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For Participants in Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education, A Gamble Paid Off

Graduates of Wesleyan's Center for Prison Education speak at a WESSeminar on Homecoming Weekend

Class of 2021 graduates Josh Hinman, Clyde Meikle, and Michael Braham received Wesleyan Bachelor of Liberal Studies degrees through the Center for Prison Education. They shared their experiences at a WESeminar held in late October.

(By Maia Dawson ’24)

For Josh Hinman BLS ’21, an inmate at Cheshire Correctional Institution, Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education (CPE) program “felt like a gamble.” When he joined the program in there was no degree pathway and he remembers asking the pilot program directors Russel Perkins ’09 and Molly Birnbaum ’09, if it was a study. Now years later, Hinman is a college graduate and a member of the inaugural class of Wesleyan BLS degree recipients.

Hinman and his classmates Michael Braham BLS ’21 and Clyde Meikle BLS ’21 shared their experiences with the Wesleyan Center for Prison Education program at a WESSeminar during Homecoming Weekend.

Wesleyan's Center for Prison Education graduation ceremony

Clyde Meikle ’21 and Josh Hinman ’21 received diplomas during Wesleyan’s 188th Commencement.

For Clyde Meikle, the program wasn’t only about learning: “it was about our lives,” he said. He read Kant, George Jackson, and Lavoisier and began to comprehend the various instruments of violence that he had experienced: law, institutions, culture. In class, he and a Wesleyan tutor compared their experiences with violence in high school. When Meikle was growing up, “if you were punched you had to punch back,” he said. Meikle and his friends found that with no institutions there to protect them, they had to use their “bodies as a means to protect themselves.” For his tutor, retaliation was condemned.

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors de Visé ’89, Petre ’06, Rips ’72

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Northampton, Mass., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Daniel de Visé ’89, King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King, the First Guitar Hero (Atlantic Monthly Press, 2021)

In what is the first comprehensive biography of the legendary blues musician B.B. King, Daniel de Visé takes readers on a fascinating journey through the life of King and the aspects of American culture that grounded his career and launched him into stardom. De Visé pulls off an impressive feat in which his Pulitzer Prize–winning journalism skills shine through. He describes specific scenes with meticulous detail and authority, in large part due to the numerous interviews he conducted with people who were—in all shapes and forms—part of King’s life at various points. De Visé traces King’s roots in the Deep South during the Jim Crow era, revealing how the trauma of his childhood contributed to his doggedness in his career, and follows him through the rest of his life.

Along with relaying the facts and nuances of King’s life, de Visé goes back in time, outlining the lives of King’s ancestors and giving a holistic picture of the world into which King was born. The result is a biography that has a deep interest in familial ties, the history of music as it relates to the African-American experience, and the implications of King’s life for the future of music. As all good biographies must do, de Visé’s book fundamentally brings King back to life, animating him in our collective memory.

Daniel de Visé is a writer and journalist. He has worked at several notable publications, including The Washington Post and The Miami Herald. In addition to King of the Blues, he is the author of I Forgot to Remember, Andy & Don, and The Comeback. He lives in Maryland.

Alumni Discuss Black Entrepreneurship at 29th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium

dwight greene

Melinda Weekes-Laidlow ’89, Shawn Dove ’84, Oladoyin Oladapo ’14, Lucas Turner-Owens ’12, Kenny Green ’98, and Sadasia McCutchen ’17 were the panelists for the virtual 29th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium.

Like many alumni entrepreneurs, Kenny Green’s career launched from a “dorm room business” during his junior year at Wesleyan. Green ’98, an economics major, teamed up with his classmate Paul Freeman ’98 and started selling keychains with ‘Wesleyan’ stitched in black thread.

“[At the time] these big long keychains came in style—the dog tag keychain. So I said, ‘Hey, how can we put Wesleyan on this?'” Green asked.

