Tag Archive for Class of 2020

Badr ’20 Guides Upward Bound Students to Write about Their Experiences

A 100-person choir performed “Identities,” which included a poem written by Wesleyan Upward Bound student Chelsea Anthony. Chelsea is pictured front and center with Ahmed Badr ’20, who led a storytelling workshop that resulted in Chelsea’s poem being published.

How did a young refugee from Iraq inspire a high school student from New Britain, Conn., to write a poem that went on to be performed by a 100-person choir made up of high schoolers from around the East Coast?

It all began at Wesleyan.

Ahmed Badr ’20 was born in Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, after his family’s home in Baghdad was bombed by militia troops. As he struggled to adjust to life in the U.S., he started a personal blog to write about his experiences, and “found it incredibly empowering” to share his story.

“I soon began to realize the power of storytelling to inspire and bring people together,” he wrote on his website, Narratio. Determined to empower other youth, he created Narratio to publish written work by young people around the globe. It has been recognized by the United Nations, We are Family Foundation, and featured on NPR and Instagram. Today, Badr is a sophomore at Wesleyan, studying anthropology and pursuing independent projects as an Allbritton Fellow and Patricelli Center Fellow, while continuing to run Narratio, which includes leading creative storytelling workshops for youth around the country.

Wesleyan Students Win Prestigious Consulting Competition

From left, Justin Liew ’18, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Jake Kwang ’20 won first prize in Roland Berger's "Case for a Cause" competition in April.

From left, Justin Liew ’18, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Jake Kwang ’20 won first prize in Roland Berger’s “Case for a Cause” competition in April.

Imagine you are advising a company that is a leading producer of a certain type of fruit product in the United States. The Chinese market has recently opened for export of this fruit product. How should the company best respond to this new market opportunity in China? What is the competition likely to do?

This was the scenario facing 30 teams of students from across 16 schools in the Roland Berger Case for a Cause 2018 competition, which simulates the work of a strategy consultant. Wesleyan’s team of four students, sponsored by The Gordon Career Center, tied for first place in the competition, which benefits Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to Anne Laskowksi, business career advisor at the Gordon Career Center, this was Wesleyan’s second year participating in the competition. This year, the four students—Jake Kwang ’20, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Justin Liew ’18—formed the team on their own. The group met up to three times each week to work on the case, with many additional hours of individual work each week.

Wesleyan in the News


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

 

 

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Hartford Courant“Connecticut Natives at Wesleyan Organize TEDx Conference”

Wesleyan hosted its inaugural TEDx conference on April 7, featuring talks by many distinguished alumni, local officials, and others. Two of the student organizers, Eunes Harun ’20 and Leo Marturi ’20, are interviewed about the event.

2. The Hill: “Trump, Pelosi Appear Most in Early Ads—for the Other Side” 

A new analysis from the Wesleyan Media Project finds that Donald Trump has been the top target of political attack ads this year, with Nancy Pelosi the second favorite target, as both parties seek to drive their political bases to the polls. “Although presidents and presidential candidates are the most common targets in congressional campaign ads, it is noteworthy that Pelosi has consistently been singled out more than any other congressional leader since 2010 despite her minority party status for the bulk of that time,” said Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government and WMP co-director.

3. Faith Middleton Food Schmooze: “Funeral Food with a Twist, a Seductive Rosé and Amy Bloom”

In connection with her new book, White Houses, Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing Amy Bloom talks about food in the Franklin Roosevelt White House. Bloom comes in around 21 minutes.

4. Naturally Speaking: “Extending Evolution, an Interview with Prof. Sonia Sultan”

On this podcast, Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, discusses her research on phenotypic plasticity and transgenerational effect in plants, and shares her thoughts on one of most controversial ideas currently circulating in mainstream evolutionary biology: the so-called “extended evolutionary synthesis.” Sultan was honored at the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine’s annual Darwin Day lecture.

5. Inside Higher Ed: “The Data Should Make You Happy!”

President Michael Roth ’78 reviews Steven Pinker’s new book, Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress. Roth writes: “We don’t need cheerleading psychologists telling us we should be happier than we are.”

6. Squash Magazine: “Teaching the Game: Women and Squash”

Shona Kerr, Wesleyan’s head coach of men’s and women’s squash, is interviewed for a story about gender bias in the world of squash coaching. Kerr is one of only three women in the country who coaches a men’s collegiate squash team.

