Tag Archive for alumni

“You Just Have to Read This…” 3 Books By Wesleyan Authors: Otteson ’94, Stoberock ’92, Wickwire PhD ’83

In the sixth of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

book cover for ActivistKK Ottesen ’94, Activist: Portraits of Courage (Chronicle Books, Oct. 8, 2019)
Ranging in age from 12 to 94 years old, the activists photographed and recorded in Activist: Portraits of Courage will inspire you to “dissent, disrupt, and otherwise get in the way.” They are those who took action on the Senate floor, on art museum walls, and in leading marches throughout city centers. In short, they are people who made difficult choices, out of hope for and faith in a better future. In this beautifully assembled book of portraits and stories, KK Ottesen ‘94 highlights 40 of the most influential, admirable change-makers of our time, following their journeys from the beginning. While each featured activist stood out and stepped up in a way that was unique to their talents and character, they all did so with the shared vision of justice and equality. This book comes at a time where it has perhaps never felt so relevant; yet upon further consideration, it seems to have always been exactly the inspiration we needed. Striking in its images and moving in its stories of change, Activist is an homage to the people who practice courage as a way of life.

KK Otteson ’94 is an author and editor who is a regular contributor to the Washington Post magazine. A government major at Wesleyan who earned an MBA at Yale University, she is the author of Great Americans (Bloomsbury 2003), which explored what it meant to be an American through interviews with ordinary citizens who shared a name with national icons.

 

cover of the novel PIGSJohanna Stoberock ’92,  Pigs: A Novel (Red Hen Press, 2019)
On an island filled with reposited trash, four children live among pigs. In Pigs: A Novel—which has been compared to Golding’s Lord of the Flies and Orwell’s Animal Farm—Johanna Stoberock ’92 writes a tale that is disturbingly familiar in its outlandishness. The pigs on the island are insatiable and greedy, eating any filth or wreckage that comes to the island. But when a barrel washes up on the shore of the island with a boy inside, the carefully constructed dynamic between the children and the pigs is thrown into conflict. Though the premise is absurd, Stoberock grounds the novel in a multi-faceted emotional realness that permeates the narrative with tenderness and compassion. The reader may start to see themselves not only in the children who are just trying to get by, but also in the snouted characters, as the animality of the pigs is reminiscent of humans in late-capitalism at their worst, as well as at their most vulnerable. In a meditation on consumerism, community, and culpability, Pigs portrays some of the most frightening parts of being human today, while ultimately encouraging immersive empathy as a method of response.

Johanna Stoberock ’92, who majored in English and religion at Wesleyan, earned an MFA at the University of Washington. Her honors include the James W. Hall Prize for Fiction, as well as an Artist Trust GAP award. Her work has appeared in the New York Times and the Best of the Net anthology and other venues. She teaches at Whitman College.

 

AT the Bridge coverWendy Wickwire PhD ’83, At the Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging (UBC Press, 2019)
From a base of Spences Bridge, British Columbia, little-known ethnographer James Teit created a new form of participatory anthropology which allowed him to work with and advocate for Indigenous peoples in the area from 1884 to 1922. Despite his unquestionable innovation in the field of anthropology and dedication to ethical storytelling, Teit had almost disappeared from the historical record before Wendy Wickwire wrote At the Bridge: James Teit and an Anthropology of Belonging. In this impressive cobbling together of history, Wickwire crafts a stunning biographical portrait that not only secures Teit as one of the most influential anthropologists of his time, but also continues in Teit’s tradition of representing stories in their full complexity. Traversing the narrative plains of Pacific Northwest political history, the field of anthropology, the concepts of indigenous knowledge, and the hidden corners of historical archives, At the Bridge makes a compelling case for the intentional preservation of stories, while bringing the story of a very notable storyteller out of lost history.

Wendy Wickwire PhD ’83 is a professor emerita in the Department of History at the University of Victoria. She earned her bachelor’s degree in music at the University of Western Ontario and her doctorate at Wesleyan in ethnomusicology. 

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.

