Christian Camerota

Editor, Wesleyan University Magazine

Wesleyan Releases Detailed Plans for Campus Reactivation

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Following a March move to remote learning because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesleyan has released a detailed set of plans and launched a new Reactivating Campus website, which will serve as a key information hub for the campus community, as the University prepares to reopen to in-person instruction for the 2020 fall semester.

Wesleyan announced in mid-June that it intended to resume in-person classes on Aug. 31, pending the ongoing recommendations of University, state, and federal health and safety experts. With a promising current public health trajectory in Connecticut and in Middletown, the University’s pandemic planning group is continuing to refine plans for the coming semester and guiding Wesleyan through a series of gating checkpoints in accordance with state guidelines.

Wesleyan Announces Initial Plans to Reactivate Campus in the Fall

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Wesleyan President Michael Roth announced that in-person classes will resume for the fall 2020 semester.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 announced in an all-campus message on Monday, June 15, that the University plans to resume in-person classes in the fall, pending the ongoing recommendations of University, state, and federal health and safety experts.

“Given the current public health trajectory for Connecticut, we are hoping to welcome most students, faculty, and staff back to Middletown in safe conditions in late August,” President Roth wrote. “One thing we are certain about: it will be good to be together again—safely—on campus.”

Roth noted that the coming semester will look different than those of the past because of the additional safety measures and adjustments to campus and curricular offerings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The University has convened a contingency planning workgroup, which has proposed that 2020 fall semester classes begin on campus August 31 (one week earlier than initially scheduled), with the possibility of finishing online after Thanksgiving, allowing for more time on campus during the warmer months of the year. Food services and residence halls will be organized with safety in mind, as will classrooms and co-curricular activities, and the University does expect to offer athletes on-campus programs; it will, however, limit visitors to and excursions from campus to reduce the possible spread of any illness. Distance- and hybrid-learning options will be made available to those students unable to return to campus.

Alumni of Color Help Wesleyan Plot a Path ‘Toward an Anti-Racist Community’

The recent death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man killed while being forcibly detained by police, has ignited the United States and brought issues of inequality and violence against black people to the forefront of the national consciousness.

Alison Williams ’81, vice president for equity and inclusion/Title IX officer, and Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 hosted a panel discussion on Thursday, June 11, titled “Toward an Anti-Racist Community,” featuring six alumni of color who discussed how to move beyond the pain and trauma of the current cultural moment toward constructive action.

“What I hope is that this will be the beginning of many conversations that lead to transformation both at Wesleyan and beyond,” Williams said. “This requires that we first take a look at our own attitudes and biases and do some personal work. . . . Until we do the personal work, any structural or institutional changes that we implement will be meaningless.”

“We feel confused, angry,” President Roth said during his panel introduction. “Sometimes energized, sometimes full of despair. When I have that mixture of feelings, I turn to friends and colleagues . . . I want to listen.”

Wesleyan, Notable Alumni Welcome the Class of 2024

A WesFest campus tour passes through College Row on April 17.

Prospective students and their families tour campus in April 2019. This April, Wesleyan offered admission to 2,531 students to enter the Class of 2024.

Wesleyan received 12,752 applications for its Class of 2024, offering admission to 2,531 students (19.8%) from a competitive, diverse applicant pool.

Class of 2024“In one of Wesleyan’s most competitive years, we selected students as much for their character and personal promise as their outstanding achievements and talents,” said Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96. “I am proud of the fact that, statistically, the Class of 2024 is among the most distinguished group of students ever admitted who will undoubtedly contribute to our educational community in dynamic ways. They are bright, motivated individuals who love learning and are eager to make an impact. We, in turn, are eager to welcome them to campus and assist them in those efforts.”

Admitted students hail from 51 different countries, with international students making up 10% of the admitted class and 83% living outside of New England. Nearly half (49%) are students of color and 13% are the first generation in their family to attend college.

Adapting to a New Normal at Wesleyan

The central consideration for Wesleyan’s faculty and administration during the transition to a distance-learning model as a result of the threat of COVID-19 has been how best to support students (particularly those who are high-need or have extenuating personal circumstances) and ensure the continuity of their Wesleyan experience.

“We say we’re a caring community,” President Michael Roth ’78 noted in an all-staff call on Tuesday, March 17. “Now is the time to prove that. We are practiced at pulling together, usually on joyous occasions. But right now, we have to prioritize flexibility for our students, faculty, and staff so that they stay as healthy as possible…and I’m very grateful to them for figuring out how to retool classes and deliver a rewarding Wesleyan experience remotely.”

