Tag Archive for alumni achievements

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.

Kail ’99, Miranda ’02 Honored at the National Archives Foundation

The National Archives Foundation presented its 2016 Records of Achievement Awards to Wesleyan alumni, Tony and Emmy Award-winning film and theater director, Thomas Kail ’99, and Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, lyricist, and performer, Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, at its annual Gala on Sept. 25.

According to the National Archives Foundation, “The Records of Achievement Award is an annual award given to individuals whose work has cultivated a broader national awareness of the history and identity of the United States through the use of original records.” Kail and Miranda were honored for their collective work on the Tony, Grammy, and Pulitzer Prize Award-winning Broadway musical, Hamilton.

In an article published by The Washington Post, Miranda credited the National Archives for offering the raw material and documents that laid the foundation for the Hamilton story, saying, “without these gems and genuine artifacts, there’s no story to tell.” Kail, on the other hand, was happy to share this moment with his mother, an archivist at Tudor Place: “I think the most excited I’ve been, was calling my mom and telling her that we had a chance to come to the Archives.” The duo, as part of the program, treated audience members to a full explanation of their creative process, using primary source documents to expand upon and flesh out parts of Hamilton’s life story.

More information is online here.

Brown University Provost Locke ’81 Receives Society for Progress Medal

Brown University Provost Richard Locke received one of five inaugural Progress Medals from the Society for Progress. (Nick Dentamaro/Brown University)

Brown University Provost Richard Locke ’81 received one of five inaugural Progress Medals from the Society for Progress. (Photo by Nick Dentamaro/Brown University)

Richard Locke ’81, Brown University provost and professor of political science and international and public affairs, was recently awarded one of only five inaugural Progress Medals from the Society for Progress. The Society, a group of scholars and leaders both independent and academically diverse, selected an international cohort to receive the four medals in scholarship and one in leadership with the “hope and hypothesis…that these medals will help attract and accelerate intellectual and practical attention to the moral dilemmas emergent in our modern economy.”

Locke, a scholar and authority on international labor relations and worker rights, and comparative political economy, was recognized “for work on labor justice in global supply chains and the influence and limits of private standards in integrating equity and efficiency,” as the Society stated in their announcement.

“I am both honored and humbled to be a recipient of this award,” Locke said in a news release from Brown University.

“Throughout my career, I have been challenged and inspired by issues of fairness, justice and human rights, and I have had the great privilege of engaging in research focused on understanding and improving working conditions and labor rights. It is particularly gratifying that, through this new award, the Society for Progress is emphasizing the role and value of university-based research in addressing some of society’s most pressing issues.”

Others who received these awards included Klaus Schwab, former professor of business policy at the University of Geneva and founder of the World Economic Forum, as well as Indra Nooyi, chair and CEO of PepsiCo, who received the leadership award.

In addition to the gold Progress Medal, each award winner received $100,000 from the Society. Locke used the funds to contribute to endowed scholarships he had established at Brown and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Locke, who holds a doctorate from MIT, served on the faculty for 25 years. He joined the faculty of Brown University in 2013, serving as the Howard R. Swearer Director of the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, and he was appointed provost in July 2015.

 

Fecteau ’91, Nelson ’94 Recipients of MacArthur Genius Grants

Vincent Fecteau '91 and Maggie Nelson '94 received MacArthur "genius grants" Sept. 22. 

Vincent Fecteau ’91 and Maggie Nelson ’94 received MacArthur “genius grants” on Sept. 22.

Two Wesleyan alumni are recipients of the 2016 MacArthur Foundation Fellowships, commonly known as the “genius grants.”

Vincent Fecteau ’91 and Maggie Nelson ’94 each received a no-strings-attached $625,000 grant for their exceptional creativity and potential for future contributions to their fields.

Vincent Fecteau works from his studio in California.

Vincent Fecteau works from his studio in California.

They’re among 23 fellows in the country to receive the honor.

“While our communities, our nation, and our world face both historic and emerging challenges, these 23 extraordinary individuals give us ample reason for hope” said MacArthur Foundation President Julia Stasch. “They are breaking new ground in areas of public concern, in the arts, and in the sciences, often in unexpected ways. Their creativity, dedication, and impact inspire us all.”

Vincent Fecteau, a studio arts major, is a sculptor who creates abstract pieces—by hand from simple materials—that encourage careful and concentrated looking and reflection. His slow and meticulous approach to his craft, as well as his experimentation with modes of displaying his work, demonstrates that abstract sculpture is a vital and expressive form of art.

