Olivia Drake

Wesleyan Awards 763 BA Degrees at 185th Commencement

Asad Hassanali '17 accepts his diploma. (Photo by Will Barr '18)

Asad Hassanali ’17 accepts his diploma. (Photo by Will Barr ’18)

Graduates, their families, and other members of the Wesleyan community gathered for the 185th Commencement ceremony on May 28.

This year, Wesleyan conferred 763 bachelor of arts degrees; 38 master of arts degrees; 19 master of arts in liberal studies degrees; 1 master of philosophy in liberal arts; and 10 doctor of philosophy degrees.

eve_ruc_2017-0528121620The distinguished writer Claudia Rankine delivered the commencement address and also received an honorary degree. A poet, essayist and playwright, Rankine is the recipient of numerous awards for work described as fearless in its pursuit of new directions in American poetry.

Rankine began by congratulating the graduates on their many accomplishments.

“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 toward a goal knowing you might fail,” she said.

“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. And the exciting part is that alongside failure lives possibility,” she went on.

President Roth Makes Remarks at 2017 Commencement

Wesleyan President Michael Roth '78. (Photo by Will Barr '18)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78. (Photo by Will Barr ’18)

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 made the following remarks during the 185th commencement ceremony on May 28:

Members of the board of trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees and the mighty class of 2017, I am honored to present some brief remarks on the occasion of this commencement.

In the fall of 2013, the political situation in this country was frustrating as you began your Wesleyan careers. Washington politics were not plagued by the scandal, impetuousness and sleaze we see today, but instead presented a spectacle of stasis—with threats of government shutdowns and cynical declarations of pride in the agenda of doing nothing. Stasis and inertia, these are surely the enemies of liberal education. I trust you have found at Wesleyan opportunities for journey and discovery, even if it hasn’t always been clear where you were headed. I hope that over the course of your time here you have felt empowered, your capacity to make a positive contribution to the world around you has increased. This is in line with the oft quoted statement of the founding president of our university, Willbur Fisk. Your education should be for your own good as individuals and for the good of the world.

This notion of the “good of the world,” is, I think, what many students at Wesleyan mean when they call for social justice. Over the last four years, this call has reverberated around campus in demands to eliminate institutional racism and in calls to eradicate the persistent poison of sexual violence. But as we have struggled with the subtler aspects of discrimination and power dynamics, it has often become clear that not everyone has the same view as to what constitutes justice, social or otherwise. This should lead us to recognize that political engagement and community participation must include discussions in which we can explore our differences without fear. A university is the place to have one’s ideas and one’s ways of thinking tested—and not just protected.

But political and social engagement are not just about testing ideas, they are constituted by actions in concert with others. The student culture you have created here at Wesleyan has fostered responsible and generous contributions to making the world around us more equitable and less oppressive. The plight of refugees has been one of the defining issues of our time, and a number of you gave your time and labor to ease their suffering—helping those in camps in the Middle East and smoothing the way for refugee families settling here in the United States. Many of you have worked in the community—tutoring at Traverse Square or the McDonough Elementary School, reaching out to the incarcerated through the Center for Prison Education, seeking to improve health care and food security for Middletown’s most vulnerable. Your efforts inspire others to do more to create opportunity and reduce suffering.

At a time when nihilism is cloaked in intellectual sophistication, and when many are tempted to retreat from the corruption of the public sphere, your cohort at Wesleyan has made a point to stay engaged. You reject retreat by working with environmental groups, from Long Lane Farm to international organizations combating climate change. You reject retreat by standing together to end mass incarceration, or by building solidarity with those marginalized by the dominant culture. You reject retreat by standing by your principles and standing with those desperate for allies.

At Wesleyan, your commitment to see those around you fulfill their potential has been inspirational. This commitment can be found all around the campus: in concert halls, in science labs, on stages or on the playing field. Your commitment to one another has strengthened our campus community; it is a promise that the work we do at this university will be relevant beyond its borders.

