Alumni

Alumni news.

6 Alumni Receive Fulbright Awards

Six recent Wesleyan alumni are the recipients of 2020–21 Fulbright Awards.

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is the largest U.S. exchange program offering opportunities for students and young professionals to undertake international graduate study, advanced research, university teaching, and primary and secondary school teaching worldwide. The program currently awards approximately 2,000 grants annually in all fields of study, and operates in more than 140 countries worldwide.

The recipients include:

Inayah Bashir ’20

Inayah Bashir ’20

Inayah Bashir ’20, who majored in the College of Social Studies, won a Fulbright grant to teach English in Kenya. Bashir will work with Kenyan students to place their identity and interests at the center of their learning experience. She looks forward to learning from the teachers and students while following her passion for developing student-centered curriculum and programming. In the future she wants to attend law school with a focus on education and international law in order to prepare for a career as an advocate for equality and education.

Young ’88 Addresses the Severity of the COVID-19 Crisis for Black Americans

Al YoungAlford “Al” Young Jr. ’88 is the Arthur F. Thurnau Professor in the Department of Sociology and professor of Afroamerican and African studies at the University of Michigan. Young’s research focuses on low-income, urban-based African Americans, African American scholars and intellectuals, and the classroom-based experiences of higher-education faculty as they pertain to diversity and multiculturalism.

In this Q&A, Young addresses the severity of the COVID-19 crisis for black Americans, particularly in Michigan. Michigan is ranked fourth in the country for having the most coronavirus-related deaths (4,915+).

How has COVID-19 affected your research interests?

Alford “Al” Young Jr.: I have spent the better part of my career studying the plight of socioeconomically disadvantaged African American males who live in large or midsized cities. I am interested in their vision of how mobility unfolds in America, especially the extent to which that broader vision relates to their conceptions of personal possibilities for advancement. In doing this work I pay a lot of attention to how these men talk about perceived challenges, problems, and struggles concerning the effort to get ahead. They argue that some of these factors are created by others (racism, public fears of black men, etc.) and some were created by themselves (black-on-black violence, etc.).  The basic point of the research has been to assess how much whatever they imagine to be pathways forward are grounded in their broader understandings of pathways for Americans more generally. I seek to know whether they maintain distance or connection between how they think other Americans get ahead and how they think they might do so.

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors: Meyerson ’04, Card ’04, and Fink ’77

In this continuing series, we explore a selection of the latest books by Wesleyan alumni. The volumes, sent to us by the alumni authors themselves, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

The Imperfects coverAmy Meyerson ’04, The Imperfects (HarperCollins/Park Row Books, 2020)

Generations of secrets loom large in this novel about the dysfunctional Miller family. When the eccentric family matriarch, Helen, passes away, the items she leaves behind—including a 137-carat diamond hidden in her bedroom—stir up old resentments, new tensions, and plenty of questions among her daughter and grandchildren. As the family races to determine whether they are the rightful heirs to the precious gemstone, they make startling discoveries about Helen, who immigrated to the United States from Austria, and her family’s tragic past.

A fast-paced and engaging read, The Imperfects is based on the true story of the Florentine Diamond, which went missing around 1918, after the fall of the Austrian Empire.

Amy Meyerson ’04 is an associate professor of writing at the University of Southern California. The Imperfects is her second novel. Her debut novel The Bookshop of Yesterdays, an international best-seller with translations in 11 languages, was featured in a 2018 Connection article.

Moezzi ’01 Shares Reflections, Advice on Applying Rumi’s Wisdom to Modern Life

Melody Moezzi

In The Rumi Prescription, Melody Moezzi ’01 shares her story of studying and learning from the wisdom of 13th-century mystic poet Rumi, whose verses she found relevant even in today’s world. Moezzi majored in philosophy at Wesleyan.

The timing of the release of The Rumi Prescription: How an Ancient Mystic Poet Changed My Modern Manic Life (Penguin Random House, 2020) was far from ideal. Officially out March 3, the new book by Melody Moezzi ’01 was barely in readers’ hands before social distancing restrictions were imposed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Moezzi was able to participate in a handful of events near her home in Wilmington, N.C. . . . and then the remainder were canceled or rescheduled in virtual form.

