Alumni

Alumni news.

New Book by Film Historian Arnold ’91: Christmas in the Movies

Jeremy Arnold ’91 on set at Turner Classic Movie channel, discussing his newest book, Christmas in the Movies: 30 Classics to Celebrate the Season (Turner Classic Movies and Running Press, 2018).

Newsday writer Rafer Guzmán quotes Jeremy Arnold ’91, a film historian, commentator, and author, in his roundup of new movies and old favorites for this time of year in his article “More Christmas Movies Than Ever This Holiday Season.”

Arnold, the author of Christmas in the Movies (Running Press, 2018) a Turner Classic Movies book, points out that “The new big-screen films are not only competing with Hallmark and Lifetime but all the previous feature films that are available on home video.”

A film studies major as an undergraduate, Arnold also answers Guzmán’s question of what constitutes a film of this genre: “‘I would say a successful Christmas movie is when Christmas plays a meaningful role in the story,’ Arnold says. ‘That encompasses many things—not just joy and love, but also loneliness and alienation, commercialism and dysfunction. You could do dramas or comedies about any of those things.’”

(Photos courtesy of Jeremy Arnold)

With the 30 classics listed chronologically, beginning with Miracle on Main Street (1939) through Elf and Love Actually (both 2003), the book invites nostalgia and offers film buffs plenty of stills from favorite scenes, as well as commentary along with little-known facts—for example, how director Bob Clark cast Peter Billingsley as Ralphie in A Christmas Story (page 145).

This was the second book that Arnold wrote for TCM, following The Essentials, published in 2016. He also appeared on TCM as a guest host in early December to present four films included in his newest book and discuss their place in the Hollywood tradition of Christmas movies.

Vanity Fair Cover Story: “Supercalifragilistic” Miranda ’02

Cover of the Holiday 2018 issue of Vanity Fair, featuring Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02; Photograph by Ethan James Green; Styled by Samira Nasr.

In a cover story for Vanity Fair, titled “The Supercalifragilistic Lin-Manuel Miranda,”  writer Bruce Handy explores both the upcoming movie, Mary Poppins Returns, as a sequel to Walt Disney’s 1964 adaption of the children’s books by P. L. Travers, and one of its stars, Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15. In the 1964 movie, the chimney-sweep companion to Mary Poppins (Julie Andrews) was Bert, played by Dick Van Dyke. This 2018 Mary Poppins (Emma Blunt) has chimney sweep Jack (supposedly a former protégé of the late Bert), played by Miranda, as her sidekick and friend.

Hardy offers biographical background, along with personal insights on Miranda from Wesleyan Visiting Scholar in Theater Quiara Alegria Hudes (who wrote the book for the musical In the Heights), Thomas Kail ’99, and Sam Wasson ’03, exploring the creative genius of Miranda, as expressed in his work. Additionally, Vanity Fair offers photographs by Andres Kudacki documenting Miranda’s June visit to D.C., in a feature titled, Hamilton’s Lin-Manuel Miranda Visits the Founding Fathers’ Stomping Grounds.”

From the article by Handy:

Not a jaded bone in his body. Sam Wasson, a friend of Miranda’s from their undergraduate days at Wesleyan, said much the same thing when he described Miranda as “a human gumdrop.” At Wesleyan, Wasson and Miranda worked on shows together, including an improv group that Miranda played music for. “He was game for anything,” Wasson said. “He had a little Mickey-and-Judy feeling in him. ‘Let’s go! Let’s do it!’ It’d be impossible to think of Lin as depressed in any way, which makes me hate him. You want to think, ‘Oh, genius comes with darkness,’ and I’m sure it’s there, but I haven’t seen it.”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

1. Los Angeles Times“As the World Warms, Deadly and Disfiguring Tropical Diseases Are Inching Their Way Toward the U.S.”

In this op-ed, Professor of Biology Frederick Cohan and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, both in the College of the Environment, write that infectious disease is a growing threat, resulting from climate change, that humans may find hard to ignore. Cohan is also professor, environmental studies and professor, integrative sciences.

