Members of the 2019 TEDxWesleyanU team gathered on the TEDx stage in Beckham Hall following the successful conference. Tickets for the event sold out within 12 hours.
On April 27, seven prominent thought leaders including Wesleyan alumni, two medical doctors, and local politicians shared their ideas during the second annual TEDxWesleyanU Conference held in Beckham Hall.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience.
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Two Wesleyan students are the recipients of the Friends of the Wesleyan Library’s third annual Undergraduate Research Prize.
Emma Leuchten ’19
Isaac Klimasmith ’20
Emma Leuchten ’19, an anthropology and religion double major, received the first place prize for her senior essay, “Anthropology Beyond Belief: Navigating Dreams and Reality in the Burmese Weikza Tradition.” Leuchten based the paper on fieldwork she conducted in Myanmar during a semester abroad. Her advisor was Elizabeth Traube, professor of anthropology.
The essay explores quests for power and knowledge in a contemporary Burmese wizardry tradition. Drawing from personal interviews with weikza (wizard-saints), devotees, and skeptics, Leuchten examines the tensions that have arisen between this tradition and orthodox Buddhist institutions in the post-colonial religious and political landscapes of Myanmar.
“I write against the anthropological impulse to study the symbolic or cultural value of religious figures and experiences—the tendency to explain ‘what’s really going on’ beneath a spiritual event,” Leuchten said. “Beginning with the premise that what I’m studying is real, I propose that a rigorous but open exploration of alternate ontologies can work to destabilize the dominant ontological assumptions that sociocultural discourse takes for granted.”
Isaac Klimasmith ’20, a biology major, received the second place prize for his essay, “Waters in the Wilderness and Rivers in the Desert: Irrigation Myths in the History of Early Mormon Agriculture.” Klimasmith wrote this paper while taking the class ENVS 307: The Economy of Nature and Nations, taught by Paul Erickson, associate professor of history; associate professor, environmental studies.
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Wesleyan Mock Trial club competitors gather after their eighth-place finish in their division of a National Championship Tournament.
This year, approximately 740 teams from more than 350 universities across the country competed in tournaments hosted by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). And of those 740 teams, Wesleyan’s Mock Trial Team A placed eighth in the country in the Temple Law Division during the National Championship Tournament on April 7.
The AMTA hosted three rounds of competition for the 5,300 participating college students: Regionals, the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS), and the National Championship.
Wesleyan’s three teams—A, B, and C—qualified for the ORCS tournament leading up to Nationals. And for the first time in Wesleyan’s history, teams A and B both earned a bid in the National competition.
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Lizzie Whitney ’19
Lizzie Whitney ’19, a College of Letters and German studies double major from California, is the recipient of a 2019 DAAD scholarship for study/research in Germany.
The Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, or German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) supports the internationalization of German universities and promotes German studies and the German language abroad. The study scholarship is presented to graduating seniors at the top of their class.
Whitney, who is applying to the University of Konstanz for graduate school, will use her DAAD scholarship to support her studies in comparative literature. The study scholarship also provides students with a monthly stipend plus funds for health insurance and travel costs.
“I’d also like to focus on the creation of a concept of German national identity through literature and literary confrontation with the Other, in whatever form that might be over the past few centuries,” she explained.
Since 1925, more than 1.9 million scholars in Germany and abroad have received DAAD funding.
The 2019-20 Fulbright award winners include, from top left, Jordan Legaspi ’19, Emma Porrazzo ’19, Katelin Murray ’19, Amad Amedy ’19, Stephanie Loui ’14, Hai Lun Tan ’18, and Ulysses Estrada ’17. Not pictured is Ellie Martin ’16, Emma Distler ’19, and Rachel Yanover ’19.
Ten Wesleyan seniors and recent alumni are the recipients of 2019-20 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (ETA) and Fulbright Open Study/Research Awards.
The English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Programs place Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers. ETAs help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. The age and academic level of the students varies by country, ranging from kindergarten to university level.
Applicants for Open Study/Research Awards design their own projects and will typically work with advisors at foreign universities or other institutes of higher education. The study/research awards are available in approximately 140 countries.
Jordan Legaspi ’19 received an ETA to Taiwan. Legaspi is a McNair scholar and a psychology major from California.
