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Japanese Community Celebrates Spring with Cherry Blossom Festival

On April 17, Wesleyan’s Japanese community gathered outside the College of East Asian Studies to celebrate Ohanami, or “flower viewing.” In early spring, three sakura—or cherry blossom trees—are blooming near the Japanese Garden.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual gathering was restricted to current students studying Japanese and CEAS faculty members.

The cherry trees were donated in the mid-70s by Nobel Laureate Satoshi Omura, who received an honorary degree from Wesleyan in 1994.

“The cherry blossoms’ timing was perfect,” said event coordinator Naho Maruta, associate professor of the practice in East Asian Studies. “We had fallen cherry blossoms all over the ground, which made a beautiful cherry blossom carpet.”

Maruta said this year’s event was especially meaningful because it was canceled last year. Also, since Japanese classes are still taught online this semester, “some students and teachers finally met each other for the first time in person.”

Photos of the event are below:

cherry blossom

cherry blossom

Wesleyan in the News

NewsSeveral Wesleyan faculty and alumni have appeared in national media outlets recently. They include:

April 7
The Boston Globe – She Loves Theater, Dessert, and New Zealand — and Can’t Wait to Get to Japan. Features HowlRound director Jamie Gahlon, who is currently completing her master’s degree in performance curation at Wesleyan.

US Lacrosse Magazine – Behind the Whistle: All in the Family. Features Carly Randall, assistant lacrosse coach at Wesleyan.

Street Insider – Avalonbay Communities news. Mentions Richard Lieb ’81, P’22, senior advisor at Greenhill & Co., LLC, a publicly traded investment bank.

Talking Biz News – Barlyn departs Reuters. Features Suzanne Barlyn ’88, who will become assistant director of media and public relations at insurance company The Hartford.

Stamford Advocate – Wesleyan seniors conduct research at Long Lane Forest in Middletown. Features Wesleyan’s earth and environmental science majors.

April 8
VoyageLA – Rising Stars: Meet Naomi Ekperigin. Features Naomi Ekperigin ’05.

The Cornell Daily Sun – University Assembly Votes to Cut Ties with ICE, Broaden Emissions Reporting. Mentions that Wesleyan has established itself as a sanctuary campus.

Wonderlust – Nightstand, Books We Recommend. Features Brenda Coultas, whose next collection of poetry, The Writing of an Hour, will be published in 2022 by Wesleyan University Press.

April 11
Portland Press Herald – Waynflete Flyers Winter Athletes of the Year. Features Chris Saadé ’25, who “plans to row and study government at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.”

April 12
Waste Today – Middletown Partners with Composting Firm on Food Waste Recycling Initiative. Mentions Wesleyan.

The Hour – Wesleyan University in Middletown to ‘ensure’ students are immunized for fall semester. Mentions Wesleyan and President Michael Roth.

Fox News – FOX News Media names Gugar new General Counsel, EVP of Corporate Development. Mentions that Bernard Gugar ’86 graduated from Wesleyan with a dual degree in psychology and American studies.

The Republican Journal – Maine Sen. Angus King Adds Staff Additions. Mentions Nancy Billings ’19 and Wesleyan University.

Cornell University – Study: More exposure to political TV ads heightens anxiety. Mentions Wesleyan.

Johns Hopkins University Hub – Historian Todd Shepard ’91 awarded Guggenheim Fellowship.

Literary Hub – How Nellie Y. McKay Forged a Path for the Study of African American Literature. Mentions Wesleyan University Professor Emerita Gayle Pemberton.

All Events – In Art History from Home: Me, Myself, and. Mentions Josh Lubin-Levy ’06 and Wesleyan University.

The Boston Globe – Brigham and Women’s Hospital Doctor Dies in Tragic Fall in the Dominican Republic. Quotes Dr. Robert Soiffer ’79.

April 13
Darien Times – Middletown Residents, Wesleyan Professors Write, Direct ‘American Oz’ Documentary. Features Wesleyan University faculty Randall MacLowry and Tracy Heather Strain.

Health News Digest – Children with Autism May Not Be Receiving the Right Level of Treatment. Mentions Jamie Pagliaro ’98.

WFDD – Sonny Simmons, Fiercely Independent Alto Saxophonist, Dies at 87. Mentions Wesleyan Private Lessons Teacher Pheeroan akLaff.

The Middletown Press – Wesleyan Long Lane Farm grant to help Middletown residents access affordable produce. Mentions that Long Lane Farm is the recipient of a 2021 Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship Seed Grant from Wesleyan.

PR Web – Industry Experts Release Whitepaper On The Realities, Opportunities, And Risks Associated With Diminished Decision-Making Capacity. Mentions Chris Heye ’81, P’14, the CEO and founder of Whealthcare Solutions, Inc. and Whealthcare Planning LLC.

My Silly Little Gang – Geneticist and Pediatrician Dr. Hamosh Receives David L. Rimoin Lifetime Achievement Award in Medical Genetics from the ACMG Foundation for Genetic and Genomic Medicine. Features Dr. Ada Hamosh ’81.

News 12 Connecticut – Students must get COVID-19 Vaccination to Return to Campus in Fall. Features Wesleyan. This story also appears in:
Fox 61
Connecticut Patch
WTNH News 8
CT Mirror
Stamford Daily Voice|
CT Post
NBC Connecticut
Hartford Courant
WFSB Eyewitness News 3

April 14
The New York Times – COVID-19 in New York: Variants and Johnson & Johnson. Mentions that Wesleyan University became the first university in Connecticut to require students to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

The Middletown Press – Hartford indie coffee shop to open eatery in Wesleyan RJ Julia Bookshop.

