Claremont Colleges events offer artistic, intellectual stimulation

Last month, Princeton Review put out Best 379 Colleges for 2015, its annual publication ranking institutions in categories ranging from academic rigor to the richness of their extracurricular offerings.

Schools across the nation vie for recognition in the Princeton Review listings, which are based on surveys of 130,000 college students, because they are hugely influential in the college selection process.

Claremont McKenna College is proud to have ranked second this year in a particularly telling category: “Happiest Students.”

According to students polled, CMC’s recipe for satisfaction includes “phenomenal academics,” “brilliant professors,” an “amazing career services center” and “perfect weather.”

It also doesn’t hurt that the college is home to a venue that garners top-notch speakers, allowing students and faculty to “gather for intellectual discourse in an intimate and relaxed setting and integrate their social lives.”

From Monday through Thursday during the school year, CMC’s Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum (385 E. 8th St. in Claremont) hosts a variety of fascinating and distinguished speakers. This fall’s lineup is no exception, with guest speakers expounding on topics ranging from transgender issues to institutionalized racism.

The following is just a selection of talks slated for the coming weeks. All presentations start at 6:45 p.m. unless otherwise noted, and are free and open to the public. For more information, call (909) 621-8244 or visit the CMC website.


LGBT rights

Transgender activist Janet Mock will speak at the Athenaeum on Monday, September 15. She is a contributing writer for Marie Claire, the former editor of and an advocate for LGBT rights and social justice.

In 2011, Ms. Mock came out as transgender in an article in Marie Claire, sharing what it is like to be born in the body of a boy but feel female from the beginning.

“As a teen, I felt I was given the wrong cocktail of hormones during puberty happy hour.” she wrote in Marie Claire. “I wanted to hold hands with a boy, to wear a miniskirt without being called into the principal’s office, and go on with my days without worrying about the gender stuff.”

Throughout it all, Ms. Mock maintained an unwavering certainty that her true gender was female. She began hormone replacement therapy at 15 and traveled to Thailand for sex reassignment surgery at age 18 in the middle of her freshman year in college.

In February, Ms. Mock released her memoirs, Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More, which became a New York Times bestseller. Among her many efforts to help empower trans women, she has launched a social movement called #GirlsLikeUs.


Looming election

On Tuesday, September 23, CMC professor of politics John J. Pitney, Jr. will appear at the Athenaeum to discuss “What’s at Stake in the Mid-Term Election?”

Mr. Pitney, a leading expert on American politics, will weigh in on the upcoming elections that will determine control of Congress. Mr. Pitney’s talk is particularly timely because, with the rampant growth in absentee ballots, an estimated third of all votes will be cast before the November 4 election day, according to a recent New York Times article. 

Mr. Pitney has published myriad scholarly papers and essays and contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines as well as being routinely featured on news programs such as NPR. He is the author or co-author of many books on American politics, including After Hope and Change: The 2013 Elections and American Politics, The Art of Political Warfare, Congress’ Permanent Minority?, Republicans in the US House and American Government: Deliberation, Democracy and Citizenship.

Along with having taught government at Claremont McKenna for nearly three decades, Mr. Pitney was acting director for the Research Department of the Republican National Committee from 1990 to 1991 and has served as the senior domestic policy analyst for the US House Republican Research Committee.


Slam poetry sensation

On Wednesday, September 24, Anis Mojgani, spoken word poet, visual artist and musician, will take his torrent of words to the Athenaeum podium.

The audience should expect some verbal fireworks, because he is arguably the best-known slam-poet of his generation, whose works mark him as heir to poetry pioneers such as Alan Ginsberg. 

In poems like “Shake the Dust,” Mr. Mojgani seeks to remind the misfits of the world—“the fat girl,” “the milk-crate ballplayer,” “the retired elderly Walmart store front door greeter” and “the men who have to hold down three jobs simply to hold up their children”— of their vast potential: “Do not let one moment go by that doesn’t remind you that there are enough gallons of blood to make every one of you an ocean.”

Among his many achievements, Mr. Mojgani is the two-time winner of the National Individual Poetry Slam and International World Cup Poetry Slam.