Wesleyan in the News

1. Marketplace Tech: “Twitter Bans Political Ads, But Is That All Good?”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project, is interviewed about Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey’s announcement that the platform would no longer run political ads. Fowler says implementing this ban is likely to be more complicated than it sounds, and she is skeptical that it will help to reduce the impact of disinformation and improve political discourse. Fowler was also interviewed on Marketplace Morning Report and quoted in Quartz on the ban.

2. NPR’s Throughline: “Zombies”

On Halloween, NPR’s Throughline podcast interviewed Professor of Religion Elizabeth McAlister as part of a deep dive into the history of zombies. Now a global phenomenon in pop culture, the idea of zombies originated in Haiti, back when it was a French colony called Saint-Domingue and many enslaved Africans were worked to death on plantations. The Haitian people ultimately rose up in revolution and defeated their colonizers. But after the revolution, many Haitians were forced back onto plantations when the French demanded reparations in exchange for recognizing their independence. “I think that the figure of the zombie is a reminder that slavery happened to people, that they freed themselves from it, that it still happens in a kind of an afterlife, and it echoes in social practices,” said McAlister. An abbreviated version of the story also aired on NPR’s Morning Edition. 

3. Connecticut Public Radio’s Where We Live: “Acknowledging Middletown’s Ties to Slavery”

Smith ’66 on Translating and Promoting Global Indigenous Literature

Front cover of Meditations After the Bear Feast: The Poetic Dialogues of N. Scott Momaday and Yuri Vaella

Claude Clayton “Bud” Smith ’66, professor emeritus of English at Ohio Northern University, is an author who throughout his career has worked behind the scenes to bring Native Siberian creative writing to an English-speaking audience and to promote global indigenous literature. In that spirit, before Smith’s story starts, he recommends we tune in to the PBS premiere of N. Scott Momaday: Words From a Bear, on Nov 18.

Smith’s connection with N. Scott Momaday is personal. In 2016, Smith co-edited and translated Meditations After the Bear Feast, a collection of poems exchanged between Momaday, a Kiowa writer and the defining voice of the Native American Renaissance in American Literature, and Yuri Vaella, a writer, reindeer herder, and political activist of the Forest Nenets people in western Siberia. But Meditations After the Bear Feast nearly did not see print. How did Smith, a descendant of one of the founders of Hartford, Conn., on his father’s side and an immigrant Czech on his mother’s—who does not speak Russian or any native languages—become the critical player in bringing Meditations to publication? According to Smith, the story begins where it does for every writer, in his childhood backyard.

Claude Clayton “Bud” Smith ’66 enjoying “retirement” at an art show at University of Wisconsin, 2017. (Photos courtesy of C.C. Smith ’66)

Smith grew up a 45-minute drive from Wesleyan, in Stratford, Connecticut. Despite the erasure of Native American history, Smith became aware of his hometown’s long past through local Stratford history and the stories of the Sioux man who rented fishing boats to his grandfather. He remembers that, as a child on a field trip to where the Paugussett tribe first encountered settlers in 1639, “my imagination went wild.”

By 1978 Smith had published his first book, The Stratford Devil, and begun teaching when his mother sent him an article from the Bridgeport Post that mentioned the Paugussett tribe. The tribe had just won a yearslong struggle to protect from termination their quarter-acre reservation—a small remnant of their ancestral lands and the oldest continuous reservation in the United States. The reservation happened to be three miles from where Smith grew up, and so Chief Big Eagle of the Paugussett tribe became the subject of Smith’s first book of creative nonfiction. After hours of taped interviews on the Chief’s front porch, Smith began writing the tribe’s story in the voice of the Chief. Miscommunications often arose; of one such conflict Smith said, “I was discussing the gustoweha (the chief’s headdress), which has antlers. The Chief had evidently led quite a love life, marrying four times, and so when discussing the headdress I commented, in the Chief’s voice, something to the effect that, ‘the antlers remind me of myself as a young buck.’ The Chief fumed, and I changed the line to, ‘reminds me of the deer, a noble animal.'” Through the Chief’s editing of his drafts, Smith learned how to write in another’s voice, a skill that would serve him well in his translating work later. The book, Quarter-Acre of Heartache, was published in 1985, a first-person account from the perspective of the Chief, and today, when Smith reads the quotes on the novel’s rear jacket, “half are the Chief’s actual words, half are mine. I’d so absorbed his voice that I can’t now tell which is which.”

