, on programs that aren’t exchanges.

 

 

K: What is it like working at a much larger university after going to such a small college? Do you think about that when you’re working there?

E: Definitely. I started in the summer, so there were only summer school students ere, and that was what about the number of students I was used to while at Pitzer. And when classes actually started in the fall and I saw how many students were here, I was incredibly overwhelmed. It’s pretty amazing as an adviser to hear some examples from students of their interactions with their professors or with other students. Even just the idea of being taught by a TA, or going to TA office hours, is hard to imagine. So it’s an incredibly different experience.

K: Do you have a favorite thing about Pitzer?

E: I think one of my favorite things about Pitzer was just how small it was. I had a 2:45 philosophy class and could take a nap until 2:44 and still get there before the professor. The class sizes were great, because you actually felt like the professors knew you. If you missed a class, they would email you and ask you where you were. Basically when I think about Pitzer in general I always get happy, because everything that happened there was great. Even the things that were tough because you’re going through a really interesting time in life, being what, 18-22. Some of the fondest memories I have were just from playing tennis, and the camaraderie I got from being on those teams all four years. Each year was incredibly different; teammates left and knew ones came in. But I think that being on the Pomona-Pitzer tennis courts was always really great. We sometimes would have 6 am breakfast at Frary to make early matches, and the teammates from Pitzer would all meet up right between Mead and Holden (which isn’t there anymore), and we’d walk through the mounds over to Pomona, and it was always silent. And that was always a really nice walk. I miss Holden, to be honest, because Holden was great – it was disgusting – but great. I lived there my sophomore year and then half of my junior year when I got back from study abroad, and it was disgusting but I loved it. I used to study late night all the time in CAPAS (Center for Asian Pacific American Students), and in Edmunds at Pomona with the team. Those were probably the best nights, just staying up all night with my friends…turns out trying to write a philosophy paper at 3 in the morning just kind of comes out as gibberish.

Fulbright TeachersFulbright HomeRoomTennis OjaiTennis Freshman NationalsPitzer Friends 2Pitzer FriendsFulbright Loi KratongFulbright Indo

If you like what you see, check out the Alumni Spotlight posts on Tim Campos ’10 and Mitchell Felton ’13!


Posted by Katie Shepherd, Admission Counselor

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Alumni Spotlight: Tim Campos

Here in the Office of Admission, we tend to focus on prospective students – helping them learn about our institution and generally attempting to make the college application process less scary than it seems. We get to work with current students as they help guide tours, coordinate overnight stays, and interview prospective students in the office. But once in a while we should take a moment to connect with our wide network of Pitzer alumni, who have entered the world with their toolbox of globally-minded thoughts and engaging, defining experiences attained during their time at Pitzer.

I reached out to Pitzer Class of 2010 graduate Tim Campos for an opportunity to share his Pitzer and post-Pitzer success story. He was incredibly generous to sit down with me for a lunch in the Village and discuss how Pitzer has shaped him.

I asked him many questions and made it difficult for him to eat his lunch (sorry about that, Tim), but as the conversation went on I became more and more impressed with his connection to Pitzer’s core values, and how he has been able to positively impact the community that helped him grow. Below I have summarized and transcribed bits of our conversation that you may find enjoyable or enlightening. Happy reading!


First, here are the basics about Tim:

IMG_7438 (2)

Year of Graduation: 2010

Major(s): Sociology and Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies

Minor: Studio Art

Hometown: Claremont, CA

Pitzer Activities: (honestly too many to list, but…) President of the Latino/a Student Union (LSU), Mentor within Chicano/a Latino/a Student Affairs (CLSA), Community Coordinator for on- and off-campus activities, one of the founders of the annual Rockabilly Festival, member of the Student Senate Diversity Committee, member of the Senior Gift Committee, and an admission junior staff extraordinaire (aka a tour guide, diversity intern, and admission fellow)

Current Job: Marketing Coordinator at HartmanBaldwin Design/Build, a fully integrated architecture, construction, and interior design firm  


Our conversation revolved around both his participation in the Pitzer community as a student, as well as how he has remained connected as an alumni.

Katie: How did you decide on Sociology and Chicano/a – Latino/a Studies as your majors?

