Alumni

Alumni news.

Thesis by Krotinger ’19 Published in PLOUS 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.”

 

 

 

Ganbarg ’88 Hosts New Rock N’ Roll High School Podcast

rock n rollTwo-time Grammy Award-winning producer and Atlantic Records President of A&R Pete Ganbarg ’88 will host a new Rock N’ Roll High School podcast starting May 6.

The series, presented by Warner Music Group, will feature legendary figures in contemporary music. The first three episodes star Grammy-winning composer, producer, arranger, and guitarist, Nile Rodgers; two-time Rock & Roll and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, Graham Nash; and Go-Go’s bassist and songwriter, Kathy Valentine. Following the premiere, new episodes will launch every other week.

“It’s been an honor to sit down with each of these incredibly influential and uniquely talented individuals and really dive deep into their remarkable careers,” Ganbarg said. “I’m so excited to bring these conversations to music fans around the world. Everyone recognizes these superstars and their hits which have defined generations, but now we get to pull back the curtain and take a closer, more intimate look at the stories behind the music.”

Other upcoming guests include:
• May 20 – The Temptations (Otis Williams and Ron Tyson)
• June 3 – Tony Visconti
• June 17 – Debbie Gibson
• July 1 – Gamble & Huff
• July 15 – Jimmy Webb
• July 29 – Jon Anderson (of Yes)
• Aug. 12 – Gloria Gaynor
• Aug. 26 – Todd Rundgren
• Sept. 9 – Robert “Kool” Bell (of Kool and The Gang)

In addition to creating the new podcast, Ganbarg is the recipient of a 2021 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album for the Broadway cast recording for Jagged Little Pill.

View other Wesleyan alumni-produced podcasts here.

Vote for 2021 Alumni-Elected Trustees

Voting for the 2021 Alumni Trustee Election is now open.

Each year, Wesleyan alumni elect three of their peers to serve on the University’s Board of Trustees for a three-year term. Nearly one-third of the Board is elected by the alumni body.

“The alumni-elected trustee process is a remarkable and important way for alumni to demonstrate stewardship of our University,” said Gina Driscoll, associate director of alumni and parent relations. “Choose the alumni candidates who can help influence the direction of the University.”

Watch for the Alumni-Elected Trustee email with your personal link to vote.  View this year’s slate here.

The deadline to vote is 5 p.m., Wednesday, May 26.

2021 AET Movie

“You Just Have to Read This. . .” Books by Wesleyan Alumni Aspray ’73, MA ’73, Morris ’76, Roth ’70

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., 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.

Deciding Where to Live coverWilliam Aspray ’73, MA ’73 and Melissa Ocepek (editors), Deciding Where to Live (Rowman & Littlefield, 2020)

In the past year, our choice of residence has become more crucial than ever. In fact, the pandemic has caused many people to house-hunt, pack up and move away, ready for a change of scenery. Deciding Where to Live, edited by William Aspray and Melissa G. Ocepek, comes at a timely moment, as it is a comprehensive guide to some of the more elusive and less recognized aspects of deciding where to call home. The two editors and 11 authors rely heavily on information studies to ground their logic, focusing on specific case studies that demonstrate the various ways in which humans interact with information and how these behaviors affect real estate. The book also explores social and cultural factors involved in decision-making, drawing on race and gender studies, as well as addressing the impacts of the pandemic. Therefore, the work seamlessly combines a variety of disciplines—while it is centered on information studies, the authors also draw on scholarship in psychology, sociology, political science, and more.

As informational as it is thought-provoking, the book compels readers to understand recent shifts in real estate that have been affected by contemporary realities like social media, the internet, and the pandemic. Readers will be drawn not only to the facts and statistics, but also to the cultural and social deep-dives in several of the sections.

William Aspray ’73, MA ’73 is a senior research fellow at the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Prior to his current position, he was a senior faculty member at various information schools, including the University of Indiana (Bloomington), the University of Texas (Austin), and the University of Colorado (Boulder). He earned a BA and MA in mathematics from Wesleyan, and his interests include computer history, information history, everyday information behavior, information policy, food studies, and broadening participation in computing.

Janvey ’06 Wins 2021 Oscar for Producing Nomadland

Producers Peter Spears, from left, Frances McDormand, Chloe Zhao, Mollye Asher and Dan Janvey, winners of the award for best picture for "Nomadland," pose in the press room at the Oscars on Sunday, April 25, 2021, at Union Station in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, Pool)

Producers Peter Spears, Frances McDormand, Chloé Zhao, Mollye Asher, and Dan Janvey ’06 are winners of the 2021 Academy Award for Best Picture for Nomadland. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello, Pool)

A film produced by Dan Janvey ’06 titled Nomadland was the recipient of a 2021 Oscar presented during the 93rd Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards on April 25.