Green, who is the founder of Green Passion Projects, an organization that consults with professional athletes and entrepreneurs to create effective business strategies, joined five other Wesleyan alumni panelists to lead the 29th Dwight L. Greene Symposium on Oct. 27. Moderated by Melinda Weekes-Laidlow ’89, the group discussed the topic of Black entrepreneurship and specific strategies these alumni leaders use to build entrepreneurial ventures and ecosystems. Green and Weekes-Laidlow were joined by Sadasia McCutchen ’17, Lucas Turner-Owens ’12, Shawn Dove ’84, and Oladoyin Oladapo ’14 for the virtual event.

“I think my entrepreneurial roots started right at Wesleyan,” said Green, who worked in public accounting after graduation. “I became a CPA .. but the calling to entrepreneurship came along.”

Since then, he’s worked with NBA star Charlie Ward on a community fundraiser; he’s consulted with Grammy-winning songwriter Steven Battey on a social impact music video featuring Snoop Dogg and partnered with the Jackie Robinson Park of Fame on a holiday party for underserved families. “I’m just happy with everything that I’m doing every single day,” Green said.

“You Just Have to Read This…” Books by Wesleyan Authors Gottlieb ’94, Scolnik ’78, Shanok ’98

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Northampton, Mass., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Uncontrolled Spread book coverScott Gottlieb ’94, Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic (Harper, 2021)

Since March 2020, the news cycle has been riddled with despair, conflicting information, and false theories. Even with vaccines, social distancing, and masking, COVID-19 isn’t going away, and the next pandemic could be around the corner. Since our realities have changed so much, it’s hard to pinpoint where and when exactly the United States (and the world) went wrong in handling the COVID-19 crisis, and what the best steps are moving forward. In his new book Uncontrolled Spread: Why COVID-19 Crushed Us and How We Can Defeat the Next Pandemic, physician and former FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb addresses everyone’s most pressing questions concerning the COVID-19 pandemic and consolidates his answers into a strong, cohesive narrative.

Gottlieb offers a path forward that is hopeful yet urgent, compelling his readers and the American government to be proactive about preventing a future crisis that could be even more devastating than the one we’ve already experienced. Using historical knowledge, epidemiology, and political science, Gottlieb forms a strong argument that will leave readers with a clearer understanding of the world we’ve been inhabiting and a more urgent mission to improve its future.

Scott Gottlieb is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He served as the twenty-third commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administrator and is a contributor to CNBC and a partner at New Enterprise Associates. He is a member of Wesleyan University’s Board of Trustees. He is on the board of directors of Pfizer Inc. and Illumina, Inc. He lives in Westport, Connecticut.

Bery ’21, Haddad Share Climate Action Plan Study with United Nations

bery haddad

Sanya Bery ’21 and Professor Mary Alice Haddad spoke at the United Nations Innovate 4 Cities Conference Oct. 14.

In a new study linked to her 2021 high honors thesis, Sanya Bery ’21 discovered that cities that house universities have a significant likelihood of adopting ambitious climate action plans.

“It is clear that as plans become more ambitious, there is a higher concentration of university cities, and as plans become less ambitious there is a lower concentration of university cities,” she said. “[These cities] efforts will be critical to the world’s effort to combat climate change.”

Bery, who majored in government and environmental studies, is currently collaborating with Mary Alice Haddad, John E. Andrus Professor of Government, on a peer-reviewed article that includes Wesleyan and Middletown climate topics, and on Oct. 14, the duo presented Bery’s findings at the United Nations Innovate 4 Cities Conference.

“It’s great to see the outcome of Sanya’s work because we encourage all of our Environmental Studies students to take on projects that have real-world implications. We are very proud of the work that Sanya has done and is doing to make the world a better place,” said Barry Chernoff, Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies and Director of the College for the Environment.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned that CO2 emissions must reach net zero by 2050 to prevent the most catastrophic consequences of global climate change. Cities alone, according to the IPCC, emit more than 70% of the world’s emissions.

In order to study climate action plans, Bery took a tangible, qualitative approach to measure the “ambitiousness” of the action by creating a scorecard. She explored a dataset of 169 cities, nationwide, that are signatories in the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. This was in addition to her thesis, where she looked at 66 cities with fewer than 100,00 residents.

