Pitzer Students and Alumni Recognized for Academic Excellence and Innovation

2021–22 Fellowships, Grants, and Other Awards

Pitzer College students and alumni have earned a multitude of awards and fellowships to conduct research, teach English, study languages, engage communities, and pursue their academic interests both virtually and around the globe. To date, thirteen Pitzer students and alumni have been awarded Fulbright Fellowships, three students have become Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows, and three students have become Critical Language Scholars. One student has received the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, another student will participate in the American Economic Association Summer Program, and another student has received a Projects for Peace Award. Meanwhile, several financially savvy students have won a stock pitch competition, and a first-year student has won a prize from The Claremont Colleges Library. Notably, Kenneth Butler ’22 and Benjamin Sievers ’22 have both won two awards—the Napier Award and Fulbright Fellowship. Among recent graduates, a Class of 2014 graduate earned a Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship to support his PhD research at Stanford University.

Fulbright Fellowships

The Fulbright US Student Program, the largest international exchange program in the US, provides grants for students and young professionals to pursue individually designed study/research projects or participate in English Teaching Assistant Programs.

Kenneth Butler '22
Kenneth Butler ’22

Kenneth Butler ’22, an organizational studies major, has received a Fulbright to research the factors that facilitate social rehabilitation and reintegration at Luzira Prison in Uganda. As a member of the first cohort of incarcerated students from Pitzer’s Inside-Out Pathway-to-BA, Butler is uniquely suited to explore “convict criminology”—scholarship about criminology by formerly incarcerated people—and to investigate how the US can learn from the “system of co-governance” and humane conditions in Ugandan prisons. Upon his return to the US, Butler intends to attend graduate school and become a scholar-activist. Butler has been involved in the Inside-Out think tank, where he and other members first advocated for a pathway to a BA degree for incarcerated students.

Malaya Caligtan Tran '22
Malaya Caligtan-Tran ’22

Malaya Caligtan-Tran ’22, a self-designed Indigenous public health major and environmental analysis minor, has received a Fulbright to study in the Philippines. They will be examining the impact of privatization and resource extraction on Igorot communities in the Cordillera with particular attention to the region of Lepanto. Caligtan-Tran’s project will utilize oral history to understand varying Indigenous relationships to land and how these mines have affected their health. Using their previous experience with podcasts, zines, and short stories, Caligtan-Tran will collaborate with the study participants to create a community-accessible media project in addition to their scholarly research paper.

Millie Chi '22
Milly Chi ’22

Milly Chi ’22, an Asian American studies and organizational studies major, has been awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Taiwan. As the child of native-born Taiwanese parents, Chi is passionate about returning to her roots and incorporating her radical, social justice-based Asian American studies education into understanding Taiwanese culture and people. Chi will use art and other creative mediums in her process, both in the classroom and in the community, to bridge cultural gaps, empower students as agents of change in their communities, and develop relationships.

Diego Flores '22
Diego Flores ’22

Diego Flores ’22, a political science major, has been awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Mexico. As a Spanish language tutor at Pitzer, he has sought to create spaces of mutual respect and understanding to meet students where they are to foster an excitement for learning. A first-generation student from East Los Angeles, Flores grew up in a Spanish-speaking household and has visited extended family in Mexico throughout his life. During the Fulbright fellowship, Flores also plans to explore community art and its intersection with justice movements.

Michaela Fogarty '22
Michaela Noelle Swezey Fogarty ’22

Michaela Noelle Swezey Fogarty ’22, a psychology major and Spanish minor, has been awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Spain. Fogarty was drawn to Pitzer and the Fulbright Fellowship because they share her values in intercultural exchange and mutual understanding. Fogarty has taken Inside-Out courses, and through the Prisoners Assistance Program in Nepal, she has virtually tutored kids living in children’s homes while their mothers face incarceration. Fogarty has studied Spanish since seventh grade and looks forward to gaining fluency while abroad. In Spain, she hopes to learn about the education system and how trilingualism is taught in Galician schools. Fogarty aspires to become a Spanish-fluent social worker and has a particular interest in the criminal justice system.

