Students

Theater Department Produces, Livestreams The Method Gun

method gun

The cast and crew of the Theater Department’s production of The Method Gun answered questions from the public following their livestreamed performance on May 2. Speaking (highlighted in yellow) is the show’s director Katie Pearl, assistant director of theater.

The shows must go on.

Rather than allowing the COVID-19 pandemic to force a final curtain call on theatrical productions, Wesleyan’s Theater Department pivoted to an online format. On May 1, and again on May 2, the department offered livestreamed performances of The Method Gun, featuring 10 student-actors.

A replay of the Saturday performance is available for viewing on The Method Gun @ Wes website.

After countless hours of line rehearsals, overcoming technical frustrations, and learning how to act and teach theater in a virtual world, show director and Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl breathed a sigh of relief during the Thursday night dress rehearsal.

“I almost can’t believe what we pulled off,” Pearl said. “It was super down-to-the-wire. We were cutting and rewriting scenes up until the last minute and wrestling with livestreaming software, but it all came together on Thursday. For the first time, it really worked. And all of us just wept afterwards. Because we’d made a thing. We’d transcended what felt like an impossible situation, and stayed committed to each other and the process to create something that really meant what we wanted it to mean.”

Wesleyan Student Assembly Commends Faculty on Distance Learning Efforts

wes fest andy

After the Wesleyan Student Assembly commended Wesleyan faculty for their efforts transitioning to distance learning, Andy Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, penned a responding resolution, expressing gratitude to the students.

When President Michael Roth announced in mid-March that Wesleyan would suspend in-person classes for the remainder of the spring semester because of the increasing threat of the COVID-19 pandemic, faculty had less than two weeks to prepare their courses for distance learning before classes resumed after spring break. Trying to recreate the immersive Wesleyan classroom experience in a digital format presented a variety of challenges, particularly for faculty who had never taught online previously.

It’s become clear over the last month that faculty have been able to rise to those challenges, and the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) formally recognized their efforts on April 19 with the unanimous passage of a resolution “Commending the Wesleyan Faculty for their Efforts in the Transition Towards Distance Learning.” Chair Jake Kwon ’21 and vice-chair Ben Garfield ’22 of the WSA’s Academic Affairs Committee sponsored the resolution in order to recognize the faculty’s hard work and advocacy for students.

“Faculty are going through a lot of similar extenuating circumstances as students are” in transitioning to distance learning, said Kwon. “This has definitely proven difficult, and I wanted to make sure that the faculty knew how appreciative the students were of their efforts, and that in fact they are not unnoticed.”

The resolution recognizes “the faculty’s efforts to maintain the integrity of Wesleyan’s liberal arts education.” It expresses appreciation for “the empathetic faculty who have provided accommodations for students encountering various challenges surrounding the transition to distance learning and the determined professors who aim to continue providing learning opportunities while being conscious of the various potential stressors that could befall the student body and seek to alleviate additional stress from academic work.”

Kwon noted that while the WSA has passed resolutions in solidarity with many groups on campus, “I do not think we have addressed the entire faculty before in a resolution.”

“Many of my professors have been very understanding about deadlines, and many prioritize student health over academia, which I am so thankful for,” Kwon said of his personal experience with the transition to distance learning. “Some have changed testing formats to accommodate online learning, and many professors had to change their entire course design to allow students to learn at home. For me, I have been fortunate to remain healthy amid the crisis, so I have been able to focus on academia, but it is nice to know that I have a safety net to fall onto if I ever get sick as we finish off the semester.”

Faculty have responded to the resolution with deep gratitude. Sean McCann, chair of the faculty, said that at their next meeting on May 20, faculty leadership plans to ask the faculty to endorse a responding resolution written by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, Professor of Classical Studies. It states: “We, the Wesleyan faculty, collectively express our gratitude to you, our students. During the immense upheaval in all our lives and our difficult transition to online teaching and learning, you have been patient, thoughtful, good-humored, and responsive. We deeply appreciate your good will and engagement, and we will do our best to ensure that you continue to get the excellent education you deserve.”

“Personally, I was deeply touched by the WSA resolution, and I know many other Wes faculty were as well,” said McCann. “It was such a very kind and thoughtful thing to do.

“In general, I think many of us have found teaching-by-Zoom a trying experience, and a pale substitute for in-person learning. But I’ve also just been very grateful for the opportunity to work with students, even if virtually. Seeing them pop up on the computer screen is one of the best parts of my day and always a mood lifter—very welcome indeed in a time that can seem so bleak and isolating.”

