Rachel Wachman '24

Matteson ’23 Wins WIDA’s Letter to Biden Contest

Matteson

Connor Matteson ’23

Connor Matteson ’23 penned an open letter to President Biden as part of the Washington International Diplomatic Academy’s (WIDA) essay contest, which prompted college students to share their views on the role the United States should play globally. Matteson’s letter, titled “The World Needs a Democracy That Educates Its Citizens to Lead It” is one of two winning essays published on WIDA’s website.

“Not just in the realm of democratic ideas, but also in the realm of environmentally sustainable economics, the United States should be a laboratory of tomorrow, a place where forward-thinking leaders from around the world can congregate to observe innovation at work and be inspired to implement positive change in their own societies,” Matteson wrote. “In this way, the United States can continue to project the soft power that will ensure not only its own security and prosperity, but also that of the wider community of nations.”

Matteson, a College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan, emphasized the importance of his generation finding the United States’s proper place in the world.

“There’s historically been a tendency in the foreign policy community to be completely focused on the world’s problems while ignoring the fact that our capacity to effectively and constructively engage with those problems is directly tied to whether we have our own house in order,” Matteson said. “I hope my essay’s win is a sign that this is finally starting to change, because this country is at its best when we lead by example.”

Barnes ’22, Du ’22 Receive ASBMB Undergraduate Research Award

Lily Barnes ’22 and Amy Du ’22 are recipients of the 2021 American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Undergraduate Research Award. They will each receive $1,000 to support summer project research. Both students are members of Wesleyan’s ASBMB chapter.

Barnes works in the lab of Assistant Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Teresita Padilla-Benavides, and Du works in the lab of Fisk Professor of Natural Science and Professor of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Ishita Mukerji.

Following the research Barnes and Du conduct in their respective labs, each will submit a report to the ASBMB summarizing their findings.

3 Seniors Awarded Inaugural Wesleyan Global Fellowship

As a one-year pilot program, the Fries Center for Global Studies has created the Wesleyan Global Fellowship with the intention of awarding graduating seniors nominated but not chosen for the Watson Fellowship, a grant for a year of independent exploration outside the United States post-graduation.

The three students who won this new fellowship for the 2021 academic year are William Briskin ‘21, Grace Lopez ‘21, and Indigo Pellegrini de Paur ‘21.

“The Watson is a unique program because it gives the fellow complete freedom in designing their project,” according to the Wesleyan & the World blog. “Since the fellowship involves travel, usually to distant locations, nominees who didn’t win the Watson might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue any part of their project without institutional support. The Wesleyan Global Fellowship supports their personal growth and affords them invaluable intercultural experience, allowing them to spend up to one month in one or more of the countries they included in their Watson proposal.”

Will Briskin is a double major in government and history who intends to pursue studies in woodworking by traveling to Japan and South Korea to interview woodworkers and participate in their creative process. Briskin hopes to learn more about the way woodworking captures traditions and collective histories, as well as binds communities together.

Grace Lopez is a film major who is also interested in anthropology. Lopez wants to explore the music genre of Cumbia, which originated in Colombia, and plans to travel to Colombia to work with and learn from Afro-Colombian bands who create Cumbian music.

Indigo Pellegrini de Paur is majoring in government and minoring in Middle Eastern studies. She will go to Turkey to observe the integration of refugee communities into Turkish life by working with the Youth and Sports Ministry, which is currently building sports facilities for young refugees. As a lacrosse player, she will use sports to build connections with the children she’ll meet there.

5 Students Honored with First-Year Seminar Writing Prizes

This month, five students were recognized with the First-Year Seminar Writing Prize for essays they wrote in their first-year seminars throughout 2020. A total of 137 first-year students submitted to the contest this year.

Each winner will receive a $100 prize, and each honorable mention will receive a $50 prize. These students will have their work published online along with an audio recording of them reading their essays aloud.

The First-Year Seminar Writing Prize celebrates the work of first-year writers at Wesleyan.

