Editorial Staff

Ohmann Remembered For Transforming University Life and Culture

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Richard Ohmann. (Photos courtesy of Special Collections & Archives)

Richard Ohmann, Benjamin Waite Professor of the English Language, Emeritus, died Oct. 8 at the age of 90.

Ohmann received his BA from Oberlin College and his MA and PhD from Harvard University. He arrived at Wesleyan in 1961 and, until his retirement in 1996, served in many roles and helped to shape the future of Wesleyan.

Joel Pfister, Olin Professor of English, sketched Ohmann’s trajectory: “He was promoted rapidly to full professor; was appointed vice president and provost; protested on national TV against the Vietnam War; was elected vice president of the Modern Language Association (MLA) on an antiwar platform; founded with some other lefty luminaries the fabulous journal Radical Teacher; completely freaked out English departments everywhere with his powerful and hugely influential Marxist critique of the reigning constructions of the field in English in America (1976); and went on to write several more field-changing books (one with his friend Noam Chomsky), including Politics of Letters (1987) and Selling Culture (1996).”

Henry Abelove, Willbur Fisk Osborne Professor of English, Emeritus, commented: “No one did more than he to guide Wesleyan in absorbing the best of the lessons of the social movements of the 1960s.”

Prospective Students, Parents Attend Vibrant Admission Open House

The Office of Admission welcomed prospective students and guests to an October Open House on Oct. 11. The vibrant day offered two, identical half-day programs that featured a talk from Amin Abdul-Malik Gonzalez ’96, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid; a student-to-student panel; an information session on the admission process and financial aid; an address to parents by President Michael Roth ’78; a resource panel discussion; and student-led campus tours.

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

admission open house

admission open house

Students Embody Dances from Different World Cultures during Annual Common Moment (Video)


The Class of 2025’s New Student Orientation concluded on Friday, Sept. 3 with a celebratory return to an in-person “Common Moment” which was held on Andrus Field.

The annual shared participatory arts event is one of the culminating experiences of students’ first week on campus. The movement experience for incoming students, which has been held since 2008 starting with the Class of 2012, featured both faculty and alumni choreographers from Wesleyan’s Dance Department.

The event had pivoted to an asynchronous event last summer. The Class of 2024 participated virtually (view performance) from their residence halls on Aug. 28, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Choreographers this year included Chair of the Dance Department and Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Hari Krishnan, Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance and African American Studies Joya Powell, Visiting Instructor in Dance Nik Owens ‘12, Visiting Associate Professor of Dance Doug Elkins, and Eury German ‘16.

Following the performance by first year students embodying dances from different world cultures, there was a concluding fire dancing performance by the student group Prometheus.

Past guest teaching artists at the Common Moment have included the Asphalt Orchestra, Heidi Latsky, and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. View past Common Moment celebrations online here.

Tuition to Increase 4% for the 2021-22 Academic Year

Each spring the University projects its total expenses for the coming year and adjusts its tuition and student fees accordingly. In light of projected expenses, the Wesleyan Board of Trustees recently voted to increase tuition for the 2021–22 academic year by 4%. Tuition and fees for the 2021–22 year will be $61,749 (plus a $300 matriculation fee for first-time students.)

The Residential Comprehensive Fee will be $17,531 for first-years and sophomores and $18,905 for juniors and seniors. The different RCF rates are traditional and based upon the higher cost of student life options. Over the next few years, however, Wesleyan will work to blend the RCF fee into one rate for all four classes.

Wesleyan continues to meet the full demonstrated financial need of all admitted students seeking financial aid and devotes millions of dollars of its operating budget to the support of scholarships. This past academic year, 43% of students received need-based scholarship awards averaging nearly $55,350.

Wesleyan will offer a full-campus experience next year and continuing to provide a superb education in the liberal arts that will serve students well long after they graduate.

