Tag Archive for alumni achievements

Perel-Slater ’11 Receives Advancing Leaders Fellowship

Max Perel-Slater ’11

Max Perel-Slater ’11

Max Perel-Slater ’11 has won an Advancing Leaders Fellowship from World Learning for the Tanzania-based project, The Maji Safi Movement (“maji safi” means “clean water” in Swahili; see majisafimovement.org).

Maji Safi is focused on disease prevention and health promotion and particularly aimed at empowering rural communities in their efforts to combat water-borne and water-related diseases. The Movement encompasses both a local NGO and a US-based 501(c)3; Perel-Slater is president and co-founder of the U.S. arm and treasurer of the Tanzania-based organization. He has worked on water projects in Shirati, Tanzania, since 2009, when he led the construction of a rainwater catchment system.

A College of the Environment (COE) major at Wesleyan, Perel-Slater studied abroad in Tanzania with World Learning’s School for International Training, dedicated to international development and exchange programs. He also completed a graduate-level field course in hydrogeology at Clemson University. While in Tanzania, he researched Shirati’s water challenges for his senior capstone project with the COE. In 2011, he worked in Nairobi’s Kibera slum with Shining Hope for Communities, a nonprofit organization founded by Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner Odede ’09; there, Perel-Slater coordinated a water sanitation project and co-led their summer program for students from US universities.

Additionally, this summer Perel-Slater was named an associate fellow of the College of the Environment, noted Barry Chernoff, COE director and the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies at Wesleyan. The fellowship acknowledges both the formative and continuing relationship between Perel-Slater’s work and the COE: Wesleyan undergraduates in the College now serve as interns with Maji Safi in Shirati, and Perel-Slater returns episodically to campus to meet with COE students and faculty.

“Max is an inspiration to our COE undergraduates and alumni alike,” said Chernoff, who is also professor of biology, professor and chair of the environmental studies program, professor of earth and environmental sciences. “He has put his education—and idealism—to practical use in the world in an incredible way. We are so proud of him.”

Musician Smilow ’82 Honored by Reform Zionists of America

Peri Smilow '82

Peri Smilow ’82

Peri Smilow ’82, a College of Letters graduate, will be honored at the Association of Reform Zionists of America’s (ARZA) 36th Anniversary Gala on April 5 at Central Synagogue in New York City.

Known internationally as one of the bright lights in contemporary Jewish music, Smilow will be recognized for her ability to elicit a sense of spirituality and social action in her audiences, drawing on a wealth of personal and professional experiences.

As a composer, Smilow’s music is sung in worship, in youth group settings and at Jewish summer camps throughout the country. As a recording and touring artist, her music has been enjoyed in the U.S., Canada, England, Singapore and Israel. She is perhaps best known for her groundbreaking cross-cultural work with blacks and Jews through The Freedom Music Project. This project brings together African-American and Jewish singers to explore their shared histories of slavery through the music of Passover and the Civil Rights Movement.

Recently audiences are also enjoying Smilow’s new one-woman cabaret act featuring the music of the Jewish American Songbook.

Smilow’s work as a contemporary Jewish musician is influenced by her previous work as a non-profit entrepreneur, developing and launching new organizations that meet the educational needs of inner-city youth during afterschool hours. She also has been influenced by her time living and working in Israel and by her graduate study in education at Harvard University.

She lives in South Orange, N.J. with her husband and daughter.

ARZA, The Reform Israel Fund, is the Israeli voice of the Reform movement in the United States, and seeks to make Israel fundamental to the sacred lives and Jewish identities of Reform Jews. ARZA champions and supports activities that help build an inclusive and democratic Israeli society. This year’s ARZA Gala celebrates 36 years since the founding of ARZA. The theme “honoring our past, securing our future” is reflected in the selection of three honorees representing three generations of Reform Zionists who have made a difference both here and in Israel.

Donfried ’94 to Lead the German Marshall Fund

Karen Donfried '94

Karen Donfried ’94

Karen Donfried ’94 will become the president of the German Marshall Fund in April, a role for which she was unanimously elected. She’s currently a special assistant to President Obama and senior director for European affairs on the National Security Council at the White House. She advises the president on European matters and leads the development and implementation process of his European policies.

“I am very pleased that Karen is returning to GMF to take on its leadership,” said current GMF president Craig Kennedy, in a press release. Kennedy is retiring after 19 years at the helm. “I am very confident that this wonderful institution will thrive under her guidance.”

At Wesleyan, Donfried was a government and German studies major. She went on to earn her Ph.D. and M.A.L.D. from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a Magister from the University of Munich, Germany.

She received the Cross of the Order of Merit from the German Government in 2011, became an officer of the Order of the Crown of Belgium in 2010, and received a Superior Honor Award from the U.S. Department of State in 2005.
 She’s also a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the American Council on Germany.

Donfried’s first stint with the GMF began in 2001 after having served for 10 years as a European specialist at the Congressional Research Service. She then returned from 2005 to 2010, first as senior director of policy programs and then as executive vice president.