Alumni

Alumni news.

Brady ’15 Wins National Prize for Social Innovation for Nonprofit Work

Aletta Brady '15

Aletta Brady ’15, founder of Our Climate Voices, was honored with an Innovation Prize by the J.M.K. Kaplan Fund. (Photo courtesy of the J.M. Kaplan Fund)

Aletta Brady ’15 saw the power in collective storytelling to launch social justice campaigns such as Black Lives Matters and the #MeToo movements. Knowing that these movements were successful because of the power of words, Brady connected the idea of storytelling to the climate crisis, launching a climate-justice organization that was recently recognized by the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

The J.M. Kaplan Fund awarded Brady’s Our Climate Voices the J.M.K. Innovation Prize for its use of digital storytelling as a new model in the environmental field. The prize is awarded biennially to 10 nonprofit and mission-driven for-profit organizations tackling America’s most pressing challenges through social innovation. Each awardee receives up to $175,000 over three years and participates in a learning collaborative of fellow innovators to support their journey as change agents.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. Hartford Courant: “Jeanine Basinger, the ‘Professor of Hollywood,’ Is Wesleyan University’s Homegrown Screen Legend”

Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita Jeanine Basinger, whom this article notes has been dubbed “the professor of Hollywood” and “an iconic figure in American cinema, one of the most beloved and respected film history professors in the history of film studies” by The Hollywood Reporter, is interviewed on the occasion of her 60th year at Wesleyan, and the 50th since she created its film program. She talks about her next book on American film comedy, shares some of her favorite things, and muses on which actress would play her in a movie of her life.

2. Los Angeles Review of Books: “‘We Need More Vigorous Debate’: A Conversation with Michael S. Roth”

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, managing editor of Modern Intellectual History, interviews President Michael Roth in connection with his latest book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Roth discusses his career path from intellectual historian to university administrator and professor, and offers his unique perspective on debates surrounding freedom of speech and political correctness.

3. Los Angeles Times: “Kirk Douglas Dead at 103; ‘Spartacus’ Star Helped End Hollywood Blacklist”

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, comments on Kirk Douglas’s legacy following the film icon’s death at 103. Recalling when she first saw him on-screen in the 1940s, she said, “He wasn’t a traditional leading man, really, in looks, and yet he had an unmistakable charisma and power on screen—not just the glamour of the movie star, though he did have that, but real acting chops. So you knew he was going to be a star.” She added, “He was a very modern American antihero type, but he could also play anything, really.”

Wesleyan Named a Top Producer of Fulbright U.S. Students

fulbrights

The 2019–20 Fulbright award winners include, from top left, Jordan Legaspi ’19, Emma Porrazzo ’19, Katelin Murray ’19, Amad Amedy ’19, Stephanie Loui ’14, Hai Lun Tan ’18, and Ulysses Estrada ’17. Not pictured are Ellie Martin ’16, Emma Distler ’19, and Rachel Yanover ’19.

The Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) recently announced that Wesleyan is included on the list of United States colleges and universities that produced the most 2019–2020 Fulbright U.S. Students. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program.

fulbright Not only is Wesleyan a top Fulbright producer nationwide with its seven grantees, but it also has more winners than any other liberal arts institution in Connecticut.

“We are delighted to see that the colleges and universities we are honoring as 2019–2020 Fulbright top-producing institutions reflect the geographic and institutional diversity of higher education in the United States,” said Marie Royce, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. “We are committed to the Fulbright Program’s goals of creating lasting professional and personal connections by sending passionate and accomplished U.S. students of all backgrounds to study, research, or teach English in communities throughout the world. These Fulbrighters serve as citizen ambassadors for the United States in their host communities, and we will benefit from the skills, knowledge, and global connections they build on their exchanges long after they return home.”

The Fulbright competition is administered at Wesleyan through Fulbright Program Advisor Magdalena Zapędowska, assistant director of fellowships in the Fries Center for Global Studies. The 2019–2020 grantees (who are all recent alumni) are: Jordan Legaspi ’19, Emma Distler ’19, Ulysses Estrada ’17, Amad Amedy ’19, Stephanie Loui ’14, Emma Porazzo ’19, and Katie Murray ’19. Ellie Martin ’16 also received a Fulbright, however she didn’t apply through Wesleyan. Fulbright grant offers were also extended to Rachel Yanover ’19 and Hai Lun Tan ’18, who declined them to pursue other educational plans. (See the 2019–2020 Wesleyan Fulbright announcement article here.)