Roellke ’87 Elected President of Stetson University

portrait of Christopher Roellke

Christopher Roellke ’87 is the new president of Stetson University. (Photo courtesy Stetson University)

Christopher F. Roellke ’87, PhD, has been named president of Stetson University, effective July 1, 2020. Currently dean of the college emeritus and professor of education at Vassar College, Roellke will be the 10th person to hold this position, succeeding Wendy B. Libby, PhD, who has served as Stetson’s president since July 2009 and had announced her retirement last February.

Roellke is also past president for the Association of Education Finance and Policy, a 2014 Fulbright Scholar, and the founder and fundraiser of Vassar College’s Urban Education Initiative.

“The Board of Trustees has unanimously elected Dr. Roellke to lead Stetson into the future as our university’s 10th president,” said Joe Cooper, the Stetson Board of Trustees Chair, in a press release. “The board’s presidential search framework and process brought forth many highly qualified candidates, and we thank them all. Dr. Roellke is bringing an outstanding record of energetic leadership in higher education and a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities Stetson University faces. The board is thrilled to welcome him as president-elect.”

Roellke called the appointment “the greatest honor and privilege of my professional life,” noting Stetson’s “deep commitment to the traditions of liberal learning and globally engaged citizenship.”

A government major at Wesleyan, Roellke earned his doctorate at Cornell. As dean of the college at Vassar, he was one of three tenured faculty members on the president’s senior leadership team and oversaw the dean of studies, dean of students, campus life and diversity, and career development, as well other administrative and academic areas.

King ’97, Perez ’98, Santana ’98 at 27th Dwight L. Greene Symposium

Allison Williams at the podim introducing the speakers

On Nov. 2, the 27th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium presented “Changing the Narrative: Women of Color Impacting Culture through Storytelling.” Vice President for Equity & Inclusion/Title IX Officer Alison Williams ’81 introduced the panel. “Our topic today is near and dear to my heart. Telling our stories, changing the narratives, and women of color telling their stories and impacting culture through storytelling.” (Photos by Rich Marinelli)

Alumni speakers on stage

From left to right: Maria Santana ’98, New York-based anchor and correspondent for CNN En Español and frequent contributor to all CNN networks and platforms; Chrishaunda Lee Perez ’98, writer, producer, and orator best known for her popular debut novel, We Come as Girls, We Leave as Women; and moderator Kimberly King ’97, chair of the Alumni of Color Council and a marketing professional. This is not the first time these three women have come together to hold a dialogue in front of an audience: the first iteration of their panel was organized by Perez two years ago in New York City. With photos from their undergraduate days projected behind them, King opened the dialogue by asking, “What better way to talk about storytelling, than to start with a story?” According to King, “My narrative never looked like anyone else’s and I was able to find a space for myself when I was at Wesleyan.” Noted Santana, “If something doesn’t exist at Wesleyan, you create it.”

Photos of three alumnae on stage

Perez called Wesleyan “the best place to explore your ideas, and everybody is supporting you—that’s the school I remember.” Despite her deep interest in developing a career in fashion, she chose to attend Wesleyan rather than art school. “I told my mother, I want to meet future dentists; I want to meet future physicians. And I can dress everybody!” Drawing from friends pursuing majors across the curriculum, Perez was able to assemble a group around her interests, even holding her “very first fashion show.”

Women on stage

Santana recalls that she was shy when she arrived on campus, but at Wesleyan she learned to “figure things out by myself.” She and seven other Latinx students formed a dance group, Caliente, which would perform at La Casa house parties. With an appearance onstage at the all-campus talent show, Caliente gained popularity and grew to include about 35 multicultural members. “Seeing what it started out as and what it became was an obsession for me,” says Santana. “This group was where I gained a lot of confidence.” Noting her current career in front of a television camera, she says, “Wesleyan is the place that made it all happen.”

