Tag Archive for student achievements

Packer ’15 Creates Online Community to Unify Collegiate Sustainability Movement

Brent Packer '15 is the founder of Potlux, which is on track to be the first online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are effectively aggregated and shared.

Brent Packer ’15 is the founder of Potlux, which is on track to be the first online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are effectively aggregated and shared. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

#THISISWHY
In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Brent Packer from the Class of 2015. 

Q: Brent, where are you from and what are you majoring in?

A: I was born and raised in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Growing up nearby Amish farms and having tortoises, dogs and a semi-domesticated duck scampering around my house piqued my environmental interests. At Wesleyan, I’m a member of the College of the Environment with a double major in economics and environmental studies.

Q: You are the founder of Potlux, an online community where collegiate sustainability initiatives are aggregated and shared. What is the community’s mission?

A: Our mission is to accelerate global environmental progress by unifying the collegiate sustainability movement. View our pitchdeck online.

Q: When did you come up with the idea for Potlux? When did you begin the project?

Burgunder ’15 Competes in Ski Mountaineering World Championships

Mateusz “Matt” Burgunder ’15

Mateusz “Matt” Burgunder ’15

Mateusz “Matt” Burgunder ’15 recently competed in the 2015 Ski Mountaineering World Championships in Verbier, Switzerland where the U.S. National Ski Mountaineering Team finished in 10th place overall.

This was Burgunder’s fourth time competing for the U.S., participating in three events. Competitors race by climbing up and skiing down mountains at a rate of approximately 3,000 feet per hour.

The 2015 Ski Mountaineering World Championships, hosted by the International Ski Mountaineering Federation, were held Feb. 6–12.

More information about the U.S. Ski Mountaineering Association and the 2015 World Championships can be found online.

See photos of Burgunder’s events below:

Unger ’15 Writes about “Coexistence and its Discontents” in Israel, Palestine

Rachel Unger '15 in Nazareth, Israel.

Rachel Unger ’15 in Nazareth, Israel.

Writing in Tikkun Magazine, government major Rachel Unger ’15 offers a first-hand account of Israeli-Palestinian relations she witnessed during her two trips to the region, and how these experiences shaped her views of a “two-state solution” to the ongoing conflict.

Unger describes watching “religious Jews marching through the Muslim quarter of the Old City celebrating the ‘reunification’ of Jerusalem while the authorities blocked Palestinians from the streets with barricades and prevented an old man from taking the bus to his home. I witnessed police knocking a Palestinian man to the ground while hordes of young Yeshiva boys cheered and sang ‘Am Yisrael Chai!'”

She writes, “This incident felt like a culmination of the nationalism, racism, and contradicting narratives that drive the Israeli-Palestinian conflict forward.” It was, she writes, a side of Israel from which most American Jews are shielded when the tour the country.

Visiting the region and hearing a broad range of Israeli and Palestinian perspectives showed Unger that many on both sides of the conflict gave up long ago on the possibility of a two-state solution. Read more about her thoughts on this here.

PCSE Awards Seed Grants to Student-Led Ventures

The Wesleyan Doula Project is a student-run, volunteer collective that improves access to quality women’s health care by training students and non-students to work in local clinics, and by directing outreach locally, state-wide, and nationally. Pictured from left are the co-founders, Hannah Sokoloff-Rubin '16, Julia Vermeulen '15 and Zandy Stovicek '17.

The Wesleyan Doula Project, a seed grant winner, is a student-run, volunteer collective that improves access to quality women’s health care by training students and non-students to work in local clinics, and by directing outreach locally, state-wide, and nationally. Pictured from left are the co-founders, Hannah Sokoloff-Rubin ’16, Julia Vermeulen ’15 and Zandy Stovicek ’17.

Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship announced the winners of the 2015 PCSE Seed Grant Challenge. These student-led social ventures will each receive $5,000 in unrestricted funds as well as training, advising, mentoring, incubator workspace and other resources from the Patricelli Center.

Recipients were selected from a strong pool of finalists who submitted written business plans and pitched to a panel of expert judges comprised of alumni, students, faculty and staff. Applicants were assessed on their project design, leadership qualities and potential for social impact.

