Alumni

Alumni news.

Horwitz ’02 Scores Peabody Nomination for Hamilton’s America

Hamilton’s America, the PBS documentary by Alex Horwitz ’02 that explores the history behind Hamilton: An American Musical, created and written by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 and directed by Thomas Kail ’99, was honored as a finalist in the documentary category for the 76th annual Peabody Awards. The awards honor storytelling done well in film, television, radio, and on the internet.

The acclaimed documentary was several years in the making. Horwitz first approached Miranda and Kail with the idea in 2012—and cameras were rolling by 2013. “All I needed to hear was a demo of that first song, ‘Alexander Hamilton,’ and my interest was piqued,” said Horwitz in our exclusive interview from October 2016, when the documentary premiered on PBS. “I’m a history nerd and a musical theater nerd, so Lin was scratching a lot of itches for me. I told him that it didn’t matter to me if he was making an album or a show; I just wanted to make a movie about him dramatizing history. That was the angle from the beginning.”

Click here to read the entire interview with Alex Horwitz.

Horwitz and his crew pared down almost 100 hours of footage for the 1.5-hour documentary, using Alexander Hamilton’s life as one the film’s three threads. “Whittling down is just a matter of time and repeated viewings. But that wasn’t quite as hard as the interweaving. We had these three threads—the life of Hamilton, the creation of the show, and excerpts from the show itself—which we had to braid into one cohesive film. So it was a question of finding a lot of internal logic and segues in the footage,” said Horwitz.

The Peabody Award winners in the documentary category were announced on April 18. All of this year’s winners will be feted during an awards ceremony on May 20th that will air on June 2 on PBS.

Music by Myhre ’05 To Be Broadcast on NPR’s Mountain Stage in May

Jess Myhre '05

Jess Myhre ’05

Jess Eliot Myhre ’05 is a professional touring musician with the band Bumper Jacksons. Their newest album, “I’ve Never Met a Stranger,” will be broadcast nationally on NPR’s Mountain Stage on May 5. The live performance will air on more than 200 NPR stations around the country, and the band will perform five original songs from the record.

The group originally began as a duo—Jess Myhre (clarinet, vocals, washboard) and Chris Ousley (acoustic and electric guitar, vocals, banjo)—crafting a sound inspired by the jazz clubs of New Orleans and southern Appalachian folk music festivals.

In the Delaware State News, the band discusses its growth from this duo in 2012 to its current configuration :

Eventually The Bumper Jacksons grew to its seven-member size after a few of the musicians casually dropped in on a few gigs with the duo.

“We were very loosely formed and it became almost modular depending who was available for different gigs. Guest musicians would join us for different songs,” Ms. Myhre said. These days, Ms. Myhre handles vocal duties, clarinet and washboard.

The Bumper Jacksons have a steadily rising list of honors: Washington Area Music Awards Artists of the Year, Best Folk Album, Best Folk Group for 2015; Strathmore Artists-in-Residence for 2015-2016; Mid-Atlantic Arts Foundation Touring Artists for 2016-2017 and others. They have also just signed with Opus 3 Artists (among greats such as Yo-Yo Ma, Roseanne Cash, Bela Fleck and Wynton Marsalis) for their national representation.

Hayat ’13 Discusses High-End Shoe Line, Liudmila Footwear

Najeeba Hayat '13

Najeeba Hayat ’13 is the founder, designer, and CEO of Liudmila Footwear.

Najeeba Hayat ’13, entrepreneur and designer, is gaining attention in the fashion industry for her designer shoe company, Liudmila Footwear, most recently in Voguewhich hailed her shoes as “stunning” and “fantastical.”

Produced in Italy, Liudmila shoes are designed with Victorian influences in mind. Hayat’s shoes are also praised for being comfortable to walk in, disregarding the cultural norm that women should suffer for fashion.