Gift of Beckett Letters by Levy ’60 Inspires Homage Symposium

A symposium, "Homage to Samuel Beckett," highlighted letters and memorabilia gifted by noted AIDS researcher Jay Levy ’60, Hon ’96, and his wife, Sharon, from their decades-long friendship with the playwright, which began when Jay was living in Paris after his graduation from Wesleyan. 

A symposium, “Homage to Samuel Beckett,” highlighted books, letters, and memorabilia gifted by noted AIDS researcher Jay Levy ’60, Hon. ’96, and his wife, Sharon, from their decades-long friendship with the playwright, which began when Jay was living in Paris after his graduation from Wesleyan.

Wesleyan’s Special Collections and Archives is now home to a robust collection of novelist and playwright Samuel Beckett’s letters and books.

The memorabilia was donated to Wesleyan by Beckett’s longtime friend Jay Levy ’60, Hon. ’96, and his wife, Sharon.

On Oct. 24, Levy joined Samuel Beckett scholar Lois More Overbeck; President Michael Roth ’78; Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian at Wesleyan Andrew White; Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins; and Assistant Professor of French Michael Meere for a symposium titled “Homage to Samuel Beckett.” The event, held in Olin Library’s Smith Reading Room and attended by students, faculty, friends, and scholars honored Levy’s recent gift to the library: his personal correspondence with Samuel Beckett over nearly 30 years.

According to Levy, his decades-long friendship with Beckett was sparked by a conversation he had as an undergraduate awaiting the arrival of his date at Bradley Airport for Spring Weekend in 1959.

“The arrival board and announcements kept reporting delays, but assurances that the plane would arrive,” Levy recalled. “After some hours a Wes student near me said, ‘This is like waiting for Godot.’ I was curious enough (lucky for me!) to inquire, ‘What is Waiting for Godot?’ and was informed that it was a play by an Irish playwright, Samuel Beckett, living in France. More detail indicated that it had been performed in French six years before and fit into the Theater of the Absurd.” Coincidentally Levy had just begun a French literature course on just that topic.

A few days later, Levy spoke with French professor Alex Szogyi, about Waiting for Godot, and subsequently wrote a paper on the play for the course. While Szogyi didn’t agree with Levy’s thesis—which noted religious references suggesting that “Godot” was meant to be God—he “apparently considered it sufficiently noteworthy to suggest my sharing it with Professor Mayoux at the Sorbonne (who knew Beckett) when I went to Paris to conduct biological research after graduation,” Levy said.

Jay levy

Jay Levy, Samuel Beckett, and Stuart Levy gathered in Paris.

Levy did, in fact, share his paper with Mayoux, who then passed it along to Beckett. The playwright invited the young American scholar to his apartment. A friendship was formed, which grew to include Levy’s twin brother, the late Stuart Levy Hon. ’98.

“It is really a delight and an honor to give my correspondence, books, and gifts from Samuel Beckett and a variety of letters and articles about him to Wesleyan,” concluded Levy. ”After all, my introduction to Samuel Beckett began with that fateful day at Bradley Airport in 1959, when I was a junior in college. Now look at what an incredible adventure this school gave me through its education and through its excellent teachers—a reputation I’m pleased to say still remains.”

Matthew Winn ’92, vice chair of the Alumni Association and a cousin of Levy, concurred: “This event is the very essence of Wesleyan. Jay found a passion for something outside his field and pursued it with the same energy he approached his career. It was also touching to see his friends and classmates. The fact that they came is a testament to the deep and enduring relationships the University fosters.”

In her talk, Overbeck recalled Beckett’s gentle charge to “go round” to meet the people with whom he corresponded, which made “all the difference,” she said, adding an additional depth to her research. “Letters are a two-dimensional trace of relationships, written in very specific time and place, to a very specific audience,” she said. “Letters are written in an attempt to bridge time and distance, or to mediate a disjunction of feeling…. As such, each one constitutes a living moment.”

