by Olivia Drake •
This month, four Wesleyan faculty received the honorary degree of Master of Arts ad eundem gradum.
This degree has been awarded by Wesleyan since 1894 to those members of the faculty who are not graduates of Wesleyan at the bachelor’s level and who have attained the rank of full professor. The award makes each full professor an alumnus/a of the University.
by Olivia Drake •
On May 21, the Wesleyan University Athletic Department hosted a virtual event to honor and celebrate the accomplishments of scholar-athletes. The ceremony combined the annual Scholar-Athlete Banquet with the end-of-the-year Senior Awards presentations.
It was hosted by Director of Athletics Mike Whalen ’83 and featured remarks from President Michael Roth ’78. Several coaches presented individual awards to the student-athletes.
Hockey goalie Tim Sestak ’20 and women’s soccer defender Mackenzie Mitchell ’20 were the recipients of the Roger Maynard Memorial Awards, which are presented annually to the Wesleyan male and female scholar-athlete who best exemplifies the spirit, accomplishments, and humility of Roger Maynard ’37 (established by the family of Roger Maynard, a former Wesleyan trustee who lettered in cross-country and track.)
In addition to winning the prestigious Maynard Awards, Sestak and Mitchell were also chosen by the Department as the two scholar-athlete speakers, an annual tradition of the Scholar-Athlete Banquet.
by Olivia Drake •
Eight Wesleyan faculty members are retiring at the end of the 2019–20 academic year. They include:
Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics (2010–2020)
Professor of Economics (1990–2020)
Associate Professor of Economics (1981–1990)
Assistant Professor of Economics (1976–1981)
Visiting Assistant Professor of Economics (1975–1976)
Adjunct Professor of Russian Language & Literature (2003–2020)
Adjunct Associate Professor of Russian Language & Literature (1995–2003)
Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Language & Literature (1992–1995)
Adjunct Lecturer of Russian Language and Literature (1987–1992)
Teaching Associate in Russian Language and Literature (1983–1987)
by Editorial Staff •
On Sunday, May 24, for the first time in its history, Wesleyan University held its Commencement virtually, awarding 771 Bachelor of Arts, 3 Bachelor of Liberal Studies, 4 Bachelor of Arts on completion, 36 Master of Arts, 19 Master of Liberal Studies, 1 Master of Philosophy, and 10 Doctor of Philosophy degrees.
Streamed on both the Wesleyan website (on the Commencement 2020 page) and on the Wesleyan University Facebook page, the ceremony—the University’s 188th—saw more than 3,000 family, friends, faculty, staff, and alumni gather together online for a common moment in celebration of the members of the Class of 2020. Graduates had just completed one of the more unusual and challenging semesters in recent memory as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the University moved to a distance learning model to ensure student and community safety.
The virtual proceedings were led by President Michael Roth ’78. In his welcome address, President Roth said, “Class of 2020, we have already seen what you are capable of when you have the freedom and the tools, the mentors and the friendships, the insight and the affection to go beyond what others have defined as your limits.
by Editorial Staff •
Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 made the following remarks (as prepared) during the 188th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 24. President Roth’s remarks were delivered live on campus to a virtual audience:
Members of the Board of Trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees, and the mighty Class of 2020—I welcome you to the 188th annual Commencement of Wesleyan University! I am honored to present some remarks on this joyous occasion.
First, let us pause to recollect those members of our community who have passed away over the last year. We hold them in our thoughts because they are part of our family, part of a community that extends far beyond classes and diplomas. Our beloved teachers, our colleagues, and our fellow students—citizens and scholars, researchers and artists who have changed the world, and friends who have changed our lives. Let us pause also to acknowledge the death and devastation caused by the pandemic in our country and around the world. Wherever you are watching this, please join me in a moment of silence for those who are no longer with us.
by Editorial Staff •
Caroline Bhupathi ’20 is a graduating senior from Dallas, Texas, majoring in computer science and minoring in data analysis. While at Wesleyan, she often served as a course assistant for various economics, computer science, and data analysis courses and tutored and managed the Scientific Computing and Informatics Center (SCIC). She was also the recipient of the Plukas Teaching Apprentice Award in Economics and the Mike Rice Prize in Computer Science. In addition to her academic commitments, Caroline was a member of Wesleyan’s only sorority, Rho Epsilon Pi; co-captain of the Wesleyan Club Tennis Team; and a participant in numerous first-year orientation performances, including “In the Company of Others” and “We Speak We Stand.” An active member of Wesleyan’s multicultural community, Caroline considers Wesleyan to be a second home. She made the following remarks (as prepared and previously recorded) during the 188th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 24:
Thank you, President Roth.