Hayat, who is originally from Kuwait, was a government major at Wesleyan, but found herself dreaming of designing shoes. In an interview with the Wesleyan Connection, Hayat said, “The Russian literature classes I took at Wesleyan were actually the biggest influence on my decision to follow my passion for design instead of pursuing a career related to my major.”

She credits the classes she took with Susanne Fusso, professor of Russian language and literature, for cultivating her love for the “unique, bizarre, striking characters of Gogol, Dostoyevsky, Chekov, and Sologub.”

Liudmila Shoe Drury Lane

Liudmila shoe from the new spring line

“One day, about a month or so before I graduated, we were discussing a speech given by a character in The Petty Demon that struck me by its passion, simplicity and its exact mirroring of my own sentiments,” she explained. “It was an exasperated paean to life and pleasure that in an instant turned me away from the career in consulting that I was actively pursuing at the time. I immediately decided to jump ship and move to Milan to study footwear.”

The Petty Demon is where Hayat found the inspiration to name her new company. Liudmila is one of the central sisters in the book. “As I was naming my brand, I went through many names, but was unsatisfied with all of them,” she said. “Liudmila’s speech kept coming back to me as my primary inspiration and so I decided to name the brand Liudmila in homage.”

Though her career took a different turn from the degree she earned, Hayat believes her liberal arts education prepared her for her role as founder, designer, and CEO. She said, “Even though the field I pursued had nothing to do with what I studied, all of the skills in analysis, problem-solving, and out of the box thinking that I developed at Wesleyan were crucial to my early success.”

Homeless Services CEO Rosenblatt ’87 Develops Affordable Housing in NYC

Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87, president and CEO of the Bowery Residents Committee in New York City, was interviewed by Crains for the organizations new foray into developing affordable housing.

Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87, president and CEO of the Bowery Residents Committee in New York City, was interviewed by Crains for the organizations new foray into developing affordable housing.

Muzzy  Rosenblatt ’87, president and CEO of The Bowery Residents Committee (BRC), a nonprofit offering services to people who are homeless in New York City, caught the attention of Crain’s New York for his organization’s recent foray into affordable housing development.

In the article by Judy Messina, Rosenblatt explains the reason for this new focus: “In our workforce program, we were seeing more and more people finding jobs, but in the shelters that we run for the Department of Homeless Services, fewer people were moving out, and they were coming back at a higher rate. … We had to find a way to help.”

The shelter system, he explained, can only work if there is turnover. With recidivism so high, the organization realized they needed a new option. Calling it an “aha” moment, he explained to Messina: “We could build a 200-bed shelter, take the income that a private developer would have taken out as profit and use it to leverage low-income housing.”

The BRC sought a location near subway and bus routes to because “We don’t believe poor people should be shunted to the edges” and made it clear to current residents of Landing Road in South Bronx that BRC’s investment is a commitment to the community: the organization is both responsive and accessible to their neighbors.

Rosenblatt says that the model they are creating is not only replicable and affordable, but also saves money otherwise lost to third-party developers. Messina note that Rosenblatt is “upending traditional models.”

“We should expect nonprofits to be entrepreneurial, disruptive and problem-solving,” says Rosenblatt, who was profiled for his work at the Bowery Residents Committee in the Wesleyan magazine in 2007.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lowe ’13 Grows Art Girl Army Organization

Sydney Lowe ’13

Sydney Lowe ’13

Film and TV producer Sydney Lowe ’13 is the founder of Art Girl Army (AGA), an organization that generates networking opportunities and fosters community among young women with creative careers. The collective originally started in Lowe’s small New York City apartment as a space for her and her friends to collaborate, provide support to one another and share their experiences as women working in creative fields, which largely lack gender, sexual and racial diversity. Since 2014 it has developed into an online global community of nearly 3,500 artists, including illustrators, comedians, dancers and more.

