Alumni

Alumni news.

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.

 

 

CDC’s Cory ’91 Speaks on COVID-19 and Public Health

Janine Cory '91

Janine Cory ’91

(By Bill Holder ’75)

In this Q&A we speak with Janine Cory ’91, MPH, about COVID-19 myths, vaccinations and vaccine hesitancy, pediatric transmission, health literacy, and more. Cory is the Associate Director of Communications for the CDC COVID-19 Response, Vaccine Task Force.

For more information on Wesleyan’s efforts dealing with COVID-19, visit the Keep Wes Safe website.

Q: How did you first become interested in public health? Was there a particular experience, issue, or Wesleyan course that influenced you? What led you to focus on risk communication?

A: I was actually lucky enough to be accepted into a pilot program at Mt. Sinai Medical School in 1989 that accepted a few students from Wesleyan and a couple of other schools. The idea was to take non-traditional pre-med students (I was an anthropology-sociology major) and do clinical rotations and a laboratory rotation.

I was expecting to cut up worms or something in my lab rotation, but it was what I would now label as public health and epidemiology. I discovered I had a knack for survey design and analysis during that summer and realized that public health was the intersection of medicine and sociology that I had been looking for. Even at that point, the idea of risk communication and plain language really made sense. Some of the survey questions asked consumers “is the angle of your desk and chair between 18-24 degrees?” I re-wrote it based on what probably seems obvious to everyone reading this now—don’t assume that most people would know the exact angle of their chair. When you’re collecting data, you have to make sure it’s useable in a way that helps you move forward to answer real questions.

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic presented any unique challenges in risk communication? If so, how have you and your colleagues addressed those challenges?

A: One thing during this pandemic that is both a good and bad element is the prevalence of social media. There’s such an influx of information—and anyone can be an influencer in any direction. It can be hard to sort out what are genuine, science-based data, and what seemingly legitimate ‘facts’ are actually based on opinion or myth. The premise behind good risk communication is understanding that you have to acknowledge where people are at and really get the context of their concerns. If you don’t recognize where their sources of data are, or where their belief system lies, throwing data or ‘facts’ at someone doesn’t help you give them useful information to change their health behavior.

Warren ’13 Talks Virtual Advice, Cartoons, Creativity

sofia warren

The New Yorker cartoonist Sofia Warren ’13 recently created an online advice column titled “You’re Doing Great.” (Art provided by Sofia Warren)

Sofia Warren ’13 has always loved to draw, but she didn’t know she could make a career out of it until graduating from Wesleyan and entering the world of animation. Now she works as a cartoonist for The New Yorker and recently launched a virtual advice column called “You’re Doing Great.”

“It feels like a really fun fusion for me of art, which I love to do, and listening to people and figuring out how to help them,” Warren said about the column.

She originally began posting doodles on her Instagram stories around the time of the election and asking people what they wanted her to draw. The virtual advice took off from there.

warren

When Warren needs to come up with ideas, she takes walks to clear her head. “That’s a really good way for me to start making connections between things that I’m looking at, just get the juices flowing,” Warren said. “That’s been my most successful practice for coming up with stuff.”

“I love doing [the column],” Warren said. “It’s primarily there because it brings me joy right now. And I don’t need to put the pressure on for it to be something else at the moment. In some ways, [the column] feels so loose and kind of off the cuff in a way, whereas some of my other work is more labored over. In some ways I feel the most connected to it and it feels like the most representative of my voice and myself.”

Warren also expressed hope that the virtual advice brings other people joy in this time of isolation.

At Wesleyan, Warren double majored in psychology and film studies. She also worked for the Eight-to-Eight student listening service.

“You Just Have to Read This. . .” Books by Wesleyan Authors Garrison ’67, Porter ’77, MALS ’79, and Tupper ’95

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Light in the River coverDavid Lee Garrison ’67, Light in the River (Dos Madres Press, 2020)

Lately, many of us have been looking for small ways to escape from our screens and our worries. David Lee Garrison’s latest poetry collection is the perfect shelter for moments like these, providing an assortment of charming, readable poems that will leave readers in good humor. All of the poems are brief and enchanting, presenting as bite-sized stories that seamlessly balance comedy and depth and seem to encompass tiny worlds of their own in remarkably few words.

