Students Question ’47 Things’ Challenge

Molly Horgan PO ’14 won $4,000 by completing the inaugural 47 Challenge, a competition that rewards any Pomona or Pitzer College student able to do the most activities on the “47 Things Every Sagehen Should Do Before Graduating” list. Some participants questioned the accessibility of the challenge for all students.    

The list was created after Pomona President David Oxtoby’s arrival in 2003, after which the Smith Campus Center (SCC) began organizing trips to various sites around the Los Angeles area while offering transportation in the 25-seat Sagecoach bus.    

Last summer, Ronald Lee Fleming PO ’63 offered funding for the 47 Challenge. The $4,000 reward includes $2,000 that comes in a cash prize and $2,000 that will be allocated to any college department, program or registered student organization of the winner’s choice.

“[Oxtoby] said that there should be a list of 47 things that are quintessential Southern California experiences that we should encourage students to do—to get off campus, explore the community and engage with L.A.,” SCC Assistant Director Ellie Ash-Bala said.     

“More recently I was tasked with reviewing the list,” Ash-Bala said. “I convened another committee to look at it, which consisted of several students who were on campus over the summer, a couple of staff members and a few faculty members. So it was a broad group of community folks that looked at the list and decided which things were working, which weren’t and which should be changed.”    

Most of these changes involved removing “things” that were no longer available or making “things” less vague, according to Ash-Bala. For example, the committee changed “thing” No. 24 from “Taste five ethnic cuisines” to “Try some ethnic cuisine in at least one of these historic neighborhoods: Olvera Street, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Korea Town, Little India.”

Ash-Bala is responsible for organizing 47 Things trips, which are subsidized by Pomona, through the SCC. This semester’s destinations included the San Diego Zoo, Hollywood Improv, Cirque du Soleil, the Getty Museum, the Great Wall of Los Angeles and Donut Man on historic Route 66.

Horgan said that there was more than one reason for her frequent participation in 47 Things trips.      

“Obviously, I was pretty interested in the prize money, but I also thought it would be really fun to do all of the things,” she said.    

Horgan decided to donate half of her prize money to the Pomona College Organic Farm after hearing about damages to its resources. 

“Hopefully, some of the money can go to buying new chickens and repairing the beehive that was destroyed recently,” she said.    

Jamie Garcia PO ’14 came in third place after having completed all of the 47 Things except for No. 37, “Take a dip at Deep Creek Hot Springs,” and No. 43, “Spend a day or two at the Coachella Music Festival.”    

“When I read the whole list and decided I was going to do it, I knew that there was no way I was going to Coachella,” Garcia said. “It’s like $350, so it didn’t even cross my mind because it’s just too much money. I really think that including [Coachella] is just not accessible to everyone, and I think they should take it out.”    

Ash-Bala said students raised the issue of the high price of some of the 47 Things activities earlier this semester.      

“My initial response was we don’t think anyone could do all 47 Things in one year,” Ash-Bala said. “We run trips from [the SCC office], so I thought that students could go on subsidized trips through the office and pick ones like going to the beach that don’t really cost anything other than transportation. We’ve learned some things from the process and we’ll look at it this summer to tweak it. We’ll review it and we also may change the rules for next year that include a first, second and third place prize instead of giving all the money to one person.”

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