Lauren Rubenstein

Director of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Gonzalez Discusses How COVID-19 Has Changed College Admission

Amin Gonzalez

VP and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96. (Photo by Adrienne Battistella)

In late June, Wesleyan was among more than 300 colleges and universities to issue a joint statement, “Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19,” organized by the Making Caring Common Project and the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The movement underscores a commitment to equity and to encouraging students to balance self-care, meaningful learning, and care for others. We spoke to Wesleyan’s Vice President and Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96 about this shared commitment, as well as how admissions at Wesleyan has been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has obviously affected just about every realm of everyday life. How has it impacted high school students and the college admission process?

The disruptions caused by the pandemic have significantly set back students who were on a traditional trajectory of exploring colleges. Junior year spring is typically a launching point for students to research and visit schools, but this spring most college campuses were closed to visitors. With regard to their high school experiences, not only were academics and extracurricular activities interrupted—you can imagine the impact on student-athletes and talented musicians who plan to pursue these passions in college—but students were largely cut off from peers and adults who help them grow and think through important questions about their future. We’re also finding that inequities amongst students are being exacerbated by the pandemic, and that’s only going to become more pronounced over time.

Ryan’s Courses Teach Effective Communication with Diverse Audiences

Sarah Ryan

Sarah Ryan

Sarah Ryan is Wesleyan’s first associate professor of the practice in oral communication. She is an interdisciplinary scholar and attorney whose research explores public deliberation, civic participation, and criminal justice reform. We spoke to her about her distinctive interdisciplinary background and why learning communication skills is important for students’ future success.

Your position, associate professor of the practice in oral communication, is a new one at Wesleyan. Can you please explain the genesis of this position, and what it adds to the Wesleyan curriculum?

Sarah Ryan: In 2017, Wesleyan received a Davis Educational Foundation grant to create a regional consortium on best practices in the teaching of oral communication skills. Discussions during that initial one-year planning grant led to the development of my position. I was hired in 2019 to teach undergraduate courses in oral communication and to serve as a resource to faculty and staff who want to teach debate, group discussion, interpersonal communication, public speaking, etc.

What did you teach this past year?

SR: This past year, I taught [courses titled] Diffusion of Innovation, Communicate for Good, and From Litigation to Restorative Justice. In Diffusion, students learned how to spread pro-social practices and technologies through planned communication. In Communicate for Good, students learned how to promote public good through storytelling, informational messaging, and persuasion. In From Litigation, students learned to negotiate for their own interests and collective gain.

You have quite an interesting background as an interdisciplinary scholar and attorney. Can you fill us in on your career path?

SR: As an undergrad at Capital University, I joined the debate team. My first topic was “more severe punishment for violent crime.” To win debates, we had to research policy, law, and ethics, and develop recommendations for change. I was hooked immediately. After graduation, I became an assistant debate coach and started graduate school at Ohio University. My master’s and doctoral work were on welfare policy and perceptions of women receiving government assistance.

One summer, I taught at a high school debate camp in Vermont and became close with my debaters. They urged me to come to their tournaments. They debated for the New York Urban Debate League (NYUDL). So, my college debaters and I started driving to New York City to NYUDL tournaments. Two years later, the NYUDL needed someone to run its after-school center. I landed the job, promised my PhD advisor that I would write a dissertation someday, and moved to the Bronx. During my time at the center, my students won the state championships and we traveled to Belarus on an international debate exchange. On the side, I wrote a public affairs curriculum for Baruch College.

Building an Antiracist Community

President Michael S. Roth and Vice President for Equity & Inclusion Alison Williams sent the following messages to the campus community on June 24, 2020:

To the Wesleyan community:

The virulent and deeply entrenched racism in American society is antithetical to the mission of Wesleyan University, and we pledge to redouble our efforts to combat that racism – on campus and beyond.