The 2015 Seed Grant recipients are:

Graduate Student Blasser Hand Crafts Analog Instruments

Graduate student Peter Blasser tunes one of his hand-crafted analog instruments. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Graduate student Peter Blasser tunes one of his hand-crafted analog instruments. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

#THISISWHY
In this Q&A, we speak with Peter Blasser, a music graduate student. 

Q: What was your first experiences with music? When did you decide that music would be your life work?

A: I was in elementary school in the 1980s when music programs were still part of the public school curriculum. I remember that those music classes were not very noteworthy at the time. In middle school I took a wood shop class and liked working with the tools. After taking classical civilization classes, I started to triangulate all three — I wanted to work with wood to make ancient Greek instruments to see what they sounded like. The first instruments I decided to recreate were ancient stringed instruments.

Blasser changes where the transistors are connected in order to tune the instrument.

Blasser changes where the transistors are connected in order to tune the instrument.

Q: Where did you complete your undergraduate studies?

A: I went to Oberlin College. I initially went as a classics major, but still had a passion for making classical instruments. Oberlin had a conservatory for music, and they offered introductory courses in electronic music. I started to use electronic music to model and tune classical instruments. I also was able to take a course in analog music, learning about transistors and electronics, and how they could be used to make music. This caused me to combine wood and analog electronics, which is all about the flow of the transistors.

Q: What did you do after graduating?

A: I purchased a home in Baltimore about 10 years ago as a space to work on my art. Fixing up the house was an artistic experience in of itself. I also started my own business where I sold analog instruments. I wasn’t making much money, so I spent a lot of time working on poetry, thinking of ideas for my business and exploring my philosophy. I also toured with my instruments, but didn’t like how much I had to promote myself and push my brand.

Q: Why did you choose Wesleyan for your graduate school?

Blasser likes to work with wood, which is frequently used in his instruments.

Blasser likes to work with wood, which is frequently used in his instruments.

A: I decided to attend Wesleyan after developing a friendship with Ron Kuivila, chair of the Music Department. After graduating from Oberlin I never thought I would return to school, but I found that I enjoyed giving lectures and helping other students make their instruments. I also like how Wesleyan’s music program, and art program in general, is experimental — there are no prejudices from students about what music should “be” like. The different departments are porous, there is mixing between different mediums and styles. This enables me to sit with undergraduates and help them make a piece that the student will own, with a shared experience. This made me realize that I enjoy teaching, and in order to become a professor, formal education is required.

Q: What are your plans after Wesleyan?

A: Right now my analog electronics business,

McLaughlin ’15 Helps Students Discover Body-Mind Awareness through WesBAM! Classes

Katie McLaughlin '15 teaches a WesBAM! class called Vinyasa Flow Fusion, which combines meditation, breathing techniques and traditional asana practice for whole body health and happiness.

Katie McLaughlin ’15 teaches a WesBAM! class called Vinyasa Flow Fusion, which combines meditation, breathing techniques and traditional asana practice for whole body health and happiness.

In this Q&A we speak with Katie McLaughlin from the Class of 2015. (Story and photos by Hannah Norman ’16)

Q: Katie, what are you majoring in?

A: I’m majoring in French and environmental studies with the certificate in international relations. For my capstone project in the environmental studies major, I am researching the academic justifications of contemplative pedagogy and developing a curriculum which integrates it and movement-based learning into elementary school, high school and adult education. The goals of the curriculum are to explore the environment through physical inquiry and embodiment, reevaluate the ways we perceive ourselves as a part of, or apart from nature and reexamine how we interact with ourselves, our communities and the spaces we inhabit.

Q: You are a WesBAM! manager and yoga instructor on campus. Please explain what WesBAM! is all about.

A: Started by Renee Dunn ’14 and Shira Engel ’14, Wesleyan Body and Mind (WesBAM!) is a student-run organization that makes mind-body awareness and fitness accessible at Wesleyan by offering a wide variety of daily classes, free community classes every weekend, and free workshops throughout the semester. WesBAM! instructors are students certified in a variety of athletic disciplines.

Israeli ’17 Speaks at Awards Gala Hosted by the Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights

Ella Israeli '17 mingled with entertainer/philanthropist Robert De Niro at the Ripple of Hope Gala and Awards Dinner, held Dec. 16 in New York City.  The event was supported by the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights.

Ella Israeli ’17 mingled with entertainer/philanthropist Robert De Niro at the Ripple of Hope Gala and Awards Dinner, held Dec. 16 in New York City.

