Tag Archive for Class of 2009

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.

Researchers Explore the Effects of Dam Removal on Bottom-Dwelling Aquatic Animals


Kate Miller PhD ’13

Although dam removal is an increasingly common stream restoration tool, it may also represent a major disturbance to rivers that can have varied impacts on environmental conditions and aquatic biota.

In a paper titled “Dam Removal Effects on Benthic Macroinvertebrate Dynamics: A New England Stream Case Study, five researchers from Wesleyan examined the effects of dam removal on the structure, function, and composition of benthic macroinvertebrate (BMI) communities in a temperate New England stream. The benthic—or “bottom-dwelling”—macroinvertebrates are small aquatic animals that are commonly used to study biological conditions of water bodies.

The paper is published in the May 21 edition of Sustainability, an international, cross-disciplinary, scholarly, peer-reviewed and open-access journal of environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability of human beings.

Ross Heinemann '09, MA '13

Ross Heinemann ’09, MA ’13

The paper’s coauthors include Helen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies; Barry Chernoff, the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies; Kate Miller PhD ’13; Ross Heinemann ’09, MA ’13; Michelle Kraczkowski PhD ’13; and Adam Whelchel from the Nature Conservancy in New Haven, Conn.

The results of their study indicated that the dam removal stimulated major shifts in BMI community structure and composition above and below the dam.

“Our research shows that the effects of dam removal on the river were not predictable. During the fours years of the study after dam removal, the river did not return to its original state in the areas where the dam was removed,” Chernoff explained.

Ashkin ’11, Delany ’09, Roginski ’87 Confront White Supremacy through Dance

Brittany Delany ‘09 and Sarah Ashkin ‘11, codirectors of GROUND SERIES dance collective, rehearse for task, “depicting the hierarchy, monstrosity, and sexual tension imbued in the weaponized white woman.” Sue Roginski ’87 served as dramaturg.

Sarah Ashkin ’11, Brittany Delany ’09, and Sue Roginski ’87 premiered an evening-length dance work, task, on Aug. 17–18, as part of the summer season at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Calif., under the umbrella of GROUND SERIES dance collective. Ashkin and Delany, codirectors of GROUND SERIES since 2012, choreographed and performed the piece, with Roginski providing dramaturgical direction. As codirectors, Ashkin and Delany describe their work as  “collaborating in using dance performance as a tool of embodied intervention and research.”

“With our shared background in critical thinking, cultural studies, and artistic risk-taking fostered by the Wesleyan Dance Department, we wanted to create a work that responded to the current political moment,” Delany says. “The culmination of our collaboration, task, is a confrontation of white supremacy through dance performance.” Treating the theater as a site in this work, Ashkin and Delany continued their research and presentations of site-specific performance with the new challenge to remap and reframe the stage as a racialized space.

In the aftermath of their premiere, the three reflected on the experience for the Connection: 

Q:  What was it like to work with other Wes grads—those you knew on campus, those from different eras. Are there some commonalities, some ways of communicating, some understanding of dance as art and dance in the world, that you all have in common?

McAlear Visits Former Students Odede ’09, ’12, and Perel-Slater ’11 at Non-Profits in Africa

Professor Michael McAlear gathers with students at Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede in Kibera, Africa. 

In 2010 Professor Michael McAlear first gathered with students at Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede in Kibera, Kenya, offering a lecture on clean water. This year on his visit during spring break, he again gave a lecture to these students, now pre-teens and young teenagers, who filled his Q&A session with their concerns, interest, ideas, and a deep desire to learn.

In March, during Wesleyan’s spring break, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Michael McAlear took a trip to visit and catch up with three alumni whom he’d known when they were undergraduates, just beginning the nonprofits for which they are now known. McAlear doesn’t see them often: they live and work in Africa. All three had received Wesleyan’s Christopher Brodigan Award in their senior year, for research or work in Africa.

Kennedy Odede '12, Mike McAlear and Jessica ’09 Odede.

Pictured from left are Kennedy Odede ’12, Mike McAlear and Jessica Posner Odede ’09.

