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Shao ’23: “A Birth of Love in the Midst of the Pandemic”

The following essay was written by Mabel Shao ’23 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction

“Goodnight, Leon,” Zara says, as she brings the microphone of her iPhone close to her mouth.

It is a little past noon in Ningbo, China. Zara has just finished lunch with her friend at a steamed bun restaurant and is walking home. Leon, Zara’s boyfriend, is preparing for bed in his single dorm room at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. Beside Leon’s XL twin bed, his Amazon Alexa glows and says “Goodnight, Leon.” Leon knows the message came from Zara, who occasionally prompts Alexa to bring little surprises to him and make both of them feel a little more connected.

Zara and Leon are Wesleyan students in the second semester of their sophomore year. One is remote; the other is on campus. One is coping with the hardships of distance learning; the other is dealing with the loneliness and homesickness of being more than 10,000 kilometers from home. One has a craving for the Mongolian stir-fry, the omelet brunch, and the pasta bar at Usdan, the main on-campus cafeteria; the other thinks of mom’s cooking whenever he bites into the cold sandwich that he buys from PiCafe, an on-campus eatery. One misses campus life; the other pines for the warm family life of home. Sometimes they wish they could swap lives. And they share a common hope: to see each other in person for the first time since their relationship began.

Zara and Leon were just friends when COVID-19 hit the nation in March 2020 and Wesleyan decided to close its campus. They faced a hard choice between returning home and staying in Middletown. Returning home might expose them to higher risks of contracting the virus, either during the multi-stop flight or the required 14-day quarantine in a government-controlled hotel room. They would starve through the 15-hour flight for fear of taking off the life-saving N95 mask. The trip might overwhelm them with significant fatigue and anxiety while online classes were still in session. Yet, staying on campus also meant isolation, uncertainty about the pandemic, and fear of being away from home during this difficult time.

In the end, they made different choices: Zara made the long and exhausting trip home to Ningbo, China, while Leon decided to stay on campus, one in a small colony of international students marooned in Middletown.

At the time, they only knew each other as classmates in Computer Science I and Multivariable Calculus. Inside and outside class, through face-to-face conversations and texting, they discussed the fundamental theorems of calculus, the derivatives, and the integrals. They coded and debugged together.

Zara thought Leon was a great classmate, kind, genuine, easy to talk to, and always willing to help. But she thought nothing beyond that. “Absolutely no affection at that point,” said Zara, quite firmly.

But when Zara grew interested in Hashcode, an international programming competition organized by Google, the first person who came into her mind was Leon. Leon agreed to team up with Zara, feeling ready to meet her outside of the classrooms for the first time.

Over the course of the competition, they met on the second floor of the Science Library, sitting across desks and quietly discussing codes while Zara sipped iced coffee from PiCafe downstairs. To students walking by, Zara and Leon might have looked like a couple out on a study date. In fact, Zara and Leon were a not-yet-couple. They didn’t yet know each other’s personality, family, likes, and dislikes nearly so well as they knew each other’s coding habits. But that would soon change.

Then, just as the temperature between Zara and Leon finally started heating up, COVID hit.

Everything went virtual. Every aspect of Zara’s and Leon’s and everybody else’s lives was disrupted and relocated. Discussions in the classrooms, laughter in the dining hall, cheering on the basketball court, alternately quiet and loud nights in the dorm — all of it went missing. Nearly everything on the Wesleyan campus came to feel unreal and disordered. But the connection between Zara and Leon moved in the other direction. It became more heartfelt, true, and close.

Before Zara noticed it, she was chatting with Leon on WeChat, a Chinese social media app, every day. It became so natural that she couldn’t even remember when they had started the routine. She wondered one day and checked the messaging history between her and Leon. It turns out that their daily chatting started in September 2020, approximately five months after she returned to China.

Zara wasn’t sure how the focus of their conversations transformed from “things in calculus and coding” to “things in life.” She found herself enjoying hearing Leon share his life on campus: how he went through quarantine, got tested for COVID twice a week, kept safe social distances during in-person classes, and how he worked as an IT assistant. Zara shared her life as a remote student: how she had to stay up until 5 a.m. to take her Politics class twice a week, how COVID restrictions were continually lifted in her city, and her internship at an advertising agency in Shanghai.