Two Wesleyan students and two alumni participated in the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights Ripple of Hope Gala and Awards Dinner in New York City in December.

Ella Israeli '17, Kennedy Odede '12 and Kiley Kennedy '16 shared a group hug at the Ripple of Hope Gala. 

Ella Israeli ’17, Kennedy Odede ’12 and Kiley Kennedy ’16 shared a group hug at the Ripple of Hope Gala.

During the event, Ripple Awards were presented to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, entertainers/ philanthropists Robert De Niro and Tony Bennett, and Physicians Interactive Chairman Donato Tramuto.

Ella Israeli ’17, a government major minoring in film studies film studies, was chosen to introduce New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who presented the Ripple of Hope Award to De Niro. Israeli also spoke about her involvement in the center’s film contest. Her speech is online here.

Kennedy Odede ’12, founder of Shining Hope for Communities, was honored as a defender of human rights. Kiley Kennedy ’16 and Edward “Ted” Kennedy Jr. ’83, P’16 also attended the event.

View Israeli’s website, with links to her videos, here.

Everett ’15 Co-Authors Paper Published in Nature Communications

Holly Everett '15

Holly Everett ’15

A paper co-authored by molecular biology and biochemistry major Holly Everett ’15 is published in the December 2014 issue of Nature Communications. The article, titled “High-throughput detection of miRNAs and gene-specific mRNA at the single-cell level by flow cytometry,” describes a novel approach to visualizing RNA and protein simultaneously at the single cell level.

Everett has been working on the accompanying research at the Ragon Institute of Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard.

This new technology uses gene-specific probes and a signal amplification system based on a “branched DNA” principle. The authors show that this novel flow-FISH (for “Fluorescent in situ hybridization”) technique is sensitive, specific and can be multiplexed with simultaneous detection of three different gene-specific RNAs. The results further demonstrate their ability to measure expression of genes critical for immune cells, such as cytokines, in white blood cells specifically targeting the HIV or CMV viruses. The authors also demonstrate the capacity to detect mRNAs for which flow antibodies against the corresponding proteins are poor or are not available. Read more about the study online here.

Everett, who is completing her degree in three years, worked on this study between her sophomore and senior (gap) year, starting in 2013. She hopes to continue this research next year at a HIV and TB research institute in Durban, South Africa.

Everett’s advisor is Don Oliver, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, the Daniel Ayres Professor of Biology.

15 Elected Early Decision to Phi Beta Kappa

stu_pbk_2014-1204122134

On Dec. 3, Wesleyan welcomed 15 students elected to early decision membership in Phi Beta Kappa.

Fifteen Wesleyan students were elected to early decision membership in Phi Beta Kappa during an initiation ceremony Dec. 3.

To be elected, a student must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations, and must have achieved a grade-point average of 93 and above. For students elected in the fall, it is an especially exacting selection process because admittance is based on a student’s performance at Wesleyan only through their junior year.

Posse Scholar Foley ’18 Recipient of Quilt of Valor

Kyle Foley '18 received a Quilt of Valor Dec. 3 at the Emblem Club in Middletown. She's pictured here with several Wesleyan students and at left, Professor Andy Szegedy-Maszak.

Pictured sixth from left, Kyle Foley ’18 received a Quilt of Valor Dec. 3 at the Emblem Club in Middletown. She’s pictured here with several Wesleyan students and at left, Professor Andy Szegedy-Maszak. The quilt pattern is sawtooth star blocks representing the American Flag. The center eagles represent patriotism.

For her six years of service to the nation, Afghanistan veteran Kyle Foley ’18, a Posse Scholar at Wesleyan, received a quilt from the local Quilts of Valor Foundation during a ceremony Dec. 3 at the Emblem Club in Middletown.

Kyle Foley receives the Quilt of Valor from Jane Dougherty, the Connecticut Quilt of Valor representative, and Deborah Sierpinski, administrative assistant at Wesleyan.

Kyle Foley receives the Quilt of Valor from Jane Dougherty, the Connecticut Quilt of Valor representative, and Deborah Sierpinski, administrative assistant at Wesleyan.

Since 2003, Quilts of Valor have become a national community service effort to bring the home front to wounded soldiers and to honor returning Veterans. Quilts of Valor members pay tribute to those who have been touched by war by giving them a symbol of comforting and healing.

