Tag Archive for alumni business

Wesleyan in the News


In this recurring feature in 
The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

 

 

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Hartford Courant“Connecticut Natives at Wesleyan Organize TEDx Conference”

Wesleyan hosted its inaugural TEDx conference on April 7, featuring talks by many distinguished alumni, local officials, and others. Two of the student organizers, Eunes Harun ’20 and Leo Marturi ’20, are interviewed about the event.

2. The Hill: “Trump, Pelosi Appear Most in Early Ads—for the Other Side” 

A new analysis from the Wesleyan Media Project finds that Donald Trump has been the top target of political attack ads this year, with Nancy Pelosi the second favorite target, as both parties seek to drive their political bases to the polls. “Although presidents and presidential candidates are the most common targets in congressional campaign ads, it is noteworthy that Pelosi has consistently been singled out more than any other congressional leader since 2010 despite her minority party status for the bulk of that time,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and WMP co-director.

3. Faith Middleton Food Schmooze: “Funeral Food with a Twist, a Seductive Rosé and Amy Bloom”

In connection with her new book, White Houses, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing Amy Bloom talks about food in the Franklin Roosevelt White House. Bloom comes in around 21 minutes.

4. Naturally Speaking: “Extending Evolution, an Interview with Prof. Sonia Sultan”

On this podcast, Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, discusses her research on phenotypic plasticity and transgenerational effect in plants, and shares her thoughts on one of most controversial ideas currently circulating in mainstream evolutionary biology: the so-called “extended evolutionary synthesis.” Sultan was honored at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine’s annual Darwin Day lecture.

5. Inside Higher Ed: “The Data Should Make You Happy!”

President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Steven Pinker’s new book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Roth writes: “We don’t need cheerleading psychologists telling us we should be happier than we are.”

6. Squash Magazine: “Teaching the Game: Women and Squash”

Shona Kerr, Wesleyan’s head coach of men’s and women’s squash, is interviewed for a story about gender bias in the world of squash coaching. Kerr is one of only three women in the country who coaches a men’s collegiate squash team.

Recent Alumni News

  1. NDTV Profit: “Wipro Director, Harvard Alumnus Rishad Premji [’99] Appointed Chairman Of Nasscom” Rishad Premji, who was an economics major at Wesleyan and holds an MBA from Harvard, was appointed chairman of IT industry body Nasscom (National Association of Software and Service Companies) for 2018–19. Previously, he was chief strategy officer and board member of Wipro Ltd, which he joined in 2007. In 2014 he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. [See the site for a video message from Premji, on accepting this new position.]

2. NPR: “Mary Halvorson [’02] Re-Engineered Jazz Guitar. Now, She’s Hacking Her Own Code”

In this review of Halvorson’s new double album, Code Girl, Nate Chinen, director of editorial comment at NPR Music, calls Halvorson’s style “staunchly unplaceable in style—art-rock? avant-prog?—and mysterious in several other respects.” The article also refers to John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, Anthony Braxton as her “august mentor.” Code Girl is out on the Firehouse 12 label.

3. Harvard Medical School News: “Why the Fly? Geneticist Stephanie Mohr [’93] Delves into Science’s Favorite Winged Model Organism”

“[S]elf-described ‘fly person’ Stephanie Mohr,” a lecturer on genetics at Harvard Medical School and author of the book First in Fly: Drosophila Research and Biological Discovery (Harvard University Press, 2018)explains her fascination with the insect and its importance in genetics research.

4. New York Times: “Even With Scholarships, Students Often Need Extra Financial Help“

This article by Janet Morrissey profiles a number of programs at prestigious universities that are designed to assist low-income scholarship students with living expenses. Richard Locke ’81, provost at Brown University, is mentioned as “help[ing] prepare Brown’s E-Gap (Emergency, Curricular and Co-curricular Gap) Funds, and its FLi (First Generation Low-Income) Center in late 2015 after hearing stories from students who were struggling financially.”

5. WBAL 1090—Educator Beverly Daniel Tatum [’75, P’04, Hon. ’15] to Speak at Towson Commencement

WBAL NewsRadio 1090’s Tyler Waldman reported Towson University President Kim Schatzel said: “We are honored to welcome Beverly Daniel Tatum to campus as our commencement speaker. Not only is she a thought leader in the higher education community, her expertise in diversity, inclusion and race relations supports Towson University’s relentless pursuits in these areas.” Tatum will speak at Towson’s College of Liberal Arts commencement on May 23, 2018, and will receive an honorary doctorate. A former Wesleyan trustee, Tatum was awarded an honorary doctorate from Wesleyan in 2015.

