After a two-year hiatus, Human Resources was able once again to invite the College's employees to its annual Employee Recognition lunch and awards ceremony. The event was especially touching as our community comes together to grieve the loss of Robert Torres. As one small way of honoring Robert’s life, COO Amos Himmelstein announced that the Distinguished Newcomer Award will now be known as the Robert Torres Distinguished Newcomer Award. Almost five dozen staff members were recognized for their years of service to the College, topped by Conrado Gomez, a 35-year employee of Campus Dining. The lunch and awards presentation in the Quad was followed by the Family Field Day on Bell Field, sponsored by ASC.

Congratulations to this year's winners!

Sarah A. Gilman Memorial Award
William Roman, Facilities Management
Olivia Sabins, Athletics

Carolyn D. Adams Memorial Award
Vannessa Alvarado, Registrar's Office

Distinguished Newcomer Award
Isaiah Thomas, Residence Life

Dr. Tetsuo Otsuki Humanitarian Award
Marty Sharkey, Marketing & Communications
James Uhrich, ITS


The most recent list of new hires and departures is below:

New hires (April 18-May 16):
Kevin Brown, Associate Director of Alumni and Parent Engagement
Ana Casillas, Emmons Wellness Center, Manager of Clinical Operations
Asya Cook, Residence Life, Assistant Director of Residential Education
Wendy Gutschow, Urban & Environmental Policy Institute, Program Manager
Kelly Martin, Urban & Environmental Policy Institute Special Project Manager
Alexandra Medina, Human Resources, Benefits Specialist
George Newton, Admissions, Enrollment Communications Specialist
Anthony Prieto, Campus Safety Officer
Julie Tanaka, Director of Special Collections & Archives

Departures (April 16-May 16):
Leslie Bates Sparnicht, Hameetman Career Center, Assistant Director of Career Education and Advising
Erick Peraza, Neighborhood Partnership Program, Academic Advisor
Zoe Scholz, Vantuna Research Group, Research Associate


Durazo Urges Graduates Not to Lose Touch With Their Younger Selves
Praising the value of youthful idealism, State Sen. Maria Elena Durazo (D-Los Angeles) urged the members of the Class of 2022 not to lose touch with their younger selves after graduation.

Class of 2022 Awards and Honors
We were thrilled to celebrate the Class of 2022 at the 140th Occidental Commencement ceremony on May 15. Congratulations to this year's Student Leadership, Tiger Club Athletics, Phi Beta Kappa and Dean's Award winners.

New Gift to Fund Equity and Justice Training Program
A $300,000 gift from an anonymous alumnus of the 1990s will fund the creation of a new justice, equity, inclusion and diversity (JEID) training and professional development program in support of Oxy’s Equity & Justice Agenda and broader JEID goals.

Dinner Reception Celebrates Success of Oxy Pre-health Students and Alumni
The event was held to honor the achievements of the ‘pandemic cohort’ of pre-health students—which include a 72% admission rate to graduate programs—and inspire future applicants.



From Darren Hall, director of scholarly information resources, Library:
I would like to send a special thanks to Chris Arguedas, director of the ICC, for being such a tireless advocate during his time at Oxy for advancing equity and justice. His work has been impactful across the campus at all levels -- individual, departmental, and institutional -- in ways that are both very visible, but also in ways that may be less easy to see, but are equally important to those they touch. Thank you, Chris, for making Oxy a better place to work and study and best of luck in your Ph.D. program! I hope we can honor you by carrying on the work as best we can.

From Irina Rabkina, assistant professor of computer science: I would like to give a shout out to Alannah Isherwood (faculty services assistant for American Studies, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, English, History, Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology) and Desiree Ramirez Hale (department services coordinator for American Studies, Cognitive Science, Computer Science, English, History, Philosophy, Psychology, and Sociology) for all of their help with the equipment for the robotics class last semester. They made the process of checking out robots (and other odds and ends) as smooth and painless as possible. The students and I really appreciate it!

From Jacob Sargent, director of user experience, ITS: Curtis Lush, with the help of Facilities, made outdoor teaching and meeting possible by equipping and maintaining the equipment in 11 tents. He installed and tested equipment in the first tent in the summer of 2020 when Oxy imagined that we could hold classes outside, until the last tent came down last week at the end of spring 2022. Curtis made sure that projectors, audio and visual resources were up and running consistently, which was no small feat given grass, dirt, birds, wind, construction projects, and the occasional stolen projector! May the grass grow back greener where the tents once stood, and may we all be safe and healthy going forward. We appreciate you Curtis! 

From Kim Lundy, assistant director of campus safety: I would like to give a Huge Shout Out to Claudia Conde (Campus Safety) for always going above and beyond what is expected of her!  We appreciate you!

