Marian Miner Cook

A distinctive
feature of social and
cultural life at CMC


Welcome to The Athenaeum

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 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 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 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.

Fall 2021 speaker programming will resume in person at the Athenaeum on Monday, September 13, 2021, at 5:30 p.m.

In celebration of Claremont McKenna College’s 75th Anniversary, along with many exciting speakers, the Ath will also feature a 75th Anniversary Distinguished Speaker Series which will span the 2021-22 academic year. This will be a very special opportunity for the Ath to host extraordinary public figures and allow the CMC community, especially students, to interact with and hear from distinguished leaders in varied fields.

We will update this page with speaker details shortly.

Mon, September 20, 2021
Dinner Program
Mark Juergensmeyer

Insurrections related to the rise of neo-nationalism are a global phenomenon. The mob attack on the capital on January 6 in Washington D.C. has some eerie parallels with the startling resurgence of the Taliban in August. Both were attempts to reject what was perceived to be alien control of their country and to subvert the democratic process by movements with a religio-nationalist agenda. Mark Juergensmeyer, William F Podlich Distinguished Fellow and Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at Claremont McKenna College, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, places these events in the larger context of the global rise of neo-nationalism.

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Mark Juergensmeyer is the William F Podlich Distinguished Fellow and Visiting Professor of Religious Studies at Claremont McKenna College and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the founding director of global studies and the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies.

He is a pioneer in the global studies field, focusing on global religion, religious violence, conflict resolution and South Asian religion and politics. He has published more than three hundred articles and twenty books, including the revised and expanded fourth edition of the award-winning “Terror in the Mind of God” (University of California Press, 2017), and his co-edited “Oxford Handbook of Global Studies” (Oxford University Press, 2018). His most recent book is "God at War: A Meditation on Religion and Warfare".

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Wed, September 22, 2021
Dinner Program
Steve Bullock '88 P'24 and David Dreier '75, panelists; Jack Pitney, moderator

In today’s world, civil discourse is the exception rather than the rule. That's precisely why the Dreier Roundtable wants to recognize public servants who engage in a vigorous clash of ideas while recognizing that their political adversary is not their enemy. Steve Bullock ‘88 P’24, former 2-time governor of Montana, exemplifies the measured and thoughtful approach the country needs. Accordingly, Bullock is the first recipient of the annual Dreier Roundtable Civility Award. Following the presentation of the award, CMC's Jack Pitney, Roy P. Crocker Professor of Politics at CMC, will moderate a bipartisan discussion with Governor Bullock and Congressman David Dreier '75 on the future of the two political parties. 


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Born in Missoula, Montana, and raised in Helena blocks away from the State Capitol, Steve Bullock '88 P'24  is a product of public schools, graduating from Helena High. He received his undergraduate degree from Claremont McKenna College and law degree from Columbia University School of Law.

Bullock served as Montana’s attorney general from 2009-2013. As attorney general, Bullock defended Montana’s hundred-year ban on corporate campaign spending, gaining national prominence for leading the challenge to the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

Bullock was elected Montana’s 24th Governor, serving from 2013-2021. He worked with a Republican-majority legislature to improve access to health care, kick dark money out of state elections, make record investments in education, protect access to public lands, invest in infrastructure, and strengthen Montana’s economy. Bullock brought diverse interests together to address challenging issues, from sage grouse and forest management to the Main Street Montana Project. By executive action, he led the nation in preserving net neutrality and combating dark money. Nationally, Bullock was elected Chair of the National Governors Association, Western Governors Association and Democratic Governors Association.

Since leaving public office, he served as an Institute of Politics Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School, is serving as the court-appointed Independent Monitor over Purdue Pharma, and is serving on various corporate, political and nonprofit boards and committees.  

Prior to serving in elected office, Bullock’s jobs included Montana Assistant Attorney General, attorney in private practice, adjunct instructor at George Washington University Law School, and Tour Boat Captain on the Missouri River. 