Healthcare Technology Report – The Top 50 Healthcare Technology CEOs Of 2021. Mentions Marc Casper ’90, P’23, president and chief executive officer of Thermo Fisher Scientific.

April 15 – President Biden Announces His Intent to Nominate Key Administration Leaders in the State Department. Features Karen Donfried ’84, nominee for assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Record Journal – Colleges working to get students, staff vaccinated. Community Health Center expects to vaccinate about 3,000 students at Wesleyan University in Middletown on April 24 and 25.

Daily Magazine – The top 11 cornerbacks in the 2021 NFL draft. Mentions former Wesleyan football player Mark McAleenan ’97.

April 16
The Washington Post – The Art of the Photograph; the Photograph as Art. Op-ed by Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78.

Variety – Variety Entertainment Impact Report: Top 50 Film Schools and Instructors From Around the World. Mentions Wesleyan’s College of Film and the Moving Image.

Market Screener – Scotts Miracle-Gro news. Scotts Miracle-Gro hires Jim Esquea ’90 as Vice President of Public Affairs.

Market Screener – Springworks Therapeutics news. Mentions Daniel Lynch ’80, P’11, ’14.

WFSB – Colleges and universities are making COVID vaccine more accessible to students. Mentions that “Wesleyan is the only university in the state requiring a COVID-19 vaccine.”

The Wall Street Journal – ‘Hamilton’ Creator Partners With Posse Foundation to Mentor Arts Students. Features Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 who had “started writing his Broadway musical ‘In the Heights’ during his sophomore year at Wesleyan University.

The Nation – How BLM Is Subtly Shaping the Chauvin Trial. Features an op-ed by Sonali Chakravarti, associate professor of government.

Market Screener – Razer Inc. news. Mentions Kevin Kwok Fun Chau ’83.

Market Screener – Mentions Michael Kishbauch ’71, P’07.

April 17
NBC Connecticut – COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic Held For High School Students in Middletown. Features the Community Health Center’s vaccination clinic at Wesleyan.

April 19
NBC – An ‘enormous burden’: Chauvin trial jurors will face scrutiny – no matter their verdict. Quotes Sonali Chakravarti, associate professor of government.

The Missouri Review – “Not an Ode to April 22nd, 2019” Gisselle Yepes. Features poem by Gisselle Yepes ’20 and mentions Wesleyan’s Winchester Fellowship and Wesleyan’s The Ankh.

USA News Hub – Microbes are ‘unknown unknowns’ despite being vital to all life, says study. Quotes Frederick Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment.

Yahoo! News via The Hartford Courant – Connecticut colleges and universities will fully reopen this fall, but state won’t require COVID-19 vaccines, letting individual schools decide. Mentions Wesleyan.

April 20
Time Magazine – History’s Lesson for Activists Who Want to Defund the Police. Features an op-ed by Sarah Ryan, associate professor of the practice in oral communicationn.

Street Insider – Biotech Veterans Troy Cox, Susannah Gray and Karen McGinnis Join Biosplice Therapeutics Board of Directors. Features Susannah Gray ’82.

The New Haven Register – Albertus honors professor, coach who fought ‘brave battle with cancer.’ Features honor longtime Professor Ron Waite CAS ’82, “who holds a Certificate of Advanced Study in Art (Film and Video) from Wesleyan University.” – Bradley Whitford Finds Inspiration in the Theater (and Dog Park). Features Bradley Whitford ’81 and Wesleyan’s ’92 Theater– “the place where all the student-initiated productions happened, and it’s where I fell in love with acting. It’s just this magical place.” Also mentions Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15. – Life on Venus? The Picture Gets Cloudier. Quotes Martha Gilmore, George I. Seney Professor of Geology.

Pennsylvania Patch – Karen Fleming Running For West Chester Area School Board Seat. Features Karen Fleming P’20 and her son, Andrew Fleming ’20.

Market Screener – Guotai Junan International Holding news. Mentions Ka Keung Ceajer Chan ’79.

Alumni, Experts Discuss “(Un)Knowing” at 3rd Annual TedXWesleyanU

ted xIn the spirit of sharing ideas worth spreading, Wesleyan students hosted the third annual TEDxWesleyanU conference on April 16–17.

Titled “(Un)Knowing,” the event’s speakers included:

    • Alford Young Jr. ’88, professor of sociology, Afroamerican and African studies, and public policy at the University of Michigan
    • Field Yates ’09, NFL Insider for ESPN and co-host of “Fantasy Football”
    • Emily McEvoy ’22, College of Social Studies major, 2021 Student Speaker Competition Winner, and Middletown Mutual Aid organizer
    • Gato Nsengamungu ’23, physics and government double major from Rwanda
    • Doug Berman ’84, two-time Peabody Award-winning producer of NPR’s “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” and “Car Talk”

Roth to Speak During Middlesex Chamber of Commerce Luncheon

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 will be the featured speaker during the Middlesex County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Business and Education Partnership and Hal Kaplan Middletown Mentor Program Recognition Luncheon.

President Roth will speak from noon to 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 27 via Zoom. The talk, which will focus on Wesleyan’s pandemic response, is open to the public.