The results are both captivating and demanding; as viewers work to understand what they are seeing, they find themselves at the threshold between visual perception and objective knowledge of three-dimensional space. In this way, Fecteau imbues his work with philosophical content, just as the work assumes psychological dimensions through its uncanny correspondences with the human body. In our age of ever-increasing distraction, Fecteau’s sculpture offers a place for the sustained experience of thought and observation to unfold and flourish.

Maggie Nelson, an English major, is a writer reflecting on the complexities of gender, identity and culture in day-to-day living in works that transcend the divide between the intellectual and the personal. She is creating a new form of nonfiction writing and cultural criticism that examines some of the most pressing cultural issues of our time, such as transgender and queer identity, depictions of violence and femininity. Her work, like her most recent book The Argonauts, represents an empathetic and open-ended way of thinking that offers a model for how even very different people can live together.

Since 2005, she has been a member of the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts, where she currently serves as director of the Creative Writing Program.

Since 2005, Maggie Nelson has been a member of the School of Critical Studies at the California Institute of the Arts, where she currently serves as director of the Creative Writing Program.

In all of her work, Nelson remains skeptical of truisms and ideologies and continually challenges herself to consider multiple perspectives. Her empathetic and open-ended way of thinking—her willingness to change her mind and even embrace qualities of two seemingly incompatible positions—offers a powerful example for how very different people can think and live together. Through the dynamic interplay between personal experience and critical theory, Nelson is broadening the scope of nonfiction writing while also offering compelling meditations on social and cultural questions.

Sculpture artist Jeffrey Schiff, professor of art, and painter Tula Telfair, professor of art, remember having Fecteau as a student. They’re impressed with his “remarkable body of work” that explores the fullness of dimensionality in sculpture.

“His small and medium sized sculptures, usually on pedestals or hanging on the wall, wrap form around space in convoluted tangles, sometimes incorporating objects or photographic images in the mix. The work reminds us of the endless potential mobility of space, while composed of simple non-precious materials,” Shiff says. “In all his work, his touch or hand is in evidence.

At Wesleyan, working with Tula Telfair, Fecteau produced a painting thesis that was, even then, fundamentally sculptural, balancing colorful objects in juxtaposition with each other and the gallery space – each contained in a plastic tailored slipcover. “These sculptures hung a few inches off the wall like paintings – creating shimmery and curiously intimate bubbles that hinted at narratives while remaining purely formal,” Telfair said.

Christina Crosby, professor of English, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, worked with Nelson on her honors thesis, which focused on confessional poetry.

“Maggie’s artistic practice is a demanding one,” Crosby says. “She reports in The Argonauts that she sometimes finds herself laboring ‘grimly’ over her sentences, wondering if any language offers the needful form (52). Her practice makes no claim for emotional transparency (as if one can simply know one’s own, or another’s, emotions). Art can hold open a space in which we – the writer and the reader – don’t know, and in that not knowing can address the world without attempting to know it fully creates possibility. Her artistic practice makes a space for interactions that undo the known landscape, the one covered by cliché. She is open to exploring the sometimes explosive intimacies of the everyday – not every conversation is a happy one –, and she does not hide, conceal, sidestep, or evade what she finds there.”

Wesleyan boasts several other alumni MacArthur Fellows including 1988 recipient Ruth Behar ’77, cultural anthropologist; 1994 recipient Sam-Ang Sam PhD ’88, musician and cultural preservationist; 2005 recipient Majora Carter ’88, urban revitalization strategist; 2009 recipient James Longley ’94, filmmaker; and 2015 recipient Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, playwright and performer.

In addition, Eiko Otake, visiting artist in dance and East Asian studies, won a MacArthur in 1996; translator/poet/publisher Peter Cole, who worked as a visiting writer and professor at Wesleyan, received a MacArthur Fellowship in 2007; and jazz composer and performer Anthony Braxton, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, received the award in 1994.

Ekperigin ’05, Writer and Actress, to Perform Stand-Up on Late Night with Seth Meyers

Naomi Ekperigin

Naomi Ekperigin ’05 will make her first appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Sept. 29. (Photo by Ben Esner Photography)

Naomi Ekperigin ’05, a writer, comedian, and actress based in New York City, will make her first appearance on Late Night with Seth Meyers on Sept. 29. Ekperigin, known for tackling race, politics, and religion in her routine, will perform her stand-up act ahead of her Comedy Central special, The Half Hour, which airs in October.

Ekperigin, who studied English and film studies, started performing when she arrived at Wesleyan.

“I always enjoyed acting and performing as a kid, but I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to do it. Once I got to Wesleyan, I did a lot of theater, which was my primary extracurricular,” she said.

She joined Gag Reflex, Wesleyan’s oldest comedy troupe. This was her first real experience performing comedy and was her first step towards becoming a stand-up.

