Tag Archive for student achievements

Tratner ’12 to Study Educational Alternatives as Thomas Watson Fellow

Cara Tratner ’12 plays guitar in Algorrobo, Chile, where she studied abroad. Tratner, a sociology major, will travel to Peru, Guatemala, Ghana, Uganda and India as a 2012-13 Thomas J. Watson Fellow.

Cara Tratner ’12 grew up in the dorms of Stanford University where her dad taught English. Immersed in academia from the start, she did not begin to question her educational privilege until her freshman year at Wesleyan.

“As I became aware of the unequal patterns of access to education in the U.S.,” Tratner comments, “I looked back at my own schooling in a different light, starting to think critically about the level of segregation even in my own ‘good’ high school, and the way in which my success as a student was to a certain extent dependent on the failure of so many others.”

After this realization, Tratner began exploring alternative models of education and working with educational organizations seeking to reach those excluded from the type of education she grew up with. She taught in diverse settings ranging from Philadelphia public middle schools to Argentinian high schools to Connecticut prisons.

Yet Tratner shares that her experience in these teaching positions only complicated her understanding, leaving her wondering how and when educational structures actually benefit the communities they serve. “In my teaching experience I struggled to determine whether alternative educational practices were truly built out of the needs of those communities, or whether they functioned more to integrate individuals into a standardized educational paradigm,” she says.

As a 2012-13 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, sociology major Tratner will explore the topic “Overcoming Exclusion: Community-Based Educational Alternatives” in a year-long “wanderjahr.” Tratner is one of only 40 Watson Fellows selected to follow her passion in a self-designed project in countries outside the U.S. The fellowship comes with a $25,000 stipend. “The Watson is a way for me to learn about the work of educators who aim to empower marginalized communities to construct their own education,” she says.

Tratner will begin her wanderjahr in Peru, where 70 percent of Peruvian children who live isolated in Andean mountain communities do not complete more than five years of school. She’ll also explore and compare the work of educators in Guatemala, Ghana, Uganda and India who are developing culturally-relevant education programs for communities that have been left out of the formal education system.

Tratner will examine how cultural context influences the pedagogical methods of the educational response in each region. She’ll explore the diverse ways educators around the world are seeking to solve the problem of educational exclusion.

“The wanderjahr is a perfect opportunity for me to see first-hand the incredible variety of innovative initiatives around the world aiming to create a culturally-relevant education,” she says. “If I can discover how educators are able to empower entire communities to construct their own model of education, I hope that I too will be able to locate myself within a global educational community and work to construct my own path as I step forward into the world of education.”

Chemistry Major Sagi ’14 Receives Goldwater Scholarship for Academic Merit

Goldwater Scholar Andras Sagi studies how different compounds bind to quadruplex DNA. His research may lead to treatments for cancer.

A Wesleyan sophomore is the recipient of a prestigious award from the Barry M. Goldwater Scholarship and Excellence in Education Foundation.

Andras Sagi ’14, a chemistry and molecular biology double major, is one of 282 college students from around the country who received a Goldwater Scholarship. Goldwater Scholars are selected on the basis of academic merit from a field of 1,123 mathematics, science, and engineering students who were nominated by the faculties of colleges and universities nationwide. The $15,000 scholarship will be applied to Sagi’s tuition, fees, books, and room and board over two years.

At Wesleyan, Sagi works with Philip Bolton, professor of chemistry, on localizing the binding of different ligands to quadruplex DNA, which may lay a foundation for cancer treatments.

“Quadruplexes are of considerable therapeutic interest because induction or stabilization of quadruplex formation in cells has been shown to cause cancer cell senescence and death,” Sagi explains. “Moreover, quadruplexes have a protein-like structural diversity, allowing for the development of drugs highly specific to particular quadruplex structures. Thus, pharmaceuticals capable of targeting certain quadruplexes may be of significant interest as treatments for cancer.”

Sagi is interested in determining where and how different compounds bind to quadruplex structures.

“If we can understand the locations of binding of various compounds to particular quadruplex structures, then we can help scientists design drugs capable of achieving similarly strong binding,” he says.

After graduating from Wesleyan, Sagi intends to pursue a doctorate in chemistry “at the best institution in my field  of biophysical chemistry I can receive acceptance to,” he says. “From this point on, I will seek employment either in academia or with the government, with the intention of becoming an established scientist at a national laboratory or institute.”

