Alumni

Alumni news.

“Your Pillow”: Starbucks Selects Single by Rhodes ’90

J.R. Rhodes ’90 has a new album coming out Nov. 3, and a single from it has already been picked up for play in Starbucks. (Photo by Michelle Smith-Lewis)

Next time you’re seeking a caffeine fix in Starbucks, keep your ears open for a song by J.R. Rhodes ’90. Hers is a haunting alto voice—with a throatiness and rich, emotional depth reminiscent of Joan Armatrading—and the song, in a minor key, “Your Pillow,” was the first single released from her album I Am, due out Nov. 3.

A music major at Wesleyan and a singer/songwriter since then, Rhodes had released three albums previously: Elixir (2011), Afriqueen Stare (2003) and Songs of Angels (1999).

The high-profile single placement, however, is something entirely new.

“A career in music can definitely be a winding road,” she says. “You have your days when you want to give up. And then you get a little help. And sometimes—you get a lot of help.”

Feldstein ’15 Wows in Broadway Debut

Beanie Feldstein ’15

Beanie Feldstein ’15 (Photo courtesy of Little Fang Photography)

Actress Beanie Feldstein ’15 has made her Broadway debut as Minnie Fay in the sold-out, Tony-winning revival of Hello, Dolly! this past April. The role has her playing a fresh-faced shopgirl in this comedic musical theater hit about a meddlesome matchmaker named Dolly Gallagher Levi. Starring alongside the iconic Bette Middler and Broadway veteran Kate Baldwin, Feldstein is living out her childhood dream night after night in Broadway’s Shubert Theatre—and certain magazine outlets, such as Vogue, are asking whether we are seeing the next Middler in Feldstein.

Alpert ’82 Snags First-Ever Emmy for Outstanding Casting

Sasha Alpert ’82 won the Primetime Emmy Award for casting A&E’s Born This Way. (Photo courtesy of Bunim/Murray Productions)

At the 69th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on Sept. 17, Sasha Alpert ’82, CSA, was awarded the Emmy for the Outstanding Casting for a Reality Program for A&E’s original docuseries Born This Way.

The series follows seven young adults diagnosed with Down syndrome who pursue personal and professional success and try to defy expectations, according to A&E’s website.

Born This Way earned a total of three Emmy wins, going into the evening with six nominations. It was the television show to receive the inaugural award for reality casting, a move that recognizes the process of casting an unscripted show.

“I am thrilled to have won the first Emmy given for reality casting, and especially thrilled that it was for Born this Way,” Alpert said. “Bringing the story of young adults with Down syndrome to television has been an incredible experience. Many people have a story to tell, and by creating a show with a diverse group of people we vastly expand our ability to tell compelling stories.”

Alpert is known for her work in casting reality television shows, such as The Real World and Project Runway, as well as in producing numerous documentaries and specials for PBS, CBS, MTV, TBS, and Disney Channel. The winner of Primetime Emmy Awards, she has had 11 nominations, including a News and Documentary Emmy Award for her work on Valentine Road (2013).

Reyes ’17 Earns 2 Tech Fellowships

Mika Reyes ’17

With two fellowships, Mika Reyes ’17 joined the tech-savvy world of Silicon Valley and encourages other Wesleyan humanities majors to follow her path.

Mika Reyes ’17 has stayed busy since graduating just last May, as both a summer fellow with the Horizons School of Technology and a year-long Product fellow with the Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers (KPCB) fellowship program. These prestigious programs have helped Reyes jump-start a career in tech.

The Horizons Fellowship immerses university students looking to become leaders in technology in a rigorous summer program that teaches them how to build web and mobile applications and connects them with mentors in the field: startup founders, technology executives, and engineering leaders. Horizons requires no prior programming knowledge and chooses a few members of every cohort for the Horizons Fellowship, which covers the cost of tuition and housing in San Francisco.

Class of ’89 Alumni Credit Wes Football for Friendships

Mike Charlton '89, Matt Coan '89 & Jim Lukowski '89

Matt Coan ’89, Mike Charlton ’89 and Jim Lukowski ’89 met in the late 1980s while students at Wesleyan.

The gridiron is the foundation where lifelong friendships are built. At Wesleyan, this bond between teammates started way back in 1881 and has only flourished since then.

It would be difficult to find a better example of the friendships Wesleyan Football produces than in the three captains from the 1988 team: Mike Charlton ’89, Matt Coan ’89 and Jim Lukowski ’89.

