Senior Reflections

This year’s seniors ended their college careers on a very unexpected note. But as they receive their diplomas, we asked members of the Class of 2020 to share their fondest reflections and memories of four years at Occidental.

 

Sophia Brown

Major: Theater
Minor: Public health
Hometown: Oakland, CA

What will you miss most about Oxy?

I will miss the community that was created over the years and collaborating with amazing minds. I will miss talking to my professors and discussing next steps. I will miss the Black Student Association (BSA) events we put on every year. We were sold short this year due to multiple tragedies and unfortunate events, but I hope that future classes can uphold the history of BSA, as well as all the other clubs on campus that help the Oxy community see the beauty of creativity.

What is special about the people at Oxy?

I find the community at Oxy particularly unique due to the wide diversity of interests and orientations. I have found open-mindedness to be the dominant ethos of the community, which has made collaboration with different minds accessible and fruitful. I chose this school because it was small, meaning closer relationships with professors, which I did not get much of in high school. Sometimes it takes time to find that one professor you can go to for everything, but they are there.

Campus Dining, Facilities staff and Campus Safety have all made a tremendous impact on my time here at Oxy. If you can’t find a good professor to help you through hard times, having a good talk with Jenny Mendoza from the Marketplace, Sam from Facilities or Barry from Campus Safety always put a smile on my face. The amount of love they have for the students that know them is so important to ensuring a safe and open space. Thank you!

Talk about one highlight of your Oxy experience that you will always remember.

Producing my senior comps thesis, PhernEternity, was the highlight of my Oxy experience. I had just returned from studying public health at a January program abroad in Ghana, and went straight into casting and creating the biggest production I’d ever done. Fast forward through two months of nightly rehearsals, stress, sweat and tears to sold-out shows both nights. It was just my senior thesis, but I made it into something that I would carry with me beyond college—something of which I felt proud, and I had facilitated a lasting community of a super talented cast and crew members. I created a space that assured everyone was accepted and felt loved.

Many conversations I have had with older people in different fields think that theater is not a “real job” aspiration and Oxy is not necessarily a school focused on theater. So on top of getting the opportunity to study abroad in London at the British American Drama Academy, I got to prove those thoughts wrong for myself. Going abroad enhanced my knowledge of theater and gave me the confidence to create a theater piece that I had been thinking about since my first year at Oxy.

Are there specific professors that really stand out for you?

Sarah Kozinn: my mentor, professor, adviser, boss. Sarah was an outstanding everything in my eyes. When I chose her as my adviser my first year, it was the best choice I could have made. I was unsure exactly what I wanted to do, but she always kept my eyes open to everything and focused in on what she saw as my strengths.

In my final semester, I got word that Deena Selenow was going to be teaching at Oxy—I was taken aback because she is officially the first black professor in Oxy’s theater department. I took her class and she ended up becoming a mentor to me throughout the process of creating my senior thesis. I am very grateful that Oxy brought her into the department and I hope that the theater department faculty will continue to become more diverse in the coming years.

I was not involved in the music department during my time at Oxy, but have studied music for most of my life. I strategically planned my four years so my last semester could be focused on re-touching my musicianship. Professors Jongnic Bontemps and Ramona Gonzalez were highly recommended by students within the music department, and both welcomed me with open arms and treated me as if I was also a music major. They provided great advice and mentorship, in and out of college. I appreciate the dedication they both showed me, and the ways in which they empower their students.

What’s the most important thing you learned at Oxy and will take with you into the world?

The most important thing I learned at Oxy was that you can take your time with decisions—and don’t be afraid of taking risks because the support is there, you just gotta look for it.

Can you talk about one way Oxy has prepared you for the next chapter?

In my first two years, I did extracurriculars and took a variety of classes outside my comfort zone as a way to find myself. After finishing all my requirements for Oxy, I chose my public health minor and theater major. I was lucky enough to get involved in other students’ art, which motivated me to create my senior comprehensive. I learned how to think strategically but also think big. Having an amazing adviser like Sarah [Kozinn] kept me level-headed; she continuously provided emotional support and perspective throughout the intensive college experience. I have learned how to become a leader and to be confident that your work and words might shape the next leader—so don’t be afraid to speak up!

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Phillip Wong

Major: Economics
Hometown: Cupertino, CA

What will you miss most about Oxy?

I will miss spending time on the Quad eating meals, talking with friends and working with Bike Share. I have so many happy memories of sitting in the sun and just enjoying a brief pause in the day. The Quad slowly became a staple of my Oxy experience over the last four years and I will surely miss the ability to see so many different people and just enjoy being a college student!

Are there specific classes or professors that really stand out for you?

Professor Brandon Lehr in the economics department and Professor Clair Morrissey in the philosophy department are two faculty members who made my four years at Oxy particularly special. Their classes were extremely engaging, interesting and challenging. They showed me what it means to be inquisitive and to find ways to connect classroom discussions to things going on in the world. Without Professor Lehr I can confidently say that, among other things, I would know far less about the U.S. tax code!

