Alumni

Alumni news.

Chanoff ’94 Receives Schwab Foundation/World Economic Forum Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award

The Schwab Foundation/World Economic Forum Social Entrepreneurs of the Year are RefugePoint founder and executive director, Sasha Chanoff ’94 (right), and Amy Slaughter, chief strategy officer for the organization.

Sasha Chanoff ’94, founder and executive director of RefugePoint, and Amy Slaughter, the organization’s chief strategy officer, were named Schwab Foundation/World Economic Forum Social Entrepreneurs of the Year. This honor is bestowed each year by the Schwab Foundation, the World Economic Forum’s sister organization, to identify and recognize the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.

As awardees, Chanoff and Slaughter join the Schwab Foundation’s global community of social entrepreneurs working in more than 70 countries. They will be integrated into World Economic Forum meetings and initiatives and invited to contribute in exchanges with top leaders in business, government, civil society, and media.

Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, calls Chanoff “one of the alumni whom we, at the Patricelli Center, look to for inspiration. He has a unique ability to see opportunity in dire situations and the tenacity to pursue that opportunity relentlessly. For Wesleyan students who are passionate about creating social change, Sasha is a true role model.”

Alumni-Led Kitchen Ceilí and Friends Performs Traditional Music Spanning Cultures

Kitchen Ceilí and Friends performed at Russell House on Sunday afternoon of Family Weekend.

Formed in 1993, Kitchen Ceilí features private lessons teacher Stan Scott PhD ’97 on vocals, guitar, mandolin, and banjo; Dora Hast PhD ’94 on vocals, tin whistle, and recorders; and George Wilson on vocals, fiddle, banjo, and guitar. A ceilí (English pronunciation: kā’lē) is a traditional Gaelic social dance or gathering with music.

On Sunday, the trio was joined by “Friends”—the Hindustani vocalists of the Rangila Chorus and vocalist/guitarist Sam Scheer—and the group widened their geographic focus, performing not only original and traditional music from Ireland, America, England, and Scotland, but also from South Asia.

The event was held in conjunction with the Center for the Arts’ Music at the Russell House Series.

Photos of their concert are below: (Photos by Caroline Kravitz ’19)



 

Chen ’98 Explores Emotions of Directorial Debut for Filmmaker Magazine

Director Lynn Chen on the set of her first feature film I Will Make You Mine, an experience she wrote about for Filmmaker magazine. (Photo by Eric Yang)

Already an actor and blogger, Lynn Chen ’98 is now also a director, with her first feature film, I Will Make You Mine. She wrote about the experience for Filmmaker magazine: “I Just Finished Directing My First Feature Film, Why Do I Feel Like I Have Post-Partum Depression?”

The editors note that these low feelings are common for first-time directors but not frequently discussed. Chen, however, is an activist—the ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association since 2012—and not afraid to tackle emotional content and bring taboo topics to the forefront.

“When I was a women’s studies/music double major at Wesleyan in 1998, I found very little crossover academically and had to carve my own way through that degree,” recalls Chen. “Now, 20 years later, I’m carving my own way again.”

In the Filmmaker essay, she explains:

About a year ago I started writing my first feature, ‘I Will Make You Mine,’ which I planned to produce, direct, and act in. This is the second sequel to the “Surrogate Valentine” movies I starred in by filmmaker Dave Boyle. I chose to take the same characters and tell the story, six years later, from the female perspective. I spent several months living in the heads of these women, thinking about what it means to grow older, revisit your past, and feel hope again.

Over the summer we filmed the first half of the movie, and despite the drama that comes with any film production, I felt more excited, passionate, fulfilled, alive (and any other positive adjective used to describe feelings) than I ever had before. Yes, I was truly happy. And I don’t care what all the self-help gurus say – that happiness was everything. On the last day, I was still on that high. Until a few hours after we wrapped, when it all came crashing down.

(Read more)

 

 

Wesleyan in the News

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

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The Washington Post: “Have Parents Made Their Kids Too Fragile for the Rough-and-Tumble Life?”

President Michael Roth reviews The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. While the authors make some important points, Roth is skeptical of their argument, writing, “Are students today disempowered because they’ve been convinced they are fragile, or do they feel vulnerable because they are facing problems like climate change and massive, nasty inequality?”

2. WNYC’s “The Takeaway”: “Will Trump’s Take on the Economy Resonate with Voters?”

Kogan ’98: “What I Wish I Knew When I Was A Super-Successful Wesleyan Overachiever”

Nataly Kogan ’98, the author of Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones), will present a WESeminar on Family Weekend about strategies she has learned to manage stress and develop self-compassion. (Photo courtesy of Nataly Kogan)

Nataly Kogan ’98 will present a WESeminar, “What I Wish I Knew When I Was a Super-Successful Wesleyan Overachiever” in the Ring Family Center at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 28.