2. Hartford Courant: “Trump’s Immoral Response to Climate Report”

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, writes in this op-ed that it is “irresponsible” and “immoral” to ignore the findings of a major new report on climate change. Delaying action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be increasingly damaging and expensive, he writes. Yohe is also professor of economics and professor, environmental studies, and was a reviewer on the new National Climate Assessment. He also recently co-authored an op-ed in HuffPost titled “People Are Already Dying by the Thousands Because We Ignored Earlier Climate Change Warnings.” 

3. National Geographic: “Both of NASA’s Voyager Spacecraft Are Now Interstellar. Where to Next?”

With both of NASA’s twin Voyager spacecraft now having crossed the threshold into interstellar space, Seth Redfield, associate professor and chair of astronomy, comments on what the spacecraft are likely to encounter on their journey. Redfield is also associate professor, integrative sciences, and co-coordinator of Planetary Science.

4. Inside Higher Ed: “Ordinary Education in Extraordinary Times”

President Michael Roth writes in this op-ed that in uncommon times, “traditional educational practices of valuing learning from people different from ourselves have never been more important.”

Recent Alumni News

  1. The Takeaway; WNYC Studios: “Politics with Amy Walter: Pentagon’s First-Ever Audit Exposes Massive Accounting Fraud”

David Lindorff ’71, the investigative journalist who wrote an exclusive on the topic for The Nation, joins Walter’s guests—including Staff Sergeant Patricia King, Ambassador Eric Edelman, and Dr. Isaiah Wilson III, a retired Army colonel and senior lecturer with Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs—to discuss military spending and its alignment with the military’s strategic goals.

Zinser ’16 Receives Prestigious Schwarzman Scholar Award

Sophie Zinser ’16 has been selected for membership in the Schwarzman Scholars Class of 2020, located at Schwarzman College in Tsinghua University, where she will study China’s growing influence on foreign aid.

Sophie Zinser ’16, deputy director of Syria Direct in Amman, has been selected as a Schwarzman Scholar, one of the world’s most prestigious graduate fellowships, located at Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing. This Schwarzman Class of 2020 is only the fourth in the program’s history, with 147 Schwarzman Scholars selected from over 2,800 applicants. The class is comprised of students from 38 countries and 119 universities, with 40 percent originating from the United States, 20 percent from China, and 40 percent from the rest of the world. The Class of 2020 will enroll in August 2019.

In a press release announcing the news, Stephen A. Schwarzman, cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Blackstone, and chairman of Schwarzman Scholars, said, “Our newest class includes a diverse group of future leaders from around the world. They join a global network of Scholars who have committed themselves to being a force for change, regardless of where their professional or personal passions take them. My hope is that a year in Beijing will inspire and challenge these students in ways they haven’t even imagined. I look forward to seeing how this new class will leave its mark.”

At Wesleyan, Zinser double-majored in the College of Letters and French studies. She cofounded the Wesleyan Refugee Project, and following graduation, Zinser worked on a congressional campaign in Minnesota and in international development with the International Rescue Committee’s Emergency Team in New York. Last year on a Fulbright scholarship to Jordan, she led innovative research on safety risks to rural and refugee women. In her current role with Syria Direct, she manages a team of Syrian and foreign journalists in Amman and leads the media nonprofit’s expansion. At Schwarzman College, Zinser will study China’s growing influence on foreign aid.

Holtzberg ’79 Honored by American Folklore Society

Past prize winner Maida Owens (left) and AFS President Dorothy Noyes present Maggie Holtzberg (center) with the 2018 Benjamin A. Botkin Prize at the Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society in Buffalo, New York. Photo credit: Meredith A. McGriff.

Past prizewinner Maida Owens (left) and AFS President Dorothy Noyes present Maggie Holtzberg (center) with the 2018 Benjamin A. Botkin Prize at the Annual Meeting of the American Folklore Society in Buffalo, New York. Photo credit: Meredith A. McGriff.

At its recent annual meeting in Buffalo, N.Y., the American Folklore Society (AFS) named prominent American folklorist Maggie Holtzberg ’79 of Boston, Mass., as the 2018 recipient of its prestigious Benjamin A. Botkin Prize.