Nomadland not only won Best Motion Picture of the Year, but director/producer Chloé Zhao was the second woman to win the Best Directing Award and the first woman of color to win the award.

Janvey, who majored in film studies at Wesleyan, shares the Best Picture award with co-producers Zhao, Frances McDormand, Peter Spears, and Mollye Asher.

Janvey also produced the film Beasts of the Southern Wild, which was nominated for an Academy Award in 2013 and was the winner of the Back Reel Awards in 2013.

Nomadland also won a 2021 Independent Spirit Award for Best Feature; a 2021 Chicago Indie Critics Award for Best Independent Film; a 2021 Gold Derby Award for Best Motion Picture; a 2021 Gotham Award for Best Feature; a 2021 Latino Entertainment Journalists Association Film Award for Best Picture; a 2021 North Dakota Film Society Award for Best Picture; a 2021 BAFTA Award for Best Film; a 2021 CinEuphoria Award for International Competition—Best Film; a PGA Award for Outstanding Producer of Theatrical Motion Pictures; and a 2021 British Independent Film Award for Best International Independent Film.

OConnell, Dann ’17 Join 2021 Voices for Science Cohort

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne OConnell

Suzanne OConnell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and Julian Dann ’17, a graduate student at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, were both selected to be part of the American Geophysical Union’s 2021 Voices for Science Cohort.

Hosted by the American Geophysical Union, Voices for Science aims to train scientists “to address the critical need for communicating the value and impact of Earth and space science to key decision makers, journalists, and public audiences,” according to the union’s website. Each cohort receives specialized training and mentoring throughout a 12-month period to hone their skills in communication and outreach.

Throughout the coming year, OConnell and Dann will participate in science communication workshops and work to promote the geosciences.

 

 

CDC’s Cory ’91 Speaks on COVID-19 and Public Health

Janine Cory '91

Janine Cory ’91

(By Bill Holder ’75)

In this Q&A we speak with Janine Cory ’91, MPH, about COVID-19 myths, vaccinations and vaccine hesitancy, pediatric transmission, health literacy, and more. Cory is the Associate Director of Communications for the CDC COVID-19 Response, Vaccine Task Force.

For more information on Wesleyan’s efforts dealing with COVID-19, visit the Keep Wes Safe website.

Q: How did you first become interested in public health? Was there a particular experience, issue, or Wesleyan course that influenced you? What led you to focus on risk communication?

A: I was actually lucky enough to be accepted into a pilot program at Mt. Sinai Medical School in 1989 that accepted a few students from Wesleyan and a couple of other schools. The idea was to take non-traditional pre-med students (I was an anthropology-sociology major) and do clinical rotations and a laboratory rotation.

I was expecting to cut up worms or something in my lab rotation, but it was what I would now label as public health and epidemiology. I discovered I had a knack for survey design and analysis during that summer and realized that public health was the intersection of medicine and sociology that I had been looking for. Even at that point, the idea of risk communication and plain language really made sense. Some of the survey questions asked consumers “is the angle of your desk and chair between 18-24 degrees?” I re-wrote it based on what probably seems obvious to everyone reading this now—don’t assume that most people would know the exact angle of their chair. When you’re collecting data, you have to make sure it’s useable in a way that helps you move forward to answer real questions.

Q: Has the COVID-19 pandemic presented any unique challenges in risk communication? If so, how have you and your colleagues addressed those challenges?

A: One thing during this pandemic that is both a good and bad element is the prevalence of social media. There’s such an influx of information—and anyone can be an influencer in any direction. It can be hard to sort out what are genuine, science-based data, and what seemingly legitimate ‘facts’ are actually based on opinion or myth. The premise behind good risk communication is understanding that you have to acknowledge where people are at and really get the context of their concerns. If you don’t recognize where their sources of data are, or where their belief system lies, throwing data or ‘facts’ at someone doesn’t help you give them useful information to change their health behavior.

Warren ’13 Talks Virtual Advice, Cartoons, Creativity

sofia warren

The New Yorker cartoonist Sofia Warren ’13 recently created an online advice column titled “You’re Doing Great.” (Art provided by Sofia Warren)

Sofia Warren ’13 has always loved to draw, but she didn’t know she could make a career out of it until graduating from Wesleyan and entering the world of animation. Now she works as a cartoonist for The New Yorker and recently launched a virtual advice column called “You’re Doing Great.”

