Alumni

Alumni news.

Ricci PhD ’14 Awarded Congressional Fellowship

(by Christine Foster)

James Ricci PhD ’14, an assistant professor of mathematics at Daemen College was named a Congressional Fellow. (Photo by Darrell Porter, Daemen College)

James Ricci PhD `14 was awarded a 2018-2019 Congressional Fellowship. The program is administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in conjunction with The American Mathematical Society.

During this year-long fellowship, Ricci will be paired with either a member of Congress or a congressional committee. Fellows work as special legislative assistants learning about policy creation and contributing their own technical and academic expertise. “They are looking for people who are able to speak clearly and be advocates for STEM education,” says Ricci, who spoke by phone from a salmon fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he is working this summer. “I am hopeful that I am all of those things.”

At Wesleyan, Ricci did research on number theory, with a primary focus on the arithmetic theory of quadratic forms. In April 2014 he was chosen as graduate student of the year. Since finishing his PhD, he has been working as an assistant professor of mathematics at Daemen College, near Buffalo, N.Y.

At Daemen, Ricci has worked on a team working to improve retention of students entering with weaker math backgrounds. This included reworking a computer science course he teaches adding in engaging current topics including cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence and net neutrality.

Tyner ’13 Named Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellow

William Tyner ’13 is headed to Romania on a year-long Fulbright National Geographic Fellowship. He will create an immersive film documenting the civic-tech group, Code for Romania.

William Tyner ’13 was awarded a Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship —one of only five of such grants awarded each year

The fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society and is a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling on a globally significant theme.

Tyner, who majored in anthropology at Wesleyan and enjoyed courses in the College of Film and the Moving Image, will be working with Code for Romania. He’ll be creating a documentary series that will explore Romania’s civic technology community.

“’Civic tech’ is a nascent field in which local ‘hacktivists’ use technology to deepen democracy and increase civic engagement,” he explained in his application.

Tyner notes that he has been affiliated with Codes for America, an organization that focuses on technology as a pathway to modernize government, make it more accessible—but he wanted “to observe civic tech as a social movement, from a sociological perspective.”

Romania, he says, will be the perfect place for his lens: “Their civic tech community is emerging within a historically unique anti-corruption movement. I’m going to chronicle a story of people taking action and control in their community.”

Art by 4 Alumni Featured in Popular Michael Jackson Exhibit

Artistic creations by four Wesleyan alumni are displayed as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s landmark exhibit, Michael Jackson on the Wall.

The contemporary art exhibition, which closes on Oct. 21, explores the influence of pop-music icon Michael Jackson and spans several generations of artists across all media. The exhibition opened to coincide with what would have been Jackson’s 60th birthday, on Aug. 29, 2018.

The exhibit occupies 14 rooms and includes the works of Glenn Ligon ’82, Jonathan Horowitz ’87, Michael Gittes ’10, and Lyle Ashton Harris ’88. The Wesleyan alumni are among 48 artists who have their work displayed, including Andy Warhol,  KAWS, Candice Breitz, David LaChapelle, Kehinde Wiley, and Mark Ryden.

Although the majority of the pieces are drawn from public and private collections around the world, some works were made especially for the exhibition, including an experimental video by American studies major Gittes. Gittes was honored by 43 Wesleyan alumni, students, parents, and friends in London on July 3.

Horowitz, who majored in philosophy at Wesleyan, also contributed a video to On the Wall. In 1997, Horowitz created “The Body Song,” which is a video reverse of Jackson’s “The Earth Song” music video. In the original video, disaster occurs and is undone through Michael’s healing rage. In “The Body Song,” disaster occurs and is undone through the repression of Michael’s rage.

Ligon ’82, an art major, contributed his ink drawing of “Self-Portrait at Seven Years Old.”

And Harris, an art studio major, recreated a 2017 cover of Ebony magazine on an African funerary fabric, a year after the King of Pop’s death.

Jonathan Horowitz ’87 made a single-channel video titled “The Body Song” in 1997. The video is 5 minutes and 57 seconds in duration.

Jonathan Horowitz ’87 made a single-channel video titled “The Body Song” in 1997. The video is 5 minutes and 57 seconds in duration.

Glenn Ligon ’82 created “Self-Portrait at Seven Years Old,” using ink and graphite on paper in 2005.

Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 recreated the cover of Ebony using acrylic on kente cloth in 2009.

De Visé ’89 on the Tour de France, Greg LeMond, and Heroes

In The Comeback: Greg LeMond, the True King of American Cycling, and a Legendary Tour de France (Atlantic Monthly Press, June 2018), journalist Daniel De Visé ’89 has written “a sprint through a big swatch of cycling history, focusing on racer Greg LeMond’s triumphant return from disaster,” according to Kirkus Review. In this Q&A below, he traces his path from a childhood love of the sport to Wesleyan, and through the journey of this book. Read an excerpt from his book online.