Banks ’15 Receives Fulbright to Study International Crimes, Conflict, Criminology

Isabella Banks ’15 received a Fulbright Study/Research grant in International Crimes, Conflict, and Criminology for 2018–19.

Isabella Banks ’15 was awarded a 2018–19 Fulbright Study/Research Grant for the master’s program in International Crimes, Conflict, and Criminology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Combining perspectives and methodologies from the fields of criminology, law, psychology, sociology, and political science, the program also draws on resources available through its location near The Hague—home to the UN’s International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

“I hope to focus my research on transitional justice, which applies restorative principles to systematic, conflict-related human rights violations,” says Banks, who majored in the College of Social Studies with a certificate in international relations while at Wesleyan. Her honors thesis, “The Jury Is Out: Negotiated Agreements in the German Inquisitorial System,” is an exploration of the United States’ adversarial system of justice in comparison with the German inquisitorial system. A 2015 article in the Connection noted that Banks said her interest in exploring alternatives to the U.S. system of criminal justice was initiated by what she observed as its “growing dysfunction” as well as the increasing measure of disapproval it garnered.

After graduating, Banks studied abroad on a one-year Watson Fellowship, pursuing research in restorative justice in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, England, and South Africa. For her project, “Making Crime Personal: Restorative Alternatives to Criminal Justice,” she interviewed individuals involved in a range of restorative justice processes and acted as a participant observer in schools, prisons, and community organizations working to implement restorative practices.

She is currently affiliated with the Center for Court Innovation in New York City, whose founding director was John Feinblatt ’73 and current director is Greg Berman ’89. Banks serves as a planner for the Research-Practice Strategies team led by Director of Policy and Research Julian Adler ’02.

“My Watson year opened my eyes to the importance of human relationships in justice processes and fostered a fascination with conflict transformation that I am sure will drive my learning for years to come,” said Banks.

 

Lobel ’97 Produces Empire on Blood Podcast

Empire on Blood, a new seven-part serialized podcast from Panoply, is produced by Mia Lobel ’97. The series investigates a 1992 double homicide in the Bronx, exploring the judicial process that led to a conviction. That conviction has now been overturned after Calvin Buari spent more than two decades in prison for these murders, which he did not commit.

The show, says Lobel, is the result of veteran journalist Steve Fishman’s six-year quest to determine the facts of the case.

“Steve brought us this incredibly complicated story he’d been working on,” recalls Lobel. “He had courtroom papers and 80 hours of taped interviews with all the key players. It was so exciting for me as a producer. The show takes a really deep look at the moral complexity of the criminal justice system: What happens if you are, actually, a criminal—but convicted of a crime you didn’t commit?”

An anthropology major at Wesleyan, Lobel earned her graduate degree in journalism, specializing in audio formats—“radio, at the time,” she says. She marks 2014 as the year the general public began to share her excitement for audio productions—podcasts—when Serial came out and smartphone technology made it accessible.

“People are being reintroduced to the power of sound alone—where you make all these pictures in your head,” she says.

Executive Producer Selkow ’96 Directs Hip-Hop Docu-Series Rapture

At SXSW film and music festival, members of the creative team behind Rapture are Executive Producer Ben Selkow ’96, Director Marcus Clarke, Executive Producer Peter Bittenbender (of Mass Appeal), and Executive Producer Sacha Jenkins (of Mass Appeal). Rapture, a docu-series produced by Mass Appeal for Netflix is available now. Netflix describes the project as: “star[ing] directly into the bright light that hip-hop culture shines on the world…. Rapture dives into the artists’ lives with their families and friends, to sitting front row in the studio and grinding on tour, to experiencing the ecstatic power of moving the crowd.” (Photo Credit: Daniel Boczarski/Getty for Netflix)

Rapture, a new eight-part docu-series on hip-hop that premiered on Netflix March 30, features Ben Selkow ’96 as executive producer, showrunner, and one of the directors. It is art with an overarching purpose: “We hope to bring audiences and fans closer to the artists’ experience by sharing their biography and showing the perseverance, talent, and luck that helped each transform and transcend their situation,” says Selkow, a film studies and African American studies major while at Wesleyan, who previously directed Reza Aslan’s CNN series Believer. After returning from the SXSW film and music festival in Austin, Texas, where the team showcased several episodes of Rapture, Selkow discussed the project.

