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President Roth Makes Remarks at 2018 Commencement

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 addresses the Class of 2018 during the 186th Commencement ceremony on May 27.

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 made the following remarks during the 186th commencement ceremony on May 27:

Members of the Board of Trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees, and the mighty Class of 2018, I am honored to present some brief remarks on the occasion of this commencement.

Do you remember the summer before you began your first year at Wesleyan? Were you working a tough job, attending an interesting program, or volunteering at an engaging not-for-profit? Like many in the summer of 2014, you might have been complaining about inertia in Washington, wondering whether things could get worse. Little did we know. There was cynicism in the air, to be sure, but nothing like the craven disregard for principle and process that we are witnessing today. The invective, insult, and manipulation we see today are antithetical to the inquiry, compromise, and reflection that are crucial for democratic governance—and at the heart of liberal education—one that aims at empowerment through learning.

Price ’18 Delivers Senior Class Welcome

Zenzele Price ’18 delivers the senior class welcome during Wesleyan’s 186th Commencement ceremony on May 27.

Zenzele Price ’18 delivered the following remarks during Wesleyan’s 186th Commencement ceremony on May 27.

Hi, my name is Zenzele Price, and I’m the 2018 Commencement speaker.

I’m trying to be optimistic, but right now graduating from college feels like being told to jump out of a plane. Standing here, with the wind battering my face, staring out at the great, terrifying expanse of the future, it’s easy to want to step back. Back to the cocoon of Usdan and Red and Black, back to saying “points please,” back to a sea of familiar faces.

But, in reality, there is no stepping back. In reality, we are dispersing, seeds cast to the wind, tumbling into the real world with painful, exhilarating, hopeful gravity. And it’s hard to trust my parachute.

Alumni Honored for Distinguished Achievements, Service At Annual Meeting

At the Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Wesleyan Alumni Association on May 26, six alumni received Distinguished Alumnus Awards. Two Outstanding Service Awards were presented, along with the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award, which is given to a member of the community whose writing conveys “unusual insights and understanding of current and past events.” Front row (l. to r.): Distinguished Alumnus Paul Weitz ’88; James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award recipient journalist Hannah Dreier ’08; Outstanding Service Award winner Megan Norris ’83, P’17; Distinguished Alumnae Maria Santana-Guadalupe ’98 and Jessica Rosenworcel ’93; and Vice Chair of the Alumni Association and Black Alumni Council Chair Nyasha Foy. Second row (l. to r.): Distinguished Alumnus Brian Frosh ’68; Outstanding Service Award recipient Alexander “Sandy” See ’68, P’98; Distinguished Alumnus Robert Crispin ’68; President Michael S. Roth ’78; and Distinguished Alumnus Bobbito Garcia ’88. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)

Megan Norris ’83, P’17 (left), with Paul Weitz ’88 and Bob Crispin ’68 enjoy President Roth’s welcome remarks to the crowd gathered for the ceremony in Memorial Chapel.

The award recipients are:

Robert W. “Bob” Crispin ’68: Robert W. “Bob” Crispin had a long and distinguished career as a senior executive in the insurance and financial services area, which culminated when he served as chairman and chief executive officer of ING Investment Management Americas from 2001 until he retired in 2007.

Brian E. Frosh ’68: Brian Frosh is the attorney general for the state of Maryland. Under his leadership, Maryland became the first state in the nation to issue guidance prohibiting discriminatory profiling by law enforcement, declaring definitively that race, ethnicity, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, and religion cannot be factors in routine police activity.

Michael Roth ’78 congratulates Distinguished Alumnus Brian Frosh ’68.

Jessica Rosenworcel ’93: Jessica Rosenworcel is a lawyer who currently serves as a commissioner to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent agency that regulates interstate communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable.

Bobbito García ’88: New York City native Bobbito García is a freelance creative who has put an indelible footprint on multiple urban movements. During the 1990s, he was one-half of the legendary Stretch and Bobbito program on WKCR, voted “Best Hip Hop Radio Show of All Time,” by The Source magazine. Currently, he is cohost of NPR’s What’s Good with Stretch and Bobbito podcast.

