A Look Back at Wesleyan, 2021

Olivia DrakeJanuary 11, 202218min

Despite a tumultuous year intertwined with pandemic up-and-downs, the Wesleyan community persevered. After returning to full, in-person learning for the Spring 2021 semester, students resumed their research, community service, social justice and entrepreneurial projects, extracurriculars, and athletic contests. The Class of 2021 celebrated with an in-person, mask-optional graduation ceremony. Members of the faculty won numerous grants and prizes and an alumnus even brought home an Oscar. Wesleyan continues to help people become more engaged citizens while offering a robust liberal education.

In this timeline, we look back and explore some of Wesleyan’s highlights in 2021:

Feb. 9: Students Return to Campus for Spring Semester
Wesleyan’s 2021 spring semester began Tuesday, Feb. 9, with 2,148 students residing on campus. During the arrival period, held Feb. 5–8, approximately 1,950 students returned to campus after the winter recess. All students were required to test and quarantine before arrive in order to prepare for a safe return. Read the story.

March 5: Staff Work Behind the Scenes to Create a Successful COVID-19 Testing Operation
A dedicated team of Wesleyan staff stepped outside their traditional roles and developed what is now among the most important operations on campus— an ad hoc COVID-19 testing site. As spring semester began, students were still required to test twice per week, and employees once per week. Read the story.

Students organized a vigil on March 30 to reflect on a recent attack against Asians and Asian Americans. (Photo by Nathaniel Pugh ’21)
Students organized a vigil on March 30 to reflect on a recent attack against Asians and Asian Americans.

March 30: Students Gather to Honor Atlanta Victims, Combat Anti-Asian Violence
More than 150 students gathered outside Usdan University Center for a community vigil to mourn the victims of the March 16 Atlanta spa shootings and to create a safe space for Asian and Asian-American students to discuss the rise of anti-Asian violence and be heard by the community. The vigil was organized by Emily Chen ’23, Kevin Le ’22, and graduate student Emily Moon, in conjunction with members of the Asian American Student Collective. Read the story.

April 16: Wesleyan to Require Students to be Vaccinated for the Fall 2021 Semester
The University became among the first in the country to require all students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine prior to returning to campus for the fall semester. For students who are currently studying on campus, Wesleyan, in partnership with the Community Health Center, offered a Pfizer vaccine clinic on campus. Read the story.

April 26: Janvey ’06 Wins 2021 Oscar for Producing Nomadland
A film produced by Dan Janvey ’06 titled Nomadland was the recipient of a 2021 Oscar presented during the 93rd Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards on April 25. Read the story.

Construction will begin on the renewed Public Affairs Center in June 2021. (Illustration courtesy of Newman Architects)
Construction will begin on the renewed Public Affairs Center in June 2021. (Illustration courtesy of Newman Architects)

May 10: Wesleyan to Construct Renewed Public Affairs Center, Art Gallery
Wesleyan will break ground on a renovated and expanded Public Affairs Center (PAC) and new art gallery located between the east end of Olin Library and the campus walkway behind Judd Hall. The project involves a complete remodel of the current PAC building, which was constructed in 1927 as a dormitory. Read the story.

May 10: Murillo Awarded Four Quartets Prize For Poetry.
John Murillo, director of creative writing and assistant professor of English and African American studies, was the recipient of the 2021 Four Quartets Prize for his poem “A Refusal to Mourn the Deaths, by Gunfire, of Three Men in Brooklyn” from his poetry collection Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry (Four Way Books, 2020). Also in 2021, Murillo won the Tufts Kingsley Award for Poetry in April; he was nominated for an NAACP Images Award for Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry in February; his collection was longlisted for both the PEN/Voelcker and Believer Book Awards in January; and his poetry was published in American Poetry Review. Read the story.

Twin brothers Jake Kwon ’21 and Jack Kwon ’21 celebrate their graduation. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)
Twin brothers Jake Kwon ’21 and Jack Kwon ’21 celebrate their graduation.

May 26: Perseverance, Pride, Progress Characterize 189th Commencement. Thanks to vaccination efforts nationwide and more flexible guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a limited number of guests were permitted to attend the in-person Commencement, which was held in a socially distanced manner. Read the story.

The Embodying Antiracism Initiative, established in 2021, provides student internships, think tank participation, grant-supported fellowships, and local community partnerships.
The Embodying Antiracism Initiative, established in 2021, provides student internships, think tank participation, grant-supported fellowships, and local community partnerships.

May 28: Anti-Racist Community-Building Through the Arts
An ambitious new interdisciplinary leadership training initiative supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation looks to the arts as a catalyst for transformative change on campus and in the local community. Read the story.