Connection: What drew you into this project and made it personally compelling?
Ben Selkow: Netflix wanted to collaborate on a new hip-hop project with Mass Appeal, an on-the-rise culture media and content company. A Netflix executive introduced me to Mass Appeal’s Sacha Jenkins and Peter Bittenbender, who needed an executive producer and showrunner. We got on really well from jump—and spent the next 18 months conceiving, refining, staffing, shooting, editing, finishing, and promoting Rapture.

I was drawn to it on many levels. I’ve been listening to hip-hop since my first Beastie Boy, Ice-T, KRS-One, Big Daddy Kane, and Public Enemy tapes—yes, tapes! And at Wesleyan, I continued my education in hip-hop with Javaid Khan (DJ Van Vader) ’96, Phil Jenkins (DJ Casual Phil) ’96, Jason Rosado ’96, and my man Jake Sussman ’96 making me mixtapes, as well as partying at [Malcolm] X house, while Matt Dickerson (DJ Denmark) ’95 was spinning. And then—beyond my love of the music, the culture, the politics, and its growing power of expression and American reporting—I really dug Sacha and Peter. Of course, the opportunity to work with Netflix and connect with audiences in 190-plus countries/117 million subscribers was a dream.

Connection: What was your role on the project and what were your biggest challenges?
Ben Selkow: As showrunner and one of the executive producers, I worked with all our specialists in each area, leading the charge—from conception to the talent casting, to the aesthetic look, to team staffing, to legal, to music supervision, to running everything with our amazing post-production team and doing the general crisis control. I also directed the episode with 2 Chainz.

Hip-hop artist Nas (left) and Executive Producer and Director Ben Selkow ’96 attend the Rapture Netflix Original Documentary Series, Special Screening at The Metrograph in New York City, on March 20. (Photo by Johnny Nunez/Getty Images for Netflix)  Wesleyan viewers will want to know that Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 makes a cameo appearance in Rapture‘s Nas/Dave East episode, when the three are shown filming the video for the Hamilton mixtape song, “Wrote My Way Out.”

As for challenges, we had no proof of concept as this was Season 1, so the initial casting was the first challenge. We wanted a diverse group of artists and we were trying to compel the artists to entrust their stories with us. We were also making big asks for their time—not just an interview and some B-roll, but we wanted to do longitudinal, observational cinema, which makes for totally unique narratives. But we were able to earn a tremendous amount of trust with all the artists. Then the challenge was keeping up with their kinetic lives and building narratives. In the end, it was both a relief and incredibly exciting to watch the artists’ reactions once we screened their episodes with them. Sitting in a screening room with Nas, Just Blaze, or 2 Chainz and hearing that they loved it and thanked us…. Man, amazing feeling.

Connection: Why is this piece important? What do you think are the most important points you are bringing to the world?
Ben Selkow: By selecting a wide breadth of artists who range aesthetically, regionally, generationally, racially, and gender-wise—as well as including a super producer—Rapture paints the portrait of hip-hop as a diverse, complex, and wildly dynamic music universe. By offering an immersive view of the artists’ personal lives—beyond just seeing them as superstars—we are afforded the privilege of witnessing the artists’ humanness and mortality, as well as seeing what it is to live a life of an international celebrity.
We hope that Rapture illuminates some of the misconceptions about hip-hop and rap culture. For so long society at large has written off hip-hop as being only for gangsters, thugs, people who were morally corrupt. But through Rapture, we sought to depict the brilliance, passion, intelligence, artistry, dexterity, humanness, complexity, and perseverance that has made hip-hop and rap music the dominant global form.

We hope the series shows the featured artists at the top of their game for a reason, rising because of supreme artistry, hard work, a desire to change their situation: in summary, rising through the American dream.