Photos of the symposium and accompanying exhibit are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake and Cynthia Rockwell)

Director of Special Collections Suzy Taraba ’77 MALS ’10 addresses those in Smith Reading Room from the podium

Director of Special Collections and Archives Suzy Taraba ’77, MALS ’10 welcomed the attendees to the Beckett Symposium, noting her pleasure at the gift and its value to the University’s students and other scholars. Matthew Winn ’92, who attended the event, said that he found Taraba and University Librarian Andrew White’s interest in primary sources to be noteworthy. “The University’s emphasis on primary research and object-based learning stands out in an increasingly digital world and reminds us that nothing replaces hard work and source materials,” Winn remarked.

Alumnus Jay Leve at the podium addresses the audience

Dr. Jay Levy ’60, Hon. ’96, thanked Taraba, who worked closely with him on his gift to Wesleyan. Levy also noted the importance of the University’s dedication to wide-ranging scholarship. A biology major as an undergraduate and at that time already preparing for a career in medicine, he notes: “My enjoyment of the arts, my enjoyment of the humanities is typical of Wesleyan’s commitment to liberal arts.”

A screen next to Levy (at the podium) shows an archival photo (circa 1961) of the young Levy in Paris, as well as his twin brother Stuart, flanking Samuel Beckett.

“During our last meeting in Paris in 1986, I spoke to Sam . . . and expressed the optimism I drew from his experiences—particularly the problem faced in publishing Waiting for Godot,” noted Levy, speaking next to a projection of an early photo of himself and twin brother Stuart with Beckett. “I often share this story with my students and scientific colleagues who have grants, letters, articles, or books rejected. Samuel Beckett . . . sent Waiting for Godot to many editors and theater directors. Finally Roger Blinn, after four years, recognized its merit and staged the play that has since had such a great influence on the theater, literature, and other fields.”

Details of a few letters; Levy's are typewritten, Becketts are scrawled.

Included in the display cases outside Special Collections and Archives are a number of letters from Beckett to Levy, and from Levy to Beckett. During his talk, Levy shared moments of connection and conversation with the playwright, adding “This little capsule of my interactions with this really wonderful genuine man, whom I first met when I was 22, opened up incredible vistas in my life—meeting wonderful Beckettophiles like Lois Overbeck and her colleagues at Emory….” Levy noted that one of his letters was included in Overbeck’s four-volume collection of Beckett’s correspondence.

“You Just Have to Read This…” 3 Books By Wesleyan Authors: Abramowitz ’76, Hill ’93, Rotella ’86

In the fifth of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Jay Abramowitz ’76 and Tom Musca, Formerly Cool (Jerome Avenue Books, July 2019)

Warren Brace may want to write funny television, but it seems that his reality could be a sitcom in itself, with all the jokes at his expense. In this subversive take on Hollywood culture, Jay Abramowitz and Tom Musca team up to provide a witty and laugh-out-loud window into the absurdities of the television industry. As it takes on family relationships, celebrities, and the commodification of storytelling, Formerly Cool is sharply funny, with a humor that also delivers poignant insights into what it means to navigate human relationships in an irrational business. For people with and without experience in the film world, Warren Brace’s plunders and wins will keep you laughing with sympathy, and also with recognition.

Jay Abramowitz ’76, a psychology major at Wesleyan who earned his master’s at UCLA film school, wrote and produced a dozen situation comedies for television. He has conducted comedy-writing workshops at the American Film Institute and consulted on projects for Columbia/Tri-Star International Television. Al Jean, longtime executive producer of The Simpsons, calls this “a compelling darkly funny look inside the Hollywood of today; a Day of the Locust set in the world of sitcoms.”