Wesleyan was listed as a top producer of Fulbright U.S. students in the Feb. 9, 2020, issue of The Chronicle of Education under the “baccalaureate institutions” category.

The Fulbright Program was created to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. More than 2,200 U.S. students and over 900 U.S. college and university faculty and administrators are awarded Fulbright grants annually. In addition, some 4,000 Fulbright foreign students and visiting scholars come to the United States annually to study, lecture, conduct research, or teach their native language.

Wesleyan also was named a Fulbright U.S. Student Top Producer in 2017-18 and 2016-17.

Klaber ’67 Presents RFK Assassination Research at Dublin Festival of Politics

Klaber

William Klaber ’67, author of Shadow Play: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, spoke at the Dublin Festival of Politics last November. (Photo by Siena Klaber)

William Klaber ’67, investigative journalist and co-author of Shadow Play: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, was invited to speak on his research at the Dublin Festival of Politics last November. The book, originally published in 1998 and written with political scientist Philip Melanson, coordinator of the Robert F. Kennedy Archive, was revised and updated in 2018 for the 50th anniversary of the assassination. Additionally, Klaber was featured as a host on the podcast The RFK Tapes, which debuted at #1 on the iTunes chart last year. Created by the producers of Crimetown​ and Cadence13, the audio documentary series re-examines the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

The assassination, says Klaber, was initially investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department, which presented it as a clear-cut open-and-shut case, with Sirhan Sirhan as the admitted perpetrator captured at the scene, gun in hand, and now serving a life sentence. All records had been sealed for 20 years following the crime, and since the release of information in 1988, Klaber has been one of the individuals re-examining and questioning the facts as they were presented. In 1993, Klaber made an hour-long audio program called The RFK Tapes, which aired on 160 public radio stations. After the program’s release, Time magazine reviewed the questions raised in the program with a full-page article on June 7 of that year, concluding, “Alas, considering how much evidence has disappeared, it’s an open question whether … a probe would resolve old doubts—or create new ones.”

Noting the significant response to the original audio production, St. Martin’s Press invited Klaber to write a book about what he and UMass Professor Melanson had found in examining the facts of the case: the 1998 version of Shadow Play.

This fall at the Dublin Festival of Politics, John Lee, the political editor of The Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper as well as a book author, joined Klaber onstage to discuss points of contention in the investigation that Klaber raises, including ignored witness accounts, audiotapes of coerced testimony, and bullet-hole evidence, which had been destroyed but indicated that more than one gun had been fired.

“The Irish love their Kennedys and so they’re particularly interested in who killed John and who killed Bobby,“ said Klaber, explaining his invitation to the Dublin political festival. Additionally, he added that many of those who were eyewitnesses or initially interested in the Kennedy murders have passed away. “There are not a lot of us left, in terms of people who really understand the case and who have mucked around in the police files.”

Klaber, who is currently working on a podcast series that takes a new look at the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., is also the author of The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell: A Novel (St. Martins Press, 2016). He was a College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan.

“People sometimes refer to me as a conspiracy guy,” said Klaber, “which serves to dismiss my work. But I’m not that. I’m an evidence guy. In Shadow Play, we talk about what we know.”

Tezén ’97 Appointed President, CEO of A Better Chance

Francisco Tezén

Francisco Tezén ’97 (Photo courtesy of A Better Chance)

On Feb. 1, Francisco Tezén II ’97 became the next president and chief executive officer of A Better Chance, a national nonprofit that places talented young people of color into the leadership pipeline through increased access to academically rigorous secondary schools.

Tezén, a first-generation Peruvian-American, will lead the nonprofit when racial equity, educational opportunity, diversity, access and inclusion are at the forefront of our nation’s collective conscience. He was formerly the chief development officer at the Food Bank For New York City.

“My parents, an immigrant father and a black mother from rural North Carolina, stressed the importance of education to climb out of poverty and realize our American dream,” Tezén said. “As an alumnus of a college preparatory program, I have experienced firsthand the transformative effect of efforts that open pathways of opportunity for people like me. I am honored to lead A Better Chance in writing the next chapter in its venerable legacy.”

