Alumni—especially those whose class years ended in 3 or 8—joined the families of graduating seniors of Wesleyan’s Class of 2018 for a campus-wide series of celebrations, WESeminars, thesis exhibitions, and festivities. Wesleyan’s Class of 1968, celebrating their 50th Reunion, began with a dinner on Thursday to gather the group and kick off the weekend. Other highlights included academic open houses, the annual parade of classes, the All-Campus Party featuring DJs Ben Resnick ’13 and Clément Guerner ’13, and Commencement speaker Anita Hill.
To see the Reunion photo gallery, click here.
To see the Commencement gallery, click here.
The award recipients are:
Robert W. “Bob” Crispin ’68: Robert W. “Bob” Crispin had a long and distinguished career as a senior executive in the insurance and financial services area, which culminated when he served as chairman and chief executive officer of ING Investment Management Americas from 2001 until he retired in 2007.
Brian E. Frosh ’68: Brian Frosh is the attorney general for the state of Maryland. Under his leadership, Maryland became the first state in the nation to issue guidance prohibiting discriminatory profiling by law enforcement, declaring definitively that race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and religion cannot be factors in routine police activity.
Jessica Rosenworcel ’93: Jessica Rosenworcel is a lawyer who currently serves as a commissioner to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent agency that regulates interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable.
Bobbito García ’88: New York City native Bobbito García is a freelance creative who has put an indelible footprint on multiple urban movements. During the 1990s, he was one-half of the legendary Stretch and Bobbito program on WKCR, voted “Best Hip Hop Radio Show of All Time,” by The Source magazine. Currently, he is cohost of NPR’s What’s Good with Stretch and Bobbito podcast.
Paul Weitz ’88: Paul Weitz is a writer, director, and producer whose directorial debut, along with his brother Chris, was American Pie. In addition to writing the animated film Antz, Mr. Weitz also co-wrote and directed About a Boy, for which he and Chris earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Maria Santana-Guadalupe ’98: Maria Santana-Guadalupe is a New York–based anchor and correspondent for CNN En Español and frequent contributor to all CNN networks and platforms, including CNN, CNN International, HLN, and CNN.com.
Outstanding Service: Megan Norris ’83, P’17. Megan Norris is the chair of the Managing Partners and leader of the Employment and Labor Group for the law firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone in Detroit. Elected by her national peers to both the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and the American College of Trial Lawyers, she has expertise litigating all matters of employment law. She is coauthor of Family and Medical Leave and the Law, published by the Law Journal Press in 2012.
Alexander “Sandy” See ’68, P’98: Sandy See, recently retired from a career in education, government, and the law, began his volunteer service to Wesleyan during his student years as president of the Cardinal Key Society and president of his class.
James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award: Hannah Dreier ’08. Hannah Dreier is a New York–based investigative reporter for the nonprofit news outlet ProPublica. She is focusing this year on covering immigration through character-driven, narrative storytelling.
Wesleyan University Service Awards are presented to volunteers who have given sustained service to Wesleyan over time or who have given significant service in a specific area such as admission, career resources, fundraising, reunion planning, regional programs, or class notes. This year the awards go to:
Mr. Richard H. Goldman ’58
Mr. Donald J. Logie, Jr. ’68
Dr. John R. Mergendoller ’68, P’07, ’11
Mr. Frank B. Phillippi ’68, P’05
Mr. George K. Reynolds III ’68
Ms. Suki Hoagland ’78
Ms. Francine V. Rivkin ’78
Mr. Matthew A. Ember ’83, P’16
Ms. Laurie Hills ’83
Ms. Ruth E. Jaffe ’83, P’18
Mrs. Laurie Sklarin Ember ’84, P’16
Mr. Kwanghee Lee ’88, P’21
Mr. Stephen Geddes Morison Jr. ’88
Ms. Grace E. O. Ray ’88
Mrs. Jessica Gutow Viner ’93
Mrs. Makaela Jane Kingsley ’98, MALS’05
THE WUSA for Graduates of the Last Decade is presented to volunteers who have given sustained service to Wesleyan in the first 10 years after graduation, or who have given significant service in a specific area such as admission, career resources, fundraising, reunion planning, regional programs, or class notes in their 10th reunion year or earlier.