Recent Alumni News

  1. NDTV Profit: “Wipro Director, Harvard Alumnus Rishad Premji [’99] Appointed Chairman Of Nasscom” Rishad Premji, who was an economics major at Wesleyan and holds an MBA from Harvard, was appointed chairman of IT industry body Nasscom (National Association of Software and Service Companies) for 2018–19. Previously, he was chief strategy officer and board member of Wipro Ltd, which he joined in 2007. In 2014 he was named a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. [See the site for a video message from Premji, on accepting this new position.]

2. NPR: “Mary Halvorson [’02] Re-Engineered Jazz Guitar. Now, She’s Hacking Her Own Code”

In this review of Halvorson’s new double album, Code Girl, Nate Chinen, director of editorial comment at NPR Music, calls Halvorson’s style “staunchly unplaceable in style—art-rock? avant-prog?—and mysterious in several other respects.” The article also refers to John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus, Anthony Braxton as her “august mentor.” Code Girl is out on the Firehouse 12 label.

3. Harvard Medical School News: “Why the Fly? Geneticist Stephanie Mohr [’93] Delves into Science’s Favorite Winged Model Organism”

“[S]elf-described ‘fly person’ Stephanie Mohr,” a lecturer on genetics at Harvard Medical School and author of the book First in Fly: Drosophila Research and Biological Discovery (Harvard University Press, 2018)explains her fascination with the insect and its importance in genetics research.

4. New York Times: “Even With Scholarships, Students Often Need Extra Financial Help“

This article by Janet Morrissey profiles a number of programs at prestigious universities that are designed to assist low-income scholarship students with living expenses. Richard Locke ’81, provost at Brown University, is mentioned as “help[ing] prepare Brown’s E-Gap (Emergency, Curricular and Co-curricular Gap) Funds, and its FLi (First Generation Low-Income) Center in late 2015 after hearing stories from students who were struggling financially.”

5. WBAL 1090—Educator Beverly Daniel Tatum [’75, P’04, Hon. ’15] to Speak at Towson Commencement

WBAL NewsRadio 1090’s Tyler Waldman reported Towson University President Kim Schatzel said: “We are honored to welcome Beverly Daniel Tatum to campus as our commencement speaker. Not only is she a thought leader in the higher education community, her expertise in diversity, inclusion and race relations supports Towson University’s relentless pursuits in these areas.” Tatum will speak at Towson’s College of Liberal Arts commencement on May 23, 2018, and will receive an honorary doctorate. A former Wesleyan trustee, Tatum was awarded an honorary doctorate from Wesleyan in 2015.

Students Organize TEDxWesleyanU, Host Distinguished Speakers

At left, Anthony Price '20, Zoe Reifel '21, Thafir Elzofri '19, Eunes Harun '20, Melisa Olgun '20 and Leo Merturi '20 thank the audience for attending Wesleyan's TEDxWesleyanU event on April 7.

At left, Anthony Price ’20, Zoe Reifel ’21, Thafir Elzofri ’19, Eunes Harun ’20, Melisa Olgun ’20, and Leo Merturi ’20 thank the audience for attending Wesleyan’s TEDxWesleyanU event on April 7. The entire event was organized by students.

Nationally known leaders and distinguished Wesleyan alumni and faculty presented short, powerful talks during the inaugural TEDxWesleyanU event April 7 in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall.

Launched in 2009, TEDx is a program of locally organized events that bring the community together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TED Talks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection. Some of the best talks from TEDx events have gone on to be featured on TED.com and garnered millions of views from audiences across the globe.

Speakers included Maria Santana ’98, a correspondent for CNN en Español; Connecticut State Representative Matthew Lesser ’10; Middletown Mayor Dan Drew; National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita ’71; national radio host Angela Yee ’97, and others. (View photos of the speakers below this article. View bios of all 13 speakers here.)

Melisa Olgun '20 and Eunes Harun ’20 stand outside the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall while preparing for TEDxWesleyanU.

Melisa Olgun ’20 and Eunes Harun ’20 stand outside the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall while preparing for TEDxWesleyanU.

“The current political climate is characterized by the lack of conversations taking place between people of opposing sides and viewpoints. TEDxWesleyanU is the launchpad we need to kickstart an unprecedented level of dialogue,” said Eunes Harun ’20, who spearheaded the event. “The TEDx mission and Wesleyan’s values align so heavily in the fostering of ideas and sparking dialogue. This event further emphasizes how Wesleyan is at the forefront of confronting current political and social issues in an effort to ultimately make the world a better place.”

