Tag Archive for alumni achievements

In Emerging Economies, Siroya ’04 Gives Credit Where It’s Due

By Jim. H. Smith

Shivani Siroya ’04 (center), CEO and founder of Tala, has assembled other Wesleyan women on her team to change the financial lives of those in developing countries—including Lauren Pruneski ’04 (left), director of global communications and public relations, and Bonnie Oliva-Porter ’04 (right), director of global operations. Also at Tala, but not pictured, is Amy Barth Sommerlatt ’04, expansion strategist.

No one has ever questioned Jenipher’s work ethic. For decades, this 65-year-old Kenyan woman has operated a food stall in the central business district of downtown Nairobi. It has given her the wherewithal to support a family of three sons, and she has paid for the vocational school education of each. She is also the leader of a local group of responsible adults who support each other in their efforts to save money.

Yet despite those facts, Jenipher had no credit rating. Like some 2.5 billion people worldwide, she lacked a financial identity, the very thing that traditional banks evaluate when deciding whether to make loans to consumers. Her capacity to borrow money in order to grow her business and improve her life was virtually nonexistent.

She did have one thing going for her, though. Like more than a billion residents of the planet’s emerging markets, she owned a Smartphone that she regularly used for a wide range of activities, from business management to communications with local friends and associates as well as family in Uganda. Three years ago, one of her adult sons encouraged her to download the “app” of a Los Angeles-based company called Tala, and it changed her life.

Hamlish ’16 Representing U.S. at Youth Ag-Summit

Noah Hamlish '16

Noah Hamlish ’16

Noah Hamlish ’16 is one of five delegates representing the U.S. in this year’s Youth Ag-Summit in Brussels. Organized by Crop Science, the summit is a weeklong event that connects youth leaders from 49 countries to brainstorm ideas for agricultural sustainability and tackle global food security issues.

In a feature article in Agrinews, Hamlish recounts the experiences that have spurred his interest in food challenges and farming innovation:

He is a graduate of Wesleyan University and has a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and molecular biology.

“I’m a city boy through and through, but when I got to college, I started to focus a lot on food science and aquatic systems,” he explained. “I am interested in fish and seafood, where they come from, how we produce them and the science that goes along with it.”

Lubell ’98 Honored for Humanitarian Work

David Lubell ’98

David Lubell ’98

David Lubell ’98, founder and executive director of Welcoming America, was recently named the 2017 recipient of the prestigious Charles Bronfman Prize, which “recognizes young humanitarians whose work is inspired by their Jewish values and is of universal benefit to all people.”

Welcoming America is a non-profit organization that helps communities across the United States become inclusive to immigrants and refugees. Created in 2009, the organization has developed an award-winning social entrepreneurship model, using a local approach to ease tensions and build understanding between new and long-time residents. As rapid demographic shifts are changing communities, Lubell’s nationwide network helps newcomers of various backgrounds to fully participate alongside their neighbors – socially, civically and economically.

”As a Jewish American, nothing could make me feel more connected to my values, and to my history, than working to welcome immigrants and refugees to this country,” Lubell says on the Bronfman Prize website. “One of Judaism’s central teachings is to ‘welcome the stranger,’ to offer shelter to those in need and to accept those who we perceive to be different from us.”

Wesleyan Presence Celebrates BRC Success at The Way Home Gala; Swanson ’77 Honored

Richard Swanson ’77, a board member of The Bowery Residents’ Committee, was honored at The Way Home Gala, amidst a turnout of Wesleyan alumni also affiliated with the New York organization (see more photos below)

On June 12, Bowery Residents’ Committee (BRC), one of New York City’s largest providers of housing and services for homeless adults, honored longtime BRC board member Richard Swanson ’77 at the organization’s seventh annual gala. Swanson, a trustee of BRC, is managing director and the general counsel of York Capital Management, as well as a member of the firm’s executive, operating and valuation committees.

On the BRC website, Swanson explains his decision to join the board as his effort “to be able to give something back to the City of New York, which has treated me so well over my legal career.… We all have a responsibility to our fellow citizens who are less fortunate than ourselves.”

Bissell ’88 Balances Social Impact, Scale in Ethnic Goods Retailer Fabindia

William Bissell is on the cover of Forbes Magazine in India.

William Bissell ’88 is on the cover of Forbes India.

William Bissell ’88, managing director of Fabindia, a retail enterprise begun by Bissell’s father, John, in 1960, is featured on the cover of Forbes India on Jan. 20, a special issue on social impact. “A Fab New World: Not Only is Ethnic Goods Retailer Fabinidia Spreading its Wings, It Continues to Shape the Lives of Thousands of Rural Artisans,” the cover line reads.

The article, by Forbes India staff writer Anshul Dhamija, details the beginnings of the company, as an exporter of hand-loomed fabrics and furnishings with only one initial retail store, which opened in New Delhi in 1976. The second opened in the same city in 1994. William Bissell took the helm in 1999, after his father’s death in 1998. The younger Bissell had returned to India after graduating from Wesleyan, establishing an artisans’ cooperative, the Bhadrajun Artisans Trust.