In “Meatballs,” a dog begs for the meatballs his owner is cooking, looking at him with “big wet eyes” and a “relentless display / of pathos”; at the end, the owner quips that the dog has “got [him] / by the meatballs.” In “Men at Seventy,” the speaker’s voice straddles wit and sadness: “They take aspirin before playing tennis, / write wills directing that their ashes / be mixed into the clay of the courts.” “Beware of the Poem” reflects on the art of the poem itself, and Garrison cites other poets, including Langston Hughes and Thomas Lynch, several times throughout the collection. Garrison’s style is effortless and self-aware, and his is the perfect book to keep on your bedside table if you’re looking for a nugget of wisdom and humor before calling it a night.

David Lee Garrison ’67 is a poet who lives in Oakwood, Ohio. He earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University and taught Spanish and Portuguese at Wright State University for 30 years. He has translated and published the poems of several notable Spanish poets, and his poems have appeared in several journals and anthologies.

Haymon ’16, Morreale ’19 Discuss Theatermaking

miranda

Katherine Brewer Ball, assistant professor of theater, joined her former students Sam Morreale ’19 and Miranda Haymon ’16 over Zoom for a conversation about Haymon’s work and aspirations.

On March 18, the Center for the Arts presented “A Conversation with Theater Artist Miranda Haymon ’16.” Haymon, visiting instructor of theater, is Wesleyan’s inaugural Breaking New Ground Theater Artist-in-Residence, a new residency that brings early-career Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) theater artists to campus.

The discussion was led by Sam Morreale ’19. During the conversation, Haymon discussed artistic processes, Blackness, queerness, Brechtian analysis, the impacts of the pandemic on artmaking, and ideas for the future.

Haymon compared a theater performance to a “living document” in which the performance, audience, and actors are constantly changing.

“The work changes, and I change; we’re all changing. It’s that kind of symbiosis that I find really comforting actually. So I think a lot of my work is focused on the pure theatricality of the thing I love—when my actors are sweating, and they’re breathing hard, and they’re crying,  . . .  they’re laughing or they’re dancing. I’m obsessed with the human body; I’m obsessed with what it can do. I’m obsessed with what it can’t do. How can we make meaning from the human body?”

Haymon’s residency at Wesleyan is co-sponsored by the Theater Department, the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the Center for the Humanities, the African American Studies Department and the Center for African American Studies, and the Center for the Arts.

Haymon also has two related upcoming events:

  • A virtual Lunchtime Career Talk at noon, April 6, for Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff. Haymon will discuss their career post-Wesleyan as a freelance artist working in theater, television, film, and commercials, and how COVID-19 has shaped and changed that journey. RSVP is required.
  • Haymon’s upcoming radio play version of Pedro Pietri’s The Masses Are Asses (1974), on WESU Middletown 88.1FM at 10 p.m. on May 13 and May 20, 2021. The Masses Are Asses is an absurdist satire that exposes issues of social class, parodies the notion of the American Dream, and plays with political parody.
Miranda Haymon ’16

Haymon is a Princess Grace Award/Honoraria-winning director, writer, and curator. Recent projects include A Cakewalk (Garage Magazine & Gucci), Really, Really Gorgeous (The Tank), Everybody (Sarah Lawrence College), In the Penal Colony (Next Door @ New York Theatre Workshop, The Tank), and Mondo Tragic (National Black Theater). Haymon has held directing fellowships at Women’s Project (WP) Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Arena Stage.

sam

Sam Morreale ’19 is an advocate and facilitator for QTBIPOC+ (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color) storytellers and makers. Most of their work takes form through producing, directing, and consulting, particularly with a practice rooted in anti-racism and anti-oppression, transformative justice, healing, and harm reduction. Morreale’s recent work includes being a facilitator/curator for Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater Community Conversations, and a consultant for ART/NY, Center Theatre Group, and Boston Court Pasadena.