To join the meeting, log into:
(Webinar ID: 990 5269 0757)

Roth Talk

JCCP Awards 13 Student-Led Groups with Innovation Funds

Thirteen student-led groups are the recipients of Jewett Center for Community Partnerships Student Innovation Fund awards.

These awards support community engagement projects with grants up to $750 each.

“The common theme is that they all want to positively impact the greater Middletown community,” said Rhea Drozdenko, JCCP community participation coordinator. “There is no one right way to do community engagement, and the Innovation Fund supports nontraditional ideas. It’s important that our grantees are grounded in the ideas of mutual respect and collective responsibility as they go out into the community.”

All applicants are required to read the Cardinal Community Commitment —the University’s collective approach to civic engagement—before starting their work.

“Students also must become familiar with the community they wish to serve, practice ongoing self-reflection, embrace a spirit of humility with their work, and be an adaptable collaborator and partner,” Drozdenko said.

The spring/summer recipients were announced in a ENGAGE blog post on April 8. The grantees are the following:

Adolescent Sexual Health Awareness Club
Elsa Dupuy d’Angeac ’22, Robie Scola ’23, Carolina Mahedy ’21

This group will use the grant to create a website that can serve as a comprehensive plan for the community to learn more about sexual health. The website will include information from their sexual health awareness curriculum, a live chat for students to ask questions, a blog, a video component, and more.

community fridge

Students offer free food through the Middletown Community Fridge.

Middletown Community Fridge
Bryan Chong ’21 and Emily McEvoy ’22

The Middletown Community Fridge was created in 2020 as a place for people to donate food to Middletown residents in need. The grant will go towards keeping the fridge clean, safe, and well-stocked.

Middletown Mutual Aid Fundraiser with Student Creators
Tara Nair ’21

Nair aims to create a partnership between the Middletown Mutual Aid Collective (MMAC) and student creators so they can sell their art, products, designs, and merchandise and the profits will go to MMAC. The grant will serve as compensation for the student creators so they can still receive payment for their labor and materials.

MIRA (Middlesex Immigrant Rights Alliance)
Margarita Fuentes ’21, Marlen Escobedo ’21, and Ivanna Morales ’21

This group aims to partner with different immigration rights organizations in Connecticut to create a more action-based coalition. They also want to host webinars and meetings to empower non-native English-speaking members of these organizations.

Oddfellows Musical Mentoring Program
Julia Kan ’22

This program matches Wesleyan students with children in Middletown for one-on-one individualized music lessons and mentorship. The lessons help children develop their creativity and form valuable relationships with their mentors. The grant will go towards expanding the program into Middletown’s Elementary Schools and partnering with the Wesleyan Music Department.

Traverse Square
Sophie Williamson ’22, Nyaiah Lamb ’21, Sam Kurlender ’22, Abigail Maymi ’22, and Emma Powell ’21

Traverse Square is an after-school program run by Wesleyan students to support children in the Traverse Square public housing community. Leaders will use the grant to update and expand the program in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Book Buds

Wesleyan Book Buds
Ricardo Vega ’21, Leila Etemad ’21, Stephanie Corrales ’22, and Margarita Fuentes ’21

This student group hosts book drives to provide reading material to children in need. This semester, they hope to partner with WesNEAT, The Middletown Mutual Aid Collective, and the Middletown Schools to better support children in the community, especially since many of the typical Book Bud events were unable to safely happen due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wesleyan Food RescueClaire Isenegger ’21 and Gina Gwiazda ’22

Wesleyan Food Rescue is a student organization that partners with Eddy Shelter to provide essential kitchen and food resources to community members in need. The grant will allow the group to better combat food insecurity and support initiatives such as clothing drives and maintenance projects for the shelter.

Wesleyan Habitat for Humanity
Zelda Galdenzi ’22 and Julia Rumberger ’23

Wesleyan’s Habitat for Humanity club will use the grant money to set up a Candygram fundraiser for the Middlesex Habitat for Humanity and National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. This group is dedicated to addressing issues of affordable housing, as well as homelessness in the community and the country at large.

Carleo Co-Authors Paper in Nature on Molecular Discovery in Space

Ilaria Carleo, a postdoc working with Associate Professor of Astronomy Seth Redfield, co-authored a paper called “Five carbon- and nitrogen-bearing species in a hot giant planet’s atmosphere,” which details the discovery of six different molecules in the atmosphere of a hot, gas giant exoplanet called HD209458b.

The paper, published in Nature on April 7, discusses known information about the exoplanet, as well as the process by which these molecules were discovered using observations from the Galileo National Telescope.

“Now that the analysis technique has been optimized, we are investigating the presence of these molecules in the atmosphere of other hot-Jupiters and this will help to understand whether all these planets have common formation and evolution history,” Carleo said.

Wesleyan to Require Students to be Vaccinated for the Fall 2021 Semester

keep wes safeNext fall, Wesleyan will require all students to receive the COVID-19 vaccine prior to returning to campus.

Every student (with the exception of those who have approved medical or religious exemptions) will need to verify with the University that they are fully vaccinated prior to their arrival.

For students who are currently studying on campus, Wesleyan, in partnership with the Community Health Center, is offering a Pfizer vaccine clinic on April 24 and 25 (first dose), and again on May 15 or 16 (second dose). Nearly 2,000 students have already registered for an appointment.

The University highly encourages faculty and staff to be vaccinated as soon as they are able.