Mr. Osborne Leonard Hazel ’03
Ms. Sonya Behnke Page ’03
Ms. Cara Marisa Zwerling ’03
Ms. Alicia Collen-Zeidan ’08
Mr. Jacob Robert Levine ’08
Ms. Melody Elizabeth Oliphant ’13
Ms. Laura Zhi-yi Yim ’13
Natacha Bielikoff ’18, Sara Eismont ’18, David Machado ’18, and Taisa Vasilkova ’18, delivered “Senior Voices” addresses on May 26, 2018, in Memorial Chapel. Assistant Professor Danielle Vogel of the Department of English offered the faculty reflection. Also, a student group (shown here at rehearsal) performed “Irish Wedding Wish.”
Below are the texts of the reflections:
David Machado offered this reflection on “Home is Where You Are Accepted”
With conditional acceptance from a homophobic father and a childhood spent in a low-income family who had to move constantly, oftentimes hardwood floors served as my bed and hardships prevailed. Even with a loving mother and three amazing sisters, I didn’t feel like I had a place I could call home.
I joined the Navy to pay for college, serve my country, and look for a place where I finally felt accepted. While I found additional family when I served alongside the Marines as a Navy medic, I couldn’t reveal my identity under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which allowed the government to discriminate against the LGBT community. With this harbored in my mind and being forced to deploy all over the world, again, it didn’t feel like I had a place I could truly call home.
In 2015, I went into the Navy Reserve and received the opportunity to attend Wesleyan University. I asked myself the question: Would I find home here? I wasn’t sure, as I feared the rigorous curriculum and doubted that I would “fit in” among all of those extremely intelligent students.
My fears and doubts, however, were unfounded.…
Frantz Williams Jr. ’99 has been named the successor to Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson, who has announced her upcoming retirement at the end of December 2018. A government major as an undergraduate, Williams joined the University Relations team right after his graduation and has continued to serve the University, most recently as assistant vice president for development.
“We’re fortunate that Frantz will lead University Relations,” said President Michael S. Roth ’78. “He is eminently well prepared to continue Barbara-Jan’s legacy of immensely successful fund-raising and friend-raising, and I am grateful that he will be at the helm when we launch Wesleyan’s next campaign.”
“Wesleyan has a strong, dedicated leader in Frantz,” said Wilson. “A loyal alumnus, he is a mentor to students and staff and alumni alike. His warmth, his care for the University and all of its people shine through in everything he does.”
Williams’s family was from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, moving to the States when Frantz, the third of four children, was 9: “In January 1986, on a very cold day, we landed at JFK airport, never having seen snow, and speaking only Creole—that was our start,” he recalls. “I entered the fourth grade, taking ESL courses, and trying to catch up with my classmates. It has been a journey.”
In a Q&A with the Connection, Williams traces his route to Wesleyan, talks about the mission that has kept him here, and reflects on what continues to engage him in Wesleyan’s future.
On May 9, a group of students, faculty, and Middletown friends joined Jumoke McDuffie-Thurmond ’19 and Chief Ayanda Clarke ’99 in a spiritual commemoration ceremony to honor a woman, Silva Storms, who died in 1820 and was buried in the cemetery on Vine Street, across from the Beman Triangle. Research indicates she had been born in Africa and was brought to Middletown as an enslaved person. The event was part of McDuffie-Thurmond’s research project for Black Middletown Lives, the service-learning course taught by Jesse Nasta ’07, visiting assistant professor of African American studies.