Harun came up with the idea to host a TEDx event after tossing off ideas to his roommate, Alex Harold ’20, and neighbor Leo Merturi ’20. The tri-founders soon created a TEDxWesleyanU core team including Melisa Olgun ’20; Anthony Price ’20, and Thafir Elzofri ’19. Zoe Reifel ’21, who organized a TEDx event as a high school student, joined the team late to offer her experiences and input. Collaboratively, the group spent more than a year-and-a-half planning the inaugural event, which “has been one of the most impactful learning experiences of my life,” Harun said.

Sundberg ’20 Lobbies for Immigration Policy as National Legislation Advocacy Corps Organizer

Kate Sundberg ’20

Kate Sundberg ’20

Chemistry and environmental studies major Kate Sundberg ’20, one of 20 students nationwide who are part of the Friends Committee on National Legislation Advocacy Corps, attended the Spring Lobby Weekend on March 17–20 advocating for immigration policy with Congress.

The Advocacy Corps is a yearlong program where young adults between the ages of 19–30 organize their local communities around federal legislation.

As an organizer, Sundberg connects local activists and leaders with Congress to affect meaningful, bipartisan climate action.

Sun ’20 Wins Japanese Language Contest Prize for Essay

Sun took the second place win in the College Intermediate Division.

Zhaoyu Sun ’20

Zhaoyu Sun ’20 received an award for his essay in the Eighth Annual Consulate General of Japan in Boston Japanese Language Contest. Sun took the second place win in the College Intermediate Division.

Sun, who is from Beijing, China, is majoring in East Asian studies and government. His essay focused on the ideal U.S.-Japanese relationship.

“I discussed how military cooperation, establishing a strong relationship with other countries in East Asia, and establishing equality between the two nations will build a strong U.S.-Japanese relationship and subsequently benefit the world,” he explained.

The essay contest is open to students who are currently enrolled in a Japanese language course at a university/college or high school in New England and who did not grow up in a home where Japanese was the main language.

Sun will receive his award during a ceremony April 7 in Brookline, Mass.

Price ’20 Spends Spring Semester in D.C. as a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Intern

Anthony Price ’20, pictured here by the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., is half-way through a five-month internship on Capitol Hill.

Anthony Price ’20, pictured here by the Washington Monument in Washington D.C., is half-way through a five-month internship on Capitol Hill. “The internship will be a huge asset to the rest of my studies at Wesleyan and it’s a huge stepping stone to help me pursue a career in public service, or perhaps on the Hill,” he said.

As a Congressional Black Caucus Foundation intern, Anthony Price ’20 is spending the spring semester working on Capitol Hill, where he is learning about governing institutions and the inner workings of the U.S. Congress.

The CBCF’s internship programs “prepare college students and young professionals to become principled leaders, skilled policy analysts and informed advocates by exposing them to the processes that develop national policies and implement them—from Capitol Hill to federal field offices. Program participants receive housing, a stipend, office placements, and opportunities to meet and interact with professional legislators and leaders working in all branches of government.”

“Thus far, I’ve enhanced my leadership, adaptability and writing skills immensely,” Price said. “At the end of the program, I know I will have a better understanding of our American legislative process and the work that’s being done day-to-day within the branches of Congress.”

Giant Glyptodon Emerges in Exley Science Center

Joel LaBella, facility manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Bruce Strickland, Instrument maker specialist; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Freeman Scholar Yu Kai Tan '20; Freeman Scholar Andy Tan '21; Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences; Annie Burke, chair and professor of biology; and David Strickland, instrument maker.

The Glyptodon, a giant fossil cast that has been in storage since 1957, is now on display in Exley Science Center. Several members of the Wesleyan community helped install the 8-foot-long cast on Feb. 26. Pictured, from left, are Joel LaBella, facility manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Bruce Strickland, Instrument maker specialist; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Freeman Scholar Yu Kai Tan ’20; Freeman Scholar Andy Tan ’21; Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences; Annie Burke, chair and professor of biology; and David Strickland, instrument maker. Glyptodon means “grooved or carved tooth” in Greek. The creature lived approximately 2 million to 10,000 years ago.

The Glyptodon as seen from the front (upper) and back (lower) in its glory days, when it was displayed in the Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences, before 1957. Note the skull and hind left foot present, and the armored tail visible from the rear. Copy of 1876 advertisement by Ward, dated 1876, in which he names ‘the Wesleyan University of Middletown, Conn.’, as having purchased a number of his ‘Casts of celebrated Fossils’.

Prior to 1957, the Glyptodon was displayed in the Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences. Pictured in the center is an 1876 Ward advertisement, in which he names “the Wesleyan University of Middletown, Conn.” as having purchased a number of his “casts of celebrated fossils.”