Time might have been a catalyst for their relationship, but Zara thinks distance and physical separation played a role, as well. “It’s only when two lovers are separated that they know if they actually love each other,” Zara said, after pausing to think. Zara had been keeping track of her own feelings toward Leon, but she decided to not tell anyone except her mother. She didn’t want to make the relationship public to her friends until she was sure exactly what sort of love bound this relationship — romantic love, or friendship love,

Zara had rehearsed in her mind how she would react if Leon one day asked her to be his girlfriend. When the moment came, on December 24, 2020, she was prepared.

On that day, just like every other day in the prior three months, Leon told Zara his plan for the day. He and a few other Chinese students planned to cook dinner together to celebrate Christmas Eve, a holiday that is untraditional for them but still provides a good excuse to enjoy themselves after a long semester.

They took an Uber to Trader Joe’s to buy ingredients. Zara made a list of Trader Joe’s products that she loves: the Kung Pao chicken, the blueberry and peach yogurt, the mochi ice cream, the sparkling wine. Leon took Zara’s list and found every item in the store. The exercise gave him a feeling of intimacy with Zara on this special day.

After dinner, his morale buoyed by a few glasses of Zara’s favorite wine, Leon opened the chat box between him and Zara, suddenly realizing how much they had shared and how their tone of voice changed from flat to upbeat to romantic over the last four months. It would have taken him the entire night to scroll up to the time when they had only talked about calculus and computer science. His heart pounding in his ear, Leon typed and sent his request to Zara.

Zara, surprised but also prepared, typed, “Sure, let’s give it a try.”

As Zara’s right thumb landed on the green “send” icon on the lower right corner of her screen, she felt a muddle of feelings: cheerfulness, excitement, nervousness, and an uncertainty of how their relationship would unfold under the new normal brought by the pandemic.

Zara was ready. Do what comes naturally, she reassured herself. Try by not trying. “I sometimes find it quite unbelievable that Leon and I are now in a relationship,” she said. “We didn’t try hard on anything. It all happened naturally.”

On Valentine’s Day 2021, almost two months into their romantic relationship, Leon bought Zara a HomePod, a speaker with AI functions from Apple, as a gift. Now, he can command this technology to say “Goodnight” to Zara, too.

Montague ’21: “A Tin Can of Friendship Beans: Creating A Community for Kids in the Age of Virtual Learning”

The following essay was written by Chapin Montague ’21 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction

When Michayla Robertson-Pine ’22 returned to her hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts in March after receiving Wesleyan University’s “Do Not Return” email, a message all too familiar to college students across the country, she knew she couldn’t sit around and do nothing. So she teamed up with her friend Tessa Levenstein, an Amherst College student, to create an after-school Harry Potter book club for children of Amherst professors. After a few Zoom sessions, they realized that while witchcraft and wizardry were an enticing draw for kids, what they really needed was a space to play, a fix that would normally come from recess and play dates but was deemed disposable in the new reality of virtual learning.

Robertson-Pine and Levenstein adapted. They hosted a TriWizard Tournament via Zoom–an iconic competition drawn from the Harry Potter universe. Robertson-Pine manufactured a goblet out of a Kiddush cup and candle, and the kids created their own imaginary academies of magic under the ice in Antarctica or in a treehouse hidden deep in the forest. They hosted trivia nights and scavenger hunts, asking kids to look for something they would find in Dumbledore’s office. The kids loved it, and their parents gained a much-needed respite from the chaos of early quarantine.

Then, things got serious. Word spread among parents that kids were falling behind in math, especially concerning considering data predicting that students could lose months of math instruction in the 2020-2021 school year. Kids also became sounding boards for their parents’ anxieties. They were nervous and frustrated about having to stare at screens all day and could not fathom getting through a 9 a.m.-4 p.m. school day alone in their rooms on Zoom. So, Robertson-Pine and Levenstein got serious, too.

They added three new members to their team — Vanderbilt student Natalie Elliot, UMass Amherst student Rafael DePillis, and Wesleyan student Elizabeth (Liz) Woolford ’22—and started a Google folder titled “Let’s Start a School.” From there, the group came up with lesson plans focusing on everything from pre-algebra to movie-making to a full-blown NASA mission simulation. They added tutoring sessions and additional clubs for crafting and baking. They applied for a grant, created a website, made a budget, and launched an advertising campaign. They decided on tuition—$185 for three weeks—but offered a pay-what-you-can option for parents who were having trouble making ends meet. And so, Tin Can Learners was born—a virtual after-school program for the kids of Amherst, Massachusetts, dedicated to building a virtual, after-school learning community for kids.

