Tag Archive for Class of 2013

Arulanantham Honored with Chambliss Medal at American Astronomical Society Meeting

Astronomy graduate student Nicole Arulanantham received the Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society.

Astronomy graduate student Nicole Arulanantham received the Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society.

Nicole Arulanantham, who is entering her second year as a graduate student in the Astronomy MA program, was awarded a Chambliss Medal by the American Astronomical Society at its June 3 meeting in Boston. The awards are given to recognize exemplary research by a student presenting a poster paper at an AAS meeting.

Arulanantham worked on the study with her advisor, Bill Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, chair of the Astronomy Department, and Ann Marie Cody of the California Institute of Technology. It involved analysis of data obtained with the Spitzer Space Telescope. Read more about the study online here.

Astronomy major Ben Tweed ’13 also presented a paper at the AAS meeting and reported results of his study of the local interstellar medium using data from the Hubble Space Telescope. His advisor is Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy, and the work was done in collaboration with astronomers at the Universities of Warwick and Kiel, as well as University College London. Read more about the study online here.

Students Honored For Academic Achievement with Awards, Fellowships

During the Academic Scholarships, Fellowships and Prizes Reception May 7, Yan Pui "Angela" Lo '14, Julian Theseria '14 and Paul Hanakata '14 received honors. Lo received the Holzberg Fellowship and Frances M. Sheng Prize, awarded for excellence in Chinese language and excellence in Japanese language. Theseria received the Baden-Württemberg Connecticut Sister State Exchange Award and the Scott Prize for German Studies. Hanakata received the Bertman Prize.

During the Academic Scholarships, Fellowships and Prizes Reception May 7, Yan Pui “Angela” Lo ’14, Julian Theseria ’14 and Paul Hanakata ’14 received honors. Lo received the Holzberg Fellowship for psychology research and the Frances M. Sheng Prize for Japanese language. Theseria received the Baden-Württemberg Connecticut Sister State Exchange Award and the Scott Prize for German Studies. Hanakata received the Bertman Prize for physics research.

Wesleyan hosted the Academic Scholarships, Fellowships and Prizes Reception for students May 7 in Daniel family Commons.

“We gather today to honor students who represent the highest ideals of Wesleyan University―intellectual curiosity, academic excellence, creative expression, leadership, and service. While celebrating these recipients of awards, prizes, and scholarships, we also honor and thank alumni and friends whose generous contributions make these prizes possible,” said Ruth Striegel Weissman, provost and vice president for academic affairs.

The prizes and recipients are listed below:

Butterfield Prize 

Established by the Class of 1967 and awarded to the graduating senior who has exemplified those qualities of character, leadership, intellectual commitment and concern for the Wesleyan community shown by Victor Lloyd Butterfield, 11th president of the University.

Andrew Trexler ’14 

Nicole Updegrove ’14 

Rachel Sobelsohn '17, at right, was the recipient of the Susan Frazer Prize. The prize is awarded to students who have done the most distinguished work in the elementary and intermediate French language sequence.

Rachel Sobelsohn ’17, at right, was the recipient of the Susan Frazer Prize. The prize is awarded to students who have done the most distinguished work in the elementary and intermediate French language sequence.

Chadbourne Prize 

The gift of George Storrs Chadbourne, Class of 1858, to that member of the first-year class outstanding in character, conduct, and scholarship.

Ya-Lih Horng ’17 

Limbach Prize 

Established in 1966 by Russell T. Limbach, professor of art, in memory of his wife, Edna Limbach. Awarded annually to the student who has contributed the most imaginative, generous, thoughtful, and understanding social service to the people of the City of Middletown and/or the Wesleyan community.

Joshua Krugman ’14 

Catherine Marquez ’16 

Wesleyan Memorial Prize 

The gift of undergraduates in the Class of 1943 in memory of fellow students who made the supreme sacrifice in the Second World War, to the members of the junior class outstanding in qualities of character, leadership, and scholarship.

Gabriel Gordon ’15 

Christian Hosam ’15

Academic Scholarships, Fellowships, and Prizes 

Pictured are, at left, Benjamin Jacobs '14 and Benjamin Carus '14. Jacobs received the Sheng Prize, a Fulbright Fellowship and the Hallowell Prize. Carus received the Plukas Teaching Apprentice Award and White Prize. Alex Iselin '14 received the Plukas Teaching Apprentice Award, Wilde Prize and White Prize.