In thinking about how best to do this, we recently conducted a public conversation that included a panel of distinguished alumni with important experience in this area. The panel challenged the University to examine the barriers that prevent people of color on our campus from truly thriving and to think more critically about how we empower our students to become change agents – with respect to themselves as well as others. Many of us, especially if we belong to the cultural majority, have never had to think hard about race and are uncomfortable even talking about it, especially with people whose racial identities are different from our own. This can change. We can and must educate ourselves.

Human Resources (HR) is conducting interviews of departing faculty and staff to find out where we are falling short in creating an inclusive community. We are also interviewing African-American students to follow up on survey results that show that they feel less included as members of the Wesleyan community.

In order to create space for open and honest dialogue, the Office for Equity and Inclusion (OEI) and HR will be sponsoring workshops for supervisors on how to talk about race and racism.  Many on campus have already taken advantage of OEI resources to examine their own roles and positionality, and a number have explored their own implicit biases by taking the Implicit Bias Test.  Later this summer we will implement reading groups on antiracism for all who are interested.  The goal is to help participants understand how to combat racist behaviors – be they their own or those of colleagues.

Academic Affairs, in partnership with the OEI, is implementing new procedures for faculty searches to increase the diversity of both the applicant pool and finalists for positions – and to minimize bias in the vetting of candidates.  Departments, programs and offices across campus are working towards being more inclusive and antiracist; Cabinet members have already committed themselves to a process of self-reflection, study and action. Scores of STEM faculty, staff and students met recently to discuss the impact of race in their fields and how to better support one another in ways that are meaningful and sustaining. The Student-Athletes of Color Leadership Council has been in conversation with the coaches and administrators of the Athletic Department and has proposed a number of actions to make that department more inclusive. Students are planning several events including student forums in June and an action to support Black Lives Matter during the first week of classes in the fall.  Finally, the OEI will soon revitalize its Advisory board, offer intensive workshops to those who would like to become equity advocates, and launch a new web page with resources for those who want to do more to help Wesleyan become as inclusive as possible.

We have much work to do and the energy and will to do it. More announcements are forthcoming about further steps we’ll be taking to truly build, in the words of our mission statement, “a diverse, energetic community of students, faculty, and staff who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit.”

Michael S. Roth
President

Alison Williams
Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Beware the Doyens of Disruption”

In this op-ed, President Michael Roth ’78 responds to predictions that COVID-19 is going to “change everything” in higher education with a reminder that “the desire of bright young people from all over the world for an on-campus education remains strong.” He writes, “It’s because the connectivity among people and practices that takes place in person intensifies the learning experience.”

2. HxA Podcast: “Michael Roth, Safe Enough Spaces”

President Michael Roth ’78 is interviewed on the Heterodox Academy’s podcast about his book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Heterodox Academy recently chose Safe Enough Spaces as the subject of its first ever book club. Roth was also recently interviewed on “The Way We Live Now,” a podcast from Dani Shapiro P ’22.

3. The Wall Street Journal: “Noted: Class of 2020”

The Wall Street Journal featured remarks by Caroline Bhupathi ’20 delivered at Wesleyan’s virtual commencement ceremony on May 24.

4. TLS: “Respect New Haven”

Assistant Professor of English Hirsh Sawhney reflects on the past, present, and politics of New Haven as he takes long, rambling walks through his city with his dog Pinky, a tiny chihuahua-dachshund mix.

5. PIX11: “College Students Create Program Connecting Young People with Senior Citizens in COVID-19 Isolation”

Marysol Castro ’96 features “Support a Pal,” a program created by Walker Brandt ’22 and Lars Delin ’22 to form connections between college students and elderly people in order to combat social isolation during the pandemic.

