Long known for producing writers of great variety and distinction, Wesleyan will open the Shapiro Creative Writing Center in the fall, and with it two programs that further signal the importance the university attaches to writing.
The English Department has established a concentration in creative writing for English majors who wish to pursue writing intensively at a high level. The university also is developing a certificate in writing, now in the planning stage, open to undergraduate students in any field of study who wish to establish writing as an area of concentrated academic work.
“Nothing is more essential to a liberal arts education than clear, coherent writing,” says President Michael Roth, “and programs for advanced creative writing will attract some of our most talented students. These curricular initiatives serve both to anchor the place of writing within our curriculum and to let high school students and others know that Wesleyan is an institution where fiction, poetry, and nonfiction can be pursued at the highest level. Undergraduates will have more opportunities to pursue creative writing in all its forms and to be recognized for their accomplishments.”
“The Shapiro Creative Writing Center also joins the academic mission at a crucial time,” President Roth added, “setting the standard for curricular initiatives that enhance our core competencies and build a platform for innovation. Thanks to generous gifts from our donors we are able to accomplish this without increasing the burdens on our operating budget.”
In a New York Times Magazine story published March 4, Alex Kotlowitz ’77 examines the Cleveland, Ohio, housing market, which has been ravaged by foreclosures and criminal activity.
“Cleveland is reeling from the foreclosure crisis,” he writes. “There have been roughly 10,000 foreclosures in two years. For all of 2007, before it was overtaken by sky-high foreclosure rates in parts of California, Nevada and Florida, Cleveland’s rate was among the highest in the country.”
The number of empty houses in the city and Cuyahoga County is so high that no one has an accurate count, he says. At least 1 in 13 houses within the city is vacant. Wholesalers are picking up homes “as if they were trading baseball cards.”
“On one street I visited,” Kotlowtiz says, “a third of the houses were abandoned. One resident, Anita Gardner, told me about the young family who moved in down the street a few years before. They spruced up the house with new windows, a fireplace, wood kitchen cabinets, track lighting and a Jacuzzi. When they lost the house to foreclosure, they left nothing for the scavengers. They stripped their own dwelling, piling toilets, metal screen doors, kitchen cabinets, the furnace and copper pipes into a moving van.”
Kotlowitz teaches writing at Northwestern University and writes frequently about issues related to urban proverty.
Two Wesleyan alumni are serving on the U.S. Treasury’s task force reviewing the auto industry.
Dianna Farrell ’87, recently appointed by President Barack Obama as deputy director of the National Economic Council, is the White House representative to the task force.
Ron Bloom ’77 is also on the task force. He is currently a special assistant to the president of the Pittsburgh-based United Steelworks union. In that role he has helped the union revive bankrupt companies and consolidate the nation’s steel makers to make them profitable, and he has helped to save jobs, according an article co-written by New York Times labor reporter Steven Greenhouse ’73. Bloom is recognized as one of the nation’s foremost experts in the separate health plans that his union and the U.A.W. have established with various companies.
Alberto Ibarguen ’66, CEO of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and former publisher of The Miami Herald, was a guest recently on the PBS News Hour in a segmented devoted to the future of newspapers.
The segment aired to coincide with the move of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer from print to the web. Ibarguen told the News Hour’s Jeffrey Brown that the market will find a way to “provide people with the news that we need to function in a democracy”—though perhaps not through newspapers.
Asked about the record of newspapers migrating to the web, Ibarguen called it “inconclusive.”
A model for the post-newspaper world is not yet apparent, he noted, but it will be digital, mobile, and interactive.
“So far, nothing comes close to the general reach of a newspaper, that ability to blanket a community with the same information that everybody can share, and figure out how to go forward together as a community, nothing yet,” he added. “But we also haven’t had a major city that doesn’t have a newspaper. And when that happens, I think the market will figure out how to deliver that information. I think it is that important.”
Dianna Farrell '87. (Photo courtesy of the the Milken Institute)
President Barack Obama has appointed Diana Farrell ’87 as deputy director of the National Economic Council. She most recently served as director of the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI), McKinsey & Company’s economics research arm.
In announcing the appointment, President Obama said Farrell “will work day and night with me to advance an American Recovery and Reinvestment plan that not only aims to jumpstart economic growth, but also promotes the long-term investments in our economy necessary to save and create jobs, rebuild our infrastructure, and assure energy independence.”
Farrell’s work has appeared in academic journals, books, and on the op–ed pages of leading international publications, and she is a frequent speaker at major US and global conferences. She is the editor of an anthology series based on MGI research, published by Harvard Business School Press, 2007.
Together with Lowell Bryan, she is the co-author of Market Unbound, published by Wiley & Sons, 1996.
She holds an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. She is a member of Council on Foreign Relations, the Bretton Woods Committee, and the Pacific Council on International Policy.
President Barack Obama has named Ian Bassin ’98 to be a deputy associate counsel in the Office of Counsel to the President. Bassin recently served as a member of the Education Policy Working Group for the Presidential Transition Team, and had earlier served as the Florida Policy Director on the Obama Campaign for Change.
