Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

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.

Matesan Discusses Manchester Terror Attack on CBS Connecticut

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan discussed the recent terror attack in Manchester, England on CBS Connecticut.

Matesan said the big question on her mind is the nature of the perpetrator’s connection to ISIS. At this time, not much is known about the perpetrator’s background.

We know from terrorism studies that there is no single profile to explain “why an individual would join a terrorist group or why they would undertake a terrorist attack, so there are so many possible paths to radicalization. That story we do not know yet,” she said. “The other interesting question that we’re not exactly sure about yet is the connection to ISIS. Because ISIS has claimed the attack […] but it seems like they don’t have their story straight.”

“It seems most likely that [ISIS] simply inspired the attack but had no direct connection in organizing or coordinating it,” she said.

Understanding how ISIS is either inspiring or directing terror attacks like this this is important in dictating policy response, she added. It’s quite difficult to predict where the next attack will come from when attackers are acting relatively independently.

Matesan also noted that in this case, the attacker chose a high-profile venue with significantly less security than in other locations, such as in London. The fact that the victims included many women and children resulted in a high shock value.

“The message that ISIS wants to send is to be scared, that they’re coming for us, and that’s exactly the message that we need to undermine,” she said. “In terms of responses, of course enhanced security and intelligence cooperation and hardening targets is the only clear and obvious response. What perhaps is most important is what we should not do, and that is not to fall into the trap of provocation and in the trap of Islamophobia and xenophobia.”

Matesan also is a tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Yohe Rebuts Sen. Paul’s Call to Withdraw from Paris Climate Agreement

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, rebuts an op-ed on Fox News in which U.S. Senator Rand Paul argues for the United States to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement. Writing on the site Climate FeedbackYohe explains that Paul’s opinion relies on the flawed claim that the agreement would do little to slow climate change and would cost American jobs.

Yohe breaks down Paul’s assertions regarding anticipated global warming—both with and without the agreement—as well as the Senator’s predictions that the agreement would cost the country 6.5 million in lost jobs and $3 trillion in lost GDP. Yohe contends that Paul relies only on analysis by economists who will produce numbers that support his view. Instead, Yohe points to the recent experience in both the U.S. as a whole and in California, which has a cap and trade program. Both have seen carbon emissions fall dramatically while unemployment has fallen and GDP growth has increased. “These simple economic observations contradict the Senator’s claims,” he writes.

Yohe goes on to explain why energy transformation on the scale envisioned by those who support the Paris Accord is economically feasible, and writes that renewable energy will be the growth sector of the first half of the century. For the U.S. to withdraw from the climate agreement “would reduce investment incentives in the United States. Leaving the Accord would thereby limit employment growth opportunities. It is here that the future employment of those displaced by the contraction of, for example, the coal industry, would otherwise be found.”

Community Celebrates Opening of Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

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From left, co-owner of Grown Shanon Allen, Wesleyan President Michael Roth, RJ Julia owner Roxanne Coady, Middletown Mayor Dan Drew, and Middlesex Chamber of Commerce President Larry McHugh cut the ribbon at the new Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore.

On May 23, Wesleyan celebrated the opening of the new Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore with a ribbon-cutting ceremony. The store, located at 413 Main Street in Middletown, was packed with Wesleyan faculty and staff, city and state officials, members of the Middlesex Chamber of Commerce and other community members, and those who worked to transform the 13,000-square-foot space into a gorgeous bookstore and café. Guests milled about and explored the store’s offerings while sampling small bites provided by Grown™ café. Brief remarks were delivered by Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth, RJ Julia owner Roxanne Coady, and Grown™ owner Shannon Allen, followed by the cutting of the ribbon. (View the entire photo album in this Wesleyan Flickr album.)

Boasting high ceilings with tin detail, ample natural light, and a two-story open concourse design that provides a spacious, airy environment for reading and shopping, the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore houses approximately 18,000 books, with a special section highlighting authors from the Wesleyan community. In addition to books, the store sells a wide range of both Wesleyan-themed and general apparel and merchandise. The store’s quiet lower level evokes a library, with seating areas for exploring new books. This area opens up to seat hundreds of guests for author events, and also houses the store’s textbook department.

Wesleyan Awards Hamilton Prize for Creativity to Incoming First-Year Student

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An all-star committee of Wesleyan University alumni, chaired by Hamilton writer/creator and former star Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ‘15 and director Thomas Kail ’99, has selected the recipient of the inaugural Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity: Audrey Pratt of Needham, Mass. Pratt’s submission, a short piece of fiction titled, “Thorns, Black and White,” was selected from among more than 600 entries.

Pratt will receive a four-year full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan, worth as much as $200,000.

