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Six Pomona College Faculty Receive Wig Excellence in Teaching Award

From left to right: Samuel Yamashita, Nicole Weekes, Richard Hazlett, Oona Eisenstadt and Richard Lewis. (Pierre Englebert not shown.)

From left to right: Samuel Yamashita, Nicole Weekes, Richard Hazlett, Oona Eisenstadt and Richard Lewis. (Pierre Englebert not shown.)

Pomona College Professors Oona Eisenstadt, Pierre Englebert, Richard Hazlett, Richard Lewis, Nicole Weekes and Samuel Yamashita have received the 2011 Wig Distinguished Professor Award for Excellence in Teaching. The award is the highest honor bestowed on Pomona faculty and recognizes exceptional teaching, concern for students and service to the College and the community.

The recipients of the Wig Award 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 118th Commencement, held on May 15, 2011. They were established by Mr. and Mrs. R.J. Wig in 1955.

Oona Eisenstadt, the Fred Krinsky Professor of Jewish Studies and associate professor of religious studies, joined the faculty in 2004. She teaches Religious Ethics, Modern Judaism, Ritual and Magic in Children’s Literature, Philosophical Responses to the Holocaust and The Modern Jewish Experience.

Student comments include:

  • “Whether she's translating obscure ancient Hebrew texts on the fly or having dinner with students, the level of her intellect and the fluency with which she speaks of her areas of expertise never ceases to amaze.”
  • “I took an ethics course with Oona and it was one of the most useful, powerful classes in my time here.”
  • “She clearly cares about students, is passionate about her subject, [and] forces you to think critically and move outside your comfort zone.”
  • “Inspiring, honest, made you think hard about things and reevaluate your beliefs, helped me to become a better writer.”
  • “Oona challenged us to think critically about the religious ideas we were reading and to apply them to our lives.”

Eisenstadt’s research focuses on continental philosophy, Judaism and children’s literature. She earned her B.A. and Ph.D. from McMaster University in Ontario, Canada.

Pierre Englebert, professor of politics, joined the faculty in 1998 and teaches Advanced Questions of African Politics and Development, Comparative Politics of Africa, the Political Economy of Development and Statistics for Politics and International Relations. This is his third Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • “Far and away the best professor I've ever had.”
  • “He is incredibly smart and funny, and has fascinating, novel ideas that make his classes as well as his research worthwhile. There are very few professors anywhere who are able to make a three-hour-long stats seminar that begins at 7 p.m.  interesting or educational, and Englebert is one of those few.”
  • “Professor Englebert was extremely helpful in teaching quantitative analysis to people who were not accustomed to using such tools…. [He] not only spent long hours outside the class helping me understand the underpinnings of certain statistical tools but he made an otherwise dry subject highly engaging in class.”
  • “Professor Englebert is hilarious, brilliant and insightful.”

Englebert focuses his research on state formation, state failure and state reconstruction in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly the Democratic Republic of Congo and other Francophone countries. He earned his B.A. and M.A. from the Free University of Brussels, his M.A. from Johns Hopkins University and his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

Richard Hazlett, the Stephen M. Pauley M.D. ’62 Professor of Environmental Science and professor of geology, joined the Pomona faculty in 1987. He teaches Introduction to Environmental Studies, Farms and Gardens, Senior Research in Environmental Analysis and Volcanology. This is his fourth Wig Award.

Student comment includes:

  • “Most inspiring, knowledgeable, passionate, approachable and amicable professor ever…. he has also inspired me to do something meaningful in this world, to make a change, and to take on the world's environmentally issues with hope and courage.”
  • “His knowledge of his field is unprecedented, and he can impart that knowledge like nobody's business.”
  • “I've always looked forward to going to lectures during each of the classes I've taken with [him] because they are consistently interesting, engaging, and relevant.”
  • “His knowledge is encyclopedic. It's legitimately scary how much information he knows. And I can honestly say that he's become one of my favorite teachers by how accessible he is.”