Miranda Haymon ’16

“You really have a great eye for taking up topics for conversation that are on our minds now, and also the existential crises of our generation, like climate change and technology and culture,” Morreale said to Haymon.

penal colony

Haymon began writing and directing In the Penal Colony at Wesleyan in 2014, and it premiered at The Tank in 2018. Adapted from Franz Kafka’s short story of the same name, Haymon’s play investigates the performance of power, patriarchy, and punishment. “Penal Colony felt incredibly generative, incredibly time-consuming,” Haymon said. “The notion of the penal colony is all about punishment. It’s about how we punish each other. If we should be done with it. If it should continue just because it’s part of history.”

haymon

Haymon shared a performance of their self as BB Brecht, a social media influencer named in honor of German theater playwright Berthold Brecht. BB Brecht uses he/him pronouns and focuses on the ideas of suffering, alienation, and desperation and what it means to be human. “I think that for me as an artist, BB Brecht [gives me an opportunity for] all of my interests to converge,” Haymon said. “I’m really eager to use every single tool I have, which is directing music theory, culture, social media, Instagram, my time in Berlin, my German studies major—converge under this roof of an opportunity for me as an artist to really express every single facet of my identity as an artist and frankly as a person.”

Theater Director Kail ’99 Leads Alumni Career Conversation

On March 11, Tony-winning director Thomas Kail '99, presented a fireside chat-style career conversation with the Wesleyan community. Kail's Broadway directing credits include Hamilton, In the Heights, Freestyle Love Supreme, Lombardi, and Magic/Bird. Off-Broadway selected directing credits include Hamilton, Dry Powder, Tiny Beautiful Things, The Wrong Man, In the Heights, Broke-ology, When I Come to Die, and Daphne’s Dive. Broadway producing credits include Derren Brown: Secret and Freestyle Love Supreme. He's also produced shows for television including Fosse/Verdon on FX and Grease: Live on Fox.

On March 11, Tony-winning director Thomas Kail ’99, presented a fireside chat-style career conversation with the Wesleyan community. Kail’s Broadway directing credits include Hamilton, In the Heights, Freestyle Love Supreme, Lombardi, and Magic/Bird. He has also produced shows for television, including Fosse/Verdon on FX and Grease: Live on Fox.

Wesleyan theater majors Milton Espinoza Jr. '22 and Vianca Pérez '22 moderated the event. Nicole Stanton, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs introduced Kail to the audience.

Wesleyan theater majors Milton Espinoza Jr. ’22 and Vianca Pérez ’22 moderated the event. Nicole Stanton, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, introduced Kail to the audience. The event was coordinated by the Gordon Career Center.

Milton

Milton Espinoza Jr. ’22, of Newark, N.J., is studying theater and film. On campus he is known for his activism and artwork for the People of Color (POC) community. He’s directed the Second Stage and Shades’ production of In the Heights and has acted in and produced a variety of different shows and films on campus.

Vianca

Vianca Pérez ’22, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, is double-majoring in theater and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. She has performed in multiple theater, dance, and film productions and co-leads WesInterpreters, a group that provides legal translation and interpretation services to local schools and organizations.

kail

After a 45-minute conversation, Kail welcomed questions from the audience.

Below are comments made by Kail during the conversation:

On working with others: “I work with my best friends. What’s better than that? So I get to go and spend time—10 to 12 hours a day—with the people I respect the most, admire the most. . . . I like to keep a core of people that I have a relationship with in a shorthand and then add 10 new people to the fold to keep on growing. I love meeting new designers, working with new writers, and I’ve done primarily new stuff. I like being in rehearsal. I like being around people that are looking hard at what they do.”

