Tag Archive for Class of 2013

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.

Latin American Studies Major Lewis ’13 is Passionate about Reducing Inequality, Poverty

After graduating in May, Hannah Lewis '13 will head to Panama where she has a job lined up as an associate project director with Amigos de las Americas. "Many students here," she said, "want to—and will—change the world for the better."

After graduating in May, Hannah Lewis ’13 will head to Panama where she has a job lined up as an associate project director with Amigos de las Americas. “Many students here,” she said, “want to—and will—change the world for the better.”

Q: Hannah, what are you majoring in and what are some of your research interests?

A: I’m a Latin American studies major, with a concentration in Spanish. I’m really interested in exploring different avenues regarding community development, poverty alleviation, and social policies in Latin America. For my major’s research requirement, I wrote a paper analyzing Ecuador’s human and social development progress from 1990 to 2010.

Q: What is your personal interest in Latin America?

A: I grew up in Texas, where I was surrounded by Hispanic influences and debates on immigration. But I first fell in love with the culture, language and people of Latin America after spending a summer in Nicaragua when I was 16. I go back whenever I get the chance! I’ve been lucky enough to spend the past two summers working for Amigos de las Americas, coordinating community development and youth leadership projects in the Dominican Republic and Ecuador. Besides meeting some amazing people, I’ve also learned to make delicious tostones and dance bachata. I studied abroad in Ecuador my junior year and learned about Andean and Afro-Ecuadorian cultures. And after living in Latin America and collaborating with the people there, I’ve become really passionate about exploring ways to reduce inequality and poverty in the region.

Q: You’ll be graduating May 26. What are your plans after graduation?

A: About five days after I graduate, I’ll be heading to Coclé, Panama, where I have a summer job as an associate project director with Amigos de las Americas. I also recently received a Princeton in Latin America (PiLA) Fellowship to work as the Program Director at an amazing non-profit called Building Dignity next year. I’ll be moving to Lima, Peru in September, which I am very excited about!

Q: So you’re from Texas. What attracted you to Wesleyan? What will you miss most about campus life?

A: I was born and raised in Austin, Texas, but I really wanted to go somewhere new for college. As a pre-frosh I came to WesFest, sat on Foss Hill, and talked with random students about their experiences here. Everyone I met had so much passion, humor and creativity. The people who go here are my favorite part about Wes, and I will definitely miss the inspiration and energy that I am surrounded by daily. So many students here want to—and will—change the world for the better.

Q: What are your favorite classes this semester?

A: I’ve enjoyed all my classes this semester, especially “Sites of Memory and Resistance: Theater, Performance and Political Consciousness in Contemporary Spain” with Professor Bernardo Gonzalez and “Latin American Economic Development” taught by Professor Melanie Khamis.

Softball’s Beatty ’13 Is a NESCAC Player of the Year

Allee Beatty '13

Allee Beatty ’13

Wesleyan has its fourth NESCAC Player of the Year in 2012-13 as softball sensation Allee Beatty ’13 joined men’s soccer standout Adam Purdy ’13, women’s soccer star Laura Kurash ’13 and men’s ice hockey scoring leader Keith Buehler ’14 with the honor. Beatty also earned NESCAC Defensive Player of the Year accolades. She led the Cardinals with a .421 average, scored 50 runs, drove in 11, stole 25 bases, had a seasonal record eight triples and was perfect in the field with 58 putouts and one assist in center field.

Her 152 runs, 12 triples and 114 stolen bases all represent Wesleyan career standards and she sits third in career hits with 180. She is a four-time NESCAC honoree with three nods to the all-NESCAC second team before gaining first-team laurels this year.

