Tag Archive for media

Award-winning Documentary ‘Dream On,’ by Roger Weisberg ’75 Airs on PBS, Oct. 7

DreamONDream On, the newest documentary by Roger Weisberg ’75, will air on PBS at 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7. (check local listing). The film is the 32nd documentary written, produced and directed by Weisberg, who heads Public Policy Productions. Dream On has already appeared in 19 international film festivals, garnering four top awards. Weisberg’s earlier works have won more than 150 awards, including Emmy and Peabody awards, as well as two Academy Award nominations.

Dream On asks the question: “Is the American Dream still alive and well?” Are we still optimistic that hard work will raise our standard of living—for our generation and for our children? Weisberg explores this question with political comedian John Fugelsang serving as host and commentator throughout this unusual road trip. The journey revisits the cities of Alexis de Tocqueville’s 1831 itinerary, which served as the Frenchman’s research for Democracy in America. In it, Tocqueville described America as a land of equality, opportunity and social mobility. For those interested in viewing the film as part of a community screening event or classroom educational opportunity, PBS offers a viewer’s guide, as well as a trailer and additional resources, including video segments that Weisberg was not able to include in the 90-minute slot for PBS.

Roger Weisberg ’75, founder of Public Policy Productions, introduces his latest documentary exploring the American dream in a roadtrip following the 1931 journey of Alexis de Toqueville and featuring political comedian John Fugelsang.

Roger Weisberg ’75, founder of Public Policy Productions, introduces his latest documentary, an epic road trip exploring the endangered American dream. The film retraces the journey of Alexis de Tocqueville and features political comedian John Fugelsang.

Weisberg also spoke to The Wesleyan Connection about the process of creating his newest work and his hopes for it: 

Connection: What was the inspiration for Dream On?

Roger Weisberg: I wanted to make a contribution to PBS programming surrounding the election, but I wanted to do it in a way that was different from some of my more conventional reporting on poverty, social mobility and economic inequality. The road trip infused this project with a degree of exuberance and levity, while also permitting us to examine some urgent social issues and meet some really powerful subjects along the way.

Connection: How did John Fugelsang come to join you?

RW: We were pretty lucky to have been referred to him by colleagues who worked with Bill Moyers. It turned out that for John, the timing was perfect: He’d just lost his job as a talk show host, because the cable network that had hired him was sold to a foreign buyer. Because of John’s new feeling of economic insecurity, he was able to put himself in the shoes of many of the people he met on our Tocqueville odyssey.

Connection: What kind of time frame were you working in?

RW: In the early part of 2013, I did the whole road trip on my own, without a crew, to meet prospective participants and scout locations. In the fall of 2013, we filmed this journey in two stints of about 25 days each.

Army Veteran Ball ’08: “Afghan Translator Deserves Special Immigrant Visa”

Matthew Ball ’08 passed up a lucrative job in the financial sector to serve in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger after graduation. He and his cohorts relied on Afghani translators who frequently risked their lives for the American Troops.

After graduation, Matthew Ball ’08, at left, served in Afghanistan as an Army Ranger. He and fellow soldiers relied on Afghan translators who frequently risked their lives for the American troops. (Photo courtesy of Matthew Ball)

In 2010-11, when Matthew Ball ’08 was stationed in the Tora Bora region of Nangarhar province, serving in the 4th Brigade of the 101st Airborne Division, he and the other soldiers relied on Qismat Amin, then only 19 years old, for both information and communication with the local Afghan residents.

Now a Stanford law student, Ball is on a personal mission: To fulfill what he views as his duty to the young interpreter who worked with him during his deployment.

“There’s a really strong bond that a lot of soldiers have with interpreters—they’re crucial members of the team. … There were times when my life was in Qismat’s hands and Qismat’s life was in my hands,” Ball told the San Francisco Chronicle reporter Hamed Aleaziz for an Aug. 20 story.

MSNBC’s Women in Politics, College Edition, Highlights Kate Cullen ’16

Kate Cullen on campus with South College and Memorial Chapel behind her.

Kate Cullen ’16, who served as president of Wesleyan Student Assembly was selected for MSNBC’s “Women in Politics: College Edition.”

Kate Cullen ’16, an earth and environmental science and history major from Bethesda, Md., was selected for MSNBC’s Women in Politics: College Edition series. The president of the Wesleyan Student Assembly, Cullen received the University’s nomination “as a leader making a difference not only through key issues on campus, but in bridging the gender gap in politics.” MSNBC plans to use the series to highlight women candidates and as a springboard for national conversations on women’s issues.

Cullen, who has “been fortunate to have a lot of strong female role models,” says she was motivated to work in student government by “making a tangible impact, whether through policy change, facilitated dialogue or a big community event…” Additionally, she notes, “I think student activism and free expression are of the utmost importance in fostering meaningful campus dialogues.”