From Bridget Perez, course material coordinator, Bookstore: Donna Huebner is everything you could ever want from a manager. She never leaves early and often works on her days off! It is obvious to me that she has a natural talent for what she does. Her student employees appreciate her and so do I.  Not only does she do a great job herself but she helps the rest of us do our best, too. She is always upbeat and happy which puts our department (Bookstore) in a good mood. She is always quick to help with whatever is needed. She is very dependable and hardworking.

From Robert Starec, associate director of campus dining: For the past four months, Judy Runyon, director of operations for hospitality services, has served as the head of our department as the College searched to fill the position of AVP for hospitality services. This was no small task, especially given the numerous challenges created during the pandemic. Not only did Judy oversee daily student dining, isolation meals and catering, but also Bookstore and Postal Ops–all while looking ahead towards summer programs and the return of summer conference guests. Judy worked tirelessly to ensure that the responsibilities of each segment of the department were seamlessly executed.

From Julie Prebel, associate professor of American studies and Writing Center director on behalf of the WC and WRD: To Victoria Bandini, department services coordinator for Disability Services, Writing & Rhetoric, and the Writing Center. Congrats on your first year at Oxy, Victoria! You stepped in at a challenging time, as we were restarting in-person life on campus, and you've done an amazing job. All of us in the Writing Center and Writing & Rhetoric are grateful for all you do. Have a restful and enjoyable summer!

From Lesley Chiou, Laurence de Rycke Professor of Economics: This is a shout-out from the Econ Dept to the awesome duo of Meg Henkin and Vannessa Alvarado in the Registrar's Office! For going above-and-beyond to guide faculty advisors and implement policies that support faculty and students in registration and graduation requirements. Thank you, Meg and Vannessa, for your quick thinking on solutions and attentiveness!

From Rob Flot, VP for student affairs and dean of students: I'd like to send a shout out to Vivian Garay Santiago, associate dean of students and director of student success. Due to various urgent and emergency circumstances, Viv was called upon at the very last minute to cover the reading of the student names at Commencement. This is no small task, as students and families understandably want the names to be stated accurately and precisely. Not surprisingly, Viv handled this with aplomb, and Commencement went off without a hitch. Thank you, Viv!

From Vivian Garay Santiago, associate dean of students & director of student success: The work of programs like these are not often well-known within the Oxy community because they directly serve Los Angeles Unified students within the Los Angeles community. Oxy Upward Bound is one of the most well-known and highly regarded TRIO programs in the country, serves as a national model and consistently do really great work. Oxy's UB program was the only TRIO program in the country that operated in-person and did so safely throughout the entirety of the pandemic! and the director, Jesus Maldonado '00 is currently the president of WESTOP (Western Association of Educational Opportunity Personnel). Jesus recently pulled off a very successful conference in Hawaii and hosted the president of Palau, Sugangel Whipps Jr. as the keynote speaker. Jesus and his staff do amazing work day-in and day-out and I'd love for the Oxy community to be more aware of their reputation and the impact they have on the Los Angeles community. 

Oxy's Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP) also serves 16,000 LAUSD students from 34 L.A. Unified school sites and employs 40-50 students each semester who go out to four or five local schools to tutor and assist kids! The NPP staff have also been doing innovative and amazing work and are kicking off a new program this summer, The Occidental College Academy, serving students from LAUSD.  I also want to particularly recognize NPP Director Erik Quezada '09, who has done amazing work not only for NPP but for Oxy's First Generation community as the leader of our First Generation Coalition. To our great sadness, Erik leaves us this summer to move to work for Apple and he will be sorely missed by all! 

And finally, Kudos to Nate Graeser, director of Oxy veterans programs. Nate will be departing in June and I just want to acknowledge and celebrate his contributions to the veterans programs, to the Oxy Division of Student Affairs, and to the college in general! You will be missed, Nate!

From Celia Ruiz, assistant director of operations, Facilities: I would like to give a shout-out of appreciation to the Facilities Management Team for an awesome job in supporting the Inauguration and Commencement events.

Kerri Miller, executive assistant to the vice president of student affairs and dean of students [submitted this before Robert Torres' tragic death on May 17]: A HUGE thank you to Robert Torres, assistant director of dining services for his assistance with all of the Student Affairs/Dean of Students sponsored events this past month or so. There are a lot of little details that go into making our events great - and knowing that I have you to oversee things, makes my life easier! Thank you for always going above and beyond for me and our division, meeting me for set-ups to ensure everything is exactly as we need it, and for always showing an immense amount of care and professionalism in all that you do.

