Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Inaugural Hamilton Prize Winner Featured in Boston Globe

Audrey Pratt, winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. (Photo by Betsy Pratt).

Audrey Pratt, winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. (Photo by Betsy Pratt.)

The Boston Globe recently published a profile of Audrey Pratt, an incoming student in Wesleyan’s Class of 2021 and the winner of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity. Pratt, a graduate of Needham (Mass.) High School, won a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan for her short fiction submission, “Thorns, Black and White.”

Pratt, who was accepted early decision to Wesleyan, told the Globe that when she applied for the prize, she “didn’t think in a million years I’d win,” but she was excited for the chance to have Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Thomas Kail ’99 read her work. Miranda, writer/creator and former star, and Kail, the director of Hamilton, are co-chairs of the alumni selection committee for the prize.

Wesleyan received more than 600 entries, including short stories, slam poetry, screenplays and songs.

Pratt described her entry as “a dark fantasy story, almost a modern Grimm fairy tale, about a forest, the coming of age process, girls with antlers and other monstrous versions of forest creatures.”

Pratt has written stories as long as she can remember. She was captain of her high school’s speech and debate team, a member of the all-female robotics team, and a member of the National Honor Society. At Wesleyan, she plans to study creative writing, neuroscience and behavior, and film.

“I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it,” she told the Globe. “It has given me a lot to live up [to], but I’m going to try my best and make everyone proud.”

Read more about Pratt and the Hamilton Prize here.

Rubenstein Discusses Theories of the Multiverse on Studio 360

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein was a guest on WNYC’s “Studio 360” recently, in a show titled, “The Theoretical Physicist Wore a Toga.” She addressed existential “what if” questions and the idea of multiple universes—an idea, she explains, which “is about 2,500 years old.”

“For the ancient Atomist philosophers [in Ancient Greece], the most desirable thing about what we’re now calling the multiverse was that it got rid of the need for a god. If it is the case that our world is the only world, then it’s very difficult to explain. How is everything so perfect? How is it that sunsets so beautiful?” she said. “What the Atomists believed was that religion and the belief in these kinds of benevolent gods actually caused people to behave terribly to one another, so they wanted to find a different explanation. So their explanation was that it’s not the case that some anthropomorphic god or gods made the universe so it was just perfect the way it is, but that actually that our world was just one of an infinite number of other worlds that looked totally different from our world, and that worlds were the product just of accident, of particles colliding with one another and randomly forming worlds.”

“It sounds a lot like modern physics,” she added.

What are the practical effects of such theories?

“Every major development in modern Western science since Copernicus has been advertised as this radical de-centering of our importance. […] As science progresses, we learn that we are less and less important than we thought we were. That’s one argument. But of course, it doesn’t seem to be the case that these purported decentralizations of the importance of the human have in any way contributed in any way to our feeling like we’re insignificant. We still tend to think that we run the planet.”

Rubenstein is also professor of science in society, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Environmental History Class Produces Radio Program

This year, students in Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker’s class, Seeing a Bigger Picture: Integrating Visual Methods and Environmental History, had an opportunity to share what they learned in an unusual format. They produced an hour-long radio program, which debuted on WESU 88.1 FM on Memorial Day. It will air again on the station this summer, and can be heard on wesufm.org or on SoundCloud.

Rosie Dawson, a producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), teaches Phie Towle '20 and Alea Laidlaw '20 about radio program development. 

Rosie Dawson, a producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), teaches Phie Towle ’20 and Alea Laidlaw ’20 about radio program development.

The course introduces students to key landmarks in the visual history of environmentalism and environmental science, from the 18th century to the recent past. The class studies the power and the limits of visual representations, addressing how images of nature have changed as well as how the nature of images has been transformed in the past 250 years, according to Tucker, who is also associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of science in society, and associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies. The students received training in radio storytelling from Rosie Dawson, a producer at the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

Tucker and Dawson first met two years ago, when Tucker contributed an essay to a BBC series that Dawson was producing

Wesleyan Takes Action on Climate Change

Wesleyan University’s solar panels produce enough energy to power 164 houses.

