Oxy Alumni Association Holds Regional Conversations with President Harry J. Elam, Jr.

Oxy President Harry Elam Jr.

On December 8 and 9, the Oxy Alumni Association held four virtual events for alumni and parents across the country to hear from President Harry J. Elam, Jr. about the current state of the College, what the future holds, and how as a community we can support each other during these historic times.

Each program also included alumni volunteer voices, as well as unique conversations between President Elam, a current professor and their student to discuss their academic work during this period of remote teaching and learning.

In his first address to a broad group of alumni and parents, President Elam spoke of how access to education changed his life trajectory, allowing him to escape a segregated Boston public school system. Knowing others like him who became lost fueled his desire to come to Oxy and informed his commitment to strengthening academic excellence through diversity. 

“Here at Oxy, diversity is core to our mission,” Elam added. “We have a unique opportunity not only to promote but to truly practice equity and justice and, moreover, to lead by example.”

President Elam also discussed the challenges the College faces in the near-term due to the pandemic and the closure of campus, and the strategic opportunities Oxy will seize when campus life resumes. He also reiterated that Oxy’s future can be realized through the collective spirit of the Oxy community, and through supporting The Oxy Campaign For Good.

Since the Oxy community reaches across the United States and the world, four events were held to best accommodate U.S. regions. The program participants who joined President Elam varied by program. A recording of each event can be found in the links below:

East Coast Region Event: Tuesday, December 8, 2020 

Program Participants

  • Dr. Namandjé Bumpus ’03 (Washington, D.C.) is the E.K. Marshall and Thomas H. Maren Professor and Chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Molecular Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. She was a biology major at Oxy and remains committed to assisting current biology students.

  • Steve Case ’80 (New Canaan, CT) is a veteran investment consultant in the New York City area. He was an economics major at Oxy as well as vice president of the Blyth Fund. He has been involved with the College in various capacities over the last 40 years and currently serves as chair of the New York Regional Alumni Committee. 

  • Diana Ngo is an assistant professor of economics. Her research interests are in applied microeconomics and development economics.

  • Wafa Abedin ’21 is a diplomacy and world affairs major and economics minor (Walla Walla, WA). Wafa worked closely with Prof. Ngo in the summer of 2019 on her research project entitled “Power to the People: Protests and Education in Ethiopia.”

Mountain, Pacific Northwest, and Northern California Regions: Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Program Participants

  • Helen Shafran ’87 (Salem, OR), a political science major at Oxy, is a seasoned non-profit professional and currently is the donor relations and stewardship director at Partnerships in Community Living in Monmouth. Helen and many of her family are proud to be called “Oxy Tigers” and her strong commitment to the College includes serving on the Alumni Board of Governors, the William Stewart Young Society Board, as class reunion chair, and as class secretary since graduation.

  • Leo Olebe ’97 (Pleasanton) is currently the global director of games partnership with Facebook. While at Oxy he was ASOC president and today is excited to re-engage with the College, his fellow alumni, and to support President Elam in his first year at Oxy.

  • Regina Freer is a professor of politics and a member of the Advisory Committee for Urban and Environmental Policy. Her research and teaching interests include race and politics, demographic change, urban politics, and the intersection of all three in Los Angeles.

  • Aya Sugiura ’23 is a participant in Oxy’s Campaign Semester program. She recently returned from Virginia where she worked on Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s re-election campaign. Aya recently declared her major in urban and environmental policy.

Central Region: Wednesday, December 9, 2020 

Program Participants

  • Alida Beck ’15 (Chicago) was a politics major and math minor at Oxy and is currently in her second year at the Loyola University Chicago School of Law. She played varsity lacrosse for all four years at Oxy and is still an active alumna with Oxy Athletics. She also currently serves as a ViSTA volunteer (Volunteers in Service of Tiger Admission) by interviewing prospective Oxy students.

  • Sam Gale ’07 (Minneapolis, MN)  is a professor of modern U.S. and African American history at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. As an American studies major at Oxy, the close guidance of Professor Emeritus David Axeen set him on his path to academia. Sam is a strong believer in furthering access to an Oxy education, serving as a ViSTA volunteer, and working to create scholarship opportunities for students who are first in their family to attend college.

  • Thalia González is an associate professor of politics. She is a nationally recognized interdisciplinary legal scholar who explores contemporary theoretical and empirical questions at the intersection of law, society, inequality, and public systems. In this program she discussed her “Rebellious Lawyering” (RebLaw) seminar.

  • John Ugai ’14 is a former RebLaw student of Prof. González and is now an associate in San Francisco’s Farella Braun + Martel’s Environmental Law Department. Prior to joining Farella, he was a criminal justice reform law clerk and Ford Fellowship recipient with Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus.  John received his J.D. from Stanford Law School in 2017.

Southern California Region:  Wednesday, December 9, 2020 

Program Participants

  • Monique Hernandez ’00 (Long Beach) was a sociology major at Oxy and is the senior manager of data visualization and special projects for the Florida Cancer Data System, a central cancer registry providing high-quality data on cancer. She currently serves on the executive board of Occidental College Alumni Association (OCLAA) which advocates for the educational and career advancement of Oxy Latino/a students and alumni.

  • Lakshmi Dastur-Johnson ’88 P'21 (La Canada Flintridge) has worked in non-profit finance and advancement for 30 years, including  leadership roles at Oxy and as a trustee at various community non-profits. She is currently director of external affairs at Flintridge Preparatory School. In addition to being the  proud parent of an Oxy senior, Lakshmi is serving as co-chair of The Oxy Fund, the College’s annual giving program.

  • Aleem Hossain is an assistant professor of media arts and culture. He is a filmmaker and VR creator interested in expanding how we tell stories and who gets to tell them. He recently wrote and directed the sci-fi film After We Leave, which had its world premiere at Sci Fi London in May 2019 and was awarded Best Feature Film at the festival.

  • Naomi Miyamoto ’21 is a media arts and culture major who studied abroad in Morocco and last summer received Mellon funding to do research at L.A,-based KCET-TV, where she worked on a new digital initiative to address the pandemic. For her senior comps project, Naomi is developing a non-fiction film about the impact of the pandemic on relationships. Prof. Hossain is her advisor on this project.