Cynthia Rockwell

McAlear Visits Former Students Odede ’09, ’12, and Perel-Slater ’11 at Non-Profits in Africa

Professor Michael McAlear gathers with students at Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede in Kibera, Africa. 

In 2010 Professor Michael McAlear first gathered with students at Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede in Kibera, Kenya, offering a lecture on clean water. This year on his visit during spring break, he again gave a lecture to these students, now pre-teens and young teenagers, who filled his Q&A session with their concerns, interest, ideas, and a deep desire to learn.

In March, during Wesleyan’s spring break, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Michael McAlear took a trip to visit and catch up with three alumni whom he’d known when they were undergraduates, just beginning the nonprofits for which they are now known. McAlear doesn’t see them often: they live and work in Africa. All three had received Wesleyan’s Christopher Brodigan Award in their senior year, for research or work in Africa.

Kennedy Odede '12, Mike McAlear and Jessica ’09 Odede.

Pictured from left are Kennedy Odede ’12, Mike McAlear and Jessica Posner Odede ’09.

McAlear’s first stop was in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, and home of SHOFCO, Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede. Linking education for girls with community services, the organization has grown since McAlear had last visited in 2010 to help set up the school, when it held only two classes of girls ages 6 and 7, and the group was building a clinic was built to honor Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, the student slain in the spring of 2009. At that time, McAlear offered the young students a lecture on clean water and also became a sponsor for one little girl, a responsibility and relationship that is ongoing,

“I was overwhelmed by the need in Kibera— and the optimism and fearlessness of Kennedy and Jessica; you couldn’t help being swept up by that,” McAlear recalls. “They were so young and naïve that they didn’t know what they couldn’t do—so they just kept on doing things.”

Appadurai ’00 Speaks on Food Justice and Sustainability at 2017 Americas Forum

Alok Appadurai ’00, co-founder of Fed by Threads, spoke on "Food Justice and Sustainability" at the 2017 Americas Forum, April 28. (Photo by rebecca Goldfarb Terry '19)

Alok Appadurai ’00, founder of GoodElephant.org, spoke on “Food Justice and Sustainability” at the 2017 Americas Forum, April 28. (Photo by Reebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)

Alok Appadurai ’00, co-founder of Fed by Threads, the first sustainable, sweatshop-free, multi-brand, American-made organic vegan clothing store in the United States that has used a portion of its profits to feed over half a million meals to Americans in need, offered the keynote speech on  “Food Justice and Sustainability” at the 2017 Americas Forum, held at the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall on April 28. He has recently founded GoodElephant.org, designed to create a global “herd” that will work on changing the world by nurturing compassion and empathy to promote social and environmental reform—and his book, Good Elephant, will be published later this year. Appadurai’s post-Wesleyan career highlights the interests he explored at Wesleyan, where he built his own concentration in American Studies that incorporated colonialism, workers’ rights, utopian communities, the environment, and gender/class issues.

Appadurai’s talk “The Compassion Famine: Exploring The Unspoken Solutions To Hunger In America,” offered solutions to end what he calls “the compassion famine” and bring about food justice. The process begins, he says, with each person imagining a world without hunger. “While a world without hunger seems remote, we first need to each hold the idea as a possibility, before we could make this come true,” he says. He also asked his audience to “change what we imagine the face of hunger to look like.” Not just a problem for the developing nations, food insecurity is a problem that forty million people in the United States face. Yet—”We also throw out nearly 40 percent of our food—which goes to landfills and causes greenhouse gasses,” he adds.

2017 McNair Fellows Present Research Projects in Senior Talks

The Senior McNair Fellows who spoke on April 18 are part of the cohort of 10 who are presenting their undergraduate research projects this year. From left to right: Nicholas Morgan ’17 (majoring in economics), Stacy Uchendu (majoring in chemistry), Hanna Morales Hernandez (majoring in chemistry) , and Cindy Flores (majoring in earth and environmental science).