On getting started after college: “There was a friend of mine from Wesleyan who told me about this little theater in New Jersey called the American Stage Company, and I applied to be an ASM (assistant stage manager). . . . I applied to this job and . . . he said, ‘Here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re going to drive the van and go pick up the actors. You’re going to sweep the stage. You’re going to help us write the program. You’re going to be backstage running props. You’re going to do anything that needs to be done. How does that sound?’ I said, ‘It sounds like what I need.’ And so I took this job. I got paid $84 a week after taxes. I was living in a basement apartment. I worked six days a week, 18 hours a day. Soup and tuna fish. I can’t get either of them now. . . . I just sort of soaked it all up.”

On theater being economically viable: “Especially early on your career . . . [there’s] no one hiring you but yourself. Can I see myself spending years working on this? Does it give me energy? Does it give me joy? Can I balance that with practicality? You just have to talk to yourself honestly. What are your weekly operating costs as a human wherever you live? You [might have] to wait tables or have some other kind of gig, but it allows you to do the thing that fills you up. Then it’s how long can you sustain that balance, and that’s the question every artist has to ask himself constantly. So it’s really an essential question and one that keeps on coming back. And I think it needs to keep coming back. . . . I had two jobs: I worked as a personal assistant for five years until I felt like I was ready to make the leap and I was able to support myself as a director. But that really didn’t happen until my late 20s—I was almost 30 years old. So it’s also just being aware of what’s necessary to get you to each of those next places. Making a living in the theater is absolutely possible but usually has to be supplemented for some period of time, years and years of your life.”

On meeting Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15: “My friends [and I] worked on shows—a series of shorts—that we did in the Fayerweather Gymnasium, which exists in a different form now, and that’s actually when I first heard about Lin because Lin was doing the show as a freshman. I don’t know about everybody else, but I was not talking to freshmen. I heard about some kid who was borrowing our lights. So we had to share lights with some kid? I was like, who is this? It probably was the first time I heard his name and I cursed his name. Little did I know that [he’d be part of] the next two decades of my life. . . . [Now], if I see Lin digging, and I’m walking by, I don’t ask what he’s doing, I just jump down there and grab the shovel. We’ve never led each other astray. We’ve always been so in sync, and being with him is joyful and we get to make things together.”

On non-directing theater jobs: “I came up a stage manager. I know how hard that job is. I know how hard it is to run the props department or to be backstage. I have an appreciation for my collaborators, and you know, there’s always more to learn, and the best way that I learn is from people. How do you continue to evolve? Put yourself in situations where you don’t go in knowing all of the answers. If you know all the answers then it’s probably time do something else. And so I think if you look at some of the patterns of my career, even though thematically, I think there’s some things that make up [patterns], I tend to not do the same thing twice and occasionally. . . . [W]hat happens often is if you do something pretty well, people say ‘Great, now do it again.’ And I would try to take those opportunities to do something quite different. And I thought that allowed me to continue to expand.”

On bringing diversity and inclusion into the theater industry: “I think it’s the fundamental question of the day, and I think it’s one that we just have to keep way more in the foreground . . . and that includes anybody in any position, whether to a leadership position or not. So the conversations now, as we make new versions of Hamilton with new companies, we’ll talk more directly about what it means to be Black and Brown and telling the story. Embracing the fact that it doesn’t have to be comfortable, but it needs to be respectful and open and truthful, and those are the things that I think matter within the room. . . . So what’s the next evolution of thought for this next generation of storytellers? . . . Stories that have been reaching as diverse an audience as possible.”

On working in theater: “The hard thing is, in theaters, you’ve got to do it every day. No one cares on a Wednesday matinee how good the Tuesday night show was. All they have now is expectations. So you’ve got to deliver. I always think theater is like running a restaurant. You’ve gotta make the meal every time because, ‘I hear the soup’s good,’ so you better make good soup.”

On what he’s watching now: “The thing that is giving me life is on Amazon and it’s Steve McQueen’s Small Axe. It’s five movies about the immigrant experience in London, basically in the late ’60s to 1980s. You can watch one of them, or you can watch them in a row. It’s the most beautiful thing that I’ve seen in the last year.”