Connection: Were there some best moment, breakthroughs, or epiphanies? What did you learn?
Ben Selkow: We had many, many incredible moments—from rocking with Nas at JazzFest in New Orleans backed by a 10-piece brass band in the Soul Rebels, to watching T.I. and Harry Belafonte intensely examine contemporary issues. But one moment that I just experienced speaks to the moments of resonance, the nuances and many gems throughout this whole series: During the screening of the Nas episode at the 1,100-seat Paramount Theatre at SXSW, T.I. was sitting with Dave East in the audience (I was one row behind them). They were really enjoying the episode, where director Sacha is highlighting Nas’s power in hip-hop—and she tells him that legendary Bronx rapper Big Pun’s grandson’s given name is Ether (“Ether” was a famous diss track Nas made in 2001). On screen, Nas is visibly taken aback at hearing this—as, I can see, are T.I. and Dave East, Nas’s protégés.

The next thing that happens in the film is we play a line from “Ether” to punctuate the point, that Nas’s influence is deep: “I am the truest, name a rapper that I ain’t influenced.” When this line plays, the audience spontaneously sings this line together—led most loudly by T.I. and Dave East.

At that moment, I realized: Doesn’t matter what the reviews say; true hip-hop is feeling this project. We did it—and, hopefully, get an opportunity to keep telling these stories. [See trailer below].

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Sharing the Stage: Greenberger ’81 Wins Award, Whitford ’81 Presents

Sharing the Stage: Bradley Whiford ’81 (left) presents the Writers Guild Award to his senior-year housemate and fellow theater major, Dan Greenberger ’81. (Photo by Michael Buckner/Variety)

Dan Greenberger ’81 attended the Writers Guild Award as a nominee in the category of On-Air Promotion (“the TV equivalent of movie trailers,” he explains) on Feb. 11, 2018. As an award veteran (he’d already won twice previously), Greenberger had done his homework: checked who was presenting his category and prepared an acceptance speech in case he won.

Just before the ceremony, as people milled around the dinner tables, he ran into his Wesleyan senior-year housemate, Bradley Whitford ’81, who had news: the scheduled presenter in the on-air promotion category had canceled. Instead, “I’m presenting in your category,” Whitford told his friend.

And from there, everything went off script for Greenberger, who quickly tried to reformulate his prepared speech to celebrate the friendship on stage, should he win.

Greenberger was the winner, and when he dashed on stage, the two embraced and ribbed each other gently about their college housekeeping habits.

In a conversation afterward with the Connection, Greenberger acknowledged the uniqueness of sharing that moment with his fellow theater major. “Senior year was a bonding time, as we were both getting ready to go out into the world.

“Brad and I took a train together to New York to audition for Juilliard,” Greenberger recalls.”He got in and I didn’t—and that’s when I decided I would be a writer.” In fact, Whitford had appeared in Wesleyan plays that Greenberger had written.

“Obviously, at the presentation, we were joking around a lot—but how great a full-circle moment is that? To be on stage, getting an award, with someone to whom you’ve talked about dreams and hopes when we were in college—I’m just so proud of what Brad has done with his career. As an actor, he keeps getting better.”

Greenberger, whose current work at CBS includes writing the promotions for Kevin Can Wait, notes that his favorite assignment was also very Wesleyan: How I Met Your Mother, the nine-season sitcom written by Carter Bays ’97 and Craig Thomas ’97. “I loved the sensibility; it was smart, it was funny, it was edgy—and I loved the fact that it was created by Wesleyan guys,” he recalls.

And he also knew it well: “When you work on promoting a show, you really get to know it almost better than anyone. You watch every episode more than once, you take it apart, you take notes on it: ‘Oh, here’s a good line; there’s a good moment.’ These are the pieces of the puzzle that I use to build the promotion—a story in 20 seconds, and every syllable counts.”

As for Whitford, Greenberger maintains: “He’s one of the very funniest people I’ve ever known. I’ve always told him he should do more comedy.

“But seriously—any time I look at Brad I go back to those days at Wesleyan when we were both theater majors falling in love with ‘the business,’ and wondering, ‘how do we get into this, and how do we make our mark?’ It was so great to have our paths converge on that stage.”

 

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News
1. Inside Higher Ed“Against Conformity”

President Michael Roth ’78 reflects on the questioning of liberal education—both in China and the United States.

2. China Daily: Stephen Angle: Practicing the Confucianism He Preaches”

A top Chinese newspaper profiles Stephen Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, professor of philosophy, from his early embrace of Confucianism and Chinese culture through his successful academic career. He was recently named Light of Civilization 2017 Chinese Cultural Exchange Person of the Year.