Pictured are, at left, Benjamin Jacobs ’14, Benjamin Carus ’14 and Alex Iselin ’14. Jacobs received the Sheng Prize, a Fulbright Fellowship and the Hallowell Prize. Carus received the Plukas Teaching Apprentice Award and White Prize. Iselin ’14 received the Plukas Teaching Apprentice Award, Wilde Prize and White Prize.

George H. Acheson and Grass Foundation Prize in Neuroscience 

Established in 1992 by a gift from the Grass Foundation, this prize is awarded to an outstanding undergraduate in the Neuroscience and Behavior Program who demonstrates excellence in the program and who also shows promise for future contributions in the field of neuroscience.

Adele Bubnys ’14 

Rachel Rosengard ’14 

Alumni Prize in the History of Art 

Established by Wesleyan alumni and awarded to a senior who has demonstrated special aptitude in the history of art and who has made a substantive contribution to the major.

Isadora Dannin ’14 

Kopac, Herbst, Martinez MA ’13 Attend Space Telescope Science Institute Symposium

Biology Ph.D candidate Sarah Kopac was invited to speak at the 2014 Spring Symposium of the Space Telescope Science Institute on the campus of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, M.D. on April 29. Kopac spoke on “Specialization of Bacillus in the Geochemcially Challenged Environment of Death Valley.” Watch a video of her 20 minute presentation online here.

Kopac’s talk was part of a four-day interdisciplinary meeting titled “Habitable Worlds Across Time and Space” featuring speakers from around the world working in such diverse fields as biology, geology and astronomy. The focus of the seminar was on identifying places within our Solar System and Galaxy where we can most profitably search for life beyond the Earth.

Astronomy major Raquel Martinez, MA ’13 and William Herbst, the John Monroe Van Vleck Professor of Astronomy, director of graduate studies, also attended the conference.

Both Kopac and Martinez were active active participants in Wesleyan’s Planetary Science Group seminars and activities. Kopac’s advisor is Fred Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies. Martinez’s advisor was Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy.

Biology Ph.D candidate Sarah Kopac speaks at the the Space Telescope Science Institute's Spring Symposium.

Biology Ph.D candidate Sarah Kopac speaks at the the Space Telescope Science Institute’s Spring Symposium.

Raquel Martiniz MA '13 poses with her research poster and conference organizer John Debes. Raquel is currently working in NASA's Goddard Spaceflight Center and has been accepted to the Ph.D. program at the University of Texas where she will begin studies in the fall.

Raquel Martiniz MA ’13 poses with her research poster and conference organizer John Debes. Raquel is currently working in NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center and has been accepted to the Ph.D. program at the University of Texas where she will begin studies in the fall.

Oliphant ’13 on the Sense of Community at Wesleyan

Melody Oliphant ’13, who double majored in neuroscience and behavior and history at Wes, is now a research associate in a neurogenetics lab at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York City.

“I’m often awestruck at the seemingly limitless answers to the question, ‘What makes Wesleyan special?’ or ‘What excited me about Wesleyan?’ Yet, in some form or fashion, the answer always remains the same: the people, the sense of community.

Throughout my Wesleyan experience, I participated in a disparate array of activities and academic pursuits ranging from environmental activism to my double major, from founding a sorority to participating in the Wesleyan Student Assembly, from playing Ultimate Frisbee to serving as a women’s center escort to help women pass center protesters. I worked as an archivist at the Middlesex County Historical Society, as a student manager for the Red and Black Calling Society, as a sustainability intern working to remove bottled water from campus, and as an intern for the Senior Gift.

Someone unfamiliar with Wesleyan might wonder what unites such supposedly divergent interests. But the answer is simple: community. Even in my academics, I learned not to take courses according to my own purported interests, but rather by following professors who ignite a sense of intellectual curiosity and foster a holistic understanding of the world, uniting the humanities with the technoscientific realm.”

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View this video and others at the Video @Wesleyan site.