Norris ’83, P’17, Becker ’85 Elected First Woman Chairs at Law Firms

Megan Norris ’83, P’17

Megan Norris ’83, P’17

Barbara Becker '85

Barbara Becker ’85

Two Wesleyan alumnae were elected chairs of prestigious law firms in 2021.

Megan Norris ’83, P’17 was named the first woman CEO of Miller Canfield. And Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher elected Barbara Becker ’85 as chair and managing partner.

Norris, an accomplished litigator, is a nationally recognized expert and frequent public speaker on the topics of the Family and Medical Leave Act and the Americans With Disabilities Act. Within the Miller Candield, she has served as the leader of the Employment and Labor Group, overseeing the firm’s large and active team of dedicated employment and labor attorneys and staff. She served for eight years on the firm’s Board of Managing Directors, the last six years as chair.

“In many ways, for nearly 170 years, the firm’s focus has never changed: Our primary purpose is always to serve our clients. And we can’t do so without the best attorneys in the business,” Norris said in a press release. “What is always changing is what our clients need. Clients face budgetary restrictions, so we must adapt to provide high-quality legal services in more efficient ways while remaining profitable.”

Norris graduated from the University of Michigan Law School. At Wesleyan, she was chair of the Alumni Association and is an emerita member of the Board of Trustees.

Becker, a corporate partner in Gibson Dunn’s New York office, will start her new role on May 1. She succeeds Ken Doran, who has led the firm since 2002. (View Becker’s Gibson Dunn profile online here.)

“As the first woman to lead the firm, Barbara’s election is a momentous point in our firm’s history,” Doran said in a statement to Bloomberg Law. “She is absolutely the right person to succeed me.”

For more than a decade, Becker has served as co-chair of the firm’s Mergers and Acquisitions Practice Group, which includes 400 lawyers around the world. She has represented Accenture, Kraft Heinz, Merck, News Corp, PepsiCo, and VMware, among others.

Becker received her law degree from New York University School of Law. At Wesleyan, she was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and also has served on her 25th and 35th class reunion committees and as an active volunteer at the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

Film on Author Tim O’Brien by Matthews ’93, Mittelstadt ’92 to be Released March 2

war and peace of tim o brienA new film by Aaron Matthews ’93 and Jennifer Mittelstadt ’92 will be released March 2 on Apple TV, Amazon, Google Play, and other digital streaming platforms.

The film, titled The War and Peace of Tim O’Brien, follows the renowned author of The Things They Carried and Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien, as he struggles to write one last book. The documentary dives deep into the meaning and impact of war, as well as the effect of America’s forever wars on civilians and soldiers. It also gives an in-depth look into the creative process from the perspective of one of America’s most influential living authors.

Watch the film’s trailer online here.

Matthews, who spent five years creating the film, met O’Brien during an interview he directed for PBS called The Draft. “Working on that project, I became interested in how most Americans are so disconnected from the wars we wage, how so few people in this country bear the burden of killing and dying,” Matthews recalled. “When I talked with Tim, I had my heart blown open. He was a smart, funny wordsmith—which you might expect from a legendary author—but he was also emotionally raw and open in a way that I found electrifying. In his trademark jeans and ball cap, he presents as this regular guy. But he’s not a regular guy. He’s operating on a higher level, able to express big ideas, especially about the meaning and impact of war, in a powerful, relatable way. Plus, he chain-smoked throughout the interview, so the frame was filled with cinematic swirls . . . Everything about him screamed ‘not your typical ivory tower writer.'”

“You Just Have to Read This…” An Interview with Madam C.J. Walker Author Erica L. Ball ’93

Madam CJ Walker coverErica L. Ball ’93 is a historian and the Mary Jane Hewitt Department Chair in Black Studies at Occidental College, who specializes in 19th and 20th-century African American history. Her second book, Madam C.J. Walker: The Making of an American Icon (Rowman & Littlefield, 2021), tells the life story of one of the most influential women in American history. Throughout the biography, Ball unravels Walker’s importance as a hair- and skin-care trailblazer, a philanthropist, and an activist.