He has also put words to the page with three noted collections, Songs From Under The River, The Feather Room and Over the Anvil We Stretch and has been featured in a variety of poetry anthologies.

Mr. Mojgani has taught at Dartmouth College as the Guest Writing Workshop Facilitator and, along with poets Derrick Brown and Buddy Wakefield, is founder of a touring theater experience called The Poetry Revival.

In 2013, Mojgani partnered with the depression awareness nonprofit, TWLOHA, for his nationwide Heavy and Light tour dedicated to raising awareness for depression, suicide, self-harm and addiction.


A voice for justice

On Thursday, September 25, Charles Ogletree, one of the country’s leading academic voices on race, justice and the law, will speak at the Athenaeum on “Race, Racism and Discrimination in America.”

Mr. Ogletree is a professor of law at Harvard Law School, where he served as an instructor for both Barack and Michelle Obama. He has remained close to President Obama throughout his political career.

Over the years, Mr. Ogletree has been a go-to media commentator on issues ranging from the O.J. Simpson trial to “Stand Your Ground” laws and the killing of Trayvon Martin, as well as on the protests that took place this summer in Ferguson, Missouri after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown.

He is the author of a variety of books, including The Presumption of Guilt: The Arrest of Henry Louis Gates, Jr. and Race, Class and Crime in America, and All Deliberate Speed: Reflections on the First Half-Century of Brown v. Board of Education.


Classical theater

On Friday, September 5, Saturday, September 6 and Sunday, September 7, the Pomona College Department of Theatre and Dance will collaborate with the Claremont-based theater company Ophelia’s Jump to present Moises Kaufman’s “33 Variations.” The play, which debuted on Broadway in 2009, was inspired by Ludwig van Beethoven’s eponymous work. Performances will also be held on Friday, September 12, Saturday, September 13 and Sunday, September 14.

Show times are 8 p.m. on Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. on Saturdays and 4 p.m. on Sundays in the Allen Studio Center at Pomona College, 300 E. Bonita Ave. in Claremont. Tickets are $25 general admission and $22 for students and seniors. They can be purchased online at For more information, call (909) 624-1464.


Sweet music

Music will be resounding at the Claremont Colleges this month during several free performances.

These include an outdoor gig by the indie artists SHEL set for Friday, September 19 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Bowling Green at Scripps College, 1030 Columbia Ave. SHEL features siblings Sarah, Hannah, Eva and Liza, who have formed a sister act that is described as “a vocal group with outstanding instrumental capabilities and an instrumental group with a thrilling vocal attack.”

The performance is part of Scripps’ Levitt on the Lawn concert series. Snacks and desserts will be available for purchase from a variety of local Claremont restaurants beginning at 6 p.m. and picnic dinners are also welcomed.

The Los Angeles Quartet will present an evening of global guitars on Friday, September 19 at 8 p.m. in Bridges Hall of Music at Pomona College (150 E. Fourth St. in Claremont). The quartet will perform works by William “Count” Basie, John Coltrane, Aaron Copland and others. 

Bridges Hall will host the Mojave Trio on Saturday, September 27 at 8 p.m. The trio—which includes violinist Sara Parkins, cellist Margaret Parkins and pianist Genevieve Feiwin Lee—will perform music by Beethoven, Brahms and Flaherty.

On Sunday, September 28, violinist Rachel V. Huang and pianist Tatiana Thibodeaux will present a concert of music by 20th century Russian composers, including Kapustin, Prokofiev and Warshauer. The performance will take place at 3 p.m. in the Boone Recital Hall in the Scripps College Performing Arts Center at Scripps College, 241 E. 10th St.

And on Sunday, September 28 at 3 p.m., keyboard artists Genevieve Feiwen Lee and Nadia Shpacheno-Gottesman will present a program called Music for a New B’ak’tun, also at Bridges Hall. The women will perform selections by Tom Flaherty, James Matheson, Adam Schoenberg and Peter Yates.

These are just a sampling of happenings scheduled at the Claremont Colleges. To learn more, visit

—Sarah Torribio


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