Academic Support

remote learningThe hallmark of a Wesleyan education has long been the rich personal interactions between faculty and students. Recreating that in the online space has posed an interesting challenge for faculty, but it has come as no surprise to Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, to see them rise to it.

“It’s so impressive the way faculty have just jumped into this,” Rosenthal said. “Together, we are figuring out ways to deliver a Wesleyan education that we had never envisioned three weeks ago. It’s inspiring to me.”

Stanton Announced as Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

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Nicole Stanton.

Nicole Stanton has been announced as Wesleyan University’s 12th Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, with her tenure beginning on May 15, 2020.

Stanton joined Wesleyan in 2007 as an associate professor of dance, has twice served as chair of the department (2008–2011; 2014–2017) and is currently serving as Dean of the Arts and Humanities. A dance artist and an educator by training, Nicole’s work explores the cultures and histories of the African diaspora, especially the ways in which the arts and dance serve as sites of reclamation and platforms for cultivating community. Nicole earned a BA in dance and foreign civilizations and languages/European studies from Antioch College and an MFA in dance from The Ohio State University, where she was both an assistant and associate professor of dance and undergraduate studies chair from 2004 to 2007.

“At a time of rapid change in our field and country, Nicole’s inclusive leadership style and focus on shared governance will be critical in helping Wesleyan strengthen and hone its distinctive brand of liberal education going forward,” said President Michael S. Roth ’78. “She is the right choice at the right time for Wesleyan. I look forward to working with her.”

Wesleyan Awards 763 BA Degrees at 187th Commencement


Graduates, their families, and other members of the Wesleyan community gathered on Andrus Field for the 187th Commencement ceremony on warm, sunny Sunday, May 26. Wesleyan conferred 763 bachelor of arts degrees; 44 master of arts degrees; 22 master of arts in liberal studies degrees; and 11 doctor of philosophy degrees. (Watch the entire Commencement ceremony online here.)

Saidiya Hartman ’84, professor of English and comparative literature and women’s and gender studies at Columbia University, delivered the Commencement address

President Roth Makes Remarks at 2019 Commencement

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President Michael Roth ’78 delivered remarks during Wesleyan’s 187th Commencement ceremony on May 26.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 made the following remarks (as prepared) during the 187th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 26:

Members of the Board of Trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees and the mighty Class of 2019, I am honored to present some brief remarks on the occasion of this Commencement.

I’d like to ask those graduating today to remember the months before you left for college. Do you recall the excitement, nervousness, and anticipation you felt when you first arrived on campus? Meeting your roommates for the first time, getting your first pail from WesWings, discovering that watching volleyball can be terrifically exciting? As your Wesleyan adventure was beginning and your life was changing, the political life of this nation was also changing, though not for the better. Would-be leaders were abandoning the debate of issues in favor of nastiness and name calling, as they tried to figure out how to energize the base of their respective constituencies. The search for coherent policies, for value-driven strategies, or for pragmatic solutions took a back seat to intemperate appeals to racism, class resentment, divisiveness, and greed. Now, in 2019, the goal of mobilizing supporters with rage has been cemented into our national political culture. That’s the culture you now graduate into; that’s the culture we need your help fixing. The post-fascists tell us inquiry and persuasion no longer matter; we need your help in proving them wrong; we need your help in overcoming their corrosive, corrupt, and cynical point of view.

And with what you have learned here and skills you have gained, you CAN help. Some of you have studied government, others economics, while still others have taken a humanistic approach to comprehending how power, justice, and opportunity might be distributed more fairly, even more compassionately. Data analysts, like those who have worked with the Wesleyan Media Project, have illuminated the ways political communication is influenced by funding and by diverse technological platforms. Ethnographers, like those who have worked with our activist Anthropology faculty, have learned how to listen to and tell the stories of those most affected by policies otherwise made without their input. There is also a more general frame of mind cultivated at Wesleyan that is crucial to political life: and that is the openness to being persuaded to change one’s mind—to seek out those from whom you can gain new perspectives and ideas precisely because they don’t share your point of view. A campus is the place to have one’s ways of thinking tested—not just protected. If we are to repair our public life, we must develop habits of mind and spirit that allow us not just to celebrate diversity, but to learn from difference.