During her six years in the Navy, Foley was a Seabee, specifically a construction mechanic, and was attached to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 4. Within the battalion she worked as a mechanic on both construction equipment and combat vehicles, and also served as a fire team leader, squad leader, and 240Bravo gunner, at different times.

Kyle Foley met with Laurine Sierpinski, a local WWII veteran.

Kyle Foley met with Laurine Sierpinski, a local WWII veteran.

On Foley’s second deployment, she served as the lead mechanic on a detachment to Camp Marmal Afghanistan. At that time, she was the first female mechanic during her tenure to be put in charge of the mechanical shop of a detachment. At the end of her second deployment she re-enlisted to “cross-rate,” or change her job. She cross trained at Corps school in Great Lakes, Ill., and became a Hospital Corpsman (Navy Medic).

After she had finished training she was re-assigned to Naval Hospital Bremerton, where she worked as a general medic, one of the hospital’s three primary phlebotomists, a command mentor — mentoring foru junior personnel — and as a command fitness leader, and as a member of the auxiliary security forces team. Foley also volunteered as the strength and conditioning coach for a women’s lacrosse team at a local high school.

Kyle Foley, center, is one of 10 Posse Foundation Veteran Scholars at Wesleyan this year. The  scholars are funded by The Posse Foundation, which supports students with a four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarship.

Kyle Foley, center, is one of 10 Posse Foundation Veteran Scholars at Wesleyan this year. The scholars are funded by The Posse Foundation, which supports students with a four-year, full-tuition leadership scholarship.

Foley, 29, ended her service Oct. 9, 2012 and enrolled at Wesleyan in fall 2014 as a result of the university’s partnership with the Posse Foundation. Posse Foundation identifies talented veterans who are interested in pursuing bachelor’s degrees at top tier universities.

Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek and Professor of Classics, a mentor for Foley, recommended her as a candidate for a Quilt of Valor.

Students enrolled in a quilting class at Middletown Adult Education and The Quilting Queens, a club in East Hartford, came together to sew patriotic star blocks for the Quilts of Valor. Under the direction of Deborah Sierpinski, instructor at Middletown Adult Education and administrative assistant at Wesleyan, the talented group of women pieced the red, white and blue quilt top.

The Emblem Club, an organization that celebrates Americanism, donated funds toward the cost of the quilt. Representatives from Wesleyan, Middletown Adult Education, the Emblem Club, and the Quilts of Valor Foundation attended the ceremony to pay tribute to Foley.

Students Represent Wesleyan at Keck Astronomy Consortium

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Conor Hunt ’16, pictured in the back, left corner, and Trevor Dorn-Wallenstein ’15, pictured in the center, represented Wesleyan as student speakers at the 2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium.

Conor Hunt ’16, Trevor Dorn-Wallenstein ’15, Girish Duvvuri ’17, Coady Johnson ’15 represented Wesleyan as student speakers at the 2014 Undergraduate Research Symposium of the Keck Northeast Astronomy Consortium held at Swarthmore College on Nov. 8.

A total of five faculty members and eight students from the Astronomy Department, including Greg Schulman ’17, currently at Clark University, joined colleagues from around the northeast at this annual event.

Wang ’16 Advocates for Asian American Civil Rights

Alton Wang '16 is a sociology and government double major who plans to enter public service after graduation, advocating for the rights of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.

Alton Wang ’16 is a sociology and government double major who plans to enter public service after graduation, advocating for the rights of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. He’s currently a member of the Asian American Student Collective. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

#THISISWHY
In this Q&A, meet Alton Wang from the Class of 2016. 

Q: Hi Alton! Please tell us about where you grew up and your high school experience.

A: I grew up in Arcadia, Calif., which is about 40 minutes outside of downtown Los Angeles. The community in my high school was predominantly Asian and Asian American, so most people looked like me. I personally wanted to break out from that mold and try something completely different for college. So not only was Wesleyan was far away from home, it was not a place I’d ever previously considered going to college.

Q: So how did you wind up coming to Wesleyan?

A: I discovered it by chance. A guidance counselor suggested that I might be interested in Wesleyan, so I said, “Sure, I’ll add it to my list.” I didn’t give it another thought until the acceptances were in and I had to choose a school. When I visited Wesleyan in the spring of my senior year of high school, I fell in love with the campus. I just felt really comfortable here.