Randi Alexandra Plake

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. USA Today: “America Has a History of Lynching, but it’s Not a Federal Crime. The House Just Voted to Change That”

Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language Ashraf Rushdy is interviewed on the topic of legislation that would make lynching a federal crime. In the interview he called lynching “the original hate crime.” “Lynching is a blot on the history of America,” he said. “But it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

2. The New York Times: “Starbucks Baristas Accuse Service Company of Abuse and Pay Gaps”

Associate Professor of Sociology Jonathan Cutler is interviewed about transgender issues in labor organizations as immigrant, transgender, and black baristas face discrimination at airport Starbucks. “Organized labor often lives or dies by its ability to tap into broader social movements,” he said. “In this case, you’re seeing the most public effort to organize around transgender issues.”

3. The Washington Post: “Does Money Even Matter? And Other Questions You May Have About Bloomberg’s Half-Billion-Dollar Failed Candidacy”

PBS Documentary by Weisberg ’75, P’05 Set to Premiere on April 6

Roger Weisberg ’75, P’05 (Source: brokenplacesfilm.com)

This April, PBS will premiere Broken Places, a documentary that explores why some children are severely damaged by early adversity while others are able to thrive. Broken Places is written, produced, and directed by veteran documentary filmmaker Roger Weisberg ’75, P’05, whose previous PBS documentaries have won over 150 awards, including Emmy, DuPont-Columbia, and Peabody awards, as well as two Academy Award nominations.

Broken Places revisits abused and neglected children that Weisberg and his team profiled decades ago. The film interweaves longitudinal narratives with commentary from a few internationally renowned experts to help viewers better understand the devastating impact of childhood adversity as well as the inspiring characteristics of resilience.

In addition to shedding light on exciting new developments in neuroscience that help explain the dramatic outcomes that the film reveals, these experts share their insights into the people and systems that either failed the film’s main subjects or helped them overcome the formidable obstacles they encountered.

Broken Places is Weisberg’s 33rd national public television documentary. It will premier at 10 p.m. on Monday, April 6 on PBS (check local listings) and pbs.org.

brokenplaces

Brady ’15 Wins National Prize for Social Innovation for Nonprofit Work

Aletta Brady '15

Aletta Brady ’15, founder of Our Climate Voices, was honored with an Innovation Prize by the J.M. Kaplan Fund. (Photo courtesy of the J.M. Kaplan Fund)

Aletta Brady ’15 saw the power in collective storytelling to launch social justice campaigns such as Black Lives Matters and the #MeToo movements. Knowing that these movements were successful because of the power of words, Brady connected the idea of storytelling to the climate crisis, launching a climate-justice organization that was recently recognized by the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

The J.M. Kaplan Fund awarded Brady’s Our Climate Voices the J.M.K. Innovation Prize for its use of digital storytelling as a new model in the environmental field. The prize is awarded biennially to 10 nonprofit and mission-driven for-profit organizations tackling America’s most pressing challenges through social innovation. Each awardee receives up to $175,000 over three years and participates in a learning collaborative of fellow innovators to support their journey as change agents.

Volcanoes Caused Ecological Disruption Says Thomas in Nature Article

Ellen Thomas

Ellen Thomas, University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and research professor of earth and environmental sciences, is a co-author of a paper titled “Very Large Release of Mostly Volcanic Carbon During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum,” published in the weekly science journal Nature on Aug. 31.

The study focused on Palaeocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, a surface warming event associated with ecological disruption that occurred about 56 million years ago, releasing a large amount of carbon. The researchers combined boron and carbon isotope data in an Earth system model and found that the source of carbon was much larger than previously thought.

Most of the carbon, Thomas and her colleagues discovered, was probably released by volcanism during the opening of the North Atlantic Ocean when Greenland separated from Europe.

The paper also was cited in another Nature article, on PhysOrg and on Science Daily.

Alpert ’82 Snags First-Ever Emmy for Outstanding Casting

Sasha Alpert ’82 won the Primetime Emmy Award for casting A&E’s Born This Way. (Photo courtesy of Bunim/Murray Productions)

At the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 17, Sasha Alpert ’82, CSA, was awarded the Emmy for the Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program for A&E’s original docuseries Born This Way.

The series follows seven young adults diagnosed with Down syndrome who pursue personal and professional success and try to defy expectations, according to A&E’s website.

Born This Way earned a total of three Emmy wins, going into the evening with six nominations. It was the television show to receive the inaugural award for reality casting, a move that recognizes the process of casting an unscripted show.

