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Who We Are

Our Traditions

Sheryl Cardoza ’76 & Michael D. Martinez ’00


When I entered Pitzer, I felt scared, fortunate and undeserving. Being that I grew up in Pomona on the “other side of the tracks,” The Claremont Colleges seemed a bastion of privilege that consisted of being white and rich. My experience at Pitzer taught me many lessons, the majority of which I did not realize until much later. I had access to teachers who had varied world experiences and were open to sharing them with me. I learned that the social parameters are set only if you do not challenge the boundaries and prejudices, and that most free thinking and expression are open to all, regardless of their economic limitations. The size of the classes and campus allowed me the intimacy and the safety to go through these changes. My nephew, Michael D. Martinez, graduated from Pitzer in 2000. He is the first and only college graduate, like me, from his generation of our family.

—Sheryl Cardoza ’76

Legacy graduates Ellen Johnson ’75 and daughters, Lauren Johnson Weirick ’04 and Carlin Johnson Weirick ’06, find their connection to Pitzer and its core values to be a lifelong engagement.

Johnson Family Graduation

My mom was very smart to give each of us the space to become our own person,” explained Carlin Johnson Weirick ’06, the youngest in her family of Pitzer College legacy graduates. “The funny thing is, my sister Lauren and I turned out just like her which is the reason we both chose Pitzer and immediately enjoyed it.”

While more than twenty-five years separate their time as students at Pitzer, for Ellen Johnson ’75 and daughters, Lauren Johnson Weirick ’04 and Carlin Johnson Weirick ’06, their views on what remains true about the College’s culture, people and community are timeless. They find their connection with Pitzer and its core values to be a lifelong engagement, one that will continue to guide their individual life pursuits.

Ellen studied psychology at Pitzer and admits that while she may have been a quiet student, she reveled in all that transpired in the classroom. “The quality of a Pitzer education is unlike anything I’ve encountered before or since. The things that are spoken, and the thoughts that pass through your head when you’re listening to lectures, or the discourse that is taking place—it can have a tremendous impact,” she noted. After graduating, Ellen went on to earn a master’s degree in psychology, to conduct psychological assessment of the developmentally disabled, to teach psychology at the university level, and ultimately to her current position as executive director of the Jessie Hopkins Hinchee Foundation, which provides community homes for developmentally disabled adults.
As a professional and as a mother, Ellen treasures the strong sense of social responsibility and empowerment she developed at Pitzer and she has strived to instill these same values in her daughters. “I want them to realize that they are not only capable individuals in their own right, but also that they can impact others and make a very positive difference,” Ellen said. “We have to take responsibility for one another. We have to embrace diversity, try to understand where people come from and support one another in our various endeavors.”

Likewise, her elder daughter Lauren maintains, “The overall sense of social responsibility that permeates the Pitzer community is something that should never be dismissed. It is something that my mom, my sister and I all attribute to Pitzer and something that we all share.”

After being raised in a small city in Louisiana, Lauren remembers how Pitzer opened her eyes to the world around her. She majored in Political Studies and psychology at Pitzer and participated in the Pitzer in Italy program in Parma during her Fall 2002 semester. In particular, she found her “Children at Risk” course, which involved an internship at the Prototypes Center in Pomona, indicative of the interactive education at Pitzer.

Like her mother had hoped, Lauren garnered a sense of empowerment at Pitzer as well as the knowledge of issues she felt were important. Immediately after graduating, Lauren joined Americorps for Community Engagement in Austin, Texas, as an early literacy specialist. After her year of service in AmeriCorps, she attended the London School of Economics and Political Science and received her master’s of science degree in public policy and administration. Currently, Lauren investigates corporate philanthropy and civil society issues as part of her work in the Hong Kong office of The Asia Foundation, a San Francisco-based international NGO.

“When I first applied to colleges, I really wanted to pave my own path,” Lauren recalled. “I considered everything from state universities to other liberal arts colleges. However, when I went to visit Pitzer I immediately felt comfortable. I saw the artwork on the walls and the students on the mounds, and I knew I could get used to a place like that. The more I learned about Pitzer, the more I knew I would be following in my mom’s footsteps.”

Similarly, Lauren’s younger sister Carlin instantly felt welcome at Pitzer. “Pitzer will always be a place in my mind where everyone is accepted, where everyone was treated in an equitable manner,” she said. An Organizational Studies major who minored in dance, Carlin also studied abroad in Australia. Like her mother, she recognizes she was a quiet presence in the Pitzer community, but soon after graduating she discovered she wasn’t scared to go out in the world anymore. “I knew my abilities and personality and I knew how I should be treated in life,” she explained. “I was stronger both academically and as a person.”
Since graduating, Carlin has traveled in the U.S. and Italy and is currently a patron services associate for the Ojai Music Festival and a dance instructor for the Happy Valley School and the Ojai Performing Arts Theatre Academy. Like her mother and older sister, Carlin remembers the outstanding efforts of Pitzer’s faculty members both in and out of the classroom. “My professors knew that they too learn from teaching,” she noted. “I know that I do when I teach dance; I learn more about what I can improve in terms of my own ability, both as a performer and as a teacher. Pitzer is like this oasis in the world, where this can happen, where everyone can work together and not hesitate to voice their thoughts and opinions.”

—Emily Cavalcanti

Who We Are