The Rumi Prescription coverHowever, The Rumi Prescription is the sort of book that people with extra free time on their hands—and the inclination to obtain meaning from difficult experiences—might value. Moezzi’s third book, The Rumi Prescription details how she came to interpret and apply the lessons of the 13th-century mystic poet Rumi to her modern-day world, a process that was ultimately life-changing.

An Iranian-American Muslim author, attorney, activist, and visiting professor of creative nonfiction at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, Moezzi has also written about mental health in her 2014 memoir Haldol and Hyacinths: A Bipolar Life. On May 18, she will participate in a live Zoom conversation about The Rumi Prescription with fellow mental wellness activist and illustrator Ellen Forney ’89, as part of a series offered by Literati bookstore in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Click here to join the event on May 18.

Moezzi recently answered questions about The Rumi Prescription, how Rumi’s words can apply to today’s world, and her advice for taking care of your mental health during a pandemic.

First of all, how’s The Rumi Prescription doing? What a time to launch a new book.

Melody Moezzi: It’s not the best time to be releasing a book, but it turns out that the topic of this book is actually something that is helpful for people right now, so I’m glad for that. At least people seem to be finding comfort in it.

Forney ’89 Creates Comical Handwashing Illustration

forney hand washing

Ellen Forney ’89 created “Hand-Washing Like A Pro!” in response to the COVID-19 epidemic.

A comical handwashing illustration by author, artist, speaker, and mental wellness coach Ellen Forney ’89 appeared in the March 20 edition of The Washington Post and is used in the COVID Coach App, a mental health app from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

She’s also offering it as a free printable download from her website.

Forney says her how-to “Hand-Washing Like A Pro!” comic adheres to the the World Health Organization guidelines, but is “easier and funnier.”

“I got the idea for [the comic] after reading that people had trouble remembering the WHO-recommended method,” she said. “It’s useful because you can print it out and hang it by your sink, or give it to your grandmother or favorite restaurant to hang by their sink.”

Through six illustrations, she suggests how to rub palms like a snickering villain, rub the backs of hands like piggybacking spiders, rub palms like spiders kissing, rub backs of fingers with a kung fu grip, rub thumbs like you’re gripping a motorcycle throttle, and rub fingertips like you’re using a mortar and pestle.

In 2018, Forney curated an exhibition for the National Library of Medicine on “graphic medicine,” comics about health and healthcare.

She’s also is the author of the graphic memoir Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me, which is taught in Wesleyan’s Life Writing course by Charles Barber, associate professor of the practice in the College of Letters. She’s also spoken with his class twice, most recently during the Spring 2019 semester.

Best of Wes: Alumni in Sports II

Several Wes alumni went on to pursue jobs in sports and athletics. While some became professional athletes on nationally-recognized teams, others delved into coaching, refereeing, sports reporting, and team management. In this “Best of Wes” article, read about Wes alumni who turned their love of the game into a lifelong passion and career. (Interested in other Wesleyan-themed lists? Check out our previous “Best of Wes” pieces, including Alumni in Sports I.)

Field Yates

Field Yates ’09

Field Yates ’09 is a National Football League (NFL) Insider for ESPN and co-host of ESPN Audio’s Fantasy Focus Football podcast. He joined ESPN in 2012 and is a regular contributor to NFL Live, SportsCenter, and Fantasy Football Now pregame show. Yates also co-hosts a pair of ESPN Radio shows, Operation Football and Football Friendzy. Prior to ESPN, Yates spent two seasons scouting and coaching with the Kansas City Chiefs and interned for four summers with the New England Patriots front office. At Wesleyan, Yates majored in psychology and played football and lacrosse. Read more about Yates in this recent Wesleyan University Magazine feature.

Gowns4Good, Co-Founded by Catania ’13, Connects Health Care Workers with Alternative PPE

Gowns4Good

Gowns4Good, co-founded by Taran Catania ’13 and Nathaniel “Than” Moore, above, coordinates the donation of graduation gowns to health care workers on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, where the gowns may be used as alternative personal protective equipment. Moore is an emergency medicine physician assistant in the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Scores of commencement ceremonies around the United States have been canceled or postponed this spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That means scores of graduation gowns could sit unused in closets.

Instead, Taran Catania ’13, an MBA student at the University of Vermont, wants students past and present to put those gowns to a different use. Together with her classmate Nathaniel “Than” Moore, who works as an emergency medicine physician assistant in the UVM Medical Center, Catania earlier this month launched Gowns4Good, which coordinates the donation of gowns to health care providers on the front lines of the pandemic. The gowns will function as alternative personal protective equipment (PPE), to add an extra barrier of protection between medical staff and patients.