Forbes India charts the astronomic—yet socially conscious—growth of the company since the turn of the century. William Bissell, with a vision to redesign the stores as “retail experience centers” (more than tripling the size, offering cafes, “children’s zones,” and on-site tailoring), plans to open 40 of these centers across the country in the next year-and-half, many as franchise opportunities—all the while maintaining the company’s commitment to local artisans and traditional crafts. Of particular interest is the high percentage of women who are employed by Fabindia in a country not noted for providing financial opportunities for females.

New Book by Arndt ’92 Explores How the American Right Created Trump

The Right's Road to Serfdom, by Chris ArndtIn The Right’s Road to Serfdom: The Danger of Conservatism Unbound: From Hayek to Trump (Bulkington Press, 2016), Christopher F. Arndt ‘92 argues that conservatism is not what it pretends to be and that the American Right created Donald Trump. “There’s a destructive logic that has led the so-called ‘Party of Liberty’ to nominate an authoritarian like Donald Trump as its leader,” says Arndt, a former Wall Street executive and portfolio manager, in the press materials for the book. “I wrote the book to explain how this happened—to offer a readable, yet substantive account of recent political developments and do so in the context of the principles of political freedom that are common to us all.”

Below, News @ Wes talks with Arndt about the book, the subsequent election of Donald Trump, and the future.

What prompted you to write The Right’s Road to Serfdom?
There is a lot of confusion surrounding recent political developments, and in particular political developments on the American Right.  I wrote the book to clarify recent events, to offer a warning, and also to serve as a timely reminder of the American ideal of Liberty. That’s a pretty general answer so let me provide an example:

In early September of 2016, the Dallas Morning News—a famously conservative newspaper—wrote an editorial urging its readership to reject Trump’s bid for the presidency. In doing so, the editorial writers of the paper noted that “Trump is—or has been—at odds with nearly every GOP

Richardson ’60 Publishes Bio of Urban Development Pioneer Shepherd

Alexander Robey Shepherd, by John P. RichardsonAlexander Robey Shepherd: The Man Who Built the Nation’s Capital, by John P. Richardson ’60 (Ohio University Press, 2016), tells the story of urban development pioneer and public works leader Alexander Robey Shepherd, who was instrumental in building the infrastructure of the nation’s capital when it was knee-deep in mud and disrepair after the Civil War. In fact it was Shepherd’s leadership, says Richardson, that made it possible for the city to finally realize the vision of French architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant, some 80-plus years after George Washington appointed L’Enfant to plan what was then known as the new “Federal City.”

“Shepherd did not build the buildings, but he built the infrastructure that made it possible to develop the city we see,” says Richardson, a retired intelligence officer and Middle East specialist who spent more than 30 years researching Shepherd before writing his book. “Much of Shepherd’s work is below the ground but critical to a modern city.”

Alexander Robey Shepherd was born in Washington in 1835. After his father’s early death, Shepherd left school at the age of 13 and worked his way up from apprentice to owner of a plumbing company. After serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, he started a second career—in politics.

Ainspan ’88 Receives Katzell Award for Work with Veterans, Research-Based Insight

Nathan Ainspan ’88, the editor of The Handbook of Psychosocial Interventions for Veterans and Service Members and When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Nathan Ainspan ’88, the editor of The Handbook of Psychosocial Interventions for Veterans and Service Members and When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

Nathan Ainspan ’88, an industrial-organizational (I-O) psychologist with the Department of Defense’s Transition to Veterans Program Office, has received the Raymond A. Katzell Award in I-O Psychology from the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology (SIOP) for his work improving the lives of military veterans and for his commitment to promoting research-based insights designed to improve organizations and the lives of individuals.

Ainspan’s work has focused on influencing policy and educating service members, veterans, clinicians, and corporate leaders to improve the military-to-civilian transition process. The editor of When the Warrior Returns: Making the Transition at Home, The Handbook of Psychosocial Intervention for Service Members, and Returning Wars’ Wounded, Injured, and Ill: A Reference Handbook, he has just begun editing another handbook to guide private-sector human resource professionals on hiring and retaining military veterans in their companies.

An American Studies major at Wesleyan, he earned his doctorate from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations. He attributes his interest in I-O psychology to a course he took at Wesleyan and traces his work with veterans from there.

Schwartz ’94 Provides Medical Assistance in Ecuador with Team Rubicon

during the hike to get one of these villages.  Some of the villages in Ecuador are rather remote in Jungle locations.  There are no roads.  Getting to these locations means walking through the Jungle to get there.  Many of the locals do it on Donkey back (we sorely regretted not taking more time to find donkeys, by the way).  It had recently rained the day before, and many of the usual trails were damaged or unpassable due to landslides and washout.  Where the trails were passable, the mud was as high as our hips and almost impossible to walk through.  We found it was easier to just hike IN the river at certain points rather than stay on the trails. 