Beatty is a three-time academic all-NESCAC choice and is a CoSIDA/Capital One District II academic All-American. She found her third spot on an National Fastpitch Coaches Associaton (NFCA) New England all-star squad this year with a first-team selection. She was a second-teamer in 2012 and third-teamer in 2011.  Beatty was not alone with NESCAC honors as pitcher Su Pardo ’16 also garnered first-team recognition while picking up Rookie of the Year honors as well. She went 12-4 with a 1.78 ERA and 152 strikeouts in 188 innings of work.  She joins six other Wesleyan athletes still on campus who enjoyed NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors – Purdy and Kurash being two of them, along with LaDarius Drew ’15 (football), Jordan Schildhaus ’15 (women’s ice hockey), John Steele ’14 (men’s squash) and Shasha Brown ’13 (men’s basketball).  Jill Gately ’15 also was first-team all-NESCAC after hitting .416 with seasonal school-record efforts for doubles (14), homers (7) and RBI (45).  Both she and Pardo were NFCA all-New England third-team choices.

Hussain ’13 Receives Roosevelt Institute Research Grant

Sophia Hussain '13

Sophia Hussain ’13

History major Sophia Hussain ’13 received a $500 grant from the Grants Award Committee of the Roosevelt Institute.

According to David Woolner, Senior Fellow and Hyde Park Resident Historian of the Roosevelt Institute, “the Roosevelt Institute does not normally grant awards to undergraduate students, but given the quality of Sophia’s proposal, which was excellent, we decided to make an exception in [her] case.”

The award is meant to assist Hussain’s research at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.


Wesleyan Slam Poets Place 13th in National Competition

Wesleyan’s WESlam team placed 13th out of 59 college teams from around the country in the 2013 College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational, held April 3-6 at Barnard College in New York City.

Five students, Evan Okun ’13, Lily Myers ’15 , Zachary Goldberg ’13, Cherkira Lashely ’15 and Markeisha Hill ’16 competed on the team and Emily Weitzman ’14 coached. Lily Myers won the award for best love poem.

“‘Most moving’ was the response Wesleyan got from community ,” Okun said. “We were complemented for our creative manner in which we resisted the typical ‘slam-poem-formula’ that is often over dramatic and exploitative of personal trauma.”

Watch Zachary Goldberg, Evan Okun and Lily Myers perform “We Made It:”

YouTube Preview Image

Hayes ’13 Presents Research at International Economics Conference

Rosa Hayes ’13 presented her paper on yield spread during The Carroll Round, an annual international economics conference at Georgetown University, in April. The Carroll Round provides a unique forum for research and discussion among the world’s top undergraduates.

The goal of the Carroll Round is to foster the exchange of ideas among the leading undergraduate international economics and political economy students by encouraging and supporting the pursuit of scholarly innovation in the field.

Hayes’ advisor is Masami Imai, chair and associate professor of East Asian studies, associate professor of economics and director of the Freeman Center for East Asian Studies. She also has been serving as the head tutor of Quantitative Analysis Center’s tutoring program under Manolis Kaparakis, director of the centers for advanced computing.

Shervais ’13 Presents Fault Surfaces Research in Vienna

Kate Shervais ’13 presented her thesis research on “Examining Microroughness Evolution in Natural and Experimental Pseudotachylyte-bearing Fault Surfaces,” at the European Geosciences Union General Assembly in April. More than 11,000 scientists from 95 countries attended the conference, which was held in Vienna, Austria. Only 28 percent of the participants were students.

Shervais completed her study with Phil Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences. Resor, who received a National Science Foundation grant to study earthquakes in an Italian fault zone, also attended the conference. The NSF grant supported their travel to the conference.

“I had a wonderful time and was able to discuss my poster and research with geoscientists from all over the world,” she said.

Read an abstract of Shervais’s paper here.

Seniors Produce, Direct “Minds of Makers” Documentaries in 3 Countries

Piers Gelly ’13 and Daniel Nass ’13 created a nine-part documentary series on “The Minds of Makers."

Piers Gelly ’13 and Daniel Nass ’13 created a nine-part documentary series on “The Minds of Makers.”