I am proud to be here on the podium with our honorary doctorate recipients: a scientist, an activist, a poet. All have found what they love to do, gotten very, very good at it, and found powerful ways to share what they do with others. Some of you may recognize in these phrases the three things that I like to talk about as essential to liberal education. All the same, as Wesleyan’s President Victor Butterfield put it in his final Commencement Address 50 years ago, “whatever the President might say about liberal education in community discussion, or in the college catalog, or in his speeches, he could not really define that education or affect it where it counts; that is, in hearts and minds of students. {Liberal Education} is defined and takes effect from what and how teachers teach, how both they and their students think, how they both listen and read, what they both ask, and by how vitally and imaginatively they respond to each other.” As in Butterfield’s day, this university takes enormous pride in the vital and imaginative responsiveness of its teachers and its students. We celebrate that responsiveness today.

Generations of Wesleyan alumni have benefited from this responsiveness. As I say each year, we Wesleyans have used our education to mold the course of culture ourselves lest the future be shaped by those for whom justice and change, generosity and equality, diversity and tolerance, are much too threatening. Now we alumni are counting on you, new graduates, to join us in helping to shape our culture, so it will not be shaped by the forces of violence, conformity and elitism.

We are counting on you because we have already seen what you are capable of when you have the freedom and the tools, the mentors and the friendship, the insight and the affection to go beyond what others have defined as your limits. We know that in the years ahead you will explore unfamiliar realms and see possibilities that others might not. We know that you will find new ways to make connections across cultural borders—new ways to build community, to join personal authenticity with compassionate solidarity. When this happens, you will feel the power and promise of your education. And we, your Wesleyan family, we will be proud of how you keep your education alive by making it effective in the world.

It’s been nearly four years since we unloaded cars together at the base of Foss Hill, four years since family members shed (or maybe hid) a tear as they left you here “on your own.” To me, it seems like such a short time ago. Now it’s you who are leaving us, but do remember that no matter how “on your own” you feel “out there,” you will always be members of the Wesleyan family, you will always be able to come home to Wesleyan. Wherever your exciting pursuits take you, please come home to alma mater often to share your news, your memories and your dreams. Thank you and good luck!

Alumni Honored for Professional, Creative Achievements, Service


At the Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association on May 27, seven alumni received Distinguished Alumni Awards, and one Outstanding Service Award was presented, along with the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award. Robert G. McKelvey ’59 (front row, far left) received special recognition for his many years of service, leadership, and generosity: Wesleyan’s historic College Row lawn was dedicated as McKelvey Green. Also pictured are (front row, l. to r., following McKelvey): Donna S. Morea ’76, P’06, chair of the Board of Trustees; Distinguished Alumni Nicholas J. Rasmussen ’87, Amy Schulman ’82, P’11, Isaac O. Shongwe ’87, and McConaughy Memorial Award recipient Matthew H. Weiner ’87 P’18. Back Row, Distinguished Alumni Santi “Santigold” White ’97 and Michele A. Roberts ’77; President Michael S. Roth ’78; Distinguished Alumnus Robert L. Allbritton ’92; Outstanding Service award-winner Rick Nicita ’67, Distinguished Alumnus Tos Chirathivat ’85, P’14, ’17, and Chair of the Alumni Association Tracey K. Gardner ’96.

Finn, Rubenstein, Roberts Honored with Binswanger Prizes

John Finn, Mary-Jane Rubenstein and Andrea Roberts and are the recipients of the 2017 Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

From left, John E. Finn, Mary-Jane Rubenstein and Andrea Roberts are the recipients of the 2017 Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. Wesleyan President Michael Roth is pictured at right. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

During Wesleyan’s 185th commencement ceremony on May 28, Wesleyan presented three outstanding teachers with the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the university’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

This year, Wesleyan honored the following faculty members for their excellence in teaching:

John E. Finn, professor of government, has been a member of Wesleyan’s faculty since 1986, serving as chair of the Government Department in 2007 and from 2009–11. He has a BA in political science from Nasson College, a JD from Georgetown University, a PhD in political science from Princeton University, and a degree in culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute. Finn is the author of three books on constitutional law, including Peopling the Constitution (2014), and numerous articles and book chapters. Finn’s scholarship also encompasses the study of food, recipes and politics, and includes his most recent book, The Perfect Omelet: Essential Recipes for the Home Cook (2017). At Wesleyan, Professor Finn’s courses have included American Constitutional Interpretation, The First Amendment, The Judicial Process, and Culture and Cuisine. He is the recipient of five distinguished teaching awards at Wesleyan, including two Binswanger Prizes, two Caleb T. Winchester Awards for Excellence in Teaching, and the Carol A. Baker ’81 Memorial Prize. He is retiring from Wesleyan this year.