“It feels like a really fun fusion for me of art, which I love to do, and listening to people and figuring out how to help them,” Warren said about the column.

She originally began posting doodles on her Instagram stories around the time of the election and asking people what they wanted her to draw. The virtual advice took off from there.

warren

When Warren needs to come up with ideas, she takes walks to clear her head. “That’s a really good way for me to start making connections between things that I’m looking at, just get the juices flowing,” Warren said. “That’s been my most successful practice for coming up with stuff.”

“I love doing [the column],” Warren said. “It’s primarily there because it brings me joy right now. And I don’t need to put the pressure on for it to be something else at the moment. In some ways, [the column] feels so loose and kind of off the cuff in a way, whereas some of my other work is more labored over. In some ways I feel the most connected to it and it feels like the most representative of my voice and myself.”

Warren also expressed hope that the virtual advice brings other people joy in this time of isolation.

At Wesleyan, Warren double majored in psychology and film studies. She also worked for the Eight-to-Eight student listening service.

“You Just Have to Read This. . .” Books by Wesleyan Authors Garrison ’67, Porter ’77, MALS ’79, and Tupper ’95

In this continuing series, Annie Roach ’22, an English and Italian studies major from Middletown, Del., 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.

Light in the River coverDavid Lee Garrison ’67, Light in the River (Dos Madres Press, 2020)

Lately, many of us have been looking for small ways to escape from our screens and our worries. David Lee Garrison’s latest poetry collection is the perfect shelter for moments like these, providing an assortment of charming, readable poems that will leave readers in good humor. All of the poems are brief and enchanting, presenting as bite-sized stories that seamlessly balance comedy and depth and seem to encompass tiny worlds of their own in remarkably few words.

In “Meatballs,” a dog begs for the meatballs his owner is cooking, looking at him with “big wet eyes” and a “relentless display / of pathos”; at the end, the owner quips that the dog has “got [him] / by the meatballs.” In “Men at Seventy,” the speaker’s voice straddles wit and sadness: “They take aspirin before playing tennis, / write wills directing that their ashes / be mixed into the clay of the courts.” “Beware of the Poem” reflects on the art of the poem itself, and Garrison cites other poets, including Langston Hughes and Thomas Lynch, several times throughout the collection. Garrison’s style is effortless and self-aware, and his is the perfect book to keep on your bedside table if you’re looking for a nugget of wisdom and humor before calling it a night.

David Lee Garrison ’67 is a poet who lives in Oakwood, Ohio. He earned his PhD from Johns Hopkins University and taught Spanish and Portuguese at Wright State University for 30 years. He has translated and published the poems of several notable Spanish poets, and his poems have appeared in several journals and anthologies.

Haymon ’16, Morreale ’19 Discuss Theatermaking

miranda

Katherine Brewer Ball, assistant professor of theater, joined her former students Sam Morreale ’19 and Miranda Haymon ’16 over Zoom for a conversation about Haymon’s work and aspirations.

On March 18, the Center for the Arts presented “A Conversation with Theater Artist Miranda Haymon ’16.” Haymon, visiting instructor of theater, is Wesleyan’s inaugural Breaking New Ground Theater Artist-in-Residence, a new residency that brings early-career Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) theater artists to campus.

The discussion was led by Sam Morreale ’19. During the conversation, Haymon discussed artistic processes, Blackness, queerness, Brechtian analysis, the impacts of the pandemic on artmaking, and ideas for the future.

Haymon compared a theater performance to a “living document” in which the performance, audience, and actors are constantly changing.

“The work changes, and I change; we’re all changing. It’s that kind of symbiosis that I find really comforting actually. So I think a lot of my work is focused on the pure theatricality of the thing I love—when my actors are sweating, and they’re breathing hard, and they’re crying,  . . .  they’re laughing or they’re dancing. I’m obsessed with the human body; I’m obsessed with what it can do. I’m obsessed with what it can’t do. How can we make meaning from the human body?”

Haymon’s residency at Wesleyan is co-sponsored by the Theater Department, the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the Center for the Humanities, the African American Studies Department and the Center for African American Studies, and the Center for the Arts.