For the past 60 years, a massive megafauna mammal thrived in crates buried in Wesleyan’s tunnels and attics. This month, the creature, known as a Glyptodon, has emerged in Exley Science Center for public viewing.

Although the armored armadillo-like animal became extinct more than 10,000 years ago, Wesleyan acquired a fossil cast in the 1870s, where it became a showpiece at the university’s Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences.

In 1957, the museum closed and thousands of artifacts, including the Glyptodon, were haphazardly stuffed into crates and boxes and hauled to multiple locations throughout campus.

“After the museum closed, everything was scattered all over, anywhere there was a place to put it,” said Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences and research professor of earth and environmental sciences. “Just recently, we’ve started to uncover all these lost treasures and we’re working to get them organized and cataloged. The Glyptodon is one of our major finds.”

Student-Athletes Raise Awareness, Funds for Men’s Health in Movember

The Men's Crew Team showing off their mustaches-in-progress to raise awareness for men's health issues in support of the Movember Foundation.

The Men’s Crew Team showing off their mustaches-in-progress to raise awareness for men’s health issues in support of the Movember Foundation.

This month, Wesleyan students, many affiliated with athletic teams, are raising awareness and raising funds for men’s health through the Movember Foundation. According to its website, the Foundation is the only charity tackling men’s health on a global level, with a focus on addressing prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health and suicide prevention. It has funded over 1,200 men’s health projects in 21 countries.

Wesleyan has had an official Campus Representative with the Foundation for the past four years. This year Luke Forsthoefel ’20, a member of Men’s Crew team, is the Campus Representative for all of Wesleyan.

“The issue of men’s health is especially important to me because I think in a lot of ways there are societal norms and expectations put on men that can make it difficult for those who need help to get it,” he said. “There is a certain stigma around men asking for help and support when they need it, which is why I think it is so important to get people of all genders involved in helping men break this stigma.”

Local Youth Learn Musical Skills from Wesleyan Musicians

As part of Green Street Teaching and Learning Center's AfterSchool Program, Nadya Potemkina, adjunct assistant professor of music, led a special music program for students in grades 1-5.

As part of Green Street Teaching and Learning Center’s (GSTLC) AfterSchool Program, Nadya Potemkina, adjunct assistant professor of music (pictured at right), led a special music program for students in grades 1 through 5 on Sept. 25. Potemkina directs the Wesleyan University Orchestra and teaches Wesleyan Concert Choir. She’s also adjunct assistant professor of Russian, East European and Eurasian studies.

Students Catalog Wesleyan’s Lost Fossil Collections

Research fellows Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20 and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 are discovering and cataloging thousands of fossils at Exley Science Center. The fossils were once housed at the former Wesleyan Museum, a natural history museum that occupied part of the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Sciences from 1871-1957. Once the museum closed, the fossils and other objects were displaced at various locations on campus. “We’d love to make these fossils accessible to Wesleyan students, faculty, classes and the general public,” McKee said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Research fellows Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20 and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 are discovering and cataloging thousands of fossils at Exley Science Center. The fossils were once housed at the former Wesleyan Museum, a natural history museum that occupied part of the Orange Judd Hall of Natural Sciences from 1871-1957. Once the museum closed, the fossils and other objects were displaced at various locations on campus. “We’d love to make these fossils accessible to Wesleyan students, faculty, classes and the general public,” McKee said. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Scattered throughout campus are remnants of not only Wesleyan’s history, but world history. After the closing of the Wesleyan Museum in 1957, thousands of specimens in many collections were displaced, often haphazardly, to nooks, crannies, tunnels, attics, storage rooms, and random cabinets at Exley Science Center, Judd Hall, and the Butterfield and Foss Hill residence complexes.

A fossilized bee was discovered in the fossil collections.

A fossilized bee was discovered in the fossil collections.

Many of these specimens haven’t been accessed in 60 years.

“Sadly, few people are aware that Wesleyan has these unique resources,” said Ellen Thomas, the University Professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and research professor of earth and environmental sciences. “The collections have not been well curated, and not much used in education and outreach. We are discovering beautiful fossils, but the knowledge that they are at Wesleyan has long been lost.”

This summer, Thomas, along with two student research fellows, began the painstaking process of not only locating and organizing collections, but digitally cataloging their finds.

Sajirat Palakarn ’20 and earth and environmental science graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 work 40 hours a week on the project and have created a “fossil assembly line” in Exley Room 309. The students take turns sorting trays of fossils by class and phylum, and then match the fossils with identifying hand-written cards or books from an archaic card catalog, entering the information, piece by piece, into a spreadsheet. They’re expecting to itemize more than 15,000 fossils this summer.