5. NJ.com: “‘A Smile Never Left His Face’: Steve Pikiell’s Forgotten Season Leading a Division-3 Underdog, 20 Years Before Rutgers”

Wesleyan alumni recall Steve Pikiell’s brief but memorable time as head coach of Wesleyan’s basketball team, long before he became head coach of Rutgers’ men’s basketball team. “I needed a guy like that in my life when he came along,” said Josh Schaer ’96, one of the senior captains on the team. “He had this infectious energy about basketball. He made me love the game again. He was just able to give us a boost. He lived up to expectations. He was a breath of fresh air. A smile never left his face. He loved where he was and he loved what he was doing.”

Wesleyan Awards 2020 Hamilton Prize for Creativity

HamPrize2020_Winner_Brianna Johnson

Brianna Johnson ’24 is the recipient of the Hamilton Prize for Creativity which comes with a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Wesleyan.

For the fourth consecutive year, Wesleyan has awarded its prestigious Hamilton Prize for Creativity to three students whose creative written works best reflect the originality, artistry, and dynamism of Hamilton: An American Musical, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99.

Brianna Johnson of The Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, N.Y. was awarded the grand prize—a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Wesleyan. She was recognized for three songs comprising an album/mixtape titled, “Tell ‘Em The Truth.” In addition, Wesleyan awarded two honorable mentions along with $5,000 stipends to Luka Netzel of Kansas City, Mo. (The Pembroke Hill School) for his musical, “Heartful Dodgers,” and Chiara Kaufman of Rye, N.Y. (Hackley School) for two works of flash-fiction, titled “The Maid” and “The Burials.”

The winning works were chosen from a pool of over 400 submissions this year. Faculty members reviewed entries, while an all-star selection committee of Wesleyan alumni in the arts, chaired by Miranda and Kail, judged finalists.

About the Honorees

Johnson was honored for “Tell ‘Em The Truth,” an album/mixtape comprised of three songs: “Dreams to Reality,” “These Chains,” and “Damages of Duality.” She wrote these songs, among several others, in 8th and 9th grades as she struggled to acclimate to a predominantly white school as one of the only black students in her classes. Around the same time, the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man, by a white police officer, and many other senseless killings of black people left her feeling scared and resentful.

“My own America wanted to eradicate me, dehumanize me, make me feel like I was nothing. I was a blank corpse with no identity, no face and in America, no voice,” she wrote in her submission for the Hamilton Prize. “I wanted to change that and so I traded in my anger and disappointment for a pen and paper. I transcribed my emotions into lyrics.”

“When experiencing Brianna’s work, I was struck by the honesty, perspective and structure already present in what she’s creating,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda, ’02. “I’m so glad that she’s chosen Wesleyan as the place to continue developing her artistic talents. I look forward to following her artistic journey.”

Committee member and actress Beanie Feldstein ’15 called Johnson’s work a “powerful, moving example of infusing one’s own life-experience into art,” with Johnson putting “her whole being into each lyric, each melody, each performance. […] Her work is wholly raw, vulnerable and masterful. In addition, her art displays radiant strength and an essential commitment to morality that is inspirational. I was rapt and enthralled. It is the work of a young artist you know will do great things and help heal our society.”

Luka Netzel

Luka Netzel ’24

Netzel received an honorable mention for his musical, “Heartful Dodgers.” Set in Cleveland, Ohio in 1969, the play follows twins Barry and Fitz who decide to dodge the draft by joining a nearby Amish community after they are conscripted to serve in the Vietnam War. There, they meet Sarah Ann, daughter of the town’s Minister, who longs to experience the world outside the Amish community.

Author Mary Roach ’81 said she had a “big goofy grin on my face” while reading “Heartful Dodgers.”

“Everything about this piece is fresh, pitch-perfect, professional. Luka has so expertly and lovingly nailed the classical musical genre—the stage directions, the characters’ moves and their back-and-forth singing. And the lyrics! Hilarious and charming. I could see and hear Luka’s vision so clearly in my head as I read. I expect to one day be seeing some of that same creative vision on a Broadway stage.”

