Zander Granath

By Laura Paisley

Raised in Salt Lake City, Zander Granath has a passion for athletics and public service. He has been an active leader on- and off-campus, from Admission Office fellow and DEB liaison to Peer Health Exchange leader and Dodgers Foundation intern.

Zander Granath has always been into playing sports, whether soccer, swimming or skiing. He was even captain of his high school swim team. But he wasn’t necessarily set on being a student-athlete at Occidental.

“When I walked on to the [men’s swim] team as a first year I was thinking, ‘maybe one year,’ ” he admits. “I was just keeping an open mind.”

But he ended up loving his teammates, the team culture and the novelty of swimming outside in the wintertime. His weight training coaches helped him get fit and he developed quickly, becoming a distance freestyle specialist. Now a senior and the team captain, Zander holds two school records as a member of the 800 and 200 free relay.

“It’s really cool to be part of the athletics family, and I’m definitely a better student when I swim. When you’re waking up that early, you have a lot going on so you’re moving all day. I definitely don’t think I’d be as involved at Oxy if I wasn’t an athlete.”

A sociology major, Zander still remembers the class he sat in on during his high school visit to Occidental: “Masculinities,” taught by Professor Richard Mora. The discipline was completely new to him and he was fascinated.

“It just spoke to me,” Zander says. “You’re looking at social aspects of economics, gender, and politics, so in a way everything is part of sociology.”

When he enrolled in a sociology class as a first-year, Professor Mora actually remembered him. It didn’t take long for Zander to declare a major with an emphasis on gender studies—with Professor Mora as his adviser.

Zander has evolved a research question he initiated in his sophomore “Sociological Inquiry” class into his senior comps project. Investigating queer and hyper- masculinity in online spaces, he recently interviewed more than 20 queer men in Los Angeles to learn about the significance of these spaces for them.

“I’m pretty proud of my comps,” he says. “I’ve worked on this project for three years and got funding from student government and the Undergraduate Research Center. It was amazing to learn qualitative and interviewing skills, go through the institutional review board process and apply for funding.”

Zander has worked for the Office of Admission for four years, moving from a tour guide to a Senior Fellow to a senior reader this year, one of two students reviewing applications for Oxy. He also served as the diversity and equity board liaison to admissions.

Off-campus, he has worked with the national nonprofit Peer Health Exchange. The organization provides health education to high school students at underfunded schools. 

“You get to build these great relationships between high school and college students,” he says. “I really appreciated that experience, and also how it got me off campus and into the local community.”

Another highlight was interning with the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, spending the 2019 season as an associate of strategy and impact. Zander worked on program evaluation, grant applications, annual reports and fundraising metrics. He also helped the foundation raise $3 million by co-managing the charity raffle that took place at every Dodgers game.

This fall, Zander applied for a highly competitive Luce Scholarship, working with Jennifer Locke at the National & International Fellowships office on his application. The Luce Foundation selects 18 fellows, placing them at organizations in Asia to work and learn a language for a year. He was interested in working in Taiwan for a LGBTQ rights or policy organization.

Though he didn’t get selected, he was named a finalist, itself an honor. He loved the experience of getting flown up to San Francisco for interviews, staying in a hotel and meeting the other finalists, who he found both impressive and inspiring. The scholarship is open to alumni, and he hopes to apply again.

A dual citizen (his mother is Swedish) with an appreciation for other cultures, Zander studied abroad in Australia as a junior. He was a direct-enroll student at the University of Melbourne and lived downtown with three other international students.

“I got to take classes in public policymaking, sociology of youth and sociology of technology at the best school in Australia,” he says. “I loved my experience there, and I grew a lot.”

In addition to traveling to New Zealand and Southeast Asia after the program, Zander even did some Oxy networking in Australia, meeting up with Matthew Desmond ’08, who works as a public policy researcher—an area Zander sees as a possible career path.

“I’m ultimately interested in working in social policy or foundations in the public or private sector,” he says. “I’m also really interested in using qualitative processes and data science to improve and optimize social programs.”

With his varied experiences at Oxy, he has a strong foundation to help him pursue his goals.