Andrea Roberts, associate professor of the practice, chemistry, began teaching in Wesleyan’s Chemistry Department in 2004 as a visiting instructor while pursuing her graduate research at Wesleyan. She earned a BA in chemistry from Cornell University, an MS in polymer chemistry from Polytechnic University, and a PhD in organometallic chemistry from Wesleyan, where she studied under the direction of Professor Emeritus Joseph Bruno. She has written two theses, is the author of several publications, and holds more than 30 U.S. and international patents. In July 2010, as a graduate student, Roberts rewrote the entire organic chemistry lab curriculum, making it safer and more relevant for students and greener for the environment. Using her 15 years of experience in the industry, she has developed curricula for the general, organic, and the advanced integrated laboratory courses. She also teaches science outreach classes that introduce STEM lab activities to Middletown-area school children. In 2016, Roberts was awarded a teaching and pedagogical grant from the Andersen/Rosenbaum Teaching Endowment, which she used to create a tutorial for graduate and undergraduate students interested in teaching and curriculum design. The result was the development of a new introductory chemistry lab manual, which was piloted this spring.

Mary-Jane Rubenstein, professor of religion, joined Wesleyan’s faculty in 2006. She also is a core faculty member in the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, and an affiliated faculty member in the Science in Society Program. She holds a BA in religion and English from Williams College, an MPhil in philosophical theology from Cambridge University, and a PhD in philosophy of religion from Columbia University, where she also received a certificate in comparative literature and society. Rubenstein’s courses at Wesleyan include Christianity and Sexuality, and Worlding the World: Creation Myths from Ancient Greece to the Multiverse. Her research interests include continental philosophy, theology, gender and sexuality studies, and the history and philosophy of cosmology. She is the author of Strange Wonder: The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe and Worlds without End: The Many Lives of the Multiverse, as well as numerous book chapters, magazine articles and online essays. She serves as cochair of the Philosophy of Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion and on the Smithsonian Institute’s advisory board for the study of science and religion.

Previous Binswanger recipients are online here.

Shackney ’17 Delivers Senior Class Welcome

Elizabeth Shackney ’17 delivered the following remarks during Wesleyan’s 185th commencement ceremony on May 28.

Good morning. My name is Lizzie Shackney, and today I will graduate with the Class of 2017.

I realized what Wesleyan meant to me as I packed up my room yesterday and noticed three similar titles on my single shelf of books: How Should a Person Be?, On Becoming a Person, and How to Be a Person in the World, all acquired in the past four years. My time at Wesleyan, it seems, has been about learning how to be and become a person. Of course, I’ve always been a person. But it was just me, alone. Being here meant understanding, adjusting, and navigating my personhood in a sea of other identities. Like molecules in a heated state, we bounced around and sometimes crashed into one another, creating energy and pressure that could be both productive and exhausting.

A lot can change, a lot can happen, when it’s no longer just you. Wesleyan is a place where, after an hours-long conversation with an unexpected friend, a cloudy part of your world becomes clearer. It is where you can accomplish that thing that you didn’t think was for people like you, where you find a home with others telling stories or flying drones or opening up about grief. Despite the abundance of closeness and connection, sometimes Wesleyan can be paradoxically lonely. Sometimes it is a breeding ground for frustration or uncertainty. Sometimes, we worry that we are too much for the people around us.

In the messiness of our time here, we are forced to ask ourselves: What does it mean to exist as a human being among others? How do I do it? And how do I do it well?

