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Black Lives Matter Events Celebrate History, Navigate Race Conversations

On Sept. 4, Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD) hosted a four-part series of Black Lives Matter-themed workshops celebrating the contributions of the Black community at Wesleyan.

black lives matter

Alphina Kamara ’22 and Qura-Tul-Ain “Annie” Khan ’22 hosted the event’s opening remarks and provided an interactive history of racism at Wesleyan. Pictured, the students discuss the Fisk Hall Takeover, in which Black faculty, staff, and students took a stand against racism and occupied Fisk Hall on Feb. 21, 1969. Fisk Hall was one of the main academic buildings at the time.

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persude participants to take action. "While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views and having these conversations can help mitigate these views," Kamara said. 

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persuade participants to take action. “While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views, and having these conversations can help mitigate these views,” Kamara said.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan's first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, where approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan’s first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, when approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of Blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association (ASA) spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

BLM

“ASA is my home away from home,” said Alvin Kibaara ’22 of Kenya. “It provides a space for me to relate to people who come from the same continent that I do, and we find similarities, and it gives you confidence.”

Sydney Ochieng '22 of Kenya said, "Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn't know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I'm African."

Sydney Ochieng ’22 of Kenya said, “Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn’t know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I’m African.”

The third workshop, titled "Did My Professor Just Say That?" focused on navigating race among conversations with college professors.

The third workshop, titled “Did My Professor Just Say That?” focused on navigating race in conversations with college professors.

"All of us are born and raised and living in systemic racism," said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. "So nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember we all went through this too. You can talk to us."

“All [faculty] are born and raised and living in systemic racism,” said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. “I had to deal with micro-aggressions and people … so nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember, we all went through this too. You can talk to us.”

 "I see myself engaged in long game. You know, in a, in an Epic struggle for, for human freedom, there's many front lines of battle.
There's many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed
to overcome. So, you know, black folks, at least I'm speaking as a black person, we need to survive.

“I see myself engaged in a long game,” said Tony Hatch, associate professor of science in society. “In an epic struggle for human freedom, there are many front lines of battle. There are many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed 
to overcome. So, Black folks, at least I’m speaking as a Black person, we need to survive.”

ted shaw

Keynote speaker Professor Theodore Shaw ’76, the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill, was the fifth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., for which he worked in various capacities over the span of 26 years.

shaw

“The essence of the Black Lives Matter movement: It’s extraordinary that the simple statement that Black lives matter should provoke the reactions that it does. You know, all lives matter, you know, blue lives matter.
 I don’t know that there was any doubt about those other lives mattering. But we can look at American history and look at Black and Brown lives
 and they haven’t mattered in the same way.
”

 

Faculty Share Insights on Teaching during a Pandemic

When the COVID-19 outbreak disrupted in-person classes last spring, several faculty found innovative and creative ways to adapt to online teaching and learning.

In the first of a fall-semester series, we’ll be highlighting ways faculty from various departments are coping with teaching during a pandemic, and showcase individual ways courses are thriving in an online or hybridized environment.

In this issue, we spotlight Naho Maruta from the College of East Asian Studies; Alison O’Neil from the Chemistry Department; and Ron Jenkins from the Theater Department.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, is teaching her Intermediate Japanese I course online this semester.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, is teaching her Intermediate Japanese I course online this semester.

Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian studies, chose to teach her fall 2020 classes entirely online because several students in her Japanese language classes are international students who were not able to make it back to campus this fall due to travel restrictions. Even her foreign language teaching assistant is working remotely from Japan.

“It’s important we’re live and synchronous because we have lots of conversation activities,” Maruta said. “Luckily, all students in my class are either in the Eastern Standard time zone or in Asia time zone, so having an 8:50 a.m. class works for both sides, even synchronously.”

During a regular semester, Maruta would create “language partners” by pairing students in upper-level Japanese courses with Wesleyan students from Japan, but with most native Japanese students off-campus, she began a new collaboration with Doshisha University in Kyoto, Japan.

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

moodle

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)

Gilmore Featured in Venus Documentary

Martha-Gilmore

Marty Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, is featured in a suite of films exploring the past and possible future of the planet Venus, often called Earth’s “sister” or “twin” planet.

Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology and professor of earth and environmental sciences, is prominently featured in a recently released suite of five documentary films about the history, science, exploration, and possible settlement of the planet Venus.

In the films, Gilmore, who is co-coordinator of planetary science at Wesleyan, along with other experts in a range of fields, help to illuminate and elucidate the fascinating history and possible future of the second planet from the sun, commonly known as Earth’s “sister planet.” The suite of films was produced by filmmaker and space exploration advocate Dave Brody P ’24. The main feature, “Venus: Death of a Planet,” the special feature, “Cloud Cities of Venus,” and the three short films of the “Exploring Venus Series,” can be viewed online through early September, and on the MagellanTV (broadly available through various streaming platforms).

In February, two spacecraft mission concepts co-developed by Gilmore to study Venus received second-round backing from NASA’s Discovery Program. Both concepts, which were awarded $3 million each, would assess whether Venus was ever a habitable planet by examining its landscape, rocks, and atmosphere.

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.

FYM

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