Ana Froom '22
Ana Froom ’22

Ana Froom ’22, a sociology major and art history minor, has been awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Taiwan. Born in China and adopted by a family in the US, Froom is a lifelong student of languages—Mandarin chiefly among them—and has a strong curiosity about new experiences and cultures. Music has created many opportunities for Froom to engage with others and learn languages throughout her life. She was raised by music composers and professors and is a trained musician herself. As a teacher in Taiwan, Froom will incorporate song and dance into the classroom. In the future, Froom is interested in working with children on the autism spectrum as an occupational therapist.

Kiera Havill ’21

Kiera Havill ’21, a combined sociology and critical global studies major, has been awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Malawi. In Malawi, Havill will draw on her undergraduate studies of effective teaching methods. During her time at Pitzer, she researched high school teachers’ strategies to engage students and evoke their “inspiragination”—a term she coined to describe how educators can inspire students’ imaginations. Havill also played on the Pomona-Pitzer Women’s Lacrosse team. Her own future aspirations include pursuing a doctorate in education and exploring filmmaking and directing.

Joshua Huui '22
Joshua Hui ’22

Joshua Hui ’22, a combined sociology and Asian American studies major, has been awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Taiwan. He has helped seniors to develop their theses at the Writing Center and helped elementary school children learn English as a second language in Jumpstart. In addition, he’s worked with immigrants preparing for their US citizenship exams. Hui looks forward to returning to the country of his father’s birth and engaging in the same process as his students, learning Mandarin and Taiwanese culture as they learn English and the cultures of English-speaking countries.

Taylor Lehner '22
Taylor Lehner ’22

Taylor Lehner ’22, a biology major and Spanish minor, has received a Fulbright to conduct research in the University of Warsaw in Poland to learn how environmental stress, such as climate change or toxins, affect the cell. As a female first-generation STEM student, Lehner has a strong admiration for Poland as a leader for women in STEM and for Professor Joanna Kufel’s diverse group of scientists at the University of Warsaw. Having learned a lot about her heritage and family history from her Polish Jewish grandparents, Lehner looks forward to returning to Poland—80 years after her family left to escape the Holocaust—and strengthening her affinity to her heritage.

Alma McKown '22
Alma McKown ’22

Alma McKown ’22, a mathematics major, has received a Fulbright to conduct research in the University of Ouro Preto in Brazil to study ethnomathematics to make math accessible to a larger and more diverse population. By learning how to conduct ethnomathematics research and implement it in the classroom, McKown hopes to connect what she learns about ethnomathematics in Brazil to pre-historic mathematical practices in the American Southwest and to inform more engaging mathematics curricula in Native American communities. After the Fulbright Fellowship, McKown plans to further her studies with a master’s degree in archaeology.

Benjamin Sievers '22
Benjamin Sievers ’22

Benjamin Sievers ’22, a biology major, has received a Fulbright to conduct research in Cambodia about current approaches to measles elimination and attitudes toward self-vaccination for measles in remote boat communities in Phnom Penh’s Mekong Operational District. Measles eradication has been a part of Sievers’ family’s vision for three generations. His grandfather developed a dry powder, inhaled measles vaccination; now, working with his father and grandfather, Sievers has developed a dry powder measles vaccine that can be self-inhaled. Sievers has created a colorful whistle delivery device that he hopes will facilitate self-vaccination.

Justin Sleppy '21
Justin Sleppy ’21

Justin Sleppy ’21, an international and intercultural studies and sociology major, has been awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Botswana. During his time at Pitzer, Sleppy engaged in a semester of intensive study in four countries—Tanzania, South Africa, Botswana, and Zimbabwe—on the cultural context of Southern Africa. He also studied abroad in Nepal just before the pandemic. Sleppy took a leave of absence to substitute teach in his hometown of Juneau, Alaska, to support students as a behavioral assistant and paraeducator. Sleppy also participated in the Global/Local Mentorship Program and became a representative for the Study Abroad and International Programs Committee at Pitzer. After the Fulbright, Sleppy plans to pursue a master’s degree in teaching.