Edwin Hill ’93, The Missing Ones (Kensington Books, August 2019)

In this spooky month of October, what could be better than a fast-paced, page-turner mystery? As a follow-up to Hill’s first novel Little Comfort, The Missing Ones features Hester Thursby, the Harvard librarian and sleuth, as she uses her sharp research skills to make connections and uncover crimes. When Thursby is summoned to an island off the coast of Maine by a cryptic text, she is led into a web of deception and long-held grudges, which she must untangle in order to solve a case of disappearing children. From there, she confronts ethical binds that challenge her moral convictions and force her to reconsider all that she had previously perceived to be simple. Weaving a narrative full of suspense and twists, Edwin Hill expertly crafts a mystery that will keep you guessing—not only at the core of the mystery, but also at what constitutes the right choice in ethically grey areas.

Edwin Hill ’93, whose first novel was nominated for an Agatha Award for best debut, is already at work on the third mystery in the Hester Thursby series. At Wesleyan, he majored in American studies. Joanna Schaffhausen, author of The Vanishing Season and No Mercy, called this book “a chilling mix of envy, deceit, and murder. Everyone is lying about something in this tense, stylish novel.”

Carlo Rotella ’86, The World is Always Coming to an End: Pulling Together and Apart in a Chicago Neighborhood (The University of Chicago Press, April 2019)

While writing The World is Always Coming to an End, Carlo Rotella would take a daily stroll between two houses in Chicago’s South Shore, one on the 7100 block of Oglesby and the other on the 6900 block of Euclid. “They’re not quite a mile apart . . . but to go from one to the other is to pass through distinct worlds,” Rotella writes in his introduction. In his examination of how this came to be, Rotella explores the interplay between these worlds with the care of meticulous reportage mixed with a personal perspective to the story. Informed by interviews with locals and archival research, The World is Always Coming to an End not only delves into the dynamics of one neighborhood; it also questions and investigates the very meaning of a neighborhood universally, as well as what it means to form community across divisions.

Carlo Rotella ’86,  a professor of English, American studies, and journalism at Boston College, is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine. An American studies major at Wesleyan, he earned his doctorate at Yale and is the author of Playing in Time: Essays, Profiles, and Other True Stories (2012), and others. Author Oma M. McRoberts calls this “a rich, incisive portrait of social change in Chicago’s iconic South Shore neighborhood.”

Wesleyan in the News

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

Wesleyan in the News

1. CT Post: “Former Wesleyan Provost is First Woman President at Hobart and William Smith Colleges”

Joyce Jacobsen, formerly Wesleyan’s provost and senior vice president for academic affairs and the Andrews Professor of Economics, was inaugurated Oct. 18 as the first woman president of Hobart and William Smith Colleges. At the ceremony, the chairman of the HWS Board of Trustees said: “Dr. Jacobsen enters the presidency of Hobart and William Smith at a time of increasing complexity in higher education both here on campus and nationally. It is my belief, and the unanimous belief of the Board of Trustees, that there is no one better to help us navigate this future than Dr. Joyce Jacobsen.” Read more coverage of the inauguration in Finger Lake Times.

2. Wilson Center Blog: “Victoria Smolkin: A History of Soviet Atheism”

In this Q&A, Associate Professor of History Victoria Smolkin discusses her book, A Sacred Space is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism. She explains how religion in the former Soviet states has changed since the fall of the Soviet Union, and offers a preview of her second book project. Smolkin was a Title VIII Research Fellow at the Wilson Center’s Kennan Institute in 2014–15.

Alumni, Faculty Discuss Russia’s Return to the World Stage at Shasha Seminar

David Abramson ’87, Foreign Affairs Analyst at the U.S. Department of State, asks a question at a panel held by Wesleyan alumni on Saturday afternoon regarding Russia’s economic development, the prospects for foreign investors, and the range of careers available to graduates in Russian studies.

David Abramson ’87, foreign affairs analyst at the U.S. Department of State, asks a question regarding Russia’s economic development during the 2019 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns.

shasha bannerRussia has returned to the world stage in dramatic fashion in recent years with military interventions and interference in elections.

What is driving this aggressive behavior? Will the current political system survive the scheduled departure of its architect, Vladimir Putin, in 2024? How should the United States deal with Russia?