The Senior McNair Fellows who spoke on April 18 are part of the cohort of 10 who are presenting their undergraduate research projects this year. From left to right: Nicholas Morgan ’17 (majoring in economics), Stacy Uchendu (majoring in chemistry), Hanna Morales Hernandez (majoring in chemistry) , and Cindy Flores (majoring in earth and environmental science).

This spring, the 10 McNair Fellows of the Wesleyan Class of  2017 are presenting their undergraduate research projects at Senior Talks on Thursdays at noon from April 18 through May 4, in Allbritton 311. The presentations describe the research that students have conducted with Wesleyan faculty mentors. Many of these projects also are the subject of student theses or final papers presented for the Wesleyan BA requirements.

The Wesleyan University Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program, established in 2007, assists students from underrepresented groups with preparing for, entering, and progressing successfully through postgraduate education by providing guidance, research opportunities, and academic and financial support to students planning to pursue PhDs. Junior and Senior Fellows do research with faculty mentors and participate in

Wildman ’96 Speaks on ‘Paper Love’ for Annual Frankel Lecture

Emil Frankel ’61 congratulates Sarah Wildman ’88, who presented the 36th annual Samuel and Dorothy Frankel Memorial Lecture, which honors his parents.

Emil Frankel ’61 thanks and congratulates Sarah Wildman ’96, who presented the 36th annual Samuel and Dorothy Frankel Memorial Lecture, which honors his parents.

Sarah Wildman ’96, an award-winning writer and regular contributor to the New York Times, presented the 36th Annual Samuel and Dorothy Frankel Memorial Lecture on April 5, in the Daniel Family Common at Usdan University Center. The event was sponsored by the Center for Jewish Studies and organized by Dalit Katz, director of the center.

Wildman spoke on what she’d learned about the Holocaust in writing Paper Love: Searching for the Girl my Grandfather Left Behind (Riverhead Penguin, 2014).

The story began for her, she recalled, when, after her grandfather’s death, she came across a box that had been his, containing dozens of letters from a woman named Valy—or Valerie Scheftel—addressed to her grandfather. It was clear that the two, who had been medical school students together at the University of Prague before World War II, were sweethearts. When Wildman’s grandfather and family fled Europe, Valy had remained behind.

“Oh, that was your grandfather’s true love,” her grandmother told Wildman when she’d asked.

Wildman realized then that the comforting story she’d heard as a child—that their family had all escaped together—was not entirely true, and she began searching for this woman whose story remained only in a box of letters.

Wildman detailed the search with her Wesleyan audience—the libraries visited, the letters read and researched, and the visit to the International Tracing Service in the far western point of Germany. At this repository of everything the Allies had gathered when they liberated Nazi territory, Wildman found that someone else had been looking for Valy, as well. She finally meets the youngest daughter of this searcher in England, and learns much more of the context.

“As naive as it was to think my grandfather had escaped with everyone, it was also naive to think I could tell a story about a single person without trying to understand the community she was living in,” Wildman said.

When asked about Valerie’s fate, Wildman demurred. “I don’t like to talk about her fate when I talk about the book. I find that we flatten the experience of the war into the final outcome,” she said.

“What I really wanted to do with this book is actually look at the day-to-day and really dig in to what it would mean to be a woman, a professional, someone who doesn’t necessarily want to get married, who sounds completely modern, who just wants to be recognized as a doctor….

“There are a lot of letters out there that are not considered ‘interesting to history’ and I wanted to reconsider what we think is important and why. What did it mean to be a regular person, upon whom this happened? These are voices we don’t hear. Letters tell us a huge amount; they are an important source to learn about women and about daily life.”

As for whether Valerie had been her grandfather’s true love, Wildman said the question might not be the right one:

“I believe he loved my grandmother,” she said. “I came to believe that the idea of ‘true love’ in this sense was not just Valy, but also stood for the life he had lived until age 26, which literally ceased to exist after that point. His ‘true love,’ then, was really everything of his past; it was that whole world. And Valy, in some ways, represented that world.”