The Botkin Prize is given each year by the American Folklore Society and its Public Programs Section in the name of Benjamin A. Botkin (1901–1975) to recognize lifetime achievement in public folklore. Botkin—eminent New Deal–era folklorist, national folklore editor of the Federal Writers’ Project in 1938–1939, advocate for the public responsibilities of folklorists, author and compiler of many publications on American folklore for general audiences, and head of the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress 1942–1945—has had a major impact on the field of public folklore and on the public understanding of folklore.

In its report, the 2018 Botkin Prize Committee praised the outstanding contribution of this year’s awardee, noting: “Maggie Holtzberg has surveyed, documented, and promoted public understanding of the traditional arts and heritage in three states.

Clark ’99, Bleeker ’07: Bully Pulpit Markets for a Better World

Andrew Bleeker ’07 (right) and Ben Clark ’99 were back on campus in March, hosting an employer information session at the Gordon Career Center to talk about their career paths and Bully Pulpit Interactive.(Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

Andrew Bleeker ’07 (right) and Ben Clark ’99 were back on campus in March, hosting an employer information session at the Gordon Career Center to talk about their career paths and Bully Pulpit Interactive. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

(By Bill Holder)
When a progressive marketing and communications agency that has major Democratic organizations as clients—and ran the digital marketing operations for Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton—decides to expand into the corporate world, one company you might not expect to be on the list is McDonald’s.

Yes, that’s the purveyor of hamburgers founded by the famously conservative Ray Kroc. But times change, and when McDonald’s wanted to tell the world about its new practices to improve environmental sustainability, the company turned to Bully Pulpit Interactive and founding partners Andrew Bleeker ’07 and Ben Clark ’99.

In doing so, McDonald’s selected a youthful firm known for its strength in digital communications. Bully Pulpit looks for a blend of Madison Avenue creative, Silicon Valley tech, and Inside-the-Beltway politics.

Kahindi ’18 Awarded Rhodes Scholarship

Claudia Kahindi '18, second from right, was awarded the 2019 Rhodes Scholarship for Kenya. From left, Elizabeth Kiss, warden of the Rhodes Trust, Sheila M'mbijjewe, Rhodes Selector, Kahindi, and Nic Hailey, the British High Commissioner to Kenya.

Claudia Kahindi ’18, second from right, was awarded the 2019 Rhodes Scholarship for Kenya. From left, Elizabeth Kiss, warden of the Rhodes Trust, Sheila M’mbijjewe, Rhodes Selector, Kahindi, and Nic Hailey, the British High Commissioner to Kenya.

Claudia Kahindi ’18 is a recipient of the 2019 Rhodes Scholarship for Kenya. Established in 1903, the Rhodes Scholarship is the oldest, and one of the most prestigious, international scholarship programs in the world. It offers about 100 fully funded scholarships each year to students around the world for post-graduate study at the University of Oxford in the UK. Recipients are selected based on their “outstanding intellect and character” as well as their motivation to “engage with global challenges,” serve others, and become “value-driven, principled leaders for the world’s future.”

“For me, receiving the Rhodes Scholarship means that even the most disadvantaged person can achieve their ultimate vision through immense hard work, persistence, and support from other people,” said Kahindi, who is originally from Kilifi, Kenya. She attended Wesleyan with assistance from the Kenya Scholar-Athlete Project (KenSAP) and graduated with honors in the College of Social Studies as well as a minor in African studies.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

1. Inside Higher Ed: “Voting Is Good, but Higher Ed Must Do More”

In this op-ed, President Michael S. Roth writes: “In a year when inducements to political violence have become normalized at the highest level, colleges and universities must do more than just encourage our students to vote.” It is crucial that colleges actively work to protect free expression, free inquiry, and fact-based discussion, Roth argues.

Bergstein ’88, Frosh ’68, Lesser ’10, Martin ’99, Rose ’08 Enjoy Election Success

Alumni who have met with success in the midterm elections include:

  • Democrat Alex Bergstein ’88, who won a Connecticut State Senate race;
  • Democrat Brian Frosh ’68, who won re-election as Maryland Attorney general;
  • Democrat Matt Lesser ’10, who prevailed in Connecticut’s State Senate race for the 9th district, which includes Middletown;
  • Democrat Amy Martin ’99 is judge-elect for the Texas District Court 263; and
  • Democrat Max Rose ’08, who won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 11th Congressional District.