Kaila Teague '22
Kaila Teague ’22

Kaila Teague ’22 has been awarded a Fulbright to teach English in Italy. Teague is a self-designed major in foreign language education, which includes fluency in Italian and Spanish as well as language pedagogy. In addition to teaching English at a middle school in Parma, Italy, during her fall 2019 semester abroad, she previously served as a research assistant on virtual language acquisition in the summer of 2020. She brings multiple perspectives, experiences, and intersectionalities to the Fulbright Fellowship and, through the fellowship, intends to focus on relationship and community building and finalizing plans to become an international education professional.

Read the full announcement for the Fulbright Fellowship awardees here.

Thomas J. Watson Fellowship

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for purposeful, independent exploration outside the US and is awarded to graduating seniors nominated by one of 41 partner institutions.

Chloe Ortiz ’22

Chloe Ortiz ’22, a political studies major, has received the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship to travel to Italy, Ireland, Brazil, and Australia for her project, “Climate Pilgrimage: Catholic Ecotheology in Action.” “Exploring Catholic human-nature relationships, I will study how those narratives reconcile with Indigenous spirituality and how they can be used to take action toward climate change mitigation,” says Ortiz. According to Ortiz, ecotheology is “a field of study that lies at the nexus of religion and the environment,” incorporating both her academic and personal interests.

Read the full announcement for the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship here.

5C Stock Pitch Competition

Pitzer Investment Society
Pitzer Investment Society

Blake Augustine ’22, Brooke Bordonaro ’22, Max Gordon ’22, & Nick Del Biaggio ’22 of the Pitzer Investment Society won the 5C Stock Pitch Competition. After being founded only three years ago, this was the club’s first year in the competition. Investigating which companies stand to benefit or get hurt from inflation, the club won with their pitch to sell stock at Sprouts due to people being more likely to buy cheaper alternative groceries to save money. The Pitzer Investment Society is a student-run hedge fund that provides Pitzer students with hands-on experience in finance management.

Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship

Angel Barraza Estrada '23
Angel Barraza-Estrada ’24

Angel Barraza-Estrada ’24, a sociology major, plans to study the academic writing of first-generation low-income bilingual Latine students in high school and college and how the disruption in their bilingual development affects their English writing. Barraza-Estrada is a first-generation student from Pomona, CA, where, according to Barraza-Estrada, a majority of students are Latine and low-income, and many are learning English as a second language. He plans to interview students and teachers about bilingual education and will create workshops to encourage students to interact with both languages, especially in their writing. Barraza-Estrada intends to eventually get his doctorate in sociology.

Emily Kim '24
Emily Kim ’24

Emily Kim ’24, who intends to major in critical global studies and minor in data science, plans to research the voting motivations of college students of color in Texas and California. Kim, who is from Texas, is fascinated by the historically high voter turnout for the 2020 US presidential election, especially among college students. According to Kim, Texas and California have large populations of color, and their political climates are very different. Kim does not yet know what she will get her doctorate in, but she is currently interested in geography and population studies.

Ale Rodriguez
Ale Rodriguez ’24

Alé Rodriguez ’24, a sociology major, will study how medical disparities travel starting from the classroom and ending at the clinic. Rodriguez also hopes to understand how those disparities disrupt self-perceptions of health among marginalized communities, particularly Black and Indigenous people. Rodriguez considers the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship a way to develop their own perception of research and what is considered knowledge beyond publishing papers or books. “Being able to assert and reclaim space that was historically used to further marginalize and cause the assimilation of people like myself is important to me,” says Rodriguez. “As someone who is positioned in society the way that I am, it needs to be known that everything I’m able to produce and touch—that is decolonial work.”

Read the full announcement of the Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellows here.

Critical Language Scholarship

The Critical Language Scholarship (CLS), a program of the US Department of State, is a summer study abroad opportunity for American college students to learn languages that are essential to America’s engagement with the world and critical to national security and economic prosperity.

Ariel Kivela
Ariel Kivela ’22

Ariel Kivela ’22, a politics and East Asian studies major, will study Mandarin Chinese through the CLS program. She looks forward to pairing Mandarin with her knowledge of Spanish and English, which Kivela says will allow her to speak to a majority of people in the world. Kivela is dyslexic, and part of her interest in Mandarin stemmed from how it uses logographic characters instead of a letter structure, which allows her to see language from a different perspective. Kivela previously studied abroad in China in summer 2019, although for this year’s CLS program, she will be engaging in the coursework virtually.