Kaufman

Chiara Kaufman ’24

And Kaufman received an honorable mention for two works of flash-fiction. “The Maid” is a stream-of-consciousness narrative from a distressed woman, a wife and mother contemplating a grim future. Committee member Carter Bays ’97, executive producer and writer of How I Met Your Mother, said “The Maid” “captured the mature, complicated voice of a character that I can’t imagine a teenager being able to access.” Kaufman’s other piece, “The Burials,” tells the story of a family, generation after generation, with a dark, secret history.

About the Hamilton Prize

The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in 2016 in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, which that year won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. A filmed version of Hamilton will be released on Disney Plus beginning July 3.

Over the past four years, about 2,000 students have submitted stories, poetry, songs, plays, and screenplays for consideration for the prize. Read about past winners in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

Learn more about the Hamilton Prize.

Wesleyan Student Assembly Commends Faculty on Distance Learning Efforts

wes fest andy

After the Wesleyan Student Assembly commended Wesleyan faculty for their efforts transitioning to distance learning, Andy Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, penned a responding resolution, expressing gratitude to the students.

When President Michael Roth announced in mid-March that Wesleyan would suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester because of the increasing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty had less than two weeks to prepare their courses for distance learning before classes resumed after spring break. Trying to recreate the immersive Wesleyan classroom experience in a digital format presented a variety of challenges, particularly for faculty who had never taught online previously.

It’s become clear over the last month that faculty have been able to rise to those challenges, and the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) formally recognized their efforts on April 19 with the unanimous passage of a resolution “Commending the Wesleyan Faculty for their Efforts in the Transition Towards Distance Learning.” Chair Jake Kwon ’21 and vice-chair Ben Garfield ’22 of the WSA’s Academic Affairs Committee sponsored the resolution in order to recognize the faculty’s hard work and advocacy for students.

“Faculty are going through a lot of similar extenuating circumstances as students are” in transitioning to distance learning, said Kwon. “This has definitely proven difficult, and I wanted to make sure that the faculty knew how appreciative the students were of their efforts, and that in fact they are not unnoticed.”

The resolution recognizes “the faculty’s efforts to maintain the integrity of Wesleyan’s liberal arts education.” It expresses appreciation for “the empathetic faculty who have provided accommodations for students encountering various challenges surrounding the transition to distance learning and the determined professors who aim to continue providing learning opportunities while being conscious of the various potential stressors that could befall the student body and seek to alleviate additional stress from academic work.”

Kwon noted that while the WSA has passed resolutions in solidarity with many groups on campus, “I do not think we have addressed the entire faculty before in a resolution.”

“Many of my professors have been very understanding about deadlines, and many prioritize student health over academia, which I am so thankful for,” Kwon said of his personal experience with the transition to distance learning. “Some have changed testing formats to accommodate online learning, and many professors had to change their entire course design to allow students to learn at home. For me, I have been fortunate to remain healthy amid the crisis, so I have been able to focus on academia, but it is nice to know that I have a safety net to fall onto if I ever get sick as we finish off the semester.”

Faculty have responded to the resolution with deep gratitude. Sean McCann, chair of the faculty, said that at their next meeting on May 20, faculty leadership plans to ask the faculty to endorse a responding resolution written by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, Professor of Classical Studies. It states: “We, the Wesleyan faculty, collectively express our gratitude to you, our students. During the immense upheaval in all our lives and our difficult transition to online teaching and learning, you have been patient, thoughtful, good-humored, and responsive. We deeply appreciate your good will and engagement, and we will do our best to ensure that you continue to get the excellent education you deserve.”

“Personally, I was deeply touched by the WSA resolution, and I know many other Wes faculty were as well,” said McCann. “It was such a very kind and thoughtful thing to do.

“In general, I think many of us have found teaching-by-Zoom a trying experience, and a pale substitute for in-person learning. But I’ve also just been very grateful for the opportunity to work with students, even if virtually. Seeing them pop up on the computer screen is one of the best parts of my day and always a mood lifter—very welcome indeed in a time that can seem so bleak and isolating.”