Betts Hon. ’21 Named a 2021 MacArthur “Genius” Fellow

Reginald Dwayne Betts Hon. '21 (Photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

Reginald Dwayne Betts Hon. ’21, who delivered Wesleyan’s Commencement Address for the Class of 2021, received a MacArthur Fellowship this month. (Photo courtesy of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation)

At the age of 16, Reginald Dwayne Betts was arrested for armed carjacking. He was sentenced to prison—where an unknown person slid a copy of Dudley Randall’s The Black Poets under his cell door.

It was this book that sparked a love for poetry and led to his lifelong interest in literature.

“I spent nine years, writing every day, reading every day, imagining that words would give me the freedom to sort of understand what got me in prison,” Betts said. “And when you’re trapped in the cell—literally— words are your only lifeline. And I committed myself to using them to find some semblance of hope.”

Now an award-winning author, poet, and lawyer, Betts—a 2021 Wesleyan Honorary Doctorate of Letters recipient—is the latest Wes alumnus to receive the prestigious MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Colloquially referred to as a “genius” grant, the fellowship is awarded annually to 25 talented individuals “who have shown extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.” The honor comes with a $625,000 unrestricted award.

Wesleyan’s Englehart ’69 Makes Life in Comics

Steve Englehart ’69

It’s Spring 1966. Steve Englehart, a first-year Wesleyan student, is hanging around his dorm when one of his floormates thrusts a copy of Spider-Man at him saying, “You have to read this. This is great.”

Like many students his age at that time, Englehart read comic books as a child but thought that he’d grown out of them. They were considered “downmarket”—a lot of them weren’t particularly good.

Englehart read it through in one shot and sensed something very different than the wooden characters and corny storylines he encountered as a kid. Marvel had gone through a renaissance in the 1960s, embracing newfound depth and complexity in its storytelling. “I loved what (Spider-Man creator) Stan Lee was doing, the irreverence and the world-building with all of the characters interacting with each other,” he said.

The seeds for an unusual career path were being planted.

Englehart ’69 Creator of Newest Marvel Movie Hero

Shang-Chi

After nearly 50 years, Steve Englehart ’69 will see one of his original Marvel characters make its big-screen debut this fall. Englehart’s creation, martial arts master Shang-Chi, is the lead character of “Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings,” starring Simu Liu, perhaps best known for his work in the Canadian comedy “Kim’s Convenience.” The film debuted Aug. 15 in Los Angeles and will be released nationwide on Sept. 3.

Although Englehart was not involved in the movie production, he sees core elements of the backstory he created in the trailer for the upcoming film. In Englehart’s original story Shang-Chi is raised to be a premier martial artist and believes his father is a benevolent humanitarian. He discovers, however, that his father is in reality an international criminal (in early iterations his father was the fictional villain Fu Manchu). Shang-Chi commits to put an end to his father’s nefarious work.

“My bottom line is that if you take one of my stories and you treat it with respect, if you kind of go with what’s there, then you can make all sorts of changes along with the way and that’s okay by me because I understand it is a different medium, a different time,” he said.

“You Just Have to Read This. . .” Books by Wesleyan Authors Globus ’05, Isler ’01, and Pallant ’80

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Northampton, Mass., reviews alumni books and offers a selection for those in search of knowledge, insight, and inspiration. The volumes, sent to us by alumni, are forwarded to Olin Library as donations to the University’s collection and made available to the Wesleyan community.

Doro Globus ’05, Making a Great Exhibition (David Zwirner Books, 2021)

In this charming and colorful picture book, author Doro Globus ’05 and illustrator Rose Blake collaborate to introduce the art world to children, delving into the lives of everyone from painters and sculptors to art handlers and museum curators. The story is well-attuned to the diversity of artists and their art, showcasing a variety of mediums and styles and paying great attention to the people in the art world who work behind the scenes, like communications managers and museum guards. As all successful children’s book authors must be, Globus and Blake are adept at diving into the minds of children and answering the questions their young minds might ask about the art world.

Replete with friendly characters (like sculptor Viola and curator Cliff) and eye-catching illustrations, the book is the perfect introduction for any young folks interested in the inner workings of any part of artistic production or display, and as a bonus, is equally fascinating for adults!

