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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. Los Angeles Times“As the World Warms, Deadly and Disfiguring Tropical Diseases Are Inching Their Way Toward the U.S.”

In this op-ed, Professor of Biology Frederick Cohan and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, both in the College of the Environment, write that infectious disease is a growing threat, resulting from climate change, that humans may find hard to ignore. Cohan is also professor, environmental studies and professor, integrative sciences.

2. Hartford Courant: “Trump’s Immoral Response to Climate Report”

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, writes in this op-ed that it is “irresponsible” and “immoral” to ignore the findings of a major new report on climate change. Delaying action to mitigate and adapt to climate change will be increasingly damaging and expensive, he writes. Yohe is also professor of economics and professor, environmental studies, and was a reviewer on the new National Climate Assessment.

Recent Alumni News

  1. The Takeaway; WNYC Studios: “Politics with Amy Walter: Pentagon’s First-Ever Audit Exposes Massive Accounting Fraud”

David Lindorff ’71, the investigative journalist who wrote an exclusive on the topic for The Nation, joins Walter’s guests—including Staff Sergeant Patricia King, Ambassador Eric Edelman, and Dr. Isaiah Wilson III, a retired Army colonel and senior lecturer with Yale University’s Jackson Institute for Global Affairs—to discuss military spending and its alignment with the military’s strategic goals.

Zinser ’16 Receives Prestigious Schwarzman Scholar Award

Sophie Zinser ’16 has been selected for membership in the Schwarzman Scholars Class of 2020, located at Schwarzman College in Tsinghua University, where she will study China’s growing influence on foreign aid.

Sophie Zinser ’16, deputy director of Syria Direct in Amman, has been selected as a Schwarzman Scholar, one of the world’s most prestigious graduate fellowships, located at Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing. This Schwarzman Class of 2020 is only the fourth in the program’s history, with 147 Schwarzman Scholars selected from over 2,800 applicants. The class is comprised of students from 38 countries and 119 universities, with 40 percent originating from the United States, 20 percent from China, and 40 percent from the rest of the world. The Class of 2020 will enroll in August 2019.

In a press release announcing the news, Stephen A. Schwarzman, cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Blackstone, and chairman of Schwarzman Scholars, said, “Our newest class includes a diverse group of future leaders from around the world. They join a global network of Scholars who have committed themselves to being a force for change, regardless of where their professional or personal passions take them. My hope is that a year in Beijing will inspire and challenge these students in ways they haven’t even imagined. I look forward to seeing how this new class will leave its mark.”

At Wesleyan, Zinser double-majored in the College of Letters and French studies. She cofounded the Wesleyan Refugee Project, and following graduation, Zinser worked on a congressional campaign in Minnesota and in international development with the International Rescue Committee’s Emergency Team in New York. Last year on a Fulbright scholarship to Jordan, she led innovative research on safety risks to rural and refugee women. In her current role with Syria Direct, she manages a team of Syrian and foreign journalists in Amman and leads the media nonprofit’s expansion. At Schwarzman College, Zinser will study China’s growing influence on foreign aid.

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: “Voting Is Good, but Higher Ed Must Do More”

In this op-ed, President Michael S. Roth writes: “In a year when inducements to political violence have become normalized at the highest level, colleges and universities must do more than just encourage our students to vote.” It is crucial that colleges actively work to protect free expression, free inquiry, and fact-based discussion, Roth argues.

Bergstein ’88, Frosh ’68, Lesser ’10, Martin ’99, Rose ’08 Enjoy Election Success

Alumni who have met with success in the midterm elections include:

  • Democrat Alex Bergstein ’88, who won a Connecticut State Senate race;
  • Democrat Brian Frosh ’68, who won re-election as Maryland Attorney general;
  • Democrat Matt Lesser ’10, who prevailed in Connecticut’s State Senate race for the 9th district, which includes Middletown;
  • Democrat Amy Martin ’99 is judge-elect for the Texas District Court 263; and
  • Democrat Max Rose ’08, who won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives from New York’s 11th Congressional District.

An article in the Greenwich Time quoted Bergstein, post-victory, as saying, “‘I am elated. I am humbled. I am grateful and I am so ready to serve.’ … Calling herself a ‘different kind of Democrat,’ Bergstein said she would work outside of Hartford’s two-party system.”

A News 12 story noted that Bergstein’s win was historic because “A Democrat has not represented Greenwich and New Canaan in the state Senate for 88 years.”

Stein ’08 Wins 2018 Marine Corps Marathon

Stein '08 wins Marine Corps Marathon

D.C. Public Defender Jeffrey Stein ’08 won the 2018 Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 28 with an official time of 2:22:49. (Photo courtesy Jeff Stein)

Jeffrey Stein ’08 had only one thing on his mind when he registered for the 43rd Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.—redemption.