Bill Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History and academic secretary, echoed this sentiment. “I tell my students that my meetings with them are the highlights of my week, and I really mean that. Many write to say that they do find the virtual classes challenging, but I very much appreciate the efforts they are making to learn through Zoom meetings, emailed papers, and Moodle posts. Not perfect, but it is working.”

McCann noted that the faculty will also be expressing their gratitude to staff, administrators, and librarians through a tandem resolution.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. Washington Post: “Biden Makes End Run Around Trump as the President Dominates the National Stage”

Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, comments on Biden’s unusual strategy during an unprecedented time for the 2020 presidential campaign. “There is not a ready off-the-shelf playbook for how you campaign in this environment if you are a nonincumbent, so that’s part of what you’re seeing,” she said. “We’re all being thrown into this new environment, where campaigns are going to need to reinvent, to some extent, how they go about things, how they going to go about reaching citizens.” Fowler added, “I think we’re at a stage of this event where people are starting to feel coronavirus fatigue. So it seems like to me that the local television news strategy and reaching around is probably a good one at this point.”

NSF Funds Mark’s Research Into Impact of Pandemic on Courts

Alyx Mark

Alyx Mark

Assistant Professor of Government Alyx Mark studies the American separation of powers system, access to justice, and Supreme Court decision-making. She was recently awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) Rapid Response Research (RAPID) grant to study the response of state courts to the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Congratulations on receiving the NSF RAPID grant! Can you please explain how this opportunity came about?

Near the beginning of the pandemic, NSF sent out a Dear Colleague letter soliciting project proposals related to COVID-19. When I read that letter, my first thought was that this was relegated to epidemiologists and others working in areas directly applicable to studying the pandemic. But when I began thinking about how it related to my own research, I realized there are quite significant impacts to how court systems work as a result of the pandemic. I submitted a brief overview of a project idea, and then they invited me to submit a full proposal. The funding was just awarded, and ultimately the whole process took just under a month—versus four months or more, which is typical for NSF funding. The NSF has a special funding stream that is exclusive to these types of projects.

Can you share more about your proposed research project?

Thanks to our federalist system of government, states have considerable authority to dictate how their courts operate, how they’re organized, what types of specialty courts they have, etc. It is very rare that a massive shock like this forces every state to respond. Hurricane Katrina was a similar example, when many states in the South had to rethink how courts and other government processes worked in the wake of the catastrophic disaster.

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, I became interested in studying how states were moving their courts to remote operations at different speeds and in different ways. I thought it would be interesting to catalog all the ways that states are meeting this challenge, and to speak to the people who are implementing the procedures. I’m also very interested in studying the impact of remote operations on people who use the courts to solve their legal problems. I want to know whether the innovations being forced by the pandemic are mitigating or aggravating existing access challenges for vulnerable populations. I plan to focus the project on civil justice, such as landlord-tenant disputes, family law, debt collection cases, and so on. One reason for this is that people don’t have the same types of constitutional protections on the civil side that they have on the criminal side, such as guaranteed counsel.

What are these existing barriers to access that you’ve alluded to with regard to civil courts?

One of the main barriers we see for vulnerable populations is a lack of access to affordable legal assistance. I’m conducting research on reforms to the legal profession in Utah with Anna Carpenter, a law professor at the University of Utah. A recent report revealed that over 90 percent of civil court cases in the Salt Lake City area involved at least one party that was not represented by a lawyer. What’s happening in Utah is not unique—across the country, it is estimated that the vast majority of people represent themselves in civil court, yet these people are much less likely to have a favorable outcome. Also, courts may not be easy to physically access, particularly for people who live in rural areas or lack transportation. And for people who can get to court, there can be challenges with accessing the information they find there. For example, is the information that courts are providing understandable to you? Are court forms written in your language, or at a grade level you can read? Beyond all that, many people who are faced with a civil legal problem do not identify the problem as something that can be addressed through the justice system. Rebecca Sandefur, a scholar many in the access to justice field look up to (including me!), uses an iceberg to describe this phenomenon, with the tip of the iceberg being people who actually go to court, and underneath the water being everyone else who doesn’t realize they can use the justice system to solve their problems.