Kogan, who at 13 emigrated with her family to the U.S. as a refugee from the former Soviet Union, graduated from Wesleyan with High and University Honors as a CSS major. She achieved early success as a consultant with McKinsey & Co, a venture capitalist at the age of 26, and a tech executive with companies like Microsoft. However, this came at a huge personal cost, she says, and it didn’t have to. Now the founder and CEO of Happier, she is the author of Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones), published in May 2018.

Kogan looks forward to sharing her strategies for how to manage stress, treat yourself with compassion to increase motivation, connect with your sense of purpose to boost your resilience during challenges, and thrive while achieving goals.

She spoke about her upcoming talk with the Connection in this Q&A:

Q: What is it about college campuses that make your message particularly important for students to hear?

A: According to The American College Health Association, in 2011, half of undergraduates reported they felt overwhelmed with anxiety. By 2017, 61 percent did.

These are scary numbers and it’s a scary trend. American college students are stressed out, overwhelmed, and feel intense pressure from themselves, their parents, their professors, and our society to succeed.

And what makes it scarier is that we don’t teach college students—or any students, at any level of education—the skills to cultivate and strengthen their emotional and mental well-being. As a society, we’ve not yet embraced that these are not optional soft-skills, but that emotional wellbeing is the foundation for helping students thrive and learn, without burnout, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, instances of which are increasing every year.

Bean ’78 Offers Insider’s Portrait of Congressional Oversight in Book, WESeminar

Elise Bean ’78, author of Financial Exposure: Carl Levin’s Senate Investigations into Finance and Tax Abuse, will offer her insider’s perspective on governmental oversight in a WESeminar on Saturday, Sept. 29, during Family Weekend. (Photo courtesy of Elise Bean)

On Saturday, Sept. 29, during Family Weekend, Elise Bean ’78 is offering a WESeminar titled: “Congress’ Constitutional Duty to Investigate: One Senator Who Got It Right.” The Washington co-director of the Levin Center at Wayne State University Law School, Bean is the author of Financial Exposure: Carl Levin’s Senate Investigations into Finance and Tax Abuse.

At a time when congressional investigations have taken on added urgency in American politics, Bean offers an insider’s portrait of how the world of congressional oversight operates. Drawing on more than 30 years on Capitol Hill, the last 15 at the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations working for Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), Bean will explain how Congressional oversight investigations can be a powerful tool for uncovering facts, building bipartisan consensus, and fostering change, using actual Levin inquiries as proof. She will describe Levin-led investigations from 1999 to 2014 into money laundering, offshore tax abuse, and banks behaving badly; explain how, despite rampant partisanship and dysfunction, they achieved policy reforms; and invite the public to demand fact-based, bipartisan, high-quality oversight from the next Congress. The seminar, sponsored by the Wesleyan Lawyers Association, will take place in the Taylor Meeting Room (108) of the Usdan University Center.

She discusses her work in this Q&A with the Connection—and offers tips for better bipartisan communication.

Q: You were a government major at Wesleyan. Was there one perspective, class, or piece of advice at Wesleyan that you found particularly helpful in your career path?

A: While majoring in government at Wesleyan, I was inspired by a course called the Moral Basis of Politics, taught by [Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Professor in the College of Social Studies] Don Moon. A mix of politics and philosophy, it examined the interplay of values, governments, and the public. While the subject matter seemed theoretical in class, it took on a lot more substance when I left school for a semester and worked as an intern in the U.S. House of Representatives, getting my first real look at how politics play out in Washington. It was then that I decided to accept the challenge of becoming a public servant fighting for better government. It’s been a wild ride ever since, full of fun, surprises, hard work, and deep satisfaction.

Wesleyan in the News

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

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The Wall Street Journal: ‘The Lost Education of Horace Tate’ Review: Civil Rights for Schoolchildren

President Michael S. Roth reviews Emory Professor Vanessa Siddle Walker’s new book on a previously “unseen network of black educators” across the South, who fought heroically “over many decades for equality and justice.”

2. Forbes: Top 25 Liberal Arts Colleges 2018

Wesleyan is featured among Forbes’ annual list of the top liberal arts colleges in the country.

3. Hartford Courant: Connecticut Had Significant Role in Tumultuous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago

Professor of History Ronald Schatz, a Chicago native, is quoted giving context to this important historical event.

Recent Alumni News

  1. Smithsonian Magazine: “How Chuck Berry’s Cadillac and His Guitar, Maybellene, Came to the Smithsonian”

  2. African American History Museum Curator Kevin Strait ’97 recalls the day he met the famous musician, beginning his tale with, “I wasn’t nervous until we were about five minutes away from arriving at Chuck Berry’s home.”