Ekperigin believes one of the most pivotal moments in her life was attending and performing in the New Student Orientation activity, In the Company of Others, which featured upperclassmen sharing their stories. Ekperigin explained, “When I attended the show freshman year, I saw Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 and Julius Onah ‘04 and distinctly remember thinking, ‘I like this place. I’m going to be okay here.’”

She went on to perform in the show during orientation for the rest of her years at Wesleyan. She loved working with the director, Karen Bovard ‘77, and sharing her experience with the Wesleyan community. “When I stood in Crowell Concert Hall, facing more than 500 students, and making them laugh, I felt a rush and a calmness I’d never felt before,” she said. “I knew performing in that way was what I was meant to do, and it is a huge part of how I got to where I am now.”

“Wesleyan was where I found my voice and lost the sense of fear of expressing myself,” she said. “By the time I graduated I had a pretty clear sense of who I was, and how I wanted to express myself.”

At Wesleyan, Ekperigin earned High Honors and the Akiva Goldsman Prize for Screenwriting for her film thesis, a feature-length screenplay. “These accomplishments were signs that I was headed in the right direction, and that I had an actual talent for writing, not just an interest,” she said. Her writing experience during college also set her up for a career as a television writer, most notably on the Comedy Central series Broad City, which stemmed from her experience as a stand-up comedian.

As for what’s next, Ekperigin is serving as a co-executive producer and writer on a pilot starring Jessica Williams from The Daily Show. She explained, “This half-hour comedy will look at issues around race, gender, and feminism through the eyes of a millennial who wants to ‘be the change’ but doesn’t quite know how to put that into practice now that she’s in the real world.”

Actor, Director Schaal ’06 Returns to Campus for Sold-Out Premiere of Go Forth

Kaneza Schaal ’06 (Photo by Randi Plake)

Kaneza Schaal ’06 spoke to Wesleyan theater majors Sept. 15. (Photo by Sandy Aldieri of Perceptions Photography)

Actor and director Kaneza Schaal ’06 returned to campus for her New England premiere of GO FORTH (2015), a series of vignettes with projection, sound, and dance inspired by the Egyptian Book of the Dead. The four performances took place over the past weekend to a sold-out audience.

At a special lunch surrounded by a group of theater majors, one being GO FORTH ensemble member Cheyanne Williams ’17, Schaal explained how the Book of the Dead inspired her production: “I was drawn to the Book of the Dead after experiencing the loss of my father. I went to Rwanda for the ceremony and experienced a ritualized grieving process that helped me process his death.”

Schaal credits her time studying theater and psychology for preparing her for a creative career. “What I gained at Wesleyan was the opportunity to learn many languages, psychology, and theater, which all came together to how I make my work.” Furthermore, she explained that it was the faculty and staff who really supported her to go out and make what interested her.

After Wesleyan, Schaal came up in the downtown experimental theater community, first working with The Wooster Group, then with companies and artists including Elevator Repair Service, Richard Maxwell/New York City Players, Claude Wampler, Jay Scheib, New York City Opera and National Public Radio. Schaal is an Arts-in-Education advocate and just returned from a new project with the International Children’s Book Library in Munich, Germany working with young Syrian and Eritrean refugees to address migration and storytelling.

Quigley ’08 is Knight Cities Challenge Winner

Caitlin Quigley ’08 received a Knight Cities Fellowship for her project, "20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses."

Caitlin Quigley ’08 won a Knight Cities Challenge for her project in Philadelphia: “20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses.”

 

(By Margaret Curtis ’16)

Philadelphia-based Caitlin Quigley ’08 was selected as a winner of the Knight Cities Challenge for her project “20 Book Clubs, 20 Cooperative Businesses.” The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded 37 winners out of a pool of more than 4,500 applicants with a share of $5 million to support one of the 26 communities in which the foundation invests.

Quigley and her organization, the Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance (PACA), were awarded $146,000 to implement her project, which will support neighborhood businesses. Quigley’s project will form 20 community-based book clubs of six to 12 people who will choose readings, films, and field trips that pertain to cooperatives. In six months, each book club will identify a business need in their neighborhood—such as a lack of grocery stores, credit unions, childcare centers, hardware stores, or artist studios—and form a business cooperative to meet that need.

PACA is a cooperative and a 501(c)3 nonprofit that aims to support the local economy by promoting local cooperatives.

The mission of the Knight Cities Challenge is to support initiatives that aid growing communities through what the Knight Foundation calls the “three drivers of city success:” attracting and keeping talented people, expanding economic opportunities, and creating a culture of civic engagement.

“This project will bring together residents to learn and work collaboratively in order to build long-lasting community-owned businesses,” Quigley said.

At Wesleyan, she double majored in Spanish and film studies.