Io Triumphe! Tigers Return to Campus
From in-person classes to athletics to live theater, Oxy roared back to life in the fall of 2021. The Class of 2025 enrolled this fall at full strength, with 545 incoming first-years, including 86 gap-year holdovers from the previously admitted class.
Eight tented classrooms accommodated outdoor learning in such disciplines as music, and a rigorous masking and testing policy kept Oxy’s COVID cases to a bare minimum throughout the surge of the Delta variant. Oxy athletics returned to competition with a busy fall schedule of cross country, golf, soccer, swimming and diving, men’s water polo, and exhibition play in tennis. Live theater returned to the Keck Theater stage in November with two productions: Everybody, directed by Associate Professor Sarah Kozinn; and Seize the King, written and directed by Assistant Professor Will Power. Not to be forgotten were the graduating classes of 2021 and 2020, which held socially distanced Commencement ceremonies on Patterson Field in May and June, respectively. “If we have learned anything from the year 2021, it is that 2022 will have its own particular character and we must remain vigilant,” President Elam wrote to the campus community in mid-December. While ongoing concerns surrounding the Omicron variant pushed back the start of the spring 2022 semester to January 24—necessitating a week of remote learning to begin the new year—there was much to celebrate at the conclusion of a successful fall semester.
Mellon Grant Funds Postdoctoral Diversity
Occidental’s ongoing effort to diversify its faculty has received a major boost from a five-year, $950,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that will fund a total of nine one-year postdoctoral fellowships in the arts and humanities. The three cohorts of three fellows will automatically transition to tenure-track faculty positions at the end of their postdoctoral year, making it possible for Occidental to identify and recruit promising scholars whose work focuses on issues of race and/or social justice and whose background, expertise and experiences will contribute to diversifying Oxy’s faculty. (Currently, some 35% of Occidental’s tenured and tenure-track faculty are faculty of color.) “Promoting and practicing diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to our survival and success as a college,” said Occidental President Harry J. Elam, Jr. “We understand that diversity and excellence go hand-in-hand.” Professor of English Leila Neti will serve as the faculty program director, and the first cohort will be hired for the 2022-23 academic year.
Black Studies Department Chair Honors Hewitt’s Legacy
An anonymous $500,000 gift will permanently endow the Mary Jane Hewitt Department Chair in Black Studies, honoring the influential legacy of the first Black woman to serve as a tenured faculty member at Occidental. “I’m excited about all the ways that this endowed chair will help us to deepen our support for Black studies students and faculty,” says Erica Ball, current Black studies chair and professor of history and Black studies, who is the first Hewitt Department Chair. "It gives me great pleasure to know that Mary Jane Hewitt’s legacy as a professor, a scholar, and an activist will be permanently honored by the College." A nationally recognized scholar and advocate, Hewitt joined the Oxy faculty in 1968. She made vital contributions to the College’s curriculum, serving as American studies chair and as the founding head of a campus committee on multicultural education. Despite having received tenure at Occidental in 1977, Hewitt was denied a promotion from assistant to associate professor three times. In 1978, following the third time, she resigned. Her departure sparked important conversations about Occidental’s approach to racial matters in hiring and student enrollment, and ultimately led to more efforts to diversify the campus. Hewitt went on to become the director of Los Angeles’ Museum of African American Art, which was founded in 1976 by artist and art historian Samella Sanders Lewis.