After a wrong turn off-course a quarter mile into the race in 2017 landed him an 8th place finish and a trip to the hospital for heat stroke, Stein registered for the 2018 race with one overriding goal: “to reclaim a little bit of dignity.” He achieved his goal and more, surging ahead in the last 2 miles to finish first with an official time of 2 hours 22 minutes 49 seconds.

Artist Melissa Stern ’80 on Strange Girls as a State of Being

Artist Melissa Stern ’80 and her piece, ‘Wig Shop,’ that appears in her latest exhibition, Strange Girls, now at the Garvey|Simon Gallery in New York City through Nov. 11. “All the people in my work and in my head are triumphant,” she says.

In this Q&A, we speak to artist Melissa Stern ’80, whose latest exhibition, Strange Girls, is open at the Garvey Simon Gallery in New York City Oct. 11–Nov. 11. Stern double-majored in anthropology and studio art at Wesleyan, and earned her MFA in ceramics from SUNY New Paltz. In Strange Girls, Stern uses media such as assemblage, ceramics, painting, drawings, and collage to explore girlhood as a state of being and state of mind.

Q: You have been exhibiting your art since the ’80s, and Strange Girls is your ninth solo show in New York. How is this exhibition a continuation of your past work, and how is it a departure?

A: I think that an artists’ work is like handwriting, if you look hard enough you will always recognize who they are from the work. If you look at my work from college on, maybe younger, you would always know it’s mine. Obviously, it’s changed. Hopefully it’s gotten better, more skillful, more developed, richer, but it is always a continuation of what’s going on in my head, what my cares and concerns are.

My interest in storytelling and narratives, none of that has fundamentally changed. This show is called Strange Girls, but, as I say in my artist statement, boys can be strange. It’s a show about the feeling of being on the outside. It’s about feelings that both genders have of trying to fit into the expectations of your gender, and the expectations of society. It’s about feeling like an outsider. It’s certainly more female-oriented because I’m a girl. My memories are of all of those things that you grow up with when you’re female, both positive and negative. The show encompasses a lot of ideas that I’ve always been interested in—identity, storytelling, and memory. I’m really interested in the stories that people have to tell. And the fact that my work can elicit a response, whether it be a story or a memory, a smile or a knowing laugh from someone is wonderful. This desire for connection is pretty fundamental to why I make things.

Levi ’90 Creates Meaning and Connection through “SLO” Architecture

Levi-designed Hangout space

Alex Levi ’90 designed the Vita Sports “Hangout” space using unexpected materials in functional design pieces that also reflect the organization’s mission.

There’s a certain sense of effortlessness that Alex Levi ’90 remembers from his rowing days at Wesleyan—that feeling of being perfectly in sync and in so doing achieving something better and greater than any individual effort could reach alone.

That feeling came back to inspire Levi in a recent project, designing a collective office space that serves as the administrative hub for four sports-based youth development (SBYD) nonprofits in New York City.

The 10,000-square-foot open workspace in the middle of Manhattan’s Garment District is home to the offices of VitaSports Partners, the collective umbrella under which Row New York (rowing), Play Rugby (rugby), I Challenge Myself (cycling and fitness), and Beat the Streets (wrestling) come together to share administrative resources and a common mission expressed in their tagline: Elevating humanity through sports.

Levi and his design partner and spouse, Amanda Schachter, were tasked with creating a practical space that could appropriately serve the needs of all four groups while also evoking a sense of fun, light, and airiness so that the groups didn’t feel crowded—all within the constraints of a typically anemic nonprofit budget. It was a challenge perfectly suited to Levi’s unique architectural process and his commitment to social outreach, sustainability, and meaningful design.

6 Wesleyan Alumni Named to Top Nonprofit Leaders List

Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87; David Jones ’70; Phoebe Boyer ’89; Sharon Greenberger ’88, P’19; David Rivel ’83; and Alan Mucatel ’84 were recently honored for their contributions to social services and nonprofit organizations in New York with their inclusion in “The 2018 Nonprofit Power 50,” representing a strong showing by Wesleyan alumni in the 50-person list. The list was produced by City & State New York, a self-described nonpartisan media organization that covers New York’s local and state politics and policy.

“…The nonprofit and philanthropic sectors tend to go unnoticed and are all too often unheralded,” the publication wrote. “But behind them is a roster of figures who are ensuring the delivery of services, exploring innovative solutions and influencing public policy. In this special feature, we recognize 50 top nonprofit leaders who are key players in the world of New York politics and government.”

The six alumni biographies are excerpted below: (More information on their achievements is described on the City & State New York’s website.)

  • Muzzy Rosenblatt ’87
    • “For nearly two decades, the former first deputy commissioner of the New York City Department of Homeless Services has expanded the organization’s services, which now reach more than 10,000 New Yorkers annually.”