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BA/MA Astronomy Student Edelman Researching Winds around Stars

Graduate student Eric Edelman is writing a master's thesis on the process of measuring the winds of stars. He's focusing on stellar systems that have known planets orbiting them, with the aim of trying to decipher how the measured winds of these stars may affect or potentially even dissipate the atmospheres of their host planets. (Photos by Hannah Norman '16)

Graduate student Eric Edelman is writing a master’s thesis on the process of measuring the winds of stars. He’s focusing on stellar systems that have known planets orbiting them, with the aim of trying to decipher how the measured winds of these stars may affect or potentially even dissipate the atmospheres of their host planets. (Photos by Hannah Norman ’16)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we speak with astronomy graduate student Eric Edelman ’13, who is one of 16 BA/MA students at Wesleyan. 

Q: You’re one of only a few who pursue the BA/MA option — it seems like a lot of work. But it seems tailor-made for work in the sciences… Are you still happy with your choice?

A: Absolutely. The BA/MA program provided me with the possibility to realistically pursue astronomy as a late bloomer in the field. I entered Wesleyan with the plan to major in English, and focused my efforts on that path for my first two years here. I took my first introductory course in astronomy and physics as a junior, switched into the astronomy major that semester, and was barely able to complete the bare minimum requirements to receive a BA degree.

Eric Edelman applauds the Astronomy Department's student-to-faculty ratio.

Eric Edelman applauds the Astronomy Department’s student-to-faculty ratio.

Even though I was able to get a degree, the amount of classes I had taken in astronomy and physics in only those two years would not have made me very competitive for Ph.D. programs, which tend to be the next logical step when pursuing a career in astronomy. With the flexibility provided from the BA/MA program, I have been able to stick around for an extra year and really sink my teeth into some incredibly difficult and worthwhile upper level physics and astronomy courses.

Q: The Class of 2018 is getting their admission letters this week. If a prospect is interested in studying sciences, what would you say are the bonuses of studying at Wesleyan?

A: My answer when it comes to physics and particularly astronomy is the student to faculty ratio. It really does literally approach the golden ratio over here. There tend to be around a total of 10-15 graduate and undergraduate majors in the astronomy department per year, with five professors and one postdoc to go around. While trying to land a research position with a professor at larger universities can sometimes feel like being part of a crazy rat race, the astronomy department here at Wes has more than enough space to accommodate any and all students who want to invest themselves in a worthwhile research project. It is an incredibly open and welcoming department.

Sociology’s Long, Coven ’13 Present Teacher Evaluation Research

Assistant Professor of Sociology Daniel Long and Rebecca Coven ’13 presented their research on teacher evaluations at a press conference held by the Connecticut Education Association March 6 in Hartford, Conn.

Assistant Professor of Sociology Daniel Long and Rebecca Coven ’13 presented their research on teacher evaluations at a press conference held by the Connecticut Education Association March 6 in Hartford, Conn.

When Rebecca Coven ’13 decided to dedicate herself to the arduous task of completing a senior honors thesis, she was concerned that no one would ever read her work beyond the few professors grading it. So she was excited to have the opportunity to conduct relevant, timely research on teacher evaluations in the state of Connecticut, and share her findings at a press conference held in Hartford March 6 by the state’s largest teachers union.

Together with her advisor, Assistant Professor of Sociology Daniel Long, Coven spent her senior year conducting a review of a teacher evaluation pilot program run by the Connecticut Education Association in the Hamden, Conn. public schools. The CEA, which was looking to promote an alternative model of teacher evaluation to the one embraced by the state Board of Education in guidelines passed in June 2012, asked Long to conduct the external review of the pilot. Long invited Coven to help conduct the review as part of her senior honors thesis. Coven’s interest in education reform was sparked when she took Long’s Sociology of Education course during her sophomore year. She served as Long’s research assistant, collaborating with him on a study about the impact of increased instruction time on the achievement gap, including an apprenticeship in the Quantitative Analysis Center the summer after her junior year.

Coven’s thesis, titled, “No Teacher Left Behind: A Look at Alternative Systems of Educator Evaluation,” can be read on WesScholar here.

“It was exciting to know that my senior thesis would be read by other people, and was relevant to an important education debate going on in Connecticut,” said Coven. 

Callaghan ’13 Playing for Professional Irish Basketball Club

Mike Callaghan '13 is in Galway, Ireland playing for the professional SSE Renewables Moycullen basketball club.

Former Wesleyan basketball player Mike Callaghan ’13 is in Galway, Ireland playing for the professional SSE Renewables Moycullen basketball club.