David Dreier '75 was first elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1980, where he served until January 2013. In Congress, he served as the youngest—and the first from California—chairman of the Rules Committee, playing a pivotal role in fashioning all legislation for debate in the House.

Serving 32 years in Congress and as longtime Chairman of the House Rules Committee, Dreier was a co-sponsor of the first Bipartisan Retreat Planning Committee in 1997, noting that “I believe greater civility in the House is a cause certainly worth pursuing”; widely known for his belief in reaching across the aisle, NBC news noted when he retired from Congress in 2013 that “Dreier Departure Bad News for Congressional Civility.”  

Dreier received his B.A. from Claremont McKenna College in 1975 and his M.A. in American government from Claremont Graduate University the following year. He serves as a trustee at CMC.

This inaugural Civility Award and subsequent discussion is sponsored by the Dreier Roundtable at CMC.

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Thu, September 23, 2021
Dinner Program
Sameer Pandya

Sameer Pandya, associate professor of Asian American Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara and author of the novel "Members Only" and the story collection "The Blind Writer", will use the historical and contemporary example of South Asians in America to explore ideas of exclusion, race, and belonging in the brown space between black and white. The talk celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Center for Writing and Public Discourse at CMC.

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Sameer Pandya is a fiction writer and an interdisciplinary literary and cultural studies scholar whose fiction and scholarship considers the question of cultural dislocation and racial identity among South Asian Americans. His first book “The Blind Writer: Stories and a Novella,” longlisted for the PEN/Open Book Award, follows the lives of first‑ and second‑generation Indian Americans living in contemporary California. His novel “Members Only,” which considers the racial politics of our current moment, was named an NPR Best Books of 2020 and was a finalist for the 90th Annual California Book Award in Fiction. His scholarly essays have been published in the Journal of Asian American Studies, South Asian Popular Culture and Amerasia. Pandya has also published widely in the popular press, with work appearing in The Atlantic, ESPN, Salon, Sports Illustrated, New York Daily News, among other places. 

Pandya graduated with highest honors from U.C. Davis and earned his Ph.D. in the Program in Modern Thought and Literature at Stanford University. He is an associate professor of Asian American Studies at U.C. Santa Barbara.

Professor Pandya’s Athenaeum presentation is co-sponsored by the Center for Writing and Public Discourse and celebrates the 10th Anniversary of the Center for Writing and Public Discourse at CMC.

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Mon, September 27, 2021
Dinner Program
Anna Deavere Smith

One of the most hailed and provocative theatre artists of our time, Anna Deavere Smith explores current events from multiple points of view and combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. In her powerful first-person storytelling, she brings attention to youth who, through poverty, are vulnerable to becoming embroiled in cycles of incarceration. Drawing from interviews with more than 250 people living and working within a challenged system, Smith depicts the personal accounts of students, parents, teachers, and administrators caught in America’s school-to-prison pipeline and shines a light on a lost generation of American youth. 

As one of CMC’s 75th Anniversary Distinguished Speakers, Anna Deavere Smith will highlight issues in “Unity and Division,” one of the three academic collaboration themes of our special 75th Anniversary celebration.

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Anna Deavere Smith is an actress, playwright, teacher, and author. She is credited with creating a new form of theater and is applauded for her one-woman shows. Her most recent original work, "Notes from the Field," looks at the vulnerability of youth, the criminal justice system, and contemporary activism. The New York Times named the stage version among The Best Theater of 2016 and TIME Magazine called it one of the Top 10 Plays of the Year. HBO premiered the film version in February 2018. It was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Award.

By looking at current events from multiple points of view, Smith’s theater combines the journalistic technique of interviewing her subjects with the art of interpreting their words through performance. Plays include Fires In the Mirror, Twilight: Los Angeles, House Arrest, and Let Me Down Easy. Twilight: Los Angeles was nominated for two Tony Awards. Fires in the Mirror was runner-up for the Pulitzer Prize.