Nasta notes that McDuffie-Thurmond, who had been documenting the African American burials in the cemetery as part of his final project in the class, “completely took it upon himself to take that 10 steps beyond the assignment, to envision this ceremony. Jumoke is not just documenting the gravesites, but honoring the people who were enslaved here in Middletown.”
For his part, McDuffie-Thurmond remembers the first time Nasta took the class to the cemetery as a significant experience. “I’d never been to the section of the graveyard that was designated for Black Middletown residents, and Silva Storms’s gravesite—her tombstone stood almost alone in an open space—resonated with me. Professor Nasta told us it was the oldest tombstone in the African American section. I sat down there and listened to what was around me, what I felt, and I thought, I have to do something that tends to the spirit. We have a legacy of slavery in this land that constantly informs the space we live in—and it is unresolved. I wanted to do something that would resonate with those of us who live here now. It was a very intuitive decision.”
In this Q&A, we speak to Clifton Watson, who joined Wesleyan as director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP) in February. A New Haven, Conn., native, Watson holds a BA from the University of Connecticut in African American studies, an MA from North Carolina Central in history, and a doctorate from Fordham in history. His dissertation explores the northern migration of African Americans who settled in the Newhallville area of New Haven—which is where he grew up.
Q: Please tell us a bit about your background . . . what drew you to Wesleyan? How did you know this was the place for you?
A: I credit my career to an experience I had during the summer before my freshman year in college. I responded to an ad to be a summer camp counselor in New Haven (which is where I grew up). My primary interest was in earning some money to offset some of my college expenses. I envisioned facilitating recreational activities and leading field trips. However—unbeknownst to me—I had applied to become a staff member of LEAP (Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership). The organization, which was in its inaugural year—was committed to supporting the academic and leadership development of young people from some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. This was not your typical summer camp—in fact it was a program, with a summer component. The organizers had been very thoughtful and strategic in the development of its program design and the stakeholders recruited to support their work.
The program was the brainchild of a Yale undergrad and law student—and supported by Dwight Hall (the JCCP’s institutional counterpart at Yale). This program created a “community” of diverse stakeholders united by their interest in improving outcomes for youth and city residents. This jumpstarted my interest in leadership development and civic engagement and remains a shining example of a university-led—but cocreated with the community and mutually beneficial—project.
I was drawn to Wesleyan’s Jewett Center for Community Partnerships because each one of its projects has the same transformative potential I saw in the LEAP experience.
Q: What are you most excited about?
A: I am most excited about further harnessing student enthusiasm and willingness to engage with the greater Middletown community—while ensuring that the center continues to be supportive of student leaders (in both their professional and leadership development) and that the JCCP projects are effectively responsive to community needs. As I have recently moved to the area (Meriden), I am super excited about contributing to the civic fauna of my own community.
Q: What has been the biggest surprise in your time with Wesleyan?
A: Wesleyan students have a reputation (which stretches far) for being enthusiastically committed to civic engagement. This was on full display as soon as I arrived on campus. I was struck by the number of students who emailed, called, and dropped by to greet me and ask questions about my plans for the Jewett Center or discuss an idea for a program or event. In fact, the week before I officially started, I came to campus to briefly meet with Marc Eisner [Dean of Social Sciences and Henry Merritt Wriston Chair of Public Policy]. When Marc walked me over to Allbritton Hall to show me my office space, I was met by a student reporter from the Argus, who somehow learned I was on campus! She wanted to interview me and discuss my vision for the JCCP. Overall, I’ve been surprised by the pure number of projects being led by Wesleyan students and thoughtfulness with which they approach their work.
Q: And what are your hobbies? What do you do in your time off?
A: Over the past three years, I’ve really gotten into gardening. I can’t say that I have a green thumb—but I’ve had a ball learning through trial and error. I’m committed to having a solid sweet potato crop! Gardening is one of those things my grandparents and parents were into and encouraged me to learn about, but I just couldn’t get into when I was younger. Years later, I’m begging for advice! In some ways, I am “late to the party,” but glad I finally decided to take an interest.
