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.

Tue, September 12, 2023
Dinner Program
Yui Kurosawa '26, Cameron Quijada SC '25, and Audrey Strevey PO '25

Nearly 60 years after the War on Poverty was declared, the United States suffered from the highest poverty rate and third highest level of income inequality out of all 34 OECD nations in 2021. Can a guaranteed living wage help, or is it not worth the cost that may be passed down for generations?

Join members of the Claremont Colleges Debate Union for a moderated debate on the resolution: "The US should establish a guaranteed living wage." The audience is invited to interact through heckling, moderated discussion, and a final vote.


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Cameron Quijada SC '25 will moderate the debate between Audrey Strevey PO '25 and Yui Kurosawa '26. Kurosawa, Quijada, and Strevey are all Claremont Colleges Debate Union Fellows who lead a wide range of programming including public debates, civic events, and professional communication and leadership training. They are also hosts of the Debate Union podcast, Uncommon Ground, featuring innovative public policy analysis. Kurosawa is one of the top public performers for the Debate Union, participating in panel discussions, presidential debate commentary, and public debates. Quijada was the champion of the largest debate event in the Southwest in 2022. This year, Strevey won the national Social Justice Championship on oceans policy sponsored by the University of Miami. 

The Claremont Colleges Debate Union is a 5C program centered at Claremont McKenna College, and is among the largest and most successful college debating societies in the nation.

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This event is no longer open for registrations.

Wed, September 13, 2023
Dinner Program
The ASCMC Social Life Working Group and Profs. Juliana Fillies and Norman Valencia

Join the Athenaeum and ASCMC's Social Life Working Group for the first installment of Around the World at the Ath, a new series designed to combine faculty and student expertise about international cultures and traditions with great cuisine, music, and fun programming. This month: Brazil! CMC's own Assistant Professor of Modern Languages Juliana Fillies and Associate Professor of Modern Languages Norman Valencia, expert on Latin American and Brazilian culture, art, and literature, will discuss some of their current research while you enjoy special Brazilian dishes from the Athenaeum kitchen and an eclectic mix of Brazilian music from bossa nova to pagode and more. Aproveitem!


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Juliana Fillies will be discussing Ezelino da Costa’s (counter-)photography. Born in a northeastern Brazilian province in 1889, da Costa is one of the few Black photographers of the beginning of the twentieth century we know of, and his pictures show how a Black family in post-abolitionist Brazil wanted to be seen. Professor Fillies was born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. In Germany, she studied Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese. She has a binational Ph.D. in Comparative Literature from the University of Cologne, Germany, and the State University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Juliana has a second Ph.D. in Spanish Literature awarded by Arizona State University. 

She has published several articles on Latin American Literature, Afro-Latin American history, and politics of representation. She is especially interested in understanding how stereotypes were constructed through visual and literary texts. Her current research project explores the representation of Afro-Latin Americans in 19th and early 20th-century photography. In this project, she discusses how photography contributed to creating stereotypes about Black individuals and illustrates how Afro-Latin Americans appropriated the medium to create a counter-discourse.

Norman Valencia will be discussing "the case of Brasília." Brazil's capital, Brasília, is a city with a unique history in the Americas. Throughout his election campaign in 1955, President Juscelino Kubitschek promised to build, in the next four years, a new capital for the country. His objective was to create a new economic and political in Brazil's central high savannah, an important step in the unification of what was, at the time, a deeply fragmented country. For this, he contacted two important architects and urban planners: Oscar Niemeyer and Lúcio Costa. Both of them shared a unique idea: to make Brazil a more egalitarian society through architecture. Professor Valencia will explain how Brasília's architecture was meant to produce important social and political changes, both in the city and in the country, as well as some of the triumphs and some of the shortcomings of their project. 

Norman Valencia is Associate Professor of Spanish and Portuguese. His work focuses on comparative approaches between Brazil and the rest of Latin America, with an emphasis on Colombia. His recent book (in collaboration with Claudia Montilla), El manglar de la memoria. Ensayos críticos sobre la obra de Tomás González, earned the award for Best Edited Volume of 2021 by the Colombian Studies Association.