On Oct. 11–12, Wesleyan alumni and faculty panelists tackled these questions and more during the 2019 Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns. This year’s theme was “Understanding Russia: A Dramatic Return to the World Stage,” with Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, serving as this year’s director. Rutland works on contemporary Russian politics and political economy, with a side interest in nationalism. (For a Q&A with Rutland, previewing the seminar, click here.)

The Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues.

Wesleyan in the News

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

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The Hill: “Analysis: 2020 Digital Spending Vastly Outpaces TV Ads”

The Hill reports on a new analysis by the Wesleyan Media Project, which finds that 2020 presidential hopefuls have spent nearly six times more money on Facebook and Google advertising than on TV ads. President Donald Trump and the Republican National Committee lead the way in digital advertising, having spent nearly $16 million so far. All told, Facebook and Google have raked in over $60 million on online ads this cycle to date. “At this stage in the campaign, candidate spending is driven by supporter list-building and investing heavily to secure enough donors to qualify for the Democratic debates,” explained Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, co-director of the Wesleyan Media Project.

2. Religion News Service: “Sixty Years Later, Only Frank Lloyd Wright Synagogue Continues as ‘Work of Art'”

Joe Siry, Kenan Professor of the Humanities and professor of art history, speaks about Beth Sholom Synagogue, the only synagogue designed by the distinguished architect Frank Lloyd Wright, on the 60th anniversary of its opening. Siry is an expert on Wright’s work, and the author of Beth Sholom Synagogue: Frank Lloyd Wright and Modern Religious Architecture (The University of Chicago Press, 2011). Read an interview with Siry about the book.

3. KERA “Think”: “Do Colleges Really Need Safe Spaces?”

President Michael Roth joins host Kris Boyd for a wide-ranging conversation in connection with his book Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. They discuss Roth’s ideas of how to balance students’ needs to feel safe and included on college campuses while keeping them open to exploring new ideas, as well as common misunderstandings about the concept of “safe spaces,” and the effects of the backlash against political correctness. Roth also recently spoke about his book on Tablet Magazine’s “Unorthodox” podcast. (Roth comes in around 49 minutes).

4. WTIC “Todd Feinberg”: “Richard Grossman”

Richard Grossman, professor and chair of economics, is interviewed about what’s going on with the US economy, why he’s not too worried about prolonged low interest rates, concerns over a recession, and what can be done to fix income inequality.

5. Exhale Lifestyle: “Award-Winning Boston Filmmaker Sparks Conversations About Change”

This profile describes how Tracy Heather Strain, professor of the practice in film studies and co-director of the Wesleyan Documentary Project, became a filmmaker specifically because she wanted to make a film about her longtime idol, Lorraine Hansberry. Like Hansberry, the author of the monumental play A Raisin in the Sun, about black families living under racial segregation in Chicago, Strain is “concerned with contemporary society’s obvious injustices.” Strain earned a Peabody Award for her 2017 documentary about Hansberry, Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.

Alumni in the News

1. Chicago Sun-Times: “The Music of Alsarah & The Nubatones Transcends Borders, Cultures”

Mary Houlihan profiles Sarah Elgadi ’04, noting, “From a young age, Alsarah, who fronts the Brooklyn group Alsarah & the Nubatones, found refuge in music.” Elgadi was 12 when her family arrived in United States. “Now, years later, the 37-year-old singer, songwriter, bandleader and ethnomusicologist (she has a degree from Wesleyan University) has forged a career with ties to her background, bringing a fresh sound to world music.”

2. Eureka Alert: ”Study: Adults’ Actions, Successes, Failures, and Words Affect Young Children’s Persistence”

The American Association for the Advancement of Science reports on the study led by Julia A. Leonard ’11, MindCore postdoctoral fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, who observes: “Our work shows that young children pay attention to the successes and failures of the adults around them and, reasonably, don’t persist long at tasks that adults themselves fail to achieve.”

3. Boston.gov: “Dr. Taylor Cain [’11] Appointed to Lead Boston’s Housing Innovation Lab”

In the release announcing her appointment, Cain said: “As the new director, I cannot wait to grow the threads of this work. I am looking forward to partnering with the many communities that care deeply about housing in Boston and exploring projects that grapple with the connections between housing, transportation, employment, and other important dimensions of urban life.”

