Christian Camerota

Following Record Applications, Wesleyan Admits Historically Diverse Class of 2023

The Class of 2023 will be welcomed to campus on Aug. 28, 2019.

Wesleyan received a record 13,358 applications for its Class of 2023, offering admission to 2,114 students (15.8%) from one of the most competitive, diverse applicant pools in the University’s history.

“Because of the nature of the students Wesleyan attracts and looks for, it’s difficult to sum up an entire class succinctly,” said Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Nancy Hargrave Meislahn. “We hope these statistics convey what we value in the admission process and as an institution: diverse, socially conscious, academically talented students with a wide range of interests. One thing the students we look for have in common is their intellectual curiosity.”

Admitted students hail from 58 different countries, and nearly half (49%) are students of color, up from 45% the previous year.

“The applicant pool was exceptionally talented and competitive this year,” Meislahn said. “That required some difficult decisions, as is often the case. We are extremely proud of the pool of students we have admitted. And the increase in offers to students of color reflects our University’s historic commitment to a diverse student body and comes at a poignant time, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the founding of African American Studies at Wesleyan.”

Wesleyan was a leader among selective institutions in making standardized testing optional for applicants in 2014. The change allows students more control in how they present themselves to the admission committee and is intended to improve access for underserved communities, students of color, and first-generation scholars who may not have access to standardized test preparation opportunities. Of those admitted to the Class of 2023, 80% made their test scores available, with median scores of 34 ACT Composite, 750 SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, and 780 SAT Math.

Prepared to work across the full Wesleyan curriculum, more than 80%of admitted students have taken calculus (89%), biology/chemistry/physics (84%), and four years of foreign language study (82%) as part of their high school preparatory studies. Fifty percent of admitted students applied for need-based financial aid, with Wesleyan meeting the full demonstrated need for all those admitted.

Year-to-Year Consistency

The admitted Class of 2023 is similar in many ways to recently admitted classes:

  • 1,141 female (54%) and 973 male (46%) students
  • 82% live outside of New England
  • 16.5% live in other countries
  • 17% speak English as a second language
  • 13% are international students
  • 14% are first-generation students
  • 10% have a Wesleyan alumni or student relative

The students include 403 admitted and matriculating through Wesleyan’s early admittance program, 22 students through QuestBridge (a nonprofit program linking underprivileged or low-income students with educational and scholarship opportunities around the US), and nine Wesleyan Posse veterans as part of the University’s sixth year of partnership with the Posse Foundation.

China, India, United Kingdom Lead International Student Enrollment

In total, admitted students represent 80 different countries of citizenship (including those with permanent US residency). Of the international students admitted, China (68), India (44), and the United Kingdom (31) account for the countries with the largest number, followed by South Korea (24), France (15), and Thailand (13). In demonstration of the breadth of Wesleyan’s global reach, other countries represented include: Azerbaijan; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Burundi; Chile; Egypt; Greece; Iran; Kyrgyzstan; Paraguay; Peru; Sri Lanka; and the Bahamas.

WesFest 2019: A Celebration of All Things Wesleyan

With the last round of acceptance offers mailed on Friday, March 22, and released online on Saturday, March 23, the campus community is now looking forward to WesFest, a three-day celebration of all things Wesleyan, which begins on Wednesday, April 10.

“We in admission are so grateful for everything our community does and will do throughout the month of April to help our admitted students choose Wesleyan,” Meislahn said. “We can’t wait to see everyone at WesFest, wearing their red and black, and helping our admitted students say Yes to Wes!”

Wilson to Receive Prestigious Baldwin Medal

Barbara-Jan Wilson (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Barbara-Jan Wilson (Photo by Olivia Drake)

At the University’s 187th Commencement on May 26, Wesleyan will present the Baldwin Medal, the highest award of the Alumni Association, to Barbara-Jan Wilson.

For over 36 years, Wilson has been a stalwart in the Wesleyan administration and a driving force behind the University’s fundraising efforts. Beginning at Wesleyan in 1982 as the director of Career Planning, she moved on to serve as dean of Admission and Financial Aid in 1990, and then as vice president of University Relations from 1999 to 2018. Throughout that time, Wilson has been one of the University’s biggest champions and cheerleaders, boldly and convincingly making the case for the value of a Wesleyan education and the importance of giving back to the institution.

“For so many of us, Barbara-Jan represents the heart and soul of Wesleyan,” said Donna Morea ’76, P’06, chair of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees. “Her genuine love for the institution is infectious, but it is the way that she makes us feel that is her greatest gift. She cares about our success, our families, and our lives. Barbara-Jan has hundreds, maybe thousands, of people like me who genuinely believe we are one of her very best friends. And we all are.”

Wesleyan Announces 2019 Honorary Degree Recipients

At the University’s 187th Commencement on May 26, 2019, which coincides with the 50th anniversary of the historic Vanguard Class of 1969 and the founding of the African American Studies program at Wesleyan, Wesleyan will present three honorary degrees.