In 2012, President Obama awarded Smith the National Endowment for the Humanities Medal. She is a recipient of the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship. Other awards include the prestigious 2013 Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for achievement in the arts, the George Polk Career Award in Journalism, and the Ridenhour Courage Award. In 2015, she was named the Jefferson Lecturer, the nation’s highest honor in the humanities. She has been given several honorary degrees including those from Yale, Juilliard, University of Pennsylvania, Smith College, and Spelman.

Smith is also a television and film actress. Credits include such shows as Shonda Rhimes’s new “untitled project”, ABC’s series For the People and Blackish. She also co-starred on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie and was featured on the long running series, The West Wing. Films include The American President, Rachel Getting Married, Philadelphia, Dave, Rent, and Human Stain.

Smith is a Full Professor at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts where she founded the former Institute on the Arts and Civic Dialogue.

Reproduced from


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Tue, September 28, 2021
Dinner Program
Naomi Bagdonas '09

Work has changed. With digital transformation, remote work, stress and uncertainty, it's harder than ever to foster connection, joy, and well-being within teams and organizations. But research shows there’s hope in humor—and that a sense of humor just might be one of the most under-leveraged assets at work and in life. Naomi Bagdonas ’09, author of the bestselling book "Humor, Seriously” teaches courses at Stanford's Graduate School of Business about the power of humor. Sharing findings from behavioral scientists, advice from world-class comedians, and stories from inspiring leaders, she will reveal how you can use humor to be more effective at work and more joyful in life. Seriously.

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A corporate strategist, executive coach, and leading expert in the intersection of humor and business, Naomi Bagdonas '09 is the coauthor of the national bestseller "Humor, Seriously" and a lecturer at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. 

Bagdonas facilitates interactive sessions for boards and leadership teams of Fortune 100 companies and nonprofits, and helps leaders create cultures of levity, creativity, and inclusivity within their organizations. She advises executives and celebrities for events ranging from Saturday Night Live and The Today Show appearances to company all-hands meetings and political campaign speeches. 

Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Sports Illustrated, Forbes, Financial Times, Good Morning America, and on her mother's fridge.

In her spare time, Bagdonas runs a program teaching improv comedy in San Francisco's county jail, backpacks in the Sierras, and fosters a revolving door of rescue dogs whom she adores and who systematically destroy everything she owns.

She's a proud Claremont McKenna College grad where she studied economics and psychology as a Robert Day Scholar and whose time here set her on a trajectory for a nontraditional and very fun career (she says, "Thanks, CMC!"). She also holds a MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

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Wed, September 29, 2021
Dinner Program
Ilan Wurman '09

In this talk, Ilan Wurman ‘09, associate professor of law at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and author of "The Second Founding: An Introduction to the Fourteenth Amendment," will discuss the nation's first civil rights struggle that culminated in the adoption of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, and the surprising meanings of the amendment's guarantees of due process, the equal protection of the laws, and the privileges and immunities of citizenship.

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Ilan Wurman '09 is an associate professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, where he teaches administrative law and constitutional law. He writes on administrative law, separation of powers, and constitutionalism, and his academic writing has appeared in the Yale Law Journal, the Stanford Law Review, the University of Chicago Law Review, the University of Pennsylvania Law Review, the Duke Law Journal, and the Texas Law Review among other journals. He is also the author of "A Debt Against the Living: An Introduction to Originalism" (Cambridge 2017), and "The Second Founding: An Introduction to the Fourteenth Amendment" (Cambridge 2020). 

Prior to entering academia, Wurman clerked for the Honorable Jerry E. Smith on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and practiced law for three-and-a-half years at Winston & Strawn in Washington, D.C. He also served as deputy general counsel on Rand Paul's U.S. presidential campaign in 2015 and as associate counsel on Tom Cotton's U.S. Senate campaign in 2014. He is a graduate of Stanford Law School and Claremont McKenna College.