For more updates and information, visit the Keep Wes Safe website.

Nonfiction Journalism Class Explores the Continuing Battle for COVID-19 Normalcy

tin can

In a recently-published essay, Chapin Montague ’21 tells the story of Wesleyan students Michayla Robertson-Pine ’22 (top left) and Elizabeth “Liz” Woolford ’21 (top right) who created a virtual after-school learning community for children called Tin Can Learners during the COVID-19 pandemic. Montague and several other Wesleyan students wrote pandemic-related essays for their class, The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction.

As part of a class assignment for the spring 2021 course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction, students were tasked with writing short essays on the continuing battle for normalcy while attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The class is taught by Daniel de Visé ’89, Koeppel Journalism Fellow. After graduating from Wesleyan and Northwestern University, de Visé spent 23 years working in newspapers. He shared a 2001 team Pulitzer Prize and garnered more than two dozen other national and regional journalism awards. He’s also the author of three books.

Journalistic nonfiction, de Visé, explained, uses the tools of the newsroom to create long-form stories that read like novels. Books such as Moneyball, The Orchid Thief, The Warmth of Other Suns, “are grounded in journalistic nonfiction,” he said.

“The class is about how to write nonfiction using the tools of novel-writing and cinema,” de Visé said. “It’s all based on journalism—fact-based reporting. We’re reading and writing stories that have central characters who overcome literary conflicts in a scene-driven narrative.”

A sampling of the articles are published here and descriptions are below.

basketball team

Kiran Kling ’24, pictured at far left, wrote an essay about being on the men’s basketball team during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olu Oladitan ’24, pictured in the center, is featured in the essay.

Kiran Kling ’24 focused his essay, “The Call” on being a student-athlete during the pandemic. With spring sports canceled during the 2020-21 academic year, Kling explained how the 15 members of the men’s basketball team would gather on Zoom every Wednesday night to share updates, network with alumni, and “crack jokes in the players-only group chat during the call.” Read Kling’s essay online here.

Sophie Talcove-Berko ’21 shared her experience of being a college senior during the COVID-19 pandemic. In her essay, “Ski School,” Talcove-Berko wrote about the difficult decisions her peers made during their final year at Wes: “some deferred, some returned, and some went remote.” Talcove-Berko framed her essay around Tammy Shine ’21 who originally planned to return to Wesleyan this spring for her final semester of college, but instead chose to study remotely in Lake Tahoe. “While it was her final chance to live with her college friends on campus, she found the mountains rejuvenating for the mind, body, and soul,” Talcove-Berko wrote. Read Talcove-Berko’s essay online here.

Merjos ’23: “How Student Bands Live on During COVID-19”

The following essay was written by Rose Merjos ’23 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction

It’s a Friday night in February 2019. People are rushing down the outdoor stairwell into the lower level of a dorm. The heavy bass drum and colorful strobe lights pulse through the windows of the basement into the courtyard of West College. More than a hundred people are piled into the WestCo Cafe, barely able to move. The crowd in front of the stage lurches across the room like a wave. The colorful lights illuminate the graffiti on the back walls of the cafe. The smell of sweat wafts through the dense air.

On stage, the student band Love, Grandma is playing an original. The guitarist, Liam Murray, is standing in front. His black painted nails move up and down the neck of his guitar. His messy ginger hair falls in front of his face. The audience dances to the beat of the drum, hollering at Liam and his three bandmates.

That was a typical Love, Grandma show before the coronavirus hit Wesleyan University and the rest of the country.

In February 2020, Wesleyan students resumed classes after a challenging fall semester. An additional 40 students enrolled in the university this spring, where 85% of the student population is studying in person and 15% are remote.

Although the U.S. infection rate is gradually declining and widespread vaccination is on the horizon, Wesleyan is still taking the necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. On campus, students must wear masks in shared spaces, practice social distancing, and ensure they are tested for COVID-19 twice a week. Visitors are also restricted from campus and students residing in dorms can only have one guest over at a time.

President Michael Roth told The Wesleyan Argus that “after a successful reactivation of campus last fall, we are confident that we’ll be able to offer a vital Wesleyan experience to students this spring while limiting the spread of COVID-19 on campus.”

But cultivating an authentic Wesleyan experience under harsh safety guidelines can be challenging. On top of existing anxiety about the pandemic, students worry that life on campus is less worthwhile. Although Liam, a Wesleyan sophomore, shares this sentiment, he is adjusting to a new normal, creating new experiences along the way.

When Liam returned to campus last fall, he got Love, Grandma back together and started to organize rehearsals. The group wasn’t able to work on any music over the summer months, but they were ready to perform in any way they could.

WestCo Cafe became a regular rehearsal space for the band. People living nearby would occasionally stop by, sit on the couch opposite the stage and chat as Liam and his bandmates tried out new chord progressions.

This was one of the few indoor spaces where Love, Grandma could rehearse while following the university’s guidelines. To practice in the Cafe, the band had to reserve the space 72 hours in advance and abide by the COVID capacity of 10 people.

Liam sees a lot of positives in being a college musician during COVID-19. Using the Cafe as a new practice space provided opportunities for him and his friends to hang out while following safety guidelines. “It’s great to have a practice space close to where everyone lives,” he says. “You’re doing art that makes you feel good around people that make you feel even better.”

But practicing in front of his friends also evokes a longing for the past. “I experience a lot of nostalgia because I’m doing some of the same things I was doing last year. It is a brief moment of escape,” Liam says.

