Cynthia Rockwell

Cynthia Rockwell MALS ’19, P’11 is the managing editor of Wesleyan magazine.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The New Yorker: “The Shapeshifting Music of Tyshawn Sorey”

“There is something awesomely confounding about the music of Tyshawn Sorey [MA ’11], the thirty-eight-year-old Newark-born composer, percussionist, pianist, and trombonist,” begins this profile of Sorey, assistant professor of music. Sorey was recently featured in the Composer Portraits series at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre.

2. The Register-Mail: “Video Slots Take Heavy Toll on Some Players”

In this article exploring the expansion of video slot gaming in a region of Illinois, Assistant Professor of Psychology Mike Robinson shares what he has learned through his research about how gambling affects our brains through the pleasurable release of dopamine. “You hear gamblers talk about chasing losses,” Robinson said. “Basically, they are talking about how gambling and uncertainty can even change how you respond to losing. It sounds counterintuitive, but for gambling addicts losing money triggers the rewarding release of dopamine almost to the same degree that winning does.”

3. The St. Thomas Source: “V.I. Studies Collective Asks, ‘What Is a Virgin Islander?'”

Professor of English Tiphanie Yanique, a core member of the Virgin Islands Studies Collective, recently led a workshop on St. Thomas at the Virgin Islands Literary Festival. A poet, essayist, and fiction writer who teaches creative writing at Wesleyan, Yanique comes from St. Thomas and has written fiction about life in the Virgin Islands.

4. The Forward: “8 Practical Tips on How to Lead a Progressive Seder This Year”

Asked for advice on leading a “progressive seder” for Passover this year, Wesleyan’s Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and University Jewish Chaplain David Leipziger Teva suggested adding a shoelace to your seder plate to express solidarity with the migrants fleeing their homes to cross into the U.S. “In thinking about the 92,607 migrants and refugees who in March of 2019 alone were detained after crossing the US Mexico border, I was struck by the fact that one of the first things that our US Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) does is force these tired and vulnerable people to remove their shoelaces,” he explained. “Apparently anything, even the shoelaces of young children, considered ‘nonessential and potentially lethal’ is confiscated.”

5. Reading Religion: “Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Bias”

“Through the medium of cartoons, Gottschalk and Greenberg examine complicated concepts such as Islamophobia and stereotypes in a manner that is both accessible and comprehensive,” according to this review of Islamophobia and Anti-Muslim Sentiment: Picturing the Enemy, coauthored by Professor of Religion Peter Gottschalk and Gabriel Greenberg ’04 and recently re-released in an expanded and revised second edition. “This book is accessible enough to include on an undergraduate introductory syllabus, but also specialized enough for readers who are familiar with the concept of Islamophobia, or the study of the Muslims in the United States, to benefit from.”

Alumni in the News

  1. PeabodyAwards.com: Lorraine Hansberry: Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart (PBS/WNET TV)”

Randall MacLowry ’86 is the producer and editor; Tracy Heather Strain is the filmmaker for this documentary, which PBS notes as “the first in-depth presentation of Hansberry’s complex life, using her personal papers and archives, including home movies and rare photos, as source material.” The couple cofounded The Film Posse, Inc., to work together in creating documentaries of high quality, and according to a press release, “spent more than 14 years raising money to develop the independently-produced film, which the couple produced with Strain serving as director and writer, and MacLowry and Chad Ervin as editors. Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart had its world premiere at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival and its television premiere on the PBS biography series American Masters in January 2018.”

2. Women and Hollywood: “Tribeca 2019 Women Directors: Meet Bridget Savage Cole [’05] and Danielle Krudy [’07]Blow the Man Down” 

“Wesleyan University graduates Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy met on a film set in Coney Island. They immediately bonded over a shared love of character-driven stories and juicy filmmaking styles. They have collaborated on numerous music videos, shorts, and writing projects. Blow the Man Down is their first feature-length film,” writes Gabriela Rico, who follows with the directors’ candid Q&A. Blow the Man Down premiered at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival on April 26.

3. Vanity Fair: Fosse/Verdon: 5 Behind-the-Scenes Secrets from the Cast and Creators”

Vanity Fair editor Radhika Jones, who moderated a panel that included Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, provided excerpts of the conversation: “‘I picked up a book off the shelf, and my job was to read the book and put it in Tommy Kail’s [’99] hand,’ said Miranda. The Hamilton creator had gone to Wesleyan University with Sam Wasson [’03], author of the 2013 biography Fosse—on which the FX series is closely based. In June 2016, Hamilton director Kail and Miranda began planning a way to bring Fosse back to the screen.”