To unpack the world of Tin Can Learners is to fall down a rabbit hole of chaotic genius and layers of lore that makes you wish you were part of the gang. The average day for a student may consist of concocting a field guide for a one-of-a-kind mythical creature in Homegrown Naturalists, building a shot list for the Tin Can Film Festival: Murder Mystery production, or experimenting with family recipes with the Cook Book! course. The instructors, in the words of one parent, are young enough to feel more like an older sibling than a teacher. Their enthusiasm matches the kids’ own level of imagination and wonder, showcased best in the final project of the Music VideOh! course where instructors Woolford and Robertson-Pine go all out with their students in a choreographed performance featuring Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold.” Complete with lip-syncing, funky hats, and hairbrush mics, it was like one long virtual slumber party you never want to end.

Each six-week session ends with the long-anticipated showcase—a virtual exhibition for parents to see the work their kids have created and for the students to celebrate. Many students were Tin Can veterans from the early days of Harry Potter, and for them, the showcase was the event of the season.

Emceed by the instructors, these nights were jam-packed with easter eggs of Tin Can lore. There was King Ga Zorp A Zorp, an alien known for abducting instructors and demanding student artwork as ransom; the elusive founder of Tin Can, Old Man Roger Cannery; and, of course, the iconic friendship beans taped to the wall that held everything together. Within a year that had taken so much from them, these kids took ownership over these rituals. In Woolford’s words, it became their thing.

Now, Woolford and Robertson-Pine sit on the floor of Woolford’s room in their wood frame. They decided to come back to campus in-person this semester, and they’re still trying to find words for how they feel about it, but it’s clear they really miss their students.

“Adults on Zoom are just so boring,” says Robertson-Pine before they both assumed the mannequin-esque position of every virtual college student– muted, sporting a sulky face, and slouching.

The Tin Can kids never showed up to class muted with the camera off; they came in blabbering, peering into the lens like a telescope, constantly climbing on desks and peering out from behind walls. They spammed the chat with emojis, came to class dressed as wizards because it was their birthday, and had an ongoing prank of renaming each other in the chats. They acted like kids, and kids are so much more fun.

But Woolford and Robertson-Pine also recognize that Tin Can had to end after their final session this past winter. Eventually, their students had the opportunity to do in-person classes, soccer practices, and tae kwon do in parking lots. They got to actually be together, albeit outside, masked, and distant after the time warp of online school.

“We made the internet the best that it could be for kids,” says Woolford. “In the beginning, some parents told us it was the reason their kid got up in the morning, and now, there’s something better out there.”

And yet, for the instructors, a lot of these kids only ever existed online, which made for bizarre goodbyes. There was no big cleanup, no meeting the parents during pickup, no real closure. Instead, like so many virtual relationships of this past year, these tiny humans they had come to care for blipped out of their lives as quickly as they had Zoomed in. Unlike the fleeting memories of camp, however, virtual learning yielded a vault of Tin Can archives. Now, Woolford and Robertson-Pine are able to marvel at their students’ homemade movies, comics, coding games, and yes, the illustrious Katy Perry music video, whenever adult Zoom just isn’t cutting it.

Chaiban ’22: “COVID Cabin Fever”

The following essay was written by Shakka Chaiban ’22 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction

Perched on the side of highway 191 in a cramped sedan, overlooking the neverending brown, barren desert of Uintah County, Utah on a late October night where only the stars illuminated the darkness, Norm Cotteleer [’22], 21, lightly hit his forehead on the dashboard in a state of perplexity. A little over four and a half hours away from his temporary home in Sandy, Utah, Norm and his two roommates had been pulled over by state police for driving 20 miles an hour over the limit after a day of journeying steep, mountainous hiking trails on the border of Colorado. While Norm himself hadn’t been behind the wheel, it was his car.

As he watched the officer begin a slow strut to his window, he remembered that his registration was two months expired.  Norm began to recognize that he was in a potentially devastating situation. In that brief moment, Norm recounted his months of internal conflict spent deciding if embarking on a cross country voyage with two semi-close-ish friends to the undiscovered terrain of Utah had been worth forgoing fall semester of his junior year at Wesleyan University, and he questioned his decision yet again. As potentially catastrophic scenarios ran rampant through his mind, Norm couldn’t help but surrender to pangs of longing for the comfort and sanity that living on campus had provided him. He thought of his closest friends, whom he hadn’t seen in eons, reminisced on the warm feeling of dwelling within a like-minded community, and missed the little pleasures of Wesleyan.