Professor Wurman will deliver the Salvatori Center's 2021 Lofgren Lecture on American Constitutionalism. 

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Mon, October 4, 2021
Dinner Program
Ryan Cirz

Antibiotics were heralded as a turning point in medicine in the mid 20th century. Today, the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria poses a growing and formidable challenge to the future of 21st century medicine. Yet, despite this looming danger and demonstrated medical need, the antibiotic drug development sector has deteriorated over the past twenty years, with a rapidly accelerated breakdown starting in 2019. The development of new antibiotics presents scientific challenges that require significant, sustained investment. Ryan Cirz, a biochemist and entrepreneur with a background in molecular biology and genetics, will discuss the scientific, societal, and economic hurdles of developing new antibiotics today.

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Ryan Cirz is the CEO/CSO of Revagenix, Inc., a preclinical-stage biopharmaceutical company dedicated to the discovery and development of life-changing and life-saving medicines. Previously, he was founder and vice president of research at Achaogen where he oversaw the early-stage (pre-investigational new drug) pipeline and provided intellectual insight/support to all things related to infectious diseases, including late-stage development, commercialization, and medical affairs. Achaogen focused on discovering, developing, and commercializing innovative antibacterials to treat multi-drug resistant infections.

Cirz earned his Ph.D. in biochemistry from the Scripps Research Institute and his Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and molecular biology from Penn State University.

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Tue, October 5, 2021
Dinner Program
Adam Jones

The controversies swirling around policies and inequities in a pandemic age provide an opening to explore the place of structural and institutional violence in comparative genocide studies. Adam Jones, a William F. Podlich Distinguished Fellow at CMC this fall, is a political scientist, writer, and photojournalist based at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. Utilizing his extensive scholarship on genocide and structural violence, Jones will propose analytical angles and empirical standards by which structural violence can be incorporated in a genocide framework, highlighting issue-areas related to Covid-19 that urgently require attention and intervention. 

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Adam Jones is a political scientist, writer, and photojournalist based at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. In the fall of 2021, Jones is a William F. Podlich Distinguished Fellow at CMC.  Jones is best known for his work in the field of comparative genocide studies and is the author or editor of numerous books on genocide and crimes against humanity including "Genocide: A Comprehensive Introduction;" "The Scourge of Genocide: Essays and Reflection; Genocide, War Crimes and the West;" and "Gendercide and Genocide." He has also published two books on the media and political transition. His writings on gender and international politics have appeared in the Journal of Genocide Research, Review of International Studies, Ethnic & Racial Studies, Caribbean Studies, and other publications.

Throughout his career, Jones has developed a distinctive approach to the study of gender and international relations. In 1999, he co-founded the Web-based NGO Gendercide Watch with Carla Bergman and Nart Villeneuve, aimed at "confront[ing] gender-selective atrocities against men and women worldwide." He has also worked as an expert consultant with the United Nations Special Adviser on Genocide Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect. His essays on gender, violence, and international politics are compiled in "Gender Inclusive: Essays on Violence, Men, and Feminist International Relations" (Routledge, 2009). 

Jones was a postdoctoral fellow (2005-07) in the Genocide Studies Program at Yale University and earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of British Columbia. 

Adam Jones' talk is co-sponsored  by the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at CMC.

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Thu, October 7, 2021
Dinner Program
Steven Pinker

Progress is a demonstrable fact: We are healthier, richer, freer, safer, and happier than our ancestors. It’s not because of some mystical force that lifts our species upward. It’s because of the Enlightenment ideal of using knowledge to enhance well-being, and the institutions it created, including science, liberal democracy, commerce, and organizations for international cooperation. Will this progress continue, given the threats of pandemics, climate change, and authoritarian populism? No one knows for sure, but Steven Pinker, award- winning experimental psychologist and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University, will offer ways to think about the challenges ahead.

