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Five Exceptional Pomona College Faculty Members Voted Wig Professors by Students

Pomona College professors J. Raymond Buriel, Robert Gaines, Fredrick Grieman, Jerry Irish, and David Menefee-Libey have been elected to receive the 2007 Wig Distinguished Professor awards for excellence in teaching, by a vote of students at the College. The awards recognize exceptional teaching, concern for students and service to the College and community.

The recipients of the Wig Awards are elected by the junior and senior classes and then confirmed by a committee of trustees, faculty and students. The awards were announced at Pomona's 114th Commencement, held on May 13, 2006. They were established by Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Wig in 1955.

J. Raymond Buriel, the Harry S. and Madge Rice Thatcher Professor of Psychology and professor of Chicano Studies, joined Pomona in 1977 and teaches Psychology of the Chicano, The Psychology of Multicultural Education, a seminar in Comparative Ethnic Psychology, and a seminar in Cultural Psychology. This is his second Wig Award.

Student comments included:

  • “He teaches compelling classes that push students to critically consider the world beyond Pomona. His openness allows him to be a role model and mentor to students in his class.”
  • “As a faculty mentor, he is both wise and approachable. His mentoring isn't limited to academic work and he is a prominent ally for students of color.”
  • “The first class I took with him, Psychology of the Chicano, instilled a passion in me that will last a lifetime. Since then I have taken every other course he has offered…. The courses that he teaches prompt students to want to make a genuine difference in society and to apply the course material to real experiences and instances.”

Buriel focuses his research on Chicano psychology, children who translate for their parents, multicultural education, and immigration and sociocultural change. He is a member of the editorial boards of the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Science, Journal of Genetics Psychology and Journal of Family Psychology. He holds a Ph.D. and B.A. from the University of California, Riverside.

Robert Gaines, assistant professor of geology, joined the faculty in 2004 and teaches Evolution of Earth’s Biosphere, Introduction to Geology: Paleontology and the Evolution of Earth’s Biosphere, Research Methods, Earth History, and Sedimentology. This is his first Wig Award, and the first year he was eligible.

Student comments include:

  • “A man whose enthusiasm is so contagious that one can't help but look at the Earth differently after hearing him talk about rocks.”
  • “Bob has inspired a new generation of geologists. Field trips with Bob to Utah have become the signature Pomona Geology experience, awakening students to the beauty of the desert and the intellectual excitement of field work.”
  • “He really understands what is necessary to get non-science majors to love and be engaged by science.”
  • “An enthusiastic, creative professor, and the only person I know who can link earth history to a Snickers bar.”

In his research, Gaines focuses on the paleontology and paleoecology of early life with a focus on the “Cambrian Explosion,” Burgess Shale-type deposits, fossil Lägerstatten, and sedimentary geology. He received his B.S. degree from the College of William and Mary, his M.S. from the University of Cincinnati and his Ph.D. from the University of California, Riverside.

Frederick Grieman, the Roscoe Moss Professor of Chemistry, joined Pomona’s faculty in 1982 and teaches General Chemistry, Physical Chemistry, and Group Theory in Chemistry. This is his second Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • “Truly devoted to both his students and his research…. Aside from being a great lecturer he cares a lot for the school and the student body. I always see him at school sporting events too.”
  • Professor Grieman made the complicated and ethereal field of quantum mechanics make sense. Despite teaching an incredibly challenging class, he kept everyone from being discouraged.”
  • “He genuinely cares about his students, whether it concerns course material comprehension, or life in general.”
  • "Simply put, the most professional, demanding yet understanding professor I've come across at Pomona.”

Grieman’s research interests involve gas-phase spectroscopy of molecular ions and transition metal compounds via electron impact and laser excitation of free-jet expansions. He earned his Ph.D. and M.S. from the University of California, Berkeley, and his B.A. from the University of California, Irvine.

Jerry Irish, the John Knox McLean Professor of Religion and Religious Studies, joined the faculty in 1986 and has taught Religious Ethics, The Idea of God, The Experience of God: Contemporary Theologies of Transformation; Feminist Theology and Ethics; Spirit Matters: In Search of a Personal Ecology; and Religion, Ethics and Social Practice. This is his third Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • “He is thoughtful, intelligent, passionate, encouraging, and most of all, dedicated to his students.”
  • “He really challenges us to think about how we interact with the world around us, and what our responsibilities are to society.”
  • “It is inspiring to see how Professor Irish integrates his intellectual interests with his personal actions. He truly lives out the concern for humanity that the texts we read in his class express.”
  • An amazing professor and an inspirational human being.”
  • “No one is expected to leave a class believing anything that they did not going in, but rather to have inspected on a personal level as well as an intellectual one. No one at Pomona has challenged me to grow so much in both of these spheres.”

Irish’s expertise centers on religious ethics, feminist theology and ideas of God. He earned his Ph.D. from Yale University, his B.D. from Southern Methodist University and his B.A. from Cornell University.

David Menefee-Libey, professor of Politics, joined the Pomona faculty in 1989 and teaches Introduction to American Politics, The United States Congress, Campaigns and Election, Policy Implementation and Evaluation, Education Politics and Policy, Education Policy Data Workshop, and the Public Policy Analysis thesis seminar. This is his fourth Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • “He has single-handedly spurred my interest in politics and policy issues and has consistently been available for help with papers, projects, or just to talk about life.”
  • “Professor ML must be the only professor that can make a Congress class entertaining.”
  • “He cares about every single one of his students and truly enjoys learning from his students almost as much as teaching them.”
  • “He teaches because he loves it and it shows.”
  • “He…will take the time to talk to someone who needs him--whether it's for advice about their major, going abroad, their thesis, or their future.”

Menefee-Libey’s research has focused on the politics of reform in urban public school districts, particularly in the Los Angeles region, and in the area of campaigns and elections, especially candidate and party strategy and campaign finance. He earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and his B.A. from St. Olaf College.

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts institutions, offers a comprehensive program in the arts, humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. Its hallmarks include small classes, close relationships between students and faculty, and a range of opportunities for student research. Pomona College is one of only a handful of schools that has need-blind admissions and meets the full financial need of each accepted student.