Chanoff ’94 Receives Schwab Foundation/World Economic Forum Social Entrepreneur of the Year Award

The Schwab Foundation/World Economic Forum Social Entrepreneurs of the Year are RefugePoint founder and executive director, Sasha Chanoff ’94 (right), and Amy Slaughter, chief strategy officer for the organization.

Sasha Chanoff ’94, founder and executive director of RefugePoint, and Amy Slaughter, the organization’s chief strategy officer, were named Schwab Foundation/World Economic Forum Social Entrepreneurs of the Year. This honor is bestowed each year by the Schwab Foundation, the World Economic Forum’s sister organization, to identify and recognize the world’s leading social entrepreneurs.

As awardees, Chanoff and Slaughter join the Schwab Foundation’s global community of social entrepreneurs working in more than 70 countries. They will be integrated into World Economic Forum meetings and initiatives and invited to contribute in exchanges with top leaders in business, government, civil society, and media.

Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, calls Chanoff “one of the alumni whom we, at the Patricelli Center, look to for inspiration. He has a unique ability to see opportunity in dire situations and the tenacity to pursue that opportunity relentlessly. For Wesleyan students who are passionate about creating social change, Sasha is a true role model.”

Chen ’98 Explores Emotions of Directorial Debut for Filmmaker Magazine

Director Lynn Chen on the set of her first feature film I Will Make You Mine, an experience she wrote about for Filmmaker magazine. (Photo by Eric Yang)

Already an actor and blogger, Lynn Chen ’98 is now also a director, with her first feature film, I Will Make You Mine. She wrote about the experience for Filmmaker magazine: “I Just Finished Directing My First Feature Film, Why Do I Feel Like I Have Post-Partum Depression?”

The editors note that these low feelings are common for first-time directors but not frequently discussed. Chen, however, is an activist—the ambassador for the National Eating Disorders Association since 2012—and not afraid to tackle emotional content and bring taboo topics to the forefront.

“When I was a women’s studies/music double major at Wesleyan in 1998, I found very little crossover academically and had to carve my own way through that degree,” recalls Chen. “Now, 20 years later, I’m carving my own way again.”

In the Filmmaker essay, she explains:

About a year ago I started writing my first feature, ‘I Will Make You Mine,’ which I planned to produce, direct, and act in. This is the second sequel to the “Surrogate Valentine” movies I starred in by filmmaker Dave Boyle. I chose to take the same characters and tell the story, six years later, from the female perspective. I spent several months living in the heads of these women, thinking about what it means to grow older, revisit your past, and feel hope again.

Over the summer we filmed the first half of the movie, and despite the drama that comes with any film production, I felt more excited, passionate, fulfilled, alive (and any other positive adjective used to describe feelings) than I ever had before. Yes, I was truly happy. And I don’t care what all the self-help gurus say – that happiness was everything. On the last day, I was still on that high. Until a few hours after we wrapped, when it all came crashing down.

(Read more)

 

 

Kogan ’98: “What I Wish I Knew When I Was A Super-Successful Wesleyan Overachiever”

Nataly Kogan ’98, the author of Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones), will present a WESeminar on Family Weekend about strategies she has learned to manage stress and develop self-compassion. (Photo courtesy of Nataly Kogan)

Nataly Kogan ’98 will present a WESeminar, “What I Wish I Knew When I Was a Super-Successful Wesleyan Overachiever” in the Ring Family Center at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 28.

Kogan, who at 13 emigrated with her family to the U.S. as a refugee from the former Soviet Union, graduated from Wesleyan with High and University Honors as a CSS major. She achieved early success as a consultant with McKinsey & Co, a venture capitalist at the age of 26, and a tech executive with companies like Microsoft. However, this came at a huge personal cost, she says, and it didn’t have to. Now the founder and CEO of Happier, she is the author of Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones), published in May 2018.

Kogan looks forward to sharing her strategies for how to manage stress, treat yourself with compassion to increase motivation, connect with your sense of purpose to boost your resilience during challenges, and thrive while achieving goals.

She spoke about her upcoming talk with the Connection in this Q&A:

Q: What is it about college campuses that make your message particularly important for students to hear?

A: According to The American College Health Association, in 2011, half of undergraduates reported they felt overwhelmed with anxiety. By 2017, 61 percent did.

These are scary numbers and it’s a scary trend. American college students are stressed out, overwhelmed, and feel intense pressure from themselves, their parents, their professors, and our society to succeed.

And what makes it scarier is that we don’t teach college students—or any students, at any level of education—the skills to cultivate and strengthen their emotional and mental well-being. As a society, we’ve not yet embraced that these are not optional soft-skills, but that emotional wellbeing is the foundation for helping students thrive and learn, without burnout, depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses, instances of which are increasing every year.