Olivia Drake

Classes Begin Online during Quarantine Period

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the university community was under a quarantine period from Aug. 24 to Sept. 6. Students were asked to take a COVID-19 test prior to leaving home, were tested again upon arrival, and will be tested twice a week as the semester gets underway.

Through multiple platforms, including Zoom and Moodle, faculty taught all classes remotely during the first week. Following the quarantine period, faculty have the option to teach courses entirely online, in-person, or through a hybrid system through the Thanksgiving break, after which all faculty are prepared to return to distance learning.

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, taught her first DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic course online during the quarantine, but she'll move to in-person classes for the rest of the fall semester. "While the world is telling us to be remote, it's important, more than ever, to be together in a physical way," she said. The pandemic is changing how we relate, stand with each other, talk and communicate, and make meaning in groups ... so one of the most important ways to find our way forward is to explore: What does it mean to be in this new world? How do we orient ourselves in new conditions? How can we feel, how can we relate to one another in our physical selves?"

Katja Kolcio, associate professor of dance and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, taught her first DANC 216: Dancing During Pandemic class online during the quarantine, but she’ll move to in-person classes for the rest of the fall semester. “While the world is telling us to be remote, it’s important, more than ever, to be together in a physical way,” she said. “The pandemic is changing how we relate, stand with each other, talk and communicate, and make meaning in groups … so one of the most important ways to find our way forward is to explore: What does it mean to be in this new world? How do we orient ourselves in new conditions? How can we feel, how can we relate to one another in our physical selves?”

Damien Sheehan-Connor, associate professor of economics, is teaching ECON 222: Public Economics through Zoom.

Damien Sheehan-Connor, associate professor of economics, draws a “Utility Possibilities Frontier” figure on an iPad during his remote ECON 222: Public Economics course. This fall, Sheehan-Connor is teaching his class exclusively through Zoom. “So far it seems to be going relatively well, though it is early,” he said. “I give lectures using some mix of slides and drawing on the ‘board’ while posing questions to the class and welcoming questions that the students have.” Although he teaches in a similar way online to how he taught in-person, the most drastic change has been in how he assesses the students. He’s reduced the number of exams and added a research paper to the course requirements. “The remaining exams will also be ‘open book.’ This is not a big change since my exams tend to emphasize problem-solving and demonstrating understanding rather than testing knowledge of facts,” he said.

remote teaching

Sasha Rudensky ’01, associate professor of art, is teaching ARST 253: Digital Photography I through a hybrid system, however she’s teaching Photo I in-person only.

Johan (Joop) Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, is teaching ENVS 361: Living in a Polluted World. This course treats the occurrences and origins, natural pathways, toxicologies, and histories of the major environmental contaminants.

Johan (Joop) Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science, is teaching ENVS 361: Living in a Polluted World. This course treats the occurrences and origins, natural pathways, toxicologies, and histories of the major environmental contaminants.

varekamp class

“My goal is that you learn something in this class,” Varekamp said during a remote class on Sept. 3. “I’ll do anything to make that happen.”


Wesleyan Offering Wealth of Resources for Remote Teaching, Learning


Bonnie Solivan, academic technologist for Information Technology Services, led a Moodle training for faculty and instructional staff who are teaching remotely. A recording of the workshop, and several others, is available on Information Technology Services’s website.

Starting last March, Information Technology Services and the Center for Pedagogical Learning began offering a number of workshops to assist faculty in the transition to remote teaching. Wesleyan is using Zoom, a cloud-based video and online chat platform ideal for distance education, and Moodle, an open-source learning management system for the majority of online teachings.

Workshop topics include how to schedule and start a Zoom meeting, meeting controls, sharing a Zoom recording, managing Zoom breakout rooms, and using Moodle. The training workshop videos are online here.

In addition, this fall 30 faculty are participating in the newly established Remote Teaching Cohorts. There are currently nine groups of two to four faculty each.