Paul Weitz ’88: Paul Weitz is a writer, director, and producer whose directorial debut, along with his brother Chris, was American Pie. In addition to writing the animated film Antz, Mr. Weitz also co-wrote and directed About a Boy, for which he and Chris earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.

Maria Santana-Guadalupe ’98: Maria Santana-Guadalupe is a New York–based anchor and correspondent for CNN En Español and frequent contributor to all CNN networks and platforms, including CNN, CNN International, HLN, and CNN.com.

President Roth congratulations Distinguished Alumna CNN En Espanol correspondent Maria Santana-Guadalupe ’98,

Outstanding Service: Megan Norris ’83, P’17. Megan Norris is the chair of the Managing Partners and leader of the Employment and Labor Group for the law firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone in Detroit. Elected by her national peers to both the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers and the American College of Trial Lawyers, she has expertise litigating all matters of employment law. She is coauthor of Family and Medical Leave and the Law, published by the Law Journal Press in 2012.

Alexander “Sandy” See ’68, P’98: Sandy See, recently retired from a career in education, government, and the law, began his volunteer service to Wesleyan during his student years as president of the Cardinal Key Society and president of his class.

James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award: Hannah Dreier ’08. Hannah Dreier is a New York–based investigative reporter for the nonprofit news outlet ProPublica. She is focusing this year on covering immigration through character-driven, narrative storytelling.

Journalist Hannah Dreier ’08 was awarded the James L. McConaughy Jr. Memorial Award. Previously a journalist in Venezuela, she covers immigration for ProPublica.

Wesleyan University Service Awards are presented to volunteers who have given sustained service to Wesleyan over time or who have given significant service in a specific area such as admission, career resources, fundraising, reunion planning, regional programs, or class notes. This year the awards go to:

Mr. Richard H. Goldman ’58
Mr. Donald J. Logie, Jr. ’68
Dr. John R. Mergendoller ’68, P’07, ’11
Mr. Frank B. Phillippi ’68, P’05
Mr. George K. Reynolds III ’68
Ms. Suki Hoagland ’78
Ms. Francine V. Rivkin ’78
Mr. Matthew A. Ember ’83, P’16
Ms. Laurie Hills ’83
Ms. Ruth E. Jaffe ’83, P’18
Mrs. Laurie Sklarin Ember ’84, P’16
Mr. Kwanghee Lee ’88, P’21
Mr. Stephen Geddes Morison Jr. ’88
Ms. Grace E. O. Ray ’88
Mrs. Jessica Gutow Viner ’93
Mrs. Makaela Jane Kingsley ’98, MALS’05

THE WUSA for Graduates of the Last Decade is presented to volunteers who have given sustained service to Wesleyan in the first 10 years after graduation, or who have given significant service in a specific area such as admission, career resources, fundraising, reunion planning, regional programs, or class notes in their 10th reunion year or earlier.
Mr. Osborne Leonard Hazel ’03
Ms. Sonya Behnke Page ’03
Ms. Cara Marisa Zwerling ’03
Ms. Alicia Collen-Zeidan ’08
Mr. Jacob Robert Levine ’08
Ms. Melody Elizabeth Oliphant ’13
Ms. Laura Zhi-yi Yim ’13

7 Students Graduate with MA Degrees from Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance

On May 27, seven students graduated with a Master of Arts in Performance Curation through the Center for the Arts Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP).

Since being introduced as a pilot initiative in 2011, ICPP has graduated 16 students from the ICPP Master’s program (including this year’s class). ICPP encourages emerging curators to enrich their understanding of intellectually rigorous, innovative, and artist-centered curatorial models. Through a low-residency model, ICPP asks its students to not only engage with ideas but also to simultaneously put those ideas into practice in their professional lives, developing responsive curatorial practices that address the interdisciplinary nature of performance work today.

The mix of ICPP instructors—artists, scholars, curators, cultural leaders, writers, and theorists—is intended to spark new possibilities and connections both intellectually and professionally. Instructors provide theoretical and practical tools for students to deepen their research methodologies through reading, writing, viewings, and discussion.