Q.: What is your favorite book?
A: My favorite book is All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw, by Theodore Rosengarten. All God’s Dangers is the autobiography of a black tenant farmer from east-central Alabama, who came of age in a society of former slaves and slaveholders. This is the narrative of a common man moved to confront the injustices that limited his economic and political freedoms. Through the book, he recounts dealings with landlords, bankers, fertilizer agents, mule traders, gin operators, sheriffs, and judges—detailing stories of the social relations of the cotton system, while offering his rationale for joining a tenant farmers union in the early 1930s. I’ve found this to be a compelling narrative about an “everyday person” who first developed an analysis of a pretty complicated economic and political system, then moved into action to confront it—despite the certainty that his efforts would be met with brutal violence. This has always been a favorite of mine because it recognizes the enduring and complex—though infrequently highlighted—resistance culture and organizing tradition which undergirds the black experience in America.
Doris Zhao, an investment associate with Wesleyan’s Investments Office, joined Chief Investment Officer Anne Martin’s team in 2013, after graduating from Yale. Since then, she has completed all three levels of the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst credential. “My role here at Wesleyan is to help manage the portfolio through monitoring our current managers and selecting new managers,” she says. When we approached her for this Q&A, we discovered that scheduling was an issue: Zhao’s position sends her on frequent travel across the country and internationally, but on a sunny December afternoon she was on campus and spoke with us about her career, her background, and her interests beyond financial matters.
Q: How much time do you spend traveling?
A: When I first started, not as much, because it’s important to build foundational understanding before you go out. Now I travel almost every week, often for multiple days. In the extreme case, like November, I was only at home for one full workday in the month. And I just came back from Toronto yesterday—so you caught me in the office on my one day this week.
Q: With that schedule, It would be hard to have pets.
A: Yes. I don’t even have houseplants.
Q: What brought you to Wesleyan?
A: I was an Ethics, Politics, and Economics major (a multidisciplinary program similar to Wesleyan’s College of Social Studies) at Yale. I concentrated on international development, and my research focused on cash transfer programs as a method of alleviating long-term poverty in developing countries.
In my junior year I did an internship in investment banking and thought that would be my path, but in my senior year, I ended up working as a research assistant for a vice president of China’s sovereign wealth fund. We researched how to build and manage a good private equity program. That served as my gateway to portfolio management, and I started looking for opportunities in that field. Anne was recruiting for an analyst at the time. We connected and the rest was history.
In this Q&A, we speak with Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies Scott Aalgaard. Originally a native of British Columbia, he joined Wesleyan after completing his doctorate at the University of Chicago. Affiliated with Wesleyan’s College of East Asian Studies, his courses this year included Pop Music Revolutionaries, Japanese Women’s Writing, and The Everyday in Modern Japan.
Q: Tell us a bit about your background.
A: I’ve been on the move for most of my life. I grew up in a small resource town on Vancouver Island, off the west coast of Canada; we had a sister city in northern Japan, and it was through that relationship that I got to visit Japan for the first time when I was 12. I was just a kid at the time, and in all honesty, it was more my mother’s idea that I should go to Japan and see the world beyond our little town than it was mine. But being able to see and experience a different part of the world and different ways of life had a real impact on me, and made me ask different questions, both of myself, and of what I was experiencing. I guess now I’d call that a thirst for knowledge, but I didn’t understand it in those terms at the time—I just felt that I needed to keep going back, keep talking to people, listening, learning.
I went back to Japan when I was 15, again when I graduated from high school, and that set the pattern—I’ve been living somewhere in between Canada, Japan, and now the United States for more than 30 years now. I’ve been fortunate to have a wide range of experiences in Japan—I’ve been a student, a farm worker, a local government employee; I’ve even worked in the music industry in Tokyo. I can’t say that any of this has brought me closer to any answers, but I hope that I’ve been able to refine the questions. How do individuals in Japan and elsewhere make sense of their lives? Why? How does this get expressed in things like literature and music? What are some of the consequences of that? These are some of the questions that drive me, and Wesleyan is an ideal place to pursue them.