Norm exhaled a deep, cathartic sigh and smiled quietly to himself in disbelief. “That was the turning point,” he later recalled, “The weight of all my decisions and the general anxiety of the situation and life, I never wished for campus more, even if it wasn’t the same as before.”

For university students across the country, the evils of COVID-19 have greatly reshaped the trajectory of the traditional college experience. Amidst a global pandemic that has put the world on pause, college students have been forced to make vastly impactful decisions. While many schools across the country have shut down and switched to completely virtual campuses, others have adopted a plethora of varied testing structures, COVID prevention guidelines, and on-campus hybrid learning models.

At Wesleyan, students were given the onus of responsibility of deciding whether to return to campus in the spring after a relatively successful and contained fall semester, or opt out to either virtual learning or a completely alternative experience. Each student’s decision was fueled by a variety of complex factors, namely one’s socioeconomic situation, family life, and the presence (or lack thereof) of a plan of action if one was not to return to campus.

University administrators expected considerably more students to return to campus in the spring than in the fall. Yet, only 24 more students are physically on campus this semester, according to Director of Residential Life Fran Koerting. She cited the sudden increase in nationwide COVID cases in the weeks leading up to the semester’s start. The numbers also reflect the last-minute nature of these decisions, illustrating a COVID-era dilemma facing students everywhere between opting out or coming back.

For Norm Cotteleer, a junior philosophy major from East Granby, Connecticut, the decision couldn’t have been easier. Amidst the peak of COVID-19 pandemonium in August and uncertainty about campus reopening in the fall, Norm had decided to take classes virtually and drive across the country from his home to the claustrophobic, predominantly white Mormon suburb of Sandy, Utah. There, alongside two Wesleyan peers to whom he was not particularly close, Norm lived in a confined, grey brick house at the base of towering twin peaks and framed by stunning mountain ranges.

His decision to traverse the nation was fueled by an infatuation with the thought of driving cross-country and the desire to explore new lands, a test and reclamation of his independence that had felt dimmed by months of quarantine and isolation spent at home. The plan was for the three to live together within this small ski town, take classes throughout the day, and couple them with a series of nature expeditions and spontaneous trips to nearby states and regions on weekends. It seemed an ideal, fulfilling structure to replace being on campus during these strange times, but the reality of Norm’s experience fell far from what he had expected.

Only a few weeks into the stay, Norm began to witness the impacts of extended social isolation in close quarters: Norm and his friends gradually succumbed to an intense form of COVID cabin fever. The general vibes of the household grew increasingly combative and toxic, cramped proximity bringing the worst out of each housemate. Norm’s relationships with his two casual friends gradually deteriorated to the point of being unbearable. Instead of using his time away to focus on his internal development, Norm found himself looking for ways to remove himself from his situation in search of a sense of holistic peace of mind. His mental health fell into a steady decline.

“In retrospect”, he recalled, “I most definitely was blinded by an idealized, rosy expectation of how my stay and semester was to go. It was a spontaneous decision, and I wasn’t giving weight to a lot of potential downfalls that could have, and did occur. However, I will say, I will be forever grateful for life-lasting lessons sprouted from such vast adversity. Learning the skill of adaptability, facing your own emotions head on, but especially made me realize the significance of those who you surround yourself with.”
When asked about making the decision to return to campus this spring, Norm let out a light chuckle and simply said, “It was never a question.” Norm spent more than 60 hours driving home, entering almost a trance-like state of euphoria as he drew close. For the entirety of the fall semester, he had been robbed of that subtle feeling of relaxation and comfort that he had previously taken for granted. Those feelings would return only when he rejoined a community that made him feel safe. For Norm, that community was still Wesleyan.

On his first day on campus in a year, February 8, 2021, Norm finally felt like himself. Even though the adjustment to a hybrid model of in-person classes and Zoom and the abundance of COVID-19 regulations remained a bewildering journey, he found that he couldn’t care less. The serenity of Middletown, the joy of finally being around those closest to him, and the peace brought by the love of his community: Norm was finally home.

OConnell, Dann ’17 Join 2021 Voices for Science Cohort

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne OConnell

Suzanne OConnell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Julian Dann ’17, a graduate student at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, were both selected to be part of the American Geophysical Union’s 2021 Voices for Science Cohort.