Before I begin, I would like to address the elephant in our respective rooms: we are watching our graduation through a screen. To be honest, I was debating whether or not I should even mention the situation. I thought to myself, “We’ve heard enough of it already, what else is there to say?” And there isn’t really more to say, other than to hear it from a fellow student who understands what you are going through.
A day after being told that campus would be closed for the remainder of the semester, I found myself packing up my room in my senior wood-frame house with my brother. The day also consisted of me giving him a tour of the entire campus, a trip down to my favorite restaurant on Main Street, and an endless stream of stories that I shared with him in the car as we drove to and from the store to buy boxes. Once all my belongings were packed, and we were back on the road, my brother said, “Seeing and hearing about your time at Wesleyan reminds me of this quote from a show called After Life, ‘Everybody deserves to be in their local paper.’” It wasn’t until I started writing this speech that I pieced it, this quote, into my own narrative at Wes.
I am a mixed-race woman who never really knew her place. Not saying that I entirely do now, but I am as close as I have ever been to figuring it out, thanks to Wesleyan. Wesleyan, for many of us, is a safe place where we are given the space to not only learn and grow, but to be heard. Can you think of the last time you had five—maybe ten—uninterrupted minutes to speak? I had mine my sophomore year, when I tried to find any excuse I could to come back to Wesleyan early. That excuse took the form of participating in ‘In The Company of Others.’
When I came back to campus a week early for orientation that school year, I went to the first rehearsal to find out that I would be speaking in front of the entire first-year class for ten whole minutes about my identity. Up until then, being mixed meant that I was wedged between contradicting cultures, not being sure which was mine to claim. So this was something that was never asked of me before. After many rehearsals, the day finally came where I stood in front of the first year class to tell them my experience in being mixed as one that meant not knowing if whether or not I’ll find a community already spelled out for me when walking into a new space–that being mixed meant trying to find a sense of belonging.
Those ten minutes gave me the opportunity to take back and redefine my complex identity that had once been defined by others. Not only that, but I had the chance to hear other students’ ten-minute stories of their experiences. Their stories made me realize that there are and always have been many people like me with racially or non-racially mixed backgrounds who feel like their identities have been predetermined. That is, until coming to Wesleyan.
My Wesleyan experience, like many, is not only being heard for the first time, but hearing others. The people at Wesleyan have taught me that we don’t necessarily have to have the same experiences to relate to one another. Wesleyan has meant that I was able to express, for myself, my own everchanging narrative. So, whether it be speaking in front of the first years for ten minutes, being featured as a Wesceleb in the Argus, discussing important campus matters in WSA, leading a protest across campus for an important cause, being inducted into a not-so-secret, secret society, having your band play at MASH, growing food at Long Lane Farm, winning NESCACs with your team, directing a Second Stage play, creating a club to provide a space that was not already there, or writing an honors thesis, Wesleyan has given us the opportunity to discover ourselves and celebrate us, not only as individuals, but as a collective. The lessons we learned and the knowledge that we gained did not diminish once we left campus. We should all be extremely proud of ourselves for what we have accomplished these past few years, and what we have done to finish despite being caught in the midst of history in the making.
I believe I speak for the Class of 2020 when I say we wish we could be there in-person to say, “Thank you, Wesleyan.” Thank you for letting all of us, in one way or another, be featured in your local paper.
by Olivia Drake •
Wesleyan University held its 188th Commencement ceremony on Sunday, May 24. President Michael Roth ’78 delivered live, on-campus remarks to a large virtual audience and a small gathering of socially-distanced in-person groups of graduates and onlookers.
Photos are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)
by Olivia Drake •
On May 22, the Office of Student Affairs announced the names of students who received academic or leadership prizes, fellowships, and scholarships in 2019–20.
More than 300 students and recent alumni received one of the University’s 180 prizes. (View the list below or on the Student Affairs website.)
Scholarships, fellowships, and leadership prizes are granted to students and student organizations based on criteria established for each prize or award. Certain University prizes are administered by the Student Affairs/Deans’ Office, while others are administered by the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD).
by Olivia Drake •
While the Wesleyan community can’t celebrate our seniors’ theses in person this year, several members of the Class of 2020 are sharing their accomplishments on Wesleyan’s Instagram (wesleyan_u).
Any senior who would like to see their thesis spotlighted can fill out this form.