In recent weeks, Wesleyan has been taking a public stand to fight climate change. President Michael Roth was one of more than 80 university presidents who, together with mayors, governors and business leaders, are preparing to submit a plan to the United Nations pledging to meet greenhouse gas emissions targets outlined in the Paris climate accord, according to The New York Times. This came after U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the international agreement.

Roth told The Chronicle of Higher Education: “I think it’s quite extraordinary that supporting a basic commitment to lessen a source of pollution in the world is seen as a particularly strong civic or political act. At a time when the White House is promoting an anti-scientific assault on public policy and research, it’s really important for universities and especially university leadership to defend the values that are necessary for us to be institutions of learning.”

Roth also said that Wesleyan had already divested from coal and made efforts to make its campus more energy-efficient. In May, Wesleyan drafted a building-sustainability policy that establishes how the campus will choose building materials and use energy and water in ways that reduce its carbon footprint.

The Hartford Courant also covered Wesleyan’s efforts. “I think it’s incumbent upon states and businesses and universities and other organizations to do whatever we can to pollute less [and] develop more sustainable economic models for the future of the planet,” Roth said.

Roth also recently joined 29 other college and university presidents in endorsing carbon pricing as a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change, according to The Middletown Press. These presidents, who form the Higher Education Carbon Pricing Endorsement Initiative, signed a letter calling on state and federal lawmakers to enact a carbon price at the state and federal levels.

Jen Kleindienst, director of Wesleyan’s Office of Sustainability, told the Press, “It stems from inaction during the current (presidential) administration, but even during the previous administration. A lot of sustainability professionals are concerned that we, as a country and as a community, are not moving quickly enough and that could mean really dire consequences for the planet.”

 

Tavernier Studies Effects of Technology Use, In-Person Interactions on Sleep

Royette Tavernier

Royette Tavernier

Assistant Professor of Psychology Royette Tavernier has published a new paper examining the effects of technology use and face-to-face interactions with friends and family on adolescents’ sleep. Tavernier is the lead author on “Adolescents’ technology and face-to-face time use predict objective sleep outcomes,” now in press in Sleep Health, the Journal of the National Sleep Foundation.

About 70 racially diverse high school students (11 – 18 years old) were recruited from three different high schools in a large city in the Midwest to participate in the study. Their sleep-wake habits were recorded for three consecutive nights using sleep monitoring devices.

Using brief daily surveys, students reported the amount of time they spent engaged in eight different technology-based activities—texting, instant messaging, Facebook, Twitter, talking on the phone, TV, working on the computer and video games—as well as time spent engaged in face-to-face interactions with family and friends.

5 Alumni, 2 Students Accept Fulbrights

fulbright240Seven Wesleyans are finalists in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program this year. The Fulbright Student Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The program operates in 160 countries worldwide.

In total, 38 former and current Wesleyan students applied, and 12 were semi-finalists. Of those, two were selected as alternates, and eight were finalists. Seven of them accepted Fulbrights.

The program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs.

Patricelli Center Named ‘Murphy’s Innovator of the Month’

The 2016/2017 Patricelli Center Fellows.

The 2016/2017 Patricelli Center Fellows.

Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship was honored in May as U.S. Senator Chris Murphy’s “Innovator of the Month.” It is the first educational institution to receive this recognition.
Founded in May 2011, the PCSE provides workshops, training, mentoring, and networking opportunities to Wesleyan students and alumni who are tackling social problems using entrepreneurial solutions. PCSE also hosts a year-long fellowship course for undergraduates and an annual $5,000 seed grant competition. With support from foundations and individual donors, PCSE is now an endowed program and a permanent part of Wesleyan University.