Lowe enjoyed ample opportunities to connect and collaborate with her peers as an undergraduate at Wesleyan. In an interview with Artsy, she explains how transitioning to the competitive environment of New York City made her miss being part of a supportive, creative community:

Chayes ’07 Wins Award for Women in Theater

Jess Chayes ’07

Jess Chayes ’07

Brooklyn-based director Jess Chayes ’07 has recently won the Lucille Lortel Award from the League of Professional Theatre Women (LPTW), which annually recognizes an aspiring woman in theatre who shows creative promise in the field. As a founding co-artistic director of The Assembly, a collective of multi-disciplinary performance artists, Chayes has co-created and directed eight original productions. These include I Will Look Forward To This Later and HOME/SICK, which is a NY Times Critics’ Pick.

Chayes founded The Assembly Theater Project with three other Wesleyan alumni: Stephen Aubrey ’06, Edward Bauer ’08, and Nick Benacerraf ’08. Together they created a collaborative and thriving community. Determined to show the effectiveness of solidarity and team effort, Chayes’ work is always risk-taking as well as thought provoking.

Recent directing includes Half Moon Bay (Lesser America), Primal Play (New Georges), The Bachelors (Williamstown Theater Festival), The Sister (Dutch Kills) and The Netflix Plays (Ars Nova). She has developed new work with The Vineyard Theatre, The Playwrights Center and New York Theatre Workshop, among others. Chayes is a NYTW Usual Suspect, a co-founder of The New Georges Jam artists’ lab, and alumna of The Civilians R&D Group and the Soho Rep Writer/Director Lab. She’s also worked as an associate director on Peter and the Starcatcher (Brooks Atkinson Theater and New World Stages) and Misery (Broadhurst Theater).

Draper ’12, Celestin ’13, Khandros ’13 Create Film Festival on Greek Island

The Syros International Film Festival was founded in 2013 by a team of four—including Nathaniel Draper ’12, Casandra Celestin ’13, and Aaron Kahndros ’13—and will run this year for five days in July.

The Syros International Film Festival was founded in 2013 by a team of four—including Nathaniel Draper ’12, Casandra Celestin ’13 and Aaron Kahndros ’13—and will run this year for five days in July.

How does one convert a shipyard into a cinema? “With a lot of gumption and very little sleep,” reports Nathaniel Draper ’12, the technical director of the Syros International Film Festival (SIFF).

For five days in July, Draper and his colleagues Cassandra Celestin ’13, Aaron Khandros ’13 and Jacob Moe will transform the small Greek island of Syros into a multifaceted cinema space.

Projectors hauled over three hours by boat from Athens will be erected on Syros’s docks, beaches and quarries to screen a variety of films, from art house to Hollywood. Musicians and filmmakers will gather for all-night multimedia performances and, with the help of participants, will construct musical instruments and perform. These are just a few of the unconventional features of the Syros International Film Festival.

Initiated in 2013 by Celestin and Khandros, the festival began as a DIY project financed out of pocket. But it has grown rapidly. Today, their sponsors—the Onassis Foundation, the US Embassy of Athens, Institut Français and Huffington Post Greece, among others—cover much of the expenses.

This year, the festival roster will explore the comedic and psychotic implications of its thematic idiom, “Cracking Up.” As such, it will feature a mix of cinema and expanded cinema that will, according to Draper, break open “the traditional confines of the projection experience.” One of the selections is a 1926 silent film by Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasais A Page of Madness, which depicts the lives of patients in a insane asylum through an expressionistic style.

These alternative cinematic performances inspired Draper and his team to engage with the shadow puppetry of Indonesian gamelan performance, which Draper was first introduced to through Wesleyan’s world music program. They hope to feature the experimental musician Mike Cooper, performing alongside Gods of Bali, a film that documents Gamelan music and dance. With the assistance of an expert from nearby Cyprus, volunteers and participants will also learn to perform in a Gamelan ensemble built from from items gathered on Syros.

Quite literally a product of its environment, the SIFF has also had to contend with the Greek economic crisis–ironically, the opening night of the 2015 festival coincided with Greece’s vote for austerity.