Saidiya Hartman ’84, a groundbreaking scholar and cultural historian, will deliver this year’s Commencement address. Hazel Carby and Edwin Sanders II ’69 also will be honored.

Weaver, Video Game Legends Gather to Honor “Spacewar!”

Before “Fortnite” and “Candy Crush,” before “Super Mario Bros.” and “Tetris,” in fact, even before things like VCRs, Post-its, email, and hacky sacks, eight young MIT students came up with a truly novel idea that ended up becoming not just one of the first video games of its kind, but one of the first video games ever. Their excitement is still palpable in the game’s title, “Spacewar!”

Todd Howard, Vijay Lakshman, Christopher Weaver & Julian Jensen—four of the original Bethesda Softworks team.

The game essentially launched what today Smithsonian Magazine estimates as a $140 billion industry, with games as varied and ubiquitous as the devices they are played on. All modern-day players and developers owe at least part of their success to that early sci-fi strategy invention.

Early this past December, around 300 attendees — including many of the most renowned and celebrated members of the video game industry — gathered at the Smithsonian National Museum of History in Washington D.C. to pay tribute to “Spacewar!” and its founders. Christopher Weaver, the Distinguished Professor of Computational Media in the College of Integrative Sciences at Wesleyan University, hosted a panel discussion with the seven living members of the eight-person team: Martin Graetz, Steve Russell, Robert Saunders, Steven Piner, Wayne Wiitanen, Dan Edwards and Peter Samson (Alan Kotok passed away in 2006).

Weaver is himself an MIT graduate, as well as the founder of Bethesda Softworks, a video game publishing company that launched in 1986 and is known for its The Elder Scrolls series, among many other popular titles. In 2017, Weaver was appointed a Distinguished Scholar in the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation and installed as the co-Director of the Videogame Pioneers Initiative (VPI).

“By recording and archiving the stories of the industry’s creators, the Lemelson Center is gathering a trove of seminal material to help uncover many of the fundamental threads of invention and innovation that go into making every creative industry,” Weaver said in a recent message. “The Spacewar event was the first of its kind in the Innovative Lives program at the Smithsonian. Based upon the success of that event, there are already plans to make similar events an annual occurrence.”

To read more, see the magazine’s full write-up of the event and the game’s interesting history.

Thornton Leaving Legacy of Student of Color Recruitment at Wesleyan

Since joining Wesleyan in 1985, Thornton has been instrumental in establishing and leading the University’s historic commitment to a diverse and academically elite student body, a defining feature of the Wesleyan experience. As he wraps up his final fall semester, Thornton took time to sit down in his office across Foss Hill and reflect on his accomplishments, Wesleyan’s future, and some of his fondest memories.

Since joining Wesleyan in 1985, Cliff Thornton, associate dean of admission at Wesleyan has been instrumental in establishing and leading the University’s historic commitment to a diverse and academically elite student body, a defining feature of the Wesleyan experience. Having served Wesleyan—now for more than 30 years, Thornton recently announced that he will retire at the end of the Spring 2019 semester. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

To listen to Cliff Thornton speak with prospective students and parents is to feel included, even if you’re eavesdropping.

Thornton is associate dean of admission at Wesleyan, covering a wide geographic and socioeconomic range: the South Central U.S. from Kentucky to Louisiana, Manhattan, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean. Having served these communities—and Wesleyan—now for more than 30 years, it makes sense that he would demonstrate an ease and fluency in his relations with so many different people from such different backgrounds. He’s had a lot of practice.

But something unique about Thornton, which by many accounts has been true from the beginning of his time at Wesleyan, is how his holistic approach impacts students. To hear him tell it:

“Alumni will often start out by saying to me, ‘You probably don’t remember me, but I graduated from Wesleyan in 1995….’ And I always remember them. That’s why I’ve continued to do this work. I’ve had the privilege to witness their growth and success,” Thornton said.

“Working in admission is good in two ways. First, it’s great to be in an educational environment and to believe in the mission. Second, if practiced correctly, it’s a lot like teaching. It might surprise some to hear this, but at the end of the day I don’t consider it my job to make sure a student comes to Wesleyan. My job is to help them make an informed decision. Particularly with underrepresented populations, this is a big challenge. As Dr. Cornel West has said of the African American community: What we often suffer from is a poverty of information. That’s a driving force for me—making sure students have the right information to make such a crucial decision.”

This approach bears itself out in Thornton’s work on a daily basis. In a recent information session with a large group of prospective students and parents, he was clear that the session should be a conversation. Hearing and helping the group talk through their questions and concerns was as important as presenting to them. Fifteen minutes in, students and parents alike were openly talking about their college search experiences (good and bad), and were responding to and assisting one another. Thornton and senior interviewer Shana Laski ’19 served more as facilitators than lecturers. By the session’s end, the prospective group left informed and enthused—well-educated on what Wesleyan had to offer, and clearer about what they wanted and had to offer in turn.

