Tag Archive for alumni

Students Engage with Google Employees through Career Virtual Panel

On Feb. 27, the Gordon Career Center hosted a Google Career Virtual Panel featuring Wesleyan alumni who offered insight on their roles in sales, business, product management, marketing, legal issues, and other roles at Google.

The panel was assembled by Sherry Liang ’20, who completed a WEShadow at Google last winter, and Peer Career Advisor Esmye Lytle ’21.

Speakers included:

Aaron Stoertz '03

Aaron Stoertz ’03

Aaron Stoertz ’03: Stoertz graduated with a BA in English. Since then he worked in conservation biology, public health, and international health policy at the World Health Organization before landing in tech, where he’s worked his way into a position as a product manager at Google Health.

Terry Wei ’07: Wei has 13 years of experience in public relations and communications. She currently leads communications for Waze, the world’s leading crowdsourced navigation app. Previously, Wei was head of public relations at Squarespace and managed product communications at Mercedes-Benz. Originally from California, Wei studied English at Wesleyan and graduated in 2007.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News
1. The Open Mind: “Democratizing the Jury”

Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti is interviewed in connection with her new book, Radical Enfranchisement in the Jury Room and Public Life, in which she offers a “full-throated defense of juries as a democratic institution.” “I am very interested in how ordinary people engage with political institutions, and juries are the place where ordinary people have the most power,” she says. Chakravarti calls for more robust civic education, continuing into adulthood, in order to have a “more effective, modern jury system.”

2. Hartford Courant: “Sen. Murphy, Aiming to Expand Pell Grant Eligibility for Incarcerated Students, Hears from Inmates at York Correctional Institution”

Senator Chris Murphy, who is the co-sponsor of a bill to expand the federal Pell grant program for college students to include inmates, met with 11 inmates who have participated in educational programs at York Correctional Institution through the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education and other college-in-prison programs.“What’s important about the REAL Act is that college affordability should be accessible to all students regardless of where they are,” said CPE program manager Allie Cislo. “It’s one thing rhetorically to commit to reentry,” she said, but resources like educational programs “can make or break it for people.”

3. American Theatre: “Digging for New Roots”

This article on “climate change theatre” features Ocean Filibuster, a play by Assistant Professor of Theater Katie Pearl through her theater company, PearlDamour. Commenting on the play’s premise, in which a new Senate bill proposes sentencing the world’s oceans to death and the ocean stands to speak in its own defense, Pearl said, “We thought, well, what if the ocean finally got fed up with taking all of our crap, and started talking and didn’t stop until we actually shut up and listened?” American Theatre, a leading publication in the theater industry, writes: “Ocean Filibuster recalibrates the human experience by reminding us of the comparatively small scale and depth of our own existence.”

Paul Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03 Discusses Espionage Novel at Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore

Paul Vidich

Paul Vidich ’72, P’00, ’03 spoke about his new book, The Coldest Warrior, on Feb. 24 at the Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookstore. The espionage novel, published by Pegasus Crime in February 2020, explores the dark side of intelligence that is exposed when a CIA officer delves into a cold case from the 1950s―with fatal consequences.

Paul Vidich

Many of those who attended Vidich’s talk were friends and fellow members of Wesleyan’s Class of 1972. Vidich, a College of Social Studies (CSS) major, said, “What I learned at CSS was critical thinking and healthy skepticism, but not cynicism. I think I’m a skeptical person, but I also think that every generation goes through periods in which government disappoints. … Skepticism, to me, is a healthy way of looking at the world, and my characters in the novel are intentionally skeptical.”

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors: Alznauer ’92, Almond ’99, and Florsheim ’83, P’14

In the seventh 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.

Flying PaintingsAmy Alznauer ’92, Flying Paintings: The Zhou Brothers: a Story of Revolution and Art (Candlewick Press, 2020)

When Shaoli and Shaoning Zhou are growing up and first learning to paint, their grandmother Po Po tells them, “To become an artist, you must possess the highest spirit.” But when officials from Mao’s republic come to the Zhou family bookstore and burn all of the art and writing they can find, this high spirit of the Zhous’ is strictly regulated, and the brothers can no longer paint freely. It is in this authoritarian political reality that the brothers learn that art can both be beautiful and have terrible consequences, as can the practices of resistance and perseverance. Through a fictionalized depiction of the trials and triumphs that the real-life Zhou brothers faced on their path to becoming art studio owners in Bridgeport, Chicago, author Amy Alznauer crafts an inspiring story for all ages about the importance of collaboration and fighting for artistic freedom. With beautiful illustrations from ShanZuo Zhou and DaHuang Zhou themselves, The Zhou Brothers features and celebrates art that, in its ability to fly off the page, surely exemplifies the highest spirit.