The degree recipients include Michèle Steinwald ’13, Ellina Kevorkian, Ali Rosa-Salas, Brian Hyunsuk Lee ’13, Katrina De Wees, Rachel Scandling, and Michelle Daly. Steinwald and Kevorkian were unable to attend the commencement ceremony.

Following the 186th Commencement ceremony, the recent alumni gathered for a reception with their friends and family at the Center for the Arts. Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Tom Dzimian)

Dombrowski, Saaka, Taylor Receive Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching

President Michael Roth with Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching honorees Lisa Dombrowski ’92 and Erika Taylor. Honoree Iddrisu Saaka is not pictured.

During Wesleyan’s 186th commencement ceremony on May 27, Wesleyan presented outstanding teachers with the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

This year, Wesleyan honored the following faculty members for their excellence in teaching:

Lisa Dombrowski
Lisa Dombrowski ’92, associate professor of film studies, has been a member of Wesleyan’s faculty since 2001. She teaches in the College of Film and the Moving Image and is a core member of the College of East Asian Studies. She earned her BA in film studies and American studies at Wesleyan in 1992 and went on to receive an MA and PhD in film studies from the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Dombrowski is the author of The Films of Samuel Fuller: If You Die, I’ll Kill You! and the editor of Kazan Revisited. She has written for The New York Times, Film Comment, Film Quarterly, Film History, and the Criterion Collection, among others. Her research is concerned with the art and business of cinema, especially post-WWII film form and modes of production. Her teaching focuses on film history, the industry, and aesthetics in international art cinema, East Asian cinema, American independent cinema, and melodrama and the woman’s picture. Dombrowski is currently completing a book on director, screenwriter, and producer Robert Altman and American independent cinema in the 1990s and 2000s.

Iddrisu Saaka

Iddrisu Saaka (Photo by Perceptions Photography)

Iddrisu Saaka (unable to attend the ceremony)
Iddrisu “Iddi” Saaka, artist-in-residence in dance, has taught at Wesleyan since 2008. He earned a diploma in dance from the University of Ghana and an MFA in dance from UCLA. A dancer, dance teacher, and choreographer from Ghana, West Africa, Saaka has choreographed and performed at the World Festival of Sacred Music, the International Festival of Masks, the Skirball Center, Royce Hall, the Fowler Museum, Dance Arts Academy, Debbie Allen Dance Academy, El Portal Forum Theatre, and the Music Center in Los Angeles. At Wesleyan, he teaches courses in West African dance and also directs the West African Drumming and Dance Concert at the end of each semester. He has served as a visiting instructor of dance at UCLA, University of California San Diego, and the University of Ghana.

Erika Taylor
Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, environmental studies, and integrative sciences, joined the Wesleyan faculty in 2007. She holds a BS in chemistry with honors from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She was also a postdoctoral research associate at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Throughout her career, Taylor has worked at the interface of chemistry and biology where she strives to find ways to exploit enzymes found in nature to perform chemistry that can help advance the fields of chemistry and medicine. She also employs chemical synthesis to help answer questions of both biological and medical interest. At Wesleyan, her research has focused on the identification and characterization of enzymes that are important for the development of antimicrobials for the treatment of Gram-negative bacterial infections—particularly bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses, such as E. coli and V. cholerae. She also studies enzymes that can improve the efficiency of biomass to biofuel conversion, particularly the breakdown and bacterial utilization of lignin. She teaches courses in the areas of organic chemistry, biochemistry, environmental chemistry, and biomedicinal chemistry, among others.

View previous Binswanger recipients online here.

First Cohort of Posse Veteran Scholars Graduates

The Posse Veteran Scholars Class of 2018.

The Posse Veteran Scholars Class of 2018.

As the Class of 2018 accepted their diplomas this month, among them was a special group of students: Wesleyan’s first full cohort of Posse Veteran Scholars to graduate.

In 2013, Wesleyan made a commitment to dramatically increase the number of veterans it enrolls by entering into a new partnership with The Posse Foundation, Inc. At that time, Wesleyan was only the second institution to join the Posse Veteran Scholars Program, which identifies talented veterans interested in pursuing bachelor’s degrees, and places them at top tier colleges and universities, where they receive four-year full scholarships. Each year, the veterans enter in “posses” of 10, which act as support networks to help these nontraditional students adapt to college life. As of the 2017–18 school year, Wesleyan has enrolled four full cohorts. One member of the first posse, Ky Foley, graduated a year early in 2017.