Doro Globus ’05 is a children’s book author and managing director of David Zwirner Books, a publishing house that focuses on publishing high-quality art publications. She has worked in arts publishing for over 15 years and edited a number of notable books.

Emily Barth Isler ’01, After/Math (Lerner, 2021)

In her touching middle grade debut, Emily Barth Isler ’01 manages to tackle heavy topics with grace and nuance, while still being in touch with the younger minds of her intended audience. The novel tells the story of 12-year-old Lucy, who has just moved to Queensland, Virginia, from Kenton, Maryland. While any move can be harrowing, this one presents even more challenges for the precocious, math-loving narrator Lucy: her younger brother Theo recently died after suffering from a heart defect, and the town to which she is moving underwent a tragic shooting a few years before. As Lucy struggles through the tough transition—juggling her own grief with the grief of her new classmates and community—she turns to math, her favorite subject, for solace, comforted by its reliability and unchangeability.

Despite the gravity of the topics at hand, Isler manages to create a story that is ultimately enveloped in hope and love. For younger readers hoping to make sense of some of the darker sides of the world, it is a deftly handled and optimistic portrait of what it might mean to find comfort and courage in the midst of tragedy.

Emily Barth Isler is a children’s lit writer and a beauty and wellness editor. A former child actress, she has written award-winning episodic television for the web and several personal essays. After/Math is her debut middle grade novel. She lives in Los Angeles with her family.

Eric Pallant ’80, Sourdough Culture (Agate, 2021)

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the process of making bread has become a regular source of comfort in many people’s lives. Many an Instagram post has proudly displayed a gorgeous loaf of sourdough, proclaiming baking bread as “life-saving.” But the culture of bread-making—and its link to human survival—is nothing new, as Eric Pallant points out in his new book, Sourdough Culture. In fact, sourdough—its origins, science, and flavor—go back hundreds of thousands of years, even when humans were primarily hunting and gathering as their main source of nutrition.

Pallant’s book is an impressive interdisciplinary study that draws upon the fields of history, archaeology, anthropology, chemistry and more, investigating the origins and science of baking sourdough, how it has changed over time, and its prevalence in our world today. Pallant even weaves in a few bread recipes. At the end of the book, Pallant sums up his project best: “Making good bread is a delicate balance of experimentation, scientific understanding, artistry, and history. The joy comes in eating the results.”

Eric Pallant is a professor of environmental science and the chair of the Environmental Science & Sustainability department at Allegheny College. A passionate amateur baker, he lives in Meadville, Pennsylvania with his family.

In Nature, Oppenheim ’02 Outlines the Importance of Creating an Intergovernmental Panel on Pandemic Risk

Ben Oppenheim ’02 says the way pandemics unfold over time and their impacts "have everything to do with our individual choices, our politics, and our ability to cooperate to help protect each other."

Ben Oppenheim ’02 says the way pandemics unfold over time and their impacts “have everything to do with our individual choices, our politics, and our ability to cooperate to help protect each other.”

Political scientist Ben Oppenheim ’02 thinks it’s only a matter of time.

“There’s this idea circulating that pandemics are a ‘once in a century’ problem because the 1918 flu happened about a century before COVID-19. But that’s just a random quirk,” Oppenheim said. “The next one could be next week. Or next month.”

A College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan, Oppenheim is currently vice president of product, policy, and partnerships at Metabiota, a business providing data-driven insights to help organizations manage infectious disease risk. Through epidemiological modeling, Oppenheim and his colleagues are able to estimate the frequency and severity of pandemics like COVID-19, and the numbers, he said, “are worrisome.”

“The best evidence we have suggests that COVID is not a once in a century phenomenon, but more like a 30-year event. That doesn’t mean we’ll experience a pandemic like COVID every 30 years, but that every year we have roughly a 3% chance of a pandemic as deadly as this (or worse) occurring. Over the next 25 years, it’s about a 50% probability of experiencing a pandemic on this scale—basically a coin flip,” he said. “There is of course some uncertainty in that estimate, but the crucial thing is that it isn’t carved in stone.”

Alumni Create Environment-Focused Summer School for Youth in Japan

Kotaro Aoki and Kota Uno

Kota Uno ’16 and Kotaro Aoki ’16 are co-organizing a summer school program in Fukushima, Japan to help youth share their thoughts and values regarding nature, climate, and the environment.