Mike Callaghan ’13 seized an opportunity to play professional basketball abroad, and it has paid off. A two-time second-team all-NESCAC selection, Callaghan is now playing for SSE Renewables Moycullen in Galway, a member of the Irish Premier League. He’s the only American on a team of 11 players and three games into the 18-game regular season, Callaghan leads his squad in both scoring and rebounding while playing 34 of 40 minutes per game.

“The competition is tough,” Callaghan said. “The one American for the other team is often a former Division I player and the Irishmen who play are good players as well. It is a bit of a step up from Wesleyan in terms of what I have to do individually (shoot a lot more, score, rebound).”

As a Cardinal senior, Callaghan averaged 14.9 points and 7.2 rebounds in 2012-2013. He made the connection to Irish basketball through former Hamilton College standout Pat Sullivan, who played professionally in Ireland in 2012. Callaghan submitted a highlight tape and was given a shot.

” I’m really focused on helping my team this year and doing my best for them. After the season, I will reevaluate whether I want to continue my pro career,” he said. “The experience has been great so far, Ireland is a beautiful country and Galway (the city I live in) is full of friendly people and fun activities. My team is full of great people, from the executives of the club to the coaches to the players. I am really grateful for the opportunity and will continue to do my best.”

Callaghan’s Wesleyan coach, Joe Reilly, praised his former player. “We’re extremely excited for Mike. His improvement over four years was recognized by our peers as he was a two-time all-conference player. He has a great attitude and a tireless work ethic. It’s great to see it rewarded to have him play on the professional level. Mike will have a great impact on the court but he also will have a tremendous impact on their community.”

Callaghan said  that in addition to his commitment as a player, he “also helps with coaching the youth teams affiliated with the club, which has been awesome.”

 

 

Video Feature on International Student Nandita Vijayaraghavan ’13

Nandita Vijayaraghavan ’13 is a government and East Asian studies major with a love of music. In this video, Vijayaraghavan describes why she chose to come to Wesleyan from her hometown of Chennai, India. She applauds Wesleyan’s open curriculum.

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Applebaum ’13 Helps Internet Users Remain Anonymous

Julian Applebaum ’13, a computer science major, won honors for his thesis titled, “A Model of Outbound Client Behavior on the Tor Anonymity Network." (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Julian Applebaum ’13, a computer science major, won honors for his thesis titled, “A Model of Outbound Client Behavior on the Tor Anonymity Network.” (Photo by Olivia Drake)

If you’ve ever spent an evening looking up old flames on Facebook, shopping online and watching questionable YouTube videos, you may have wished there were a way to preserve your anonymity on the World Wide Web. It turns out there is a way; and a Wesleyan senior’s capstone work explored how to make that way faster and better.

Julian Applebaum ’13, a computer science major, spent the year working on a simulation of Tor, a global network run by volunteers, that allows internet users to remain anonymous. There is one problem: Tor is painfully slow.

His work attempts to simulate actual activity on the network as a way to test and improve Tor, by collecting a sample of data from the network and creating a mathematical model trained on the patterns he observed.

“If you’re looking for ways to make it run faster or that much more resilient, what you need is a good simulation of the network,” Applebaum said. “This is our own simulation, which we hope to show works better (than existing models).”

There’s a significant social-justice aspect to Tor, which isn’t just for average internet users, but could be critically important to activists and bloggers worldwide, many of whom may work in repressive societies and whose internet use is tracked by governments. For them, Web anonymity could mean the difference between freedom and jail.

“They may be able to hide their blog posts, but just the fact that they are on a blog could have serious consequences,” Applebaum said.

Swartz ’13 Delivers Senior Class Welcome

Anna Swartz ‘13 delivered the Senior Class Welcome at the Wesleyan Commencement Ceremony.

Anna Swartz ‘13 delivered the Senior Class Welcome at the Wesleyan Commencement Ceremony.

Anna Swartz ’13 delivered the following remarks during the Senior Class Welcome on May 26:

Right before I left for Wesleyan for the first time, Ruth, my ninety-year-old neighbor warned me “Make the most of it, college is the best time of your life.” I took her advice to heart, it seemed smart to trust a woman who had done so much living, and I arrived at Wesleyan filled with the loftiest dreams, the highest expectations, ready for my life to be changed.

