Occidental College

Occidental College
Occidental College
Motto Occidens Proximus Orienti (Latin)
Motto in English The West is nearest the East
Established April 20, 1887
Type Private
Endowment US$ 377 million[1]
President Jonathan Veitch
Vice-president Dennis Collins
Dean Jorge Gonzalez
Chairman of the Board of Trustees John Farmer
Academic staff 150
Students 1,825
Location Los Angeles, California, United States
Coordinates: 34°07′41″N 118°12′40″W / 34.128°N 118.211°W / 34.128; -118.211
Campus Urban
120 acres (49 ha)
Colors Orange & Black         
Athletics NCAA Division III
Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference
Sports 21 Varsity Teams
Nickname Tigers
Mascot Oswald the Tiger
Affiliations Annapolis Group
Website www.oxy.edu
Occidental College in the 1920s

Occidental College is a private, coeducational liberal arts college located in the Eagle Rock neighborhood of Los Angeles, California. Founded in 1887, Occidental College, or "Oxy" as it is called by students and alumni, is one of the oldest liberal arts colleges on the West Coast.[2] The college is noted for its combination of rigorous academic programs, a small yet diverse student body, and the resources of one of the world's major cities. Occidental students have won 10 Rhodes Scholarships, 12 Truman Scholarships, 55 Watson Fellowships and, since 2003, 51 Fulbright Scholarships. The college is among the top 10 percent of liberal arts institutions whose graduates go on to earn Ph.D.s. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching selected Occidental as a community engagement institution, becoming one of a handful of liberal arts colleges to be so designated for its commitment to mutually beneficial collaboration with its surrounding communities.[3]



Highland Park campus, 1904.


Occidental College was founded on April 20, 1887, by a group of Presbyterian clergy and laymen, including James George Bell. The college’s first term began a year later with 27 men and 13 women students, and tuition of $50 a year. Initially located in Boyle Heights, the college moved to a new campus in Los Angeles’ Highland Park neighborhood in 1898. Despite a strong Presbyterian presence on its campus, Occidental cut ties to the church in 1910. In 1912, the school began construction of a new campus located in Los Angeles’ Eagle Rock neighborhood. The Eagle Rock campus was to be designed by noted California Architect Myron Hunt. That same year, Occidental President John Willis Baer announced the trustees’ decision to convert Oxy into an all-men’s institution. However, students protested, and the idea was abandoned.

Move to Eagle Rock

Two weeks after Booker T. Washington came to visit Occidental, on March 27, 1914 — the school’s 25th anniversary — Swan, Fowler, and Johnson halls were dedicated at its new Eagle Rock campus. The Eagle Rock campus covers over 120 acres (49 ha), much of which is undeveloped land on a hill known as “Mt. Fiji.” In April 1917, the college formed an Army Corps to aid the war effort. The college opened its Hillside Theatre in 1925, and a student union in 1928. During World War II, many students left Occidental to fight in the war. In July 1943, 53 students established a Navy V-12[4] unit on campus and left for active duty.

"A little giant"

In 1962, Time Magazine described Occidental as a little giant in a story about the college’s rise to national prominence. Indeed, this moniker was characteristic of the college’s growth.

During the late 1960s, a strong anti-war sentiment made its presence felt at Occidental. The students’ activism was characteristic of a rise of liberalism across campus. In 1969, the school opened its first two co-ed dormitories, and two more followed a year later. On May 6, 1970, the faculty voted to suspend classes in the wake of the Kent State shootings and America’s invasion of Cambodia. Subsequently, Oxy students wrote 7,000 letters to Washington D.C., protesting U.S. involvement in the war in Southeast Asia.

In 1979, Occidental installed Water Forms II (see image below), a kinetic fountain designed by professor George Baker. The fountain is a campus landmark and was featured prominently in the 1984 film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. During the 1984 Olympic Games, some track events were held at Occidental’s Patterson Field. By 1986, for the first time since World War II, women students outnumbered men. Today, the college is approximately 60 percent female and 40 percent male; roughly equivalent to the national average. On July 1, 2006, Susan Prager became Occidental's first female president. She then left her position in 2007 during the fall term.[5] On July 1, 2009, Jonathan Veitch, formerly dean of The New School's Eugene Lang College, became Occidental's 15th president, and the first to be a native Angeleno.