Mannetta ’13 Takes Second on Jeopardy!

jeopardy

Appearing on Jeopardy! was a whirlwind experience for J.R. Mannetta ’13 (pictured here with host Alex Trebek). “They film five episodes a day, with 15 contestants. You don’t know what episode you’re on until minutes before it airs. You pretty much get picked, get an additional layer of makeup, and you’re on!” (Photo courtesy J.R. Mannetta ’13)

J.R. Mannetta ’13 is not a super genius. Nor is he the kind of guy who goes around flaunting his broad grasp of esoteric facts. In fact, he’s pretty much a regular guy. A regular guy with impressive knowledge of wide-ranging arts, sports, and pop culture, who, with a healthy dose of perseverance, patience, and practice, made it to the big stage to compete on that bastion of television trivia, Jeopardy!

The Boston native’s interest in trivia—and Jeopardy! in particular—began when he was in high school and continued through his college years at Wesleyan, where he competed in trivia contests at La Boca Restaurant with friends.

Although he watched Jeopardy! religiously and kept up his trivia skills, he started taking the online screening tests mostly as a whim. For a few years, he didn’t hear anything. Then in early 2019 he took the test again and felt he did pretty well. A few months later he received an email inviting him to come in for an in-person audition.

Best of Wes: Alumni in Sports

Despite graduating from Wesleyan with degrees in fields such as economics or psychology, several Wes alumni went on to pursue jobs in sports and athletics. While some became professional athletes on nationally-recognized teams, others delved into coaching, refereeing, sports reporting, and team management. In this “Best of Wes” article, read about Wes alumni who turned their love of the game into a lifelong passion and career. We’ll include another Alumni in Sports feature next week! (Interested in other Wesleyan-themed lists? Check out our previous “Best of Wes” pieces.)

Rob King '84

Rob King ’84

In March 2020, Rob King ’84 was named vice president and editor-at-large of ESPN content. In this role, King defines the content division’s journalistic direction and acts as an advisor to ESPN’s leadership team on complex editorial issues, while ensuring ESPN’s commitment to journalistic excellence remains at the highest level. King previously served as senior vice president of original content, focusing globally on all of ESPN’s award-winning long-form storytelling and enterprise journalism. Prior to joining ESPN in 2004, he worked for three newspapers as a reporter. At Wesleyan, he ran track, played basketball, and majored in English.

Chong '18

Eudice Chong ’18

Wesleyan’s women’s tennis team standout Eudice Chong ’18 is presently playing professionally and ranks No. 376 in the world in singles play and No. 158 in the world in doubles. Chong made NCAA history as she became the first collegiate tennis player—female or male in any division—to win four straight singles titles. She also won a doubles title as a junior for a total of five national championships. A three-time NESCAC Player of the Year, Chong concluded her final season at Wesleyan with a 30-2 overall singles record while going a perfect 30-0 against Division III competition. She also won the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Oracle Cup in both singles and doubles in 2017, the ITA National Senior Player of the Year in 2018, and the Division III Honda Athlete of the Year in 2018. Chong majored in psychology and has a minor from the College of East Asian Studies.

Parents, Alumni in China Donate Masks to Wesleyan, Local Community

masks

Thousands of face masks were mailed to Wesleyan this month from alumni and parents in China.

When Wesleyan parents and alumni in China learned how the coronavirus pandemic was affecting the Wesleyan community, dozens worked together to raise funds and send much-needed personal protective equipment (PPE) to campus.

To date, the Wesleyan Chinese Parent Committee, made up of more than 70 families, has already raised $29,000 to support Wesleyan’s Emergency Fund for Students, and combined, has donated more than 400 disposable gloves and 800 masks (N95 and surgical).

Approximately 500 masks are being used by staff from the Davison Health Center, Physical Plant, WesStation’s mailroom, the Information Technology Services Help Desk and Public Safety.

“The parent committee wanted to express their gratitude for all the hard work and great care Wesleyan has shown for students in such a short amount of time,” explained Zijia Guo, program manager for Wesleyan’s global initiatives. “They’re grateful for how we’re helping the many students who are remaining on campus.”