An article in the Greenwich Time quoted Bergstein, post-victory, as saying, “‘I am elated. I am humbled. I am grateful and I am so ready to serve.’ … Calling herself a ‘different kind of Democrat,’ Bergstein said she would work outside of Hartford’s two-party system.”

A News 12 story noted that Bergstein’s win was historic because “A Democrat has not represented Greenwich and New Canaan in the state Senate for 88 years.”

Stein ’08 Wins 2018 Marine Corps Marathon

Stein '08 wins Marine Corps Marathon

D.C. Public Defender Jeffrey Stein ’08 won the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 28 with an official time of 2:22:49. (Photo courtesy Jeff Stein)

Jeffrey Stein ’08 had only one thing on his mind when he registered for the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.—redemption.

After a wrong turn off-course a quarter mile into the race in 2017 landed him an 8th place finish and a trip to the hospital for heat stroke, Stein registered for the 2018 race with one overriding goal: “to reclaim a little bit of dignity.” He achieved his goal and more, surging ahead in the last 2 miles to finish first with an official time of 2 hours 22 minutes 49 seconds.

Artist Melissa Stern ’80 on Strange Girls as a State of Being

Artist Melissa Stern ’80 and her piece, ‘Wig Shop,’ that appears in her latest exhibition, Strange Girls, now at the Garvey|Simon Gallery in New York City through Nov. 11. “All the people in my work and in my head are triumphant,” she says.

In this Q&A, we speak to artist Melissa Stern ’80, whose latest exhibition, Strange Girls, is open at the Garvey Simon Gallery in New York City Oct. 11–Nov. 11. Stern double-majored in anthropology and studio art at Wesleyan, and earned her MFA in ceramics from SUNY New Paltz. In Strange Girls, Stern uses media such as assemblage, ceramics, painting, drawings, and collage to explore girlhood as a state of being and state of mind.

Q: You have been exhibiting your art since the ’80s, and Strange Girls is your ninth solo show in New York. How is this exhibition a continuation of your past work, and how is it a departure?

A: I think that an artists’ work is like handwriting, if you look hard enough you will always recognize who they are from the work. If you look at my work from college on, maybe younger, you would always know it’s mine. Obviously, it’s changed. Hopefully it’s gotten better, more skillful, more developed, richer, but it is always a continuation of what’s going on in my head, what my cares and concerns are.

My interest in storytelling and narratives, none of that has fundamentally changed. This show is called Strange Girls, but, as I say in my artist statement, boys can be strange. It’s a show about the feeling of being on the outside. It’s about feelings that both genders have of trying to fit into the expectations of your gender, and the expectations of society. It’s about feeling like an outsider. It’s certainly more female-oriented because I’m a girl. My memories are of all of those things that you grow up with when you’re female, both positive and negative. The show encompasses a lot of ideas that I’ve always been interested in—identity, storytelling, and memory. I’m really interested in the stories that people have to tell. And the fact that my work can elicit a response, whether it be a story or a memory, a smile or a knowing laugh from someone is wonderful. This desire for connection is pretty fundamental to why I make things.

Bobkoff ’05 Explores Cultural History of ‘Household Name’ Brands in New Podcast

Dan Bobkoff '05 is the executive producer and host of the Household Name podcast from Business Insider.

Dan Bobkoff ’05 is the host and executive producer of the Household Name podcast from Business Insider.

Dan Bobkoff ’05 believes that, for better or worse, much of American life is lived through brands.

“Whether you like iPhones or Androids is almost like a religious affiliation,” he says. “Or you might have had a poignant family moment at McDonald’s.”

This is the lens through which Bobkoff explores brands in his new podcast, Household Name, from Business Insider. Bobkoff launched the podcast in July, and will produce and host 36 episodes over the course of the year. Its tagline—“Brands you know, stories you don’t”—captures the cultural history and surprising stories of unintended consequences that are featured in each episode about brands such as Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays, and Blockbuster.

“This is not a show for Wall Street traders. It’s a show for people who like stories and want to think about how we live,” he says.