Newsmakers

Inside Oxy's Campaign Semester, and new jobs for a trio of high-flying alumni

Campaign Semester: Five States, 11 Interns, and a Bundle of Nerves

As a high school sophomore in Chicago four years ago, Claire Henriques '16 volunteered on Alexi Giannoulias' campaign for U.S. senator. Her supervisors were several Oxy students taking part in Campaign Semester, the only program in the country that offers a full semester of college credit for working on a political campaign during a mid-term or presidential election season. "I immediately fell in love with the idea, and chose Oxy because of the opportunity," she says.

Henriques, a politics major, is one of 11 Oxy students participating in Campaign Semester this fall during the crucial mid-term elections. Working for three-term U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu's campaign in New Orleans "is a learning experience on every level," she says. "I'm the type of student that learns better by doing, and [Oxy] allows me to learn politics by doing politics."

Nguhi Muturi '17, an undeclared major from Rowlett, Texas, is an organizer for Martha Coakley's gubernatorial campaign in Lowell, Mass. "My role is to build teams of volunteers to help me reach ideally every Democratic and unenrolled voter in my city," she says. "Campaign Semester has been the most fast-paced, exciting, nerve-wracking experience I've ever been a part of."

Lawrence Larabee '15, a politics major from Ahoskie, N.C., opted to work on Kay Hagan's senatorial campaign in his home state over studying abroad to "help preserve my state's history of social progress and political compromise." The highlight so far? "Getting to meet one of my heroes, President Clinton."

Amanda Morales '16, a politics major from Montebello who is working for state Sen. Wendy Davis' gubernatorial campaign in Texas, calls Campaign Semester "one of the best decisions I have ever made." From writing press releases and attending news conferences to organizing spreadsheets and transcribing interviews, she says, "Every task you complete, no matter how insignificant it may seem at the time, contributes to the overall success of a campaign."

The internships ended on Election Day, after which the students returned to campus for an intensive five-week seminar to put their campaign experiences in broader context. "Win or lose, they come back to campus with a new understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our political system," says Peter Dreier, the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, who runs the program with politics professor Regina Freer. It also gives participants such as Julius DiLorenzo '16, a politics major from Chicago who is also working on the Landrieu campaign in New Orleans, a new appreciation for the creature comforts of a meal plan: "Nothing makes you more excited to return to campus than spending three months across the country having to cook your own food."

Newsmakers

Oil platforms off the Southern California coast are some of the world's most productive marine fish habitats, according to a new study by marine biologists at Occidental, UC Santa Barbara, and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. "We were surprised by how large the numbers were," says Jeremy Claisse, adjunct assistant professor of biology at Oxy and study co-author. The data could affect the inevitable decommissioning of the world's roughly 7,500 oil and gas platforms, leaving underwater portions intact to provide habitat to supplement increasingly threatened fish populations on natural reefs.

Nestlé executive Chris Johnson '83, who joined the company's Carnation division as a trainee in 1983, has been named executive vice president of its new Nestlé Business Excellence division, which will redefine the food and beverage maker's operations in Europe, Asia, Oceania, and Africa. Johnson "is very well placed for this new role thanks to his former corporate and market experiences, and his deep understanding of the company," said a Nestlé press release.

Art Peck '77, head of growth, innovation, and digital for Gap Inc. since November 2012, has been named CEO of the San Francisco-based retailer, effective Feb. 1, 2015. Peck ­succeeds retiring chief executive Glenn Murphy. Gap reported net sales of $16.1 billion in fiscal year 2013. "We're a big company, and we need to continue to grow," Peck said in a 2013 interview with Occidental Magazine. "If you're growing, you're succeeding."

Daniel Ivascyn '91 has been named group chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., one of the world's largest and most influential investment firms. As head of the $38-billion PIMCO Income Fund, the former Oxy economics major has beaten 99 percent of his peers over the last three years, according to Bloom­berg. "His understanding of value and risk-reward is the best I have ever seen," former PIMCO ­managing director Scott Simon told Bloomberg Businessweek.