McAlear’s first stop was in Kibera, the largest slum in Kenya, and home of SHOFCO, Shining Hope for Community, the nonprofit begun by Jessica ’09 and Kennedy ’12 Odede. Linking education for girls with community services, the organization has grown since McAlear had last visited in 2010 to help set up the school, when it held only two classes of girls ages 6 and 7, and the group was building a clinic was built to honor Johanna Justin-Jinich ’10, the student slain in the spring of 2009. At that time, McAlear offered the young students a lecture on clean water and also became a sponsor for one little girl, a responsibility and relationship that is ongoing,

“I was overwhelmed by the need in Kibera— and the optimism and fearlessness of Kennedy and Jessica; you couldn’t help being swept up by that,” McAlear recalls. “They were so young and naïve that they didn’t know what they couldn’t do—so they just kept on doing things.”

Drennan ’09 Inducted into Connecticut Volleyball Hall of Fame

Lisa Drennan '09

Lisa Drennan ’09

Former Wesleyan volleyball standout Lisa Drennan ’09 was recently inducted into the Connecticut Women’s Volleyball Hall of Fame for her decorated collegiate career. The dinner ceremony took place Nov. 24 at the Aqua Turf in Southington, Conn.

Drennan was a four-year member of the Cardinals from 2005-to-2008, and helped guide Wesleyan to a 73-36 (.670) overall record and 24-16 (.600) NESCAC mark during that period, which included four straight conference tournament appearances.

Former Wesleyan head coach Gale Lackey said, “When your best player is also the hardest worker on the team, the team is lifted and good things happen. That is what Lisa brought to our teams for four years.”

Hutton ’09 Directs Documentary about Search for Bone-marrow Donation

Noah Hutton '09

Noah Hutton ’09 has directed and scored a new documentary, More to Live For, which was shown recently at the Dallas International Film Festival. According to Glenn Hunter in the Dallas-based D Magazine, the film focuses on “three cancer victims searching for the bone-marrow transplants that could save their lives. The three are Dallas entertainment-insurance executive James Chippendale; Nigerian athlete Seun Adebiyi; and multiple-Grammy-Award-winning saxophone player Michael Brecker, who eventually died. Brecker’s widow, Susan Brecker, and Chippendale co-produced the film, which is intended to raise awareness about the importance of bone-marrow donation.”

Hutton is currently a creative director at Couple 3 Films, a New York City production house. He is in the process of producing 30 original short films about psychology and neuroscience for Scientific American, as well working on a long-term documentary project about Swiss neuroscientists who are trying to simulate an entire human brain on IBM supercomputers.

Devane ’09 Find NYC Ideal for the Life of an Entrepreneur

Tim Devane ’09

Tim Devane ’09 was recently interviewed by the tech blog We Are NY Tech.Devane describes himself as a “British-born NYC-living entrepreneur, wanderer, environmental advocate, hustler, business developer, and most importantly writer.”

In the interview, Devane discusses why he came to New York City:

“New York is where things happen. I was drawn in by the electricity, the excitement, and have been overwhelmed by the shear capacity to create and accomplish that people here exhibit. That goes for tech and for many other areas. It’s like everyone has their noses to the grindstone but they’re looking up winking at you, because they know New York is the only place they could do what they’re doing.”

Devane also talks about his connection with Wesleyan alumni:

“I owe quite a lot to the alums I connected with just before and after graduating from Wesleyan. … Many of these alums are people I count as friends and colleagues today. Wes alums gave me advice on where to go, what to do, and who else to speak to. They introduced me to industries and companies I was unaware of. More than anything, they helped me gain a stronger sense of what I wanted to do, because I really wasn’t sure when I left school.

Devane also recently contributed an op-ed, “Can’t Knock the Hustle: Job Search Today,”to the Huffington Post. In searching for a job, he suggests sending e-mail constantly to contacts, moving to the place where you want to work, and keeping up the hustle in the wake of rejection.

Devane works at Betaworks, a tech incubator and venture firm founded by two Wesleyan graduates, Andrew Weissman ’88 and John Borthwick ’87. The firm starts and invests in promising Web services, and was featured last year in The New York Times.

Devane is the co-founder (along with Eli Bronner ’10) of Birthright Earth, an environmental nonprofit program that funds eye-opening trips for young people to the rain forests of South America. For more information, go to http://birthrightearth.com/.