Former Virginia Governor Baliles ’63, Hon. ’88, Remembered

Gerald Baliles ’63, Hon. ’88, who had served as the 65th governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, died Oct. 29, 2019. He was 79.

A government major at Wesleyan, he earned his juris doctorate degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. After a stint in the Virginia attorney general’s office, he practiced law in Richmond, with a focus on energy and environmental issues. Elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1976, he became the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1981, and was, during his term, selected by his peers as Outstanding Attorney General of the United States.

Elected governor in 1985, he served in that capacity from 1986 through 1991. An obituary in the Richmond Times Post noted that as governor, “[h]e delivered on his promise to make transportation an economic building block, with new roads and improvements to the port and airports in Virginia. He saw education as the key to economic development, raising teachers’ salaries and fully funding school budgets. . . . His continuing leadership was recognized by the National Governors Association when he was elected as its chairman during his term.”

Wesleyan in the News

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

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Washington Post: “How One College Is Helping Students Get Engaged in Elections—and, No, It’s Not Political”

President Michael Roth writes about Wesleyan’s initiative to engage students meaningfully in work in the public sphere ahead of the 2020 elections, and calls on other colleges and universities to do the same. He writes: “Now is the time for higher education leaders to commit their institutions to find their own paths for promoting student involvement in the 2020 elections. This kind of direct participation in civic life provides an educational benefit that will help students develop skills for lifelong active citizenship; participants will gain organizational skills, learn to engage productively with others with whom they disagree and learn about themselves.”

2. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “Nicole Stanton Will Be the Next Provost at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut”

Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will begin her new role as Wesleyan’s 12th provost and vice president for academic affairs on May 15. She joined Wesleyan in 2007 as associate professor of dance, and currently serves as dean of the Arts and Humanities.

Shasha ’50, P’82, Founder of Human Concerns Seminar, Is Remembered

James Shasha, the businessman and benefactor who founded and endowed the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns at Wesleyan, died Oct. 21. He was 91.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1929, he emigrated to the United States when he was 15 and later attended Wesleyan, graduating in 1950 with a major in economics. In 1955 he moved to Argentina, where he pursued his business interests in the wool and carpet industries, serving as the country’s delegate to the International Wool and Textile organization. Later, at 73, he decided to delve into the hotel business without previous experience in this industry. He acquired four hotels: three in Argentina and one in Uruguay.

Always interested in education and the qualities of citizenship, he told Hebrew University in Jerusalem, an institution with which he was also affiliated: “After World War II there was a lot of idealism about how to build a better world and that was what made me understand and incorporate what a citizen’s responsibility should be: take responsibility for the environment, be it the community, the country, or culture in which it participates.”

He developed the Shasha Seminars first at the Hebrew University and then imported them to Wesleyan.

Sunderland ’92 and Kaplan ’20 Discuss Education

As spring semester approached, Avery Kaplan ’20 gave her former Bedford [Mass.] High School history teacher, James Sunderland ’92, a call to talk about what education means in 2020. Below is an edited portion of their conversation.

Mx. Sunderland has been teaching history at Bedford High School in Bedford, Mass., since 2003. Sunderland was elected president of the teacher’s union this year; in 2010, they received the Kidger Award for Outstanding History Teacher from the New England History Teachers’ Association. Among students, Sunderland is (in)famous for coaching 11th grade classes to compete in the very stressful—but very rewarding—National History Day competition. (Photo courtesy of Julia Sunderland)

Avery Kaplan: What do you think Wesleyan aspires to be, and what do you think education in this country aspires to be?

James Sunderland: It’s always seemed to me that Wesleyan is a place that sincerely wants to be engaged in learning; making an impact in the world in a way that’s also humble, listening to people with an open mind, the free exchange of ideas, disagreeing without being disagreeable. And that we’re all in this shared effort to make more sense of the world. The underlying idea is authenticity; an intent at no pretense.

AK: It’s interesting, that idea of authenticity. One of the worst things you can be labeled as at Wesleyan is “performative”—it’s a pejorative term. How do you think Wesleyan fosters authenticity?