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Thu, September 14, 2023
Dinner Program
Gabby Salazar

In this talk, conservation photographer Gabby Salazar will share how curiosity and a camera have taken her to many unexpected places - from the top of a volcano in Guatemala to the savannas of Zimbabwe. She will also discuss how collaborations with scientists, conservationists, and other artists have expanded the impact of her work. 

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Dr. Gabby Salazar is a conservation photographer and an environmental social scientist who has traveled the world documenting a wide range of subjects with her camera. In 2021, she was recognized by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) as the Emerging Photographer of the Year and in 2004 she was named BBC Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

She holds a PhD from the University of Florida's School of Forest, Fisheries and Geomatics Sciences, where she studied visual framing and the influence of environmental images on people's attitudes and behaviors. She also holds an MSc in Conservation Science from Imperial College London and a B.A. in Science and Technology Studies from Brown University.  

As a National Geographic Explorer, a Past President of the North American Nature Photography Association, and an Associate Fellow of the International League of Conservation Photographers, Gabby collaborates with scientists and environmental organizations to help them tell their stories. She is the co-author of the book No Boundaries: 25 Women Explorers and Scientists Share Adventures, Inspiration, and Advice, which was published by National Geographic Kids Books.

Salazar's Athenaeum visit is co-sponsored by the Roberts Environmental Center and the Women in Leadership Alliance (WLA).


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Mon, September 18, 2023
Dinner Program
Satyan L. Devadoss

Although used and coveted in every sector of today’s data-driven market, the essence of mathematics continues to be shrouded in mythologies. What’s math really about? Satyan Devadoss, recipient of two national teaching awards, will try to solve this puzzle by playing with Beowulf, Burning Man, Albrecht Dürer, Salvador Dali, and origami in the 5th dimension.

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Satyan L. Devadoss is currently the Fletcher Jones professor of applied mathematics and professor of computer science at the University of San Diego. An inaugural fellow of the American Mathematical Society and recipient of teaching awards from the Mathematical Association of America, his thoughts have appeared in venues such as NPR, the Times of London, the Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times. He was faculty at Williams for nearly 15 years, holding visiting positions at Ohio State, Harvey Mudd, MSRI, Université Nice, UC San Diego, UC Berkeley, and Stanford.

Motivated by the world around us, much of his endeavor revolves around shapes and the ways they can deform and evolve. He is most interested in mathematics one can touch, for we are humans, and the physical world matters. Conveying ideas with clarity, beauty, and simplicity is as important to Devadoss as the discovery of the ideas themselves, resulting in invited presentations from research universities, international centers, and design spaces (Pixar, Google, LucasFilm). 

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Tue, September 19, 2023
Dinner Program
Nicholas Buccola, George Thomas, and Susan McWilliams Barndt

The American Constitution begins by pronouncing itself an act of “We the People” and derives its legitimacy from its ratification by the people. And yet the people rarely appear in the text of the Constitution and citizenship goes largely unmentioned. What is the role of the citizen in securing and perpetuating the Constitution? How have citizens shaped the American constitutional order?  What are the duties and obligations of constitutional citizenship? Does the Constitution provide for the kind of constitutional culture and citizenship it depends on?

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Nicholas Buccola is a Professor of Government at Claremont McKenna College. His teaching and research are in the area of American political thought. He is the author of The Fire Is Upon Us: James Baldwin, William F. Buckley Jr., and the Debate over Race in America and The Political Thought of Frederick Douglass: In Pursuit of American Liberty. He is the editor of The Essential Douglass: Writings and Speeches and Abraham Lincoln and Liberal Democracy. His scholarly essays have appeared in a wide range of academic journals, including The Review of Politics and American Political Thought. His public intellectual work has appeared in The New York TimesSalon, and Dissent. He is currently completing a monograph on the idea of freedom in the civil rights and conservative movements, and co-editing The Princeton History of American Political Thought.