Feldstein ’15 Dubbed ‘Breakout’ for Neighbors 2

With Yahoo's Kevin Polowy, Beanie Feldstein ’15 dishes about behind the scenes in Neighbors 2 versus her real-life college experience.

With Yahoo’s Kevin Polowy, Beanie Feldstein ’15 dishes about behind the scenes in Neighbors 2, versus her real-life college experience.

“There is an entire neighborhood full of funny people in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” wrote Kevin Polowy, senior editor at Yahoo! Movies. “But some of the film’s biggest laughs belong to newcomer Beanie Feldstein, who makes her major-studio movie debut as the party-hearty sorority pledge Nora.”

Feldstein ’15, a Los Angeles, Calif. native and sociology major at Wesleyan has been acting on stage since she was 5, with “three to six musicals a year every singer year from 5 to 22,” ending last year with graduation.

She tells Yahoo that Neighbors 2 was not a typecasting situation: “My college experience was nothing like Nora’s. I was such a lame person. I had never done drugs. They had to teach me how to use a lighter, and how to inhale. That scene where I smoke weed in the movie was actually my first time smoking anything.”

Also invited to appear on the Conan O’Brien Show, Feldstein recalls more of her college career: four years as a tour guide. “My friends like to call me TGB—Tour Guide Beanie—and it’s an entirely different person than me. I’m already pretty peppy, but she’s on a whole other level. I could sell anything at that point—I mean Wesleyan’s really easy to sell; it’s a great place.”

Apple Music’s Saint John ’99 Recalls Formative Wes Moments in WesFest Keynote

Alumni Keynote Speaker, Bozoma Saint John '99, head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes, delivered the WesFest keynote address on April 15.

Alumni Keynote Speaker, Bozoma Saint John ’99, head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes, delivered the WesFest keynote address on April 15.

Bozoma “Boz” Saint John ’99, head of global consumer marketing for Apple Music and iTunes, wowed attendees at WesFest—admitted students and their parents— as keynote speaker.

The eldest daughter of Wesleyan ethnomusicology graduate Dr. Appianda Arthur PhD ’77, Saint John spoke on Wesleyan’s powerful influence on her life today.

Her father, recalling his formative years at Wesleyan and the lively intellectual community, had encouraged her to attend Wesleyan. Although her desire to rebel figured in early in the decision process, she ultimately chose Wesleyan. “My father was so excited when I decided Wesleyan was the school for me, but he stopped short of saying, ‘I told you so,’” she recalled.

What she’d found on campus was an intellectual home—a place of lively discourse and diverse fields of study. “Coming to Wesleyan I found a deeper level of connection to students who had varied interests in things, in a way I hadn’t felt before with classmates …. It felt like coming to a big camp with people who looked at the world the way I did—a little left of center.”

While initially prepared to find herself on the pre-med track (“I was good at science and math”), she discovered that her interest in pop culture offered an avenue for intellectual exploration, and she recalled a particularly formative opportunity.

It was during her undergraduate years that one of her favorite musicians, the rapper Tupac Shakur, was murdered. “I thought—’There’s something to be learned here.’ I took that thought and found there was an elective being taught at USC about rap and its influence on culture. I approached my American Studies professor, who seemed knowledgeable. ‘I would love to be able to have a class on the lyrics of Tupak Shakur,’ I told him.

“He looked at me and said, ‘It sounds interesting. I don’t have the time to teach this, but I’d sponsor you, if you wanted to teach this course.’”

She recalled dismissing his idea as one she wasn’t qualified to consider: “Who me? I can’t do that; I’m just a fan.”

“Of course you can,” he responded.

Saint John spent the next month transcribing every lyric Shakur had written and recalls the laborious process with her tape player: listening, jotting down what she heard, rewinding, pressing play and listening again—for as many times as it took until she was sure she had them correct and complete.

She returned to her amazed professor with the sheaf of transcribed songs, and he helped her develop a course that she taught. “We had 30 students for this noncredit course—a course just to learn something. The next semester, we had 30 people in the class and a 60-person wait list, and the semester after that, he took it on himself,” she recalls.

“To me, that is the truest testament to what education is like at Wesleyan is: An idea that might have been dismissed as trite—I mean it doesn’t affect anything—was taken very seriously here. It was validated. I can tell you, that has had a profound effect on what I do today, how I look at the world today, how I look at my ideas and the validity I give them was born here. I was validated here, both for my cognitive thinking skills as well for the application that I envisioned. I could see the concept as a tangible real thing to have discourse around.

“That turned the corner for me. The passion I felt for that particular experience changed my mind about what I wanted to do with my career. I had the opportunity to explore so much of what I considered the pop culture education, that it set me up for what I’m doing now.”