Hosted by the American Geophysical Union, Voices for Science aims to train scientists “to address the critical need for communicating the value and impact of Earth and space science to key decision makers, journalists, and public audiences,” according to the union’s website. Each cohort receives specialized training and mentoring throughout a 12-month period to hone their skills in communication and outreach.

Throughout the coming year, OConnell and Dann will participate in science communication workshops and work to promote the geosciences.



Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore to Partner with Story and Soil Coffee Co.

story and soil

Hartford, Conn.-based Story and Soil Coffee Co. will open its second location inside Wesleyan R.J. Julia on May 1.

Patrons of Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore can soon sip while they shop.

This month, the bookstore partnered with Hartford-based Story and Soil Coffee Co., which will open its second location inside Wesleyan R.J. Julia on May 1.

Story and Soil Coffee Co., a multi-roaster specialty coffee shop, opened for business in July of 2017 “with a vision to create a supportive and positive culture, celebrate our vibrant community, and build relationships through coffee,” according to the company’s website.

The company’s founder, Michael Acosta, became interested in coffee while running Trinity College’s Underground Coffeehouse as a student. He later launched his first startup venture, N2 Coffee, the first mobile nitro cold brew in Connecticut.

Story and Soil will offer hot, cold, and iced coffee, espresso, teas, specialty, and seasonal drinks. Starting in June, the business will add hot food and baked goods to its menu.

Rj Julia

The Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore opened in 2017.

Wesleyan partnered with the Madison-based RJ Julia Booksellers in 2017 to open the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore on Main Street in Middletown. The two-story 13,000-square-foot business houses approximately 18,000 books, with a special section highlighting authors from the Wesleyan community. The store also sells a wide range of both Wesleyan-themed and general apparel and merchandise.

The Middlesex Chamber of Commerce will host a grand opening ceremony for Story and Soil in mid-June.

Read more in this Hartford Courant article.

Tan ’21 Presents Mussel Collection at Northeast Geobiology Symposium

Yu Kai Tan BA/MA ’21 presented his recent 3D scanning models during the 2021 Northeast Geobiology Symposium, which took place virtually on April 9-10.

Tan’s presentation was titled “Orphaned Freshwater Mussel Collection Reveals Biogeography of Sculptured Sciences.” During the event, Tan showcased several 3D-scanned models of the mussel collection he is currently studying for his master’s degree.

The symposium, which is organized by students and postdocs, provides an inclusive environment for researchers at various stages of their development to learn from their peers and develop collaborative relationships for future work.

Admitted Students Explore Wesleyan during Virtual WesFest

As part of Wesleyan’s Admitted Student Events, the Office of Admission hosted its 2021 WesFest in a virtual platform April 7-9.

Class of 2025 admitted students and their families were able to log into 121 events and informational sessions on topics such as financial aid, academic resources, student activities, studying abroad, student technology, residential life, and religious life.

Of the 13,145 applications received for a spot in the Class of 2025, 2,544 were admitted. View the full Class of 2025 profile online here. During WesFest, more than 890 of the admitted students attended at least one session.

In addition to virtual tours and academic open houses, admitted students attended a student-to-student panel discussion to meet current students and learn about campus life, academics, and extracurricular academic activities at Wesleyan in an informal conversation.

On April 8, Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid, welcomed guests to WesFest and spoke to admitted students and their families about the reason he decided to say “Yes to Wes!”

“I found myself attracted to Wes because of its size, because of the dynamic diversity, because of the balance, and all the ways that matter to me—not being too big or too small, not being urban but neither rural…” Gonzalez said. “I came here as an undergrad back in the early ’90s, spent my four years here, and had a transformative experience.”

Some of WesFest’s highlighted sessions are featured below:

activities fair

Student Activities & Leadership Development (SALD) student staff presented a guide to student organizations during a virtual Student Activities Fair. In addition to highlighting various student organizations at Wesleyan, the student staff offered an introduction to WesNest, the main platform of information for and about student groups.

Jonesy Moore '21

During a student-to-student panel discussion, Jonesy Moore ’21 spoke about changing academic directions after exploring the open curriculum. “I was completely clueless [about] what I was doing, so I came in as a neuro major [and] did not end up being a neuro major,” Moore said. Moore added that in addition to academics, students have the opportunity to try new extracurricular activities, regardless of prior experience. When first on campus, Moore became involved with Second Stage theatre company and Cardinal Pictures, a student-run film production group. “The first day we filmed, I had to learn how to focus the camera, like I was completely in the dark for that,” he recalled.