Homeless Services CEO Rosenblatt ’87 Develops Affordable Housing in NYC

Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87, president and CEO of the Bowery Residents Committee in New York City, was interviewed by Crains for the organizations new foray into developing affordable housing.

Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87, president and CEO of the Bowery Residents Committee in New York City, was interviewed by Crains for the organizations new foray into developing affordable housing.

Muzzy  Rosenblatt ’87, president and CEO of The Bowery Residents Committee (BRC), a nonprofit offering services to people who are homeless in New York City, caught the attention of Crain’s New York for his organization’s recent foray into affordable housing development.

In the article by Judy Messina, Rosenblatt explains the reason for this new focus: “In our workforce program, we were seeing more and more people finding jobs, but in the shelters that we run for the Department of Homeless Services, fewer people were moving out, and they were coming back at a higher rate. … We had to find a way to help.”

The shelter system, he explained, can only work if there is turnover. With recidivism so high, the organization realized they needed a new option. Calling it an “aha” moment, he explained to Messina: “We could build a 200-bed shelter, take the income that a private developer would have taken out as profit and use it to leverage low-income housing.”

The BRC sought a location near subway and bus routes to because “We don’t believe poor people should be shunted to the edges” and made it clear to current residents of Landing Road in South Bronx that BRC’s investment is a commitment to the community: the organization is both responsive and accessible to their neighbors.

Rosenblatt says that the model they are creating is not only replicable and affordable, but also saves money otherwise lost to third-party developers. Messina note that Rosenblatt is “upending traditional models.”

“We should expect nonprofits to be entrepreneurial, disruptive and problem-solving,” says Rosenblatt, who was profiled for his work at the Bowery Residents Committee in the Wesleyan magazine in 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

O’Shaughnessy ’08, Springer ’13, Pasarow ’13 Offer Career Advice in Publishing

Three young alumni in the publishing industry Anabel Pasarow ’13, Danielle Spring ’16, and Caitlin O'Shaughnessy ’08, returned to campus to offer tips and answer questions at a panel discussion sponsored by the English Department.

Three alumnae in the publishing industry, Anabel Pasarow ’16, Danielle Springer ’13 and Caitlin O’Shaughnessy ’08, returned to campus on Feb. 24 to offer tips and answer questions at a panel discussion.

On Feb. 24, three recent Wesleyan alumnae returned to campus for a panel conversation on “Finding a Career Path in Publishing.” The event, held in Downey House, was co-sponsored by the Department of English, Writing Programs and the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing.

Caitlin O’Shaughnessy ’08, Anabel Pasarow ’16, and Danielle Springer ’13 traced their career history and offered encouragement and tips to undergraduate audience.

O’Shaughnessy, marketing manager at Penguin Press, a division of Penguin Random House, had previously worked as an editor at Viking, and in publicity at InStyle magazine. Currently, she is also part-time student in the MBA program at NYU Stern. “Anabel, Danielle, and I talk about Wesleyan all the time at Penguin,” said O’Shaughnessy, “It was really interesting to compare our paths and try to figure out the best advice to impart to future Wes grads who are looking to get into the business.”

Springer, an editorial and publisher’s assistant at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, previously worked in publicity at Dutton Books. In preparation for her career, she had attended the Denver Publishing Institute. Glad to return to campus and experiencing a certain degree of nostalgia, Springer says she found it “very rewarding being the ‘expert’ on a topic,” also commenting on the high turnout for the Friday afternoon event, “considering that it was a gorgeous warm day and Foss Hill was surely calling”—and by the questions that were asked.

Pasarow, an editorial assistant at G.P. Putnam’s Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House, majored in English and math—and finds both useful in her career. “I was so happy to be a part of this panel,” she said, adding, “I haven’t been out of school for very long, so returning to campus sort of felt like returning home. It was great to see familiar faces in Downey, where I spent so much of my time at Wes.”

Professor of English Stephanie Kuduk Weiner, who chairs the department, was also pleased to see “successful Wesleyan graduates returning to campus to give back to current students.” Grateful to the panelists, Weiner emphasized the importance of their visit: “Students today are inspired when they have the chance to meet alumni,” she said. “It helps them imagine themselves in the future.”