The three winners are:

Nathan Foote ’24, for “Anti-Gospel,” written for Anne Greene’s Place, Character, and Design.

Gissel Ramirez ’24, for “Gissel Not Giselle: Language as an Identity,” written for Lauren Silber’s Why You Can’t Write.

Michelle Seaberg ’24, for “Your Gender, Hand it Over: Imposing Gender Categories as a Means of Control,” written for Margot Weiss’s Social Norms/Social Power: Reading ‘Difference’ in American Culture.

The two honorable mentions are:

Alexis Papavasiliou ’24, for “Was Oxygen the Only Player in the Cambrian Explosion?” written for Ellen Thomas’s and Johan Varekamp’s As the World Turns: Earth History, with Life’s Ups and Downs.

Natalie Shen ’24, for “Critical Analysis of the Defensive Asylum Seeking Process from a Linguistic Perspective,” written for Beth Hepford’s How Language Works: The Beliefs and Bias that Affect our Social World.

2 Staff, 1 Student Receives Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ’03 Social Justice Awards

Mario Torres

Mario Torres

The Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ’03 Social Justice Awards recognize students and staff members who promote social justice and activism on campus and beyond. This year, the staff recipients are Mario Torres, who works for Physical Plant, and Astrid Vidal, a Service Management Group employee who works in residence halls. The student recipient is Kevonte Payton ’22.

The award was created in memory of Morgenstern-Clarren, who dedicated his time on campus to social justice.

His activism included securing benefits for Wesleyan custodial staff, participating in the United Student and Labor Action Committee, and contributing his leadership to the campus chapter of Amnesty International,” the award description reads. “We are grateful to Dr. Hadley Morgenstern-Clarren and The Honorable Pat Morgenstern-Clarren for their generosity in sponsoring this award honoring their son’s activism for the public good.”

Each recipient will receive a $1,500 prize.

Mario Torres serves as a materials handler for Physical Plant and is actively involved in student life on campus, notably through Forklift Danceworks, which uses performance and storytelling to shine light on essential workers.

“Mario has been instrumental in helping with location selection, working with students directly, attending meetings, giving up personal time, and being a mentor to myriad students over the years via this program [Fork Lift],” Director of Physical Plant Operations Michael Conte wrote to the award committee. “The program continues this semester as it has for the past 5 years or so. Mario has been along for the ride since its inception and has provided invaluable service to this program.”

Astrid Vidal works diligently to keep residence halls on campus clean and shares her positive energy with the students she sees on a daily basis. Especially during the pandemic, her work has been essential to keeping campus open.

“I have worked with her and actually seen the work she does – clean every bathroom, every study room, wipe every window, take out all the heavy trash bags even as an older woman,” Tamara Riviera ’21 wrote to the award committee. “While doing all this strenuous work, she still manages to smile and stay positive. I could not imagine doing it all myself. We appreciate our professors on campus for providing us with education, but Astrid deserves this award for providing students with back-breaking work in order to keep the campus running.”

Kevonte Payton ’22

Kevonte Payton ’22

Kevonte Payton ’22 is a double major in government and history. He is involved with three hip-hop dance groups, Fusion, Xtasy, and Troupe, was a research assistant for Professor Wendy Rayack, and served as Wesleyan’s Questbridge Chapter President for the 2020-2021 academic year.

“Academically, Kevonte has chosen to take classes and pursue research projects that explore social justice issues, such as race, education, employment, and incarceration in the black community,” Senior Assistant Dean of Admission Jane Tran wrote. “Recently, Kevonte shared with me he was selected by the Meigs History Society to perform research for the local Middletown museum pertaining to black-owned barbershops. These businesses were overlooked, deemed unimportant by history as their records, stories do not exist. Through this studentship opportunity, he plans to bring them back to life.”

Additionally, when the pandemic hit, Payton started a tutoring and teaching service in his community.