Hazlett’s recent research has included an exploration of land use issues in the American West, mapping and interpreting the geologic evolution of Secret Spring Volcano and the Klamath River Gorge on the California-Oregon border, and work on volcanic stratigraphy in the eastern Aleutian Islands, northwestern Iceland and the Eldorado Mountains of southern Nevada. He earned his B.A. from Occidental College, his M.A. from Dartmouth College and his Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.

Richard Lewis, professor of psychology, joined the faculty in 1985 and teaches Neuropsychology, Seminar in Cultural Neuroscience, The Social Brain, and The Human Brain: From Cells to Behavior.  This is his second Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • “Professor Lewis is an amazing professor. His lectures are well thought out and tell an interesting story. His classroom style uses a combination of intelligent commentary, wit and anecdotes that make the material more accessible and interesting.”
  • “As the chair of the pre-health committee, he has been instrumental in the success of so many students for entering medical school. In addition, his lectures are always insightful with just enough humour to retain the students' short attention span!”
  • “Does SO MUCH for his students, good lecturer, great researcher, very helpful.”
  • “He is an amazing professor, dynamic and engaging.”

Lewis researches the social and cultural influences on human brain activity. Recent projects include how biological stressors affect cognitive and social well-being, and how cultural differences in the conception of self affect how the brain processes information. He earned his B.S. from University of California, Los Angeles; his M.A., from California State University, Los Angeles; and his Ph.D. from Michigan State University.

Nicole Weekes, professor of psychology, joined Pomona’s faculty in 1998 and teaches the Biological Basis of Psychopathology; The Human Brain: From Cells to Behavior and Psychological Approaches to the Study of People.  This is her third Wig Award.

Student comments include:

  • “Professor Weekes is by far the most outstanding educator that I have had the pleasure of learning from and was largely responsible in re-sparking my passion for science.”
  • “Her enthusiasm for teaching is matched only by her concern for students and clarity in lecture. She is a delight to listen to in class and a valuable resource for any student who has a question.”
  • “Professor Weekes has been one of my best professors. Her lectures are engaging and thought-provoking, and she is always so welcoming of questions, be they silly or mundane. She has also been incredibly accessible outside of class, and I have felt respected and understood.”
  • “Not only is she an outstanding lecturer, but she is also a very caring and knowledgeable professor. She would always go the extra mile necessary for her students to achieve their goals.”
  • “Weekes is probably the best professor at Pomona: an inspiring mentor, role model and friend.”

In her research, Weekes examines individual and group difference in neuropsychological functioning. In terms of individual and group differences, her interests include the areas of biological sex and stress and hormone levels. Regarding neuropsychological functioning, she is particularly interested in differences in hemispheric specialization, hemispheric communication and memory functioning.  She earned her B.A. from Boston University and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

Samuel Yamashita, the Henry E. Sheffield Professor of History joined the faculty in 1983. This is his sixth Wig Award. He teaches Asian Traditions, Rethinking Modern Asian History, Seminar: State and Citizen and Subject in Modern Japan, Early Modern Japan and Modern Japan.

Student comments include:

  • “AMAZING professor, so experienced and so eloquent in his lectures! His class greatly improved my analytical/critical reading skills.”
  • “His class State, Citizen, and Subject in Modern Japan was probably one of the hardest classes I've ever taken, yet one of the most rewarding.”
  • “He's a fantastic professor. He's challenging (in a good way), and his classes are so engrossing and enjoyable that you almost don't notice how hard you're working.”
  • “He is so knowledgeable and imparts it in an even, measured, and considered pace, keeping the class entranced. It's not just the way in which he works with the students that's so remarkable--his choice of outside reading matter…would bring even nominally interested students into the fold.”
  • “Quite simply amazing -- his dedication and attention to students make him an inspirational figure.”

Yamashita’s research includes the modern Japanese state and its ideological constructions, Japanese wartime diaries of both ordinary Japanese and those of kamikaze pilots, the history of Japanese food and Pacific Rim fusion cuisine as a transnational culinary phenomenon. He earned his B.A. from Macalester College and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.

Pomona College, one of the nation’s premier liberal arts colleges, is known for the close relationships between students and faculty, providing a range of opportunities for student research, and meeting the full financial aid need of each accepted student.