Wesleyan Illuminates 2 Campus Buildings in Support of Restart Day of Action

92 theater

On Sept. 1, members of the Wesleyan community participated in the Red Alert Restart Day of Action by illuminating the Patricelli ’92 Theater and Center for the Arts Theater in red lights to show support and solidarity to colleagues in the entertainment industry. The industry has been shut down due to COVID-19 for more than four months. The purpose of the Restart Day of Action is to urge Congress to vote for the RESTART Act, led by senators Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Wesleyan alumnus Michael Bennet ’87 (D-Colo.), which would support an extension and expansion of benefits for independent contractors as part of a comprehensive pandemic relief package.

CFA theater

Wesleyan’s buildings were among 1,500 nationwide that were lit for the cause. Lights were provided by Northern Lights, a longtime vendor of Wesleyan University that has been hit particularly hard by the closing of theaters and canceling of events in Connecticut. (Photos by Robyn Joyce)

Class of 2024 Attends Virtual Orientation Program

class of 2024Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state regulations, Wesleyan is delivering its annual Orientation Program virtually through live Zoom meetings, townhalls, and webinars.

Orientation activities began in mid-July, where members of the Class of 2024 and transfer students participated in sessions on charting a course through the open curriculum, sustainability at Wesleyan, wellness, financial aid, student employment, career center information, and working with an academic peer advisor. They also learned the Wesleyan fight song and participated in virtual social events including a virtual escape room, Jeopardy!, drag race bingo, and a magic show.

Sudbury, Mass. resident Sabrina Ladiwala ’24 chose to defer her on-campus enrollment until the spring semester due to the pandemic, but has participated in several first-year orientation webinars.

“After my orientation meetings, I would hang back to ask the leader a question. Multiple times, that simple exchange led to sharing experiences about what spring term was like for each of us or developed into a really in-depth talk about life on the Wes campus. As I started having more of these conversations, not only did I welcome all the information, but I also enjoyed listening to all the personal, on-campus stories these students told. In spite of sitting in my home, I already felt connected to the community,” she said.

Ladiwala also attended several social events, including a virtual escape room.

“After my group completed this fun exercise, we just stayed back and talked for around 20 or 25 minutes about moving in, what dorms we were in and how quarantine was going for us. Even though I am deferring, I was still included in that conversation which really meant a lot to me,” she said. “Even though orientation is over and classes are starting, I am excited to stay in touch with all my Wesleyan friends and am really looking forward to being on campus in the spring!”

Students also participated in several health and safety webinars on returning to campus, COVID-19 testing, and the importance of quarantine.

During an "End of Summer Bash" social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader.

During an “End of Summer Bash” social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader in Zoom “breakout rooms.”

782 Students Join Wesleyan’s Class of 2024

class of 2024This fall, Wesleyan welcomes 782 students to the Class of 2024. University faculty and staff worked tirelessly over the summer to ready the campus for opening this semester while providing a safe and healthy environment for all. Those students unable to come to campus in the fall may continue their Wesleyan education remotely, and may join us on campus in the spring.

“The Class of 2024 is dynamically diverse, exceptionally talented, and incredibly resilient,” said Amin Gonzalez ’96, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid. “I’m immensely proud of the members of this class and not just because of their impressive credentials or the fact they are the first that my dedicated team and I have admitted to Wes, but because they boldly persevered through unprecedented challenges. Having taken all the proper safety precautions and offered a robust virtual orientation program, we are excited to welcome them to campus and have full confidence they will each in their own way make substantive contributions to our vibrant community.”

A total of 12,752 individuals applied for a spot in the Class of 2024. Of those, Wesleyan admitted 2,640 (21%) and 782 matriculated.

Below are some stats about the Class of 2024*:

  • 40% men and 60% women
  • 53% attended public high schools
  • 14% are from outside the United States
  • 79% live outside New England; 13% live in 34 other countries including Ghana, Iran, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Rwanda, and Senegal
  • 41% are students of color, of which 33% are domestic students of color
  • 10% are international students
  • 8% are the children of Wesleyan alumni
  • 14% are among the first generation in their family to attend a four-year college
  • 43% are receiving financial aid
  • 79% have already studied a foreign language
  • 93% graduated in the top 20% of their high school class
  • Economics, psychology, English, and biology are the top projected majors
  • 22 students are QuestBridge National College Match Finalists and 7 are Posse Veteran Scholars
    *The Class of 2024 was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and should be considered in that context.