Bill Johnston, John E. Andrus Professor of History and academic secretary, echoed this sentiment. “I tell my students that my meetings with them are the highlights of my week, and I really mean that. Many write to say that they do find the virtual classes challenging, but I very much appreciate the efforts they are making to learn through Zoom meetings, emailed papers, and Moodle posts. Not perfect, but it is working.”

McCann noted that the faculty will also be expressing their gratitude to staff, administrators, and librarians through a tandem resolution.

Ngodup ’20, Joshi ’20, Khun ’20 Inducted Into ASBMB Honor Society

For demonstrating exceptional achievement in academics, undergraduate research, and science outreach, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology inducted Tenzin Ngodup ’20, Meera Joshi ’20, and Charya Khun ’20 into the ASBMB Honor Society, ΧΩΛ.

ΧΩΛ recognizes exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors pursuing degrees in the molecular life sciences at colleges or universities. To be eligible, undergraduate nominees must be members of an ASBMB student chapter, and maintain a minimum of a 3.4 GPA on a 4.0 scale.

Nominations may be submitted by either a faculty ASBMB member or by the student member.

Ngodup, Joshi, and Khun are among only 56 students from around the country who were inducted into the honor society in 2020. All three are members of the Mukerji Lab, which is managed by Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

The Mukerji Lab research uses spectroscopic tools to investigate challenging problems in biology by exploring the structure-function relationship of biomolecules.

Wesleyan Investment Group Takes 1st Place in Adirondack Cup

Adirondack Cup 2020

The Wesleyan Investment Group outperformed the Russel 2000 index with a portfolio return of 44% higher than their market benchmark. The team won The Adirondack Cup based on receiving the highest return on their initial investment.

The student-run Wesleyan Investment Group (WIG) is celebrating a first-place victory in a six-month-long collegiate investment contest that concluded April 9.

Despite the COVID-19 epidemic’s detrimental impact to the stock market, WIG managed to garner a 27.04% return in the 2019–20 Adirondack Cup, a stock-picking contest sponsored by the advisor to The Adirondack Small Cap Fund (ADKSX). Wesleyan competed against 22 other institutions in New England and New York.

Each student team managed a hypothetical $1 million portfolio consisting of five small cap equities. Team members studied the performance of more than 100 businesses and predicted which ones would perform the best between October 2019 and April 2020. To encourage a long-term focus, teams are only allowed to change their portfolio once during the competition.

Vizgan ’21 Honored with Chambliss Medal by American Astronomical Society

David Vizgan '21 was awarded a Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society for his poster presentation at the January meeting.

David Vizgan ’21 was awarded a Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society.

Astronomy and Physics major David Vizgan ’21 has expanded his interest of astrophysics to the far corners of the universe.

By using emissions of a “forbidden” line of ionized carbon [CII] in simulated galaxies, he’s trying to measure mass and other physical properties of young galaxies over 12.7 billion light years away which populated the universe shortly after the universe’s “dark ages”.

For his outstanding research poster presentation on the subject at the most recent American Astronomical Society meeting, David Vizgan ’21 received a Chambliss Astronomy Achievement Student Award.

Vizgan is one of 15 undergraduates students (out of 355 total entrants) to be honored with a Chambliss medal or certificate. The poster presentations were made during the 235th AAS meeting in Honolulu, Hawaii, Jan. 4–8.

At the meeting, Vizgan presented the research he began in summer 2019 at the Cosmic Dawn Center (DAWN) in Copenhagen as part of a NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates. He’s continued this study since returning last August.

Vizgan also is interested in determining the evolution of galaxies from looking at them at different redshift, or distance away from us measured by wavelengths. Galaxies at high-redshift are some of the youngest objects in the universe.

81 Students from the Class of 2020 Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

phi beta kappa

Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society is the ninth oldest chapter in the country.

Eighty-one seniors have been elected into Wesleyan University’s Gamma Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society during the 2020 spring semester.

They join 15 other seniors elected during the 2019 fall semester.

To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of his or her major. The student also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations and must have achieved a GPA of 93 or above.

The emblem contains the three Greek letters “Phi,” “Beta,” and “Kappa,” which are the initials of the Greek motto, Philosophia Biou Kybernetes, or “the love of wisdom is the guide of life.”

The 2020 inductees include:

Kate Awalt-Conley, Inayah Bashir, Kiara Chanel Benn, Maya Bernstein-Schalet, Kisanet Bezabih, Julia Boland, Erica Buckingham, Jonathan Canfield, Chelsea Cantos, Jules Matthew Chabot, Edward Chapman, Ruth Chartoff, Yin-Tung Chen, Andrew Daggon, Lillian Davis, Lucy de Lotbiniere, Maya Roth Donovan, Sarafina Fabris-Green, Gabriella Feder, Stephen Ferruolo, Andrew Fleming, Luke Forsthoefel, Nathaniel Gillman, Naomi Glascock, and Julia Glassman.