In Kilkenny, Ireland, a man spins wool from freshly shorn sheep into rich fibers. A furniture maker in South Pomfret, Vt. studies the natural geometry of wood he turns into tables, chairs and consoles. And in London, England, a silversmith wielding a hammer transforms smooth metal into beautifully shaped and textured bowls, vases and pieces of art.

These and other craftspeople are featured in a series of nine short documentary films produced and directed by Piers Gelly ’13 and Daniel Nass ’13. Each film in the series, titled, “The Minds of Makers,” shows the creative process of a craftsperson working in a different medium—wood, glass, metal, wool. The films are available to view on ArtBabble, a website created by the Indianapolis Museum of Art to showcase art video content.

Gelly, a College of Letters major, won the Writing Program’s Annie Sonnenblick Writing Award last spring and received a grant to travel around France, Ireland and England researching historical recreation. He planned “to visit places where groups of people attempt to preserve and recreate ‘pure’ craft practices for various reasons of historical authenticity.” The “crown jewel,” he explained, was a 13th century chateau fort in Burgundy called Guédelon, which workers are building from scratch using period technology.

When Gelly was home in Milwaukee that spring break, he met up with Jon Prown of the Chipstone Foundation, a Milwaukee-based foundation that promotes craft and design education and scholarship. The two discussed Gelly’s travel and research plans, and Prown said he’d love to have a series of videos made about the people Gelly would be interviewing. Chipstone offered financial support for the project. Gelly then asked Nass, a friend since freshman orientation and a film studies major, if he’d like to come along and work on the films. The two had previously collaborated on two issues of the 48 Hour Magazine, and on articles for Ampersand, the Argus’ comedy supplement.

Piers Gelly ’13 and Daniel Nass ’13 filmed craftsman Michael Eden in England.

Piers Gelly ’13 and Daniel Nass ’13 filmed Michael Eden in England. Eden unites tradition and modern technology in the intricate ornamental objects that he designs and creates via 3D printing.

Gelly attributes his interest in questions of tradition and history largely to the College of Letters curriculum, and, in particular, to conversations with Javier Castro-Ibaseta, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of letters, and Tula Telfair, professor of art and Gelly’s thesis advisor. In addition, two introductory film classes Gelly took as a freshman “definitely gave me some film knowledge,” he said.

Though Nass is a film major, he said he never had an opportunity to take Wesleyan’s documentary filmmaking course. Instead, he feels that two creative nonfiction writing courses he took—“Distinguished Writers/ New Voices” with Anne Greene, and “Intermediate Nonfiction Workshop” with Lisa Cohen—best prepared him to undertake this project.

“There’s a lot of commonalities [between writing and documentary filmmaking] with the process of gathering materials, conducting interviews and figuring out how to shape what you have into a narrative. The experience I got in those classes helped me a lot when I was thinking about how I want to put these films together,” said Nass.

Gelly and Nass traveled and filmed the documentaries through June and part of July 2012.

The craftspeople featured in the films include subjects from Gelly’s Sonnenblick research, family friends, and people they met through Chipstone.

“All our subjects seemed really pleased to be interviewed. Since most never explain their work to anyone step by step, this was an opportunity for them to share a huge wealth of thoughts and ideas that they normally don’t,” Gelly said. “Some of the most interesting things we discussed were the basics of working with their materials, which these people take for granted but which the rest of us never think to wonder about.”

Piers Gelly ’13 and Daniel Nass ’13 documented how the Cushendale Woolen Mills in Ireland uses turn-of-the-century manufacturing techniques to produce fine wool. The film is one of nine documentaries featured in the "Mind of Makers" series.

The Cushendale Woolen Mills in Ireland uses turn-of-the-century manufacturing techniques to produce fine wool. The film is one of nine documentaries featured in the student-produced “Mind of Makers” series.

Nass added, “For many of the people we interviewed, the work that they do just consists of doing. Often, when we would ask them a question about some specific aspect of their technique, it seemed like they would have to figure out how to articulate it. One thing that came up over and over again was the way that an acquired craft is kind of fundamentally not able to be articulated. You have to learn just by doing. They did their best to explain in words how their practices worked.”