Q:  Tell us about your time at Wesleyan. What was your major?

A:  It was as much fun as I’ve ever had in my life. I had grown up in Chicago, in the city, and when I arrived on that picture-postcard campus, it felt like some kind of academic Disneyland. I lived in West College, where, on certain occasions, an entire dormitory room would be assembled upside-down on a basement ceiling. I lived on the same first-year hall as Stephen Trask ’89, cocreator of Hedwig and the Angry Inch and This Ain’t No Disco. Another friend and I created a ’60s show for WESU. I majored in philosophy, but I took so many classes in history and religion that I almost ended up short of actual philosophy credits. I met my enchanting future wife, Sophie Yarborough ’88, in a history classroom. I took an extra course here and there and finished in three years (very much in the spirit of President Roth’s degree-in-three program). I used the extra cash to pay for journalism school at Northwestern.

Q:  You’ve written several biographies. What sparked your interest in the genre—and what are your favorites (authors or actual titles)?

A:  I’ve written or cowritten three books, and all have extensive biographical content, but none is pure biography. The first, I Forgot to Remember (Simon & Schuster, 2014), was the memoir of an amnesiac I’d profiled in the Washington Post as a reporter. The second, Andy & Don (Simon & Schuster, 2015), was a dual biography, chronicling the lifelong friendship of actors Andy Griffith and Don Knotts. I wrote that really for Don, who was my brother-in-law. The Comeback is more a work of narrative nonfiction, similar in structure to The Boys in the Boat or Seabiscuit—both personal favorites. It chronicles the rise of Greg LeMond, an American outsider, to the top of the European cycling sport; his near-death, in 1987, in a hunting accident; his incredible return to the top of cycling and victory in the greatest Tour de France ever staged, in 1989; and, lastly, his epic feud with Lance Armstrong, whom LeMond accused of doping, a battle that ended with LeMond’s vindication a few years ago. The book encompasses the first comprehensive biography of LeMond, and also a somewhat shorter bio of Laurent Fignon, the Frenchman whom LeMond defeated in ’89. The narrative lingers for several chapters on the spellbinding ’89 Tour.

Paik ’16 Wins Goldman Sachs Funds for 3D-Printed Housing Nonprofit

Ellen Paik ’16 (right) speaks to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the Partnership Committee on behalf of New Story, a nonprofit organization that seeks to address global homelessness through the development and application of 3D printing technology.

Ellen Paik ’16, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, teamed up with three colleagues to pitch New Story, an organization working on developing low-cost housing solutions via 3D printing technology, to Goldman Sachs’ CEO and Partnership Committee as part of the Analyst Impact Fund, a global firmwide competition. The prize: a grant to the finalist teams’ selected nonprofits. The event was broadcasted live online on Yahoo Finance (see Paik’s team come in around 38 minutes).

Paik’s group placed second in the global finals and earned New Story $75,000 in support of the organization’s 3D printing initiative. The grant will go towards building the very first complex of 3D printed homes constructed by a nonprofit, in El Salvador by 2019.

“The four of us were attracted to the idea of promoting a scalable technology solution that addresses a global issue,” explains Paik. “We came across New Story, an organization that we really admired because they involve the local community and government in every step of the home-building process—planning, design, and construction—in ways that many existing organizations do not. New Story has helped over a thousand families in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia that used to live in life-threatening conditions and that have been affected by natural disaster. Now, these families are empowered homeowners and able to better secure economic opportunity, safety, access to education, and a sense of community.”

Alumni Gather in London for Artists Reception, Honoring Gittes ’10

Artist Michael Gittes ’10, at right, speaks to fellow alumni and guests about his recent work during a gathering in London.

Forty-three Wesleyan alumni, students, parents, and friends gathered in London on July 3 for a reception featuring artist Michael Gittes ’10.

Gittes, an American studies major, discussed his work, which is being displayed as part of the National Portrait Gallery’s exhibit, Michael Jackson on the Wall. For the exhibit, Gittes created an experimental video.

In addition, alumni Glenn Ligon ’82, Jonathan Horowitz ’87, and Lyle Ashton Harris ’88 also have works exhibited in the gallery.

Duvvuri ’17 Awarded Chambliss Award for Astronomy Research

Girish Duvvuri ’17 presented his research titled “Necroplanetology: Disrupted Planetary Material Transiting WDII45+017.” His advisor is Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy.

Girish Duvvuri ’17 presented his research titled “Necroplanetology: Disrupted Planetary Material Transiting WDII45+017″ at a poster session in 2017.