“Wesleyan’s PCSE is a one-of-a-kind program,” Murphy said. “PCSE is making it possible for students and aspiring entrepreneurs to work on the issues they care about. Their efforts are helping to create a more just community, and I’m proud they call Connecticut home.”

Rankine Delivers 2017 Commencement Address


Poet, essayist and playwright, Claudia Rankine delivered the 2017 Commencement address on May 28. Rankine is the recipient of numerous awards for work described as fearless in its pursuit of new directions in American poetry. She is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays, including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations; and is the editor of several anthologies, including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. For Citizen, Rankine won the Forward Prize for Poetry, the National Book Critics Circle Award for Poetry, The Los Angeles Times Book Award, the PEN Open Book Award, and the NAACP Image Award. She lives in New York City and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry.

Reunion and Commencement Wesleyan University May 28, 2017 photo by Will Barr

Her speech is below:

Good morning, Class of 2017. Thank you to President Roth, the Board of Trustees, the esteemed faculty and the staff of Wesleyan for allowing me to become part of the amazing class of 2017. I think every member of “my class” should turn to the person next to them and congratulate them.

All your lives you have worked hard, mighty hard. Today, this day, celebrates your success. In fact, the single reason I am here is to congratulate you. In case you were wondering, I was asked to come “say something”, but really I am here to be part of the congratulations.

Your parents should be congratulated too for their commitment to your success—“cha ching!” The rest of your family and friends remained alongside you these past years. Also, the coffee industry; Pi Cafe; Foss Hill; the Tomb; the cigarettes you don’t smoke; Instagram’s new live video feature; and the twitter account that keeps you informed and in direct contact with the White House during those all-nighters.

Your professors as well, I suspect, played an important role in your success. The staff committed themselves in ways known and unknown to your success. But all those long nights it was you in Olin Library, you in the lab, you at the computer, you on Facebook, you texting, you playing video games and then back studying, then back on Facebook, then discussing the FBI somebody who was fired, then back writing the thesis, then back on twitter, whatever. In any case, you did it. You worked harder and you let your best be better, and sometimes great. It’s not cool to admit it but you know how hard you worked.

Wesleyan, this incredible institution, which grew with you over the years, held you, challenged you, sometimes disappointed you, and always was only as great as you collectively are. It will forever remain as a symbol of your collective success.

Congratulations to all of you! There’s a good chance you just joined the 52 percent of college-educated voters who voted against the immigration ban, who voted against the defunding of planned parenthood, who voted against the dismantling of the affordable care act, against the building of a wall, against the denial of climate change, and against the push to popularize “Putin” as the most popular baby name in our Nation—in order to create the Putin x-generation. I wanted to add that I put forward the Putin baby name thing as an alternative fact, despite its disservice to babies. But really, seriously, congratulations again.

Because you don’t know me, I can understand if my congratulations sound like part of the rhetoric of what gets said to you today. But sometimes protocol lines up with sincerity, sometimes not; but in this case, yes. Congratulations.
It matters to me that you know all you have achieved, because unless you understand that, you won’t be willing to attempt the impossible, you won’t be willing to work towards a goal knowing you might fail.

That’s right, in addition to being part of the congratulations today, I have come to make a plug for failure. There are many ways to fail after all your successes. You can be a poet like me and research stuff that has already happened only to retell it using anaphora, rhyme, and alliteration. Poets, according to Lewis Hyde’s “The Gift,” are the failure of a market economy.

I recently read about the South African artist William Kentridge’s Centre for the Less Good Idea. Kentridge is a personal hero of mine. His deeply collaborative and engaged work on life in South Africa, from apartheid to the AIDS crisis to present states of poverty and violence, has been moving, informative and transformative. The Centre for the Less Good Idea, according to Kentridge, is a “safe space for uncertainty, doubt, stupidity and, at times, failure.” He believes we humans have too much investment in certainty and he personally feels “rescued by failure.” Consequently, he is more interested in provisional positions and in the “desperation present in all uncertainty.”