“Look here,” Thomas says, while opening a wooden cabinet at random in Exley’s specimen storage room. “We’ve got shells, fossils of shells, one after another with no labels. They are all disorganized. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could make these accessible to the students?”

Melissa McKee holds a plant fossil from Greenland, collected during the second relief expedition for a Peary Arctic Expedition. The leaves were then thought be by Miocene (~20 millions years old), but now they've been identified as being much older at ~ 60 million years.

Melissa McKee holds a plant fossil from Greenland, collected during the second relief expedition for a Peary Arctic Expedition. The leaves were then thought be by Miocene (~20 millions years old), but now they’ve been identified as being much older at ~ 60 million years.

So far, the students have discovered dozens of fish fossils from the Jurassic Period (99.6 to 145.5 million years ago) and Triassic Period (251 million and 199 million years ago). They’ve encountered fossils of preserved leaves and insects from what is today Utah, Wyoming and Colorado, dating back to the Eocene Period, when the world was much warmer (40-45 million years ago). They’ve also found fossilized plants from coal deposits in Illinois (about 300 million years old), as well as fossil sea lilies (crinoids), which lived in shallow warm seas in what is now Indiana. Many of these fossils were collected by S. Ward Loper, who was curator of the Wesleyan Museum from 1894 to his death in 1910.

They’ve even discovered a plant fossil from Greenland, donated to the Wesleyan Museum in 1895 by A.N. Varse, who was on the second relief expedition attempting to assist Robert Peary on one of his early expeditions to explore Greenland and reach the North Pole.

“It’s really incredible to hold a piece of history like this in our hands,” McKee said. “Not only can fossils tell us what an organism might have looked like and how it lived, but fossils also give us clues about ancient environmental conditions. We can use fossils to understand how the Earth has changed over time.”

While most of the fossil finds are located in locked drawers in the hallways of Exley Science Center, the students also are cataloging fossils in the Joe Webb Peoples Fossil Collection, located on the fourth floor. The museum is named after the late Professor Joe Webb Peoples, who was chair of the Department of Geology from 1935 until his retirement in 1975.

The students not only catalog the artifacts, but they also write about their finds, and the museum, on a blog and on Twitter.

McKee and Palakarn, a College of Social Studies major, are constantly learning on the job. “I don’t have a science background, but here I am learning about unicellular microorganisms, sponges, coral, arthropods, trilobites and sea urchins,” Palakarn said.

“I know by the end of this summer you’re going to change your major to earth and environmental science,” McKee said. “I’m sure of it.”

Sanjirat "Bright" Palakarn '20; Ellen Thomas; and graduate student Melissa McKee '17 hold fish fossils inside the Joe Peoples' Museum in Exley.

Sajirat “Bright” Palakarn ’20; Research Professor Ellen Thomas; and graduate student Melissa McKee ’17 hold fish fossils inside the Joe Webb Peoples’ Fossil Collection in Exley.

While rummaging through drawers in Exley's Specimen Storage room, Ellen Thomas discovered large collections of old coins including miniature intaglios and ancient Chinese coins collected by the Methodist missionaries who started Wesleyan. The coins are documented in an accompanying booklet.

While rummaging through drawers in Exley’s Specimen Storage room, Ellen Thomas discovered large collections of old coins including miniature intaglios and ancient Chinese coins collected by the Methodist missionaries who started Wesleyan. The coins are documented in an accompanying booklet.

Melissa McKee holds polished halves of a Perisphinctes species found in Madagascar.

Melissa McKee holds polished halves of a cephalopod found in Madagascar. This species lived during the late Jurassic Period.

Sanjirat Palakarn '20 displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period. The fossil was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines.

Sajirat Palakarn displays a fossil of Diplomystus dentatus from the Eocene Period. The fossil was discovered in what is now Wyoming. Diplomystus is an extinct freshwater fish distantly related to herrings and sardines.

The students transcribe hand-written records into electronic form. Pictured is the record of A.N. Varse's fossil discovery in 1895.

The students transcribe hand-written records into electronic form. Pictured is the record of A.N. Varse’s fossil discovery in 1894. It was donated to Wesleyan in 1895.

The research team also found dozens of coral samples stashed away above these cabinets in Exley Science Center.

The research team also found dozens of coral samples stashed above these cabinets in Exley Science Center. “Some of these are now extinct. We will want to catalog these too, but this will be a project for another time,” Thomas said.