Examples of recent posts are below. Click on the image to open the original post in Instagram. (Project curated by Eitana Friedman-Nathan ’20)
by Lauren Rubenstein •
For the fourth consecutive year, Wesleyan has awarded its prestigious Hamilton Prize for Creativity to three students whose creative written works best reflect the originality, artistry, and dynamism of Hamilton: An American Musical, created by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99.
Brianna Johnson of The Berkeley Carroll School in Brooklyn, N.Y. was awarded the grand prize—a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to attend Wesleyan. She was recognized for three songs comprising an album/mixtape titled, “Tell ‘Em The Truth.” In addition, Wesleyan awarded two honorable mentions along with $5,000 stipends to Luka Netzel of Kansas City, Mo. (The Pembroke Hill School) for his musical, “Heartful Dodgers,” and Chiara Kaufman of Rye, N.Y. (Hackley School) for two works of flash-fiction, titled “The Maid” and “The Burials.”
The winning works were chosen from a pool of over 400 submissions this year. Faculty members reviewed entries, while an all-star selection committee of Wesleyan alumni in the arts, chaired by Miranda and Kail, judged finalists.
About the Honorees
Johnson was honored for “Tell ‘Em The Truth,” an album/mixtape comprised of three songs: “Dreams to Reality,” “These Chains,” and “Damages of Duality.” She wrote these songs, among several others, in 8th and 9th grades as she struggled to acclimate to a predominantly white school as one of the only black students in her classes. Around the same time, the shooting of Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American man, by a white police officer, and many other senseless killings of black people left her feeling scared and resentful.
“My own America wanted to eradicate me, dehumanize me, make me feel like I was nothing. I was a blank corpse with no identity, no face and in America, no voice,” she wrote in her submission for the Hamilton Prize. “I wanted to change that and so I traded in my anger and disappointment for a pen and paper. I transcribed my emotions into lyrics.”
“When experiencing Brianna’s work, I was struck by the honesty, perspective and structure already present in what she’s creating,” said Lin-Manuel Miranda, ’02. “I’m so glad that she’s chosen Wesleyan as the place to continue developing her artistic talents. I look forward to following her artistic journey.”
Committee member and actress Beanie Feldstein ’15 called Johnson’s work a “powerful, moving example of infusing one’s own life-experience into art,” with Johnson putting “her whole being into each lyric, each melody, each performance. […] Her work is wholly raw, vulnerable and masterful. In addition, her art displays radiant strength and an essential commitment to morality that is inspirational. I was rapt and enthralled. It is the work of a young artist you know will do great things and help heal our society.”
Netzel received an honorable mention for his musical, “Heartful Dodgers.” Set in Cleveland, Ohio in 1969, the play follows twins Barry and Fitz who decide to dodge the draft by joining a nearby Amish community after they are conscripted to serve in the Vietnam War. There, they meet Sarah Ann, daughter of the town’s Minister, who longs to experience the world outside the Amish community.
Author Mary Roach ’81 said she had a “big goofy grin on my face” while reading “Heartful Dodgers.”
“Everything about this piece is fresh, pitch-perfect, professional. Luka has so expertly and lovingly nailed the classical musical genre—the stage directions, the characters’ moves and their back-and-forth singing. And the lyrics! Hilarious and charming. I could see and hear Luka’s vision so clearly in my head as I read. I expect to one day be seeing some of that same creative vision on a Broadway stage.”
And Kaufman received an honorable mention for two works of flash-fiction. “The Maid” is a stream-of-consciousness narrative from a distressed woman, a wife and mother contemplating a grim future. Committee member Carter Bays ’97, executive producer and writer of How I Met Your Mother, said “The Maid” “captured the mature, complicated voice of a character that I can’t imagine a teenager being able to access.” Kaufman’s other piece, “The Burials,” tells the story of a family, generation after generation, with a dark, secret history.
About the Hamilton Prize
The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in 2016 in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, which that year won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. A filmed version of Hamilton will be released on Disney Plus beginning July 3.
by Editorial Staff •
Wesleyan University will hold its 188th Commencement ceremony virtually at noon EDT on Sunday, May 24.
The virtual proceedings will be led by President Michael Roth ’78 and will include remarks from award-winning author and Commencement speaker Jacqueline Woodson, pastor and social justice advocate Rev. Dr. William Joseph Barber II, and accomplished actor and political activist Bradley Whitford ’81, all of whom will receive honorary degrees from the University. The recipients were selected for their significant contributions to civic life in the United States, including the example they set in spurring others to productive dialogue and action and in keeping with Wesleyan’s recently-launched Engage 2020 initiative, a comprehensive effort to support student learning via civic engagement and liberal arts education.