“Some of the villages in Ecuador are rather remote in jungle locations,” says Dan Schwartz ’94, at right. “There are no roads. Many of the locals do it on donkey back (we sorely regretted not taking more time to find donkeys, by the way). It had recently rained, and many of the usual trails were washed out or damaged by landslides. Where the trails were passable, the mud was as high as our hips.  We found it was easier to just hike in the river at certain points rather than stay on the trails.”

Last spring, Dan Schwartz ’94 returned from Ecuador where he worked as a physician with Team Rubicon as a part of a rapid-deployment disaster medical assistance team after a 7.8M earthquake hit the area on April 16, 2016. Team Rubicon provided rescue, medical and reconnaissance aid to remote villages that could not be reached by the local government or non-governmental organizations.

“One of our mottos is, ‘We go where the others can’t or won’t,” Schwartz says.

Team Rubicon, a group of military veterans and first responders, was formed in 2010. In its first mission, the team brought lifesaving equipment and supplies to Haiti, which had been devastated by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0.

Schwartz joined Team Rubicon in 2015, only a year and a half before getting that phone call on April 21. “‘Can you go to Ecuador? Let us know—your flight leaves in eight hours.’” He was on board.

Aubry ’89 Pens Science Fiction Book for Young Adults

Edward Aubry '89 courtesy of Curiosity Quills Press.

Edward Aubry ’89.

Edward Aubry ’89 is the author of a new young adult science fiction book, Prelude to Mayhem, published by Curiosity Quills Press in November 2016.

Prelude to Mayhem is the first book out of five in the Mayhem Wave series. The next installment is slated for release in mid-2017, according to Lisa Gus, managing partner at Curiosity Quills Press.

In this apocalyptic novel, Harrison Cody’s world is in ruins. He follows a mysterious voice on the radio as he and his pixie sidekick travel on foot across a terrifyingly random landscape. They discover Dorothy O’Neill, who has had to survive among monsters when her greatest worry used to be how to navigate high school. Together they search for what remains of Chicago, and the hope that civilization can be rebuilt.

Aubry, who studied music composition at Wesleyan, is the author of the young adult books Unhappenings (2015), Caprice (2012), and Static Mayhem (2010). He lives in rural Pennsylvania with his wife and three daughters, where he has taught high school math for the past 12 years.

Barnwell ’89 Explores Voting, Millennial Women of Color in Upcoming Documentary

Michele Barnwell '89, courtesy of LinkedIn

Michele Barnwell ’89. (Photo by Marc Baptiste)

Michele Barnwell ’89 spent the summer filming a political documentary, Party Girls: Exploring Politics in America, a film that “follows a small group of millennial women of color who travel the country engaging in the politic process.” The documentary aims to air around Election Day 2016 as both an independent film and a six-part web series through PBS affiliate ITVS.

Barnwell, director and producer, traveled across the United States following six students as they prepare to vote for the first time this November. Barnwell’s aim is to make this a bi-partisan project and will feature “real conversations on immigration, mass incarceration, police brutality, equal pay, and education reform.”

“Women and women of color are absolutely key to the American electorate,” she said. “I’m doing Party Girls to amplify the voices of millennial women of color first-time voters. And I promise you, they have so much to say and it’s not always what you might think.”

Barnwell, who was an African American studies major at Wesleyan, continues, “Much of this experience was positioned to ask a question that I believed my Wesleyan experience had in fact answered for me personally. That is, can a diverse group of intelligent critical thinkers who are not all aligned politically still find common ground and even friendship?”

Barnwell is the principal executive of Reel Roost, Inc., a  transmedia production company specializing in story-driven-content creation and production. She has worked extensively as a television showrunner and executive producer. Her work as a producer in nonfiction television, short-form branded entertainment, web-based clips, music videos, pilots, specials, and full series has been delivered for: the CW, HBO, Fox, MTV, Lifetime, E!, BET, Centric, Oxygen, TLC, STYLE, Intel, and the UK’s Channel 4—where she sold and delivered a nonfiction television pilot.

Graves ’81 Examines Campaign Communication through Behavioral Science

Christopher Graves ’81

Christopher Graves ’81

Christopher Graves ’81 is the global chairman of Ogilvy Public Relations and formerly held senior positions with CNBC Asia and CNBC Europe. This summer the Rockefeller Foundation and ideas42 selected him for a prestigious Bellagio Residency, where he has continued his work to turn findings from cognitive neuroscience and behavioral economics into practical applications in communications.

In this election season, Graves has co-authored several online posts for Harvard Business Review, analyzing communications from the Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigns. Below are highlights with links to the full posts:

The Art and Science Behind the Negative TV Ads of Trump and Clinton

There is a deep and deeply confusing body of research on negative ads and voter turnout.  There have been findings that negative ads: a) have no impact; b) decrease voter turnout; c) increase voter turnout; d) both increase and decrease turnout depending on the party and the timing.  One recent study looking back more than a decade says negative ads work better to mobilize Republican voters than Democrats. Another claims to find that Independents stop voting when both major parties go negative.