4. Broadway World: “MCC Launches Season with Ross Golan’s The Wrong Man Directed by Thomas Kail [’99]”

The Wrong Man (“the wrong man meets the wrong women in the wrong place at the wrong time”) is a new stage musical, written by multi-platinum songwriter Ross Golan (book, music, lyrics), Tony Award–winning director Thomas Kail and three-time Tony and four-time Grammy Award–winning orchestrator Alex Lacamoire. Performances begin on Wednesday, September 18, 2019.

5. Boston Globe: “Cape Air on Course for Seaplane Takeoff in Boston”

Jon Chesto ’93 writes: “Dan Wolf [’79] needed to get his hands on an amphibious aircraft before he could fulfill his yearslong quest to bring seaplane service back to Boston Harbor.

“Now, the chief executive of Cape Air has an entire squadron.”

In this tale of Wolf’s acquisition of the seaplanes, Chesto notes some Wes-related history: “Wolf first learned to fly a seaplane at the Goodspeed Airport along the Connecticut River, while going to school at nearby Wesleyan University. That was nearly 40 years ago, but there’s a connection to this latest deal. Shoreline Aviation was run by John Kelly [MALS ’70], who taught Wolf during his college years. They obviously stayed in touch: Cape Air has used Shoreline planes during its Boston Harbor test runs.”

 6. MIT News: “Candid Conversation about Race: In MIT Talk, Beverly Daniel Tatum [’75, P’04, Hon. ’15] Urges Direct Discussion about Racial Issues at a ‘Polarized’ Moment in U.S. History”

Peter Dizikes, of the MIT News Office, writes: “Candid discussions about race relations are vital at a time of ‘pushback’ against social diversity in the U.S., said Beverly Daniel Tatum, the former president of Spelman College, in a talk at MIT on Thursday.

“‘It seems to me pretty clear we’re living in a pushback moment,’ Tatum said, referring to resistance against both political progress by blacks and a diversifying population. She added: ‘I think that today, most people would agree, we are more polarized than ever.’”

Tatum’s talk at MIT’s Wong Auditorium covered topics including the difference between race and racism, what is possible in the political arena, and the “long-running conditions of material inequality in the U.S.”

7. WBUR.org— “WBUR Announces Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize Winner”

From the website: “WBUR announced today that Hannah Dreier [’08] is the winner of the 2019 Daniel Schorr Journalism Prize. The winning segment was produced at This American Life in partnership with ProPublica, where Dreier serves as an immigration reporter.

“Dreier’s winning entry, ‘The Runaways’ is an hour-long investigative report that documents how the Suffolk County Police Department in New York failed to investigate a series of gang murders when the victims were immigrant teenagers. Days after the story aired on This American Life, the Suffolk County legislature forced the police department to conduct an internal investigation into how it had handled the MS-13 murder cases. ‘The Runaways’ proves that investigative reporting continues to effect change.”

Dreier ’08 of ProPublica Wins Pulitzer for Feature Writing

Hannah Dreier ’08, a journalist with ProPublica reporting on immigration issues, received a 2019 Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. (Photo by Carlos Becerra)

Hannah Dreier ’08, a journalist with ProPublica, was announced the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing on April 15.

The New York Times reported: “Ms. Dreier’s detailed portraits of Salvadoran immigrants were cited for exposing how their lives had been destroyed ‘by a botched federal crackdown on the international criminal gang MS-13.’ After Ms. Dreier, 32, heard President Trump tie immigration to gang violence, her reporting revealed that immigrants were often victims of the crime groups. ‘What was so cruel was that this population was being preyed upon,’ she said. The series was published jointly with The New York Times Magazine, Newsday, and New York magazine.” ProPublica calls itself “a nonprofit newsroom that investigates abuses of power.”

Dreier, who was awarded the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award at Reunion last year for writing that conveys “unusual insights and understanding of current and past events,” also spoke on a WESeminar panel about journalism today, highlighted in Wesleyan magazine. Dreier had worked in Venezuela several years ago and spoke about the polarized atmosphere in that country, comparing it to our current political climate.

She told the WESeminar attendees, “My approach has been to try to focus on telling concrete personal stories and trying to just pile enough detail that people can decide for themselves what they think is happening and how they feel about it.” As an undergraduate, she majored in the College of Letters.