The Humanities for Just Communities Program Coordinators give a HUGE shout out to the HJC faculty team (Amanda Tasse, Sarah Kozinn, Amy Holmes-Tagchungdarpa, Clair Morrissey, and David Kasunic) for an intellectually stimulating and productive retreat, and kudos also to Rithika Mukerjee-Mora for her impeccable assistance with everything so far! 

From Charlie Cardillo, VP of Institutional Advancement: Shout out to our entire IA team for our third successful Day For Oxy, for incredible Inauguration planning and execution, and for reaching the $225M milestone for the Campaign for Good! With abiding admiration from Carola, Jennie Marie, Maureen, Suzy and Charlie.



CORE Program faculty member Christopher Blakley has been awarded a research fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library. They will be looking at how ideas about race and physiology shaped diagnoses of "ship fever" by British physicians after the Seven Years' War (1756-1763), and why doctors believed this disease to be a risk to White sailors and soldiers in the Royal Navy, but not dangerous for Black captives.

Laurence de Rycke Professor of Economics Lesley Chiou was awarded the 2022 Antitrust Writing Award by Concurrences Review for her article with co-author Avigail Kifer, "Free Can Make Cents: How to Think About 'Free' in Competitive Markets." The article examines when firms may offer products priced for free and how firms compete in markets where prices are set to zero.

Erica Cisneros, student record specialist in the office of the registrar, has completed a Master of Public Health degree with a concentration in Community Health Promotion from USC. During her time in the program, Erica interned with Vida Mobile Clinic a nonprofit organization that serves uninsured patients in the San Fernando Valley. Her capstone project was a grant proposal titled Sowing S.E.E.D.S.: A Mentoring Program for pre-health undergraduates in the San Fernando Valley.  Erica is the first in her family to attend graduate school and earn a master's degree.

Media Arts and Culture Professor Broderick Fox's latest documentary Manscaping was awarded the Jury Honorable Mention - Best Documentary Film at the Outshine LGBTQ+ Film Festival in Miami. The film continues to screen at festivals across the world including the Arizona International Film Festival. 

In collaboration with ArtCenter College of Design and Readings Partners, Biology Professor Shana Goffredi received a $27,000 grant from Sappi North America to print 2,000 illustrated short story books about ocean life and distribute them to local school children and reading centers. The set of nine books, titled Life Below Water, were printed in English and Spanish and intentionally span a range of reading levels to act as a living library, something children can come back to year after year with fresh interest as their literacy skills progress. 

In a new article for Environmental Justice, Urban and Environmental Policy Campaign Manager Molly Greenberg and co-authors find that across the Environmental Justice Movement climate justice is ranked among the highest priority issues. Data from over 200 interviews and surveys suggest that EJ organizations link local issues to intersectional understandings of the climate crisis that requires disrupting status quo approaches to climate change.

Art and Art History Professor Mary Beth Heffernan premiered an octet of photograms from her Ashes Series in the four-person show, “Cosmic Trace” at Tiger Strikes Asteroid’s gallery in Los Angeles’ Fashion District. The gelatin silver prints document performances with surrealist art historian Amy Lyford and her mother's cremated remains.

In a new article in the Journal of Housing Economics, Urban and Environmental Policy Assistant Professor Seva Rodnyansky and coauthors find that affordable housing projects increase local property values, despite NIMBY hypotheses to the contrary. Using the case of Chicago (Cook County, IL), they show that these effects hold within a distance of 0.5 miles and regardless of the income or racial makeup of the neighborhood.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Robert Sanchez has been awarded an NEH Summer Stipend, which will allow him to travel to Mexico City and work on his  book on Mexican philosophy in the 20th century.

Unconventional oil and gas extraction has been linked to health and environmental harm for humans and for wildlife. In a new commentary, Bhavna Shamasunder, associate professor of urban & environmental policy, and colleagues at Yale and the University of Colorado analyze shared evidence but often conflicting policy responses for protecting human health and wildlife. They take a One Health approach towards transparency on trade-offs and a prioritization of shared well-being.

Bhavna appears in the new HBO Max documentary series Not So Pretty which focuses on the hair, skin, nails and personal care products industries. The series aims to raise awareness about chemicals and inspire consumers to make choices that better safeguard their own health and the planet's. Bhavna appears in the "Skin" episode.

For more information on faculty scholarship and accomplishments, visit the Center for Research & Scholarship.


June 10-12: Alumni Reunion Weekend

June 11: Oxy Arts F L O W! Opening Day

July 7: Occidental Children's Theater opening day


Contact the Office of Marketing & Communications
AGC Administrative Center

First Floor

Rod Leveque
Vice President for Marketing & Communications