In addition, Sha Ye MA ’96 of Shanghai, China, donated a total of 10,040 surgical masks to Wesleyan. These masks have been distributed to Wesleyan and the Middletown community (specifically Middlesex Hospital).

“I had a wonderful experience at Wesleyan and always felt grateful for what I received,” he said. “Our country just pulled itself through COVID-19. As the virus hits the United States, the first and natural thing for me to think of is to support my alma mater.”

In February, a group of Wesleyan students and parents raised more than $23,000, which was used to purchase medical equipment for hospitals affected in the epicenter of the outbreak, Hubei province, China.

Best of Wes: More Alumni-Produced TV

A number of Wesleyan alumni act in, write, direct, and produce popular TV programs. Earlier this month, we shared a list of those alumni and their shows, as part of our “Best of Wes” series—and today we are sharing a second installment, listing even more alumni and their shows. (Interested in other Wesleyan-themed lists? Check out our previous “Best of Wes” pieces.)

Additional alumni-produced TV shows and series include:

The TV mini-series Fosse/Verdon is directed and produced by Thomas Kail ’99, produced by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, and written by Sam Wasson ’03. Amelia McCarthy ’04 worked as the show’s casting assistant.

Kenneth Fuchs ’83, P’17 directed hundreds of episodes of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Shark Tank, Family Feud, Celebrity Family Feud, To Tell the Truth, Kids Say The Darnedest Things, Love Connection, and Deal or No Deal.

I promiseThe documentary series I Promise, Brick City, Chicagoland, CIA: America’s Secret Warriors, Ocean Warriors, and Inside the FBI: New York were produced by Emmy-award winner Marc Levin ’73, P’05. He also produced and directed the television scripted series Street Time, and episodes of Law & Order. He has made numerous documentaries for HBO, including the Emmy winners Thug Life In DC and I Am Evidence. In 1988 he won his first national Emmy award as a producer and editor of Bill Moyer’s Secret Government: The Constitution in Crisis.

Steve Beauchamp ’77 acted in episodes of Prodigal Son, The Deuce, The Blacklist, Boardwalk Empire, Law & Order, and Ugly Betty.

Episodes of Full House, Mr. Belvedere, and Valerie’s Family were produced and written by Jay Abramowitz ’76. He also was head writer on the animated PBS series Liberty’s Kids, an account of the American Revolution that blended fact, fiction, and comedy.

Michael Chaskes ’91 has been a supervising or lead editor on unscripted shows including Supernanny, Real Housewives of New York City, and A Very Brady Renovation.

Episodes of Law & Order: Special Victims UnitConvictionCrossing JordanCold CaseERThe Practice, and H-Town were written or produced by Samantha Corbin-Miller ’93.

Episodes of A Gifted Man, Feed the Beast, Smash, and SEAL Team were written or produced by Rebecca “Becky” Mode ’86. Most recently she served as a co-executive producer on Netflix’s award-winning Unbelievable and Nat Geo’s upcoming Genius: Aretha.

Episodes of Hawaii Five-O, Smallville, Salem, Witches of East End, and The Vampire Diaries were produced or written by Alfredo Septién ’85.

Bill Wolkoff ’95 has written episodes of Once Upon a TimeKipo and the Age of WonderbeastsTRON: Uprising, and Star Wars Rebels.

Episodes of L.A. Law, Beverly Hills, 90210, Earth 2, and Big Mouth were created, produced, or written by Jennifer Flackett ’86, P’21. Episodes of Big Mouth also were produced by Abe Forman-Greenwald ’98.

Episodes of The Fresh Prince of Bel AirIn the HouseHere and NowClaude’s Crib, and New Attitude were produced or written by Bill Boulware ’71. Boulware also has served as the consulting producer of the BET comedy Reed Between the Lines and was an executive producer for the UPN comedy One on One. He co-created the NBC hit 227 and began his network experience as a staff writer on Benson. In addition, he has written freelance scripts for The Cosby ShowThe Dabney Coleman Show, and The Mayor.

Episodes of The Mentalist and Gotham were written by Rebecca Cutter ’96. She’s also the creator/showrunner of Hightown, a new show premiering May 17 on Starz! 

The television documentary series Vice and Weediquette are produced by Krishna Andavolu ’04. He also hosts the Emmy-winning documentary series VICE.