Before arriving at Wesleyan, members of the Class of 2018 Posse Veteran Scholars were members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and several served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some had previously attended other colleges and universities; two have families.

Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, professor of classical studies, is the faculty mentor for the Class of 2018 posse.

“I’ve often said that the Posse initiative is one of the best things Wesleyan has done, and I still believe that,” he said. “Being the mentor for the first cohort has been at various times rewarding, challenging, frustrating, infuriating, and joyful, but never dull.”

From left, Darryl Stevenson '18, Ryan Poulter '18, and Michael Smith '18 at the Wesleyan Posse Veteran Pre-Graduation Celebration on May 26.

From left, Darryl Stevenson ’18, Ryan Poulter ’18, and Michael Smith ’18 at the Wesleyan Posse Veteran Pre-Graduation Celebration on May 26.

Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion, Title IX officer, agreed.

“Without question, the partnership with the Posse Foundation and the influx of a critical mass of post-9/11 veterans on campus has been an overwhelming success,” he said. “The Posse Veteran Scholars are exceptional human beings who contribute across the board to the living-learning environment, and demonstrate the vast talent pool that exists within this particular nontraditional student population.”

Commencement to Take Place on Andrus Field as Planned

Wesleyan’s 186th Commencement ceremony on May 27 will take place outside on Andrus Field, as planned. Our best advice is to come prepared for cool, wet weather conditions, and bring along an umbrella.

A reminder that rain or shine the Commencement ceremony will be simulcast in the Memorial Chapel, Patricelli ’92 Theater, Ring Family Performing Arts Hall and Tishler Lecture Hall (150 Exley Science Center). The ceremony will also be available to view on the website wescast.wesleyan.edu.

For additional information about Commencement, please see here.

Bielikoff, Eismont, Machado, Vasilkova Deliver Senior Voices; Vogel Gives Faculty Reflection

Natacha Bielikoff ’18, Sara Eismont ’18, David Machado ’18, and Taisa Vasilkova ’18, delivered “Senior Voices” addresses on May 26, 2018, in Memorial Chapel. Assistant Professor Danielle Vogel of the Department of English offered the faculty reflection. Also, a student group (shown here at rehearsal) performed “Irish Wedding Wish.”

Shown here at rehearsal, pianist Jackson Barnett ’18, a classics major, and violinist Lila Levinson ’18, a neuroscience major, joined with vocalists for “Irish Friendship Wish,” performed at the Senior Voices event. (Musician photos by C. Rockwell)

Molly Bogin ’18, a neuroscience major with a writing certificate (left), and Katherine Paterson ’18, an environmental studies and theater major with a German minor—here at rehearsal—sang on Saturday evening with Barnett and Levinson.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below are the texts of the reflections:

David Machado offered this reflection on “Home is Where You Are Accepted”

With conditional acceptance from a homophobic father and a childhood spent in a low-income family who had to move constantly, oftentimes hardwood floors served as my bed and hardships prevailed. Even with a loving mother and three amazing sisters, I didn’t feel like I had a place I could call home.

David Machado ’18 offered a Senior Voices essay on “Home is Where You Are Accepted.” (Photos of speakers by Caroline Kravitz ‘19)

I joined the Navy to pay for college, serve my country, and look for a place where I finally felt accepted. While I found additional family when I served alongside the Marines as a Navy medic, I couldn’t reveal my identity under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which allowed the government to discriminate against the LGBT community. With this harbored in my mind and being forced to deploy all over the world, again, it didn’t feel like I had a place I could truly call home.

In 2015, I went into the Navy Reserve and received the opportunity to attend Wesleyan University. I asked myself the question: Would I find home here? I wasn’t sure, as I feared the rigorous curriculum and doubted that I would “fit in” among all of those extremely intelligent students.