Those books I mentioned haven’t given me comprehensive answers. Wesleyan hasn’t either. but it has helped to move me forward. What I do know now is this: The key to being a person within a community lies at the intersection of accountability and belonging. Accountability means taking responsibility for the fact that what you do and what you say has an impact. I felt this most as a student government leader, as I realized that my work wasn’t just about doing what I believed was best; instead, I engaged with members of my community and learned through trial and error to speak with, and not for or over, my peers.

At the same time, becoming a person is facilitated by feeling that you belong somewhere, by believing that you will be loved even if you make a mistake. When you drove ten hours to my dad’s funeral in the middle of the summer; when you watched me dance, play tennis, or tell a joke and still let me hang around—many big and tiny memories remind me that here, I have been loved. Those moments when I felt most that I belonged were also when I felt most committed to the betterment of this community. A sense of belonging is sustained by accountability, and accountability relies upon a foundation of care.

Today, we celebrate where we have been, where we will go next, and the lives that we will lead there. But I hope that beyond all of our accomplishments, we find new places where we can belong, and where we can create a sense of belonging for others, too.

Today, I am grateful for the many ways in which you have taught me to live well within a community. It’s been a pleasure to be, belong, and become alongside all of you.

Thank you.

Driscolls Honored with 2017 Baldwin Medal

John and Gina Driscoll.

During the commencement ceremony, John ’62 and Gina Driscoll, at left, received the Baldwin Medal. The Baldwin Medal is the highest award of the Alumni Association.(Photo by Olivia Drake)

During the 185th commencement ceremony on May 28, John ’62 and Gina Driscoll were honored with the Raymond E. Baldwin Medal, the highest award of the Alumni Association. John and Gina have each provided exemplary service to Wesleyan for more than three decades, during which they have been truly remarkable ambassadors of goodwill. Among Freeman Asian Scholars, their names are synonymous with devoted friendship and unstinting support. For many years the Driscolls traveled extensively throughout Asia with the late Houghton “Buck” ’43 and Doreen Hon. ’03 Freeman P’77 to interview prospective Freeman scholars. The Freeman Driscoll Endowed International Scholarship was named in their honor.

77 Seniors Inducted into Phi Beta Kappa

eve_ruc_2017-0527160949On May 27, 77 members of the Class of 2017 were inducted into Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest national scholastic honor society. They join 14 others who were initiated in fall.

To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of his or her major. He or she also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations, and must have achieved a GPA of 93 and above.

The inductees and their majors include:

Joie Akerson, neuroscience and behavior;
Taiga Araki, biology, government;
Eric Arsenault, chemistry, physics;
eve_ruc_2017-0527163654Jeremy Auerbach, biology;
Fred Ayres, economics, neuroscience and behavior
Brennan Baker, biology;
Henry Barrett, economics, government;
Clayton Baumgart, physics;
Jordan Bell, neuroscience and behavior;
Kate Bodner, English, hispanic literatures and cultures;
Emma Broder, biology, science in society;
Henry Bushnell, biology, mathematics;
Sarah Corner, English, psychology;
Allison Cronan, film, mathematics;

Graduating Military Veterans Celebrated at Reception

On May 20, the Wesleyan Student Veterans Organization (WESVO) hosted a two-hour formal reception to honor the U.S. and foreign service graduating veterans and show appreciation for faculty and staff that have aided in the accomplishments of the student veterans.

“There is a huge disparity in the number of veterans with college degrees and an even larger gap between veterans that attend community colleges versus elite universities,” said veteran Marsella Andrews ’20. “These veterans have worked extremely hard to graduate so we wanted to give them special recognition.”

Among those celebrated were Wesleyan Posse Foundation Veteran Scholar and U.S. Navy veteran Ky Foley ’17 and veteran Asad Hassanali ’17 of Singapore.

Foley, who worked as a construction mechanic in the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command and served two tours in Afghanistan before enrolling at Wesleyan in 2014, is a member of inaugural “posse” of veterans at Wesleyan. Wesleyan’s Posse Foundation Veteran Scholars Program offers a four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarship to military veterans.

Asad Hassanali '17 and Ky Foley '17.

Military veterans Asad Hassanali ’17 and Ky Foley ’17 are graduating on May 28.