Wesleyan Oscar Nominees: Miranda ’02, Topping ’89, Lonergan ’84 and Lame ’04

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will hold their annual award ceremony to recognize excellence on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2017, 8:30 p.m., ET. The Academy Awards—or “Oscars”— for releases in 2016 have four film nominations with Wesleyan connections.

Disney’s animated comedy-adventure Moana features the song “How Far I’ll Go.” With music and lyrics both by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, it is one of five nominations in the category Best Original Song and was nominated for Best Animated Feature Film. Common Sense Media reviewer Sandie Angulo Chen writes, “This engaging adventure triumphs because of its empowering storyline, which pays tribute to Polynesian culture, and because of its feel-good music, courtesy of Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda.”

Jenno Topping ’89 is one of the producers of Hidden Figures (20th Century Fox Films), along with Donna Gigliotti, Peter Chernin, Pharrell Williams and Theodore Melfi. The historical drama, about a female team of African-American mathematicians who played a vital role in the nascent years of the US space program, is one of nine films nominated for Best Picture and also received nominations for Writing (Adapted Screenplay) and Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Octavia Spencer). Peter Debruge of Variety called it “empowerment cinema … and one only wishes that the film had existed at the time it depicts.”

Also competing for Best Picture is Manchester by the Sea, which previewed at Sundance and was picked up for distribution by Amazon Studios. Joe Morgenstern of the Wall Street Journal calls it “a drama of surpassing beauty.” Kenneth Lonergan ’84, the writer and director, earned a place as one of five nominees in the “Best Director” category, as well as in Writing (Original Screenplay). Additional nominations included Actor in a Leading Role (Casey Affleck), Actor in a Supporting Role (Lucas Hedges), and Actress in a Supporting Role (Michelle Wiliams). As an additional note, Jennifer Lame ’04 served as film editor for the production.

And in another Wesleyan connection, David Laub, visiting professor in film studies at Wesleyan, is an acquisitions executive at A24, the distributor of Moonlight, the Best Picture nominee of which the New York Times wrote, “And perhaps the most beautiful thing about Moonlight is its open-endedness, its resistance to easy summary or categorization. . . . To be afforded a window into another consciousness is a gift that only art can give. To know Chiron [the film’s main character] is a privilege.”

Bronstein ’89, Selkow ’96 join Reza Aslan for CNN Documentary Series ‘Believer’

“We have to give a shout-out to Jeanine Basinger, who changed all of our lives with her incredible mind and teaching,” Bronstein adds. “Exactly—teaching the principles of story, the foundation of drama and cinema, which we were rigorous in trying to apply to the series.”—Selkow Adds Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies:  “I am really looking forward to seeing this show.  I’m very excited that two of my very best film students, Ben and Liz, are working together on this.  It’s a good example of the collaboration that all students who study film at Wesleyan learn.

Two film alumni, Liz Bronstein ’89 and Ben Selkow ’96 collaborated on the new CNN series, Believer. “We have to give a shout-out to Jeanine Basinger, who changed all of our lives with her incredible mind and teaching,” Bronstein notes.
Selkow concurs, adding “She taught us the principles of story, the foundation of drama and cinema, which we were rigorous in trying to apply to the series.”
For her part, Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies says she’s looking forward to the show. “I’m very excited that two of my very best film students, Ben and Liz, are working together on this. It’s a good example of the collaboration that all students who study film at Wesleyan learn.”

A new CNN original series, Believer with Reza Aslan, premieres Sunday, March 5, at 10 p.m. ET. Billed as a “spiritual adventure series,” in which Aslan, acclaimed author and religious scholar, will “immerse himself in the world’s most fascinating faith-based groups to experience life as a true believer.” The show employs the talents of two alumni who majored in film at Wesleyan: executive producer and show runner Liz Bronstein ’89 and director Ben Selkow ’96. Additionally, Professor of Religion Liza McAlister provided both academic scholarship and on-the-ground connections when the crew traveled to Haiti for the segment on Vodou, which will air as third in the series.