At the discussion, Tashfia Jilu ’22 offered advice to prospective students. “If you're feeling intimidated, it's okay,” Jilu said. “I remember my WesFest. I was listening to this whole panel for people saying I'm involved in this, I'm involved in [that], I'm double majoring, triple majoring…. it just sounded so intimidating. Jilu, who is pre-med and majoring in Science and Society, emphasized that the open curriculum makes it easier for students to explore multiple academic disciplines. You'll probably end up doing [multiple majors] just because it's the nature of Wes,” Jilu added. “You'll end up doing it even if you think you can't or you're intimidated right now. I just want to throw that out there.”

Tashfia Jilu ’22, who is pre-med and majoring in science in society, also offered advice to prospective students. “If you’re feeling intimidated, it’s okay,” Jilu said. “I remember my WesFest. I was listening to this whole panel of people saying I’m involved in this, I’m involved in [that], I’m double majoring, triple majoring…. It just sounded so intimidating, but the open curriculum makes it easier for students to explore multiple academic disciplines. You’ll probably end up doing [multiple majors] just because it’s the nature of Wes,” Jilu added.

6-7pm All-Star Alumni Panel Mark your calendars and cancel your plans! You're definitely going to want to join us for this all-star alumni panel moderated by Bradley Whitford '81 with Santigold '96, Angela Yee '97, and Beanie Feldstein '15! Come learn about their journeys to, through and post-Wesleyan!

WesFest’s All-Star Alumni Panel featured (clockwise from top left) Beanie Feldstein ’15, Bradley Whitford ’81, Angela Yee ’97, and Santigold ’96.


“I feel like my brain [was] cracked open. I think I said that 50 times during my first two years at Wesleyan,” Feldstein said. “Knowing that to be your best at whatever you want to do you have to use the people around you and learn from the people around you versus trying to push people out of the way to get where you want to go. That Wesleyan spirit is something that really sticks with me.”

“I just realized there was a huge difference between the way that my brain worked and the way that I approached a lot of things versus people who didn't have this broad exposure in education. I was an African American studies major and a music double major, but I had never learned anything about African American studies until I got Wesleyan.

After graduating from Wesleyan with a double major in African American studies and music, Santigold “realized there was a huge difference between the way that my brain worked and the way that I approached a lot of things versus people who didn’t have this broad exposure in education.”

Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez '96, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid, hosted a "Chat with your Admission Dean." "Our students learn to push beyond the boundaries and to not accept limitations, whether their self-imposed or imposed on them by others," he said. "That's the thing about Wes—you can't reduce us to a single adjective."

Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid, hosted a “Chat with your Admission Dean.” “Our students learn to push beyond the boundaries and to not accept limitations, whether they’re self-imposed or imposed on them by others,” he said. “That’s the thing about Wes—you can’t reduce us to a single adjective.”

Emily Moon '21 "My experience at Wesleyan has allowed me to pursue everything I wanted to—ranging from language to academics at a very high level—to really in-depth research and having all those opportunities in a community where I felt so welcomed and so accepted," Moon said. "I think there's something super unique about Wesleyan, and so I think this place has given me so much in the way of academic growth and the way of personal growth."

During the WesFest welcome on April 9, Emily Moon ’21 spoke about her Wesleyan experience. “Wesleyan has allowed me to pursue everything I wanted to—ranging from language to academics at a very high level to really in-depth research—and having all those opportunities in a community where I felt so welcomed and so accepted,” Moon said. “I think there’s something super unique about Wesleyan, and so I think this place has given me so much in the way of academic growth and the way of personal growth.”

long lane farm tour

Charlotte George ’24 offered a virtual tour of Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm and answered questions from admitted students.

During a "Hot Topics for Parents" panel discussion, parents of admitted students were able to ask current Wesleyan students about campus life. "We hype up college as like this incredible experience that should be perfect, but it's also real life so problems happen, things will go wrong, and it won't be exactly as you think it will be.
 But just enjoy it for what it is," said panelist Becca Baron '23. "It's a super unique experience that your child is going to get to have at a super amazing place like Wesleyan. I just to like take it one day at a time, and it'll all be okay."