Tim:  I had originally planned to pursue the premed track. Upon arriving at Pitzer I was convinced that pursing a premed track and eventually becoming a doctor was what I wanted. But I quickly realized that my passion was not in science, let alone medicine, but helping my community. Taking my first introductory sociology course at Pitzer was the pivotal moment that persuaded me to pursue a major in the social sciences. Sociology courses taught by Professor José Calderón and Professor Phil Zuckerman were certainly some of the best. As for Chicano/Latino Studies, I knew coming into Pitzer that Ethnic Studies would somehow find its way into my course curriculum.

K: So tell me more about starting the Rockabilly Festival at Pitzer. (Note to the readers: The Rockabilly Festival remains one of the largest annual cultural events at Pitzer, drawing over a thousand attendees, both Claremont College students and community members. To find out more about this festival, watch the video below.)

T: The concept for the Rockabilly Festival really originated with Professor Adrian Pantoja.  Professor Pantoja and the Latina/o Student Union had already been collaborating on a few campus events and he was our advisor at the time. With his passion for car culture and specifically how it intersects with Latino/a culture here in the greater Los Angeles area, members of LSU were quick to collaborate and the rest was history. The festival incorporated a car exhibition, as well as an art show and concert featuring rockabilly bands from all over Southern California. While the College already had musical festivals like the popular Kohoutek music festival, we wanted a festival that was open and inclusive, while speaking to the Latino/a community at Pitzer, the Claremont Colleges, and beyond. Today, the Rockabilly Festival is certainly known throughout the Claremont College and Inland Empire communities. This year the group (LSU) will be celebrating the festival’s eighth year. All of the organizing efforts and behind-the-scenes work over years of planning the festival actually provided the foundation to my senior thesis, which focused on the intersection of Latino and rockabilly cultures.

“We wanted a festival that was open and inclusive, while speaking to the Latino/a community at Pitzer, the Claremont Colleges, and beyond.”

K: That’s great. It sounds like a very interesting thesis! And since then, what has been your career path after Pitzer?

T: As an Admission Fellow in my senior year at Pitzer, I realized that higher education was an avenue I wanted to explore professionally. I recall having the opportunity to travel to Portland, Oregon and conduct interviews with prospective students over winter break of that same year. That particular experience solidified my decision to pursue higher education at the administrative level. So in the spring, I applied to several admission counselor openings and one just happened to open up at Pitzer. Two weeks after graduating, I began my career exploration as an admission counselor at Pitzer, recruiting students, reading applications and representing the College while helping cultivate diversity initiatives on campus through my work with the Diversity Program. Aside from that, I also managed social media and assisted with communications and marketing initiatives. I realized though that I was missing a more creative environment as an artist, so I switched careers and became a marketing coordinator for HartmanBaldwin Design/Build, which is a fully integrated architecture, construction, and interior design firm in Claremont and Pasadena. As marketing coordinator, I am responsible for the coordination of key marketing projects including advertising, community relations, online marketing, copywriting, and execution of other relevant initiatives. Currently, I am pursuing a Master of Communication Management (M.C.M.) at USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. And who knows, upon completion of the program I may find myself back in the world of higher education, but most certainly in a career combining leadership, communication, and marketing.

K: So how would you say Pitzer prepared you for life after college?

T:  Pitzer prepared me both professionally and personally. There were a handful of influential Latino mentors that I credit for nurturing my leadership and personal growth while at Pitzer.  My advisor and professor, José Calderón, instilled in me a sense of taking what I had learned in the classroom and applying theory to practice in creating change in my local community. Professor Calderón would always say, “Remember brother, don’t let your studies interfere with your education.” Former VP and Dean of Admission, Angel Perez, has probably been one of the most influential figures in my life thus far, both as an undergraduate student and professionally. Being a first generation Latino male, it was awe-inspiring to have mentors like José Calderón and Angel Perez because knowing there were similarities in our experiences made my time at Pitzer much more rewarding.

“There were a handful of influential Latino mentors that I credit for nurturing my leadership and personal growth while at Pitzer.

K: Would you advise anybody going to college (or going to Pitzer) to study abroad?

Costa Rica Petroglyph rectangle crop
Studying abroad is an incredibly important component to many Pitzer students’ educational journeys. Photo courtesy of Pitzer College.