3. New York Times: “An Opera Star’s Song Cycle Conjures a Black Man’s Life in America”

Assistant Professor of Music Tyshawn Sorey’s (MA ’11) collaboration with opera star Lawrence Brownlee is featured.

4. Hartford Courant: “Wesleyan’s Carrillo, Bellamy Pinning Hopes on Regional Success”

Wesleyan wrestlers Devon Carrillo, a graduate student, and Isaiah Bellamy ’18 are ranked #1 and #2 in the country in pins in all NCAA divisions.

5. Oakland Press: “Wesleyan Lacrosse Player from Bloomfield Hills Named to Watch List”

Taylor Ghesquiere ’18 is one of just 12 lacrosse players in the country to be named to the first-ever United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association Division III Player of the Year watch list.

Recent Alumni News

  1. NPR’s Morning Edition: “Gov. Hickenlooper on Trump’s Priorities to Prevent Gun Violence”

Colorado’s Democratic Governor John Hickenlooper ’74, MA ’80, HON ’10 talks to NPR’s Morning Edition host Rachel Martin about President Trump’s meeting at the White House with governors to discuss gun policy and school safety.

2. New York Times: “Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Next Lion of New York” [Also: Repeating Islands, Pulse.com, CTLatino.com]

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, the creator of Hamilton reflects on his life in—and love of—New York City: “‘You’re in a different century for exactly one block, and then you go down the steps and there’s a C-town, and you’re back in 2017,’ Mr. Miranda said. ‘That’s to me what makes New York great—it’s all these things together at the same time. The feeling that you’re on the train with the Wall Street guy and the mariachi bands. We’re all in this thing together.’”

3. Broadway World Dallas: “Stage West Presents the Regional Premiere of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City”

New York–based playwright Halley Feiffer ’07 has created a work that The New York Times called “. . . as deeply felt as its name is long.”  The director, Dana Schultes, said, “I love the freshness of the script. . . . It definitely pushes some boundaries—like all great theatre—while retaining a through-line of warmth and heart. It’s really lovely . . . with some mega-edge sprinkled on top.”

4. HuntScanlonMedia: “Coulter Partners Secures Chief Medical Officer for Proclara Biosciences”

David Michelson ’76, MD was appointed chief medical officer at Proclara, a biotechnology company, where he joins the executive team in research on a number of therapies, including those for Alzheimer’s. Previously he was vice president and therapeutic area head at Merck Research Laboratories, responsible for clinical research in neuroscience, pain, anesthesiology and ophthalmology.

5. HakiPensheniMonitor“Innovation Helps Traders Get Loans in Less than Five Minutes”

In an interview with this Tanzanian news source,  Shivani Siroya ’04, founder and global CEO of Tala, explains how her company works with local merchants who have been “shunned by banks” to obtain loans through Tala’s Android platform.

 

 

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Rolling Stone: “Bethesda Founder Christopher Weaver on the Past, Present and Future of Video Games”

Christopher Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76, the Distinguished Professor of Computational Media in the College of Integrative Sciences, is profiled.

2. Transitions Online: “The Search for a New World Order, Then and Now”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, writes that a century after President Woodrow Wilson promulgated his “14 points” to guarantee world peace and prosperity, we are “still not that much closer to a stable world order.”

3. Medium: “Gabriel Snashall—Navy Submariner to Wesleyan!”

Gabriel Snashall ’21 discusses his path from serving as a cryptographic communications supervisor aboard the USS Pittsburgh to studying at Wesleyan through the Posse Veteran Scholars program. He plans to pursue a career in bioethics law.

4. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan University Class Research Published in Archaeological Society Bulletin”

Four Class of 2017 graduates who completed the service-learning course “Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People,” are co-authors of articles published in the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut.

5. CTNow: “Amy Bloom to Give Talks on ‘White Houses'”

Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, will discuss her new book, White Houses, at several public events around Connecticut this month.

Recent Alumni News

  1. RollingStone: “Review: MGMT Rediscover the Electric Feel for ‘Little Dark Age’

The duo who began playing together as MGMT when they were Wesleyan undergraduates, Andrew Van Wyngarden ’05 and Ben Goldwasser ’05, released a new album to favorable reviews: “MGMT are back to their roots on Little Dark Age, with concise tunes built from cushy keyboard beats and cute, kiting melodies,” wrote Jon Dolan in Rolling Stone.