The Goldwater Foundation is a federally endowed agency established by Public Law 99-661 on Nov. 14, 1986. The Scholarship Program honoring Senator Barry M. Goldwater was designed to foster and encourage outstanding students to pursue careers in the fields of mathematics, the natural sciences, and engineering. The Goldwater Scholarship is the premier undergraduate award of its type in these fields.

Since its first award in 1989, the Foundation has bestowed over 6,200 scholarships worth approximately $39 million.


28 Juniors Awarded Davenport Study Grants

The John E. Andrus Center for Public Affairs recently announced its 2012 Davenport Study Grant recipients. Twenty-eight juniors will receive funding to support research and scholarly projects in public affairs, beginning this summer. Grants typically range from $500 to $3,000.

The funds are made available to current sophomores and juniors thanks to a gift from the Surdna Foundation in honor of Frederick Morgan Davenport, Class of 1889, and Edith Jefferson Andrus Davenport, Class of 1897. Recipients are chosen based on “demonstrated intellectual and moral excellence and a concern for public affairs.” They must show promise for leadership in public service through their personal qualities and scholarly and vocational intentions.

This year’s recipients represent majors in the College of Social Studies, History, Sociology, Government, Latin American Studies, Science in Society, American Studies and Anthropology, Religion, Dance, French Studies and Neuroscience & Behavior.

The grant recipients and their project titles are:

Zain Alam ’13, Dreams and Disappointment: India’s Muslims, the Muhajir, and the Making of Pakistan

Dahlia Azran ’13, Memorials of the Holocaust: A Comparative Study of the planning process of Holocaust Memorials in the United States, Israel, Germany and China

Corey Guilmette ’13 Honored for Investor Responsibility Committee Efforts

Corey Guilmette '13, who is studying abroad in Spain this semester, is interested in socially responsible investments. He is double-majoring in government and psychology.

Q&As with outstanding students is an occasional feature of The Wesleyan Connection. This issue we speak with Corey Guilmette from the Class of 2013.

Q: Corey, you’re the 2012 recipient of the Peter Morgenstern-Clarren Social Justice Award for being chair of the Wesleyan Committee for Investor Responsibility. Tell us about that committee.

A: It has become increasingly evident in the wake of the financial crisis that the current investment system favors blind short-term gains and not long-term results that more often help people and the planet. The Committee for Investor Responsibility seeks to encourage investments that benefit society as opposed to investments that are harmful to people and the environment. For example, last semester we developed a proposal to have Wesleyan move some of its money from larger, national banks into local banks that help empower low-income communities.

Q:  What got you interested in investments?

A: During my freshman year of college I heard about socially responsible investment and was very excited about the great amount of good responsible investment could do. Wesleyan’s endowment is approximately $600 million, which means that its investment decisions can have a big impact, whether it is as a shareholder advocating for greater environmental responsibility or choosing investments that help disadvantaged communities.

Q:  What classes (or professors) at Wesleyan have been most instrumental to you, so far?

A: It’s tough to pick just one class or professor, but last semester I had the opportunity to take Environmental Politics and Democratization

Chin ’13 Attends Clinton Global Initiative, Seeks to Make Wesleyan Greener

Shamar Chin ’13

From March 30-April 1, Shamar Chin ’13 joined nearly 1,200 other students at a meeting in Washington, D.C. of the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U).

According to the Clinton Global Initiative’s website, CGI U, launched by former President Bill Clinton in 2007, “challenges students and universities to tackle global problems with practical, innovative solutions.” CGI U hosts an annual meeting for students, national youth organizations and university officials to discuss solutions to pressing global issues.

Prior to attending the meeting, each student must develop and submit a Commitment to Action: a specific plan to address an important challenge on his or her campus or in the global community.

For her commitment, Chin is seeking to convert Wesleyan’s lawn mowers to produce fewer environmentally harmful emissions.

“At the meeting, I had the chance to network with many students from across the globe and learn about their commitments,” says Chin. “I had the opportunity to attend working sessions in my area of interest—environment and climate change—where we discussed the importance of campus sustainability and environmental entrepreneurship. The plenary sessions were inspiring and made me realize that failure comes with innovation, but we should embrace it rather than give up.”