One of the reasons I love being president of our school is that I learn so much from the enthusiasms, the convictions, and the reasoned arguments of our students. Over the last four years, I have been energized by the hard work of activists aiming to eradicate the persistent poison of sexual violence, and I have been schooled by students who have faced up to the immense challenges of combating climate change, or who struggle against economic inequality. Students of faith have shown me how religious practice and rigorous inquiry can be combined, and conservative students have taught me to be mindful that even well-intentioned policies can undermine our freedoms. There have been many times when our campus community seems to come together in recognition of unjust situations that need fixing, but it has also been clear that there can be plenty of disagreement about what would constitute effective solutions that don’t themselves create even graver injustices. On our best days, we are able to explore our differences without fear; on our best days, we are able to work toward positive change with courage.

Now, as you take on new challenges beyond the University, we are counting on you. We are counting on you to reject the dismissal of norms for telling the truth and the labeling of anything one doesn’t like as “Fake” or as “Inappropriate.” We are counting on you to protect the freedom to think for oneself and to speak one’s mind, especially in situations where people disagree. We are counting on you to show others the power of listening to those with whom you have conflicts. We are counting on you to move beyond accumulating online followers to earning the respect of strangers—turning them into neighbors, teammates, friends who can work together.

Over these four years, I have gotten to know many of you in my classes, in student government, and even in demonstrations. In your courageous company I feel we may well be able to reject the cynical status quo that mobilizes rage, that we may be able to build a politics and a culture of compassionate solidarity rather than of fear and divisiveness.

Generations of Wesleyan alumni have benefited from this campus culture characterized by brave, practical idealism. As I say each year, we Wesleyans have used our education for the ‘good of the world,’ lest the future be shaped by those for whom justice and change, generosity and equality, diversity and tolerance, are much too threatening. Now we alumni are counting on you, Class of 2019, to join us in helping to shape our culture, so that it will not be shaped by the forces of violence, conformity, and elitism.

We are counting on you because we have already seen what you are capable of when you have the freedom and the tools, the mentors and the friendships, the insight and the affection to go beyond what others have defined as your limits. We know that in the years ahead you will explore unfamiliar realms and see possibilities that others might not. We know that you will find new ways to make connections across cultural borders—new ways to build community. When this happens, you will feel the power and promise of your education. And we, your Wesleyan family, we will be proud of how you keep your education alive by making it effective in the world.

It’s been nearly four years since we unloaded cars together at the base of Foss Hill, four years since parents shed (or maybe hid) a tear as they left you here “on your own.” It seems like such a short time ago. Now it’s you who are leaving us, but do remember that no matter how “on your own” you feel yourselves to be “out there,” you will always be members of the Wesleyan family. Wherever your exciting pursuits take you, please come home to alma mater often to share your news, your memories, and your dreams. Thank you and good luck!

Rev. Edwin Sanders ’69 Makes Remarks at 2019 Commencement

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Rev. Edwin Sanders II ’69 received an honorary degree naming him an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters during Commencement, May 26.

Reverend Edwin C. Sanders II ’69 and Wesleyan President Michael Roth

Reverend Edwin C. Sanders II ’69 and Wesleyan President Michael Roth

The Reverend Edwin C. Sanders II ’69 is the senior servant and founder of Metropolitan Interdenominational Church (established 1981) in Nashville, Tennessee. An anthropology major while at Wesleyan, Rev. Sanders began his career as co-director of Wesleyan’s African American Institute, later serving on Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees and receiving the University’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2014. He pursued graduate studies at Yale’s and Vanderbilt’s divinity schools, has been a member of advisory committees and councils for the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations, and has spoken at numerous international AIDS conferences. Rev. Sanders is the founding chair and current ambassador of the HIV Vaccine Trails Network Legacy Project Advisory Group designed to increase the participation of African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Pacific Islanders in HIV vaccine studies; and he serves on the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Scientific Advisory Board and the Boards of National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), the Drug Policy Alliance, and the Black AIDS Institute.