[Also: Entertainment Voice, TheMusic.com, Interview Magazine and others]

2. TBR Newsmedia: “SBU’s Lerner Uses the Theater for Autism Therapy

Matthew Lerner ’03, an assistant professor of psychology, psychiatry and pediatrics in the department of psychology at Stony Brook University is part of a team—with scientists from Vanderbilt and University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa—that received $3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health to study how participation in a theater production can help people with autism spectrum disorders. “The process of putting on a play with others and being able to successfully produce and perform that has key benefits to learn and practice,” said Lerner.

3. Huffington Post: “10 Years Ago, Screenwriters Went On Strike and Changed Television Forever”

Craig Thomas ’97 and Carter Bays ’97 recall the 100-day battle between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers when their creation, “How I Met Your Mother,” was in only its third season and all filming was to be done without any writers on the set.

4. Scripps College News: ”Ulysses J. Sofia [’88]: Weinberg Family Dean of Science of the W.M. Keck Science Department

Called “a scientist and an adventurer” who enjoys the liberal arts environment at Scripps, “U. J. began his own college career at a large research university before transferring to Wesleyan University, a liberal arts college, during his junior year. ‘It was like the angels singing—I thought, this is where I belong, this feels right. I learned all of my physics, all of my astronomy in those two years.’”

5. BroadwayWorld:The Wheel Theatre Company Presents Owen Panettieri’s [’01] A Burial Place

This production of A Burial Place by award-winning playwright Owen Panettieri ’01 at the DC Arts Center in Washington, D.C., runs March 8-17, 2018. The plot features Emmett, Colby and Marcus reuniting in their hometown after sophomore year at college, gathering for their annual summer sleepover. “Instead, they come back to find their town at the epicenter of a major police investigation. A gruesome discovery out in the woods where they used to play has resulted in public outrage and a growing list of unanswered questions.”

 

 

Grateful Dead Lyricist, Internet Rights Advocate John Perry Barlow ’69 Dies

This photo of John Perry Barlow ’69, seated on Foss Hill, ran in the 1994 summer issue of Wesleyan, for the article titled “Cognitive Dissident,” by Lisa Greim ’81, (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

Lyricist for the Grateful Dead and cofounder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation John Perry Barlow ’69 died Feb. 7, 2018. He was 70.

A College of Letters major as an undergraduate, he collaborated with his friend from high school, Grateful Dead guitarist Bob Weir, on lyrics for songs that included “Cassidy,” “Mexicali Blues” and “Black-Throated Wind.”

In the 1980s Barlow was active in an early online community. Then in 1990, with John Gilmore and Mitch Kapor, founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). In the summer 1994 issue of Wesleyan, an article, “Cognitive Dissident,” written by Lisa Greim ’81, profiled his journey.

“To the surprise of many who know him, John Perry Barlow ’69 has become respectable,” wrote Greim.

“In the last ten years, Barlow, 46, has evolved from a Wyoming cattle rancher into one of the nation’s most outspoken computer experts and defenders of the right to electronic freedom….

‘I don’t know anyone else who is welcome at the White House, backstage at a Grateful Dead concert, at CIA headquarters and at a convention of teenage hackers,’ says Howard Reingold, author of The Virtual Community.

In a statement released by the EFF, Executive Director Cindy Cohn said of Barlow: “He always saw the Internet as a fundamental place of freedom, where voices long silenced can find an audience and people can connect with others regardless of physical distance.”

To read the article from the 1994 issue of Wesleyan, click this link: JPBarlow_WesMag1994.

 

Pearce ’08 Directs LoveYourBrain Yoga for Patients with Traumatic Brain Injuries

Kyla Pearce ’08 works with people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury, teaching yoga as a technique to calm their minds and develop mind-body connections through the LoveYourBrain yoga program. “For me, yoga has been a pathway to connecting with myself in a more authentic and kinder way,” she says. “For much of my life, I was constantly pushing myself to achieve and measuring my self-worth based on these outcomes and how others perceived me. Yoga and meditation have helped me learn to recognize that my strength and value comes from within, and also how to observe instead of becoming entangled in my thoughts.”