Academics, resources

Student profile

  • 2,030 students from 46 states, the District of Columbia and 21 foreign countries
  • 56 percent women, 44 percent men
  • 6.8 percent African American
  • 14.9 percent Asian American
  • 55.6 percent Caucasian
  • 2.7 percent international
  • 15.2 percent Latino/a
  • 1 percent Native American
  • 8 percent declined to state

Faculty profile

  • 150 full-time faculty
  • 6.7 percent African American
  • 12.6 percent Asian American
  • 13.3 percent Latino/a
  • 45 percent women, 55 percent men
The academic quad at night

Core program

Divided in three parts, the Core Program was designed by the faculty of Occidental to unify and enhance the liberal arts education offered by the school. The Core Program requires students to achieve the following:

  1. complete two first-year writing seminars;
  2. complete a set number of courses in geographical areas, languages, and the arts;
  3. complete three math and science courses; and
  4. pass a senior-year comprehensive examination within the student’s chosen major.

First-year seminars (8 course hours in total) are the centerpiece of the Core Program. Students are given a variety of class choices to fulfill the seminar requirement, and to satisfy the first-year writing requirement. While the classes range in topic, each is based on a curriculum of cultural studies. The classes are designed to expose students to the rigor of college academics and to the four principles of the college mission—Excellence, Equity, Community, and Service.

The Core Program’s emphasis on global literacy requires students to take a minimum of three courses that touch on at least three of the following geographical areas: Africa and the Middle East; Asia and the Pacific; Europe; Latin America; the United States; and Intercultural. Students are also required to demonstrate proficiency in writing and in a foreign language and take courses in the fine arts and in the sciences, mathematics, or other courses that address formal methods of reasoning.

The final portion of the Core Program requires students to pass a senior comprehensive examination in their chosen field. Comprehensive examinations may include seminars, creative projects, fieldwork, oral exams, theses, or field research projects.

Johnson Hall, one of the three original buildings of the 1914 campus

Student research

Occidental provides its students unique opportunities to research in their chosen field. Many students collaborate on research with their professors in the lab, at other local institutions, including the City of Hope National Cancer Research Center, and overseas. Research fellowships are provided to students in all fields of study. Over the past five years, more than 280 students received funding to undertake joint research with faculty—research that often results in co-authored publication in peer-reviewed journals.[6]

International programs

Many Occidental students participate in off-campus programs in the United States and in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Latin America, and Oceania. Annually, nearly one third of the junior class partakes in a semester abroad.

Occidental offers a unique Occidental-at-the-United Nations Program in New York. When selected, students intern in the United Nations Secretariat or with a related institution, such as the US State Department or an international NGO. Some students also study in Washington, D.C. through American University.

Occidental is among a handful of American colleges that participates in the Richter Summer Research Program, in which students compete for a chance to pursue independent research or creative work anywhere in the world. Exchange students also are welcomed to Occidental. The school maintains exchange agreements with the University of Bristol, Cambridge University, University of East Anglia, University of Sussex, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Exchange and Cooperative Joint Degree Programs

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and Columbia University

Students at Occidental can take courses at the California Institute of Technology in nearby Pasadena free of charge. In addition, a 3-2 engineering program allows qualified students the opportunity to study at Occidental for three years, completing their undergraduate experience with an additional two years either at Caltech or Columbia University. At the end of the five years, the student receives two degrees, a Bachelor of Arts in the Combined Plan from Occidental and a Bachelor of Science in the selected field of engineering from the engineering school.

Art Center College of Design

Art majors at Occidental College can take courses at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, one of the country’s top-ranked art schools. The program is not open to first-year students, but as with the Caltech exchange program students receive full course credit. No additional tuition payments are required.

Columbia University School of Law

With a competitive GPA and LSAT scores, Columbia Law School admits students upon completion of their junior year at Occidental into its Accelerated Interdisciplinary Program in Legal Education. Admittance to the program enables students to earn a bachelor’s degree from Occidental and a law degree from Columbia in six years.

Keck Graduate Institute

Students who are interested in biotechnology and who become a biochemistry major maintaining a 3.2 GPA in the necessary courses, will be guaranteed admission to the Keck master’s in bioscience program. The Keck Graduate Institute is part of the Claremont Colleges consortium.

Reputation and rankings

In U.S. News and World Report's 2010 rankings of American liberal arts colleges, Occidental is tied for 36th. In the 2010 Forbes Magazine ranking of American colleges, which combines liberal arts colleges, national research universities, and military academies together in one list, the College is ranked #86.[7] Since 1908, Occidental has graduated 10 Rhodes Scholars.[8] The 2007 Princeton Review describes Occidental as having a “rising star quality” and notes that Occidental’s professors have been called “top quality.”[9] The 2006 edition of America's Best Value Colleges by the Princeton Review noted that the college “is committed to recruiting top students regardless of their financial background.”[10] The College Prowler says that people “look at Occidental degrees very highly,” but that Occidental often does not receive the attention it deserves.[11]