“This small program that I started cost families nothing because I wanted to give back to my community and take down this barrier because of the lack of financial resources,” Payton wrote in his personal statement for the award.

He emphasized that he tried to help the kids he worked with in as many capacities as he could.

“I did everything from ACT prep for high school students to math and writing workshops, helped with FAFSA, and even made personalized plans for some students who needed extra help,” Payton wrote. “I tried my best to fill every role that I could, from teacher to college counselor, so that students in my community would not fall as behind as we already were compared to other communities. I met with students as often as their parents would let me.”

Chapbook By Ramos-Jordán ’21 Published by Center for Book Arts

Katerina Ramos-Jordán ’21

Katerina Ramos-Jordán ’21

In 2020, Katerina Ramos-Jordán ’21 won first prize in the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Contest for her chapbook titled “ECHOESISTEMAS /lentos cerramientos.” Now, her work has now been published in book form, designed and produced by book artist Erika Morillo.

Ramos-Jordán, born in Puerto Rico, is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and a 2020 recipient of the Beinecke Scholarship. She is double majoring in English and dance with a concentration in Caribbean studies.

“This collection is dense in its tenderness, adding tildes (accent marks) to words in English, harboring dialect, and embracing blank space as cavernous,” contest judge Raquel Salas Rivera wrote. “Its rootless branches continue to sound off long after and before origin.”

 

 

Lin ’22 Wins Poster Award for Work on DNA, Chromosomes, and Gene Regulation

Shawn Lin '22

Shawn H. Lin ’22

Shawn H. Lin ’22 is the recipient of a 2021 poster award from the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology’s 25th Annual Undergraduate Poster Competition. Lin’s poster took the prize in Category 3: DNA, Chromosomes and Gene Regulation.

This is the second poster award Lin has won this year. In March, he was honored with the Biophysical Society’s Undergraduate Poster Award for his work titled “Elucidation of Interactions Between Integration Host Factor and a DNA Four-Way Junction.”

Lin is a Freeman Asian Scholar from Taiwan and is majoring in Molecular Biology and Biochemistry (MB&B). Lin also works in the labs of his advisors, Ishita Mukerji, Fisk Professor of Natural Science and professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, and Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

Lin, along with four other students, has recently been inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Honor Society.

Lennox Discusses History on Podcast “Getting Curious With Jonathan Van Ness”

Jeffers Lennox

Jeffers Lennox

Associate Professor of History Jeffers Lennox was featured on a May 4 episode of the podcast Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness. In an episode titled  “What Was Canada Up To During The American Revolution? with Professor Jeffers Lennox,” Lennox spoke about Canada and the American Revolution.

The podcast, which is hosted and created by Van Ness, an Emmy-nominated television star and New York Times bestselling author, focuses on different topics each week. Van Ness interviews experts in various fields and delves into the subjects in which they specialize.

The episode began with Van Ness asking an overarching question: “What’s the deal with Canada’s origin story?”

Lennox spoke about how parts of Canada were originally colonies at the time of the American Revolution, though they did not choose to join the fight. However, these were not the first people to live on the land.

“Like all of North America, the territories that become Canada were just indigenous homelands. There had been indigenous people living in the Northeast for 12,000 years before settlers arrived,” Lennox explained.

He also expanded on the history of French influence in Canada.

“The French settlers stayed [on the land],” Lennox said. “That’s why if you go to Montreal or Quebec City, or anywhere in Quebec and lots of places in Nova Scotia, it’s primarily French speakers, but the administration leaves, and now the British are governing this French population of like 70,000 settlers, plus trying to deal with indigenous allies and indigenous enemies.”

Towards the end of the episode, Lennox elaborated on how Canada tends to be overlooked in contemporary culture.

“That is a fairly recent thing,” he said. “Canada at the time of the American Revolution and through the 19th century was certainly on the minds of most Americans because it was developing this sort of parallel track that was so similar in so many ways but demonstrated an alternative way of maintaining ties to Britain. Different ways of handling slavery and enslaved peoples, indigenous relations — all this kind of stuff that Americans paid attention to.