Read a Q&A with Dreier in this Wesleyan Argus article.

Woodcarver Yorburg ’77 to Speak on Jewish Immigrant Carvers

In his workshop, he carves a new leg and hoof for an antique carousel horse. (Photo by Melissa Rocha)

In his workshop, Bob Yorburg ’77 carves a new leg and hoof for an antique carousel horse. Yorburg will be speaking on “Coney Island Jewish Immigrant Carvers” at the Bushnell Park Carousel on April 28. (Photo by Melissa Rocha)

Bob Yorburg ’77, a master woodcarver renowned for his antique restorations of turn-of-the-20th-century carousels and calliopes, notes that the Jewish immigrant carvers of that era “raised the art of carousel carving to a new level.”

“Their realism and extraordinary ornamentation defined the Coney Island style of carousel carving,” he writes.

Additionally, these brilliant carvers translated their secular art into ornamentation that graced the historic synagogues of Brooklyn.

Offering a photographic journey into the workshops of some of these artists—Marcus Charles Illions, Charles Carmel, along with Solomon Stein and Harry Goldstein—Yorburg will be speaking on “Coney Island Jewish Immigrant Carvers” at the Bushnell Park Carousel in Hartford, Conn., at 5 p.m. on Sunday, April 28. Tickets are $10 by reservation only and may be purchased by calling 860-585-5411.

Who Are the Great Americans? Paintings by Lahav ’00 Spark Conversations

This portrait of George Washington by Jac Lahav ’00 is part of the project, The Great Americans, now on exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum in Lyme, Conn., until May 12. (Photo by Tammi Flynn)

The paintings: Oprah is elegantly coiffed, gowned in a long blue dress, into which a portrait of her in The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks has been etched. Lincoln, his sad visage rising above the American flag that envelops him, stands in front of a reproduction of a painting by Henry Ogden, “The Battle of Spotsylvania.” Afong Moy, the first woman from China to arrive in the United States, is clad in a culturally traditional red wedding dress, hands primly—or nervously?—clasped at her waist; her head entirely concealed by a veil. We’ll never see her face—which the artist hopes might prod us to consider: Would we have remembered it anyway?

These are just three from The Great Americans, a show by artist Jac Lahav ’00, on exhibit at the Florence Griswold Museum in Lyme, Conn., until May 12. The work is attracting interest from both critics and schoolchildren alike, sparking dialogues among patrons responding to an implicit question behind the title: What makes someone “great”? Do the Americans shown here fit these criteria? 

While he was still in grad school, that question was the starting point for Lahav. He’d been watching a Discovery Channel miniseries, Greatest American, and his attention was captured by the debates that arose around naming a top-10 group. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln easily made the list. But the audience was divided between Jonas Salk or Oprah Winfrey, illustrating the difficulty: What is the definition of “great.” While Salk is the creator of the polio vaccine and might initially be a shoo-in, his legacy is more complicated, notes Lahav: His vaccine is no longer the one in use today, and his collaborators felt that Salk had ignored their contributions in favor of personal celebrity.

Dachs ’98 Receives Sci-Tech Oscar for PIX System

Eric Dachs ’98, founder and CEO of PIX System, accepts a Sci-Tech Oscar for technical achievement. “For over 15 years, serving the talent in this industry has been a profound honor,” he said. “We are humbled and grateful to the academy for recognizing our efforts.” (Photo courtesy of AMPAS)

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) honored Eric Dachs ’98, the founder and CEO of PIX System, with a Technical Achievement Award at its Oscars 2019 Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation on Feb. 9, 2019.

Since its creation in 2003, PIX System has become the entertainment industry gold standard in providing secure communication and content management capabilities. Dachs, a theater major while at Wesleyan, designed and coded the initial software early in his career when he was an assistant to sound designer Ren Klyce for Panic Room. It was then that he saw the need for an easy, safe digital platform to share revisions and collaborate across locations.

Accepting the Oscar along with three members of his team—director of R&D Erik Bielefeldt, technical director Craig Wood, and Paul McReynolds—Dachs said, “For over 15 years, serving the exceptional talent in this industry has been a profound honor. We are humbled and grateful to the Academy for recognizing our efforts.” Among those he thanked were clients, as well as the open-source community “whose often unrecognized critical efforts make PIX possible,” and family and friends.