How do you plan to conduct your research?

There are three stages to the project. The first stage is a comprehensive scan of all the changes that every state court in the U.S. has made in response to the pandemic, ranging from their courts of last resort to municipal courts. The support from the NSF enables me to work with three undergraduates on conducting this data collection effort. In the second stage, I’m interested in speaking with the people who have both designed and implemented these changes. Who are these people, both internal and external to the court system, who have been working on these innovations and reforms, and how are they feeling about how it’s going? Finally, I plan to investigate this question about whether these innovations have had any impact on access to justice for vulnerable populations. I’ll be working with the Quantitative Analysis Center (QAC) on analysis for this stage.

It’s still early in your research, but what have you seen thus far in terms of how courts are responding to the pandemic? 

Three main types of changes to hearings are emerging. In some states, I’ve seen delays or pauses on all jury trials and all non-emergency types of cases. In others, I’ve seen shifts to online or telephonic hearings. For example, the Texas Supreme Court is holding its oral arguments on Zoom, with all the justices and the two attorneys in the middle of their “Brady Bunch” square. And then in some places, emergency cases, such as domestic violence cases, are still being physically held in courts, with social distancing measures being taken for safety.

When we see these courts moving operations to a remote space in a very short period of time, the question becomes, what is the added risk of having these processes happen remotely? If it doesn’t appear to be adding significant risks, then perhaps courts can consider extending some of these policies beyond the pandemic to improve access for those vulnerable populations. We’re seeing this very rare surge of innovation as a consequence of the pandemic, and I see solutions being utilized that could also be very useful for the long term.

In addition to changes to how hearings work, courts have also reconsidered how filing paperwork happens. Just to give one example, what if we could relax notary requirements for people who don’t have easy access to notaries, and instead ask them to submit a statement that says, “Under penalty of perjury, everything I’ve said in this statement is true.”

What do you think the appetite is for this kind of longer-term change? 

It’s hard to say at this point. There are many reasons why states have not pursued major innovations, including a lack of resources to do so. But, that’s not to say that states aren’t doing innovative things. For example, Utah—a state I’ve been researching—is piloting a system of online dispute resolution for small claims cases, and recently opened up its legal market so that non-lawyers (Licensed Paralegal Practitioners) can provide limited forms of services in certain areas of law. I think a moment like this is really important because it allows courts to take stock of how they’ve been doing things and ask themselves if changes are possible.

What are you teaching this semester? Are you incorporating this current moment into your teaching?

This spring I’m teaching American Government & Politics and Judicial Decision-Making. In the latter class, the students are working on grant proposals for their own projects related to what judges do. It’s nice to see this spectrum of interest among the students ranging from the U.S. Supreme Court all the way down to a municipal docket. Seeing my students’ proposals was a bit of an inspiration to light a fire under my office chair to write my own proposal to the NSF!

In my American Government & Politics class, we’ve been talking about the connections between federalism and the coronavirus. We see a pattern of state reactions to what’s happening nationally. To say the very least, this is an unusual moment that is providing these really wacky examples of national-state relations. The pandemic has allowed us to test some of the theories we’re learning about in the abstract by examining current events.

Dolan Studies Impact of COVID-19 on Public Attitudes Toward Globalization

Lindsay Dolan

Lindsay Dolan

Assistant Professor of Government Lindsay Dolan specializes in international political economy and comparative politics in developing countries. Her research and teaching interests include international organizations, foreign aid, and development. Together with her co-author Quynh Nguyen of Australian National University, she has been studying how COVID-19 is affecting public attitudes toward globalization.