Lennox emphasized the interconnectedness of the relationship between the United States’ origins and the development of Canada.

“What I want people to understand is that the creation of the United States wasn’t a United States project,” Lennox explained. “It was a continental project. And those who did not participate in the revolution played a fundamental role in the way that Americans came to think about themselves and then how they established a country that could then foster that identity.”

Lennox’s work focuses on Early North America, from the 17th century to the 19th century. This semester, he is teaching Intro to History: Resistance and Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1500-1850 and Oh Canada: Indigenous Resistance and Settler Colonialism, 1776-1896.

Thesis by Krotinger ’19 Published in PLOS ONE

Anna Krotinger ’19 wrote an undergraduate thesis examining a dance intervention for Parkinson’s disease (PD) and underlying cognitive mechanisms relating to rhythm that was published on May 6 at the scientific journal PLOS ONE.

Krotinger’s thesis, titled “Rhythm and groove as cognitive mechanisms of dance intervention in Parkinson’s disease,” builds off her studies in neuroscience and behavior, in which she majored at Wesleyan.

“Music and dance encourage spontaneous rhythmic coupling between sensory and motor systems; this has inspired the development of dance programs for PD,” the abstract reads. “Here we assessed the therapeutic outcome and some underlying cognitive mechanisms of dance classes for PD, as measured by neuropsychological assessments of disease severity as well as quantitative assessments of rhythmic ability and sensorimotor experience.”

5 Students Inducted Into American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Honor Society

ASBMBThis year, five Wesleyan students were inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Honor Society. Thirty-one students nationwide were given this honor.

Inducted students must be juniors or seniors with a GPA of 3.4 or higher on a 4.0 scale, belong to a student chapter of the ASBMB, and “demonstrate exceptional achievement in academics, undergraduate research and science outreach,” according to the website.

The inducted students include the following:

Nour-Saïda Harzallah ’21, a College of Integrative Sciences student majoring in molecular biology & biochemistry (MB&B) and physics. Harzallah, from Tunisia, works in Professor Francis Starr’s physics lab, belongs to the Wesleyan Women in Science steering committee, and is a STEM intern for the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

“Her involvement in racial and gender equity in STEM has shaped her commitment to work on projects that serve the underrepresented and marginalized outside the lab and from the lab bench,” reads her ASBMB bio. “Her wildest dream is to develop initiatives that translate cutting-edge technologies into accessible and marketable means of diagnosis and therapeutics in her home country of Tunisia.”

Jack Kwon ’21, who works with Professor of Biology Michael Weir to study the ribosome.

“We are aiming to elucidate the function of a highly conserved region of the ribosome called the “CAR interaction surface” through wet lab experiments and dry lab Molecular Dynamics simulations,” Kwon wrote in his ASBMB bio. Kwon intends to graduate with a master’s degree in MB&B through Wesleyan’s BA/MA program before pursuing a PhD in a related field.

Shawn Lin ’22, who is majoring in biology, MB&B, and biophysics. Lin works in the MB&B lab of Professor Ishita Mukerji and the physics lab of Professor Candice Etson.

“His research topic is “Elucidation of interactions between integration host factor and a DNA four-way junction,” reads Lin’s ASBMB bio. “In addition to research, he is also the founder of NORDSAC (National Organization for Rare Disorders Student Association Connecticut). The goal of this organization is to raise awareness of rare disorders among students in Connecticut through fundraising, guest lectures, and rare disease day events.”

Alex Poppel, a master’s student in the MB&B department. Poppell works in Professor Amy MacQueen’s MB&B lab.

“As a member of Wesleyan’s ASBMB Student Chapter, his outreach involvement has mainly focused on improving his school’s community, such as by promoting undergraduate research opportunity awareness and equity and inclusion efforts in the sciences,” Poppel’s ASBMB bio reads.

