Accelerating the Climate Revolution, Life on Venus Discussed at “Where on Earth Are We Going?” Symposium
by Olivia Drake •
The 18th annual “Where on Earth Are We Going?” Symposium of the Robert F. Schumann Institute of the College of the Environment was held on Oct. 16 and 17 in a virtual format as part of Homecoming and Family Weekend events.
by Olivia Drake •
A film directed by Joel Gershon ’94 will make its world premiere on Oct. 21.
The documentary, titled “Cirque du Cambodia,” is about two teenagers from Cambodia who learned how to become circus performers at a special school for the arts near their home village. They became determined to become the first Cambodians to take the stage with Cirque du Soleil after seeing one of their videos. The two of them moved across the world to Montreal, where Cirque du Soleil is headquartered, in order to attend the world’s most elite circus school after getting full scholarships there. The film follows them on their journey as they try to reach the top of the circus world.
Gershon started work on this film in 2011.
“I filmed the two Cambodian main characters for more than six years as they continued to try to fulfill their dreams, shooting in four countries. The film features three spoken languages,” Gershon said.
The film will have its first screening as part of the United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF) on Oct. 21, and it will be broadcast for free for California residents. Watch the film’s trailer online here.
by Annie Roach •
In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.
Makenna Goodman ’06, The Shame (Milkweed, 2020)
In a letter to her children that she writes in case of an untimely death, Makenna Goodman’s protagonist Alma muses, “My great fear, which has kept me up nights for years, is that you will have to live without a mother when you need one the most.” This sentiment does not stop her from abruptly escaping her rustic Vermont home one night and leaving behind her young children and professor husband in pursuit of a life in New York City. As Alma’s identity crisis unfurls throughout her road trip to Brooklyn, she gradually reveals to the reader the circumstances of her departure in hushed, urgent prose.
The development of the narrative mirrors the progression of a long drive: at times the story feels electrifying and precipitous, at other times dreamlike and ponderous. Goodman manages to create a character who is desperate, imaginative, and lost, evoking an image of motherhood that is Elena Ferrante-adjacent in its subtle rage and self-doubt. Goodman’s novel also ties issues of the female consciousness to overlying sociopolitical systems and modern-day capitalism, making her work revolutionary in the world of female-authored literature. The Shame feels ultra-relevant in its interrogation of the contemporary female psyche and the pressures of marriage, motherhood, and career.
Films, Shows by Ristov ’21, Heliczer ’93, Stone ’05 and Stone ’05, Okun ’22, Zosherafatain ’10 Released, Screened at Festivals
by Olivia Drake •
A film directed by Leon Ristov ’21 was selected to be screened on demand during the Sarajevo Film Festival Aug. 14–21. The 12-minute piece, titled I’m Calling Your Father, is among only 10 films selected for the festival’s TeenArena program.
The film tells the story of Damjan, a 16-year-old who gets jumped by neighborhood hooligans. Damjan’s hard-headed mother comes up with a plan to protect him.
Ristov’s film was supported through a Gordon Career Center Summer Grant. Rent the film online here.
A film directed by Thérèse Heliczer ’93 will make its world debut at the New Haven Documentary Film Festival Aug. 22–23. Titled The Invisible Father, the feature-length documentary focuses on beat poet and experimental filmmaker Piero Heliczer, who helped shape “new American cinema” in the 1960s.
Through interviews with family and friends, found photos, and archival footage, Thérèse Heliczer explores her father’s artistic legacy and the creative life of a man she never knew.
A web series created by twin comedians Todd ’05 and Adam Stone ’05 (also known as Stone and Stone) was accepted into the Chain Film Festival and The Big Apple Film Festival in New York City Aug. 18-31.
The show, titled Going Both Ways, features Adam, who recently married and had a child, and Todd, who recently came out as gay. Going Both Ways explores their two worlds–of new parenthood and new sexual identification–and the joys, challenges, and humor that come with both lifestyles.
A screenplay excerpt by Stephanie Okun ’22 is featured as part of the virtual Irvington Arts Incubator Series this month.
Cookie Cutter follows Debbie, a 40-something who recently left a fulfilling, flourishing career in journalism to take care of her children and now must navigate the consequences of that choice. Debbie got married straight out of college, but she’s a different woman now.
Okun wrote the play last semester at Wesleyan while taking the Advanced Playwriting course taught by Assistant Professor of the Practice in Theater Edwin Sanchez. Sanchez narrates the film, and Alex O’Shea ’19, Bryce Jenkins ‘21, and six others act in the play.
In addition, Tony Zosherafatain ’10 is the director of a forthcoming documentary series called Trans in Trumpland.
Trans in Trumpland investigates the impact of anti-trans policies on the lives of four transgender Americans navigating life under President Donald Trump’s administration. Told through a road trip narrative across remote parts of the United States, the film explores the transgender experience in politically hostile states.
Production was completed in 2019, and the film will premiere on streaming platforms next fall.
Zosherafatain is the co-founder of TransWave Films, a New York City-based production company.
by Olivia Drake •
On Aug. 18, Wesleyan faculty, staff, and alumni presented a WESeminar titled “Hidden Treasures.”
The seminar focused on the holdings of the Dietrich American Foundation on long-term loan at Wesleyan, which includes letters, writings, and manuscripts by Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington, among others. All documents are available to Wesleyan students and faculty through Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives.
“One of the hallmarks of the experience of studying at a liberal arts college is the opportunity to interact directly with material objects of the past—documents, rare books, artworks, cultural objects—in ways that are often only reserved for graduate students and faculty at other institutions,” said the event’s moderator Suzy Taraba, director of Special Collections and Archives.
