Pomona College Assistant Professor of Politics Omar Wasow is leaving to teach at UC Berkeley in the fall, a move coming just a year after he joined the college as assistant professor in 2021.
“I have loved teaching students at Pomona and it has been a genuine honor to be among the faculty. For personal and familial reasons, I will be moving to UC Berkeley in the next academic year,” Wasow confirmed in an email to TSL.
Wasow was hired in the summer of 2021 following a national search to replace the position vacated by recently retired professor Lorn Foster, according to Amanda Hollis-Brusky, chair of the politics department.
Wasow’s arrival at Pomona was highly celebrated, as he is well-known both for his academic career and his career in technology. Much of Wasow’s research focuses on race, politics and statistical methods.
Wasow is the author of a widely-read academic paper that examines the effect of Black-led protests during the 1960s civil rights movement. In the summer of 2020, amid national Black Lives Matter protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, he wrote an article in The Washington Post comparing the current movement to 1964’s nonviolent protests that resulted in the passage of major civil rights legislation.
Linda Phan PO ’24 felt the impact of Wasow’s personal experience in the classroom. She is an intended politics major currently taking his Politics of Race and Ethnicity class.
“Since he’s so accredited in his field, he’s able to utilize actual content that he’s made himself,” she said. “So it’s been really awesome not just to be in an environment where it’s very discussion based, but also having his personal experience to contribute to the conversation [and] also the curriculum that we’re studying currently.”
Phan added that “one of the things that really stands out about him as a professor is his charisma. He makes the class really funny. Race is a difficult topic to have conversations about, but he does it in a way that is very digestible … I always leave the class with something new.”
Wasow’s career extends well beyond academia alone. In 1999, he co-founded the social networking site BlackPlanet.com, which became the most popular website for African Americans at the time, according to Complex, reaching over three million users a month.
During the early years of the Internet, Wasow appeared as a technology consultant on TV and radio programs on NBC, CNN and other major news outlets. According to his personal website, he even “tutored Oprah Winfrey in her first exploration of the internet in the 12-part series ‘Oprah Goes Online.’”
Hollis-Brusky said that the department hopes “to conduct another national search in the fall for the position, pending approval of the President and Dean of the College.”
Phan expressed mixed emotions at Wasow’s departure.
“It’s sad, but I know that he has a lot of other really amazing opportunities that he’s pursuing,” Phan said. So [I’m] sad, but also excited for what’s to come for him.”