Chin is majoring in Earth & Environmental Science and Environmental Studies. “I have always wanted to start a green initiative in my community,” she says. Over winter break this year, her thesis advisor, Suzanne O’Connell, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences, associate professor of environmental studies, director of the Service Learning Center, urged her to apply to the Clinton Global Initiative.

O’Connell calls Chin a “self-starter.” She was impressed that Chin, after working with middle school girls at the Green Street Arts Center last summer, had taken the initiative to start her own environmental afterschool program for girls.

Chin is still gathering the necessary approvals for her CGI U commitment, which she has called “Go Green-Go Wes.” She aims to meet her goals before she graduates next spring.

“I firmly believe that global warming is linked to the emission of greenhouse gases, and this was the foundation for my Commitment to Action,” Chin explains. “Wesleyan University has signed the New England Governors/ Eastern Canadian Premiers Climate Change Action Plan, which requires greenhouse gases associated with energy production to be reduced to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. I proposed raising funds to purchase two electric lawn tractors. However, Wesleyan does not own their own lawn equipment, so I have reworked my commitment to raise funds to purchase catalytic converters for our lawn tractors.”

“Participating in this program has been such a blessing and one of the best experiences of my life. I met incredible people, heard amazing ideas and I left feeling very inspired. I am positive that we as students can enact change,” Chin says. She encourages her fellow students to apply to the Clinton Global Initiative in the future.

Conducive Classrooms, Numerical Representation, Lignin Degration are Topics of McNair Fellow Presentations

Wesleyan's 2011-12 McNair Fellows receive guidance, research opportunities and academic and financial support.

Eleven Wesleyan seniors will speak on their undergraduate research projects during the Spring 2012 McNair Fellow Presentation Series March 29 through April 26. The presentations describe the research that students conducted with Wesleyan faculty mentors.

Many of the projects also are the subject of student theses or final papers presented for the Wesleyan B.A. requirements.

The Wesleyan University Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement McNair Program was established in 2007. It assists students from underrepresented groups with preparing for, entering, and progressing successfully through postgraduate education. They are often first generation college students from low-income families, OR African-American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander, or Native American.

The program provides guidance, research opportunities, and academic and financial support to students planning to pursue Ph.Ds. Junior and Senior Fellows do research with faculty mentors and participate in program activities with the McNair cohort. More than 59 students have participated in the program, 40 of whom were first generation college attendees.

The program provides guidance, research opportunities, and academic and financial support to students planning to pursue Ph.Ds.

“We’re very proud of our graduating fellows,” says Santos Cayetano, administrative director of the McNair Program. “Many of our fellows go on to graduate school and post baccalaureate programs. We welcome the entire Wesleyan community to come hear about their research.”

All talks are at noon in Exley Science Center 109. The schedule is as follows:

March 29
Julia Marroquin-Ceron ’12 will present “Spanish legal translation and interpretation: Wesleyan students and involvement in the greater Middletown community.”

Student-Athlete Jeff Legunn ’13 Says Men’s Tennis is Hungry for Success

Jeff Legunn '13 maintains a leadership role on the men's tennis team.

Q&As with outstanding students is an occasional feature of The Wesleyan Connection. This issue we speak with tennis star Jeff Legunn from the Class of 2013.

Q: You have been playing No. 1 singles for Wesleyan since your arrival and you currently have a career record of 33-11.  How do you see your role on the team as a top player and team captain?

A: I believe myself, and the other upperclassmen, all maintain leadership roles.  As the top player, I think I have the ability to set the bar high and hold the other players accountable. We have a talented team this year, but we will need everyone to perform at their best for us to have a successful season in the NESCAC.

Q: There are 11 players on the team this year and seven of them are freshmen. How has such a young team gotten off to a 12-1 start, the best in program history?

A: Our team is young, but hungry for success. The freshmen on our team got the taste of winning college matches early on in the fall, and they all have high goals for the upcoming portion of the season. Having a young team will never be an excuse for us not meeting our goals this spring.

Khan ’12 is a “Young Woman to Look Out For”

In honor of International Women’s Day, DoSomething.org named Tasmiha Khan ’12 one of the “11 Young Women to Look Out For.”

Through the organization Brighter Dawns, Khan raises awareness about the water-related illnesses in Bangladesh and builds wells, latrines and shower rooms in an effort to combat sanitary ignorance and the inability to access safe sanitation.