For more information, visit the Class of 2024 Profile.

Wesleyan congratulated the Class of 2024 admitted students last April through a series of virtual WesFest events, and welcome messages from notable graduates like composer, actor, and director Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15. Once on campus, students participated in a virtual New Student Orientation.

Author, Environmental Activist Naomi Klein Delivers First Year Matters Keynote

Wesleyan’s First Year Matters (FYM) program is designed to help first-year students establish on-campus community connections, engage in shared learning experiences, explore new opinions and ideas, and acquire the knowledge and skills needed to succeed in Wesleyan’s rigorous liberal arts environment. The FYM committee annually selects a “common experience” for the incoming class as an intellectual introduction to Wesleyan.

This year, the Class of 2024 watched and discussed the documentary This Changes Everything, directed by Avi Lewis and based on the award-winning book of the same title by Naomi Klein.

View screenshots below and watch the entire keynote address online here.


On Aug. 27, author, journalist, syndicated columnist, and environmental activist Naomi Klein delivered Wesleyan’s First Year Matters keynote address, which focused on the disparate impacts of climate change on various communities around the world and highlighted some fundamental conflicts between global economic systems and efforts to combat climate change. Her book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate, won the Hilary Weston Writers’ Trust Prize for Nonfiction. The documentary inspired by the book premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.

Students’ On-Campus Arrivals Staggered Over One-Week Period

Wesleyan welcomed students back to campus during the week of Aug. 24. Traditionally, students would arrive on New Student Arrival Day, and be accompanied to their new home-away-from-home by families and fellow students. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Residential Life stretched Arrival Day activities over the span of seven days, and students were assigned a formal arrival date and time to minimize crowds and allow for appropriate social distancing. Only students could enter residences during the move-in period. Classes began virtually on Aug. 31.

While COVID-19 is continuing to tear through Japan, Tokyo resident and first-year-student Takumi Abe ’24 feared he wouldn’t make it to campus this fall. But “I managed to make it here,” he said. “I am excited about the new experiences that I will have with new students and staff, the lessons that are starting next week, and about the summer heat coming to an end. The change in the working and living environment feels like a fresh start and I am motivated in making this first semester productive and fun.”

Prior to moving into their residence halls and homes, every student was tested for COVID-19 at Wesleyan’s testing site.

Photos of Arrival Week are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake and Simon Duan ’23)

arrival week

Natalie Aller ’23 carries a packaged chair to her West College residence on Aug. 27. “While moving in this year was pretty different from last year considering our current situation, I found the process to be relatively easy with the help of my roommate! It definitely was a lot less hectic, as I was the only person in my hall to move on that day and I felt as though I had way more time to settle in,” she said. “Overall, I believe that everyone is doing their best to adjust to this new way of living on campus while maintaining health and safety precautions, and hopefully, the actions we take now will allow us to experience a more normal semester moving forward!” 

T. Abe

Takumi Abe ’24 shows off his dorm room in Nicolson 5, which is home to both first-year and upper-class students. Abe arrived on campus late on Aug. 24, and a Public Safety officer guided him to his room. “The atmosphere has been nothing short of welcoming, whether it be at the PI Cafe or the ResLife Office,” he said.

arrival week

arrival week

Students Accelerate Their Research Skills through New Summer Bootcamp


This summer, McNair Fellow Mohammed Ullah ’22, participated in a virtual McNair Bootcamp where he created a hypothetical study titled “One Drug for All RNA Viruses.” “My idea was to make a single drug for all RNA-based viruses, and based on my findings and all the online research I did on the drugs, techniques, etc., I was able to come up with a proposal based on my idea and expand it into something that can happen for several years,” Ullah said. “With the resources and knowledge from a biochemist and virologist, this idea/proposal is something that can happen in real life if people took an interest in it.”

This summer, 12 Wesleyan students who identify as first-generation/low-income learned more about research methods and proposal-writing through the first McNair Bootcamp.