2. NPR.org: “Wattstax: The Benefit Concert From The Past That Echoes Into The Present”

NPR All Things Considered Host Audie Cornish interviews Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Garcia ’88 (of the podcast, What’s Good with Stretch and Bobbito) about a 1968 concert in L.A. that Garcia says, “resonates in a way in 2018 and will beyond….” The conversation notes political and social comparisons to present times, as well as the effect of the Wattstax music on early hip-hop.

3. New York Times: Opinion: “Can Ultimate Frisbee Save the World?”

This essay, by Jennifer Finney Boylan ’80, considers the organization, Ultimate Peace, which teaches Israeli and Palestinian youth the game of Ultimate Frisbee—a self-refereed sport offering lessons in conflict resolution. Boylan also mentions David Garfield ’80, who was active in Wesleyan Ultimate Frisbee, and talks with Wes Ultimate Frisbee alumnus Steve Mooney ’80, who is involved with Ultimate Peace.

4. KCRW: Art Talk Podcast: “Vincent Fecteau [’91] at Matthew Marks: Host Hunter Drohojowska-Philp Likes the Soft Power of the Bay Area Artist

“Vincent Fecteau is a master of disguise. His sculptures, about the size of a carry-on suitcase, are poised on clean white pedestals in the perfectly proportioned Matthew Marks Gallery in Hollywood. At first glance, or worse, in a jpeg online, they appear to be cast of some sort of dulled metal. That is Fecteau’s sleight of hand.” Fecteau received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005 and a MacArthur “Genius Grant” in 2016.

5. Broadway World: “The Tank Presents ‘In the Penal Colony’ By Miranda Haymon [’16]”

“Adapted from Franz Kafka’s short story of the same name, In the Penal Colony is created and directed by Princess Grace Award/Honoraria-winning theater artist Miranda Haymon (Roundabout Theatre Company Directing Fellow); it investigates the performance of power, patriarchy, and punishment.” Also working on the production: Rose Beth Johnson-Brown ’18 (associate producer), Zack Lobel ’19 (lighting designer), and Tekla Monson ’18 (set designer).

 

 

 

 

Boyden ’95 Awarded NEA Fellowship for Poetry Translations

Ian Boyden ’95, an artist, writer, translator, and curator, recently received a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Translation Fellowship to continue his work on translating the poetry of Tibetan writer Tsering Woeser. (Photo credit: Gavia Boyden)

Ian Boyden ’95 received an NEA Literature Translation Fellowship of $12,500, one of only 25 such grants for 2019, to support the new translation of poetry and prose from 17 countries into English.

Boyden’s fellowship will support his work translating from the poetry collection Minority, written in Chinese by Tibetan poet Tsering Woeser, considered one of China’s most respected living Tibetan writers. In 2013, John Kerry of the U.S. State Department honored Woeser with an International Women of Courage Award. In 2010, the International Women’s Media Foundation had given her a Courage in Journalism Award.

Boyden, an artist, writer, curator, and translator, has been working on her poems since 2016. His translation of “The Spider of Yabzhi Taktser ” was declared the most-read translation of a Tibetan poem in 2017, the NEA reported in their press release.

Tsering Woeser, born in Tibet in 1966 and “reeducated” during the Cultural Revolution, writes poems that explore themes of alienation and loss of heritage. Her poetry also confronts the wave of self-immolation in Tibetan society that began in the last decade. Translating these works, Boyden notes, is “particularly complex, as Woeser is conveying the Tibetan experience using Chinese language.”

Director Becker ’12 Brings bad things happen here to Edinburgh Fringe

Lila Rachel Becker ’12, an MFA student at the University of Iowa, directed playwright Eric Marlin’s bad things happen here at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this summer. (Photo by Ryan Borque)

This summer, bad things happen here, a play directed by Lila Rachel Becker ’12, was featured at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

An MFA student at the University of Iowa, Becker has been paired to work with Eric Marlin—whom she calls “an incredible playwright, a brilliant collaborator”—since she began her graduate work in 2017. She is drawn, she says, to “incendiary” plays—and after producing this one in Iowa last November, a few professors encouraged the partnership to take it around to festivals. Noting that the spare design of bad things happen here made it easy to bring across the ocean to the eclectic theater spaces of the Fringe Festival, Becker adds: “Edinburgh is this huge platform for international theater artists. We were both particularly excited about that aspect of it.”

SHOFCO Recipient of Hilton Humanitarian Prize

Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09, center, are directors of Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in Kibera, Kenya. On Aug. 22, SHOFCO received the Hilton Humanitarian Prize by the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. SHOFCO’s mission is to build urban promise from urban poverty. (Photo by Audrey Hall)

Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a grassroots nonprofit organization directed by Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09, has been awarded the 2018 Conrad N. Hilton Foundation’s Hilton Humanitarian Prize. Selected by a distinguished panel of independent international jurors, SHOFCO will receive $2 million in unrestricted funding, joining 22 other notable organizations that have received the Hilton Humanitarian Prize over the last two decades.

