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.