Another common theme that emerged in the interviews, said Nass, was “the relationship between tradition and innovation.” For example, they interviewed a basket maker who was one of the last practitioners of a centuries-old craft. In contrast, another subject, who had begun his work in traditional pottery making, went on to creating intricate ornamental objects using new 3-D printing technology.

“Everybody was in some way informed by the past, and chose to either carry on tradition or create something completely new,” Nass said.

In the fall, Gelly and Nass asked some musically-inclined friends—including Ben Seretan ’10, Ashlin Aronin ’13, Jack Ladd ’15 and Danny Sullivan ’13—to contribute soundtrack music for the films.

The first five films went online at ArtBabble in January, and the last four appeared in late March.

Gelly said he hopes the films cause viewers to “take a second look at the objects around them.”

This coming summer, Gelly and Nass plan to make several more films in the series—focusing on American craftspeople—while they shoot a longer documentary for Chipstone about face jugs. As Nass explained, these stoneware jugs with clay faces on them were made by slaves in South Carolina over a limited period of time in the 19th century. “The project is still in its conceptual planning stages, but if all goes well, we’ll be in South Carolina conducting interviews,” Nass said.

Though neither student has concrete plans for the long term, Nass said, “I really love doing independent documentary work like this. I could definitely see myself continuing with it.”




Student-Athlete Craven ’13 has Stint with Professional Hockey Team

Nick Craven '13 is majoring in neuroscience and behavior. He's played hockey at Wesleyan all four years.

Nick Craven ’13 is majoring in neuroscience and behavior. He’s played hockey at Wesleyan all four years.

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connectionwe speak with hockey player Nick Craven from the Class of 2013. Craven signed an amateur try-out contract with the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League in March. He played in each of the Senators’ games March 8-10 as they defeated the Conn. Whale, 3-0; knocked off the Rochester Americans, 4-3; and beat the Hershey Bears, 3-2.

Q: How old were you when you first developed an interest in playing ice hockey? How would you describe the opportunity you had to fulfill your ice hockey desires growing up in Ft. Collins, Colo.?

A: I first started playing hockey when I was 6 years old. That was the same year the state of Colorado got an NHL team. This allowed the sport to become much more popular across the state. I was immediately obsessed with hockey. As I grew older, my interest level only increased. Fort Collins had a decent youth hockey program, but by the time I reached the Bantam level, I had to travel to Denver in order to play for the top teams in the state. The older I got, the amount of traveling in order to pursue my hockey dreams continued to increase. In high school, the AAA team I played for traveled to tournaments across the United States as well as in Canada. As a consequence, I ended up missing nearly twenty days of school a year. At this point in my career, I decided to transfer to Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. This decision allowed me to pursue both my athletic and academic desires.

Q: How did you become interested in attending Wesleyan and playing ice hockey for Head Coach Chris Potter?

A: Playing college hockey had always been a goal of mine. During my senior year in high school I did not have a specific college I wanted to attend. I spoke with a handful of Division III and a few Division I schools. I connected with Coach Potter in the fall of that year. He saw me as a player with a lot of potential. I noticed that the team was not very good; however, I saw that as a positive thing. Not only could I receive some playing time as a freshman, I believed I could help the program improve. Following my talks with Coach Potter, I had such a good feeling that I applied Early Decision II to Wesleyan.

Art Studio Majors Display Artwork at Senior Thesis Exhibition

View the talents of the seniors in the Art Studio Program of Wesleyan’s Department of Art and Art History. “Senior Thesis Exhibitions 2013” runs March 26-April 21 in the Zilkha Gallery.

The show, features drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture, mixed media and architecture.

“We’re all so proud of our senior majors. The four weeks of rotating Senior Thesis Exhibitions are a wonderful opportunity for the broader Wesleyan community to experience their remarkable work,” said Tula Telfair, professor of art.