What I personally love about this kind of uncertainty is that it allows for the creation of a habit of being that is willing to risk the self in service of the formation of some unknown. This instability means failure is imminent but not inevitable. And the exciting part is that alongside failure lives possibility.

What I wish for you is that you will pursue your unknown and unrealized imagined possibilities, even though the imagined/unimagined resides with such close proximity to failure. To pursue something because it matters to you, to your moral expectations for the world; to pursue something because the way it occurs now is, to be blunt, unjust, to pursue and invest in change despite not having the power to implement it directly, is to be willing to fail. Then success is beside the point. That something matters to you, truly, madly, deeply, becomes the point. That someone matters is the point.

In the last years, while you were students at this eminent institution, we have had amazing examples of people willing to fail in the face of established power.

When activists Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi began with the premise that systemic racism creates a playing field of incommensurable experiences, and asked you to gather in the name of Black Lives Matter, many of you came. Okay, some of you came. You entered your classrooms and your streets and various venues and places of business and stormed the stage of events and requested more diverse representation, more just discourse and spaces for everyone. You made your requests even as the world around you continued to fail you. The white imagination, its weaponized fears and nurtured hatreds, continued to be triggered by black skin, people of color, and its own need to dominate and own spaces.

And when Black Lives Matter said we are “an ideological and political intervention in a world where Black lives are systematically and intentionally targeted for demise,” you intervened on behalf of human lives because you remembered, without needing the exact language, that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in a commencement speech in 1961, said, “all life is interrelated. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality; tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

And when Black Lives Matter affirmed “Black folks’ contribution to this society, our humanity, and our resilience in the face of deadly oppression,” you walked in solidarity in order to assert yourself or yourself in alliance with others.

Because of you we have returned to an everyday practice of participatory culture, and as the phenomenal feminist and social activist Cathy Cohen has pointed out, we expect sharing. A sharing that has made possible “a participatory politics that is peer based and more interactive with more dialogue.” And we are beginning to respect the insights of our own unacknowledged and too often disregarded experiences and understandings. Those understandings won’t always line up with economic or mainstream ideas of success, but they will be in line with what we need to form meaningful lives.

I don’t know about you all, but I came from a working-class immigrant family. Success did not present to them as the study of poetry. But at some point, while working in law firms, I came across the feminist poet Adrienne Rich’s answer to the question, “Does poetry play a role in social change?”. Yes, she said:

“…where poetry is liberative language, connecting the fragments within us, connecting us to others like and unlike ourselves, replenishing our desire. … In a time of frontal assaults both on language and on human solidarity, poetry can remind us of all we are in danger of losing—disturb us, embolden us out of resignation.”

Some of you have family members or friends who won’t agree with the justice you will fail towards. And your choices won’t always make for a comfortable and economically abundant life. But in your imagined world, carrying Skittles while being black won’t mean, won’t justify, being accosted or murdered by security, by police, by the weaponized white imagination. Having choice over your body won’t be something that needs legislation. Being undocumented will enter you into a process not a deportation center.Sexual violence against anyone will be recognized as such.

Life, friends, is not boring. (That’s a misquote of John Berryman’s “Dream Song 14.”) Injustice should never bore you.

What I really want to say is that there are all kinds of deplorable practices that should compel you to want to fail forward; all kinds of everyday realities that should require you to move this entire room in new directions. These pathways of resistance won’t look like success, but they will exist in the direction of justice and truth. For example, Bryan Stevenson, the executive director and founder of the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama, has recently won an historic ruling that mandatory life-without-parole sentences for all children 17 or younger are unconstitutional.

You might not have known about the ruling. You might not have known children were being sent to prison for life. But Stevenson knew and the children who were sentenced knew. Stevenson failed for a long time before he gave the justice system back its humanity. Failing was just part of the process.