Dachs’s PIX System was used in production of eight Oscar-winning films this year, including A Star Is Born, Black Panther, First Man, Green Book, Roma, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

For Dachs, Wesleyan’s creative liberal arts education was the basis for his achievement in technology and business. A transfer student, he focused on sound design in both film and theater, using analog and the then-new digital equipment.

Yannatta ’91: Opium Moon Wins Grammy on Her Be Why Music Label

Grammy Celebration: Julie Yannatta ’91 (left), founder and CEO of Be Why Music, with Opium Moon (l. to r.: M.B. Gordy, Lili Haydn, Itai Disraeli, Hamid Saeidi), whose debut album, Opium Moon, won a Grammy for Best New Age Album in 2018. (Photo courtesy Julie Yannatta ’91)

When Opium Moon won the Grammy Award for the Best New Age Album this year, “Thank you, Julie Yannatta…” were the first words from singer/violinist Lili Haydn’s lips once she reached the stage.

Yannatta ’91 is founder and owner of Be Why Music, the label that released the self-titled debut album by the eclectic band—Lili Haydn on violin/voice, Hamid Saeidi on santoor (Persian hammered dulcimer) and voice, M.B. Gordy on ancient percussion, and Itai Disraeli on fretless bass. Their haunting music draws from each member’s cultural traditions: Iran, Israel, Canada, and the United States.

Yannatta, with a career path as eclectic as the roots of this music—a lawyer and musician who moved back to the States from Finland in 2005—calls the variety in her pursuits “the gift of my Wesleyan education: my absolute fearlessness to do whatever it is I’m inclined or excited to do.”

The Next New Things: Presenting Final Projects in IDEAS 170

In December, the students of IDEAS 170: Introduction to Design and Engineering presented inventions of their own design. These final group projects are possibly the next new life hacks everyone will crave: a projector that doesn’t rely on electricity (great for watching movies when the power is out), a chair that folds flat (packs easily and saves space), or a dorm room light that mimics the sun (helps set your sleep/wake cycle naturally).

Additionally, one group of Wesleyan students collaborated with students from Renbrook School in West Hartford. Betsy Flynn, Lower School Learning Specialist at Renbrook, explained: “The Renbrook students brought their accessible playscape design to Wesleyan and pitched their idea to the class on the same day that other project ideas were pitched. Then the Wesleyan team came to Renbrook with several elements of their inclusive playground to get feedback from Renbrook students. They spent an hour together getting to know each other and had a spirited discussion of what each had in mind in their designs.”

On the day the final projects were presented, the Wesleyan students set about creating a one-inch scale prototype of the playscape, inviting their younger collaborators to visit the University to see how their initial ideas had taken physical (albeit miniature) form.

The two IDEAS sections of the fall 2018 semester, taught by Professor of Physics Greg Voth and Assistant Professor of the Practice in Integrative Sciences Daniel Moller, offered 32 students the opportunity to work collaboratively on project-based studies at the intersection of design, the arts, and engineering. The course, part of a new interdisciplinary minor, the Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences (IDEAS) program, is hosted and administered by the College of Integrative Sciences (CIS).

Wesleyan (issue 3, 2018) featured the course in its cover article, Putting the Art in Smart Design, following the students through the first half of the course as they worked on individual devices that would hop after a timing mechanism released. A video, “The Big Hopper Reveal,” illustrated their design and engineering work at the semester’s midpoint. The photos and video below, taken at the end of the fall 2018 semester, show the group inventions. (Remember: You saw them here first). (Photos by Cynthia Rockwell)

Trevor Devanny ’20, Joe Clayton ’20, Liam Murray ’20, and Mauricio Bailleres ’21 ready their go-cart, complete with fully functional steering mechanism, for its outdoor trial run.

Professor and Chair of the Physics Department Greg Voth examines the steering mechanism for stability.

Scott ’76 Reflects: On Being Black and Female in Late 1970s TV Journalism

From her home in California, Adrienne Scott ’76 shares stories of her early days in journalism, breaking the gender and color barriers in New England television news.

The Wesleyan magazine issue on the future of journalism (2018, issue 2) prompted Adrienne Scott ’76 to write a letter to the editor, recalling a high point in her early career in journalism: when legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali granted her an exclusive interview. Scott, who had been a columnist for The Wesleyan Argus as an undergraduate, as well as a student of University Editor Jack Paton ’49, P’75, was at that time a young journalist and the first African American full-time news reporter at WPRI-TV in Providence, R.I.