Klaber ’67 Presents RFK Assassination Research at Dublin Festival of Politics

Klaber

William Klaber ’67, author of Shadow Play: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, spoke at the Dublin Festival of Politics last November. (Photo by Siena Klaber)

William Klaber ’67, investigative journalist and co-author of Shadow Play: The Unsolved Murder of Robert F. Kennedy, was invited to speak on his research at the Dublin Festival of Politics last November. The book, originally published in 1998 and written with political scientist Philip Melanson, coordinator of the Robert F. Kennedy Archive, was revised and updated in 2018 for the 50th anniversary of the assassination. Additionally, Klaber was featured as a host on the podcast The RFK Tapes, which debuted at #1 on the iTunes chart last year. Created by the producers of Crimetown​ and Cadence13, the audio documentary series re-examines the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy on June 5, 1968, at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles.

The assassination, says Klaber, was initially investigated by the Los Angeles Police Department, which presented it as a clear-cut open-and-shut case, with Sirhan Sirhan as the admitted perpetrator captured at the scene, gun in hand, and now serving a life sentence. All records had been sealed for 20 years following the crime, and since the release of information in 1988, Klaber has been one of the individuals re-examining and questioning the facts as they were presented. In 1993, Klaber made an hour-long audio program called The RFK Tapes, which aired on 160 public radio stations. After the program’s release, Time magazine reviewed the questions raised in the program with a full-page article on June 7 of that year, concluding, “Alas, considering how much evidence has disappeared, it’s an open question whether … a probe would resolve old doubts—or create new ones.”

Noting the significant response to the original audio production, St. Martin’s Press invited Klaber to write a book about what he and UMass Professor Melanson had found in examining the facts of the case: the 1998 version of Shadow Play.

This fall at the Dublin Festival of Politics, John Lee, the political editor of The Irish Mail on Sunday newspaper as well as a book author, joined Klaber onstage to discuss points of contention in the investigation that Klaber raises, including ignored witness accounts, audiotapes of coerced testimony, and bullet-hole evidence, which had been destroyed but indicated that more than one gun had been fired.

“The Irish love their Kennedys and so they’re particularly interested in who killed John and who killed Bobby,“ said Klaber, explaining his invitation to the Dublin political festival. Additionally, he added that many of those who were eyewitnesses or initially interested in the Kennedy murders have passed away. “There are not a lot of us left, in terms of people who really understand the case and who have mucked around in the police files.”

Klaber, who is currently working on a podcast series that takes a new look at the murder of Martin Luther King Jr., is also the author of The Rebellion of Miss Lucy Ann Lobdell: A Novel (St. Martins Press, 2016). He was a College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan.

“People sometimes refer to me as a conspiracy guy,” said Klaber, “which serves to dismiss my work. But I’m not that. I’m an evidence guy. In Shadow Play, we talk about what we know.”

Recent Media Hits

NewsWesleyan in the News

  1. Connecticut Public Radio: “The Struggle for Sleep: Why More School Districts Are Considering Later Starts”

Speaking as both a scholar and a mother, Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman comments in this story on the movement to push schools in the state to start later. “People ask me, as a developmental psychologist, ‘Oh, we have this mental health crisis in the state, what are we going to do, what should we be funding, what kind of resources do we need to build in?’ And I just think it’s so silly when we have such a straightforward solution that has such large, measurable impacts.”

2. The Washington Post: “For the Super Bowl, Bloomberg and Trump Are Each Spending $10 Million on Ads”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and her colleagues on the Wesleyan Media Project write about what makes political advertising in the 2020 election cycle look so different (hint: two self-funded billionaires are blowing up existing records) and the unusual decision by candidates Michael Bloomberg and President Donald Trump to spend $10 million each to reach nearly 100 million American viewers at the same time. Fowler was also recently interviewed on Marketplace about political advertising.

3. Transitions Online: “Russian Government Reshuffle: Plus ça Change”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, Professor of Government, analyzes the recent mass resignation of the Russian government following a surprise announcement from Russian President Vladamir Putin that he was rewriting the constitution. There is much unclear about the changes, including why Putin chose to make them at this time, and what the impact will be on Russia’s government. What is clear, Rutland writes, is that “Russia’s political system is broken” due to Putin’s constant tinkering with the country’s political institutions “to create the appearance of change while retaining power in his own hands.”

4. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan Student Heading to Hollywood Among Writers of the Future Winners”

Former Virginia Governor Baliles ’63, Hon. ’88, Remembered

Gerald Baliles ’63, Hon. ’88, who had served as the 65th governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, died Oct. 29, 2019. He was 79.

A government major at Wesleyan, he earned his juris doctorate degree from the University of Virginia School of Law. After a stint in the Virginia attorney general’s office, he practiced law in Richmond, with a focus on energy and environmental issues. Elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1976, he became the Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1981, and was, during his term, selected by his peers as Outstanding Attorney General of the United States.

Elected governor in 1985, he served in that capacity from 1986 through 1991. An obituary in the Richmond Times Post noted that as governor, “[h]e delivered on his promise to make transportation an economic building block, with new roads and improvements to the port and airports in Virginia. He saw education as the key to economic development, raising teachers’ salaries and fully funding school budgets. . . . His continuing leadership was recognized by the National Governors Association when he was elected as its chairman during his term.”

Shasha ’50, P’82, Founder of Human Concerns Seminar, Is Remembered

James Shasha, the businessman and benefactor who founded and endowed the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns at Wesleyan, died Oct. 21. He was 91.

Born in Baghdad, Iraq, in 1929, he emigrated to the United States when he was 15 and later attended Wesleyan, graduating in 1950 with a major in economics. In 1955 he moved to Argentina, where he pursued his business interests in the wool and carpet industries, serving as the country’s delegate to the International Wool and Textile organization. Later, at 73, he decided to delve into the hotel business without previous experience in this industry. He acquired four hotels: three in Argentina and one in Uruguay.

Always interested in education and the qualities of citizenship, he told Hebrew University in Jerusalem, an institution with which he was also affiliated: “After World War II there was a lot of idealism about how to build a better world and that was what made me understand and incorporate what a citizen’s responsibility should be: take responsibility for the environment, be it the community, the country, or culture in which it participates.”

He developed the Shasha Seminars first at the Hebrew University and then imported them to Wesleyan.

Sunderland ’92 and Kaplan ’20 Discuss Education

As spring semester approached, Avery Kaplan ’20 gave her former Bedford [Mass.] High School history teacher, James Sunderland ’92, a call to talk about what education means in 2020. Below is an edited portion of their conversation.

Mx. Sunderland has been teaching history at Bedford High School in Bedford, Mass., since 2003. Sunderland was elected president of the teacher’s union this year; in 2010, they received the Kidger Award for Outstanding History Teacher from the New England History Teachers’ Association. Among students, Sunderland is (in)famous for coaching 11th grade classes to compete in the very stressful—but very rewarding—National History Day competition. (Photo courtesy of Julia Sunderland)

Avery Kaplan: What do you think Wesleyan aspires to be, and what do you think education in this country aspires to be?

James Sunderland: It’s always seemed to me that Wesleyan is a place that sincerely wants to be engaged in learning; making an impact in the world in a way that’s also humble, listening to people with an open mind, the free exchange of ideas, disagreeing without being disagreeable. And that we’re all in this shared effort to make more sense of the world. The underlying idea is authenticity; an intent at no pretense.

AK: It’s interesting, that idea of authenticity. One of the worst things you can be labeled as at Wesleyan is “performative”—it’s a pejorative term. How do you think Wesleyan fosters authenticity?

JS: There’s certainly an explicit message of it at Wesleyan, but it’s something that is much easier said than done. For one thing, the professors I had were sincerely engaged in their work. Engaging with students as equals is important. At Wesleyan, I felt that my voice was respected by my professors, that they weren’t pedantic. I think that in general Wesleyan attracts a student body who wants to go someplace where you can have interesting conversations with peers. My friend group, for example, was pretty diverse in terms of interests. We weren’t all the same majors, we met by the randomness of first-year dorms, and it’s made for some really cool conversations over the last 30 years.

AK: I can definitely see how your time at Wes influenced the classroom culture you cultivate at the high school. It was also clear, when I was your student, that you were actively teaching us to become citizens. How has your strategy to teach civics and create citizens changed as you’ve been teaching?

Gaby Giangola ’17 Is Goth Girlfriend

Along with other musicians around the world this week, Goth Girlfriend (Gaby Giangola ’17) posted her “2019 Spotify Wrapped” overview to Instagram. Accompanied by the caption “gotta start somewhere, eh?,” the photo summarizes the number of streams and listeners who tuned in to Goth Girlfriend’s music on the streaming service this year. The caption encapsulates Goth Girlfriend’s tireless ambition.