Kayla Mathurin
Kayla Mathurin ’24

Kayla Mathurin ’24, an international political economy major, has been studying Mandarin for eight years and will continue doing so through the CLS program. Ever since she began learning in the sixth grade, she has been curious to explore more about Chinese culture. Mathurin studied abroad in the summer of 2018 and 2019 while staying with a friend in China, where she visited an elementary school and saw how different the schooling, curriculum, and broader government system are compared to the US. During the CLS Program, she will focus on language proficiency and having conversations about everyday topics to expand beyond coursework.

Read the full announcement for the Critical Language Scholarship awardees here.

American Economic Association Summer Program Scholarship

The American Economic Association Summer Program (AEASP) is an intensive, two-month residential program for students who can demonstrate that they will help diversify the economics profession.

Emilio Pantoja '24
Emilio Pantoja ’24

Emilio Pantoja ’24 earned a full scholarship to the American Economic Association Summer Program, where he hopes to explore how health and labor economics affect the most vulnerable populations in the US. Pantoja’s interest in the inequities in the economic system led him to apply for the scholarship. “I became interested in applying to the AEASP after reading over the goals and values of the program as they greatly align with my own,” said Pantoja, who is a mathematical economics major and plans to pursue a PhD in economics after graduation. “The program strives to give voice to traditionally underrepresented backgrounds through both broadening participation and increasing diversity in the field of economics.”

Read the full announcement for the AEASP scholarship here.

Projects for Peace Award

The Projects for Peace program invites undergraduates from more than 90 US colleges and universities that participate in the Davis United World College Scholars Program to design grassroots projects that promote peace.

Kyle Greenspan '23
Kyle Greenspan ’23

Kyle Greenspan ’23 has been awarded a Projects for Peace grant for $10,000 to help facilitate Thai literacy education for elementary students in Isaan, Thailand’s largest and poorest region. The concept for Greenspan’s project, “Linking the Chain of Upward Mobility: Reducing Political Conflict in Thailand by Teaching Students How to Read Thai,” stemmed from the challenges that Greenspan faced in Isaan as an English teacher at Kamplapha Natawee School, where approximately one-third of his students could not read Thai. He will collaborate with a Bangkok-based nonprofit and the Kamplapha Natawee School to provide more opportunities for young students and create a new path of education at their school and other schools in the region.give voice to traditionally underrepresented backgrounds through both broadening participation and increasing diversity in the field of economics.”

Read the full announcement for the Projects for Peace Award here.

The Claremont Colleges Library Undergraduate Research Award (LURA)

The Library Undergraduate Research Award recognizes students who demonstrate exemplary original research and scholarship, including remarkable skill and creativity in the use of library and information resources. Students receive recognition and cash prizes ranging from $500 to $1,500 for their work.

Paloma Garcia ’25

Paloma Garcia ’25, who plans to major in art history, received The Claremont Colleges Library’s 9th Annual Library Undergraduate Research Award (LURA) for her paper, “Prometheus: The Timeless Symbol of Enlightenment.” Garcia’s paper explored how Greek mythology, classical art, and the rise of fascism in the 1930s influenced Mexican painter Jose Clemente Orozco’s mural of Prometheus in Frary Hall at Pomona College.

Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship 

The dissertation fellowships are awarded in a national competition administered by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine on behalf of the Ford Foundation. The awards go to individuals who have demonstrated superior academic achievement, are committed to a career in teaching and research at the college or university level in the US, show promise of future achievement as scholars and teachers, and are well prepared to use diversity as a resource for enriching the education of all students. 

Cesar Vargas Nuñez ’14

Cesar Vargas Nuñez ’14 has received the Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship to support his research for his PhD in political science from Stanford University. According to Vargas Nunez, his dissertation explores two questions. The first: under what conditions and to what extent can the public—even those who have anti-immigrant views—be incentivized to support providing healthcare access to undocumented immigrants. The second: how do undocumented immigrants navigate being excluded from most government healthcare programs. Vargas Nunez obtained his BA in political science from Pitzer College and previously received a Fulbright research grant in 2014–15 to investigate healthcare inequities in Spain.