4. NPR.org: “How UAW’s Strike Against GM May Affect Ford and Fiat-Chrysler”

In this interview with New York Times reporter Steven Greenhouse ’73, P’08, author of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present and Future of American Labor, NPR host David Greene asks about the strike that the United Automobile Workers union launched earlier this month in more than 30 factories after failing to reach a deal with GM.

5. Core77: ”frog’s Francois Nguyen [’94] is Actively Helping Shape What the Future Looks Like

Writer Alexandra Alexa notes in this interview—which is part of a series on the presenters in this year’s Core77 Conference, exploring the future of the design industry—that Nguyen was one of the lead designers of the original “Beats Studio” headphones by Dr. Dre. She writes: “Even when he’s not working, Francois Nguyen never really stops envisioning what the world might look like. More than a decade into his industrial design career, Nguyen knows a thing or two about staying resilient and nimble as the discipline changes.”

6. International Examiner: “‘Carrie Yamaoka [’79]: recto/verso’ is Not So Much About What You See as How it Happens

Susan Kunimatsu writes about the artist’s retrospective, currently at University of Washington’s Henry Art Gallery through Nov. 3: “Yamaoka is fascinated with transformations, like the moment when exposed photo paper hits the developing chemical and an image starts to appear. Many of her artworks are about capturing that moment.”

“You Just Have Read This…” 3 Books by Wesleyan Authors

In the fourth of this continuing series, Sara McCrea ’21, a College of Letters major from Boulder, Colo., reviews alumni books and offers this selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

cover of Kaplan's book shows a black and white photo of the composer, Irving Berlin

James Kaplan ’73: Irving Berlin: New York Genius (Jewish Lives Series) (Yale University Press, Nov. 5, 2019)

Venerated biographer James Kaplan first encountered the music of Irving Berlin in a New York record store in the ’70s. The tune: “Oh, How That German Could Love,” a song Berlin composed at 21 years old. Kaplan was entranced, playing on repeat the song that he writes “pierced the thick veil of time.” One could say Kaplan accomplishes the same feat, as Irving Berlin: New York Genius portrays the Jewish immigrant and incomparable composer with stunning depth, integrity, and intimacy. In his portrait of Berlin, Kaplan explores the musician’s highs and lows, from his astonishing versatility to his struggles with mental illness. Along with the portrait of the musician, Kaplan also captures the dynamic life of the city that made and was made by Berlin: New York City with its glittering, fast-paced energy. In the same manner that Berlin was able to create the essences of songs, Kaplan captures the essence of a life, guiding his readers effortlessly through the nuances of Berlin’s character. As a bright spotlight on the nine-decade career of a man who changed American music forever, Kaplan’s biography is an homage to extraordinary grit and talent that any music-lover—from ragtime to rock—will appreciate.

Wesleyan in the News

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

Wesleyan in the News

  1. The Washington Post: “How the NRA Highjacked History”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker writes about the history of the legal debate over the Second Amendment, and explains how the court’s understanding of that history may shape the nation’s response to the current gun violence epidemic. Her op-ed was reported on in The Trace.

2. The Hill: “A Tragic Misperception About Climate Change”

Gary Yohe, the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies, Emeritus, is co-author of this op-ed that argues “The U.S. contributes to global warming not only through its own emissions of greenhouse gases but also by the effect of its behavior on the actions of other countries.” The U.S. must first “get its own house in order,” then take steps to encourage other countries to take similar action to reduce carbon emissions, he writes.

3. Process: a blog for American history: “The Politics of Statehood in Hawai’i and the Urgency of Non-Statist Decolonization”

In this essay, written on the 60th anniversary of the United States claiming the Hawaiian islands as the 50th state of the union, Professor of American Studies J. Kēhaulani Kauanui reflects on the dispute over Maunakea, a sacred mountain that is currently under threat by those who want to construct a major observatory at its summit. She writes that the dispute “can be seen as a microcosm of the history of Hawai‘i’s (U.S.) statehood and earlier American encroachment.”