The SIFF is not Draper’s first experience curating film: As an undergrad, he helped create the “Cinema Sorcery Front,” a club that ran independent film screenings for students. A film major, he fondly remembers Associate Professor of Film Studies Steve Collins ’96, who supported his work and pushed the boundaries of his classroom education.

Audio Guide by Rowland ’11 Featured In 2017 Whitney Biennial

Cameron Rowland, Public Money, 2017. Institutional investment in Social Impact Bond. Courtesy the artist and ESSEX STREET, New York (detail). Photograph Bill Orcutt

Cameron Rowland, Public Money, 2017.

Every two years, the Whitney Museum of American Art showcases some of the most talented young artists from around the country in an exhibition filled with purpose and passion. This year, the 2017 Whitney Biennial, the 78th installment of the longest-running survey of American art, features work by Wesleyan alumnus Cameron Rowland ’11. View the project online here.

“Arriving at a time rife with racial tensions, economic inequities, and polarizing politics, the exhibition allows the artists to challenge us to consider how these realities affect our senses of self and community,” according to the Whitney. “The Biennial features 63 individuals and collectives whose work takes a wide variety of forms, from painting and installation to activism and video-game design.”

In line with this year’s theme, Rowland’s work involved having the Whitney Museum agree to invest $25,000 in a Social Impact Bond, or a “Pay for Success” contract that arranges for the government to support social-service organizations. On display is the document of their compliance. A framed printout of a wire transfer functions as the physical manifestation of his work.

Rowland also was mentioned in an article published online by W Magazine, which highlighted the other 20-something artists making great strides in the art community.

The exhibit is open now and runs through June 11.

‘Walking Elephants Home,’ Named Winner Of The 2017 EOCA Grant

Becca Winkler ’16 and her team at Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF), previously nominated and named a finalist in the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) grant for their project “Walking Elephants Home,” have been named the winners of the 2017 EOCA grant.

Though there is much work to do in order to fulfill the requirements of the grant, this grant will play a major role in allowing the team to support not only the elephants and mahouts, but also the surrounding forest and the communities in which they are working.

The previous story on Winkler and her project can be found here.

Wilkins, Alumni Author Paper on Consequences of Perceived Anti-Male Bias

Clara Wilkins, assistant professor of psychology, has studied perceptions of discrimination against whites and other groups who hold positions of relative advantage in society—such as heterosexuals and men—since she was a graduate student at the University of Washington. She became became interested in the topic of perceptions of bias against high status groups after hearing Glenn Beck call president Barack Obama racist. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Clara Wilkins

Men in the U.S. today increasingly believe themselves to be victims of gender discrimination, and there are a record number of recent lawsuits claiming anti-male bias. In a study published in March in Psychology of Men and MasculinityAssistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins and her co-authors assess the consequences of these perceptions of anti-male bias. Are men who perceive discrimination more likely to discriminate against women? How do beliefs about societal order affect men’s evaluations of men and women?

The article is co-authored by former post-doctoral fellow Joseph Wellman, now an assistant professor at California State University–San Bernardino, Erika Flavin ’14, and Juliana Manrique ’15, MA ’16.

In a blog post on the study, the authors write:

Traditionally men have had higher status than women in the U.S.; they have been better educated, more likely to be employed, and have tended to earn more than women with the same job and qualifications. People vary in the extent to which they believe that this particular ordering of society is fair and the way things should be. Some believe this type of inequality is legitimate, while others believe it should change. We expected that men who believed men should have higher status in society would be most upset about the thought that men now experience discrimination, and that they would react by favoring men over equally-qualified women. This effort would be a way to reestablish men’s perceived rightful place in society.

They conducted two studies to test this prediction. In the first, male participants read an article about increasing bias against men or another group, and then were asked to evaluate the résumé of a man or woman as part of an ostensibly unrelated study. The résumés were identical except for the name and gender. The researchers found that men who believe the social hierarchy is fair tended to give more negative evaluations of the female candidate relative to the male candidate after reading about bias against men. They also showed less desire to help the female candidate. The same effect wasn’t seen after male participants read about bias against an unrelated group. The researchers conclude that beliefs about the legitimacy of the hierarchy and perceptions of bias against men together seemed to disadvantage women.