Practicing in the Cafe and producing music in his dorm room provided a sense of normalcy for Liam throughout the fall semester. He chased those moments that brought him back to the pre-COVID era, but also found new ways to express his passion for music.

He did this by organizing a show over Zoom where students performed from their rooms at Wesleyan and across the world. Liam and his band played a song they had written in 2019. The patterned tapestry and flickering string lights hung up in his room emulated a concert hall. In a tiny box adjacent to Liam’s on the Zoom screen, the band’s vocalist, Gib Bernath, sang into a mic in his room two doors down from Liam. After the performance, the applause bellowed out from his computer. “We love Love, Grandma!” two girls shouted.

“It felt strange to play alone in my room in front of 50 people on the computer screen,” Liam recalls. “But watching other student bands perform, I realized that we’re all experiencing a sense of frustration and we need to support each other.”

A lot of bands had been working on music all summer and were excited to share it in any forum. But Liam knew that a Zoom performance wasn’t enough. He wanted to feel the body heat and echoing cries of the audience. He wanted to feed off of the crowd’s energy the way he did on that Friday night in February 2019.

So Liam decided to plan an outdoor concert on a Saturday evening in November. He wanted to organize Duke Day, an annual fall gathering for West College students. By November, the infection rate on campus was low and the safety guidelines were easing up. “This could actually happen,” he thought. And that prospect was enough to meticulously plan out every detail.

Duke Day started in the late 80s as a music festival hosted by WestCo that revolved around drug experimentation. In the past decade, however, it has turned into a school-wide event where dozens of student bands perform on Foss Hill. While a large-scale event was out of the question, Liam had the idea of organizing a modest Duke Day to keep the tradition alive.

Liam made sure that every aspect of the concert was acceptable under the university’s COVID restrictions. Duke Day would take place on the outdoor walkway connecting the second floors of Foss 2 and 3, two of the four West College dorms. The balcony overlooks the West College courtyard, so the audience could watch Love, Grandma perform from above.

The COVID capacity of the courtyard is 25 people. But what distinguished Duke Day from any outdoor performance was the 15 rooms facing the courtyard. Liam envisioned those people dancing on the balconies, leaning over railings to feel closer to him and the band. He could almost hear his guitar reverberating off of the concrete walls. He dreamed about how euphoric it would feel to perform, even at a further distance from the crowd.

On the day of the concert, Liam hung up Duke Day posters on the WesCo bulletin boards and slid flyers under everyone’s doors. He sent out an email asking everyone to social distance and wear masks during the show. And he enlisted a few friends to ensure that the number of people in the courtyard did not exceed 25.

Liam and his bandmates carried amps, mics, a piano, a drum kit, two guitars, and a bass up three flights of stairs. They laid out a mat and plugged in extension cords. It was a brisk November afternoon. The sun was already starting to set, creating a pink hue in the sky.

Love, Grandma started to rehearse around 4:30 pm. Less than an hour later, they received an email from the area coordinator saying that Duke Day was canceled. As of that day, the university had enacted new COVID-19 guidelines, restricting outdoor gatherings to five people.

After he read the email, Liam felt the disappointment rush over him. He had dedicated himself to finding new ways to perform during COVID. But now he wondered if performing was a possibility at all. “That night, our momentum got halted,” says Liam. “We had no idea what we wanted to do or where we were headed.”

Later that evening, Liam and Love, Grandma still played some music. A few friends sat against the railing of the walkway and chatted the same way they did during the band’s rehearsals.

Four months later, Love, Grandma have just released a song, “Grace,” that Liam and his bandmates worked on during winter break. He doesn’t know when Wesleyan will hear it live.

Although the future for Love, Grandma is less than promising, Liam is holding onto his passion. In the absence of crowds, playing music isn’t what it used to be. “Rehearsing in front of my friends is great. But then I remember that all I want to do is perform to a bunch of sweaty people, all screaming,” says Liam. Yet, performance is not the sole reason why Liam appreciates music, and COVID-19 is allowing him to discover new ones every day.

Kling ’24: “The Call”

I'm on the far right with my arms crossed. Olu, who is featured in the story, is squatting in dead center. Coach Reilly also has his arms crossed, and is far right in the gray.The following essay was written by Kiran Kling ’24 (pictured above far left) as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction 

The Zoom was exactly on schedule. The gallery view was full, five minutes early. Coach Reilly ran a tight ship, and all 15 Wesleyan University basketball players, together but apart on this Wednesday night, knew the rules.

“Good to see you all tonight,” Reilly begins. “Everybody give updates, freshman first this time.” 

Every Wednesday at 7 p.m., the nine players who chose to come to campus for the 2020-21 school year, and the six who chose to remain home, meet to hear updates about each other’s lives, network with alums, and crack jokes in the players-only group chat during the call.

“Olu, you’re first on my screen,” Reilly says.

Sitting at his dorm-room desk, Olu Oladitan’s [’24] face is backlit. The only source of light is a set of color changing LEDs that trace the rectangular outlines of the interior walls. It is the kind of lighting that would make a great TikTok, and this is no coincidence. Olu has the combination of humor and dancing skill that garners serious attention on that platform. A green and white Nigerian flag takes up most of the visible wall space, and the team can make out his king-size bed, large for the room, sticking out at the bottom of his video feed. He’s big enough, 6 foot 8 and somewhere around 240 pounds, that the University’s residential life department was happy to accept his application for a large bed.