Cornel West says that justice is what love looks like in public; therefore, no matter how much pessimism you might feel, no matter how much discomfort you might feel, no matter how much resistance you might feel or you might get, failure of Stevenson’s sort will just be you and your “justice-love” arm-in-arm in public.

For some of you, failure will mean stepping away from positions of white dominance. For others, it will mean non-conformity in the role of people of color “exceptionalism.” For all of us failing can be a kind of freedom. It can be a new understanding of our limits. In her book Ethical Loneliness the philosopher Jill Stauffer writes, “It’s important for those who listen to reflect on the limits of what they already know and how that affects what they are able to hear. Perhaps then people and the institutions they design will be able to listen for their own failures –and thus begin to live up to what justice after complex conflict or long-standing injustice demands.” This form of failure can mean understanding yourself as part of the human community before taking up the certainty of economic comfort, of dis-associative amnesia, of cynical collusion.

And justice, for me, feels like the love of “making common cause with the brokenness of being,” to quote the theorist Jack Halberstam. “The love of “making common cause with the brokenness of being.” It’s the work of failing toward an imagined fellowship with each other.

Halberstam’s phrase comes from the introduction to the Undercommons: Fugitive Planning & Black Study coauthored by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten. This book is my graduation present to all of you. It’s available free of charge as a PDF on line. Again, cheating the market economy. Another failure in our market driven economy! The Undercommons is waiting for you and for anyone else you would like to congratulate with a gift. You can thank me later.

I won’t spoil the gift by telling you what it says but I will read to you Stefano and Fred’s last sentences where they define what it is to feel and alert us to its radical possibilities.

They say, “This feel is the hold that lets go (let’s go) again and again to dispossess us of ability, fill us with need, give us ability to fill need, this feel. We hear the godfather and the old mole calling us to become, in whatever years we have, philosophers of the feel. Love, Stephano /Fred”

And love also from me, love from me for all the feelings honored, love from me for all the ways you have failed so far in the name of fellowship, and also love from me for all the ways you will bring discomfort to yourself and the world, and also love from me for all the challenges you will put in the way of dominance and violence and injustice. Love to our entire Wesleyan community for all our antidotes. Love to each of you and love to your bad behavior in the boardroom, on juries, in the office, on the street, at your dinner tables in all and every space that believes it can hold racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-muslim rhetoric and on and on. Love to you and your wild and unruly hearts imagining our world again. Again, congratulations.

Jiménez Moreta Makes Remarks at Commencement

Reunion and Commencement Wesleyan University May 28, 2017 photo by Will BarrCristina Jiménez Moreta, executive director and co-founder of United We Dream (UWD), the largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country, received an honorary doctorate during Wesleyan’s 2017 commencement ceremony on May 28. United We Dream played a leadership role in persuading the Obama administration to protect more than one million young immigrants from deportation through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Reunion and Commencement Wesleyan University May 28, 2017 photo by Will BarrOriginally from Ecuador, Jiménez Moreta came to the United States with her family at the age of 13. She is one of Forbes’s 2014 “30 under 30 in Law and Policy;” was named one of “40 under 40 Young Leaders Who are Solving Problems of Today and Tomorrow” by the Chronicle of Philanthropy; one of “50 Fearless Women” by Cosmopolitan; and named one of 25 disruptive leaders who are working to close the racial opportunity gap by Living Cities.

Her speech is below:

Thank you to President Roth, faculty, and students for this recognition.

I’m humbled by such distinguished honor and consider this to be a recognition for all immigrant youth and families that are part United We Dream and for one of our co-founders, Jose Luis Marantes, who is an alumnus of Wesleyan, class of 2006.

To the graduates and to your the parents and loved ones- congratulations!

As the daughter of immigrant parents who supported me didn’t let me quit despite the odds – I know that today is your day too!