Charlton, a Connecticut native who grew up in Detroit, played four years on the defensive line as a nose guard. As if football and academics weren’t enough, he also competed on the wrestling team throughout his college tenure.

“You miss football a lot when the playing days are over because it’s not only a very fun sport to play, but it’s very much a team sport and a team sport leads to friendships that—in my case with Matty and Jimmy as good examples—last a lifetime,” Charlton said. “Those bonds are things that are created on and off the playing field.”

Ligon ’82 Discusses Creative Practices, Race, at Wadsworth Atheneum

Glenn Ligon ’82 in front of his piece, White #15, on exhibit at the Wadsworth Atheneum. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

In a program jointly sponsored by the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art and The Amistad Center for Art & Culture, artist Glenn Ligon ’82 joined Dean and Professor of Art History at Northwestern University Huey Copeland for a discussion on Sept. 13 at the Atheneum in Hartford. The two, who noted their longstanding friendship as they began their onstage discussion, explored Ligon’s creative practices and Copeland’s research on the ways African American artists have addressed race in the history of American art.

Prior to the conversation, attendees were invited to view the Atheneum’s permanent installation of post-2000 contemporary art in the Hilles Gallery. Ligon’s piece, White #15 (1994, paintstick on linen and wood), is on exhibit there. Ligon had been featured at the Athenaeum in MATRIX 120, the 1992 exhibit in an ongoing and changing series of contemporary art exhibitions, initially funded 1974, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The conversation between Ligon and Copeland explored Ligon’s work, including the installation, To Disembark (1993), and that of other contemporary artists, including Cameron Rowland ’11—as well as the museums charged with illustrating the history of African Americans, including the National Museum of African American History and Culture—in the context of current events.

The Leavers, by Lisa Ko ’98, Longlisted for National Book Award for Fiction

The Leavers, the debut novel by Lisa Ko ’98, has been selected as one of 10 works longlisted for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction.

“I was surprised and thrilled to receive the news, which I hadn’t expected as a debut novelist,” says Ko. “I’m thankful to the judges and everyone who has read and supported The Leavers. It’s especially great to see how many women writers are on the longlist this year—women of color in particular.”

Inspired by the true case of an undocumented mother who was deported without her son in 2009, the book tells the story of 11-year-old Deming Guo, whose mother, Polly, an undocumented Chinese immigrant, fails to return home one day from her job at a nail salon in Brooklyn—leaving the boy alone to navigate a new life as the adopted son of a well-meaning American couple in upstate New York.

Zuckerman ’16 Represents U.S. at Kazakhstan World Expo 2017

Molly Jane Zuckerman ’16

Molly Zuckerman ’16 was selected as a U.S. student ambassador for the Astana Expo

Molly Jane Zuckerman ’16 is one of only 40 student ambassadors representing the United States at the World Expo 2017 in Astana, Kazakhstan, which brings together key leaders from the global business community, high-ranking government officials, and cultural representatives in the first world fair to take place in Central Asia.

The theme of this year’s international exposition is “Future Energy,” and the United States is one of more than 100 countries and international organizations to participate. As an intern for the USA Pavilion, Zuckerman conducts tours of the exhibit for both Kazakh and international visitors.

“The theme of our pavilion is human energy, and how we—humanity—are actually the source of infinite energy,” says Zuckerman.

Documentary by Magruder ’17, DuMont ’17 to be Screened Sept. 18 on Campus

While still undergraduates, Julie Magruder ’17 and Jackson DuMont ’17 began filming The Face of Kinship Care, a documentary highlighting the important role that familial, but non-parental, caregivers provide in the lives of children. The documentary will be will be shown at Wesleyan—as well as more widely—at 8 p.m., Monday, Sept. 18, at the Powell Family Cinema. September, notes Magruder, is Kinship Care Month in a number of states. Through her work on this film, Magruder has become an advocate for highlighting the importance of kinship caregivers in all states.

The project began more than a year ago, when Christine James-Brown, president of the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA), requested a documentary on the topic. Through the W. T. Grant Foundation, DuMont was put in touch with James-Brown. DuMont knew of Magruder’s particular interest in nonfiction storytelling, and once the idea had been solidified, he reached out to collaborate.

Hyman ’85 to be Awarded French Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres

Visual artist and author Miles Hyman ’85 has been chosen for the prestigious title of Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres (Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters) by the French Ministry of Culture. The award will be bestowed during a ceremony on a future date to be determined.