Previously, he served as a law clerk to Judge Sidney R. Thomas of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. He earned his J.D. from Yale Law School, where he served as an editor of the Yale Law Journal.
Andrew Seibert ’86 Promoted to President of SmartMoney Andrew Seibert has been named president of SmartMoney, a joint venture between Hearst Corporation and Dow Jones & Co. Seibert will continue in his current position as vice president and publisher of SmartMoney’s Customs Solutions, the venture’s successful custom publishing arm. In his expanded role, Seibert will be responsible for the circulation, advertising and marketing operations of SmartMoney magazine as well as for SmartMoney.com.
In its cover story, the January 2009 issue of Written By calls Joss Whedon ’87 a web pioneer for his self-produced “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog,” which tells the story of a young wannabe super villain and initially aired on the web in July.
“The show was a web pioneer, streaming online for free before becoming available for sale on iTunes, where it shot to the top of the charts,” Written By says. “Although there’s no way to tell where it ranks in terms of online programming, it is certifiably the most successful web musical of all time. Whedon’s traits are on display—humor, humanity, musical chops, reversal of expectations, tragic twists—but serving a new medium and no masters.”
Time magazine listed the show in its Top 50 inventions of 2008, at number 15.
Lisa Rosen ’86 wrote the article; she first met Whedon when they were at Wesleyan together. “He struck me as ridiculously funny, smart, and engaging, with a playful way around words. I didn’t know that back then he used a Brother manual typewriter that he named Mutant Enemy, which he still owns but can’t find ribbons for,” she says.
Whedon also is the creator of Dollhouse, scheduled to air on Fox in February.
Michael Bennet '87, superintendent of Denver Public Schools, meets with students from OpenWorld Learning's program at Castro Elementary School in Denver.
Michael Bennet ’87, designated to fill a vacant Senate seat from Colorado, told The New York Times in January that he would go to Washington believing there is “no problem too tough to withstand innovative thinking.”
Bennet, son of Wesleyan President Emeritus Douglas J. Bennet ’59, is the superintendent of schools in Denver. Colorado’s governor, Bill Ritter Jr., selected him to replace Sen. Ken Salazar, nominated as interior secretary for the Obama administration.
Bennet told the Times he would focus on health care, the economy and education. He has gained prominence as superintendent, working with Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper ’74.
In a statement, then President-elect Obama said, “His breakthrough work at the helm of Denver’s schools has reflected that commitment, and established Michael as one of the nation’s leading education reformers.”
The Times credited him with turning around a school system “replete with problems” despite his having little experience as an education administrator. Student performance on standardized tests has improved during his tenure.
Justin Oberman ’96 is planning a run for the House seat that soon will be vacated by Rahm Emanuel in the Illinois 5th district. The date for the election will not be set until Emanuel officially resigns to become President-elect Barack Obama’s chief of staff.
Oberman is an authority on transportation and homeland security, having served as a founding member and senior executive of the Transportation Security Administration. From 2003 through 2005, he was TSA’s assistant administrator for Transportation Threat Assessment and Credentialing. He was responsible for the agency’s programs that identify known or potential terrorists threats to the nation’s transportation system. His office oversaw the still-ongoing implementation of a new passenger pre-screening system for domestic aviation, the Registered Traveler program to expedite passenger screening, the development of a biometric smart card for more than one million workers at seaports, and a program to conduct background checks for all TSA employees and contractors.
He subsequently co-founded NEXA Capital Partners, a specialty financial advisory firm. In 2007, he joined President-elect Obama’s advisory committee on homeland security.
Sean Patch ’02 knows how to beat the morning rush—he paddles across the Hudson River to his Manhattan teaching job in a kayak.
The New York Post caught up with Patch, a former Wall Street trader who started boating to work this past summer to save money after the cost of a ferry ride nearly doubled.
“Patch, a 29-year-old high school math teacher, unties the 17-foot kayak he keeps at a dock on the Weehawken waterfront,” said the Post. Pulling on an orange life jacket, he grabs a foghorn, a safety light and a drybag holding his laptop and his work clothes, and heads out into the river. When he reaches Pier 66, he gets dressed for work, picks up his bicycle and pedals to Bayard Rustin High School for the Humanities on West 18th Street.
“‘It adds a little adventure to the day,'”Patch told the Post.
He reverses the commute at the day’s end, winding up at a yacht club, where he lives on a 30-year-old sailboat he docks for $400 a month.
Patch is no stranger to life on the water. When he left his home state of Maine for New York, he arrived on a sailboat. He spent 18 months on a sailing trip to the Bahamas before becoming a teacher through the nonprofit New York City Teaching Fellows. He also co-founded his own nonprofit, Hudson River Community Sailing, dedicated to making the sport of sailing accessible to more New Yorkers.
Undeterred by river traffic or occasional rough water, he told the Post that his goal was to make it through the winter.