Maya Vaishnaw ’21, a double major in psychology and MB&B. Vaishnaw works with Professor Erika Taylor in her chemistry lab.

“The Taylor Lab takes a multidisciplinary approach to characterizing enzymes with applied chemical and biomedicinal applications,” Vaishnaw’s ASBMB bio reads. “In the future, Maya hopes to pursue research in clinical genetics.”

 

Murillo Awarded Four Quartets Prize For Poetry

John Murillo

John Murillo

John Murillo, director of creative writing and assistant professor of English and African American studies, is 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).

The prize, awarded by the T.S. Eliot Foundation and the Poetry Society of America, will bestow Murillo with $21,000. It was launched in 2018 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets being published in a single volume of work and is given to a “unified and complete sequence of poems published in America in a print or online journal, chapbook, or book in 2020,” according to the prize’s website.

The judges’ citation says the poem “lights a match and holds us in the flame.”

“In this extraordinary fifteen-sonnet redoublé, the speaker meditates on the recent history of murderous racism in America that makes of Black men targets, and centers in the lyric space Black anger and Black pain,” the citation reads. “Murillo reminds us that his is a long lineage and each sonnet’s epigraph marks the genealogy of resistance Black poets continue to enact. Murillo’s anti-elegy demonstrates a lyrical virtuosity, passion, and command of language that makes this work urgent, essential, and enduring.”

Murillo has gained much recognition for his work this year alone, including winning the Tufts Kingsley Award for Poetry in April and being nominated for an NAACP Images Award for Kontemporary Amerikan Poetry in February. His collection was also longlisted for both the PEN/Voelcker and Believer Book Awards in January, and his poetry has been featured in American Poetry Review

This semester, Murillo is teaching Techniques of Poetry and Intermediate Poetry Workshop.

To view a video of Murillo reading from his winning poem, click here.

Bello ’22 Awarded Beinecke Scholarship

Zubaida Bello ’22

Zubaida Bello ’22

Zubaida Bello ’22 is one of 16 people nationwide to win the Beinecke Scholarship in 2021. Bello, who aims to pursue a PhD in history and become a college professor, will receive $4,000 immediately prior to entering graduate school, as well as $30,000 while attending.

Last year, the scholarship was awarded to Mellon Mays Fellow Katerina Ramos-Jordán ’21, who was the first Wesleyan student to receive the award in 13 years.

“The program seeks to encourage and enable highly motivated students to pursue opportunities available to them and to be courageous in the selection of a graduate course of study in the arts, humanities and social sciences,” reads the scholarship website.

At Wesleyan, Bello is a double major in African American studies and history, a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow, and a Fall ’21 Center for Humanities fellow. She transferred to Wesleyan from Hampshire College, where she worked on a project that incorporated history, ethnography, and poetry to share the stories of the women in her family. This led Bello to enter and win New York City’s poetry slam, create an open mic collective, and write a manuscript called How to Stop the Burning, later published as her debut chapbook.

On campus, Bello’s Mellon Mays research focuses on the causes of gentrification in Brooklyn. She compares colonization and gentrification and uses archives and ethnography in order to delve into gentrified people’s experiences, as well as those of housing rights activists, redevelopers, and gentrifiers. Bello intends to share her research with Brooklyn nonprofits, such as the Brooklyn Tenant’s Council Inc. or the Housing Rights Initiative.

“Ultimately, I want to become a professor because I want to teach other people with my new understanding of history, build bonds with the communities I research, and publish books that exhibit my interdisciplinary understanding of history,” Bello wrote in her essay for the Beinecke Scholarship.

Bello, quoted in the Wes and the World blog, explained how she wants to use her studies in history to forge new paths for marginalized people and communities.

“I want to develop a pedagogy of history that gives due importance to the rebellious actions of marginalized people, that evades the apathy that often comes with Eurocentric, patriarchal standards of neutrality, and understands diverse modes of storytelling as other forms of history,” Bello said.