The Connection reached out to Scott to continue the conversation that began with her letter, asking for her perspective on journalism in the late 1970s.

Q: When did you first become interested in journalism?

A: In the late ’60s and early ’70s, before I left the Bronx High School of Science, I remember thinking that the public affairs reporters and interviewers with panel shows were fascinating. I even called in to radio shows with comments; I was interested in the world and there were some pretty big issues to discuss.

Q: How did you come to start your journalism career in Providence?

A: My aunt in East Providence offered to have me live with her while I picked up some stronger typing skills before heading back to New York City for a job in publishing.

Another aunt was deputy director of the Rhode Island Urban League, so I assisted her in writing and broadcasting Black News, a 15-minute public service radio show. Then I was offered a half-hour show through the Urban League connection on WPRI-TV, the ABC affiliate.

Southwest Airlines Founder Kelleher ’53, Hon. ’90, Remembered for Reshaping Industry

The Southwest Airlines site featured a photo of their founder, Herb Kelleher '53, Hon. 90, saluting in their farewell message honoring the company's founder.

The Southwest Airlines site featured a photo of their founder, Herb Kelleher ’53, Hon. 90, saluting, above their farewell message honoring his longtime service and inspirational leadership.

“Herb Kelleher, who turned conventional airline industry wisdom on its head by combining low fares with high standards of customer service to build Southwest Airlines into one of the nation’s most successful and admired companies, died on Thursday. He was 87,” wrote Glenn Rifkin in The New York Times.

An English major who graduated from Wesleyan in 1953, Kelleher also earned a bachelor of laws from NYU in 1956, and a little more than a decade later he founded Southwest Airlines, a small Texas commercial aviation company. With a larger-than-life personality—he notably settled a dispute over the company’s name by challenging his competitor to arm wrestle for the rights—he was appointed CEO in 1981. It was a position he held until 2006, when he became chairman emeritus. Wesleyan had conferred an honorary doctorate of laws on Kelleher at the 1990 Commencement ceremonies.

On the Southwest Airlines site, a statement from Gary Kelly, chairman and CEO, remembers Kelleher as “a lifelong mentor and friend” whose “stamp on the airline industry and all those he touched has been profound…. He inspired people; he motivated people; he challenged people—and, he kept us laughing all the way. He was an exceptionally gifted man with an enormous heart and love for people—all people. We have been beyond blessed to have him as a part of our lives.”

An editorial in the Dallas News notes:

Kelleher possessed a humanizing frankness and spontaneity that most business executives would dismiss as needless vulnerability. But he brought personality with a purpose to the job and religiously won the loyalty of employees and air passengers in a way few executives ever have. Who else except Kelleher would have had the temerity to begin testimony before a national aviation review commission by saying:

‘I co-founded Southwest Airlines in 1967. Because I am unable to perform competently any meaningful function at Southwest, our 25,000 employees let me be CEO. That is one among many reasons why I love the people of Southwest Airlines.’

Rifkin’s New York Times article offers both a detailed chronology of Kelleher’s career, as well as insight into the maverick leader behind the company that democratized air travel. You can read his article here.

For more information, read this interview with Kelleher that appeared in the fall 1994 issue of Wesleyan.

Additionally, National Public Radio remembered Kelleher, republishing an interview Kelleher did with NPR correspondent Guy Raz for his “How I Built This” series, with this note: “We are grateful Herb shared his story with us in 2016. We are republishing it as a tribute to his life and career, in which he transformed the US airline industry.”

New Book by Film Historian Arnold ’91: Christmas in the Movies

Jeremy Arnold ’91 on set at Turner Classic Movie channel, discussing his newest book, Christmas in the Movies: 30 Classics to Celebrate the Season (Turner Classic Movies and Running Press, 2018).

Newsday writer Rafer Guzmán quotes Jeremy Arnold ’91, a film historian, commentator, and author, in his roundup of new movies and old favorites for this time of year in his article “More Christmas Movies Than Ever This Holiday Season.”

Arnold, the author of Christmas in the Movies (Running Press, 2018) a Turner Classic Movies book, points out that “The new big-screen films are not only competing with Hallmark and Lifetime but all the previous feature films that are available on home video.”