Thorne Hall

Architect Myron Hunt, who also designed the Rose Bowl Stadium, designed Oxy's original buildings in a Mediterranean style, with covered walkways and tile roofs. Currently, there are 12 on-campus residence halls. The three original buildings of the 1914 campus still stand today, although seismic concerns have limited them to classrooms and academic offices. Most of the rest of the buildings match the original style with a few exceptions. The Arthur G. Coons Administration Building has been dubbed "the Chrysler Showroom" by campus wags — a reference to its boxy glass lobby. As the seat of power, Coons has also been compared to Foucault's "panopticon." The most notable aberration, however, is Stearns Hall, which has been described as "Barbie meets Escher" for its angular, post-modern style and its shrunken scale (it is supposedly built at 90% of scale, an idea supported by the feeling of claustrophobia often encountered there). The Hameetman Science Center, designed by the firm of Anshen + Allen and built in 2003 to provide new research facilities for Occidental's geology and physics departments also deviates from the original architecture with its large glass windows and metal balconies. Its lobby also houses a large Foucault pendulum. Occidental's newest building, the 278 bed Rangeview Residence Hall, opened in January 2008 at a cost of a reported 38.8 million dollars and is the first residence hall built in 25 years. Rangeview features dormitories with private bathrooms, lounges, study rooms, classrooms, a 24-hour gym and an underground garage, making it Occidental's only hybrid building.[12]


Johnson Student Center and Freeman College Union

Occidental is one of the five schools that founded the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) in 1915 and is currently a member of the SCIAC and NCAA Division III. Occidental features 21 varsity sports teams and a program of club sports and intramural competition. Approximately 25 per cent of the student body participates in a varsity sports program.[13]

During the 2006–2007 athletic season, the Tiger’s cross country, American football and basketball teams were Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champions. The school’s Blackshirts Rugby union team was also league champion for the first time in five years. In 2011, Jeremy Castro ('99) and Patrick Guthrie ('86) steered the squad to a NSCRO final in Virginia Beach, VA. In addition the college boasts a competitive and growing elite dance team that also performs at every home football and basketball game.[13]

Notable faculty

Herrick Interfaith Center, built 1964, with Water Forms II in the foreground.

Several Occidental professors have received awards in recent years and some have held prominent positions in government and the private sector:

  • Larry Caldwell, Professor of Politics, has served in the Office of Soviet Analysis at the Central Intelligence Agency, as Director of European Studies at the National War College in Washington, D.C., and as Research Associate at the International Institute for Strategic Studies in London
  • Martha Ronk, Price Professor of English Literature, is a 2005 PEN American Center Literary Award winner in poetry.
  • Derek Shearer, Stuart Chevalier Professor of Diplomacy and World Affairs, was U.S. Ambassador to Finland from 1994 to 1997 and was formerly an aide to Bill Clinton.
  • James Sadd, Professor of Environmental Science, host of "Earth Revealed" Annenberg CPB Television series and college telecourse on geology.
  • Robby Moore, Elbridge Amos Stuart Professor of Economics, was the originating editor of the Teaching Tools Section of Economic Inquiry and has taught Bill Gates.
  • Caroline Heldman is a Professor of Politics and is a political reviewer for the Associated Press. She frequently appears on national airwaves as a guest and contributor for CNN and Fox News talk shows.

Greek life

Fraternity and Sorority Life supports the core values of Occidental College and those of each organization by providing students with intentional experiences to live and learn in a community characterized by academic excellence, leadership development, equity, respect for diversity, and philanthropy.

Recognized chapters

Occidental College's Greek Council consists of 7 members: sororities Alpha Lambda Phi Alpha, Delta Omicron Tau, Kappa Alpha Theta and Sigma Lambda Gamma, and fraternities Kappa Alpha Psi, Phi Kappa Psi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, and Zeta Tau Zeta (co-ed)

Campus involvement

Among other benefits of membership, students in the Greek system are equipped with skills for effective leadership. Below is a partial list of campus activities of Greek members participate in: ASOC Senate ,Asian Pacific Islander Association, Blythe Fund, Colleges Against Cancer (Relay for Life), Dance Team, Future Business Leaders, General Assembly, Health Professions Interest Group/American Medical Student Association, Hillel, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, KOXY (radio station), Neighborhood Partnership Program, Outdoors Club, The Occidental Weekly (newspaper).


Among the most important Greek traditions is a commitment to philanthropy and service. Each organization supports its own beneficiary agency, and also unites to help many other on-campus service events. In 2010, Greek Council co-hosted Winter Formal with Programming Board, which raised $3,000 for Haitian relief efforts. Greek Organizations collectively raised over $30,000 for various charities in the 2009-2010 school year, in addition to donating countless hours to worthwhile causes.