June 2: Ligon ’82, Hon. ’12 Inducted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters
Artist Glenn Ligon ’82, Hon. 12, best known for his landmark text-based paintings which draw on the influential writings and speech of 20th-century cultural figures including James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, Jean Genet, and Richard Pryor, was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ligon’s work is an exploration of American history, literature, and society that builds on the legacies of modern painting and more recent conceptual art. Read the story.

June 3: NASA Selects 2 Proposed Venus Mission Concepts Co-Developed by Gilmore
Two proposed Venus mission concepts co-developed by planetary geologist Martha Gilmore were selected by NASA’s Discovery Program. The selected missions aim to understand how Venus became a scorching planet after it was potentially another habitable world in the solar system with an Earth-like climate. Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, is a co-investigator of both winning concepts. Each project will receive approximately $500 million per mission for development and is expected to launch in the 2028–2030 timeframe. Read the story.

arrival day
By 8:45 a.m. on Arrival Day, parents and students started the process of moving belongings into the students’ new residences.

Sept. 3: New Students Arrive at Wesleyan Full of Hope
Over 900 students in the Class of 2025 – the second largest in Wesleyan’s history – as well as transfer students and students who deferred admission, moved in Wednesday morning. Many of this diverse group of young people from across the country and the globe navigated their entire application process through the complications of a global pandemic, demonstrating resilience in addition to intellectual and social acumen. Read the story.

Sept. 15: Student-Athletes Return to Regular Play Following 2-Year Hiatus
You would never know that the Cardinals had almost two full years off because of the global pandemic. “It felt great. It was about 600 days since the last time we played, so sophomores and first years were extremely excited to get out there,” said Ethan Barrett ’24, a member of the men’s soccer team. “This is the thing we were talking about. This is the thing we were dreaming about, to get on this field.” Read the story.

time capsule
The 1954 time capsule was unearthed during the demolition of the Public Affairs Centers’ east wing.

Sept. 17: 67-Year-Old Time Capsule Discovered during PAC Renovation
The ongoing demolition of the 1954 wing of the Public Affairs Center (PAC) yielded a touch of history when crews unearthed a time capsule sealed into the concrete entry slab on the east side of the building. Inside, archivists found a copy of the Oct. 22, 1954 edition of the Wesleyan Argus announcing the groundbreaking of the new PAC building along with a development program newsletter, class directories, course listings, financial reports, a library budget, and more. Read the story.

Oct. 4: Wesleyan’s Japanese Garden Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Exhibit
Since 1995, the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies Japanese Garden—or Shôyôan Teien—has provided a serene space for meditation, tea ceremonies, and art classes. Designed, built, and continuously cared for by Stephen Morrell, a landscape architect specializing in Japanese-style gardens, Wesleyan’s Shôyôan Teien was celebrated through a new exhibit that contemplates the garden’s rich history. Read the story.

Oct. 18: Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees Announces the Extension of Roth’s Contract
President Michael Roth’s contract was extended through the summer of 2026. “Michael has been an extraordinary steward of this university. His leadership has guided Wesleyan through the perils of an international economic crisis and a global pandemic; he has encouraged innovation while keeping the principles of a pragmatic liberal education in the forefront of everything we do,” said John B. Frank, Chair of the Board of Trustees. Read the story.

Oct. 18: Wesleyan Facilities Staff Showcased through “WesWorks” Performance
Forklift Danceworks, in conjunction with the Center for the Arts, created “WesWorks,” a dance/theatrical presentation that highlights the important work of custodial staff, groundskeepers, power plant workers, and the other Physical Plant workers who make Wesleyan University run. The workers’ personal narrative was interwoven with a stylized presentation of their jobs in order to create a compelling piece of art. Read the story.

The incredible postseason run for the Wesleyan women’s soccer team came to an unfortunate end in the national semifinals.

Dec. 6: Women’s Soccer NCAA Tournament Run Comes to an End in the National Semifinals
Wesleyan’s 2021 season goes down as easily the best in program history, with the Cardinals setting new program records in every major statistical category including wins, NESCAC wins, goals, assists, points, shots, shutouts, unbeaten streak, win streak and did so while playing in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in team history. Read the story.

Dec. 22: Wesleyan to Become a Tobacco, Vape-Free Campus
As of Jan. 1, 2022, no tobacco products will be allowed anywhere on campus to help protect and promote the health of the Wesleyan community, now and for years to come. Read the story.

In addition, Wesleyan mourns the loss of seven faculty who passed away in 2021:

Christina Crosby, professor of English and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies;Peter “Kosty” Kostacopoulos, adjunct professor of physical education, emeritus, and former head baseball coach and assistant football coach;Alvin Lucier, John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, Emeritus;Richard Ohmann, Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language, Emeritus;Donald Russell, professor of physical education, emeritus, and former director of athletics and head football coach;Frances Sheng, adjunct associate professor of Asian languages and literatures, emerita; andAnn Wightman, professor of history, emerita, died on March 11 at the age of 70.