Hyman studied drawing and printmaking with Professor of Art David Schorr at Wesleyan and went on to study at the Paris Ecole des Beaux-arts. Hyman’s award-winning drawings and paintings have appeared in books, magazines and galleries in the United States and Europe, with clients that include the New Yorker, the New York Times, Viking Press, Chronicle Books, GQ and Louis Vuitton. He is also the author and illustrator of several graphic novels, including his adaptation of his grandmother Shirley Jackson’s renowned short story “The Lottery” (Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”: The Authorized Graphic Adaptation, Hill & Wang/Casterman, 2016) and The Prague Coup, a graphic novel retracing Graham Greene’s voyage to Vienna in 1948 to write The Third Man (with writer J-L Fromental, Dupuis, 2017). The monograph Miles Hyman/Drawings, featuring more than 200 of Hyman’s works, was published in 2015 (Glénat).

Fins ’82 on Civil Rights for Those With Brain Injuries: NYT Op-Ed

Joseph J. Fins ’82, MD, MACP, is a professor of medical ethics and the chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medicine, and a co-director of the Consortium for the Advanced Study of Brain Injury. He is the author of a recent opinion piece in the New York Times calling for deeper consideration of the civil rights for those with traumatic brain injury. (Photo: John Abbott, New York Academy of Medicine)

Writing in a New York Times opinion piece, Joseph J. Fins ’82, M.D., The E. William Davis, Jr., M.D., Professor of Medical Ethics and the chief of the Division of Medical Ethics at Weill Cornell Medicine, describes the startling case of a young woman thought to be in a vegetative state but later able to communicate through the movement of one eye.

In “Brain Injury and the Civil Right We Don’t Think About,” Fins says that many seemingly vegetative individuals are misdiagnosed and suffer a loss of personhood and civil rights when they do have some conscious awareness and are, in fact, in the minimally conscious state.

Because minimally conscious patients can feel pain while vegetative patients can not, a misdiagnosis of a patient’s brain state can lead to a lack of pain medication administered during a medical procedure, a horrifying possibility. So too, says Fins, is “segregating” these patients in “custodial care” facilities without offering them rehabilitative opportunities to foster their recoveries. He writes:

I use the verb “segregated” deliberately, to invoke a time when separate but equal was the law. In the wake of legal advances like the Americans with Disabilities Act and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Disabled, which call for the integration of people with disabilities into civil society, how is the pervasive segregation of this population justified?

Part of the problem is that when these laws were written, the notion of reintegration was focused on physical mobility … When we restore voice to these patients we bring them back into the room and the conversation.

I often speak to university students brought up in the era of L.G.B.T.Q. rights who can’t understand how my generation did not appreciate that people could love those they chose to love. … I caution against smugness, suggesting that their own children may well ask them how they allowed society to ignore conscious individuals and deprive them of their rights.

Fins, a co-director of the Consortium for the Advanced Study of Brain Injury, is the author of Rights Come to Mind: Brain Injury, Ethics, and the Struggle for Consciousness (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and the Solomon Center Distinguished Scholar in Medicine, Bioethics and the Law at Yale Law School. He spoke on these topics at Wesleyan in 2015 as the Kim-Frank Visiting Writer.  A trustee emeritus of Wesleyan, he was named a Distinguished Alumnus of the university in 2012.

 

In Emerging Economies, Siroya ’04 Gives Credit Where It’s Due

By Jim. H. Smith

Shivani Siroya ’04 (center), CEO and founder of Tala, has assembled other Wesleyan women on her team to change the financial lives of those in developing countries—including Lauren Pruneski ’04 (left), director of global communications and public relations, and Bonnie Oliva-Porter ’04 (right), director of global operations. Also at Tala, but not pictured, is Amy Barth Sommerlatt ’04, expansion strategist.

No one has ever questioned Jenipher’s work ethic. For decades, this 65-year-old Kenyan woman has operated a food stall in the central business district of downtown Nairobi. It has given her the wherewithal to support a family of three sons, and she has paid for the vocational school education of each. She is also the leader of a local group of responsible adults who support each other in their efforts to save money.

Yet despite those facts, Jenipher had no credit rating. Like some 2.5 billion people worldwide, she lacked a financial identity, the very thing that traditional banks evaluate when deciding whether to make loans to consumers. Her capacity to borrow money in order to grow her business and improve her life was virtually nonexistent.

She did have one thing going for her, though. Like more than a billion residents of the planet’s emerging markets, she owned a Smartphone that she regularly used for a wide range of activities, from business management to communications with local friends and associates as well as family in Uganda. Three years ago, one of her adult sons encouraged her to download the “app” of a Los Angeles-based company called Tala, and it changed her life.