Halpern ’09 CFO for Technology Venture

Seth Halpern ’09

Most people don’t become CFO of a national organization just one year out of Wesleyan—as a first job, no less—but Seth Halpern ’09 did just that.

A government major, he moved to Washington D.C. after graduation to look for employment, but the job market was difficult and a month later he was still unemployed. One morning at a local cafe he got to chatting with someone who said he worked at a software start-up, NationalField. Halpern admits that he’s always been “tech savvy” and the two hit it off. From there, he was introduced to the NationalField founders and he accepted a volunteer position with the team. A short time later, the CEO gave Halpern one of the top positions in the organization, formally naming him chief financial officer for NationalField,

Posner ’09 Brings “Do Something Award” to Wesleyan

From left, President Michael Roth, Jessica Posner ’09 and Shining Hope for Communities board member Rob Rosenthal, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

On Nov. 1, Jessica Posner ’09 met with Wesleyan President Michael Roth and Rob Rosenthal, interim provost and vice president for academic affairs, and the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, to share her “Do Something Award.”

On July 19, Posner was declared the top world-changer among all Americans under 25 by VH1. She received a trophy and a $100,000 award for Shining Hope for Communities, an organization she co-founded in August 2009 with Kennedy Odede ’12. Shining Hope created the first free school for girls in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum.

The award ceremony is featured online here.

Posner ’09 Wins $100,000 Do Something Award

Jessica Posner ’09

Jessica Posner ’09 was declared the top world-changer among all Americans under 25 by the Do Something Awards, at a live broadcast on July 19  from the Hollywood Palladium on VH1. She received $100,000 for Shining Hope for Communities, an organization she co-founded that last August opened the first free school for girls in Kibera, Africa’s largest slum.

A Denver resident, Posner was selected among five finalists by voting on the Internet.  She also has started a gardening program, a library, an Internet-ready computer center and introduced ecologically friendly latrines. In August, Shining Hope will open Kibera’s first accessible community health center.

Read more in the Denver Post.

See also: (Video) “Shining Hope for Communities: The Kibera School for Girls”

Perkins ’09 Awarded 2010 Rhodes Scholarship

Russell Perkins '09

Russell Perkins ’09

Russell Perkins ’09 was awarded a 2010 Rhodes Scholarship. Perkins, from Evanston, Ill., graduated with high honors from Wesleyan University in May. He majored in the College of Letters (COL) with a senior thesis titled “Violence in Adornian Aesthetics and the Art of Anselm Kiefer;” his advisor was Khachig Tololyan, professor of English, professor of letters. Perkins co-founded Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education which offers Wesleyan courses at Connecticut’s Cheshire Correctional Institution. In addition to offering education for selected inmates, the program provides research and volunteer opportunities for Wesleyan students and faculty. A classical pianist and avid cyclist, he taught a small discussion workshop in philosophy at the Cheshire prison as an undergraduate. Russell plans to do the B.Phil. in philosophy at Oxford University.

President Roth to Class of 2009: Don’t Accept the Status Quo

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth '78 speaks during the Wesleyan University Commencement Ceremony May 24.

Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth ’78 speaks during the Wesleyan University Commencement Ceremony May 24.

Members of the board of trustees, members of the faculty and staff, distinguished guests, new recipients of graduate degrees and Class of 2009, I am honored to present some brief remarks to our graduates on the occasion of their commencement.

This year I’ve continued my “second Wesleyan education,” but I am still very much an underclassman. You seniors often asked me: “Roth, what are you going to major in? What are you focused on?” My focus as an undergraduate was on how people make sense of the past. My focus as your president is on how to link our sense of Wesleyan’s past to our ambitions for the future so as to make our university the best school in America for students who value freedom, diversity, intellectual adventure and creative effectiveness. My “major” now is to help Wesleyan live up to its best self, its highest aspirations, more consistently and more fully. I have no interest in copying the sophisticated, wealthier schools to the North. I believe Wesleyan represents something admirable and vital in American higher education, and it is my responsibility to make this even more visible and compelling.