Johnson Awarded Postdoctoral Fellowship to Explore Settler-Colonialism

Khalil Johnson

Khalil Johnson

Khalil Johnson, assistant professor of African American studies, is the recipient of a National Association of Education Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship for the 2017-18 academic year.

The National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship Program supports up to 30 early career scholars working in critical areas of education research. These $70,000 fellowships support non-residential postdoctoral proposals that make significant scholarly contributions to the field of education.

Johnson, who will be on scholarly leave for the 2017-2018 academic year, will work on a manuscript for his book project, which examines the intersections between education and settler-colonialism in the United States. He also plans to conduct interviews in Alaska Native villages and the Navajo and Tohono O’odham nations to document the historic relationships forged between Native students and African American educators who taught in Bureau of Indian Affairs schools between 1950 and 1980.

“Although I will be living and writing in New Haven for the year, I hope to remain active in on campus events at Wesleyan,” he said.

Johnson specializes in the intertwined histories of the African diaspora and Indigenous people in North America, with emphases on U.S. settler colonialism, education and counter-hegemonic social movements. His teaching areas include courses in the history of emancipatory education and U.S. empire, early African American history, American Indian history and popular music.

Johnson has already received support from numerous institutions, including the Ford Foundation, the National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation and a predoctoral teaching fellowship at Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon. His essays and editorials have appeared in American Quarterly, Pacific Historical Review and The Navajo Times. In 2015, he received recognition from the Western History Association for the year’s best essay on Native American history.

AFCA Members Present Students of Color with Graduation Stoles

AFCA co-chair Tracey Stanley, at left, and AFCA member Rosalind Adgers, at right, congratulate Sadasia McCutchen '17 on her upcoming graduation.

AFCA co-chair Tracey Stanley, at left, and AFCA member Rosalind Adgers, at right, congratulate Sadasia McCutchen ’17 on her upcoming graduation.

AFCA, the Administrators and Faculty of Color Alliance, celebrated with the seniors of color during a luncheon and reception in their honor May 23 in Daniel Family Commons. AFCA members also presented the seniors with stoles for commencement.

“This annual luncheon is an opportunity for the seniors to chat and chew and mix and mingle with AFCA members, while sharing their Wesleyan experiences,” said AFCA co-chair Tracey Stanley, administrative assistant in the Office of the Registrar. “We wish our seniors the best of luck!”

Fifty-five students and 15 AFCA members attended the luncheon.

AFCA’s mission is to create a supportive environment for promoting personal and professional growth through experiences, events, and resources for administrators, faculty, and staff of color. AFCA is a community building organization that seeks to strengthen the relationship between its members, allies and other members of the Wesleyan community.

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Rebecca Goldfarb Terry ’19)


Social Sciences in China Press Forum Focuses on Globalization

eve_chinapress_2017-0518063022 (1)From May 17-19, the Fries Center for Global Studies hosted the Wesleyan University — Social Sciences in China Press Forum on Globalization.

The 18 conference participants — all faculty or research fellows — hailed from universities and academies in China, Germany and the U.S. Participants from Wesleyan included Lisa Dombrowski, professor of film studies; Don Moon, the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Professor in the College of Social Studies, professor of history; William “Vijay” Pinch, professor of history, professor of environmental studies; and Paula Park, assistant professor of Spanish.

Wesleyan Dining ‘Food Recovery Verified’ for Donating Excess Food to Shelter

frvThe Food Recovery Network recently named Wesleyan’s Dining Services “Food Recovery Verified” for donating unsold surplus food to a local charity.

The Food Recovery Verified (FRV) program recognizes and rewards food businesses of any type that are working to fight waste and feed people through food recovery.

Now in its sixth year, Wesleyan’s student-run Food Rescue organization donates its unsold food from Usdan’s Marketplace, Summerfields and Pi Cafe to the Eddy Shelter in Middletown, which provides emergency shelter and meals for single adults. Food Rescue is an Office of Community Service program under the supervision the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships.

Lydia Ottaviano ’17 and Lili Kadets ’17 have co-coordinated this group since spring semester 2014. Throughout the academic year,