Ellie Martin ’16 received an ETA grant to Colombia. She is an anthropology and Hispanic literatures and cultures double major.
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In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.
Wesleyan in the News
1. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan Students Helping Former Prisoners to Gain Job Skills”
Wesleyan Students for Ending Mass Incarceration (SEMI) is a group of students working to help formerly incarcerated individuals acclimate back into society by providing them with job skills. The goal, according to member Asiyah Herrero ’22, is “making re-entry into the workforce a little bit easier. There are usually a lack of resources when people get out of prison, and starting to look for work, especially because there are a lot of jobs that do discriminate or have discriminatory ideas about people who have been in prison.”
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Molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Brandon Case and Professor Manju Hingorani are coauthors of a study published in Nucleic Acids Research in March 2019.
The paper, titled “The ATPase mechanism of UvrA2 reveals the distinct roles of proximal and distal ATPase sites in nucleotide excision repair,” reports new findings on how the UvrA2 protein uses its ATPase activity to probe DNA for damage lesions, such as those caused by UV radiation, and initiate nucleotide excision repair (NER). This DNA repair process corrects tens of thousands of lesions introduced daily into the human genome by UV rays and chemical agents.
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At left, Luke Lezhanskyy ’20, Sam Medrano ’19, Kati Young ’19, Joy Adedokun ’19, Shantel Sosa ’21, Rebeca Martinez ’20, Father Bill Wallace, and Adjunct Professor of Spanish Octavio Flores-Cuadra, gather at a fundraiser for Middletown’s ABC Women’s Center on April 4.
On April 4, students from Wesleyan for Women and Children (WesWAC) attended a fundraiser dinner banquet for ABC Women’s Center at St. Clement’s Castle in Portland, Conn. They were accompanied by University Roman Catholic Chaplain Father Bill Wallace, Adjunct Professor of Spanish Octavio Flores-Cuadra, and several members of the community.
ABC Women’s Center provides free and confidential pregnancy resources and services to women and families in the greater Middletown area. Since the nonprofit doesn’t receive federal funding, all services are supported by individual contributions, donations, and fundraisers.
The banquet’s theme was Strong As She. Proceeds will help ABC with its new initiatives such as group parenting classes.
“Attending the ABC Women’s Center banquet for the first time is one of my Wesleyan highlights,” said WesWAC member Sam Medrano ’19. “The passion, soul, and strength that I witnessed from the women who spoke at this life-affirming event is truly amazing. I’m proud to support a vital Middletown organization that women rely on for free pregnancy services.”
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Wesleyan’s women’s lacrosse team won Little Three victories in 2017 and 2019. (Photo by David Andonian)
On April 3, the women’s lacrosse team defeated Amherst College, clinching a Little Three Championship outright with a thrilling 11-10 win.
Little Three Championships are declared when a varsity team from Wesleyan, Williams, and Amherst defeats the other two rivals. The fierce competition among the schools dates back to at least 1910.
Sydney Prokupek ’21 scored the game-winning goal just seconds into overtime. In addition to the Little Three title, junior Abby Manning ’20 also reached another milestone as she became the fourth player in program history to score 100 career goals.
Wesleyan has now won two Little Three titles outright in the past three seasons.
For complete game details, visit this Wesleyan Athletics press release.
Momi Afelin ’19 and Justin Kim ’19 are recipients of the 2019 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.
Two Wesleyan seniors will spend a year abroad working on purposeful international discoveries as 2019 Thomas J. Watson Fellows.
Momi Afelin ’19 and Justin Kim ’19 are among 41 students from 40 partner institutions across the country to receive the prestigious fellowship. The Watson Fellowship is a rare window after college and pre-career for students to engage their deepest interests on a global scale. Fellows conceive original projects, execute them outside of the United States, and gain personal insight, perspective, and confidence.
Afelin, a biology and neuroscience and behavior double major, will spend her fellowship year working on a project titled “Island Innovation: Embodiment through Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation.” She will embed herself in five island countries in the Pacific and Caribbean including Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago and observe how geographic isolation and unique social structures of island communities demand innovation for survival and success.
Her curiosity in island innovation comes from growing up in Molokai, Hawaii.
“To grow up on an island is to grow up a problem solver,” she said. “I would like to explore how other islanders like myself are harnessing their innovation through social entrepreneurship or social innovation endeavors that address community issues.”
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