“I’m doing pretty well,” Olu replies. “Put in a couple of hours with Cane this week.”

Olu works a part-time job keeping the athletic facility running smoothly. The pay is just ok, but the hours are up to him, and it’s a good way to make some pocket money.

“It’s really nice to have access to a gym whenever I want,” says Olu, “much easier than over break.” 

Over break, he was back home in East New York, Brooklyn. Due to a high number of COVID cases, local public transport was limited and gyms were closed.

“I’ve got another in-person class this semester, and I’m hearing that we might be able to return to contact practices eventually, so those are both good things to look forward to,” Olu says. “I’m definitely very happy to be back.”

Coach Reilly pauses for a few seconds to see if Olu has anything more to say.

“Great stuff, glad to have you back. Dylan, you’re next.”

An awkward pause ensues, as Dylan unmutes on his second try.

“Things haven’t changed much here since we last talked,” Dylan tells the group.

This is to be expected. Dylan Ward is coming in live from his bedroom in Westport, Connecticut, a little less than an hour’s drive away from Wesleyan in the direction of New York City. You can tell his room is on the top floor because one of the walls slants, indicating the roof of his house is on the other side. In stark contrast to Olu’s room, all of Dylan’s lights are on. Visible in his video frame are a pair of dumbbells on the floor, and a pixelated inhaler on his dresser in the back corner.

“I’m still looking around for some solo court time,” Dylan says. “It should be easier once the local high school seasons end.”

Dylan doesn’t feel comfortable playing basketball with other people because his asthma puts him at serious risk, should he get sick. At home, he can self-isolate.

“In the meantime I still have the hoop in the driveway,” he adds. “I’ve been on Facetime with my trainer, and we’ve been getting creative with the home workouts. I’ve lost some fat and put on some muscle, I’m staying steady at 210 and getting stronger.”

After a pause, he continues:“Classes are good too, psych, calc, international relations, and a philosophy course. I do feel a little like I’m still in high school, and next year is my freshman year.”

In the absence of a campus experience, or any kind of true shopping period for classes, Dylan takes academic advice from one of his older brother’s friends, who was an economics major at Wesleyan.

“I’m still looking for a job, just to stay busy, but yeah, my life here isn’t too interesting,” Dylan sums up.

Coach Reilly pauses again. On paper, Dylan and Olu should be living very similar lives: they are teammates, both considering economics or psychology. They are both good students living up to high expectations. Both of their older siblings are recent Harvard graduates. But the pandemic pushed their narratives in two directions, at least for a little while. Dylan has never met his teammates, and Olu just ate dinner with them before getting on the call.

Neither Dylan or Olu feels like he had much of a choice concerning whether to stay home. 

For Olu, getting tested twice a week, per Wesleyan policy, is the only way to safely play basketball. On campus, there’s always food, and his friends are mostly on campus, too. He even stayed on campus for a portion of winter break, to reap the same benefits. He spent his entire high school career at boarding school, and most of his friends he met before college live in the Boston area.

On Dylan’s terms, the only way to win is not to play. His childhood friends are around, and they can hang out at a distance. It makes sense to stay home and not take any kind of risks. In his words, “It makes sense to wait. I can have my real freshman year next year.” 

Neither Olu or Dylan feels like he is a real Wesleyan student yet. Olu says that “next year will be my first year as a real college student, and for that matter, a college basketball player.” 

They both say they feel more like individuals than full-on members of the Wesleyan community, and both expect that to change once COVID restrictions are lifted.

Despite their vastly differing levels of interaction with the Wesleyan basketball team, in the weekly call, students on and off campus are equals. “These interactions make me feel as though I belong,” Dylan says. 

Coach Reilly calls on the next player. The call will end in 55 minutes, precisely, another cog in the well-oiled Reilly machine. Dylan and Olu will both sign off feeling justified in their choices, and part of something greater than themselves. Quite the feat in a pandemic.

Curtin ’23: “Time Away Offers Clarity”

The following essay was written by Rory Curtin ’23 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction.

Pulling off a winding highway into a run-down gas station, Anabel DiMartino [’23] checked her phone. An unexpected text flashed across her screen: “hey this is crazy but me and lila are looking a third roommate for an apartment in western mass this semester.”

After a long, hot morning of driving with her mom, the text was the last thing she expected. The pair were en route to New York City to get Anabel’s first tattoo from an artist she had been following on Instagram for years. After six excruciatingly mundane months living at home in Red Hook, New York, the trip was something Anabel had been looking forward to.

Merging back onto the wooded Taconic Parkway, Anabel was flooded with immediate exhilaration. For months, she had been mulling over her prospects for the impending semester. “It seemed like everyone was making a decision,” she says. Returning to campus felt like a question burdening everyone she knew. She had been texting with peers often, checking in on what their plans were. Seemingly everyone was wary of what campus would look like in the era of COVID-19, but no one was certain enough to actually make alternate plans.

Anabel had found the opportunity she was looking for in Mary’s text, even if it came as a total surprise. Move-in loomed in Anabel’s mind as an equally distant and dismal reality. Despite low numbers of COVID cases, she had an inkling that the worst of the virus was yet to come. Feelings of intense uncertainty had been circulating in the back of her mind.