In a second study, the researchers manipulated participants’ beliefs about society’s fairness by having them create sentences by unscrambling strings of randomly ordered words that suggested system legitimacy. For example, they created sentences like “effort leads to prosperity” – which makes people believe that hard work in society is rewarded. Or, they unscrambled other words to create neutral sentences unrelated to society. Unscrambling system-legitimizing sentences caused participates to believe the social structure is legitimate, and in turn, caused those primed to perceive discrimination against men to more negatively evaluate female targets. They also reported being less willing to help the female targets than male targets.

The researchers gave participants an opportunity to provide feedback on how to improve targets’ resumes. Those primed with beliefs that the social structure is legitimate reacted to perceiving bias against men by providing more constructive feedback to male targets than female targets. They write that these findings are striking, as the resumes were identical – only the names varied.

This research suggests that men who believe that men should be high-status in society react to perceiving bias against men by engaging in efforts to maintain men’s position of power. These individuals may be unaware that they favor their own group or disadvantage women; they may simply perceive that they are righting a perceived wrong. However, this explanation was not supported by other research results. When the researchers primed men to perceive discrimination against women, they did not react by favoring women over men. It seems as though they are uniquely concerned about maintaining their own group’s position in society, they write.

The researchers conclude that when high-status individuals perceive increasing bias against their group, those who endorse the legitimacy of the social hierarchy may perpetuate social disparities. Thus, if men increasingly perceive discrimination against their group, they may be more inclined to discriminate against women and provide other men with an extra boost. They recommend adopting hiring and evaluation processes that mask gender to prevent these potentially deleterious effects of perceiving bias against men.

Read the complete research article here.

Latif ’97 Showcases Work in 2017 Culturemart Festival

Abdul Latif ’77

Abdul Latif ’77

Wesleyan alumnus Abdul Latif ’97 served as the choreographer for The Black History Museum According to the United States of America, which opened the weekend of March 24.

Done in collaboration with HERE Arts Center’s Culturemart Festival 2017, the show examined “a number of struggles pertinent to the people of color community and the “modern millennial identity in response to incarceration and the #BlackLivesMatter movement.”

Latif, along with the rest of the production team, attempts to explore and explain the relationship between black Americans and the criminal justice system drawing from sentiments expressed after the fatal shootings of Black Americans. The experience and the occurrence of a second full house success humbled Latif, especially following the recent accomplishment of his other recent work, Bronx Museum, which opened this past January.

Since graduating from Wesleyan with a College of Social Studies and dance major, Latif has gone on to open his own performing arts center, Abdul Latif–D2D/T, where he now serves as the producing artistic director.

Weber ’13 Named ‘Emerging Green Leader’ by Grist Magazine

weber-evan

Evan Weber ’13

Each year, as part of the series “Grist50,” the acclaimed environmental publication Grist honors 50 of the world’s most impactful innovators who are working to solve humanity’s biggest challenges with fresh, forward-thinking solutions. This year, Wesleyan alumnus Evan Weber ’13, co-founder and executive director of U.S. Climate Plan, has been recognized as an “emerging green leader.”

Connecting this year’s 50 green leaders is the theme “The Fixer.” Described by Grist magazine as, “bold problem solvers working toward a planet that doesn’t burn and a future that doesn’t suck,” the list includes entrepreneurs, politicians, scientists and activists.

Not only do Weber and his team push for climate legislation on the national level and organize campaigns to support climate justice, but he also supports young activists by building partnerships between grassroots organizations, teaching statewide strategy plans, and advising college students. “It is how you build a generational front against climate change in Weber’s eyes,” according to Grist.

More on Weber, as well as the full list of environmental innovators and their work can be found on Grist’s website.