What I didn’t realize at the time is that college isn’t just about what Wesleyan could give to me, it wasn’t just about showing up and getting the full, packaged collegiate experience, I had to do the changing too. So I opened myself up, along with my classmates, and Wesleyan delivered.

This school took us to the sepia-soaked worlds of Hollywood classics, to the energetic drum circles of West Africa, the desolate moors of the Brontës and the cinderblock hallways of Cheshire Correctional Institute, where the students there looked at us and said “We are Wesleyan too.” We read the Romantics and the Modernists, we saw Judith Butler and Antonin Scalia, we woke up early to hike Mount Higby, and stayed late after class to talk to our professors.

Senior Voices Address by Stowell, Sypher, Eichengreen

Glenn Stowell ’13,  Isaiah Sypher’13 and Jacob Eichengreen ’13 delivered “Senior Voices” speeches on May 25 in Memorial Chapel.

Glenn Stowell ’13

The prompt to which I originally responded for the purpose of putting together this reflection asked me to consider what about my experience here at Wesleyan was meaningful. And that left me to do some serious leg lifting prior to answering that question, as I tried to think about how an experience becomes imbued with meaning at all. When we want to make an experience seem meaningful, we often look backward to a moment by which we can illuminate our progress, how very far we’ve come. These are often dramatic and emotional moments that we turn to show us the true meaning inside an experience.

For that same reason, it’s no surprise that the vast majority of all poems written in our introductory poetry class—Techniques of Poetry—are about someone’s funeral, or are about putting down your family dog… or are about finally putting down your high school boyfriend. The moral of the story is that we think the drama which all of these moments share ought to feel especially illuminating and profound. And so we turn to them.

At a time like graduation, we look to sum things up because of a similar impulse: we want to find out what it has all truly meant to us and put it in a nice little package, with maybe a frilly bow. To do this, many people might look to a moment—maybe freshman year sometime—when they were very weak. And then compare that weakness to how sturdy and transformed they’ve become now. I think this is a natural sort of story to tell, a very popular one. Everybody wants, on some level, to be the underdog—to be Rocky, to be Rudy, to be the loveably indie Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.

Likewise, when I started thinking about what my Wesleyan experience has truly meant to me, I searched for a moment that I came back from. But I realized in searching for something that’d make my story into one of these comeback stories…that what’s far more incredible and far more unlikely than a come back is having everything come together better than you’d ever planned.

For me, I was able to major in Economics, play hockey, join a fraternity, give poetry readings, work as an editor, visit China…and a host of other things that I once only wished I could do in my life. [If you really want hear more self-promotion, feel free to check me out on Linked-in.com.] But at any rate, the main bullet point I’m trying to get across here is that I can say with confidence that I earnestly tried all of the things I set out to be a part of coming into college. And these past few years, quite honestly, they’ve been gorgeous. And nearly seamless.

That realization—to me—was more compelling and meaningful than transforming this whole experience into a comeback movie would have been.

And I think most importantly, without any doubt in my mind whatsoever, this all has happened as a result of the wonderful, awe-inspiring people around me—the friends, teammates, and professors that wouldn’t let me waste a precious minute feeling sorry for myself when there was so much for us to accomplish together.

Now that I’m fully looking backward at my career here, there was a near miss that I almost had my junior year. The opportunity of a lifetime happened to fall into my lap and I almost lost out on it, if not for my mentors and the urging and support of my friends. Essentially, Mike Sciola, former director of the CRC, had managed to secure me a great internship in New York that would bludgeon me for about 90 hours a week. And through an incredible stroke of luck and the generosity of Professor Ao Wang, I was asked to take over as Head Translator of a book of contemporary Chinese poetry. The next week after receiving those offers was a tough one for me. I spent a lot of that week deciding which one position I would take, and so I sought the advice of my mentors.

I remember sitting down with Wang Dage in the Daniel Family Commons (that upstairs part of Usdan) and you know, he’s usually a pretty calming presence. He’s a real old-school Daoist-type ideology Chinese guy. Very laid back, with long hair, a pony tail, and with a boundless sea of empathy inside him for absolutely everyone and probably also inanimate objects. But like I said I was nervous this week, despite his qi, about choosing between two different lives for myself, essentially.