“I am thrilled to have won the first Emmy given for reality casting, and especially thrilled that it was for Born this Way,” Alpert said. “Bringing the story of young adults with Down syndrome to television has been an incredible experience. Many people have a story to tell, and by creating a show with a diverse group of people we vastly expand our ability to tell compelling stories.”

Alpert is known for her work in casting reality television shows, such as The Real World and Project Runway, as well as in producing numerous documentaries and specials for PBS, CBS, MTV, TBS, and Disney Channel. The winner of Primetime Emmy Awards, she has had 11 nominations, including a News and Documentary Emmy Award for her work on Valentine Road (2013).

Niraula MA ’18, Redfield Lead Team in Discovery of 3 Super-Earths

A team of scientists from Wesleyan, led by Associate Professor of Astronomy Seth Redfield and graduate student Prajwal Niraula MA’18, discovered three super-Earths transiting around a nearby star, just 98 light-years from Earth. This NASA-generated image was created to depict 55 Cancri e, a super-Earth 40 light-years away from Earth.

A team of scientists from Wesleyan discovered three super-Earths transiting around a nearby star, 98 light-years away. The NASA-generated image above depicts a different super-Earth: 55 Cancri e, discovered in 2004.

A team of scientists from Wesleyan, led by Associate Professor of Astronomy Seth Redfield and graduate student Prajwal Niraula MA ’18, has co-authored a paper on the discovery of three planets, or super-Earths, transiting around a nearby star, just 98 light-years away.

“Super-Earths are slightly larger than Earth, and the three of them straddle the divide between the rocky planets like Earth and ice giants like Neptune,” explains Redfield.

These planets were found using the Kepler Space Telescope. “Kepler has found thousands of exoplanets these last eight years, but this is the closest planetary system that Kepler has ever found, although closer planetary systems have been found using different telescopes,” says Redfield.

Wesleyan’s Pre-College Access Program Wraps Up Summer Program

Seventy-nine high school students attended the summer session of Wesleyan’s Pre-College Access Program. (Photo by Cybele Moon)

This summer, high school students from Middletown and surrounding areas were immersed in college life, often collaborating with faculty and staff across campus, during the summer session of Wesleyan’s Pre-College Access Program. From an overnight stay on campus, to a field trip to Philadelphia to visit colleges, opportunities to get a feel for college life were plenty.

Wesleyan University’s Pre-College Access Program is application-based and is developed to enhance the academic skills and preparation of talented high school students who have an interest in pursuing higher education.

“Our programs tailor to low-income and first-generation college students,” explained Miguel Peralta, director of Pre-College Access Programs and Upward Bound Math-Science at Wesleyan. “Two-thirds of our participants are both.”

Serving 79 students from Middletown, Meriden and New Britain and running from June 22 to Aug. 1, the Pre-College Access Program is made possible by the federally funded TRIO program and designed to strengthen the math and science skills of high school students from Meriden and New Britain. Middletown students are served by Wesleyan funds and private foundations.

Saaka Premieres Duet Choreography Work at Spring Faculty Dance Concert

shake-event

Artist in Residence Iddi Saaka will perform a dance duet featuring Rachel Boggia, associate professor of dance at Bates College for the Spring Faculty Dance Concert on May 5-6.

Over two nights in May, Wesleyan Dance Department Artist in Residence Iddi Saaka will premiere Shake, a dance duet featuring Rachel Boggia, associate professor of dance at Bates College.

According to Saaka, Shake is a rambunctious and tender duet born out of a nine-year friendship between himself and Boggia. Their first choreographed work features their shared love of vibratory movement, smooth breath, and cheesy humor. Influences include Ghanaian dance forms, American postmodern dance, fake tap dance, bad jokes, and life experiences.

This unique performance combines the elements of two distinct dance styles. Saaka, who teaches West African dance and directs the West African drumming and dance concert that is held in the fall and spring semesters at Wesleyan, explained, “The audience can expect to see two people from two different dance backgrounds—Ghanaian and American postmodern— express their friendship through movement and humor.”

The performance will take place in the CFA Theater on Friday, May 5 and Saturday, May 6 at 8 p.m. Tickets, which are $6 for Wesleyan students and youth under 18, and $8 for all others, are available at the Wesleyan Box Office.

16th Annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend to Feature a “Day of Percussion”

The 16th Annual Wesleyan Jazz Weekend is on April 28-29, 2017.

The 16th Annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend is on April 28-29.