In recognition of his exemplary research at Wesleyan, astronomy major Girish Duvvuri ’17 has been awarded a Chambliss medal from the American Astronomical Society (AAS).

Duvvuri, who majored in astronomy, physics, and English, received the award during the 232nd AAS Meeting June 3–7 in Denver, Colo.

There, he presented a study that formed much of his senior thesis at Wesleyan. Seth Redfield, associate professor and chair of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, and co-coordinator of planetary science, served as Duvvuri’s advisor.

To be eligible for an award, work featured on a poster must have been done within the past year and while the presenter was an undergraduate or graduate student.

Duvvuri is currently a PhD student in astronomy at the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Leung ’16 Awarded Prestigious Congress-Bundestag Fellowship

Melissa Leung '16 (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Melissa Leung ’16 (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Melissa Leung ’16 is 1 of 75 Americans selected to participate in the 2018–2019 Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals, a yearlong fellowship for study and work in Germany. CBYX for Young Professionals provides opportunities for youth to collaborate, interact with new people and new ideas, and, ultimately, to become better global citizens and better leaders. The program annually provides scholarships to 350 Americans and also brings 360 Germans to the United States.

While in Germany, Leung will attend a two-month intensive German language course, study at a German university or professional school for four months, and complete a five-month internship with a German company in her career field (foreign aid). Participants are placed throughout Germany and have the opportunity to learn about everyday German life from a variety of perspectives.

Funded jointly by Congress (through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs) and the German Bundestag, the CBYX program is a unique opportunity for young Americans to enhance their professional skills, as well as broaden their political and cultural awareness by experiencing life in another country. Leung will act as a citizen ambassador of the United States, helping to promote a positive image of the U.S. abroad and creating lifelong friendships and professional connections that will keep German-American relations strong for years to come.

Participants must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 18–24, and have clear career goals and experience in their professional fields. Young professionals in STEM, business, agricultural, and vocational fields are especially encouraged to apply, though candidates in all career fields are eligible. This year more than 600 young professionals vied for a place in this prestigious program.

Alumni, Students Celebrate 150 Years of Argus

On May 26, a Wesleyan Argus 150th Anniversary Celebration was held at Russell House during Reunion & Commencement Weekend. Current students and alumni, who contributed to the Argus from the 1970s through the present day, shared memories, caught up with old friends, and discussed the state of journalism today. (Photos by Tom Dzimian and Olivia Drake.)

The reception was held at Russell House, and was co-sponsored by Wesleyan's Writing Certificate.

The reception was held at Russell House, and was cosponsored by Wesleyan’s Writing Certificate.

Guralnick ’83 Explores the Art of Order in Remodelista: The Organized Home

Margot Guralnick ’83 (Photo by Laure Joliet)

In this Q&A, Margot Guralnick ’83, coauthor of Remodelista: The Organized Home, speaks about her new book. The website, The Organized Home, features daily tips and ideas on discovering the art of order.

Q: The current organizing philosophies are all about order over beauty. You believe order doesn’t have to be artless. Tell us about how you developed your philosophy.

A: This idea is part of the core philosophy at Remodelista. We’re a 10-year-old website that Julie Carlson, my coauthor, founded to demystify the home design process and celebrate pared-back living. So we, of course, took an interest in Marie Kondo and the whole decluttering movement. Noting that the focus was on clearing out with no mention of how to live well, we felt compelled to join the dialogue.

Q: Were you a collector as a child?

MGMT’s Goldwasser ’05, VanWyngarden ’05 Release 4th Album

MGMT, a musical group formed in 2002 by Andrew VanWyngarden ’05 and Ben Goldwasser ’05, is back on the scene with their fourth album Little Dark Age, released in 2018. This recent release is their first in half a decade and it represents a fresh, but familiar, musical direction.

Unlike their last two albums, which veered towards the eccentric, Little Dark Age exhibits a clear pop influence and psychedelic retro synths with haunting, serious, and dark undertones.

In their eponymous song, “Little Dark Age,” for instance, they hint at a quotidian melancholy in the first verse:

“The ruins of the day/ Painted with a scar/ And the more I straighten out/ The less it wants to try/ The feelings start to rot/ One wink at a time.”

Then, in the chorus, VanWyngarden croons into the mic, “Oh I grieve in stereo/ The stereo sounds strange.”

Like many alumni musicians, VanWyngarden and Goldwasser got their start on campus. At Wes, they went by the name “The Management” and during their four years both dabbled in an eclectic mix of genres like blues, hip-hop, prog rock, and even classic country. The music of the ’80s had a particular influence on their performances during college; as The Management, the two actually performed a 45-minute cover of the “Ghostbusters” song at a campus event.

Watch MGMT’s “Little Dark Age” below: