• Students at the Athenaeum

    Marian Miner Cook

    A distinctive
    feature of social and
    cultural life at CMC

Welcome to The Athenaeum

Welcome to Athenaeum and the spring 2020 speaker program.

Unique in American higher education, the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum (the “Ath”) is a signature program of Claremont McKenna College. Four nights a week during the school year, the Ath brings scholars, public figures, thought leaders, artists, and innovators to engage with the CMC and Claremont College community in the Eggert Dining Room. In addition, the Ath also hosts lunch speakers, roundtables, and smaller presentations in its two auxiliary dining rooms.

For decades, the Ath has hosted a spectrum of luminaries with expertise and insight on a wide range of topics, both historical and contemporary. In the Ath’s intimate yet stimulating setting, students, faculty, staff, and other community members gather to hear the speaker, pose questions, and also to build community and exchange ideas over a shared meal.

At the core of the Ath is a longstanding commitment to student growth and learning. Central to the Ath are its two student Fellows, selected annually to host, introduce, and moderate discussion with the featured speaker. Priority is given to students in attendance during the question-and-answer session following every presentation. Moreover, speakers often take extra time to visit a class, meet with student interest groups, or give an interview to the student press and podcast team.

You may register online for open events.

We look forward to seeing you at the Ath.

Priya Junnar

Monday, February 24, 2020 - Evening Program
OK, Google. What Can Liberal Arts Do for Tech?
Tina Daniels '93 and Varun Puri '16
From CMC to Google: Two perspectives. What role does a liberal arts education play, if any, at a tech company like Google? Tina Daniels '93 from Google and Varun Puri '16, from X, Alphabet's moonshot factory, draw on their vastly different experiences to bust myths about what life on the inside is like. Join them as they ask each other the big questions on topics ranging from moonshot thinking and leadership lessons to free massages and unlimited food.

Tina Daniels ‘93 is director of agency business development, measurement, and analytics for Google. She is a member of the CMC Board of Trustees, the Kravis Leadership Institute Advisory Board, and the Women’s Prison Association & Home in NYC. An economics and government major at CMC, Daniels was editor-in-chief of The Forum, New Student Orientation Chair, and played tennis for CMS. She earned an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Varun Puri ‘16 is an operations manager for the Free Space Optical Communication project at X, formerly known as Google[X]. The project uses invisible lasers to bring high speed broadband internet to previously unconnected regions of the world. Prior to this, Varun worked on special projects across Alphabet, Google's parent company. At CMC, he was part of the debate and mock trial clubs, a Robert Day scholar, class of 2016 Commencement Speaker and a struggling inner tube water polo player. Puri majored in economics and graduated Phi Beta Kappa.

Meal reservations now open to everyone in the Claremont Colleges
Tuesday, February 25, 2020 - Evening Program
"You're a WHAT Advisor?"  The Trials and Tribulations of One of the U.S. Military's First Gender Advisors
Samantha Turner
Samantha Turner, the U.S. European Command gender advisor, will explain exactly what she does and why the U.S. Department of Defense is making gender advising a priority for the 21st century “thinking force.” From the good, the bad, and the weird of helping to change the mindset of those who run the department, Turner will relay lessons and adventures in teaching creative thinking to some of the toughest customers, all in an effort to further women’s equality.

Samantha Turner leads the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) program at U.S. European Command, and is a go-to practitioner of diversity and inclusion for the department of defense. Turner has served in advisory positions to senior officials in the U.S. government and NATO on WPS policy and strategy in foreign policy. She also serves as an executive coach to diplomats, development experts, and senior defense officials focusing on how leading inclusively, specifically with an intersectional lens, can benefit everyone.

As a U.S. Army reservist, she serves as a civil military liaison officer and gender advisor specializing in infrastructure assessment, WASH, and the operationalization of the women, peace, and security agenda within the military. She earned a certificate in entrepreneurial leadership and innovation from Stanford Graduate School of Business and is an alumna of the United States Military Academy at West Point. Turner spends time speaking internationally, coaching woman veterans in transition, and hiking in the Alps in her free time.

Ms. Turner's Athenaeum presentation is part of the Women in Security series at the Athenaeum this spring.

Meal reservations now open to everyone in the Claremont Colleges
Wednesday, February 26, 2020 - Evening Program
The Privileged Poor
Anthony Jack
Elite colleges are accepting diverse and disadvantaged students more than ever before—but to Anthony Jack, assistant professor education at Harvard University, access does not equal acceptance. Author of "The Privileged Poor," Jack—once a low-income, first-generation college student himself—examines how class and culture shape how undergraduates navigate college by exploring the “experiential core of college life,” those too often overlooked moments between getting in and graduating. Contrasting the experiences of the "Privileged Poor" and the "Doubly Poor," he studies how poor students are often failed by the top schools that admit them and shares what schools can do to truly level the playing field.