Most of you began your careers at Wesleyan in the fall of 2005. Do you remember your first meetings with teachers and friends that you see around you today? When you arrived on campus, Hurricane Katrina had recently wrecked havoc along the Gulf Coast. I’m sure you recall the images of flooded streets and frightened residents of New Orleans. Issues of race and class were brought to the fore so as we watched the spectacle of governmental failure in the 9th Ward and at the Superdome. We were staggered by the lack of competence and accountability but also impressed by private acts of compassion and generosity. In your four years at Wesleyan, you have also seen that even on campus efforts to create a more just community with regards to race and class are far from complete. The status quo here at Wesleyan is unacceptable. Much remains to be done, and I count on you as alumni to hold me accountable for making improvements in the coming years.

In the fall of your senior year many of you participated in political campaigns with either a local or national focus. There were vigorous debates on campus, and many students joined in efforts to organize voters. Apart from any partisan perspective, I was encouraged to see Wesleyan students using their skills in the context of concrete decision making and organizing. I was encouraged to know that Wesleyan students now as in the past were using their talents and energy to work on problems of public import so as to serve not only their own ambitions, but also the goals of our society. I am still encouraged.

I am encouraged, but I am not naïve. I know how difficult the struggles in the public arena will be. During my two years as your president I have often spoken of the importance of public service. Over the last few weeks that importance was brought home to me, brought home to all of us, by the killing of Johanna Justin-Jinich, whose short life was full of exuberance and study – and public service. In remembrance of Johanna, and with visions of the future, I’d like to mention three of the areas of public concern that her life and her death have brought to mind.

The first arena is health care, an area in which Johanna worked to improve pre-natal services for poor women. There is a great battle brewing in Washington concerning how we will pay for and distribute health care in the future. The status quo is unacceptable. Too many of our neighbors are deprived of reasonable health services because of their inability to pay. Our current path promises excellent care for a shrinking percentage of the population, and no care at all for larger and larger numbers of people. We must change, and we will need your ideas and your energy to ensure that this is change for the better.

The second area where we need your help is gun control. I know many regard this as a lost cause because of the passionate effectiveness of the NRA. But it is only a lost cause if we give up. Johanna’s murder should remind us all of the idiocy of our hand gun regulations. The status quo is unacceptable. With more than 30,000 people dying annually from gun violence in this country, and with more than 12,000 murders committed with guns, we need you to help us enter the world of nations governed by laws not by violence. Debates about the 2nd Amendment and about the glories of hunting need not stifle reasonable law aimed at reducing violent deaths.

The third area of public import brought to mind by Johanna’s life and death concerns violence against women. When I was an undergrad at Wesleyan 30 some odd years ago sexual harassment of students and of young women on the faculty was as common as parties. But women fought against these practices, and, sometimes aligned with men and transgendered people, made enormous strides toward greater equality. Around the country, however, violence against women remains a sad and frightening fact of life. The status quo is unacceptable. Too often rape goes unpunished; too often stalking is belittled until it explodes as it did last here a few weeks ago. These are crimes of violence, and we need you to help us find ways of giving women the protection of law still too often used to preserve male privilege.

The status quo is unacceptable – that is a sentence that would generate enthusiastic assent from generations of Wesleyan graduates. Wes alumni used our education to shape our culture because we have known that otherwise it might be shaped by people for whom creativity and change, freedom and equality, diversity and tolerance, were much too threatening. Now we alumni are counting on you to join us in helping to shape our culture, so that it will not be shaped by forces of oppression and violence.

You have already begun that shaping this culture with your research and your performances, with your studies and with your contributions to the communities around us. At the Green Street Art Center or at Traverse Square, at MacDonough School or the state prisons, Wesleyan students have been making a positive difference. You have refused to accept permanent inequality as you refused to give in to anti-Semitism when it raised its ugly head. As scholars and artists, as scientists and as writers, you set an example – you take a stand against complacency, against the acceptance of the way things are as if that is the way they have to be.

I have no doubt that over the years you will often find that the status quo is unacceptable, and that you will then join with others to do something about it. When this happens, you will feel the power and promise of your education. And we, your Wesleyan family, are proud of how you keep your education alive by making it effective in the world.

My dear friends and colleagues, thank you and good luck!