Allison Kalt, Tiffany Unno, Ilyana Schwartz, Anna Shimshak and Christina You will display their artwork from March 26-31.

Piers Gelly, Zoe Albert, Ally Bernstein, Ryu Hirahata, Charles Ellis and Nichola Kokkinis will display their work April 2-7. A reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. April 3 in the gallery.

Melissa Arroyo, Christian Lalonde, Emily Schubert, Kerry Klemmer, Ethan Cohen and Marissa Napolitano will display their artwork April 9-14. A reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. April 10.

Alahna Watson, Adam Forbes, Caitlin Palmer, Arin Dineen, Jessica Wilson and Kevin Brisco will display their work April 16-21. A reception will be held from 4 to 6 p.m. April 17.

In addition, each student in the show was invited to select a single work from their Senior Thesis Exhibition for a year-end showcase held April 30 through May 25. A reception will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. May 25 in the gallery.

The public is invited and the exhibition is free of charge.

View the talents of the seniors in the Art Studio Program of Wesleyan’s Department of Art and Art History. The “Senior Thesis Exhibition” runs March 26-April 21 in the Zilkha Gallery.

The “Senior Thesis Exhibitions 2013” runs March 26-April 21 in the Zilkha Gallery.

Ilyana Schwartz's "Figures"

Ilyana Schwartz’s “Figures.”

Sociology Major Okun ’13: “Interdisciplinary Connections Are Part of My Everyday Thinking”

Evan Okun '13 is a Phi Beta Kappa honor society member, a slam poet, an improv rapper and a Senior Interviewer for the Office of Admission. He also teaches classes at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Evan Okun ’13 is a Phi Beta Kappa honor society member, a slam poet, an improv rapper and a Senior Interviewer for the Office of Admission. He also teaches classes at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Q&As with outstanding students are an occasional feature of The Wesleyan Connection. This issue we speak with Evan Okun from the Class of 2013. 

Q: Evan, you’ll be graduating this spring. How would you sum up your Wesleyan experience so far?

A: Wesleyan University encourages interdisciplinary inquiry while simultaneously supporting student efforts to put theory into practice. Earlier this semester the Sociology Department (along with other student and administrative groups) sponsored a panel discussion on the education system featuring the brilliant rap duo, Dead Prez. This served as the action component of my Senior Essay, which addressed exclusion in academia and incorporated readings from classes I took in Buddhism, psychology, chemistry, poetry, music and sociology. After four years studying with innovative professors, alongside an engaged student body, interdisciplinary connections have become a part of my everyday thinking. Concepts from organic chemistry facilitate a metaphorical understanding of sociological phenomena, and classes in English help translate these ideas into spoken word poetry. There are classes cross-listed in dance and biology. There are students double majoring in neuroscience and art. Single theses for mathematics and dance. This school is incredible.

Q: What are you majoring in and why?

A:  I am majoring in sociology and last fall completed a Senior Essay advised by Professor Alex Dupuy. This spring I will expand the essay into a longer work, advised by Professor Jonathan Cutler. I have always been fascinated by how the mind works. Sociology links micro level examination of the human psyche to macro level discussion of social phenomena. It allows students to investigate the environment from which they precipitate, all the while supporting efforts to dismantle oppressive systems.

Q: What have been your most memorable classes at Wesleyan?

A: I have taken many life-changing classes at Wesleyan, but the two most influential ones were Introduction to Buddhism and Paternalism and Social Power. These classes were particularly powerful because they implicated my own thoughts and subsequent actions in the perpetuation of suffering. The professors held me accountable for the negativity I brought to the world, while catalyzing class discussions about how to uproot the human tendency to be egocentric.

Q: Through Wesleyan, you’ve taught a class at the Connecticut Juvenile Training School in Middletown. Why did you get involved?

A:  During my sophomore year, I toured the Connecticut Juvenile Training School and stumbled upon a CD made by residents in the Music Therapy Department. It featured original songs riddled with powerful stories, innovative literary devices, and dope rhymes.