My fears and doubts, however, were unfounded.…

Williams ’99 Tapped as Incoming VP, University Relations

Frantz Williams Jr. ’99, a 19-year veteran of University Relations, will succeed Barbara-Jan Wilson as vice president for University Relations when Wilson retires at the end of 2018. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

Frantz Williams Jr. ’99 has been named the successor to Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson, who has announced her upcoming retirement at the end of December 2018. A government major as an undergraduate, Williams joined the University Relations team right after his graduation and has continued to serve the University, most recently as assistant vice president for development.

“We’re fortunate that Frantz will lead University Relations,” said President Michael S. Roth ’78. “He is eminently well prepared to continue Barbara-Jan’s legacy of immensely successful fund-raising and friend-raising, and I am grateful that he will be at the helm when we launch Wesleyan’s next campaign.”

“Wesleyan has a strong, dedicated leader in Frantz,” said Wilson. “A loyal alumnus, he is a mentor to students and staff and alumni alike. His warmth, his care for the University and all of its people shine through in everything he does.”

Williams’s family was from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, moving to the States when Frantz, the third of four children, was 9: “In January 1986, on a very cold day, we landed at JFK airport, never having seen snow, and speaking only Creole—that was our start,” he recalls. “I entered the fourth grade, taking ESL courses, and trying to catch up with my classmates. It has been a journey.”

In a Q&A with the Connection, Williams traces his route to Wesleyan, talks about the mission that has kept him here, and reflects on what continues to engage him in Wesleyan’s future.

Wesleyan-Led Astronomy Consortium Joins Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy

The Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy (AURA), which operates the Hubble Space Telescope, the James Webb Space Telescope, the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO), and other major astronomical research facilities in the United States, has elected the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium (KNAC)—led by Wesleyan University—as a new member. This historic development represents the first time that liberal arts institutions have been invited to join the association and serves as an important recognition of the value of such programs, not just to education, but also to frontier research in astronomy.

Seth Redfield, campus director of the NASA CT Space Grant Consortium, reports that several students and faculty have recently been awarded grants for their research in astronomy. Photo c/o Redfield

Seth Redfield

“This is a tremendous recognition of the important impact that the Keck Consortium and our individual institutions have on the astronomy research landscape, and it literally gives us a seat at the table in terms of influencing the future of astronomy in the United States,” says Seth Redfield, associate professor and chair of astronomy at Wesleyan. “This is a validation of our impact in research and preparing future generations of astronomers (many of whom go on to PhD programs or postdocs or faculty positions at the large research institutions already on the board of AURA),” Redfield adds. “We are thrilled to have a voice from smaller institutions in shaping the future of our field.”

New Book by Sachs ’97 Inspires Readers to Push Thought Boundaries

Ready to step outside your comfort zone? We recently spoke to Jonah Sachs ’97, who explores what empowers some people to respond to change with creative breakthroughs while the rest of us spend our lives clinging to the safety of “the way it’s always been done,” in his new book, Unsafe Thinking: How to Be Nimble & Bold When You Need It Most (Da Capo Press, 2018). Filled with ideas and tips on everything from embracing risk and inspiring unsafe thinking in conservative business cultures to bouncing back from failure, as well as a mix of brainteasers, experiments, and puzzles, Unsafe Thinking is both inspirational and entertaining—and the perfect springboard to your next big idea. Sachs is the award-winning founder and a partner of Free Range Studios, a brand and innovation company that transforms companies through unsafe thinking.

Wesleyan University Awards 2018 Hamilton Prize for Creativity

Sydney Kim of Weston, Mass. has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan, worth as much as $200,000. Her submission, a short story titled, “The Driveway,” was selected by an all-star committee of Wesleyan alumni chaired by Hamilton writer/creator and former star Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ‘15 and director Thomas Kail ’99, from more than 550 entries. Kim attends Concord Academy, and will be a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 2022.

“This year’s submissions gave us insight into the minds of so many creative students,” said Miranda. “I admire their bravery in sharing who they are with the committee. Taking that leap isn’t easy. They are all inspiring.”

The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, which in 2016 won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. The first Hamilton Prize was awarded to Audrey Pratt in May 2017.

Hamilton: An American Musical has inspired and energized so many young people. Through this prize, we look forward to bringing promising new writers to Wesleyan, where they will find a community that encourages experimentation and values the sharing of creative work,” said Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth. “I can’t wait to see what these students produce with their Wesleyan educations.”