Bronstein joined the project soon after a close friend sold Believer to CNN. “He told me, ‘This is the show you were born to run—and he was right.” Growing up with a “spiritually curious mother” who’d often invite different gurus to their home—and with a sister who’d left to join what the family viewed as a cult—Bronstein welcomed this opportunity “to tell the stories that I’d always wanted to tell.”

She began searching for a nonfiction television director who was also a filmmaker. Selkow fit the bill, and, like Bronstein, came with a unique backstory: he had spent most of his youth living with his mother on a religious commune. Both envisioned the show as an immersive experience. The team formed a tight bond, which became crucial in what Selkow calls “dicey situations.”

In one of these (see the trailer), Aslan is seated on the sand next to a cannibalistic tribe member, whose gestures and mood turn threatening. Aslan calls Selkow over from off-camera for assistance.

“The adage in filmmaking is that when you stop rolling, that’s when the action gets good—so we kept rolling,” Selkow recalls. “And It’s amazing to watch the scene unfold, with Reza slowly realizing that he’s in a perhaps dangerous situation and figuring out how to handle it.”

The new CNN series, Believer with Reza Aslan takes viewers on an immersive tour with the noted scholar, with Liz Bronstein ’89 as executive producer and Ben Selkow ’96 as director.

The new CNN series, Believer with Reza Aslan takes viewers on an immersive tour with the noted scholar, with Liz Bronstein ’89 as executive producer and Ben Selkow ’96 as director. (Photo © Ben Selkow)

One of the biggest challenges in filming the show was gaining access to religious communities that were often closed off and wary of outsiders. Bronstein found that working with academic scholars who had done extensive field research often opened a lot of doors in local communities.

For the episode exploring Vodou in Haiti, she researched foremost scholars: “Everybody we talked to said, ‘Liza McAlister is the one.’”

In the episode, McAlister provides Aslan with both the historical and cultural perspective on Vodou. “But more than that, she acted as an incredible ambassador and helped us get access to people we wouldn’t have known,” said Bronstein.

“You could see her years of work in the community,” said Selkow. “She was deeply trusted—and Reza would mine her for as much info as he could off-camera.”

More than gaining access, integrating cultural knowledge, and immersing themselves in the experience, the filmmakers had a further challenge:

“How are we going to tell stories about religion in a way that’s visually and emotionally exciting?” asks Bronstein. “In hour-long episodes, how will Reza participate? Scenes of people praying and mediating don’t make for the best TV. So figuring out what Reza would be doing was paramount.”

The team worked with a thesis statement for each episode, often finding the dramatic structure through a conflict. “Most episodes look at a religion that’s under siege or at least highly misunderstood for a variety of reasons,” Selkow says.

Bronstein gives an example: “For Scientology, we asked, ‘Is this what a religious reformation looks like?’ We focus on people who have left the Church of Scientology but still believe that L. Ron Hubbard is their prophet. We compare it to the Protestant reformation. The true believers featured in the series feel like, ‘The church may be corrupt, but we’re taking back the religion and doing it our way.'”

Despite preparation, the team found surprises: “With our Wesleyan film background, Liz and I know that you go into each documentary super prepared—and the outline goes out the window the first day your feet hit the ground. We’d watch Reza starting every time with ‘All right; this is what I can expect to happen,’ and then there would be a great revelation and we’d watch him go through that—and it was extraordinary.”

While the show was filmed a year ago, the two agree that the series is even more relevant today. “It demonstrates compassion for others, domestically and globally,” says Selkow.

Bronstein concurs. “During the filming of each segment we had different people on the set look at the camera and finish this sentence: ‘I believe…’. I thought it might be a cool way to end each episode. It was just an experiment we thought we’d try and it ended up working pretty well. Now CNN is doing a campaign where users can send in their own ‘I believe’ videos. In these crazy times there’s so much need for tolerance and respect for others who don’t share your beliefs.”