As one of CMC’s 75th Anniversary Distinguished Speakers, Professor Pinker will highlight issues in “Civilization and Commerce,” one of the three academic collaboration themes of our special 75th Anniversary celebration.

Photo credit: Rose Lincoln, Harvard University

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Steven Pinker, award- winning experimental psychologist and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard, asks the big questions about human progress and sets out to answer them. A provocative speaker, much in demand, Pinker is a cognitive scientist who has been named by TIME as one of the 100 Most Influential People in the World. His keynotes have helped millions demystify the science behind human language, thought, and action. A professor, a TED speaker, and a bestselling author, twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, he is highly respected in the scientific community, his work and opinions are extensively covered in the mainstream media, and he has won a wide general audience.

In his upcoming book, “Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters,” Pinker argues that we fail to take advantage of the most powerful tools of reasoning discovered by some of our best thinkers: Logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation. Specifically he explores why—when humanity is reaching new heights of scientific reasoning—there appears to be more fake news, conspiracy theorizing, and medical quackery than ever before. Rejecting the cynicism that humans are inherently irrational, Pinker offers an insightful, hopeful analysis of what rationality really is, why it can feel like it’s scarce, and how we can use it to drive better choices in our personal lives and in the public sphere.

In his earlier book “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress,” Pinker argued that, despite fear-mongering and political upheaval, the world is getting better: Peace, prosperity, knowledge and happiness are on the rise. "Enlightenment Now" was the follow-up to "The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Had Declined", which was a #1 Amazon bestseller. 

Pinker’s other bestselling books include “The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature" and “How The Mind Works.” Pinker’s acclaimed “language” series includes “The Language Instinct: How the Mind Creates Language,” “Words and Rules,” “The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature,” as well as “The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.”

A native of Montreal, Pinker is Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology at Harvard University. Previously, he taught at Stanford and at MIT. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He has won several teaching prizes, and his research on visual cognition and the psychology of language has received numerous awards, including the Troland Award from the National Academy of Sciences.


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Tue, October 12, 2021
Dinner Program
Hagar Chemali

Drawing from her extensive professional and academic experiences in foreign relations, national security, and public affairs, Hagar Chemali, a political commentator with expertise on a range of historic and dynamic issues facing Syria, Lebanon, and other hot regions, will highlight and provide commentary on some of the most pressing and ever-evolving topics in the Middle East today. 

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Hagar Hajjar Chemali is a political satirist, foreign policy expert, and host, writer, and producer of a world news show on YouTube called “Oh My World!” She worked in the U.S. government for 12 years in a range of senior national security and public affairs positions. She is a political commentator and writer on national security issues, and is featured regularly on MSNBC, CNN, BBC, Bloomberg, and Cheddar. She is also CEO and Founder of Greenwich Media Strategies, and a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s Economic Sanctions Initiative.

 From 2015-2016, Chemali was director of communications and spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the United Nations under President Obama. Prior to this position, she was spokesperson for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence at the U.S. Department of the Treasury where she handled all public affairs related to sanctions policy, illicit finance, and enforcement actions.  From 2010-2012, Chemali was director for Syria and Lebanon at the National Security Council at the White House, where she advised on and coordinated the implementation of U.S. policy toward Syria and Lebanon. Chemali also worked at the Treasury Department as a senior policy advisor on Asia and Middle East policy advisor in the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes.

Chemali is a term member of the Council on Foreign Relations and holds a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs where she concentrated in international security policy and the Middle East. She is also a graduate of Barnard College where she majored in political science and speaks English, French, Arabic and Italian.

Ms. Chemali's Athenaeum talk is supported by the Siam Family Foundation and co-sponsored by the Mgrublian Center for Human Rights at CMC.

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Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum

Claremont McKenna College
385 E. Eighth Street
Claremont, CA 91711

Phone: (909) 607-8244


Phone: (909) 621-8244
Fax: (909) 621-8579