A film studies major as an undergraduate, Arnold also answers Guzmán’s question of what constitutes a film of this genre: “‘I would say a successful Christmas movie is when Christmas plays a meaningful role in the story,’ Arnold says. ‘That encompasses many things—not just joy and love, but also loneliness and alienation, commercialism and dysfunction. You could do dramas or comedies about any of those things.’”

(Photos courtesy of Jeremy Arnold)

With the 30 classics listed chronologically, beginning with Miracle on Main Street (1939) through Elf and Love Actually (both 2003), the book invites nostalgia and offers film buffs plenty of stills from favorite scenes, as well as commentary along with little-known facts—for example, how director Bob Clark cast Peter Billingsley as Ralphie in A Christmas Story (page 145).

This was the second book that Arnold wrote for TCM, following The Essentials, published in 2016. He also appeared on TCM as a guest host in early December to present four films included in his newest book and discuss their place in the Hollywood tradition of Christmas movies.

Vanity Fair Cover Story: “Supercalifragilistic” Miranda ’02

Cover of the Holiday 2018 issue of Vanity Fair, featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02; Photograph by Ethan James Green; Styled by Samira Nasr.

In a cover story for Vanity Fair, titled “The Supercalifragilistic Lin-Manuel Miranda,”  writer Bruce Handy explores both the upcoming movie, Mary Poppins Returns, as a sequel to Walt Disney’s 1964 adaption of the children’s books by P. L. Travers, and one of its stars, Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15. In the 1964 movie, the chimney-sweep companion to Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) was Bert, played by Dick Van Dyke. This 2018 Mary Poppins (Emma Blunt) has chimney sweep Jack (supposedly a former protégé of the late Bert), played by Miranda, as her sidekick and friend.

Hardy offers biographical background, along with personal insights on Miranda from Wesleyan Visiting Scholar in Theater Quiara Alegria Hudes (who wrote the book for the musical In the Heights), Thomas Kail ’99, and Sam Wasson ’03, exploring the creative genius of Miranda, as expressed in his work. Additionally, Vanity Fair offers photographs by Andres Kudacki documenting Miranda’s June visit to D.C., in a feature titled, Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda Visits the Founding Fathers’ Stomping Grounds.”

From the article by Handy:

Not a jaded bone in his body. Sam Wasson, a friend of Miranda’s from their undergraduate days at Wesleyan, said much the same thing when he described Miranda as “a human gumdrop.” At Wesleyan, Wasson and Miranda worked on shows together, including an improv group that Miranda played music for. “He was game for anything,” Wasson said. “He had a little Mickey-and-Judy feeling in him. ‘Let’s go! Let’s do it!’ It’d be impossible to think of Lin as depressed in any way, which makes me hate him. You want to think, ‘Oh, genius comes with darkness,’ and I’m sure it’s there, but I haven’t seen it.”

Zinser ’16 Receives Prestigious Schwarzman Scholar Award

Sophie Zinser ’16 has been selected for membership in the Schwarzman Scholars Class of 2020, located at Schwarzman College in Tsinghua University, where she will study China’s growing influence on foreign aid.

Sophie Zinser ’16, deputy director of Syria Direct in Amman, has been selected as a Schwarzman Scholar, one of the world’s most prestigious graduate fellowships, located at Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing. This Schwarzman Class of 2020 is only the fourth in the program’s history, with 147 Schwarzman Scholars selected from over 2,800 applicants. The class is comprised of students from 38 countries and 119 universities, with 40 percent originating from the United States, 20 percent from China, and 40 percent from the rest of the world. The Class of 2020 will enroll in August 2019.

In a press release announcing the news, Stephen A. Schwarzman, cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Blackstone, and chairman of Schwarzman Scholars, said, “Our newest class includes a diverse group of future leaders from around the world. They join a global network of Scholars who have committed themselves to being a force for change, regardless of where their professional or personal passions take them. My hope is that a year in Beijing will inspire and challenge these students in ways they haven’t even imagined. I look forward to seeing how this new class will leave its mark.”

At Wesleyan, Zinser double-majored in the College of Letters and French studies. She cofounded the Wesleyan Refugee Project, and following graduation, Zinser worked on a congressional campaign in Minnesota and in international development with the International Rescue Committee’s Emergency Team in New York. Last year on a Fulbright scholarship to Jordan, she led innovative research on safety risks to rural and refugee women. In her current role with Syria Direct, she manages a team of Syrian and foreign journalists in Amman and leads the media nonprofit’s expansion. At Schwarzman College, Zinser will study China’s growing influence on foreign aid.