Making small talk with her young tattoo artist later that day, she found out that he had gone to school close to where Mary was looking for a lease. It had only been a few hours since receiving the text, but Anabel responded to the artist excitedly, telling him she was considering moving there next month. Verbalizing the reality of her prospective life only made her excitement grow stronger. On top of that, the coincidence felt like a sign.

Walking out of the shop, she glanced down at her freshly inked chicken tattoo under the clear bandage. It reminded her of her rural hometown, dotted with idyllic farms and chickens just like the one that now adorned her forearm. That place that had been both a haven and prison throughout the pandemic seemed to look back at her as she finally responded to Mary’s text.

The summer months marked a stressful time as colleges across the country struggled to develop plans for re-opening amidst the pandemic. Students, parents, professors, and employees alike struggled to get answers to their burning questions: How will classes work? What will happen to a student who contracts COVID? What will campus life look like?  The option of deferral lingered in the back of everyone’s minds, but it too was mired with logistic uncertainty.

A flurry of emails piled up in the inboxes of Wesleyan students. Each one seemed to pose a hundred questions for every one it answered. Families around the world were tasked with difficult discussions around dinner tables. The safety and well-being of an entire community were at stake, but no one seemed to have a clue as to how the daunting semester would end.

On top of this, many students had been struggling to adjust to the new normal, facing difficulties with online classes, forced living situations, and restricted social life. The pandemic has posed a major threat to the mental health of college students everywhere. According to the CDC, around 3 in 4 people aged 18 to 24 reported poor mental health tied to the pandemic.

For Anabel, quarantine marked a personal low in terms of her mental health, which played a big role in her decision not to return. “I was really not in the right place to go back to school,” she said. “I just needed more time.” The tumultuous nature of the world, coupled with crippling boredom, took a toll on her.

After receiving the text from Mary, Anabel had about a week before she was scheduled to move into her single in the Nics, a mixed first- and second-year dorm just behind Foss Hill. She put off making a final decision, instead of jotting down pro-con lists on anything she could find. As the moment drew closer and closer, the right decision seemed to naturally emerge. Two days before she was supposed to move in, she officially emailed her dean to defer, sitting on the floor of her childhood bedroom, surrounded by unfilled boxes and walls still full of posters and pictures.

Anabel recalls September as a major turning point in her overall happiness: her deferral provided something to be excited about, while still giving her time to work through her feelings. As on-campus students acclimated to an entirely new Wesleyan, Anabel, Mary, and their third friend, Lila, spent the month securing a lease on a house in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and lining up jobs in the area. Anabel’s final month at home in Red Hook was spent doing many of the same things she had been doing all summer: dog-walking, journaling, reading, spending time with her mom. Yet, somehow she began to emerge from summer’s depressive haze as she turned her focus to a new and exciting experience on her horizon.

Anabel recounts a period of hectic adjustment upon moving into the house with her new roommates, Mary Ahlstrom and Lila Blaustein, both Massachusetts natives themselves. “After spending so many months with just my mom and my brother, it was just such an energy shift that took time to get used to,” she recalls. Their new space was a historic three-bedroom hilltop home down the street from a Friendly’s. Surrounded by families with kids and minivans, the three girls eventually embraced an endearingly domestic livelihood.

As the leaves changed, a sort of rhythm emerged as the trio got used to their new life. Anabel threw herself into taking an online creative writing course through SUNY New Paltz, spending her mornings sitting out on their screened-in porch in Zoom class. Mary took up a job at a local children’s book warehouse, immersing herself in a sort of comfortingly mundane work. An afternoon ritual formed around feasting on the fresh baked goods and coffee brought back by Lila’s early morning shifts at a local cafe.

Weekends consisted of outings around the sprawling Pioneer Valley area, known for its rural beauty and distinctly progressive population. A Holyoke native, Mary showed Anabel and Lila around her favorite childhood spots. Sometimes they would throw small parties with another small group of Wesleyan students with whom they eventually formed a COVID-safe “pod.” Their house, however, seemed to be the heart of their experience, where they grew to relish in the comforts of domestic living. Communal TV time, cooking, and dance parties became staples of their daily lives.

A favorite memory of Anabel’s is their Halloween celebration, which entailed a group costume inspired by their recent Netflix obsession: “Emily in Paris.” Their kitchen walls reflected other relics of their quirky communal fixations that included a poster of Michael B. Jordan above the stove and an off-putting ad for kombucha torn out of a magazine in the foyer. Each crevice of the home filled in over the three months with colorful memories from a semester unlike any other.

Their experience came with its respective hardships, however, especially as the trio navigated COVID boundaries. Their newfound independence left them completely independent to make their own decisions for the first time in months. Anabel remembers a few small disputes over visiting friends and a budding relationship in their pod. Being off-campus was not necessarily a cure-all for the arduous negotiations of social distancing.

For Anabel, the experience was one of healing, growth, and reflection. She fulfilled a long-standing goal of starting therapy and cutting back on her smoking habits, allowing for new clarity on what she wanted from her Wesleyan experience. As the end of their lease approached, it was obvious to Anabel that she wanted to resume being a full-time student. The decision unfolded similarly for the other two, who decided moving back on-campus made the most sense financially and academically.  Above all, Anabel recalls, it “just felt right” to come back to the campus they had slowly grown to miss.

Sitting atop her new Twin XL bed, Anabel surveys her new single in Lotus House. Her belongings have begun to settle into the new space she calls home. A jewelry box with a hand-painted purple werewolf that was once perched on the girls’ “Twilight” shrine now holds pens and pencils. “Being back just mostly feels like school,” she says.