So we chatted there for a bit and then I laid out my decision before him on the table. And it just sat for a while, somewhere on tablecloth, among our two plates, the utensils, my ice coffee, sweating, and his hot tea upon its saucer. Then I looked at him, pulling my eyes from the table. “What’s the decision?” he asked, incredulously, his palms upturned, “I don’t see much room for debate here. You’re going to do both. And we both know it.” He stood up, pushed out his chair, and left in search of another cup of tea. And when he sat back down, we didn’t bother talking more about it.

From this distance, from this lectern, that decision was probably the defining moment of my Wesleyan career. I came back into my senior year with a job and a book due out. But more importantly, I realized that without my mentors, I would have squandered at least one of those opportunities for no reason other than my own apprehension. And without my friends and classmates in the city and elsewhere, I would have flirted (for sure) with literal insanity. But my Wesleyan safety net came through for me—and I couldn’t be more thankful that it did.

In colloquial Chinese one relatively polite—and wicked etymologically interesting—way to refer to people is as if they are your family members. For example, there’s a cute little Chinese kid that runs around Japanica II (my favorite restaurant in town) that I call Xiao Didi—little brother. And his lovely and patient mother, a waitress there, eats up our cuteness, and sometimes gives me free drinks for it. So there’s that. But at any rate, I refer to Professor Wang as “Wang Dage”—which just means big brother Wang. And I bring this up because he said, ‘we both knew’ that I was gonna take on both projects. The implication being: he knew (without plotting out the particulars and logistics of my summer, without sifting through my petty, pedestrian apprehensions) what I would decide because he understood me and how I operate. He understands me, my brother does.

The most remarkable thing is that he’s not my only brother here. I have fraternity brothers, and brothers on the hockey team, and guys that I’ve met through poetry workshops that I’m proud to tell that I love them. Likewise, I have women that I care immensely about, with whom I’ve built elaborate friendships that are complicated and challenging and ever-changing. And maybe this whole brother-sister shtick is a bit too Cornel West and Prophetic Pragmatists, but man, I’m so excited to see these next few years and how they weigh on our growth and feed our tender ties to each other.

Sitting here now, in the Chapel, in late May, as much as we like to acknowledge our own agency and our own ability to make fine choices…and as much we all did manage to find each other in way one or another, the indisputable fact of the matter is that Wesleyan assembled us here together. And, regardless of how you feel about hot-button issues around here—whether that’s need-blind, or tuition hikes, or divestment, or whatever—I think we can all be appreciative of our relationships, and of Wesleyan’s undeniable role in connecting us. Without the brand name of Wesleyan and all its hash-tags and sometimes-nauseating trimmings, we would not be here together.

When I began to think about difficult moments for the sake of this reflection, about tough things I’ve had to overcome… I also realized that probably the most difficult moment I’ll have here is what happens next for us tomorrow: and that is saying “goodbye” to all these people I love and have loved. I think about all of the proud handshakes that I’ll have to disengage and survive afterward. The knowing hugs that I’ll have to walk away from. This whole festival of premature farewells that we’ve all got to force our way through, entirely unsure if this separation is for real and for how long.

So here, friends, is to hoping that it won’t be long at all. Thank you.

 

Isaiah Sypher
Rashawn Brazell is a name intimately linked to the manner in which I have come to conceptualize what these past four years at Wesleyan have meant to me; any attempt to convey the intensely personal nature of my Wesleyan experience would incomplete if I made no mention of the impact of his life on my personal trajectory. Rashawn was not your classic inspiring high school teacher or tireless social activist; in actuality, I cannot recount much of his life except for the fact that, like myself,he was a young man from New York with high aspirations for the future and a loving and supportive family. Tragically, Rashawn was the victim of a heinous hate crime that took his life from him at the age of 19, and many of his aspirations were left forever unfulfilled. By the time he came into my Iife , four years had already past since this heart-wrenchingly sad event occurred. In an effort to commemorate Rashawn’s life, a scholarship was established in his name and I was selected as the 2009 recipient. From this moment on, I felt a dual sense of responsibility to seek out a space where I could continue to grow and realize my intellectual and humanistic potential; I owed it not only to myself but to the memory of this dear young man in whose shoes I could have easily found myself.