Q: What drew you to Wesleyan?
A: Wes is renowned for attracting sharp, inquisitive, critically-minded students, and being able to think through these questions with them is a real treat for me. Rather than trying to offer up some stock answer to the question of what “Japan” is all about, in other words, I see my role as helping students to formulate and articulate different sorts of questions, in a way that not only addresses Japan and its cultures and contexts, but students’ own circumstances, contexts, and historical moments, as well.
Q: In your faculty bio, you say that your scholarship “aims to hear and amplify voices that can challenge and reshape our own stances upon the world.” Can you talk about how/where/if you’ve seen that happening today? How do you emphasize that in your work?
A: I’m really interested in questions of collectivity, and in how different social actors and cultural producers deal with those questions. Collectivity is something that we all need, but when that gets reduced to exclusionary, reactionary forms of nationalism, or questions of nation-state power and prestige, then we’ve got a problem. People grapple with this question of collectivity in different ways.
“This is the history of right here,” said Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies Jesse Nasta ’07, speaking of his work with Black Middletown Lives, his service-learning class. “We venture deep, but no farther than two blocks.” He and his class of 13 students are doing firsthand archival research on individual projects, documenting the lives of those African Americans who lived in the area now called “The Beman Triangle,” after the most prominent black property owner in that five-acre patch of land bordered on one side by Knowles Avenue to the corner where Neon Deli now stands at Cross and Vine.
On Tuesday, April 17, Nasta spoke about this work at the Center for African American Studies, noting that almost a dozen years ago, he was standing in the same spot, presenting his honors thesis, “Their Own Guardians and Protectors: African American Community in Middletown, Connecticut, 1822–1860.” Nasta, a Middletown native, is delighted to return to Wesleyan and pursue this project that captured his scholarly interests at a young age.
In his talk, he provided historical context for the development of this area, recounted brief biographies of some of the residents of the area, and discussed the work of the class in light of the Beman Triangle today.
Recent Wesleyan News
Wesleyan is highlighted as one of the best schools to study film. An exceptional group of filmmakers, including Joss Whedon ’87 and Michael Bay ’86, have cited Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, as a major influence on their understanding of film.
2. Hartford Courant: “New Bike Share at Wesleyan Offers Speedy Transport for Students”
Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst discusses Wesleyan’s new partnership with San Francisco–based start-up Spin to provide bicycles on campus for quick and low-cost rental by students and other community members.
3. WNPR: “Where We Live”
Katja Kolcio, associate professor and chair of dance, and Anna Fox ’19 discuss Wesleyan’s partnership with a university in Kiev, Ukraine, their recent visit to the country, and what they have learned from activists involved in the country’s revolution in 2014. Kolcio is also associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies and associate professor of environmental studies. (Kolcio and Fox come in around 26 minutes).
4. Poets & Quants for Undergrads: “The Case for ‘Test Optional’ College Admissions”
A new study, which analyzed data from Wesleyan and many other schools that don’t require the SAT or ACT in admission, finds that “test optional” institutions tend to enroll a higher proportion of low-income, first-generation students on average, and students from more diverse backgrounds. The study also found that high school GPA was a better predictor of success in college than standardized test scores for these students.
5. Gizmodo: “What Shapes Are Things in Outer Space?”
Meredith Hughes, assistant professor of astronomy, assistant professor of integrative sciences, paints a picture of the planet formation process, and explains why planetary systems tend to be flat.