Among the members of the Greek community at Occidental are many accomplished athletes that represent Occidental on a number of sports teams. Additionally, fraternities and sororities routinely participate in all-campus intramural competitions: Most recently, Sigma Alpha Epsilon won the Occidental All-sport Intramural Championship in both 2008-2009 and 2009-2010.

Social life

Joining Greek life at Occidental exposes members to a social life filled with diverse activities. Greek Organizations host some of the most popular on- campus dances and parties, in addition to throwing mixers, off-campus formals, and concerts. Many organizations attend sporting events and a variety of shows around Los Angeles, and some organizations even take weekend trips to Big Bear or Palm Springs.

Notable alumni

Business and industry

Entertainment and the arts

Terry Gilliam
Ben Affleck

Government, diplomacy, and law

Barack Obama
Jack Kemp

Higher education and academia


Patt Morrison

Literature and writing



Social action, philanthropy, and community service

  • Howard Ahmanson, Jr (influential philanthropist for fundamentalist Christian causes)
  • Rex Weyler, author, journalist, ecologist and co-founder of Greenpeace International; did not graduate
  • Cameron Townsend, founder, Wycliffe Bible Translators and Summer Institute of Linguistics

Sports and athletics

Film and television at Occidental

President William Howard Taft at Occidental in October 1911

Occidental’s campus, architecture, and proximity to Hollywood have made it a desired location for a number of film and television shots.[15] Credits include:

TV credits include Dragnet, The West Wing (2002), Monk (TV Series), Charmed, The L Word, Criminal Minds, Beverly Hills, 90210 (1993–97), Greek and a host of other shows and made-for-TV movies, including Lou Grant, Remington Steele, NCIS (TV series) and Cannon.

In literature

  • Aldous Huxley was close friends with college president Remsen Bird during Huxley's time living in Southern California. He spent much time at the college during this period and the college is portrayed under the name of Tarzana College in his 1939 satirical novel After Many a Summer. Huxley also incorporated Bird into the novel.
  • Gary Shteyngart's novel, Absurdistan, is partly set at the apocryphal "Accidental College," which is clearly a riff on Occidental's name, though its Midwestern setting is more akin to Shteyngart's alma mater, Oberlin.
  • In Barack Obama's memoir, Dreams from My Father he talks about his and several other African American students' campus activism.

Academic majors

Arts & Humanities

Social Sciences


Interdepartmental Majors

Academic Minors



  1. ^ As of June 30, 2009. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2009 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2008 to FY 2009" (PDF). 2009 NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. http://www.nacubo.org/Documents/research/2009_NCSE_Public_Tables_Endowment_Market_Values.pdf. Retrieved March 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ "A Loving Tradition of Occidental College". http://www.oxy.edu/x2357.xml. Retrieved 2008-04-17. 
  3. ^ "Occidental Recalls Barry Obama". http://www.oxy.edu/x8273.xml. Retrieved 2008-12-19. 
  4. ^ "Oxy Trivia". Los Angeles, California: Occidental College. 2011. http://alumni.oxy.edu/s/956/index.aspx?pgid=410&gid=1. Retrieved September 28, 2011. 
  5. ^ "A Brief History of Occidental College". http://www.oxy.edu/x3684.xml. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  6. ^ "Occidental College Website". http://www.oxy.edu/x678.xml. 
  7. ^ "#86 Occidental College". Forbes. 2010-08-11. http://www.forbes.com/lists/2010/94/best-colleges-10_Occidental-College_950231.html. 
  8. ^ "List of National Award Winners". oxy.edu. Archived from the original on April 15, 2011. http://www.webcitation.org/5xyIrwewh. 
  9. ^ "Reviews of Occidental College". The Princeton Review. http://www.oxy.edu/x2360.xml. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  10. ^ "Reviews of Occidental College". America's Best Value Colleges. http://www.oxy.edu/x2360.xml. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  11. ^ "Reviews of Occidental College". The College Prowler. http://www.oxy.edu/x2360.xml. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  12. ^ "Occidental College Facilities". http://www.oxy.edu/x783.xml. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  13. ^ a b "Occidental College Athletics". http://www.oxy.edu/Athletics.xml. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 
  14. ^ Possley, Maurice (2007-03-29). "Obama's political activism started in college". Chicago Tribune (Chicago Tribune). http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-070329obama-college,1,2683821.story?track=rss/abr. Retrieved 2007-06-13. 
  15. ^ "Occidental College as a Movie Location". http://www.oxy.edu/x1194.xml. Retrieved 2007-08-02. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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