Sanders’s speech is below:

When I think about the Class of 1969, of which I was a part, I realize that perhaps we have come a long way and there are some majors ways in which the experience here at Wesleyan helped to shape the responses we have been able to bring forth in many arenas. I won’t even begin to try to enumerate the many arenas in which we have come to play roles in professional life, as well as community life, and that allow us to be true citizens of the world. But I would say this to you: what we discovered in the relationship to developing our consciousness would allow us to be the ones who would promote and advance social justice for all people–that is something that we did a job of trying to develop in the mid-60s. Today, the 21st century realities that we face probably demand a kind of appreciation or a social justice consciousness that is equally great to that which we had 50 years ago.

When I think about celebrating the fact that we now have a department of African American studies [applause] that has been initiated on this campus, I’m excited, I’m thrilled, but I want you to know that I also have to realize that it is the demand that we made 50 years ago. And I pray that it will not be your 50th reunion before you see many of the other things that you know are a part of what will make this place that we have come to refer to very often as “Diversity University” the place that really represents the level of inclusiveness and welcome that takes us to new levels. And our years at Wesleyan are of major significance, especially as relates to developing the social justice consciousness that is necessary to address our 21st century realities.

Four hundred years ago, the horror of slavery became a defining moment in the history of this country. In 1831, this institution was established, and even though from the beginning there have been some gestures to correct the social sickness of racism, it was not until 1965 that the bold step of inclusion, which allows me to be able to stand here today, was taken. There are many such steps that still have to be taken.

I am honored to represent this era and I pray that this day will represent a day of rededication, a day of reconsecration, a day of new awareness, appreciation, and understanding of the power each and every one of us can bring to bear in the arenas of life that will be before us. And I pray that the academic environment at Wesleyan University will promote and encourage agents of truth and change, and that that is something that will never be dissipated. I can never begin to call all the names of all of those who have been a part of my life as a result of classroom experiences and relationships I have had here. But one thing I do know is that as we go forward, the experiences that you’ve had, those who have encouraged you, those who allowed you to become aware of the things that too often get swept under the rug and not dealt with forthrightly in institutions of higher learning, are things that you will carry with you.

I’m going to leave one thing that I would have you carry with you. I must admit I picked up the Wesleyan songbook the other day and I found myself realizing that I really don’t know any of those songs [laughter]. But there were songs that we sang and one of those songs I want to sing with you right now. I want to encourage you to sing it, and if there are those that are bold enough and believe enough in it, I’m sure you will sing it with me. A few years ago, an honorary degree was conferred upon Bernice Reagon, who most of you all know for her work with Sweet Honey and the Rock. So, if you will and if you feel it’s part of something you can embrace, sing with me and if you want to be bold enough, you can stand while you sing the simple words I pray you’ll carry with you (even if you never learned any of the songs in the Wesleyan songbook). The song simply says:

[singing] “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”

Wilson Receives Baldwin Medal During 187th Commencement Ceremony

2019 Baldwin Award

President Michael Roth with Baldwin Medal recipient Barbara-Jan Wilson at Wesleyan’s 187th Commencement, May 26. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

At the University’s 187th Commencement on May 26, Wesleyan presented 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.”

The Vanguard Class of 1969 Offers Reflections After 50 Years

Steve Pfeiffer ’69, Bernard Freamon ’69, and Barry Checkoway ’69 addressed a standing-room-only seminar on May 25.

On Feb. 21, 1969, black students, faculty, and staff staged a historic takeover of Fisk Hall, Wesleyan’s main academic building at the time, to protest racism and advocate for increased administrative support for people of color at the University. Dubbed the “Vanguard Class” for their place at the forefront of that movement, several members of the Class of 1969 reconvened at Fisk Hall on Saturday, May 25, 2019, to reflect on what being a part of that momentous event 50 years earlier has meant for them and for Wesleyan since.

Speaking to more than 100 attendees in a standing-room-only crowd, the panel included moderator Alford Young ’88, Howard Brown ’69, Barry Checkoway ’69, Bernard Freamon ’69, Steve Pfeiffer ’69, and Rev. Edwin Sanders ’69 and featured each panelist’s personal recollection of the watershed moment, as well as a brief discussion of how life at the University for students and people of color—both on and off campus—continues to evolve today. That evolution has included Wesleyan faculty voting African American Studies into full departmental status in December 2018.

“At most 50th reunions, you are celebrating and remembering football games, or the glee club,” said President Michael Roth ’78 during his introduction. “Not at Wesleyan. We’re unusual in that we celebrate the takeover of a building and waking up administrations to get them to do the right thing . . . and the Vanguard Class marks that important turning point in Wesleyan’s history.”

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!”