Anthony Jack, sociologist and assistant professor of education at Harvard University, is transforming the way we address diversity and inclusion in education. His new book, "The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges are Failing Disadvantaged Students," reframes the conversation surrounding poverty and higher education. In it, he explains the paths of two uniquely segregated groups. First, the “privileged poor”: students from low-income, diverse backgrounds who attended elite prep or boarding school before attending college. The second are what Jack calls the “doubly disadvantaged”—students who arrive from underprivileged backgrounds without prep or boarding school to soften their college transition. Although both groups come from economically disadvantaged backgrounds, the privileged poor have more cultural capital to navigate and succeed—in the college environment and beyond.

“It’s one thing to graduate with a degree from an elite institution, and another thing to graduate with the social capital to activate that degree,”Jack explains. In many ways, rather than close the wealth gap, campus culture at elite schools further alienate poor students by making them feel like they don’t belong. To challenge these deeply ingrained social, cultural, and economic disparities on campus, he argues that we must first begin to question what we take for granted. Jack reveals how organizations—from administrators and association organizers, to educators and student activists—can ask the right questions and bridge the gap.

A 2007 graduate of Amherst College, Jack is a junior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and assistant professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Recently, he wrote a feature for The New York Times Magazine’s Education Issue, based off his book and life experience as a low-income college student. His research has been cited by The New York Times, the Boston Globe, The Atlantic, The Huffington Post, The National Review, The Washington Post, American RadioWorks, WBUR, and MPR. His book "The Privileged Poor," was named the 2018 recipient of the Thomas J. Wilson Memorial Prize by Harvard University Press.

Professor Jack's Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored with funding from the Open Academy at CMC.

Thursday, February 27, 2020 - Evening Program
Isaiah Berlin and Leo Strauss:  The Best of Frenemies
Steven B. Smith
Isaiah Berlin and Leo Strauss are generally regarded as holding opposite poles of modern political philosophy. Focusing on their critique of social science, the importance of creative statecraft, and the centrality of political judgment, Steve Smith, professor of political science and of philosophy at Yale, will argue that despite obvious differences there is more common ground than often appears and that, most importantly, each man defended the importance, if not the centrality, of liberty as a cherished human good.

Steven B. Smith is the Alfred Cowles Professor of Political Science and professor of philosophy at Yale University where he has taught since 1984. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He has served as director of graduate studies in political science, director of the Special Program in the Humanities, and acting chair of Judaic Studies, and from 1996-2011 served as the head of college for Yale’s Branford College. He is also the co-director of Yale’s Center for the Study of Representative Institutions that focuses on the theory and practice of representative government in the Anglo-American world.

His research has focused on the history of political philosophy with special attention to the problem of the ancients and moderns, the relation of religion and politics, and theories of representative government.

His best-known publications include "Hegel’s Critique of Liberalism" (1989), "Spinoza, Liberalism, and Jewish Identity" (1997), "Spinoza’s Book of Life" (2003), "Reading Leo Strauss" (2006), and "The Cambridge Companion to Leo Strauss" (2009), "Political Philosophy" (2012), and "Modernity and its Discontents" (2016). Most recently, he has co-edited with Joshua Cherniss "The Cambridge Companion to Isaiah Berlin" (2018) and is working on a new book entitled "In Defense of Patriotism."

Smith has received several academic awards and prizes including the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize given by Phi Beta Kappa, but is most proud of receiving the Lex Hixon ‘63 Prize for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences in 2009.

Professor Smith's will deliver the kick-off lecture for the conference on Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts of Liberty" sponsored by the Salvatori Center for the Study of Individual Freedom in the Modern World at CMC.

Thursday, February 27, 2020 - Evening Program
The Burmese Exception: Explaining Exits from Military Rule
Zoltan Barany
Why do generals give up their political power? What factors determine their place under the new regime? What challenges do democracy advocates face in the wake of military rule? Following a discussion of these general questions, Zoltan Barany, Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Centennial Professor in the government department at the University of Texas, Austin, will turn to Burma/Myanmar and its unique experience with military rule, which in turn, helps explain the struggles – political, economic, ethno-religious – the country has faced in its transition efforts toward democracy.

Throughout his career, Zoltan Barany, Frank C. Erwin, Jr. Centennial Professor in the government department at the University of Texas, Austin, has centered his research and writing on military politics and democratization globally. His early scholarship was also concerned with ethnopolitics (particularly the Gypsies/Roma) and East European politics more generally.

Barany's current research project, Armies of Arabia, focuses on military politics and effectiveness in the Gulf monarchies. His most recent books, among others, include “How Armies Respond to Revolutions and Why” (Princeton, 2016), “The Soldier and the Changing State: Building Democratic Armies in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Americas” (Princeton, 2012), and, as co-editor, "Is Democracy Exportable?” (Cambridge, 2009) —all have been translated into Arabic. Barany is also the author of “Democratic Breakdown and the Decline of the Russian Military.”  He has published dozens of articles, essays, and monographs in academic and policy journals as well as on the web.

He has held a recurring appointment as a (non-resident) senior associate of the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC where his work has concentrated on military issues on the Arabian Peninsula.