During a “Hot Topics for Parents” panel discussion, parents of admitted students were able to ask current Wesleyan students about campus life. “We hype up college as this incredible experience that should be perfect, but it’s also real life so problems happen, things will go wrong, and it won’t be exactly as you think it will be.
 But just enjoy it for what it is,” said panelist Becca Baron ’23. “It’s a super unique experience that your child is going to get to have at a super amazing place like Wesleyan. I just like to take it one day at a time, and it’ll all be okay.”

wesfest film

Logan Ludwig, assistant director of events and programs for the College of Film and the Moving Image, and Scott Higgins, Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies, offered a live informational session about the College and the film studies major.

12-1pm Virtual Tour: College of Film and the Moving Image Join CFILM staff for a live tour

Higgins also provided a pre-recorded virtual tour of the College of Film and the Moving Image.

ResLife Q&A Join ResLife staff and students for a discussion about living on campus! Bring your questions about roommate selection, picking your dorm, what you can and can't have in your room and more!

Residential Life staff hosted a discussion about living on campus and answered questions about housing options, roommate selection, and more.

Physics Drop-In Meet a Physics Professor, see them do a cool Physics demo, or both! Each day will feature different hosts.

Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics, led a “Meet a Physics Professor” event during WesFest.

The 41st Annual Philip B. Brown ’44 Memorial Lecture was held in conjunction with WesFest. Speakers included President Michael Roth ’78, Senator Michael Bennet ’87, Hon.’12, and Senator John Hickenlooper ’74, MA’80, Hon ’10. Maria Santana-Guadalupe ’98, anchor and correspondent for CNN en Español served as moderator.

The 41st Annual Philip B. Brown ’44 Memorial Lecture was held in conjunction with WesFest. Speakers included President Michael Roth ’78, Senator Michael Bennet ’87, Hon.’12, and Senator John Hickenlooper ’74, MA’80, Hon. ’10. Maria Santana-Guadalupe ’98, anchor and correspondent for CNN en Español served as moderator.

Murillo Honored with $100,000 Kingsley Tufts Award for Poetry

Poet John Murillo is the 2021 recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Award for his collection “Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry.” (Photo courtesy of Four Ways Books)

John Murillo is the 2021 recipient of the Kingsley Tufts Award for his collection Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry. (Photo courtesy of Four Ways Books)

On April 7, poet John Murillo, assistant professor of English, was named the 2021 winner of the Kingsley Tufts Award for his recent collection Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (Four Way Books, 2020).

Murillo’s collection offers “a reflective look at the legacy of institutional, accepted violence against Blacks and Latinos and the personal and societal wreckage wrought by long histories of subjugation.”

The Kingsley Tufts Award is awarded to a mid-career poet and comes with a $100,000 prize.

Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry also was nominated for the 2021 PEN Open Book Award and the 2021 NAACP Images Awards in the Outstanding Literary Work — Poetry category.

This spring, Murillo is teaching ENGL 337: Advanced Poetry Workshop: Radical Revision.

Students Awarded $5,000 Seed Grants for Socially-Good Ventures

seed grant pitch

On April 2, six Patricelli Center Seed Grant finalists pitched their projects, virtually, to a panel of expert judges.

Wesleyan’s organic farm, an eco-friendly clothing store, and a clean water supplier in New Jersey are the recipients of the 2021 Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship Seed Grants. These student-led social ventures will each receive $5,000 in unrestricted funds as well as training, advising, mentoring, incubator workspace, and other resources from the Patricelli Center.

On April 2, a pool of finalists pitched their projects, virtually, to a panel of expert judges. Applicants were assessed on their project design, leadership qualities, and potential for social or environmental impact.

Seasoned Seed Grant judge and Patricelli Center Advisory Board member Syed Ali ’13 said the PCSE’s Seed Grant competition demonstrates “the best of Wesleyan. These students brought both creativity and critical thinking to their proposals. They see clearly that every person deserves clean water, good food, and a healthy planet and recognize we are going to have to think differently to achieve that.”

On April 5, the Patricelli Center announced the Seed Grant winners:

Infinitely: Doing Good While We’re Here by Nimra Karamat ’23 and Ashley Cardenas ’23.

Nimra Karamat ’23 and Ashley Cardenas ’23 are the co-creators of Infinitely: Doing Good While We’re Here. With Infinitely, Karamat and Cardenas are offering products that are made in an eco-friendly fashion.

Infinitely: Doing Good While We’re Here by Nimra Karamat ’23 and Ashley Cardenas ’23

Karamat and Cardenas are working to launch a sustainable, affordable line of clothing that combats the fast fashion industry and all the environmental and humanitarian concerns it raises. Their first collection will launch later this spring.