“The selection committee was blown away by the range and quality of the submissions we reviewed,” Miranda said. “Audrey’s story stood out as exceptional, but all of the finalists’ work displayed great originality and promise. Being part of Wesleyan’s Hamilton Prize selection process has deepened my faith in our creative future.”

“We were honored to work with our amazing fellow alumni in selecting this very deserving recipient,” Kail said. “I can’t wait to see what this remarkable group of creative students produces with their Wesleyan education.”

The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, which in 2016 won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book and Best Original Score.

In the first year of the Hamilton Prize, Wesleyan received more than 600 creative written work submissions, ranging from short stories to slam poetry, from screenplays to songs. All entries were first reviewed by Wesleyan’s faculty, and finalists were judged on their originality, artistry and dynamism by the alumni selection committee.

“Wesleyan has been home to so many dynamic writers over the years. We’re delighted to welcome these bright and imaginative students to campus, and to help develop their creative talents through a broad liberal education,” said President Michael Roth.

In addition to honorary chairs Miranda and Kail, the selection committee members include alumni Carter Bays ’97, Amy Bloom ’75, Daniel Handler ’92, Maggie Nelson ’94, Amanda Palmer ’98, Mary Roach ’81, Bozoma Saint John ’99, Kaneza Schaal ’06, Tierney Sutton ’86, Craig Thomas ’97, Matthew Weiner ’87, P’18, and Simone White ’93. Learn more about the committee and read bios of all its members here.

See the original announcement of the Hamilton Prize here, and learn more on the website.

Submissions for next year’s Hamilton Prize are due Jan. 1, 2018, the regular decision deadline for Wesleyan’s Class of 2022.

Porrazzo ’19 to Study in China as Critical Language Scholar

Emma Porrazzo '19 is one of 550 American students in the U.S. to receive a Critical Language Scholarship. She will spend about eight weeks abroad learning the Chinese language and culture in Suzhou, China. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Emma Porrazzo ’19 is one of 550 American students in the U.S. to receive a Critical Language Scholarship. This summer, she will spend more than eight weeks abroad learning Chinese language and culture in Suzhou, China. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Emma Porrazzo ’19 has received a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship (CLS) to study Chinese in Suzhou, China this summer.

According to the CLS program website, the scholarship is part of a U.S. government effort to expand the number of Americans studying and mastering critical foreign languages. “CLS scholars gain critical language and cultural skills that enable them to contribute to U.S. economic competitiveness and national security.” Porrazzo is among approximately 550 American students at U.S. colleges and universities to receive the scholarship this year.

“Critical languages” are defined as those that are less commonly taught in U.S. schools but are essential for America’s engagement with the world. Students spend eight to 10 weeks overseas, where they receive intensive language instruction and structured cultural enrichment experiences designed to promote rapid language development.

President Roth Calls on Universities to Promote Intellectual Diversity

President Michael S. Roth

President Michael Roth

On May 11, Wesleyan President Michael Roth writes in The Wall Street Journal about the need for colleges and universities to proactively cultivate intellectual diversity on campus. While student protests over controversial speakers have dominated headlines of late, he writes:

The issue, however, isn’t whether the occasional conservative, libertarian or religious speaker gets a chance to speak. That is tolerance, an appeal to civility and fairness, but it doesn’t take us far enough. To create deeper intellectual and political diversity, we need an affirmative-action program for the full range of conservative ideas and traditions, because on too many of our campuses they seldom get the sustained, scholarly attention that they deserve.

Roth discusses initiatives at Wesleyan, including the Posse Veteran Scholars program, which brings cohorts of military veterans to campus on full scholarships.

These students with military backgrounds are older than our other undergraduates and have very different life experiences; more of them also hold conservative political views.

Now, Wesleyan plans to deepen its engagement with the military by working with the U.S. Army to bring senior military officers to campus. Starting next year, the first of them will arrive to teach classes on the relationship between military institutions and civil society.

Roth goes on:

Another new initiative for intellectual diversity, launched with the support of one our trustees, has created an endowment of more than $3 million for exposing students at Wesleyan to ideas outside the liberal consensus. This fall, our own academic departments and centers will begin offering courses and programs to cover topics such as “the philosophical and economic foundations of private property, free enterprise and market economies” and “the relationship of tolerance to individual rights, freedom and voluntary association.”

We are not interested in bringing in ideologues or shallow provocateurs intent on outraging students and winning the spotlight. We want to welcome scholars with a deep understanding of traditions currently underrepresented on our campus (and on many others) and look forward to the vigorous conversations they will inspire.

Students are also recognizing the value of the free exchange of ideas. This spring, the Wesleyan Democrats and Wesleyan Republicans joined forces to host a Bipartisan Political Series to encourage open political dialogue on campus.

WSJ subscription is required to access the full article. The Wesleyan community can access the article through the Olin Library website.