14 Faculty Promoted, 2 Conferred Tenure

monogramThe following faculty were conferred tenure, effective July 1, 2021, by the Board of Trustees at its most recent meeting:

  • Ioana Emy Matesan, Associate Professor of Government
  • Michael Meere, Associate Professor of French

Ioana Emy Matesan, Associate Professor of Government
Professor Matesan’s scholarship focuses on the study of political violence with an emphasis on the Middle East. Her recent book, The Violence Pendulum: Tactical Change in Islamist Groups in Egypt and Indonesia (Oxford University Press, 2020), addresses what determines the appeal and spread of violent and nonviolent resistance. She has published several peer-reviewed articles and a book chapter and helped create and administer the Muslim Studies Certificate. She has received the Carol A. Baker ’81 Memorial Prize through the Public Affairs Center and served as a tenure-track representative to Academic Council. She offers courses on Democracy and Dictatorship, Comparative Politics of the Middle East, and Terrorism and Film.

Michael Meere, Associate Professor of French
Professor Meere is an expert in 16th- and 17th-century French drama. He is the author of the forthcoming monograph Onstage Violence in Sixteenth-Century French Tragedy: Performance, Ethics, and Poetics (Oxford University Press, 2021), editor of French Renaissance and Baroque Drama: Text, Performance, Theory (University of Delaware Press, 2015), and co-editor with Valérie M. Dionne of Staging Justice in Early Modern France, a special issue of Early Modern French Studies (2020). He has served on the Fulbright committee, the Watson Fellowship committee, and the Advisory Board of the Fries Center for Global Studies. His courses include French and Francophone Theater in Performance, Elementary French, and Love, Sex, and Marriage in Renaissance Europe.

They join three other faculty members who were awarded tenure earlier this spring.

In addition, 14 faculty members are being promoted.

  • Jane Alden, Professor of Music
  • Sarah Carney, Associate Professor of the Practice in Psychology
  • Sonali Chakravarti, Professor of Government

Perseverance, Pride, Progress Characterize 189th Commencement


CLass of 2021

Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement Ceremony was held on May 26. More than 700 students received degrees from Wesleyan. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

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

(Written by Katie Aberbach with contributions from Himeka Curiel, Allie Otlowski, and Sam O’Neill.)

Perseverance, pride, progress, and graduating during a unique moment in history were on the minds of the hundreds of graduates and their families at Wesleyan University’s 189th Commencement ceremony on Wednesday.

“It was a difficult year,” said Aidar Raev ’21, a Posse Veteran from Kyrgyzstan who majored in the College of Social Studies with minors in international relations and Russian, East European, and Eurasian studies. (The Posse Veterans program supports veterans of the United States armed forces who are earning bachelor’s degrees at American universities.) Raev decided to study remotely during the spring semester but returned to campus to walk in Commencement.

“It was important to me to be here today,” he said, as he prepared to line up for the traditional procession onto Andrus Field. “I’m a first-generation American; my parents got degrees in the Soviet Union but I got naturalized here in America when I joined the military.” Completing his degree was “a 13-year journey.”

Julio Evans '21

Julio Evans ’21

Nearby on Foss Hill, Julio Evans ’21 described a similar feeling of accomplishment. “I’m a first-generation college graduate, so being here at Commencement today means breaking a lot of chains for my family and starting a legacy,” he said. An American studies major and Caribbean studies minor from Brooklyn, Evans said he planned to move to Miami after graduation to pursue his interests in political activism and social justice by working as a peer advocate.

In Commencement Address, President Roth Expresses Pride in “Courageous” Class of 2021

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Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 made remarks during the 189th Commencement Ceremony on May 26. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)


From an excitement-filled Arrival Day to the unpredictable final three semesters of campus life that unfolded during the COVID-19 pandemic, “so much has changed in your lives since you were first introduced to Wesleyan,” President Michael Roth ’78 said in his remarks to the graduating Class of 2021, who sat in front of him on Andrus Field in a socially distanced 189th Commencement.