Haymon also has two related upcoming events:

  • A virtual Lunchtime Career Talk at noon, April 6, for Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff. Haymon will discuss their career post-Wesleyan as a freelance artist working in theater, television, film, and commercials, and how COVID-19 has shaped and changed that journey. RSVP is required.
  • Haymon’s upcoming radio play version of Pedro Pietri’s The Masses Are Asses (1974), on WESU Middletown 88.1FM at 10 p.m. on May 13 and May 20, 2021. The Masses Are Asses is an absurdist satire that exposes issues of social class, parodies the notion of the American Dream, and plays with political parody.
Miranda Haymon ’16

Haymon is a Princess Grace Award/Honoraria-winning director, writer, and curator. Recent projects include A Cakewalk (Garage Magazine & Gucci), Really, Really Gorgeous (The Tank), Everybody (Sarah Lawrence College), In the Penal Colony (Next Door @ New York Theatre Workshop, The Tank), and Mondo Tragic (National Black Theater). Haymon has held directing fellowships at Women’s Project (WP) Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Arena Stage.

sam

Sam Morreale ’19 is an advocate and facilitator for QTBIPOC+ (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color) storytellers and makers. Most of their work takes form through producing, directing, and consulting, particularly with a practice rooted in anti-racism and anti-oppression, transformative justice, healing, and harm reduction. Morreale’s recent work includes being a facilitator/curator for Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater Community Conversations, and a consultant for ART/NY, Center Theatre Group, and Boston Court Pasadena.

Miranda Haymon ’16

“You really have a great eye for taking up topics for conversation that are on our minds now, and also the existential crises of our generation, like climate change and technology and culture,” Morreale said to Haymon.

penal colony

Haymon began writing and directing In the Penal Colony at Wesleyan in 2014, and it premiered at The Tank in 2018. Adapted from Franz Kafka’s short story of the same name, Haymon’s play investigates the performance of power, patriarchy, and punishment. “Penal Colony felt incredibly generative, incredibly time-consuming,” Haymon said. “The notion of the penal colony is all about punishment. It’s about how we punish each other. If we should be done with it. If it should continue just because it’s part of history.”

haymon

Haymon shared a performance of their self as BB Brecht, a social media influencer named in honor of German theater playwright Berthold Brecht. BB Brecht uses he/him pronouns and focuses on the ideas of suffering, alienation, and desperation and what it means to be human. “I think that for me as an artist, BB Brecht [gives me an opportunity for] all of my interests to converge,” Haymon said. “I’m really eager to use every single tool I have, which is directing music theory, culture, social media, Instagram, my time in Berlin, my German studies major—converge under this roof of an opportunity for me as an artist to really express every single facet of my identity as an artist and frankly as a person.”

Theater Director Kail ’99 Leads Alumni Career Conversation

On March 11, Tony-winning director Thomas Kail '99, presented a fireside chat-style career conversation with the Wesleyan community. Kail's Broadway directing credits include Hamilton, In the Heights, Freestyle Love Supreme, Lombardi, and Magic/Bird. Off-Broadway selected directing credits include Hamilton, Dry Powder, Tiny Beautiful Things, The Wrong Man, In the Heights, Broke-ology, When I Come to Die, and Daphne’s Dive. Broadway producing credits include Derren Brown: Secret and Freestyle Love Supreme. He's also produced shows for television including Fosse/Verdon on FX and Grease: Live on Fox.

On March 11, Tony-winning director Thomas Kail ’99, presented a fireside chat-style career conversation with the Wesleyan community. Kail’s Broadway directing credits include Hamilton, In the Heights, Freestyle Love Supreme, Lombardi, and Magic/Bird. He has also produced shows for television, including Fosse/Verdon on FX and Grease: Live on Fox.

Wesleyan theater majors Milton Espinoza Jr. '22 and Vianca Pérez '22 moderated the event. Nicole Stanton, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs introduced Kail to the audience.

Wesleyan theater majors Milton Espinoza Jr. ’22 and Vianca Pérez ’22 moderated the event. Nicole Stanton, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, introduced Kail to the audience. The event was coordinated by the Gordon Career Center.

Milton

Milton Espinoza Jr. ’22, of Newark, N.J., is studying theater and film. On campus he is known for his activism and artwork for the People of Color (POC) community. He’s directed the Second Stage and Shades’ production of In the Heights and has acted in and produced a variety of different shows and films on campus.

Vianca

Vianca Pérez ’22, who was born and raised in Puerto Rico, is double-majoring in theater and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies. She has performed in multiple theater, dance, and film productions and co-leads WesInterpreters, a group that provides legal translation and interpretation services to local schools and organizations.

kail

After a 45-minute conversation, Kail welcomed questions from the audience.