Kaiser Permanente’s McCulloch ’76 Named a Top-10 Exec

Andy McCulloch ’76, president of Kaiser Permanente, was named a top-10 executive by Portland Business Journal.

Andy McCulloch ’76, president of Kaiser Permanente, was named a top-10 executive by Portland Business Journal.

The Portland Business Journal named Kaiser Permanente President Andy McCulloch ’76 one of the top 10 executives of 2016. This award honors area executives whose business strategies have successfully expanded their companies over the last year.

During the past year with Kaiser Permanente, McCulloch boosted membership by 3 percent while maintaining a member retention rate of 97 percent. In just their two hospitals, Kaiser Permanente physicians logged 3 million doctor visits and 420,000 dental appointments while earning $3.4 billion in yearly revenue.

McCulloch began his presidency in 2006 and directs Kaiser Permanente in Oregon and Washington State. During this time, the company has been ranked as one of the highest performing healthcare systems in the region. For five consecutive years Medicare has given the Northwest Region’s Medicare Advantage plan a five star rating while the National Commission for Quality Assurance recently rated the Northwest’s Medicare and commercial plan as the highest in the region.

After earning a BA in government from Wesleyan, McCulloch receive a master’s degree in health administration degree from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. Prior to joining Kaiser Permanente, he held executive positions at the University of North Carolina Health Care System, the University of Washington Health Sciences Center, Peace Health and Mercy Health.

Nelson ’94 Receives National Book Critics Circle Award for Argonauts

Maggie Nelson ’94 won the National Book Critics Circle award for The Argonauts (Graywolf Press, 2015).

Maggie Nelson ’94 won the National Book Critics Circle award for The Argonauts. (Photo by Harry Dodge)

Maggie Nelson ’94 received the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in the criticism category for her book, The Argonauts (Graywolf Press, 2015). Literary editor and book critic Michael Miller describes it on the National Book Critics Circle blog as “a potent blend of autobiography and critical inquiry…[which] combines the story of her own adventures in queer family-making with philosophical meditations on gender, art, literary history, sexual politics, and much more.”

Previous works include The Art of Cruelty, a 2011 Notable Book of the Year, and Jane: A Murder, a finalist for the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir. Nelson was awarded an Arts Writers grant in 2007 from the Creative Capital/Andy Warhol Foundation. In 2011, she was awarded a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for Poetry. She currently teaches in the CalArts MFA writing program. Nelson also has taught at Wesleyan, where, as an undergraduate, she majored in English.

See, also, a review by David Low ’76: wesconnect.wesleyan.edu/news-20150609-maggie-nelson

“Star Power” of Sirmans ’91 Draws Crowd to Miami Museum

Franklin Sirmans ’91, director of the Pérez Art Museum, welcomed guests to the successful fundraiser, which the Miami Herald lauded as "stellar." Photo by Pedro Portal for El Nuevo Herald.com

Franklin Sirmans ’91, director of the Pérez Art Museum, welcomed guests to the successful fundraiser, which the Miami Herald lauded as “stellar.” (Photo by Pedro Portal for El Nuevo Herald.com)

Franklin Sirmans ’91, director of the Pérez Art Museum of Miami (PAMM), was credited for his “star power” that drew a crowd to the museum’s reception and fundraiser. The first African-American director of this publicly funded museum, Sirman was previously curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

An article in the Miami Herald quoted Knight Foundation President and CEO Alberto Ibargüen ’66, who attributed the rise in attendance—double that of last year—to previously successful celebrations, as well as to Sirman’s arrival: “There is no getting around the fact that people are excited about Franklin Sirmans; they’re energized and they’re proud that he’s our museum director.”

Ibargüen notes that Sirmans took on the leadership of the museum “just after the opening of a fabulous new building on Biscayne Bay by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Herzog & de Meuron.”
The Knight Foundation and real estate developer Pérez, for whom the museum is named, contributed $1 million to PAMM’s African American Art Fund to purchase works by African Americans. The evening event was designed to raise awareness of the project and to strengthen connections with the African American community.

“Franklin is determined to make PAMM both Miami’s most popular arts stop, and a place of scholarship and artistic rigor,” says Ibargüen. “He and Jessica are welcome additions to a town that welcomes builders.”

Investigative Journalist McKim ’88 Receives Freedom of Information Award

The New England First Amendment Coalition presented Wesleyan English major Jenifer McKim ’88 with a 2016 Freedom of Information Award.

Investigative journalist Jenifer McKim ’88 won this year's Freedom of Information Award in recognition of her series on child abuse and neglect cases.

Investigative journalist Jenifer McKim ’88 won this year’s Freedom of Information Award in recognition of her series on child abuse and neglect cases.