And as I stand here today, I cannot be any more certain of the fact that I have found such a space in Wesleyan. We often use the word privilege to evoke experiences that are tied to a reality that- for many -is simply unattainable; my experience at Wesleyan has taught me that when privilege is not acknowledged, it not only produces a false narrative of selfhood in those who possess it but it trivializes and subjugates the narratives of those who do not. I do not use the word lightly, but as I think of all the knowledge imparted from professors, supervisors and fellow students, the happy commiserating of finals week, the laughter, the frustration, the confusion, the awkwardness, and the gradual discovery and acceptance of my own voice, I cannot help but feel extremely privileged. More than anything, Wesleyan has been a rigorous exercise in the arduous process of self-actualization. One of my most vivid memories of my freshman orientation was an activity in which I and other members of 200 church were given pipe cleaners and asked to mold them into something that represented who we were.

As I diligently bended and twisted my pipe cleaners, I reached two major revelations: one, that I would probably never have a career as a pipe cleaner artist; and secondly, that I was entering into a space where the formation and solidification of my identity would be entirely in my hands. I also recall having during this time a workshop entitled BiLeGaTas, which focused on matters of sexual and gender identity. I quickly found myself swirling in a sea of vocabulary and declarations that seemed to belong to world far removed from any that I had inhabited up until that point.

Deconstructing the gender binary and choosing ones preferred gender pronoun were concepts that simply had not existed in the public and private spaces of South Queens that had shaped me. I can’t pretend that I walked away from that workshop that day with any sense of enlightenment or that I even fully understood the content. But gradually, as I pondered what these concepts meant for me and those around me, I came to understand them as part of the radical notion of exercising autonomy over one’s selfhood.Never before coming to Wesleyan had I felt so empowered to explore all parts of my being without being beholden to any invisible restrictions put on me by social categories. I have conversed with my peers about topics ranging from 19th and 20th century French literature to the latest episode of Bad Girls Club.

I helped fellow students in introductory courses to two languages and spent an entire year discovering a new part of the world with Wesleyan’s support. I’ve awakened a passion for scientific research and rediscovered a passion for singing classical music. As I look back over these past 4 years and try to think of the moment that best represents what Wesleyan has meant to me, one of the first things to come in mind is last semester’s West African Dance performance. Though I usually try to steer clear of being the center of attention, I was chosen as one of the soloists. When the time came for me to go forward and do my improvised piece, I went forth, limbs flailing, head bobbing, bending and kicking as my heart raced to the beat of the drum. And as I gave this interpretation of the form, as I boldly put before the audience this articulation of myself, I felt a confidence that a few years prior would have seemed foreign to me. In short, I have found in Wesleyan the sort of safe and affirming space that Rashawn would have relished.

And I owe so much of this to you, my fellow classmates. Whether or not you have been aware of your presence in my life, each and every one of you have helped to shape 4 of the most formative and enjoyable years that I have had in the 22 years I’ve been on this earth. I have learned and grown from you in ways that go well beyond the scope of this speech. You have taught me to stand tall, to take pride in the accomplishments of others and to never be content

merely scratching the surface. As we prepare to begin this new and exciting chapter in our lives, I only have two wishes for you; one, that you all remember that, as my mother used to say when mediocrity seemed all too tempting, that of those to whom much has been given, much is expected in return; and finally, that you all be as proud of yourselves as I am of you this evening. Thank you.

Jacob Eichengreen
Going to college is supposed to prepare you – the singular “you” – for success. “You” – again, singular – will be more successful if “you” go to college because “you” will gain the skills necessary to provide for “your” own success. Going to college seems like the epitome of the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” individualism that America cherishes so dearly. Such was my mindset when I arrived at Wesleyan, at least.

Refusing most of the help offered to me by orientation staff on move-in day, I carried all of my stuff up the stairs into my third floor Butts single by myself – well, my mom helped a little too. At Wesleyan, though, I quickly learned that college is not about developing the singular, but the plural. It’s about building our collective ability to achieve, through our own individual actions as made possible by our community. Over the past four years, our community of professors, mentors, mail room employees and WeShop cashiers have equipped each of us to the best of their ability with what we need to grow personally and academically. The degrees we’re getting this weekend are each a testament to our own individual experiences, accomplishments and knowledge in our field of choice, but the knowledge and experience of each of us is eclipsed by the collective knowledge and experience of all of our class.