Professor Barany’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Keck Center for International and Strategic Studies.

(Parents Dining Room)

Monday, March 02, 2020 - Evening Program
From Unlearning Liberty to "Coddling:" The Surprising Connection between Campus Free speech & Mental Health
Greg Lukianoff
Since 2001, Greg Lukianoff, now president of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (“FIRE”) has been defending students and faculty across the political spectrum who have come under fire for their speech. After dealing with a personal serious depressive episode, Lukianoff came to realize that not only are young people today being taught the wrong lessons about free speech, but also the mental habits of the anxious and depressed. As he explored the issue further, he realized that these bad lessons had serious repercussions for everything from freedom of speech and mental health on campus to the health of democracy itself. Thus, in collaboration with NYU psychologist Jonathan Haidt, Lukianoff explored this idea and its many serious down-stream repercussions in “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure.”   

Greg Lukianoff is an attorney, New York Times best-selling author, and the President and CEO of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). He is the author of “Unlearning Liberty: Campus Censorship and the End of American Debate,” “Freedom From Speech,” and FIRE’s “Guide to Free Speech on Campus.” Most recently, he co-authored “The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure” with Jonathan Haidt. This New York Times best-seller expands on their September 2015 Atlantic cover story of the same name. Lukianoff is also an executive producer of "Can We Take a Joke?", a feature-length documentary that explores the collision between comedy, censorship, and outrage culture, both on and off campus.

Lukianoff has been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, The Boston Globe, and numerous other publications. He frequently appears on TV shows and radio programs, including the CBS Evening News, The Today Show, and NPR. In 2008, he became the first-ever recipient of the Playboy Foundation’s Freedom of Expression Award, and he has testified before both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives about free speech issues on America’s college campuses.

Mr. Lukianoff’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored with funding from CMC's Open Academy.

Photo credit: Pushnik Photography

Tuesday, March 03, 2020 - Evening Program
Celebrating Writing and Writers at CMC: An Evening with the 2019 Appel Fellows
2019 Appel Fellows
The 2019-20 Appel Fellows, recipients of summer funding to engage in independent writing projects, read some of their work—journal entries, zines, short stories, documentaries, podcasts, and travel narratives—and reflect on their experiences.

Funded by Joel Appel ‘87, the Appel Fellowship provides first-year students with funding to engage in independent writing projects including:

Axel Ahdritz (’22): A song album and journal inspired by the refugee population in Jordan and Germany.

T.J. Askew (’22): A series of essays inspired by travels along the Pacific Crest Trail to Fairbanks Alaska and based upon the experiences of Chris McCandless.

Raj Bhutoria (’22): Articles that examine the intersection of family history and national identity in India.

Alex Futterman (’22): Essays based on interviews held with extreme athletes in Chile, Peru, and New Zealand.

Maria Gutierrez-Vera (’22): Vignettes - inspired by the work of Sandra Cisneros - that capture the experiences of the author’s grandmother.

Madelyn Kwun (’22): A children's book that introduces young readers to Asian-American history and culture, based on travels through South Korea. Madison Menard (’22): A photojournalism series that represents the culture of "historic soccer" in rival Italian provinces.

Marisa Mestichella (’22): A documentary and "how-to" guide to street performance, based on travels to New York, New Orleans, and Nashville.

Serena Myjer (’22): Essays inspired by the work of John Muir created while the author walks the John Muir Trail.

Robin Peterson (’22): A short story collection that represents the experiences of refugees in Jordan.

Daenerys Pineda (’22): A series of short stories depicting heritage sites in Northern California.

Courtney Reed (’22): A documentary that represents the history of the hair industry in Atlanta, China, and India.

Toluwani Roberts (’22): A zine featuring essayettes, poetry, and interviews related to the expression of spirituality and the natural world in Equador.

Dorcas Saka (’22): Short stories that represent the experiences of Muslim communities in Chicago, New Jersey, Arkansas, and Arizona.

Sobechukwu Uwajeh (’22): A podcast series that examines the impact gentrification has had upon people of color in Chicago and New York.

Kyril Van Schendel (’22): A documentary film based on the author's experiences distance running in the South West U.S.

Laura Vences (’22): A zine that explores the connections between immigration, labor, and the Latinx community in several U.S. cities.

Kimberly Zamora-Delgado (’22): A collection of stories based on interviews with park rangers and visitors at National Parks on the west coast of the U.S.

Alison Marouk-Coe & Shania Sharna (’22): An experiment in immersive empathy based on travels to locations - such as Mumbai and Beijing - that are significant to the authors.

Note: Some Fellows are not pictured.

Meal reservations now open to everyone in the Claremont Colleges

Follow the Athenaeum


Unless otherwise noted, lunch begins at 11:45 a.m.; speaker presentations begin at 12:15 p.m.
Evening receptions begin at 5:30 p.m.; dinner is served at 6 p.m.; speaker presentations begin at 6:45 p.m.

The Athenaeum facilitates dynamic interactions and dialogue that underscore
the essence of a liberal arts education.