Held in conjunction with Wesleyan’s Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program and the Wesleyan Mathematics and Science Scholars (WesMaSS) Program, the bootcamp provided a solution for summer research students who were unable to transition their in person research projects into remote research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You certainly don’t want students doing organic chemistry in their kitchens back home,” said bootcamp co-founder Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry. “Many types of research aren’t able to be translated to ‘virtual research’ in response to campus closing down, so we wanted to make sure these students didn’t have a ‘lost summer’ with respect to their growth as researchers.”

Taylor and Ronnie Hendrix, associate director of the McNair Program, focused their new program on teaching students how to conduct independent research. Students learned to brainstorm, build hypotheses, work collaboratively with peers, write a research proposal based on the criterion of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program application, peer-review a research proposal, edit and improve a research proposal, and ultimately craft and present a research poster.

Wesleyan Takes Safety Measures as Students Arrive on Campus

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Wesleyan is taking many measures to make the campus experience this fall as safe and healthy as possible for all students, faculty, and staff.

In addition to testing students twice weekly for COVID-19, Wesleyan is configuring classrooms, dining areas, and other locations to allow for a minimum of six feet of social distance; janitorial staff is frequently disinfecting and sanitizing areas; and many classes are being offered as a hybrid of in-classroom and online instruction.

Members of the campus community are expected to wear a mask or face covering at all times outside their individual residence or office; maintain a six-foot distance from one another to reduce the risk of infection; and avoid gathering in groups.

“It is critically important that every Wesleyan community member does their individual part for our methods to be effective,” said Wesleyan’s medical director, Dr. Tom McLarney. “Most in-person social events and parties will be prohibited. While this is difficult and contrary to the typical campus experience, these are difficult times. One super-spreader event can overwhelm the campus’s ability to care for our students, and could ultimately result in closure.”

For more information, visit the Reactivating Campus website. (Photos by Simon Duan ’23)

COVID testing

COVID-19 testing on campus is taking place in a large tent on Andrus Field, with six-foot distancing enforced at the testing site.

covid testing

Following arrival to campus, students will be tested twice weekly for COVID-19 to detect the disease in the pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic stage. In addition, in order to comply with the state’s latest guidance, Wesleyan is implementing a mandatory quarantine for all students on campus from Aug. 24 through Sept. 7. (Students arriving after Aug. 24 must expand their quarantine beyond Sept. 7.)

Potemkina Wins Orchestral Programming Award

Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina. Photo by Pavel Terpelets.

Nadya Potemkina (Photo by Pavel Terpelets)

Nadya Potemkina, adjunct associate professor of music, placed third in The American Prize competition, in the category of orchestral programming.

The American Prize—Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award in Orchestral Programming—honors the memory of the great Lithuanian conductor Maestro Vytautas Marijosius, who served as the music director of the Lithuanian State Opera and the director of orchestral activities at the Hartt School of Music. The prize recognizes and rewards “the best achievement in the unique field of orchestral programming, where the selection of repertoire by knowledgeable, creative and courageous music directors builds orchestras and audiences, educates young people and adults, and enriches the community,” according to the prize’s website.

At Wesleyan, violist Potemkina directs the Wesleyan University Orchestra and Concert Choir, coaches chamber ensembles, teaches instrumental conducting and orchestral literature, and is the music director of FluteFest and AD HOC BACH, both performance and community engagement initiatives.

She’s also served as an assistant conductor of The University of Memphis Orchestras, as the music director of Mid-South Young People’s Orchestras in Memphis, Tenn., and was a founding conductor of Memphis Occasional Orchestra, an all-volunteer community outreach ensemble.

This fall, she’s teaching Materials and Design (MUSC 103), Wesleyan Concert Choir (MUSC 436), and Wesleyan Orchestra (MUSC 439).

Hot off the Press: Ellen Thomas Co-Authors 3 New Papers

Ellen Thomas, Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences, University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences, is the co-author of:

Miocene evolution of North Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature,” published in Paleoceanography and Paleoclimatology, 35, in April 2020.

Extensive morphological variability in asexually produced planktic foraminifera,” published in Science Advances, 6, in July 2020.

Origin of a global carbonate layer deposited in the aftermath of the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary impact,” published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 548, in October 2020.