With a goal of 5 million active members by 2015, DoSomething.org is one of the largest organizations in the U.S. for teens and social change.

The story is online here.

Aaron ’14, Malamut ’12 Receive NASA Research Grants

Two undergraduates each received a $5,000 grant from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium on Jan. 1.

Lavontria Aaron ’14 to will study minerals on Mars with Martha Gilmore, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences; and Craig Malamut ’12 will research local interstellar mediums with Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy.

Student Volunteers Provide Education in India

MINDS volunteers work with children in India.

Over winter break, eight volunteers from Wesleyan, including founder Raghu Appasani ’12, traveled to India with the MINDS Foundation to complete the first phase of their three-phase program in India. The organization, founded by Appasani in 2010, is committed to eliminating the stigma of mental illness in developing nations. Through a grassroots approach, they provide educational, financial, medical, and moral support for patients suffering from mental illness in developing countries.

Volunteers Shyam Desai ’15, Sam Douglas ’12 (a psychology major and director of research & development), Emma Kingsberg ’12, Rehan Mehta ’14, Lauren Seo ’14 (president of the Wesleyan chapter of the foundation), Rishi Shah ’12 (director of business development), and Zach Valenti ’12 joined Appasani ’12 for their nearly month-long study and service.

Phase I of the process, explains Appasani, is educational: the goal is to give people accurate information about mental illness and begin to take away some of the stigma and blame associated with it, and to begin conversations. Volunteers spent their time leading workshops and discussions, showing a documentary, and working with young children on dramatics arts projects to illustrate the lessons.

Rachel Fifer ’12: Acrobatic Yoga Instructor Says Wesleyan is “Hugely Instrumental”

Rachel Fifer '12 teaches the class DANC420.01 “Acrobatic Partner Yoga and Thai Massage” at Wesleyan.

Q: Rachel, please explain what acrobatic yoga is, and how you got involved.

A: AcroYoga, as it’s called, is acrobatic partner yoga that mostly involves a “base” who uses their legs to hold a “flyer” in the air as they both collaborate to move through therapeutic poses as well as acrobatic maneuvers. I got involved when Ryan Rogers and Miles Bukiet ’11 led an AcroYoga student forum last year.

Q: What is the partner class you teach and how many students are in the class?

A: Lizzie Simon ’12 and I teach a student forum class called Acrobatic Partner Yoga and Thai Massage for a full credit. Seventeen students are enrolled for credit, but about 30 people take the class in total, because it’s so much fun it’s worth it even without credit!

Rachel Fifer '12 (denim shorts) and Morgan Hill '14 (black pants) practice acrobatic yoga behind the Usdan University Center Feb. 23.

Q: What are the benefits of acrobatic partner yoga?

A: Phew…I could go on for ages. It improves flexibility, strength, trust in yourself, trust in a partner, body awareness, comfort with your own body and others’, breath awareness in yourself and others, balance, connection with communities around you…It’s a practice that makes you feel confident, challenged, and it still super goofy and relaxed.

Q: Are you going to become licensed?

A: At the moment, I can’t afford to become licensed. Someday, maybe.

Q: What are your academic interests?

A: I’m majoring in Latin American studies and environmental studies. I love understanding how people and societies think. So history, sociology, psychology, politics…pretty much anything related to how things work.

Q: And other hobbies?

A: Folk dance! And singing and playing instruments. But mostly dancing. Blues, contra, salsa, waltz, swing, international.

Q: Why did you choose Wesleyan?

A: Honestly? Because after my dad made me check it out because it was in a book of “colleges that change the world,” they gave me the biggest scholarship. Just turned out that Wesleyan was a nearly perfect fit for me. I got lucky! I’m so very glad I picked Wesleyan. I feel like the ways that Wesleyan has challenged me (comfort with sexuality, being aware of the immense weight words carry, questioning who writes history) and at the same time provided me with community and opportunity (dancing, a small enough school that I always see familiar faces, the chance to teach my own class) has been hugely instrumental in my growth as a person.

Q: What are your plans after graduating?

A: I’m saving up money to live in Spain with a friend of mine for the summer and then moving to Asheville, N.C. to teach AcroYoga and work with an environmentally-minded community organizing group and dance all the time because it’s the city with the best dance scene in the country!