Ramos-Jordán ’21 Named Beinecke Scholar

katerina

Katerina Ramos-Jordán ’21 is the first Wesleyan student to receive a Beinecke Scholarship since 2007.

Katerina Ramos-Jordán ’21 is the recipient of a Beinecke Scholarship, which will support her graduate career and her academic goal of becoming a cultural studies scholar.

She’s among 18 college undergraduates nationwide to receive the honor, and she’s the first Wesleyan student to receive the award in 13 years.

Ramos-Jordán will use her Beinecke Scholarship to explore the connection of nature, literature, art, and community in the Caribbean.

“Today, in a moment of ecological, racial, and political crisis, I envision my artistic, scholarly, and community projects to cultivate understandings and be a part of Caribbean creolité ways of reading,” she said. “I will specifically look for metaphors that use nature as an imaginary and semantic resource that portrays the symbiotic intimacies between the other and the land.”

Bashir, Lezhanskyy Receive Watson Fellowships

As recipients of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, two Wesleyan seniors will explore their academic aspirations internationally through a yearlong personal project.

Inayah Bashier

Inayah Bashir ’20

Inayah Bashir ’20 and Luka Lezhanskyy ’20 are among 47 Watson Fellows selected from 153 finalists. This year’s class comes from 20 states and eight countries, and exhibits a broad range of academic specialties, socio-economic backgrounds, and project diversity.

Bashir, a College of Social Studies major with a Writing Certificate, plans to explore the histories, stories, and teachings of African spirituality through her project titled “African Spirituality: Obscured Foundations of the Diaspora.”

“In a world dominated by Abrahamic religions, African spirituality has been stigmatized by tropes of demonic practice, witchcraft, and black magic. Yet African spirituality has always served as a form of healing, protection, and resistance across the African diaspora,” Bashir explained in her project proposal. “Ultimately, I hope to understand the spiritualities that served as the foundation of my ancestors’ cultures and traditions.”

Bashir hopes to travel to South Africa, Ghana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago; however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, travel may be restricted.

Luke Lezhanskyy

Luka Lezhanskyy ’20

Lezhanskyy, an English major, hopes to spend his Watson year studying how NGOs and communities combat child trafficking in hot spots around the world through his project “The Global Campaign Against Child Trafficking.”

“An estimated 5.5 million children are trafficked worldwide. I will collaborate with NGOs engaged in anti-trafficking work in nations with a high prevalence of child trafficking,” Lezhanskyy explained in his project proposal. “In so doing I hope to understand the causes of this pernicious business, and the solutions devised to counter it.”

Lezhanskyy had planned to travel to Nepal, Romania, Senegal, and Brazil for his study, but also due to the coronavirus pandemic his travel may be restricted.

Through one-of-a-kind programs and over 100 global partnerships, the Watson Fellowship provides students with personal, professional, and cultural opportunities that expand their vision, test and develop their potential, and build their confidence and perspective to be more humane and effective leaders on a global scale.

Watson Fellows are selected from 40 private colleges and university partners across the United States. They receive $36,000 for 12 months of travel and college loan assistance as needed. Afterwards, they’ll join a community of peers who provide a lifetime of support and inspiration. Nearly 3,000 Watson Fellows have been named since the inaugural class in 1969.

Watson Fellows have gone on to become leaders in their fields, including CEOs of major corporations, college presidents, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar Award winners, Pulitzer Prize awardees, artists, diplomats, doctors, entrepreneurs, faculty, journalists, lawyers, politicians, researchers, and inspiring influencers around the world.

In 1961, the Watson Foundation was created as a charitable trust in the name of Thomas J. Watson Sr., best known for building IBM.

NESCAC Announces Winter All-Academic, All-Sportsmanship Honorees

Andrew Schwartz

Andrew Schwartz ’20, of the men’s swimming and diving team, was named to the NESCAC Winter All-Sportsmanship Team. (Photos by Steve McLaughlin)

Coleen Castro,

Women’s hockey player Coleen Castro ’20 was named to the NESCAC Winter All-Academic Team.

Wesleyan’s winter athletic teams put a total of 80 student-athletes on the 2019–20 New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Winter All-Academic Team, while eight earned a spot on the 2019–20 NESCAC All-Sportsmanship Team.

In order to earn a spot on the All-Academic Team, a student-athlete must have reached sophomore academic standing and be a varsity letter winner with a minimum grade point average (GPA) of 3.50 or equivalent on a 4.0 scale. Transfer students are eligible as long as they have completed at least one year of study at the institution.

Wesleyan ranked seventh out of 11 schools with its 80 honorees.