Based in Kibera—one of the largest slums in Africa—SHOFCO was founded by Odede as a teenager in 2004 with 20 cents and a soccer ball. The organization describes its mission as catalyzing large-scale transformation in urban slums by providing community-wide critical services and advocacy platforms, as well as education and leadership development specifically for women and girls. In 2007, Odede met fellow Wesleyan student Posner, who was studying abroad. Together they devised the model that SHOFCO utilizes today.

Ashkin ’11, Delany ’09, Roginski ’87 Confront White Supremacy through Dance

Brittany Delany ‘09 and Sarah Ashkin ‘11, codirectors of GROUND SERIES dance collective, rehearse for task, “depicting the hierarchy, monstrosity, and sexual tension imbued in the weaponized white woman.” Sue Roginski ’87 served as dramaturg.

Sarah Ashkin ’11, Brittany Delany ’09, and Sue Roginski ’87 premiered an evening-length dance work, task, on Aug. 17–18, as part of the summer season at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Calif., under the umbrella of GROUND SERIES dance collective. Ashkin and Delany, codirectors of GROUND SERIES since 2012, choreographed and performed the piece, with Roginski providing dramaturgical direction. As codirectors, Ashkin and Delany describe their work as  “collaborating in using dance performance as a tool of embodied intervention and research.”

“With our shared background in critical thinking, cultural studies, and artistic risk-taking fostered by the Wesleyan Dance Department, we wanted to create a work that responded to the current political moment,” Delany says. “The culmination of our collaboration, task, is a confrontation of white supremacy through dance performance.” Treating the theater as a site in this work, Ashkin and Delany continued their research and presentations of site-specific performance with the new challenge to remap and reframe the stage as a racialized space.

In the aftermath of their premiere, the three reflected on the experience for the Connection: 

Q:  What was it like to work with other Wes grads—those you knew on campus, those from different eras. Are there some commonalities, some ways of communicating, some understanding of dance as art and dance in the world, that you all have in common?

Butler ’71: Toward a Gentler Death

Katy Butler ’71 . (Photo by Cristina Taccone)

In Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, a New York Times Notable Book of 2013, award-winning journalist Katy Butler ’71 recounted shepherding her parents, Professor Emeritus of History Jeffrey Butler and artist Valerie Butler, through their final illnesses. When Katy’s father suffered a stroke and later was given a pacemaker, the family had no idea that the device would extend his physical life years past his cognitive ability to enjoy it or to function independently. After his death, Katy’s mother declined open heart surgery and chose instead to meet her own death head-on. From this experience Katy Butler presents her provocative thesis: Modern medicine, if allowed a single-minded focus on maximum longevity, will often create more suffering than it prevents. She has spoken on improving doctor-patient communication at Harvard Medical School and numerous hospitals around the country. Her upcoming book is The Art of Dying Well: a Practical Guide to a Good End of Life (Scribner, Jan. 2019).

In this Q&A, which ran in the May 2018 issue of Wesleyan Magazine, Butler discusses health care, modern medicine, Medicare, and more.

Q: How would you characterize the American health care system?

A: Absolutely brilliant with fixable problems—infectious diseases, drug overdoses, car accidents—where throwing many tests and treatments at someone has tremendous results. But when confronted by complex health problems that aren’t amenable to a quick fix, this kind of “fast medicine” can be pretty disastrous.

Q: Why is this?

A: Our insurance system, known as fee-for-service, pays physicians on a piecework basis—for volume, not quality. We don’t reward them financially for taking extra time with a patient who has multiple problems that need to be managed but can’t be fixed—the kind of problems that redouble as people get older.

Q: How would we judge quality in health care?

A: Quality should be defined as actually improving the patient’s life. Traditionally, medicine’s goals have been to improve function, to relieve suffering, and to prolong life. Currently, the hyper focus within medicine is on prolonging life—which also happens to be the best-compensated option. We rate surgeons on whether a patient survives for 30 days after surgery; but we don’t track whether that patient—especially an older, fragile patient—ends up so disabled by the stress that they have to move to a nursing home. And that happens quite a bit.

Q: Why do we not discuss these concerns with our doctors?

A: The communication between doctors and patients around end-of-life questions is absolutely terrible. It’s almost as if we need a foreign-language phrase book. For instance, if the doctor says, “I want to talk to you about your goals of care,” the patient might well not understand that the doctor is probably saying: “The time you have ahead of you appears to be limited, and, given that, how do you want to spend your time? Do you want to take a trip, or see a child graduate? Can medicine help you achieve this? And, if not, what are some achievable goals?” Patients can be equally tongue-tied about what matters most to them.