Kyla Donnelly Pearce ’08, a government major at Wesleyan with a certificate in international relations, is now senior director of the LoveYourBrain yoga program, an outgrowth of the work her husband and the Pearce family are doing for those who suffer from traumatic brain injury. Their journey began after snowboarder Kevin Pearce, Kyla’s brother-in-law, was injured in a training accident in Utah on Dec. 31, 2009, as he prepared for the Olympic trials. The previous year he had won three medals at the 2008 Winter X Games XII in Aspen, Colo. He spent the first six months of 2010 in rehabilitation hospitals with brother Adam (Kyla’s spouse) at his side, before returning home to Vermont to continue healing.

Kyla Pearce’s interest in yoga has become an integral part of that healing.

“I vividly remember being in Dharamsala, India, with my 200-hour yoga teacher training program nearly completed—when I received an excited call from Adam. Kevin, he said, was finding a sense of peace, accomplishment and vitality in yoga and meditation that were unavailable elsewhere,” she recalls.

When she returned, she saw it for herself. “I noticed that he loved the feeling of accomplishment from engaging with what he deemed a fitting challenge (be it focusing his mind in meditation or holding a strength-building yoga posture), instead of assessing his progress based on some medical benchmark. When he practiced yoga, he no longer felt defined by his injury.

“The LoveYourBrain yoga program grew out of the need that my husband, Adam Pearce, saw for supporting his brother—and others affected by TBI—in the healing process.”

While it admittedly seems a circuitous path—from government major to therapeutic yoga instructor, Pearce notes it is actually more linked than it might appear. At Wesleyan, she was on a premed track with a clear goal:

“I wanted to be at the helm of delivering women’s health care services, specifically maternal health and family planning, in underserved communities abroad,” she says, noting her undergraduate interest in international relations. As for yoga during that period, she sporadically showed up in the basement of the Butterfield dorms, where her friend taught a yoga class. Pearce still keeps one track of her life back on her original health-care goals, completing an MPH at Dartmouth with a focus on women’s health. She is now midway through a doctorate there, investigating the quality of abortion care in the United States. On the other track, yoga has come into prominence.

Fels ’06 Wins Gates Grand Challenges Explorations with macro-eyes Health Care Initiative

Benjamin Fels ’06, co-founder of macro-eyes, is the recipient of a Grand Challenges award to explore a pilot project on vaccine delivery in Arusha, Tanzania, that will combine algorithms with information gleaned from on-the-ground observations.

“Pattern recognition was a constant in my explorations at Wesleyan—and what I focused on afterwards,” says Benjamin Fels ’06, explaining the unity behind a seeming diversity of interests.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Organization is interested, also, in what Fels finds intriguing. The company Fels co-founded, macro-eyes, is one of 20 that the foundation selected to be a Grand Challenges Explorations winner. The project that macro-eyes proposed seeks to use their own breed of statistical machine learning, trained on supply chain and immunization data at health facilities in Tanzania. The goal is to maximize the number of children who get vaccinated and minimize vaccine wastage.

Fels and his partners believe that by adding important data, information and observations from health-care workers at the site, they will be able to train and test algorithms, which will learn to identify predictive patterns to forecast demand and recommend the optimal delivery of vaccines to each site in the program.

At Wesleyan, Fels was an art history major who wrote an interdisciplinary University Major Honors thesis with advisor Khachig Tölölyan, professor of Letters and English. “He knew the kinds of topics he was interested in and the things he liked—but the exploration of the things he liked weren’t easily available within a departmental structure,” recalls Tölölyan. “Both of us wanted to think hard in the ways we wanted to think and not worry too much about whether a single discipline could comfortably accommodate that.”

Post-graduation, Fels spent a number of years trading derivatives, which he describes as, “I sat in front of 12 computers, dense with data, looking at patterns; working with technology and people from other cultures to develop algorithms to predict what came next. I really liked the rigor and clarity of it.” After a while, though, he sought to take his interest in pattern recognition in another direction, launching his company, macro-eyes, with a chief scientist who is also a principal research scientist at MIT, and a chief design officer.

“Machine learning—data analytics, or working with large amounts of data to discern those predictive patterns—is important in other domains outside of financial markets, so I went and founded a company,” he explains. Fels and his team are convinced that macro-eyes can solve the problem of ineffective health-care supply chains by harnessing effective machine learning paired with on-the-ground human information.