Thornton’s unique understanding and approach at least partially derives from his own educational background. Prior to joining Wesleyan in 1985, he was an adjunct professor and actively considering a PhD. While dating someone who was already enrolled in a doctorate program, he was exposed to the “torturous path” of attaining that terminal degree, and was bumped from his adjunct role by another professor with a PhD.

“I lost my taste for wanting to be a professor,” he said.

Kottos Awarded $2.8M DARPA Grant for High-Level Photonic Research

Led by Professor of Physics Tsampikos Kottos, Wesleyan will serve as the lead institution for a four-year grant developing cutting-edge technology toward the next generation of navigation systems, optical diodes, efficient frequency converters for night vision, and high-powered filters.

Led by Professor of Physics Tsampikos Kottos, Wesleyan will serve as the lead institution for a four-year grant developing cutting-edge technology toward the next generation of navigation systems, optical diodes, efficient frequency converters for night vision, and high-powered filters.

Tsampikos Kottos, professor of physics, and Wesleyan University will lead a complex, multi-institution initiative to research and develop the next generation of national instrumentation technology thanks to a four-year, $2,794,606 grant from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Awarded this August, the grant is the culmination of at least eight years of photonics research by Kottos and his fellow collaborators, and will have significant implications for the future of a variety of technologies employed by the federal government and the private sector. An agency of the US Department of Defense, DARPA funds research and development projects that push the boundaries of technology and science. The focus of Kottos’s project is to “develop models and photonic devices that utilize dynamical (hidden) symmetries in order to achieve extreme light-matter interactions” and has three main targets:

  • Target 1: Develop the next generation of navigation instruments by designing photonic architectures with an extreme response to small perturbations. The goal is to use them to hone gyroscopes and accelerometers, which measure and guide the rotation and maneuvers of vehicles like race cars and jet airplanes.
  • Target 2: Utilize the temporal dimension (or time) as an altogether different degree of freedom in order to manipulate the flow of light. Applications vary from efficient night vision cameras, to management of thermal radiation in turbine aircraft engines.
  • Target 3: Investigate how to protect sensitive sensors from high-powered sources—this could include a pilot’s eyes from a laser source, an antenna from a directed electromagnetic burst, or a radar receiver from its own outbound signal.

6 Wesleyan Alumni Named to Top Nonprofit Leaders List

Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87; David Jones ’70; Phoebe Boyer ’89; Sharon Greenberger ’88, P’19; David Rivel ’83; and Alan Mucatel ’84 were recently honored for their contributions to social services and nonprofit organizations in New York with their inclusion in “The 2018 Nonprofit Power 50,” representing a strong showing by Wesleyan alumni in the 50-person list. The list was produced by City & State New York, a self-described nonpartisan media organization that covers New York’s local and state politics and policy.

“…The nonprofit and philanthropic sectors tend to go unnoticed and are all too often unheralded,” the publication wrote. “But behind them is a roster of figures who are ensuring the delivery of services, exploring innovative solutions and influencing public policy. In this special feature, we recognize 50 top nonprofit leaders who are key players in the world of New York politics and government.”

The six alumni biographies are excerpted below: (More information on their achievements is described on the City & State New York’s website.)

  • Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87
    • “For nearly two decades, the former first deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services has expanded the organization’s services, which now reach more than 10,000 New Yorkers annually.”

Wesleyan Launches New Home Page

On Thursday, Sept. 20, Wesleyan University launched a new home page, part of a broader core messaging effort to update and strengthen University-wide communications.

The home page design process was driven by rigorous analysis of usage statistics and by examining best practices for websites. The home page’s state-of-the-art functionality is intended to differentiate Wesleyan in an increasingly crowded and competitive higher education landscape, and to highlight the University’s distinctive qualities.

Dierker, Rose Win $2.8M NSF Award for Innovative Approach to Teaching Statistics

Lisa Dierker

Wesleyan professors Lisa Dierker and Jennifer Rose were recently awarded a $2.8 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to extend and disseminate their research on passion-driven statistics. The grant begins in the fall of 2018 and extends through 2023.

Recognizing the rapidly increasing importance of data-oriented skills in the modern workforce, passion-driven statistics was developed as a novel approach to make statistics and quantitative methods courses more accessible and engaging, particularly for traditionally marginalized students. It moves away from canned exercises, toward more applied, real-world, project-based learning experiences.

”An empowering curriculum needs to rise to many challenges,” Dierker said. “Those include promoting inquiry across a wide range of disciplines, building new skills as challenges arise, facilitating the use of modern computing tools, providing support for students regardless of educational background, and framing statistics as an exciting set of tools for understanding a complex world. We are confident in and excited about this project’s ability to do all of that.”