The production crew of Believer joined Reza Aslan in Mexico for ceremonies celebrating Santa Muerte. (Photo © Ben Selkow)

The production crew of Believer joined Reza Aslan in Mexico for ceremonies honoring Santa Muerte. (Photo © Ben Selkow)

Butler ’90 on JFK’s Legacy

With the approach of the centennial of John F. Kennedy’s birth, it’s fair to ask: Will his legacy endure?
By Tom Kertscher

Emily Jennett Butler '90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, believes the JFK legacy is enduring and relevan today.

Emily Jennett Butler ’90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, believes the JFK legacy is relevant today.

Last July [2016], President Barack Obama signed a law creating the John F. Kennedy Centennial Commission, which will develop and carry out activities to mark the 100th anniversary of Kennedy’s birth on May 29, 2017.

Kennedy, polls have shown, continues to be among the most highly regarded presidents. But only about a third of Americans were alive when he was assassinated in 1963.

So, it’s fair to ask: Will Kennedy will remain relevant?

Emily Jennett Butler ’90, a grant writer at the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation in Boston, says “yes” and offers data to prove her point.

While not everyone, of course, recalls the Kennedy years as an idyllic time, his appeal endures:
● In 2015, the library released an iPad app for kids—“The JFK Challenge”—that was featured as a best new app in the Apple Store. It has been downloaded more than 100,000 times.

● Of the library’s 80,000 Twitter followers, more than 40 percent are age 34 and under; and of its 80,000 Facebook fans, 35 percent are in that age group. On Facebook, the 25-34 age group is the most engaged with the library on Facebook.

● The library recently launched the New Frontier Network, a group for young professionals in the Boston area. Its membership of 350 has doubled in the past year.

“I think most of the people who join the network are looking for ways to give back, and certainly JFK’s call to ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country’ still resonates today,” Butler said. “Part of the New Frontier Network’s focus is service projects in the community. So by joining this group, many members are fulfilling a very strong desire to stay engaged and to make a positive contribution to society, locally and globally. A lot of the people currently in the network are involved in politics and believe strongly, as JFK did, that government can be a force for good.”

“I do think it’s probably good for the national psyche to remember a great leader who brought people together.”

Tom Kertscher is a PolitiFact Wisconsin reporter for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the author of two sports books.

Jasper ’98 Writes/Directs Sundance Hit Patti Cake$

The cast of Patti Cake$: Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, director Geremy Jasper, Danielle Macdonald, and Bridget Everett, which was a Sundance hit. (Photo by Daniel Bergeron)

The cast of Patti Cake$: Mamoudou Athie, Cathy Moriarty, Siddharth Dhananjay, director Geremy Jasper, Danielle Macdonald, and Bridget Everett, which was a Sundance hit. (Photo by Daniel Bergeron)

Patti Cake$, the debut film from writer-director Geremy Jasper ’98, has earned the second-highest deal of Sundance so far this year, with a bid of $9.5 million for distribution rights from Fox Searchlight. Producers are Dan Janvey ’06 and Michael Gottwald ’06; Matthew Greenfield ’90 is senior vice-president of production at Fox Searchlight—all Wesleyan film majors.

Jasper’s film tells the story of Patricia Dombrowski, (played by Danielle Macdonald)—also known as Killa P and Patti Cake$—an aspiring rapper in New Jersey. In his review, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn called the film the “best hip-hop movie since Hustle & Flow.”

The film premiered at Sundance’s Eccles Theater on Monday afternoon, receiving two standing ovations, rave reviews—and the Fox Searchlight deal.

Indiewire’s Chris O’Falt ’99, who was also a film major, interviewed Jasper for “How Patti Cake$ Director Geremy Jasper Went from Indie Rocker to Breakout Filmmaker” and Jasper told him, “It’s probably about as autobiographical a story as I’m capable of telling.” O’Falt described Patti Cake$ as “one of the most-anticipated films hitting Sundance this year, ” which” has put Jasper on Hollywood’s director watchlists.”

In tracing Jasper’s biography, from boyhood in a New Jersey suburb, O’Falt notes the similarity to that of the fictional Patricia Dombrowski.