T:  Studying abroad during the summer of my junior year at Pitzer was another pivotal moment for me personally. While in Costa Rica, I was able to step out of my comfort zone and gain a greater intercultural understanding from what I was so accustomed, as someone born and raised in Southern California. So yes, to answer your original question, I think students looking to go to Pitzer should be open to going abroad. Study abroad should be on the top of their list… While other universities offer traditional study abroad programs, our programs incorporate the [core] values so well into the curriculum, while focusing on global/local initiatives.  Upon returning, our programs encourage students to question how they can apply the experience to their local community, while examining the cross-cultural connections.

While in Costa Rica, I was able to step out of my comfort zone and gain a greater intercultural understanding from what I was so accustomed, as someone born and raised in Southern California.

K: Definitely. So this is a little different since you worked at Pitzer for three years after graduating, but since then, what are some ways you have stayed connected with Pitzer since graduating?

T: Even if I hadn’t worked at Pitzer post-graduation, I would have still stayed connected to the College. Since I was heavily involved in various leadership roles as a student, it would have been difficult not to come back and be involved in some aspect.  I have stayed connected to Pitzer through my leadership on the Alumni Board. As one of the governing bodies on the board, I work collectively with fellow board members to enhance areas such as Alumni Reunion Weekend, the Alumni Volunteer Network, Young Alumni programming, and more recently the Annual Fund. As an Alumni Board, we create programming and networking opportunities; enhance the educational, cultural, social and professional lives of recent graduates, while maintaining a connection between alumni and the College.  And aside from my responsibilities on the board, I look for opportunities to come back to campus and share my experiences with current students or prospective students for that matter when my schedule permits.

Since I was heavily involved in various leadership roles as a student, it would have been difficult not to come back and be involved in some aspect.

K: And what are some things you do on the Alumni Board specifically?

T: My involvement on the Board has evolved over the years…when I first started on the Board I really focused on young alumni engagement. And now I’ve transitioned into working more on the development pillar, more specifically the Annual Fund and increasing alumni participation. In my role, I am essentially reconnecting with alumni, and re-engaging them with the Pitzer community, while informing them of new campus initiatives.

K: With your experience and how you’ve seen Pitzer change since you’ve graduated, do you see it growing more in a certain way in the next 5 or 10 years?

T: Pitzer has definitely made a name for itself in the last decade and with the recent 50 Forward Campaign, we hit a milestone. I think for us here at the College it’s nice to be in a position where we can no longer say, “well, we’re young”. No, we are 50, proud, and we are moving our community forward. Pitzer has become one of the leading liberal arts institutions in America. In my mind, Pitzer College is an innovative and creative think tank. We are producing more and more socially conscious agents of change who are prepared with the resources and passion to leave Pitzer and transform the world. I think in the next ten years I’d like to see Pitzer really push that number of 75% of students that go abroad to be in the 90s, or maybe 100%. But I really want Pitzer in the next 10 years to be the leading institution, so that when someone thinks, “we are looking for an institution that’s going to be innovative and pushes us out of our comfort zone”, the institution that people think of is Pitzer.

We are producing more and more socially conscious agents of change who are prepared with the resources and passion to leave Pitzer and transform the world.

K: I agree; that would be a great position to be in! And I think it’s on its way. So thinking back to your time as a student, and now your time as an alumnus, what kind of advice would you give to either current or prospective Pitzer students?

T: For prospective students first – it doesn’t matter where you end up, college-wise. What matters is what college is going to make you grow, and meet your needs. You’re going to be at a place for four years; you want to make sure you’re going to be happy for four years. Ask yourself, “Am I going to grow?” All the other aspects are great and worth considering, but at the end of the day are you going to grow and be happy with your decision? For current students – take advantage of all the opportunities that Pitzer offers. Step out of your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to rattle the cage a bit. That’s what Pitzer was founded on…students eager to engage and question everything. I think that’s ok; it’s healthy. It indicates that students are not only interested but they are also aware of what’s going on around their community. Don’t be afraid to utilize the resources of the Claremont Colleges. We are part of a consortium for a reason.

It doesn’t matter where you end up, college-wise. What matters is what college is going to make you grow, and meet your needs. You’re going to be at a place for four years, you want to make sure you’re going to be happy for four years.”

K: What kind of things did you partake in on the 5C scale? (Note to the readers: 5C is jargon for taking place at all five undergraduate Claremont Colleges.)