Two years after graduation, Gaby Giangola ’17 aka Goth Girlfriend, is pursuing a career in music. (Photo by Blaise Bayno)

The up-and-coming artist’s music is self-described as banshee rap or alternative rock; her sound is raw and meticulous at the same time. The five tracks on her recent EP, Sex Sprain, mix guitar chords and hip-hop beats with punk vocals, and touch on themes of isolation, mental illness, sexism, and the hedonism of a “sympathetic nervous system surging for kicks.” By night, Goth Girlfriend is a singer-songwriter, bassist, and DJ. By day, she is Gaby Giangola, an administrative assistant at an entertainment law firm in New York City. This dichotomous identity defines not only her working week, but her artistic expression as well.

Greenhouse ’73, P’08 Lectures on the Past and Future of American Labor

Greenhouse lectures in the COL library

Steven Greenhouse ’73, P’08 discussed his book, Beaten Down, Worked Up, in the College of Letters Library. (Photo by Simon Duan ’23)

Steven Greenhouse ’73, P’08, author of Beaten Down, Worked Up: The Past, Present, and Future of American Labor, spoke in the College of Letters Library  on October 29 to a group that included Professor of History Ron Schatz’s class on American Labor History on Oct. 29, in the College Of Letters Library. His topic was “White Collar, Blue Collar and Gig Workers: What is the Future of American Labor?” The lecture was sponsored by the History Department and the College of Letters.

Greenhouse is a former New York Times labor reporter, and a review by Zephyr Teachout of Greenhouse’s book appeared in the paper on Oct. 3. Teachout called Greenhouse’s book an “engrossing, character-driven, panoramic new book on the past and present of worker organizing.” Teachout wrote: “There’s an enormous upheaval in the American workplace right now, and those who tell you they know how the next decade will pan out—for good or ill—don’t know their history. That’s one of the main lessons of Beaten Down, Worked Up … ”

Speaking to those gathered in the COL library, Greenhouse provided some of that history, drawing parallels between a piecework laborer in New York City’s garment district in the late 1800s to 20-something freelance workers putting in long hours hunched over their computers at home in today’s gig economy. He notes that some Uber drivers used to make more money per hour until upper management halved their pay rate, making it nearly impossible to support one’s family, even working 60 hours a week. He observed that Kickstarter, supposedly a labor-friendly organization, fired three out of eight people who were on a unionization committee. He further noted that Amazon now employs often inexperienced independent contractors as delivery drivers who have been involved in a number of serious auto accidents.

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. CNN: “What the ‘Woke Student’ and the ‘Welfare Queen’ Have in Common”

“Every age seems to need a bogeyman, some negative image against which good people measure themselves,” writes President Michael Roth ’78 in this op-ed. Roth compares today’s bogeyman, the “woke” college student, with those of past eras—the “welfare queen” and “dirty hippie”—and seeks to build understanding and dispel negative misperceptions of activist college students. “The images of the welfare queen and of the woke student are convenient because they provide excuses to not engage with difference, placing certain types of people beyond the pale,” he writes. “These scapegoats are meant to inspire solidarity in a group by providing an object for its hostility (or derision), and educators and civic leaders should not play along.”

2. Los Angeles Times: “Opinion: Our Food Is Tainted with E. Coli, Yet the FDA Is Rolling Back Safety Rules”

As yet another food-borne E. coli outbreak sickens Americans, Fred Cohan, the Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment and professor of biology, and Isaac Klimasmith ’20, argue in this op-ed that more can and should be done to prevent dangerous contaminations of our food supply. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has rolled back rules that “would have required monitoring and treating irrigation water for E. coli,” a major cause of these outbreaks. “We should not be surprised that a regulation-averse administration would disregard the science of food safety, but it is concerning that consumers have become complacent about yearly outbreaks of E. coli contamination and largely silent about the rollback of food safety regulations,” they write.

3. The Washington Post: “What Happens When College Students Discuss Lab Work in Spanish, Philosophy in Chinese or Opera in Italian?”

Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies, professor of philosophy, and the Mansfield Professor of East Asian Studies, is interviewed about Wesleyan’s efforts to promote language study, including the new Cultures and Languages Across the Curriculum (CLAC) initiative, through which students can study a range of disciplines in other languages. For example, Angle teaches a Mandarin-language section of Classical Chinese Philosophy, a course historically taught in English. Read more about CLAC and Wesleyan’s language instruction here.