Annie Roach ’22, editorial student assistant, recently interviewed Ball about Walker and the process of writing the book.

Annie Roach ’22: What first inspired you to write this book? How did you first hear about Madam C.J. Walker?

Erica L. Ball ’93: Getting to the project was a circuitous route. A former professor from grad school was doing a series on famous American women, and she floated the idea of me potentially writing one on Madam C.J. Walker. That didn’t work out, but I’d already started the research and had gotten pretty far along down that road and knew I really wanted to continue working on the project.  A friend put me in touch with the editors at Rowman & Littlefield, and that’s when the project really took off. That’s the short and technical answer to how this book came into being.

There’s actually a longer answer that stretches all the way back to Wesleyan, and to my history senior honors thesis project. Madam C.J. Walker actually makes an appearance in Chapter 3. There I talk a little bit about her work as a philanthropist and her prominent role the in purchase of the Frederick Douglass home. Weirdly, the roots of this book go all the way back to my senior year of college.

Erica L. Ball

Erica L. Ball ’93 is the author of Madam C.J. Walker: The Making of an American Icon.

A.R.: What was the process of researching and writing like?

E.B.:I think of it as a three-stage process that actually took place simultaneously. One, the book is designed not just to introduce readers to Madam C.J. Walker the person; it’s also designed to serve as a lens onto the broader sweep of African American history. To do that, I had to make sure that I not only stayed current and up on all of the trends in African American history, but that I also allowed these historiographical trends to help me make sense of the larger political and cultural significance of Madam Walker’s life experiences.

The second aspect of the research process involved digging into the work that had already been written on Madam C.J. Walker, and of course, her great-great granddaughter, A’Lelia Bundles, has a wonderful cradle-to-grave biography of Madam Walker. Other folks have written great books on Madam Walker or published work analyzing the history of African Americans’ hair-care or beauty practices; all of that was very useful and helped to contextualize Madam Walker’s story.

The other critical aspect of the research process involved digging into the Madam C. J. Walker Manufacturing Company papers at the Indiana Historical Society. I found a wealth of material during my visits there.

A.R.: What did you find in your research that was most surprising?

E.B.: Two things, I would say. As I went through the papers held at the Indiana Historical Society, I was stunned by the number of requests for donations that she received. The files contain daily requests from random people all over the country, and outside of the United States, as well. Many requests come from well-known figures who are heads of institutions and presidents of HBCUs. And then there are other letters, like one from a fellow who was incarcerated at the infamous Angola Prison Farm in Louisiana. After hearing about Madam Walker, he writes a letter to tell her about his plight and to ask for help and a few dollars. Seeing that range of people reaching out to her was quite extraordinary. That ultimately led me to one of the key arguments I make in the book: Madam Walker was someone who fashioned herself into a modern celebrity—someone whom masses of individuals identified with, looked up to, and sought to reach out to—right at the moment when modern celebrity itself [was] being invented.

A.R.: In the context of our current world, what exactly makes this story so important and applicable now?

E.B.: Maybe it goes in two directions. On the one hand, I think of Madam Walker’s story as emblematic of a long freedom struggle. This is a person who insisted on not being limited by the terms that society set for her. She refused them. She didn’t believe them. And this was the starting point for her participation in the Black freedom struggle. This is a woman who moved, who would not be contained in one particular location, and who consistently defied Jim Crow limitations on Black freedom of movement. This is a woman who not only searched for opportunities for herself, but went on to create and expand opportunities for other people. Madam C.J. Walker was a person who refused to be satisfied with the political status quo for African Americans but engaged in a concerted, intense civil rights campaign—a multifaceted civil rights campaign—to fight for better conditions for people of African descent. I think she represents the capacious nature of the African American freedom struggle. And I think that can be a useful lesson for us today. It’s a long journey, a long struggle, one that can take many forms and requires different types of actions.