For a truly sustainable future, Class of 2016 alumni Kotaro Aoki and Kota Uno believe it’s crucial to teach people how to view—and properly “use”— nature.

“Education is the most important piece in solving the root cause of climate change and environmental problems,” Aoki said. “If we don’t change our mindset, the same problem continues to rise no matter how drastic changes on the surface are.”

After reuniting recently in Fukushima, Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic, Aoki, a philosophy major, and Uno, a College of Social Studies major, discovered a shared interest in climate change. They agreed that they needed to help youth discover a deeper interest and respect for their natural environment. After months of planning, the duo, along with several other Wesleyan alumni, organized an environmental education program for Japanese youth to take place this summer in Aizuwakamatsu, near Fukushima.

From Aug. 17 to 20, the Kotowari Aizu Summer School program will help youth learn the relationship between humans and nature and reimagine a way of life moving forward. Kotowari is a Japanese word that means “unchanging law of truth that governs humans and the environment.”

“We’re not attempting to promote a certain idealism, value, or message, such as ‘let’s protect our environment for the future generation,'” Aoki said on the program’s website. “This is because we value individual journeys to reach their own conclusions. To promote that individual process, we will expose the youth to diverse perspectives on environmental and climate crises and help them unearth their thoughts and values.”

The idea for the summer program originated after Aoki returned to Fukushima after spending three years in India practicing ascetic meditation in the Himalayas. He had hoped to bring back “the sense of awe and prayer to today’s world, which used to be at the center of human life for thousands of years.” Uno, who was working as an organic farmer in Fukushima, was learning alternatives for human beings and nature to co-exist.

“We each shared a conviction that climate change and other environmental problems originate from the way we are today in relation to nature, which is totally out of sync with what nature truly is,” Uno said.

The duo knew they’d need more manpower to start a program, so they recruited other likeminded Wes alumni—molecular biology and biochemistry major Jianyi Lu ’17; government major Kohei Saito ’09; College of Social Studies major Yusaku Takeda ’14; and government and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies double-major Shizuha Hatori ’18 to help organize and teach the school.

The inaugural summer school will be small—capped at 20 participants between the ages of 15 and 22. Topics will include moral dilemmas of climate change, creating “value” in the economy and how that impacts the natural world, technology in connection with natural resources, the distinction between humans and nature, and finding a potential deeper meaning of nature.

Participants will engage in outdoor activities and discussions to gain first-hand experience and be exposed to different viewpoints.

The program is currently supported by Earth & Human, an environmental NPO founded by Japanese actor Ebizo Ichikawa. The co-founders also are leading a crowdfunding campaign in which donors are connected to activity reports, access to online lectures, and a Aizu Nature Blessing Course.

“Together, the program aims to lay the foundation for the youth to think deeply and take action regarding the climate crisis,” Uno said.

The group is looking for like-minded collaborators. Email info@kotowari.co for more information.

FDR Memorial by Bergmann ’76 Is a Tribute to Overcoming Physical Barriers

hope memorial

Meredith Bergmann ’76 created a bronze statue of late President Franklin D. Roosevelt and a young girl with polio as part of the FDR Hope Memorial project on Roosevelt Island, New York. This is Bergmann’s eighth public creation, which debuted on July 17.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” — Eleanor Roosevelt, former First Lady of the United States

In 1932, wheelchair-bound Franklin D. Roosevelt became the first (and only) United States president to hold the top office with a severe disability. While the public was well aware of his paralysis, Roosevelt never let his illness hinder his efforts leading the country—exemplifying success, leadership, and especially perseverance.

Nearly 90 years later, Wesleyan alumna Meredith Bergmann ’76 is hoping Roosevelt can inspire the public once again. To honor his legacy, she’s created a larger-than-life-size bronze memorial of FDR, seated in his wheelchair, reaching out to shake the hand of a small girl with polio.

Located in Southpoint Park, just north of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City, Bergmann’s addition to the FDR Hope Memorial project was an 11-year project in the making. The work was unveiled during a public ceremony on July 17.