George Thomas is Wohlford Professor of American Political Institutions and Director of the Salvatori Center. His research and teaching focus broadly on American constitutionalism. He is the author of The (Un)Written Constitution (Oxford University Press, 2021), The Founders and the Idea of a National University: Constituting the American Mind (Cambridge University Press, 2015), and The Madisonian Constitution (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008). In addition to numerous scholarly articles, his work also has appeared in The Atlantic, The Bulwark, and the Washington Post.  He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Huntington Library, and is the recipient of the Alexander George Award from the American Political Science Association.

Susan McWilliams Barndt is a professor of politics at Pomona College, where she has won the Wig Award for Excellence in Teaching three times. She is an elected member of the governing council of the American Political Science Association and Vice President of the APSA's American Political Thought section. McWilliams has authored and edited several books, including The American Road Trip and American Political Thought (Lexington, 2018) and A Political Companion to James Baldwin (Kentucky, 2017). Her writing has been published widely, including in The American ConservativeBoston ReviewBustThe City, Front Porch RepublicThe Los Angeles Review of Books, The NationPerspectives on Political SciencePolitical Science QuarterlyThe Review of PoliticsSouthern California Quarterly and The Star-Ledger. McWilliams is the co-editor (with Jeremy Bailey, University of Oklahoma) of the American Political Thought book series at the University Press of Kansas and a past editor of the peer-reviewed journal American Political Thought. For her work, McWilliams has received recognitions including the Graves Award in the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship.

This discussion is co-sponsored by the Salvatori Center's Lofgren Program on American Constitutionalism.

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Wed, September 20, 2023
Dinner Program
Tamara J. Walker

In Beyond the Shores, Dr. Tamara J. Walker reveals poignant histories of a diverse group of African Americans who have left the United States over the course of the past century. Together, the interwoven stories highlight African Americans’ complicated relationship to the United States and the world at large. Drawing on years of research, Walker chronicles their experiences in atmospheric detail, taking readers from well-known capital cities to more unusual destinations like Yangiyul, Uzbekistan, and Kabondo, Kenya. By sharing the accounts of those who escaped the racism of the United States to try their hands at life abroad, she shines a light on the meaning of home and the search for a better life.

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Tamara J. Walker is an historian and Associate Professor of Africana Studies at Barnard College whose research primarily focuses on slavery and its legacies in Latin America. She is the author of Exquisite Slaves: Race, Clothing, and Status in Colonial Lima (Cambridge University Press, 2017), and is currently working on two new scholarly projects, one on slavery and piracy in the Southern Pacific and the other on blackness in Latin American visual culture. Her latest book, Beyond the Shores: A History of African Americans Abroad, was published by Crown in June 2023.

Dr. Walker's visit to the Athenaeum is co-sponsored by the History Department and the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies at CMC.

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Thu, September 21, 2023
Dinner Program
Michael O'Hanlon

Military history offers innumerable lessons for today. It can inspire, with tales of human heroism. It can teach tactical lessons about battle. Military history can also stitch those tactical ideas from individual battles together into narratives about broader campaigns and about strategy. Finally, military history can offer lessons as to the mistakes humans, and leaders in particular, seem most prone to make when undertaking military operations—most of all, the cardinal sin of overconfidence. Can leaders today reflect enough on these lessons to find a way to end the war in Ukraine and prevent one against China over Taiwan?

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Michael E. O’Hanlon is a senior fellow and director of research in Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, where he specializes in U.S. defense strategy, the use of military force, and American national security policy. He directs the Strobe Talbott Center on Security, Strategy and Technology, as well as the Defense Industrial Base working group, and is the inaugural holder of the Philip H. Knight Chair in Defense and Strategy. He co-directs the Africa Security Initiative as well. He is an adjunct professor at Columbia, Georgetown, and George Washington universities, and a member of the International Institute for Strategic Studies. He also serves as a member of the Defense Policy Board at the U.S. Department of Defense. O’Hanlon was a member of the external advisory board at the Central Intelligence Agency from 2011-12. O’Hanlon’s latest book, Military History for the Modern Strategist: America’s Major Wars Since 1861 (Brookings and Rowman & Littlefield, 2023) was published in January 2023.

Dr. O'Hanlon will deliver the 2023-24 Lecture in Diplomacy and International Security in Honor of George F. Kennan.

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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