Fels initially became interested in this specific application of this theory through talking with Anna Talman Rapp ’05, a program officer at the Gates Foundation, which invests heavily in the development of vaccines, a crucial component of the global health climate. At the time, macro-eyes was working with a large U.S. health-care system, exploring questions around determining the value of different devices: which produced the best outcome for the lowest price for which type of patients.

The problem of predicting need captured his imagination: “On one hand, we could celebrate the effectiveness of vaccine delivery,” he says, “because on a global scale, more and more people are vaccinated against deadly diseases—global coverage is something like 86 percent. However, as more and more people are vaccinated, there’s a greater rate of coverage that will run in parallel to a greater wastage of vaccine. The approach so far has been to accept that as the cost of doing business.”

But the cost of vaccines has skyrocketed. Additionally, the vaccines themselves are fragile, with a limited shelf life and narrow range of temperatures in which they remain viable. Over-delivery practically guarantees some will spoil before they can be used—a waste of resources. In Fels’s mind, what is worse is undersupply.

“Let’s think about this one clinic in Arusha, Tanzania, that we’re going to work with: Let’s say, I decide to take my child to this clinic to be immunized. And I spend a good portion of my day traveling from where I live to get to this site. And when I get there, I’m told, ‘Sorry, we’ve run out of those vaccines.’ Rationally enough, I’m probably not going to come back. And even more dangerously, I’m probably going to tell my community, ‘Don’t bother to take your kids to get immunized, because they’re going to tell you that there aren’t any vaccines.’”

What he proposes is to use technology to much more accurately predict demand. Growing out of data from immunization events, he believes that patterns will emerge that can be translated to quantity and type of vaccine to be delivered. “The better you get, the less waste, more opportunity you have to provide the health care to the people who need it.”

Additionally, a key element Fels sees is: “We want to engage these caregivers at the frontline, get their information—and I use that word very carefully because information is many steps up from data; it’s filtered through somebody’s brain and understanding—about the context for care. We believe that these are people who are the world’s foremost experts on the delivery of care at that clinic in Arusha; nobody else knows more than they do; they have this deeper insight into what is happening around them.”

From there he notes a connection to health care in this country:  “You’ve probably read about how many doctors spend probably about half their day entering data. And you see this when you go to a doctor, typing away. That frustrates them, because they feel like, ‘That’s not what I trained to do.’ The data collection doesn’t seem important—and the reason is, it’s not flowing out and bouncing back with insights that would make their data collection worthwhile, an ‘Okay, this is why I’m making this investment.’ If we collect data, the initiative must be worthwhile for everybody.”

“I think of this health care project in terms of problems worth solving—and finding those has always interested me. I like the interdisciplinary aspect. And I would bet that everyone who goes through Wesleyan thinks in similar terms. That’s the point, right? To solve a problem that is worthwhile.”

 

Ganbarg ’88 Co-Produces Another Grammy Nominee with Dear Evan Hansen

The Broadway cast recording of the Tony Award–winning musical Dear Evan Hansen earned a Grammy nomination for Best Musical Theater Album on Nov. 28. Produced with Atlantic Record’s President of A&R (artists and repertoire) Pete Ganbarg ’88, along with music supervisor and orchestrator Alex Lacamoire, creators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, and Broadway producer Stacey Mindich, the album had debuted at No. 8 on the Billboard 200 when it came out last February.

Chanda ’96, Peltzman ’96 Podcast With WNYC Studios Has Fleas

Official Logo of the podcast by Koyalee Chanda ’96 and Adam Pelzman ’96 in conjunction with WNYC Studios.

On Dec. 4, This Podcast Has Fleas, a partnership between WNYC Studios and kids’ television veterans Adam Peltzman ’96 and Koyalee Chanda ’96, joined that studio’s roster of innovative audio programming and signaled its foray into children’s podcasting.

This Podcast Has Fleas is six-episode scripted comedy series about a dog, Waffles (Emily Lynne), and a cat, Jones (Jay Pharoah), who live in the same house, each hosting their own competing podcasts. Additional household pets are a goldfish played by Alec Baldwin and a gerbil played by Eugene Mirman.

Chanda and Peltzman, whose television credits include Blue’s Clues, Wallykazam! and the Emmy-winning Odd Squad, The Electric Company and The Backyardigans spoke with The Wesleyan Connection about their path from Wesleyan into children’s television programming, and now into their newest audio project.