At the end of April, Wesleyan University’s concert halls will be filled with the sound of rhythm during the 16th Annual Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra Weekend, on Friday, April 28 and Saturday, April 29. The weekend will kick off with the traditional performance by the Wesleyan University Jazz Orchestra and Jazz Ensembles on Friday evening. New this year, on Saturday, there will be percussion clinics hosted by the Connecticut Percussive Arts Society, followed by an evening concert by Eli Fountain’s Percussion Discussion.

Jay Hoggard, professor of music and African American studies, explained the idea behind this ambitious project. “For the first time ever, we’re combining the Wesleyan student ensembles and the Connecticut Percussive Arts Society program,” he said. “We thought that would be an interesting combination, but instead of doing it over a series of multiple weekends, as we have done in the past, it’s going to be one day with multiple performances, about 20 minutes each.”

Hayat ’13 Discusses High-End Shoe Line, Liudmila Footwear

Najeeba Hayat '13

Najeeba Hayat ’13 is the founder, designer, and CEO of Liudmila Footwear.

Najeeba Hayat ’13, entrepreneur and designer, is gaining attention in the fashion industry for her designer shoe company, Liudmila Footwear, most recently in Voguewhich hailed her shoes as “stunning” and “fantastical.”

Produced in Italy, Liudmila shoes are designed with Victorian influences in mind. Hayat’s shoes are also praised for being comfortable to walk in, disregarding the cultural norm that women should suffer for fashion.

Hayat, who is originally from Kuwait, was a government major at Wesleyan, but found herself dreaming of designing shoes. In an interview with the Wesleyan Connection, Hayat said, “The Russian literature classes I took at Wesleyan were actually the biggest influence on my decision to follow my passion for design instead of pursuing a career related to my major.”

She credits the classes she took with Susanne Fusso, professor of Russian language and literature, for cultivating her love for the “unique, bizarre, striking characters of Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Chekov, and Sologub.”

Liudmila Shoe Drury Lane

Liudmila shoe from the new spring line

“One day, about a month or so before I graduated, we were discussing a speech given by a character in The Petty Demon that struck me by its passion, simplicity and its exact mirroring of my own sentiments,” she explained. “It was an exasperated paean to life and pleasure that in an instant turned me away from the career in consulting that I was actively pursuing at the time. I immediately decided to jump ship and move to Milan to study footwear.”

The Petty Demon is where Hayat found the inspiration to name her new company. Liudmila is one of the central sisters in the book. “As I was naming my brand, I went through many names, but was unsatisfied with all of them,” she said. “Liudmila’s speech kept coming back to me as my primary inspiration and so I decided to name the brand Liudmila in homage.”

Though her career took a different turn from the degree she earned, Hayat believes her liberal arts education prepared her for her role as founder, designer, and CEO. She said, “Even though the field I pursued had nothing to do with what I studied, all of the skills in analysis, problem-solving, and out of the box thinking that I developed at Wesleyan were crucial to my early success.”

Playwright Emily Mann in Conversation with Quiara Alegría Hudes

Emily Mann

Director and playwright Emily Mann will give a talk at Wesleyan on March 28.

Director and playwright Emily Mann will give a talk at Wesleyan on March 28 as part of the Performing Arts Series of the Center for the Arts. Mann will be in conversation with Wesleyan’s Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater Quiara Alegría Hudes.

“Emily Mann is a revered theatrical auteur,” said Hudes, a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright who teaches playwriting to beginning and advanced writers at Wesleyan. “An accomplished playwright, director, and artistic director of a leading regional theater, Mann is known for her probing inquiry into our nation’s most urgent issues. Her art has time and again advanced the national conversation.”

Hudes believes those in attendance will benefit from hearing Mann’s views on the arts. Hudes explained, “The audience can expect to hear from a pioneer and trailblazer about what it means to have a vision, how to build and sustain an artistic vision over decades, and how word meets flesh at the intersection of the script and stage.”

“I am honored to be joining Quiara Alegría Hudes at Wesleyan for what will no doubt be an exciting day, both in our class workshop and our public conversation in the evening,” said Mann. “I am very much looking forward to an engaging talk with Quiara, discussing a wide range of topics including the state of the American theater, the American playwright, and opening doors to a whole new generation of voices.”

Known for her politically edgy and documentary style, Mann is currently in her 27th season as artistic director and resident playwright of the Tony Award-winning McCarter Theatre Center in Princeton, N.J. In 2015, she received both the  Helen Merrill Distinguished Playwrights’ Award, and the Margo Jones Award, given to a “citizen of the theater who has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to the encouragement of the living theater everywhere.”

A Conversation with Emily Mann will take place in Memorial Chapel at 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 28 and is free and open to the public.