Below are comments made by Kail during the conversation:

On working with others: “I work with my best friends. What’s better than that? So I get to go and spend time—10 to 12 hours a day—with the people I respect the most, admire the most. . . . I like to keep a core of people that I have a relationship with in a shorthand and then add 10 new people to the fold to keep on growing. I love meeting new designers, working with new writers, and I’ve done primarily new stuff. I like being in rehearsal. I like being around people that are looking hard at what they do.”

On getting started after college: “There was a friend of mine from Wesleyan who told me about this little theater in New Jersey called the American Stage Company, and I applied to be an ASM (assistant stage manager). . . . I applied to this job and . . . he said, ‘Here’s what you’re gonna do. You’re going to drive the van and go pick up the actors. You’re going to sweep the stage. You’re going to help us write the program. You’re going to be backstage running props. You’re going to do anything that needs to be done. How does that sound?’ I said, ‘It sounds like what I need.’ And so I took this job. I got paid $84 a week after taxes. I was living in a basement apartment. I worked six days a week, 18 hours a day. Soup and tuna fish. I can’t get either of them now. . . . I just sort of soaked it all up.”

On theater being economically viable: “Especially early on your career . . . [there’s] no one hiring you but yourself. Can I see myself spending years working on this? Does it give me energy? Does it give me joy? Can I balance that with practicality? You just have to talk to yourself honestly. What are your weekly operating costs as a human wherever you live? You [might have] to wait tables or have some other kind of gig, but it allows you to do the thing that fills you up. Then it’s how long can you sustain that balance, and that’s the question every artist has to ask himself constantly. So it’s really an essential question and one that keeps on coming back. And I think it needs to keep coming back. . . . I had two jobs: I worked as a personal assistant for five years until I felt like I was ready to make the leap and I was able to support myself as a director. But that really didn’t happen until my late 20s—I was almost 30 years old. So it’s also just being aware of what’s necessary to get you to each of those next places. Making a living in the theater is absolutely possible but usually has to be supplemented for some period of time, years and years of your life.”

On meeting Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15: “My friends [and I] worked on shows—a series of shorts—that we did in the Fayerweather Gymnasium, which exists in a different form now, and that’s actually when I first heard about Lin because Lin was doing the show as a freshman. I don’t know about everybody else, but I was not talking to freshmen. I heard about some kid who was borrowing our lights. So we had to share lights with some kid? I was like, who is this? It probably was the first time I heard his name and I cursed his name. Little did I know that [he’d be part of] the next two decades of my life. . . . [Now], if I see Lin digging, and I’m walking by, I don’t ask what he’s doing, I just jump down there and grab the shovel. We’ve never led each other astray. We’ve always been so in sync, and being with him is joyful and we get to make things together.”

On non-directing theater jobs: “I came up a stage manager. I know how hard that job is. I know how hard it is to run the props department or to be backstage. I have an appreciation for my collaborators, and you know, there’s always more to learn, and the best way that I learn is from people. How do you continue to evolve? Put yourself in situations where you don’t go in knowing all of the answers. If you know all the answers then it’s probably time do something else. And so I think if you look at some of the patterns of my career, even though thematically, I think there’s some things that make up [patterns], I tend to not do the same thing twice and occasionally. . . . [W]hat happens often is if you do something pretty well, people say ‘Great, now do it again.’ And I would try to take those opportunities to do something quite different. And I thought that allowed me to continue to expand.”

On bringing diversity and inclusion into the theater industry: “I think it’s the fundamental question of the day, and I think it’s one that we just have to keep way more in the foreground . . . and that includes anybody in any position, whether to a leadership position or not. So the conversations now, as we make new versions of Hamilton with new companies, we’ll talk more directly about what it means to be Black and Brown and telling the story. Embracing the fact that it doesn’t have to be comfortable, but it needs to be respectful and open and truthful, and those are the things that I think matter within the room. . . . So what’s the next evolution of thought for this next generation of storytellers? . . . Stories that have been reaching as diverse an audience as possible.”

On working in theater: “The hard thing is, in theaters, you’ve got to do it every day. No one cares on a Wednesday matinee how good the Tuesday night show was. All they have now is expectations. So you’ve got to deliver. I always think theater is like running a restaurant. You’ve gotta make the meal every time because, ‘I hear the soup’s good,’ so you better make good soup.”

On what he’s watching now: “The thing that is giving me life is on Amazon and it’s Steve McQueen’s Small Axe. It’s five movies about the immigrant experience in London, basically in the late ’60s to 1980s. You can watch one of them, or you can watch them in a row. It’s the most beautiful thing that I’ve seen in the last year.”