Besides the obvious impacts of the pandemic, Roth was referring to social and political divisiveness in the country, which has increased in recent years, “exacerbated by” irresponsible media platforms. “Attacks on those considered ‘outsiders’ are a sick symptom of this addiction to outrage,” he said, “but so are the insidious tendencies of many to stop listening to people they deem to be failing some sort of political litmus test.”

Yet, Roth said, “we should take heart from the efforts made by so many across the country, and right here on campus, to rebuild trust, to create caring communities.” Reminding the graduates that “we are counting on you” to take on “new challenges beyond the university,” Roth expressed pride in—and awe for—the Class of 2021.

Chong ’21 Talks Solidarity Amid Hardship in Senior Class Welcome: “Juxtaposition”

Chong '21

Bryan Chong ’21 delivered the Senior Class Welcome during the 2021 Commencement. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)


Bryan Chong ’21, a double major in government and psychology, delivered the Senior Class Welcome at Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement.

In a speech that was at moments emotional and rousing, Chong reflected on “an extraordinary year that has restructured the ways we socialize.” He emphasized the ways that this time of “generation-defining change” has challenged students to re-examine their time at Wesleyan and the juxtaposition of coming together in unexpected community despite being forced apart by the pandemic. “Many say that we discover our true selves during times of crisis,” he said. “This year, I discovered that amidst all the chaos and change, it is exactly from the abolition of division where Wesleyan’s true identity emerged as a site of solidarity.”

Chong was motivated to submit his speech for consideration to capture the communal experience of persevering through crisis and to “emphasize the beauty of our collective journey through this difficult year,” encouraging his peers to carry those lessons forward. “It is a great honor and joy for me to be able to highlight the special moments that showed how we endured crisis by standing strong together,” he said.

Betts Reflects on Time, “What We Owe Each Other” in 2021 Commencement Address

Reginald Dwayne Betts delivered the 2021 Commencement Address during Wesleyan's 189th Commencement Ceremony on May 26.

Reginald Dwayne Betts delivered the 2021 Commencement Address. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)


Award-winning poet, memoirist, scholar, and social justice advocate Reginald Dwayne Betts delivered the 2021 Commencement Address during Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement Ceremony on May 26.

In a powerful speech tinged with moments of humor, Betts focused on the theme of time and understanding our duty as part of an expansive community that includes lesser-seen members outside the traditional campus. Reflecting on how “these [COVID-19] pandemic days have turned time different,” Betts drew parallels to his own past history and that of other currently or previously incarcerated individuals, including eight students from Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education program, who were among those earning bachelor of liberal studies degrees this year. He referenced the pandemic’s isolating effect on the graduates’ final year at Wesleyan and acknowledged the work they had done “of believing that education matters enough to keep doing it even as the world is falling apart,” and reassuring them that “this is just a start to figuring out what you’re meant to do in the world, but what a glorious start it is.”

As a 16-year-old, Betts was sentenced to nine years in a maximum security prison, during which time he studied literature and poetry, laying the groundwork for a career path that would include a BA, an MFA, a JD, and soon a PhD, as well as a National Magazine Award–winning essay in The New York Times Magazine, a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA Fellowships, and years of work in public defense, advocacy, and public service. He is also the founder and director of The Million Book Project, which “harnesses the power of literature to counter what prison does to the spirit.” During the ceremony, Betts was awarded an honorary doctor of letters degree from Wesleyan.

Betts’s remarks are below:

Thank you to the Board of Trustees and President Roth. This is a true and rare honor and I am grateful.

Flowers Speaks about “Listening,” Environmental Justice at 2021 Commencement

Catherine Coleman Flowers

Catherine Coleman Flowers delivered her Commencement remarks virtually.


After being named a 2021 recipient of Wesleyan’s honorary doctor of science degree, Catherine Coleman Flowers delivered a pre-recorded speech thanking the University for the honor and exhorting Wesleyan’s Class of 2021 to go forth and “quickly dismantle the historical and structural inequities that have existed in this country since its inception.”