President Trump recently announced that he is suspending U.S. funding for the World Health Organization (WHO). Can you briefly explain the role of the WHO, particularly during a global health crisis, and what will be the implications of the U.S. cutting funding? Which countries or populations will be most affected?

The World Health Organization (WHO), like many international organizations, exists to provide information and coordinate among its 194 member states. Although it works on a host of global health issues, pandemic preparedness is an important part of its mandate. Its role during such a crisis is to collect and disseminate valuable information on the number of cases, provide scientific and technical information to inform government responses, and to establish a forum for coordination among governments.

Wesleyan Establishes New Bachelor of Liberal Studies Degree

CPE

Incarcerated students enrolled in Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education will be able to earn the newly-established Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree.

Wesleyan announced that it will now offer a part-time, non-residential undergraduate degree, the Bachelor of Liberal Studies (BLS). This provides a flexible, affordable path to earning a bachelor’s degree for students who meet Wesleyan’s admission standards but are unable to commit to living on campus for a variety of reasons.

The Office of Continuing Studies and the BLS Faculty Governing Board announced the BLS degree in an email to faculty and staff on April 9. Staff, as well as spouses and domestic partners of faculty and staff, who are interested in earning a bachelor’s degree, are encouraged to apply. The Human Resources website contains information on tuition benefits for eligible employees, spouses, and domestic partners.

The program is open to the general public and may be an attractive option for adult learners who hold a job or have family responsibilities. BLS students take courses on a per-credit basis, and normal completion time for the degree is within six years of matriculation.

In addition, the New England Commission on Higher Education (NECHE), Wesleyan’s accrediting body, has approved the establishment of additional instructional locations at Cheshire and York correctional institutions, so that incarcerated students enrolled in Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education (CPE) will have an opportunity to earn BLS degrees.

“It’s been such an honor to be a part of the development of the BLS program at Wesleyan,” said Nicole Stanton, incoming provost and a member of the BLS faculty governing board. “With the approval of this new initiative, we will be able to make a Wesleyan education accessible to many more people, expand the critical work of our Center for Prison Education, and deepen our ties to our communities.”

Roth ’78, Tanaka ’00 Outline Pandemic’s Financial Impact on Wesleyan

budget on zoom

At top, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78, and Andy Tanaka ’00, senior vice president and chief administrative officer and treasurer, spoke to Wesleyan faculty and staff over Zoom on April 21. They explained the University’s financial burden due to the COVID-19 pandemic and answered questions from employees.

In an April 16 campus email, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 outlined the cost of the current COVID-19 pandemic to the University to be between $11-12 million for the current fiscal year. On April 21, Roth and Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer, and Treasurer Andy Tanaka ’00 held a virtual All-Staff Community Forum to further discuss the pandemic’s impact on Wesleyan’s finances and take questions from the community.

In his initial message, Roth wrote that the estimated loss is driven by “the cost of important measures like reimbursing students for prorated portions of their residential and comprehensive fees, emergency support for student travel to and from campus, funding lost wages for work study, and necessary investments in creating the best distance learning environment possible—all vital to the health and safety of our educational community.” He noted, “It does not account for the negative effects on other areas of the budget like fundraising, endowment returns and recruitment and yield.”

Due to past fiscal prudence and the generosity of parents, alumni, and friends of the University, Wesleyan is well-positioned to “weather the pandemic’s initial impact,” Roth wrote. “But because we don’t know how long it will last, we need now to prepare for the longer term by finding ways to offset lower revenue expectations without sacrificing the quality of the education.”

Roth described steps the administration is taking to mitigate the financial impact, explaining that he has asked all members of the President’s Cabinet to reduce expenditures in their areas by at least 10 percent for fiscal year 2021. In addition, Wesleyan will freeze compensation and non-faculty hiring, and will halt non-essential facilities projects. This includes pausing the start of construction on the Public Affairs Center (PAC) for a few months, which had been planned to start this summer.