What is special about the people at Oxy?

The people at Oxy are extremely supportive and caring. Professors, staff and students are all there to support each other in every pursuit. When paired with Oxy’s endless resources designed to help you discover something you’re interested in, the supportive community gave me the confidence to try so many different things. Everyone is here to grow into themselves and watch others do the same.

Talk about one highlight of your Oxy experience that you will always remember.

The biggest highlight of my Oxy experience was joining the Bike Share program. Through Bike Share I was able to find confidence in my identity and discover something I’m extremely passionate about. I joined during my sophomore year and every year since, I have made new friendships and gained plenty of happy memories. Even as I come to miss the beloved Friday Quad-sits, I will always be grateful for the experiences I gained thanks to Bike Share.

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Andrea DeVries

Majors: Media Arts & Culture, French
Hometown: Medford, OR

What will you miss most about Oxy?

The thing I will miss the most about Oxy is the energy in the classroom. My classes were very collaborative. Students pushed each other to think critically while still leaving space to engage with one another in a respectful way. I hope to bring this energy into my future endeavors.

Talk about one highlight of your Oxy experience that you will always remember.

My study abroad experience, which was a fully immersive Media Theory program in Paris, was incredible and challenging. I was consistently pushed out of my comfort zone and grew more tenacious and independent. Through my studies I had the opportunity to learn about media through an international lens, which paved a path for both a global crossroads Young Grant project and my French senior comps. I still keep in contact with my host mom and friends in Paris!

How did your involvement in extracurricular activities enhance your education?

While my studies were mainly surrounding topics in Media Arts and Culture, sociology and French, my internships in marketing and my time in Oxy’s Student Marketing Advisory Committee allowed me see the ways in which these topics intersect. Through both my studies and my internships, I further understood that successful marketing strategies tell stories, bridge cultures and build businesses.

Can you talk about one way Oxy has prepared you for the next chapter?

Occidental taught me to think both critically and unconventionally to create ethically based solutions. This kind of thinking will allow me to successfully pursue a career in marketing, despite the obstacles that may come my way.

Are there specific classes that really stand out for you?

Transnational Cinemas: Borders, Walls, Difference, taught by Professor Katarzyna Marciniak ,was one of the most eye-opening courses I have taken at Oxy. Throughout the course we grappled with topics stemming from transnationality and worked to dissect the ways in which we perceive the term “borders.” This class challenged me and encouraged a deep level of self reflexivity. This class was a defining part of my time as an Oxy student.

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Pablo Nukaya-Petralia

Major: Art history
Minor: Politics
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

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Citlaly Madrid

Major: Latino/a & Latin American Studies
Minor: Education
Hometown: Pomona, CA

What will you miss most about Oxy?

The campus itself! There were so many spots around campus where I would relax, hang with friends or study such as Branca Patio, the Quad and the Green Bean. I’m also going to miss the support system I had in place at Oxy, made up of professors, supervisors and friends that I could trust and confide in.

Are there specific classes or professors that really stand out for you?

Of all the classes I took at Oxy, I enjoyed courses I took in the education department the most. The professors have been incredibly supportive and pivotal to my learning while at Oxy. Specifically, Professors La Mont Terry, Kenjus Watson and Ron Solórzano have been the ones that have made the biggest impact and shaped what I want my future career to look like.

What is special about the people at Oxy?

People here are incredibly kind and welcoming, and it has created a great environment to have been in these past four years. The students are passionate about a variety of issues and continuously stand up against societal injustices. The community at Oxy is unlike any other community I have been a part of and I’m incredibly grateful to be within it.

How did your involvement in extracurriculars/community engagement enhance your education?

Being involved in extracurriculars has been rewarding in that it allowed me to explore my various interests. As I focused on working within education, extracurriculars and community engagement opportunities provided me the means to explore the education sector and figure out what I was most passionate about. Getting involved with the community also enabled me to apply what I had learned in class and get real world experience that is extremely valuable.

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Jacob Farner

Major: Economics, Computer Science
Minor: Ethnomusicology
Hometown: Ojai, CA

What is special about the people at Oxy?

One of the coolest things that Oxy has to offer as a small school are the relationships that students develop with the staff and faculty. I feel like I know the majority of my professors on a personal level and think that every professor on campus genuinely cares about the success of their students.

Talk about one highlight of your Oxy experience that you will always remember.

I think that one of the most significant experiences of my Oxy career was my involvement with the Green Bean. I was fortunate enough to start as a barista second semester of my first year and then worked as a manager my junior and senior years. Prior to the Green Bean, I didn't have a ton of interaction with students outside of my major, but working there allowed me to really branch out and meet amazing people from all across campus, some of whom have become my closest friends.

Can you talk about one way Oxy has prepared you for the next chapter?

As someone who is looking to go into data analytics, I think that Oxy has really prepared me to approach problems through a socially empathetic lens, something that's often disregarded in tech.

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