Flowers, a native of Lowndes, Alabama, gained national recognition through her tireless efforts to bring attention to failing water and waste sanitation infrastructure in rural areas (beginning with her hometown), in so doing highlighting structural inequities that perpetuate health and socioeconomic disparities. For her work, Flowers was awarded a 2020 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship, and was recently appointed to the Biden-Sanders Task Force on Climate Change.

In the 2018 documentary series The Accidental Environmentalist, Flowers explained her activism by saying, “I’m an environmentalist because you cannot talk about the environment and not talk about health; you can’t talk about the environment and not talk about how we treat nature. Part of environmental science is knowing about waste water, and how you treat it. And how it impacts the environment, how it impacts the water bodies. All of that [is] connected. . . . Some people think you’re only an environmentalist if you care about polar bears, but if you care about people, if you care about land, if you care about God’s creation, you’re an environmentalist. And I’m very very interested in what we do for seven generations to come in terms of leaving a perfect place for our children to live.”

As the founding director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, an Alabama-based policy and advocacy organization devoted to addressing the root causes of poverty in the state, Flowers is committed to developing multidisciplinary, grassroots solutions and models that can be replicated in rural communities throughout the country.

Gottlieb ’94: Apply Wesleyan Spirit to “Decisive Juncture in History”

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Scott Gottlieb ’94 made remarks during the 189th Commencement Ceremony, (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)


Scott Gottlieb ’94, a physician, public health and policy advisor and advocate, received an honorary doctorate of science during Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement on Wednesday, May 26. Gottlieb, who earned a BA in economics from Wesleyan, was the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 2017 to 2019. He is currently a special partner with the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, and a resident fellow at public policy think tank the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

In his speech, Gottlieb drew distinctions between his time at Wesleyan 25 years ago and the experiences of the Class of 2021. Yet he highlighted characteristics shared by all Wesleyan students: the “seriousness” in academic studies, the belief that actions can “transcend the University boundaries to influence the country,” and the feeling of “obligation” to make a difference in individual communities.

“I hope you take that spirit into this uncertain period we’re in, at this very decisive juncture in history, when the country may be more ready than it’s been in many years to hear your voices, and to set about making lasting changes,” he said.

He made the following remarks (as prepared) during Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement Ceremony:

It’s an honor to be here with you today. Twenty-five years ago, I sat here at my own graduation. it was very different. We didn’t have masks. We weren’t social distancing. Senior year was a lot different.

Betts, Flowers, Gottlieb ’94 Receive Honorary Degrees

During Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement on Wednesday, May 26, the University presented three honorary degrees to Reginald Dwayne Betts, Catherine Coleman Flowers, and Scott Gottlieb ’94 for their significant contributions to the social, environmental, and public health of the United States.

Roth and Reginald Dwayne Betts

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 and Reginald Dwayne Betts Hon. ’21

Reginald Dwayne Betts, who also delivered this year’s Commencement address, was named an honorary doctor of letters in recognition of his impact and influence as a poet, scholar, and advocate and for his “perseverance . . . poetic sensibilities, and embrace of education to empower life [and] use of that empowerment and those sensibilities to improve the lives of others.”

An award-winning author and memoirist, Betts is also the founder and director of the Million Book Project, a social justice initiative that seeks to extend meaningful and transformative access to books (on poetry, literature, history, social thought, and other curated topics) for incarcerated people across the prison system and to increase their engagement with the literary community.

Himself sentenced to nine years in maximum security prison at age 16, Betts has since earned a BA from the University of Maryland, an MFA from Warren Wilson College, a JD from Yale Law School, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Law at Yale University. He has received an appointment from Governor Ned Lamont to Connecticut’s Criminal Justice Commission, the state body that hires all state prosecutors, and he continues to lecture on his formative experiences and the importance that grit, perseverance, and literature have played in his success, as well as the intersection between literature and advocacy.