Recent Alumni News
“Alexander Chee is best known as a novelist, and after the operatic plot of his Queen of the Night, readers may be surprised at the quiet intimacy of his first essay collection, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel,” writes reviewer Crystal Hana Kim. “By offering the reader such advice in the form of personal revelation, we are asked to journey with him, to learn how to write alongside him. In the ensuing essays, Chee reflects on his professional trajectory. In some, like ‘The Writing Life,’ which chronicles Chee’s class with Annie Dillard at Wesleyan University, he discusses craft explicitly. In others, like ‘The Rosary,’ he only alludes to his writerly life….”
Nataly Kogan, who arrived with her parents in the United States as Russian refugees when she was only 13, is the founder of Happier, a learning and technology platform. In this op-ed she writes about the pressure she put herself under to succeed in America, but through work with a life coach, she learned important lessons about self-compassion. She is the author of Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Sounds True; May 1, 2018).
Terry Nardin, professor of political science and director of Common Curriculum at Yale-NUS College in Singapore, offers an explanation of a liberal arts education that challenges the cultural expectation that “the purpose of tertiary education is to equip students with technical or other specialised skills that qualify them for a specific job and stable employment.” As an example of a liberal arts graduate who has met with success he offers: “Luke Wood [’91] graduated in 1991 from Wesleyan University, an American liberal arts college, where he had majored in American studies. Wood was able to turn his passion for music into an internship at Geffen Records, after which he signed artists for DreamWorks and Interscope.” Nardin traces Wood’s path further, concluding that “Wood’s success is another good reminder that ‘useless knowledge’ can not only turn out to be useful after all, but also that usefulness is in the eye of the beholder.”
Ostin Fam ’17 (Dung Quoc Pham ’17) was selected as one of eight filmmakers for “the second edition of the Bloom/Spiegel Partnership, an alliance between New York’s IFP Marcie Bloom Fellowship in Film and Jerusalem’s prestigious Sam Spiegel Film School.” The article includes this background on the Wesleyan alumnus: “Born in Vietnam and based in New York, Fam graduated from Wesleyan University and received the Steven J. Ross Prize for his senior film thesis. Fam is currently finishing the screenplay of his first feature, Small Wars. Taking place in a rural village in Vietnam, the story is about a family of three.”
Laura & Emma, the debut novel by Kate Greathead ’05, was reviewed by Wesleyan magazine books editor Laurie Kenney, who wrote: “Nine-time Moth StorySLAM champion Greathead’s debut novel offers an insightful and witty exploration of class, family, and privilege in New York blue-blood society in the 1980s and early ’90s, as told through the eyes of Laura, an Upper East Side single mother born into wealth, and her daughter, Emma, conceived during a one-night stand. Filled with an eclectic cast of supporting characters and told in vignettes that span more than a decade, Laura & Emma offers a fresh take on the mother-daughter bond and the struggles of trying to find oneself. Booklist says, ‘Greathead’s smart and original take on the mother-daughter novel impresses and charms.'”
In a follow-up conversation with the Connection, Greathead reflected on the writing process, including her work with Wesleyan mentors, and offered advice for those still working toward publication.
Q: How did your work at Wesleyan influence this book? Any great writing advice you received?
A: I wasn’t a confident person when I arrived at Wesleyan. I had some very kind and generous professors—Anne Greene, Phyllis Rose, Roxana Robinson—who helped me develop confidence in my writing, which made me take myself more seriously as a student and a person. One of my most valuable writing experiences was writing my senior thesis, a collection of personal essays, under the guidance of Elizabeth Bobrick [then a visiting professor in English]. Every two weeks we’d meet and discuss my work. The craft of writing can be taught, but of equal importance, the substance of what you write, can’t unless the teacher tries to get to know you. The best teachers find gentle ways to push you towards your most fertile material. Elizabeth took the time to do that and I benefited greatly.
Q: Any significant discoveries you made as you wrote about mother/daughter relationships?
A: I can’t speak for all mother/daughter relationships but I suspect in most there’s a volatility that’s just as intense as a romantic one, an undercurrent of jealousy, resentment, hurt, contempt, and neediness complicating the love. It might rarely erupt, but it’s there, simmering beneath the surface.