And honestly this is a big day for me too. As the daughter of a father who grew up homeless, a mother who was told that girls don’t belong in school, and as someone who grew up undocumented, I could have never imagined to be with all of you today receiving an honorary degree from Wesleyan.

To my parents: I’m thankful for your courage, your sacrifice, and your love. Para todos los padres aquí, gracias por sus sacrificios y por su amor. 

As a kid growing up in Ecuador I remember getting letters from my school saying that I wouldn’t be allowed into school unless we pay our tuition. My parents did everything they could to support our family, but they just couldn’t find jobs. They could no longer afford to pay for school and some weeks we even struggled to have food at home.

They dreamed of a better life and for my brother and I to be the first ones in our family to go to college. So seeking those dreams, they risked everything and left Ecuador and our community and our families behind to come here to this country.

I was 13 and my brother was six when we settled in Queens, NY. A big shout out to all the New Yorkers here.

I attended high school with a constant fear that my parents could be deported or that I could be deported. Very early on, I learned that I was vulnerable not only for my lack of immigration status but because of the color of my skin. At 11 years old, I had to deal with the experience of my brother being a stop and frisk by New York City police in our neighborhood.

When I was ready to apply for college my college advisor told me that I couldn’t go to college because I didn’t have immigration status.
I was devastated.

But that same year I graduated, undocumented youth in New York pushed and pressured the State of New York to pass a law that allowed undocumented students like me to go to college. And Connecticut has done the same, and young people in Connecticut have done the same here, so big shout out to all the undocumented people and allies that have fought for students here.

I completed my bachelor’s and my master’s degrees with the support of my parents but also the support of institutions like the City University of New York, faculty and students that encouraged me, regardless of being undocumented. And Wesleyan is that kind of place.

Thank you President Roth and Wesleyan community for being an example of bold leadership in higher education by welcoming students regardless of immigration status in an era where racism and hate against immigrants and people of color has been normalized. Thank you.

And thank you for the great partnership that you have with the United We Dream affiliate here, Connecticut Students for a Dream, and we look forward to continuing that partnership.

As a person who lived too many years desperately afraid to reveal myself, and I go across the country and I see many immigrants and people of color that live in fear, I know how critical is for institutions and the people that work in them to create safe spaces for everyone and to treat everyone with dignity.

So graduates, it is a great privilege to be in an institution like Wesleyan and for you all to have had that experience. And with this great privilege also comes responsibility.

So today as you’re graduating, I invite you to own this responsibility with graciousness and ensure that wherever you go after today you create safe spaces for everyone. Spaces where people can be their true authentic selves without fears, without prejudice, and without any institution or any person holding them back.

Because as we speak there are some powerful leaders telling people like me and my family that we are criminals and that we don’t belong here. They are doing everything to target immigrants, refugees, women, Muslims, and LGBTQ and black people. And thousands are being detained, incarcerated, and separated from their families because of deportation.

So to be honest, immigrants like my family and other communities are going to need fellow humans who are committed to standing in the way of injustice and racism.

And you know what, looking at all of you here out here today and knowing you came from this place, I am very hopeful.

I am hopeful that you will lead with boldness and idealism, just like the mission of Wesleyan, and stand for inclusion and dignity for all people.

So thank you for this honor. Thank you for affirming to me and undocumented families that we belong here. That this is our country too. I am grateful, and I look forward to building the next chapter of this country together. Congratulations.

Handelsman Makes Remarks on Superpowers

Reunion and Commencement Wesleyan University May 28, 2017 photo by Will BarrJo Handelsman, the director of the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, a research institute at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, received an honorary degree during Wesleyan’s 185th commencement ceremony on May 28.

Handelsman recently concluded service as the associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Obama, where she advised the President on policies to address current and future challenges in science, engineering and mathematics. A distinguished scientist who helped create the field of metagenomics, Handelsman’s current research focuses on the way bacteria communicate among themselves to create robust communities. In addition to her internationally recognized research, Handelsman is also an international authority on evidence-based science education, which she terms “scientific teaching.”