For Anabel, this is a welcome change, despite hiccups in acclimating to campus culture, an adjustment most of her classmates have already made. Her time off has offered her clarity in what she wants to major in, and her renewed academic energy has positively impacted her relationship with school. “Taking time off gave me the perspective to get more out of classes and dedicate myself more,” she says.

Five weeks into the fresh semester, she isn’t totally sold on being back, but each day the new normal grows on her slowly. Despite what she describes as a “meh” beginning to the semester, she is hopeful for things to get easier. A lot has changed on campus, but so has Anabel.

As Anabel finishes that thought, Mary and Lila burst into the room, coaxing Anabel to come downstairs and cook dinner with them. They excitedly tell each other about their days, and Mary shows off new jeans she got in the mail, posing in Anabel’s mirror.  On their agenda for the night is more meal-prepping, music-making, and movie-watching. As I follow them into the Lotus House kitchen something above the stove catches my eye: it’s Michael B. Jordan’s smiling face.

Talcove-Berko ’21: “Ski School”

The following essay was written by Sophie Talcove-Berko ’21 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction

Speeding down the slopes at 20 miles per hour, Tammy Shine stopped to catch her breath and a glimpse of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. For a college senior at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, this was a drastically different start to the school morning from semesters past, frantically making coffee and rushing to class.

As COVID-19 surged this winter, college seniors from across the country faced an important decision: how to complete their college careers during an unprecedented pandemic. Some deferred, some returned, and some went remote.

At Wesleyan, students were given the option of an on-campus spring semester, as long as they abided by the rules. While students mostly acknowledge that these rules are effective and reasonable for a pandemic, they’re finding that pandemic restrictions have changed the academic and social experience at the school considerably. The rules for the spring semester include a mandatory two-week quarantine, twice-weekly COVID testing, mostly online classes, limited extracurricular activities, and restricted travel.

Administrators tried to replicate the success of the fall semester, when COVID tests yielded a 0.07% positivity rate for students and 0.13% for employees. The restrictions are even tighter this spring. While in the fall, students were allowed to travel within 25 miles of Wesleyan’s campus, travel this spring is limited to grocery stores and medical appointments within Middletown.

Shine, a senior at Wesleyan from Los Angeles, originally planned to return to Wesleyan this spring for her final semester of college. After spending winter break as a retail sales associate at Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe, California, Shine reconsidered.

Every morning in January, Shine would step outside her lakefront apartment around 6 a.m., feeling the cool breeze and looking up in awe at the snow-covered mountains and their glistening reflection on the alpine lake. This was usually followed by an arduous half-hour of scraping snow off her rental car, working laboriously to unbury the car from a few feet of snow. Once Shine began the drive to the retail stores at Squaw Valley, she would be generously rewarded for the early wake-up call with a view of the pink illuminated ski and a bright yellow sun rising over the Sierra Nevada mountains.

After a month working at Squaw Valley, Shine began to reconsider whether returning to Wesleyan was the best decision. While it was her final chance to live with her college friends on campus, she found the mountains rejuvenating for the mind, body, and soul. Reflecting on the fall semester, which Shine had spent on campus, she recalled feeling stuck and, at times, claustrophobic. While she appreciated the safety that a pandemic bubble brings, the COVID-19 restrictions resulted in a great deal of monotony. In late January, days before students were set to return, she made her final decision for the spring 2021 semester. Shine decided to remain in Lake Tahoe, pursuing an option that she felt would be more of a growing experience.

Shine is one of many college students who have decided to create an alternative college experience during these unique times. According to Wesleyan’s director of residential life, Frances Koerting, 2,446 students have chosen to be on-campus for the spring semester and 441 students have chosen to be remote learners. These numbers are almost identical to the number of on-campus and remote learners for the fall semester.

Off-campus college housing “bubbles” have risen in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the options limited to remaining at home with one’s family or being largely restricted to one’s dorm room on campus, groups of college students have rented out houses across the country. These differ in price and location, ranging from Hawaii to Montana and expensive to cheap.

While in the fall, Shine would spend the majority of her time within her living space, an average spring semester day begins on a ski lift. Shine has ditched her dorm-room workout and become a novice snowboarder, shredding down the slopes. Following a morning run at the ski resort, Shine will spend a couple of hours working at the retail stores before retreating to the back rooms of the resort for a virtual class.

Last semester felt very static. In Lake Tahoe, Shine has regained her busy, dynamic lifestyle. However, Shine noted that the academic experience is considerably different as a remote learner in Lake Tahoe. She feels a lot less motivation. She Zooms into her classes from a storage room in the retail shops. Wifi access is spotty, and she finds it a lot harder to sit down and complete her work in this new environment. While she is no longer living within a college community, she lives with two friends from L.A., which has made the adjustment to her new “campus” a lot easier.

Shine said that Wesleyan never felt like the “typical college experience.” So, while she is experiencing an unusual final semester, it does not feel completely out of place. She is taking the experience for what it is, day by day. Growing up, Shine spent every summer in nature, resulting in a lifelong love for the natural world. The mountains have felt like a nice change of pace. As for the impact of going from a suburban college town to living in the mountains, Shine said, “There are all these man-made evils happening right now and it’s really nice to be constantly reminded that there is a lot of beauty in the world…things can be beautiful: you just have to know where to look.”