McKim is senior investigative reporter and trainer at the New England Center for Investigative Reporting (NECIR), a nonprofit based out of Boston University and WGBH. The Freedom of Information Award is presented annually to New England journalists who protect or advance the public’s right to know under federal or state law.

McKim’s award-winning series, “Out of the Shadows—Shining Light on State Failures to Learn from Rising Child Abuse and Neglect Deaths,” first published by the Boston Globe, examined the effectiveness of the Department of Child and Family Services oversight for suspected cases of abuse and neglect.

McKim noted that the stories—often heartbreaking and thus difficult to write—did instigate important systemic changes when published..

“Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker immediately held a press conference and announced that the state would improve screening of suspected abuse and neglect calls, particularly requiring that criminal history reports would be done on every caretaker, something we had pointed to in our reporting. About two months later, the governor eliminated the troubled two-tier system [of graduated risk] altogether, an issue that before our stories had not been in play at all. And we are still fighting for better government transparency when it comes to child abuse and neglect fatalities.”

McKim, who also teaches investigative skills to students and mentors journalists, said, “I really am proud of this work and being part of the small but growing world of nonprofit journalism. It’s exciting to be at the forefront of finding new ways to pay for and tell important stories that make a difference.”

Read moreNew England Center for Investigative Reporting » Child Fatalities

Basinger Reflects on Star Wars Sequel Success

Though movie sequels had been successful in the past, it was a huge surprise when The Empire Strikes Back turned out to be as popular as the original Star Wars film, Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, told the website Boing Boing for a story reflecting on Empire 35 years after it arrived in cinemas.

“When you have set a level that you set with Star Wars in terms of financial success, critical success, audience success, quality of production, greatness of storytelling, you don’t really think even if the second one is going to be good that it can hit that same level twice because Star Wars was a real landmark film,” Basinger said. “It was a real big impact film and so you don’t expect the next one in that sequence to also be a landmark. It just doesn’t seem possible the way storytelling works but Empire was a movie that did not let down the standards set by Star Wars and that was great. Everybody was thrilled.”

She added that Empire opened up in a new way the possibility of sequential storytelling on a giant scale.

Basinger also is curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives.

Ulysse Writes Tribute to Anthropologist Karen McCarthy Brown

Gina Athena Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology.

Gina Athena Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology.

Gina Athena Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology, wrote a tribute on the Tikkun Daily Blog to Karen McCarthy Brown, professor emerita of anthropology and sociology of religion at Drew University, who passed away earlier this month.

“Reading Karen’s Mama Lola kept me in grad school. Vodou got a human face from her,” Ulysses posted on Facebook after hearing news of Brown’s death.

She goes on to explain, “Mama Lola was published by the University of California Press in 1991. Based on extensive fieldwork conducted over a decade, Brown became an initiate of her subject, as a condition to deeper research and writing her life history. The resulting ethnography with its radical crossings blurred methodological and scriptive lines. Brown took creative liberties fictionalizing various strands of Lola’s familial and spiritual genealogies.”

Though highly celebrated, the book was not without its critics. Haitian anthropologist Michel-Ralph Trouillot questioned tensions between Brown’s ethnographic authority and totalizing narrative.

Ulysses writes, “Indeed, in many ways, Mama Lola was something of an insider ethnography. In retrospect, I formed an attachment to it precisely because I had some knowledge to discern fact from fiction, to fill in the silences and to decipher practices layered in an opacity that was part of a historically damaging trope. Simultaneously, it expanded my lexicon as I learned so much about religious practices in my birth country that to this day remain trapped in obscurity, familial and otherwise. In that sense, the book had done for me exactly what anthropology is supposed to do, make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. It also sensitized me to the restrictions of genres, fieldwork dynamics and negotiations among so many other things. I knew there would never be an ethnography of my family’s story. Performance, maybe? Memoir, definitely. Some stories are not mine to tell.”

Tucker Explores Photography’s Powerful Role in Our Legal System

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

An essay by Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker is included in The Five Photographs that (You Didn’t Know) Changed Everything, a five-part BBC radio series focusing on historically important yet little-known photographs.

In her segment, The Tichborne Claimant, Tucker tells the story of how an 1866 photograph of a butcher in Wagga Wagga, Australia, played a central role in a case that gripped Victorian Britain and had an enormous impact on our legal system, raising questions about what photography is for and how it should be used. Says Tucker:

“Sometimes even a mundane photograph can have a powerful and lasting historical impact. This is the story of one such photograph—a picture that not only changed the life of the man it showed, but also set in motion the longest and most expensive trial in British legal history, and sparked a national debate over the role of photography as evidence in a court of law.”

Tucker also is associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor in the environmental studies program, associate professor of science in society, and faculty fellow in the College of the Environment.