Her speech is below:

On Superpowers

Thank you for inviting me here to share this very special day with you today. It is indeed an honor to receive a degree from an institution as venerable as Wesleyan University. Congratulations to all of you. To us!

You may not know it yet, our graduates, but you will know a few years from now that today is actually  a celebration of the superpowers you have acquired in college. Powers that will enable you to live lives of action, goodness, and wisdom. No, sorry to disappoint you—you won’t be able to fly or shoot lasers from your eyes—but you have superpowers that are just as transformative and much more useful in the modern world.

Today, the last four years of toil and struggle, doldrums, self-doubts, fun, epiphanies, and awakenings coalesce into four superpowers that few people on Earth possess, and you must therefore treasure them and use them wisely.

The first is the power to think. To engage in rigorous evaluation and separate fact from fiction, science from belief. The power of thought will enable you to use logic and be persuasive. Thought will empower you to live a rational and meaningful life.

Your second superpower is knowledge. Your knowledge of yourself will form the platform upon which you will build your values through thoughtful consideration, not inheritance. Your knowledge of the world will remind you that everyone is not like you—that you are just a tiny and privileged bit of life on a large and complex planet.

Your third superpower is independence. This power will ensure that you can rely on yourself, that you won’t be afraid to be alone, and that you will stand for unpopular causes and be the exception. Your independence will provide you the courage to speak truth to power and give voice to those whose voices can’t be heard.

Your fourth superpower is community. You sit here today in a community that will never assemble in this form again but will nonetheless fortify you throughout your lives. No one can take from you the great Wesleyan community to which you have belonged for four years. It has taught you the importance of being part of something larger than yourself and the power of balancing your independence with relying upon and supporting others. And caring about members of a community has given you the gifts of compassion and generosity.

So, 2017 Wesleyan graduates, thank you again

for allowing me to join you at this moment when you will launch into the rest of your lives. Now go forth and use your superpowers to make sure your lives are well lived.

Kadets, Kwon, Williams, Reyes Deliver Senior Voices, Hatch Gives Faculty Reflection

Lili Kadets ’17, Haneah Kwon ’17, Arnelle Williams ’17, and Mika Reyes ’17 delivered “Senior Voices” addresses on May 27 in Memorial Chapel. Anthony Hatch, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of sociology, assistant professor of African American studies, delivered the faculty reflection. Below are the text of their speeches:

Badr ’20 Runs Website to Empower Youth to Tell Their Stories

Ahmed Badr '20

Ahmed Badr ’20

Ahmed Badr ’20, who was born in Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, was profiled recently on NPR. According to the story, Badr used writing to figure out what it meant to be an Iraqi-American kid:

Over time, Badr realized that writing on his personal blog helped other people understand who he was and where he came from.

“There was this feeling of empowerment that was just overnight, all of sudden people were interested in my story,” Badr says. “… And so with that in mind, two years passed, and I thought, ‘OK, well this was great, but this is only helping me. This is only helping my own expression. So how about I take that feeling and that space that I created for myself and turn it into something that allows youth, refugee or otherwise, all over the world to do the same exact thing.’ “

Badr founded the website Narratio to empower other young people from around the world to tell their own stories. He curates essays, poems and stories submitted by young people, and also runs youth writing workshops.

Badr tells NPR he feels guilty when he sees family still living in Iraq, and feels a sense of personal responsibility to give the millions of youth in that country an outlet to express themselves.

“I want to be able to turn that guilty feeling that I had when my cousins asked me, ‘What are you up to?’ into a responsibility … and make it possible for them to be able to answer that question as freely as they would like to,” he says. “And so, if I can do that by giving them a website that they can share their stories on, that’s a step in the right direction.”

At Wesleyan, Badr is both an Allbritton Fellow and a Patricelli Center Fellow.