Over the past four years together, we’ve built things and solved problems in ways individuals cannot. We’ve weathered natural disasters – hurricanes, snowpocalypses, a multi-day blackout, and food lines at Usdan – and endured tragedies and controversies. We’ve also conducted groundbreaking original research, travelled to the far side of the world, transformed the Westco courtyard, occupied Wall Street, and told the world “I have sex.” But the most remarkable achievement of them all is that when I think of my classmates, I can distinguish the remarkable accomplishments and capacities of every individual, but I cannot separate any individual from the supportive community we constitute.

Last summer, I picked up a flesh-eating parasite while I was conducting thesis research in Uganda. The parasite – which I named Hugo – was a nasty little amoeba that lived in my intestinal wall, digesting its way into my bloodstream and other organs, but it took awhile after I got back to the states before the doctors figured out what I had. In the interim, I was pretty effectively isolated from social life at Wes. I was in too much pain to go out much on weekends and on a strict diet that kept me from going to campus dining establishments with friends…Hugo more or less kept me in my house on Fountain, only leaving the house for class or short-lived attempts at socializing outside Fort 40.

I never actually spent much time alone, though. On weekends, I’d typically plan to stay in my room and read or watch a movie by myself. I never asked anyone to stay in with me. But every single weekend friends would come visit me in my room, foregoing all the other opportunities of Fountain Ave on a weekend night to hang out and watch me sit in my chair. Never once, though, were people there only because I was sick. These weren’t ceremonial visits, or visits conducted just because it was something that’s “supposed” to be done. They were normal visits, just groups of friends getting together simply because of how much they enjoy each other’s company. In the five months I was sick with Hugo on campus, I spent perhaps two weekend nights without getting a text from a friend asking if it was cool for them to come hang out for a bit.

Had those visits been any different, had they not happened or been artificially promoted by my illness, this year would have been so decisively diminished. When people ask, I say this year has been incredible, parasite or no. The interactions with people and things we have accomplished through our genuine interest and concern for each other are what have defined this year, and the other three. The community we constitute keeps us running and achieving. We’ve worked together. Lived together. Studied together. Eaten together. Relaxed together. Laughed and cried together. We’ve even now regrown intestines together… We enable each other to do what we love most and do best.

Commencement marks the end of our time at Wesleyan together. The community that we’ve built, the complimentary support structure we constitute, will change once we leave Wesleyan. But we won’t stop growing. We won’t stop doing and achieving. And we won’t lose our appreciation for what community is. Wherever we end up, we will build communities just as strong, supportive, and permanent as the one that we have built together here at Wes.

University Major Mueller ’13 Says Wesleyan’s Interdisciplinary Culture Critical to Success

Zöe Mueller ’13

Zöe Mueller ’13

She doesn’t always develop scholarly work inspired by concrete and rebar, but when she does, Zöe Mueller ’13 credits her Wesleyan experience with making it happen.

A University Honors recipient and author of a 300-plus page thesis that marries urban design, anthropology, sociology and architectural history, Mueller studied abroad in Brazil and worked in Detroit and Cleveland on a Paoletti Travel Research Grant. These experiences framed her work, which explores American communities riven apart by the interstate highway system in the 1950s.

“It got started when I was studying abroad. My host family in Brazil lived above an elevated highway, the Minhocao, and the first morning I woke up and pulled up the window shade, and looked down at what was usually a commuter highway, with people all over it, walking, biking,” Mueller said.

The vision of this novel use of a public works project got Mueller thinking about places where superhighways drive people apart but could be used as community space. (She admits that growing up in Cambridge and Boston during nearly the entire chaotic lifespan of the epic “Big Dig” project gave her a personal impetus toward urban design.)

Her thesis, “The Interstate System in the American Cultural Memory: The Creation and Contestation of the Highway Spaces of Cleveland and Detroit, Postwar to Present” was the capstone of a university major.

Mueller says Wesleyan’s interdisciplinary culture and support of scholarship were critical to her success.

“The university major was crucial. It allowed me to take a constellation of courses. … Wesleyan is really incredible in the creative energy it produces, and I think that the intellectual atmosphere here has been my support system,” Mueller said.

The next step for Mueller is Next City in Philadelphia, a nonprofit producing daily online coverage of cities from an “urbanist” perspective, where she will intern this summer while applying to graduate school in urban design.