Kendall Kitahara

By Allie Gordon Photo by Marc Campos

The best piece of advice Kendall Kitahara has received at Occidental College? To trust her instincts. And trusting her instinct is exactly what led her to Oxy.

Initially seeking a “typical college experience,” Kendall Kitahara '22 started out at the University of Washington. Once there, it quickly became clear she wasn’t in the right place. 

“It was so big—I would have classes where my professors wouldn't even know my name,” she says. “I was also a competitive swimmer in Nashville for nine years. The University of Washington didn't have a swim team but the sport was a big part of my identity. I felt like something was missing. Wanting a smaller school environment and feeling like I needed sports back in my life were the two main reasons I wanted to transfer.”

Cue Occidental College. “I chose Oxy because of its small-school environment. I also got advice from my parents, who thought if I went to a mid-size school, it wouldn't feel any different from [the University of Washington]. And so with all the resources that Oxy has being in Los Angeles—and the swim team—everything just funneled into Oxy.”

For Kendall, being part of a team again “felt like coming home.” At Oxy, she found a campus community that was inviting and she connected with her teammates over their shared love of sports. 

“I don't know if it's because Oxy is a small school or it's just Oxy's vibe, but I have people that I can go to here,” she says. “I even feel comfortable going to administrators, not just my peers. That is what had been missing from my college experience.”

Kendall also found a community of students she could relate to through Oxy’s Transfer Student Union. 

“Transferring can be a very overwhelming experience, so it is comforting to know that there are people on campus who can empathize.”

Now president of the Transfer Student Union, Kendall encourages transfers to voice their experiences, which she relays to the College's administration to continuously improve the transfer student experience.

I don't know if it's because Oxy is a small school or it's just Oxy's vibe, but I have people that I can go to here. I even feel comfortable going to administrators, not just my peers.

At Oxy, Kendall found her academic path after taking Classical Sociological Theory. Initially intimidated by the theory class, Kendall was reassured when she learned the class would be taught by Professor of Sociology Dolores Trevizo, who had recently been awarded the prestigious Graham L. Sterling Memorial Award. 

“She’s a great professor and the material was so fascinating,” Kendall says. “I did not think that learning about Marx, Weber and Durkheim would apply to my everyday life, but I definitely see it in action. I even apply it to other classes in different subjects. It is connected to my linguistic studies because both sociology and linguistics look at how groups interact. It's been great to dive in and immerse myself in one subject that also encompasses many other things.”

Now in her final year at Oxy, Kendall is taking Sociology of Education, which, in addition to making her a more confident public speaker through its discussion-based structure, is perfectly timed to relate to her senior comp thesis. 

“I'm comparing first generation and non-first generation students’ access to resources during the college application process,” she says. “I’ve conducted hours of interviews related to their experiences applying to college and their time in college. It's been very interesting getting to know people and see how willing they are to share their stories with me. I work in the Admission Office, and my supervisor said this research would be great for them. I’m happy that my work can help.” 

Oxy has allowed me to pinpoint what I am truly passionate about.

Looking ahead to post-grad life, Kendall is interested in working in higher education administration or policy. Oxy’s open, friendly culture has made it easy for her to connect with faculty and professional staff who are doing what she’s interested in pursuing. Together they can talk through her options regarding postgraduate studies and what programs might be good choices. 

“Oxy has allowed me to pinpoint what I am truly passionate about,” she says. “Through my courses, extracurriculars and internship in Admission, I recognized that one of my true interests lies in higher education administration and policy. Through writing my comps thesis, I am more confident in my ability to conduct independent research, which I had never thought I would say before coming to Oxy!”