Jasper, who was an American Studies major, had returned to his parents’ home after college. After touring with his band, Fever, Jasper was introduced to Benh Zeitlin ’06—a Wesleyan film major—through a mutual friend. Zeitlin, who was headed to New Orleans to make his first short film, Glory at Sea, invited Jasper to star in the 2008 project. (Zeitlin’s first feature film, four years later, was Beasts of the Southern Wild in 2012, which won the Grand Jury Prize: Dramatic, at that year’s Sundance Film Festival—among numerous other awards.)

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 again brought Jasper back to parents’ house—this time to help with cleanup—and he began writing rap lyrics, along with the initial version of the Patti Cake$ screenplay. Accepted into the Sundance Writing Lab, with Quentin Tarantino as his first advisor, Jasper wrote nearly a dozen more drafts of his screenplay and was invited back to their Directors Lab.

Reflecting on the process, Jasper told O’Falt, “This has been the most fun, intoxicating and rewarding year of my life making this film….I’m so thankful for the winding path that got me here, but there’s something about it that feels so right about it.”

Neufeld ’79 Named St. Jude Physician-In-Chief, Clinical Director

Ellis Neufeld ’79, MD., PhD, joins St. Jude Children's Research Hospital to lead clinical efforts and patient care programs.

Ellis Neufeld ’79, M.D., PhD, joins St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital to lead clinical efforts and patient care programs.

Ellis Neufeld, M.D., PhD., was appointed clinical director, physician-in-chief and executive vice president of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, an internationally renowned center that pioneers research for and offers treatment to children with catastrophic illnesses. He will begin his new position at the Memphis medical center in March.

Neufeld, a pediatric oncologist with a global profile, is a longtime Harvard Medical School faculty member, serving most recently as associate chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. He was also medical director at the Boston Hemophilia Center and held the Egan Family Foundation Chair in Transitional Medicine at Harvard Medical School as a professor of pediatrics.

In a press releaseSt. Jude President and Chief Executive Officer James Downing, M.D., said: “Dr. Neufeld’s leadership and experience will help steer St. Jude clinical operations as we expand our patient care programs, increase the number of patients treated and work to set the standard for pediatric cancer care delivery.”

A biology and chemistry major at Wesleyan who was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, Neufeld earned his doctoral degrees at Washington University in St. Louis. He completed specialty training in pediatrics and medical genetics at Boston Children’s Hospital and in pediatric hematology/oncology at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Boston Children’s.

 

Bissell ’88 Balances Social Impact, Scale in Ethnic Goods Retailer Fabindia

William Bissell is on the cover of Forbes Magazine in India.

William Bissell ’88 is on the cover of Forbes India.

William Bissell ’88, managing director of Fabindia, a retail enterprise begun by Bissell’s father, John, in 1960, is featured on the cover of Forbes India on Jan. 20, a special issue on social impact. “A Fab New World: Not Only is Ethnic Goods Retailer Fabinidia Spreading its Wings, It Continues to Shape the Lives of Thousands of Rural Artisans,” the cover line reads.

The article, by Forbes India staff writer Anshul Dhamija, details the beginnings of the company, as an exporter of hand-loomed fabrics and furnishings with only one initial retail store, which opened in New Delhi in 1976. The second opened in the same city in 1994. William Bissell took the helm in 1999, after his father’s death in 1998. The younger Bissell had returned to India after graduating from Wesleyan, establishing an artisans’ cooperative, the Bhadrajun Artisans Trust.

Forbes India charts the astronomic—yet socially conscious—growth of the company since the turn of the century. William Bissell, with a vision to redesign the stores as “retail experience centers” (more than tripling the size, offering cafes, “children’s zones,” and on-site tailoring), plans to open 40 of these centers across the country in the next year-and-half, many as franchise opportunities—all the while maintaining the company’s commitment to local artisans and traditional crafts. Of particular interest is the high percentage of women who are employed by Fabindia in a country not noted for providing financial opportunities for females.