“We pride ourselves in doing good while we’re here, for when we’re no longer here,” Cardenas explained. “Fast fashion companies don’t offer quality in sustainable products. They create a high demand production for cheap materials to keep up with the latest trends.”

Infinitely is partnering with other sustainable businesses—small and large—to increase the demand and access to sustainable clothing.

“Unlike other sustainable businesses that overprice their clothing materials, Infinitely is dedicated to remaining accessible for everyone in advocating for social issues through our clothing materials,” she said.

Elam Grekin '22 and Franny Lin '21

Elam Grekin ’22 (pictured) and Franny Lin ’21 are members of Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm community.

Long Lane Farm, Summer Farming by Elam Grekin ’22 and Franny Lin ’21

Since its founding in 2003, Long Lane Farm has worked towards a model of food sovereignty, in which all people not only have access to affordable, healthy meals, but also have a say in how their food is produced.

“Following the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic to both the farm and our communities, we will look ahead, strengthen and expand our role in the community, and shore up our strategies for the future,” Lin said.

Lin and Grekin have both spent ample time growing food at Long Lane Farm, and they hope to use the farm as a means of helping fight food insecurity in Middletown. They seek to create a farm stand, launch educational initiatives, and host community events to bring people together while working towards their goal.

“As the pandemic eases, this is the time for us to rebuild our relationships with the Middletown community,” Lin explained. “This grant would allow us to hire more farmers, giving us the freedom to focus on community building and food insecurity without having to sacrifice our ecological growing practices or vegetable yields. It will also allow someone to focus on the longevity of these relationships.”

Newark Water Association by Vincent Henrich '24.

Vincent Henrich ’24 created Newark Water Association by

Newark Water Association by Vincent Henrich ’24

Henrich launched the Newark Water Association, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, in 2020 to provide the community of Newark, N.J. with access to clean, safe, and free water.

“Newark residents are still drinking lead-contaminated water,” Henrich said. “The immediate need is not being met. This is where Newark Water Association stepped in. We supported the immediate need by supplying those who needed the water the most with our bottled water project.”

He focuses on giving bottled water to groups who could not otherwise access uncontaminated water.

Runners up included: B4 ~ Bold, Brave, Beautiful, Bald by Kara Hodge ’24 and Alexis Papavasiliou ’24; Hearth Creative Co. LLC by Nélida Zepeda ’23; and Olive Branch Pictures Inc. by Andrew Hirsh ’20, Kevin DeLoughry ’21, and Liam Trampota ’18. The Seed Grant and other Patricelli Center programs are made possible by numerous donors and volunteers, including Propel Capital, Newman’s Own Foundation, and the Norman Ernst Priebatsch Endowed Fund for Entrepreneurship.

Ali, who works as an analyst for HR&A Advisors, an urban planning / public policy / economic development consulting firm, admired the diversity of projects pitched by the students. 

“For every single venture, even the ones who were not crowned winners, the judges saw tremendous potential in what these students could achieve with the passion and leadership they demonstrated,” Ali said. “These students and teams exemplify the spirit of innovation and impact shared by so many members of the Wesleyan community.”


American Oz by MacLowry, Strain to Premiere April 19

ozA film written, directed, and produced by College of Film and the Moving Image faculty Randall MacLowry and Tracy Heather Strain explores the life and times of author L. Frank Baum, the creator of the beloved classic American narrative, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

MacLowry is assistant professor of the practice in film studies and Strain is associate professor of film studies. Together they direct the Wesleyan Documentary Project.

Titled American Oz, the documentary depicts how Baum continued to reinvent himself—working as a chicken breeder, actor, marketer of petroleum products, shopkeeper, newspaperman, and traveling salesman—while reinterpreting his observations through films, books, and musicals.

Featuring interviews with Wesleyan’s Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita; Wicked author Gregory Maguire, and historian Philip Deloria, and others, American Oz shows how Baum wove together scraps and shards of his own experiences into an enduring work of the imagination. As a young husband and father, Baum was continually struggling to support his growing family. His quest to find his true calling led him through a dozen enterprises; some were abandoned for the next big thing and others failed. But each provided Baum with fodder that could be transformed in his writing.

The documentary premieres from 9 to 11 p.m. EST on Monday, April 19 on PBS,, and the PBS Video App.

This spring at Wesleyan, MacLowry is teaching FILM 457: Advanced Filmmaking, and Strain is teaching FILM 384: Documentary Storytelling and FILM 430: Documentary Production.