T: Well, being a Chicano/a – Latino/a studies major, which is 5-college, I was able to take courses across all of the various Claremont Colleges. Aside from academics, I was highly involved within the Claremont College community. As previously mentioned, I was a Chicano/Latino Student Affairs mentor for first-year students. Additionally, I was part of the Cesar Chavez Celebration Committee and helped organize programming throughout that month of celebration. I was part of the 5-college Latino graduation committee and a 5-college Latina/o Leaders Coalition. But back to academic resources, I really took advantage of the arts at Scripps, [specifically] the digital art program, which spawned an interest in digital art and design.

K: So how would you say Pitzer’s five core values have stuck with you after college in what you do and how you live your life?

T: Pitzer has allowed me to question my own practices and pay more attention to my carbon footprint. From the type of car I drive… to knowing where my food comes from and eating local…it was great to be a part of a place that encouraged sustainable practices. Pitzer values are not forced. You come to Pitzer because in your college search process you looked for an institution that provide similar values or would push you to challenge your own values and beliefs through positive dialogue.  Aside from sustainability, I can say with confidence that all of the core values have stuck with me post-Pitzer. I always aligned with the core values, but Pitzer only amplified those values with a stronger foundation and sense of pride.

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Pitzer continues to improve the campus’s carbon footprint with additions like the new Holden Garden.

Pitzer has allowed me to question my own practices and pay more attention to my carbon footprint. From the type of car I drive… to knowing where my food comes from and eating local…it was great to be a part of a place that encouraged sustainable practices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

K: Are there other parts of your life that connect you with Social Responsibility?

T: Yes, for example, connecting with a non-profit in Los Angles called HOLA (Heart of Los Angeles), where I assisted in the college application process through facilitation of mock application review and personal statement writing workshops. I am always eager to assist first-generation college-bound students through the college application process. As a first-generation Latino college student myself, I understand the importance of having access to resources and mentors. Speaking of mentors, I plan to establish a mentorship program at Pitzer that would pair current Latina/o students with Latina/o alumni.

K: Is there something that is your favorite thing about Pitzer?

T: That’s such a hard question… As an artist I love the art policy on campus, and the murals, along with the native drought-tolerant landscape and rich architectural history. But in all seriousness, the core of my Pitzer experience is rooted in shared experiences with fellow classmates and the extraordinary teachings and mentorship of Latina/o faculty members like professors Jose Calderon, Adrian Pantoja, and Maria Soldatenko. These same faculty members (and countless others) truly care about the students.

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A class with Professor Roberta Espinoza held in the outdoor classroom. Photo courtesy of Pitzer College.

“The core of my Pitzer experience is rooted in shared experiences with fellow classmates and the extraordinary teachings and mentorship of Latina/o faculty members.”

 

 

 

 

K: I think we’ve talked about this throughout the lunch, but what are some of the big takeaways from your Pitzer education, either academic or social?

T: Academically, I feel Pitzer really prepared me for a writing intensive and rigorous graduate program. I’m at a graduate program that has a lot of writing, and I did a lot of writing at Pitzer…so many research and reaction papers – 15 or 20 page papers. The First-Year Seminar, and the writing intensity of it, to my senior thesis, really prepared me for my graduate coursework. I mentioned this already, but being in the Pitzer community really pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and also see my potential as a leader. Pitzer faculty and staff encouraged and fostered my leadership throughout my years.

K: And this probably is a tough question to answer too, but looking back at your four years there, were there certain memories that you really appreciate or enjoy, or things that you are thankful for?

T: Yeah, definitely. I was just at Family Weekend a few days ago, and I was able to sit down with some alumni after the alumni panel that I moderated. We were there in the dining hall, and I just felt like I was back for a Saturday morning meal having brunch with friends. It’s the little things like that I do miss. Just connecting with friends, with fellow Pitzer students on campus, over a meal.  We form such a close-knit community on campus that you become part of a family… whether it’s a classroom experience or social experience, just to be able to have that sit-down time and communicate and share with friends and fellow classmates, that’s something you don’t get every day and something I do miss.

 

Stay tuned for more alumni spotlights ~ next up is Mitchell Felton, Class of 2013!


Posted by Katie Shepherd, Admission Counselor

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