There might also be another lesson in there for folks who are well-positioned, like wealthy celebrities. Madam Walker’s life story raises some questions for them: What do you do with your money? What do you do with your fame? Is it just for you, or do you do what someone like Madam C.J. Walker did, and insist on using it for the public good?

A.R.: What is the most important takeaway that you hope readers will get out of reading about Madam C.J. Walker?

E.B.: She was more than a lady who was just interested in something that people often think of as frivolous (beauty culture) and she was not focused on helping Black women imitate white standards of beauty. She spoke in terms of health, she spoke in terms of agency, and she advocated for the independence of Black women. She was much more than some of the caricatures that emerged in the ’60s and ’70s made her seem. That’s why her memory was so important to African Americans for much of the 20th century.

A.R.: What was your time at Wesleyan like?

E.B.: I grew up in a military family and went to high school in Arizona, where my father was stationed at the time. I’d never been to Connecticut. It was a big change for me. I spent a lot of time hanging out at WesWings, I was a member of the Cardinal Sinners a capella group, and I sang in a blues band called Johnny Vess and the Westones. I had a great time and I learned so much; Wesleyan was a formative experience for me.

Sometimes I think if I hadn’t gone to Wesleyan, my life would have been very different. There were paths that I didn’t know were possible for me to take. One was becoming a researcher, a scholar, a professor. As I worked on my honors thesis, I got it into my head that this is something I might want to keep doing with my life. I also made some great friends. I actually live fairly close to one of my Foss 9 dormmates from frosh year. It’s a small world.

A.R.: Anything else you want to add about your book or about Wesleyan?

E.B.: Wesleyan taught me how to think differently, how to think broadly, how to wrestle with new ideas, how to be open in ways that I didn’t know that I could be. It’s an extraordinary institution that develops habits of mind that are conducive to better world-making. It opens people up in ways that are extraordinary and profound. And I will always be grateful for having had the opportunity to attend Wesleyan.

Garvey ’20, Abel ’65 Collaborate on Mind-Eye Connection Research

Zoe Garvey '20 and Dr. Abel

Zoe Garvey ’20 and Dr. Robert Abel ’65 connected through the Wesleyan Alumni Directory and have since collaborated on mind-eye studies.

After graduating from Wesleyan last May, Zoe Garvey ’20 had plans to conduct research at a local hospital, but the COVID-19 pandemic hindered that plan. As an aspiring physician who is taking a gap year before enrolling in medical school, Garvey began browsing the Wesleyan Alumni Directory, looking for any potential, comparable leads.

“I wanted to see if any Wesleyan alumni who were physicians would be able to offer me opportunities to work with them during my year off,” she said.

And that’s when she connected with Dr. Robert Abel Jr. from Wesleyan’s Class of 1965. Abel, Garvey learned, was a Delaware-based ophthalmologist, a former clinical professor of ophthalmology at Thomas Jefferson University, and is the author of The Eye Care Revolution, which teaches patients how to treat and manage common vision problems.

United Way Creates Fellowship Honoring Cooney ’81

J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. '81

J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. ’81

The United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey (UWGPSNJ) is honoring Wesleyan alumnus Gordon Cooney ’81 by establishing the J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. Fellowship in Criminal Justice.

Cooney, a government major at Wesleyan, works as a senior partner for Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, where he oversees the firm’s litigation operations across the globe and has a long history of fighting for social justice. He served as regional board chair for UWGPSNJ from 2017–2020, and the fellowship was made in recognition of his significant leadership to United Way.

The J. Gordon Cooney, Jr. Fellowship in Criminal Justice is a six-month fellowship presented to people who have lived experience with the criminal justice system in Philadelphia, aspire to a career in criminal justice or community organizing, and who have shown a commitment to social equity. The Cooney Fellowship is coordinated with Philadelphia Lawyers for Social Equity (PLSE), a UWGPSNJ-supported nonprofit agency that, since its founding in 2011, helps low-income Philadelphians clean up their criminal records.