JS: There’s certainly an explicit message of it at Wesleyan, but it’s something that is much easier said than done. For one thing, the professors I had were sincerely engaged in their work. Engaging with students as equals is important. At Wesleyan, I felt that my voice was respected by my professors, that they weren’t pedantic. I think that in general Wesleyan attracts a student body who wants to go someplace where you can have interesting conversations with peers. My friend group, for example, was pretty diverse in terms of interests. We weren’t all the same majors, we met by the randomness of first-year dorms, and it’s made for some really cool conversations over the last 30 years.

AK: I can definitely see how your time at Wes influenced the classroom culture you cultivate at the high school. It was also clear, when I was your student, that you were actively teaching us to become citizens. How has your strategy to teach civics and create citizens changed as you’ve been teaching?

Paintings by Schechter ’17 on Exhibit in NYC

Sarah Schechter, Walrus at Night, 2019, oil and mixed media on canvas, 36" x 48"

Sarah Schechter, Walrus at Night, 2019, oil and mixed media on canvas, 36″ x 48″

Sarah Schechter ’17 is exhibiting her first solo show, “Kasual Bagel,” at the Shrine Gallery in New York City. Her paintings will be on display through Jan. 5.

Shrine is open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, and is located at 179 East Broadway.

Schechter, who majored in history at Wesleyan, lives and works in Harlem, and is completing an art education certification program at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Gaby Giangola ’17 Is Goth Girlfriend

Along with other musicians around the world this week, Goth Girlfriend (Gaby Giangola ’17) posted her “2019 Spotify Wrapped” overview to Instagram. Accompanied by the caption “gotta start somewhere, eh?,” the photo summarizes the number of streams and listeners who tuned in to Goth Girlfriend’s music on the streaming service this year. The caption encapsulates Goth Girlfriend’s tireless ambition.

Two years after graduation, Gaby Giangola ’17 aka Goth Girlfriend, is pursuing a career in music. (Photo by Blaise Bayno)

The up-and-coming artist’s music is self-described as banshee rap or alternative rock; her sound is raw and meticulous at the same time. The five tracks on her recent EP, Sex Sprain, mix guitar chords and hip-hop beats with punk vocals, and touch on themes of isolation, mental illness, sexism, and the hedonism of a “sympathetic nervous system surging for kicks.” By night, Goth Girlfriend is a singer-songwriter, bassist, and DJ. By day, she is Gaby Giangola, an administrative assistant at an entertainment law firm in New York City. This dichotomous identity defines not only her working week, but her artistic expression as well.

Greenhouse ’73, P’08 Lectures on the Past and Future of American Labor

Greenhouse lectures in the COL library

Steven Greenhouse ’73, P’08 discussed his book, Beaten Down, Worked Up, in the College of Letters Library. (Photo by Simon Duan ’23)

Steven Greenhouse ’73, P’08, author of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor, spoke in the College of Letters Library  on October 29 to a group that included Professor of History Ron Schatz’s class on American Labor History on Oct. 29, in the College Of Letters Library. His topic was “White Collar, Blue Collar and Gig Workers: What is the Future of American Labor?” The lecture was sponsored by the History Department and the College of Letters.

Greenhouse is a former New York Times labor reporter, and a review by Zephyr Teachout of Greenhouse’s book appeared in the paper on Oct. 3. Teachout called Greenhouse’s book an “engrossing, character-driven, panoramic new book on the past and present of worker organizing.” Teachout wrote: “There’s an enormous upheaval in the American workplace right now, and those who tell you they know how the next decade will pan out—for good or ill—don’t know their history. That’s one of the main lessons of Beaten Down, Worked Up … ”

Speaking to those gathered in the COL library, Greenhouse provided some of that history, drawing parallels between a piecework laborer in New York City’s garment district in the late 1800s to 20-something freelance workers putting in long hours hunched over their computers at home in today’s gig economy. He notes that some Uber drivers used to make more money per hour until upper management halved their pay rate, making it nearly impossible to support one’s family, even working 60 hours a week. He observed that Kickstarter, supposedly a labor-friendly organization, fired three out of eight people who were on a unionization committee. He further noted that Amazon now employs often inexperienced independent contractors as delivery drivers who have been involved in a number of serious auto accidents.