Guest speakers included H. Richard Dietrich III ’92, president of the Dietrich American Foundation; Morrie Heckscher ’62, curator emeritus of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Demetrius Eudell, professor of history and dean of Wesleyan’s Social Sciences Division. Richard Dietrich’s father, H. Richard Dietrich II ’60, was the founder of the Dietrich American Foundation and initiated the loan to Wesleyan.
The WESeminar concluded with a Q&A session with participants.
by Olivia Drake •
In honor of the centennial anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, when women won the right to vote, New York City will welcome a Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument to its grounds on Aug. 26.
Designed and sculpted by nationally-known artist Meredith Bergmann ’76, the statue depicts and honors women’s rights pioneers Sojourner Truth, Susan B. Anthony, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
The statue will be located in Central Park and will be the first statue depicting real women in the park’s 166-year history. Currently, there are 23 statues of real men in Central Park; women are “represented” through fictional characters like Alice in Wonderland, Mother Goose, and Juliet (with Romeo).
“Like the women I’m portraying, my work is meant to raise questions and to provoke thought,” Bergmann said. “My hope is that all people, but especially young people, will be inspired by this image of women of different races, different religious backgrounds, and different economic statuses working together to change the world.”
Bergmann, who also created the Boston Women’s Memorial and the September 11th Memorial at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, depicts the women working together at a table, each representing an essential element of activism: Sojourner Truth is speaking, Susan B. Anthony is organizing, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is writing.
by Olivia Drake •
Last March, as the COVID-19 pandemic began to plague the United States, Dr. Amy Fogelman ’97 became engrossed in the country’s lack of understanding about the virus, and even more so in the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE) for healthcare workers.
“At certain hospitals in Massachusetts masks were required, but in others, physicians were told that they were not allowed to wear masks, even if they personally supplied them, because administrators were afraid that the masks would ‘scare’ the patients,” Fogelman recalls. “I watched as my colleagues on social media shared their fears for their lives, and their patients’ lives, but many did not feel empowered to speak up and feared for their jobs if they did.”
As the owner of her own medico-legal consulting firm, Fogelman felt an obligation to speak up for colleagues who couldn’t. So she joined the grassroots, non-partisan, physician-led advocacy group COVID-19 Action Coalition (COVAC-MA) to help advocate for public health measures that will reduce the spread of the virus and save lives. COVAC-MA, a 501c4 nonprofit entity, is comprised of Massachusetts physicians from diverse specialties and employment settings, students, and civic, community, and business leaders working to advocate for urgent government, business, and community actions.
by Olivia Drake •
On July 20, recent alumnus Eunes Harun ’20 was chosen to join the first cohort of the Governor’s Innovation Fellowship (CTGIF) team.
CTGIF offers ambitious, high-achieving recent college graduates the opportunity to work at top, innovative companies developing their career while working together as a community of fellows, growing together professionally and personally to create a cohort of talent, camaraderie, and growth in the State of Connecticut. The fellowship comes with a $5,000 award.
Harun, a government and economics double major, will be joining McKinsey & Company in Stamford, Conn., as a business analyst and will be participating in the CTGIF program simultaneously. As a fellow, he will gain access to mentorship, curated professional development, and a community of similarly-driven peers.
“I’m most looking forward to the opportunity to dive right into the greater Stamford community and build connections with business leaders,” Harun said.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Harun’s start date with McKinsey has been pushed back to December, though the CTGIF programming will begin in August.
For Harun, staying in the State of Connecticut following college was a top priority.
“I’ve grown up all my life in Hamden, Conn., and after going through the Hamden public school system, I was on the college search and it was a priority of mine to study in a state that would open the door to many career opportunities. I realized that Connecticut and Wesleyan would provide exactly that,” he said. “Over the last few years, I’ve come to love Connecticut and the community, opportunities, and climate it affords its residents.”
by Olivia Drake •
On July 26, Los Angeles artist Michael Gittes ’10 was featured on NBC Nightly News in a “There’s Good News Tonight” segment.
For an entire month, Gittes worked on a project titled “Strangers to No One,” which involved painting 1,800 flowers. He donated the works to every employee at the Interfaith Medical Center in New York City, a nonprofit community hospital, to show his appreciation for frontline health care workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
“If you love somebody, you give them a flower,” Gittes said in the interview.
Donning a Wesleyan University sweatshirt on the show, Gittes demonstrated how he painted the flowers using a syringe as opposed to a paint brush.
“I … felt powerless and frustrated,” Gittes said. “I can’t paint one for everyone and everywhere, but I could paint one for everyone at one hospital.”
by Editorial Staff •
With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States in February, and as doctors and scientists intensified their search for ways to stymie the virus, it quickly became clear to Michele Gershberg ’95 that her already challenging job was about to get even more complicated.
As the U.S. health editor for the Reuters news agency, Gershberg leads a team of eight reporters covering health and scientific innovation, as well as the pharmaceutical and healthcare industries. “It runs the whole gamut,” Gershberg said. “We are part of a larger global team of health and pharma industry reporters, with reporters in London, Paris, Zurich, and Beijing, so we really work together very closely to try to tell the global story.”
by Olivia Drake •
On June 19, Anthony Price ’20, a government and American studies double major, was featured in Complete College America’s #20for20Grads Campaign. CCA selected outstanding graduates from around the country who come from diverse backgrounds—from first-generation college students to parents, returning adults, and more.
During his time at Wesleyan, Price was the recipient of a 2020 Fulbright award and a Campus Compact Newman Civic Fellowship, and served as a Congressional Black Caucus Intern in Washington, D.C. He’s also the founder and executive director of Be The Change Venture, a Cleveland, Ohio-based nonprofit that teaches young people networking skills to support their career development. In the future, Price plans to earn a law degree, work for the Department of Education, and eventually run for office.