Alumni

Alumni news.

Ligon ’82, Hon. ’12 Inducted to the American Academy of Arts and Letters

Glenn Ligon ’82

Glenn Ligon ’82

Artist Glenn Ligon ’82, Hon. 12 was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters on May 19. The Academy is an honor society comprised of 300 architects, artists, composers, and writers.

Each year, the Academy elects new members as vacancies occur, administers over 70 awards and prizes, exhibits art and manuscripts, funds performances of new works of musical theater, and purchases artwork for donation to museums across the United States.

Ligon’s work is an exploration of American history, literature, and society that builds on the legacies of modern painting and more recent conceptual art. He’s best known for his text-based paintings, which draw on the writings and speeches of Zora Neale Hurston, Gertrude Stein, and Richard Pryor.

After receiving a BA at Wesleyan, Ligon joined the Whitney Museum of Art’s Independent Study Program. The museum hosted a 2011 mid-career retrospective called Glenn Ligon: America to celebrate his work. Ligon’s art has been displayed and celebrated internationally. His recent exhibitions include Glenn Ligon: Encounters and Collisions in 2015 and Blue Black in 2017, an exhibition Ligon curated at the Pulitzer Arts Foundation in St. Louis, inspired by the site-specific Ellsworth Kelly wall.

Ligon’s work has been featured at the Camden Arts Centre in London, the Power Plant in Toronto, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, the Studio Museum in Harlem, and at the Venice Biennale, Berlin Biennal, Istanbul Biennal, and Gwangju Biennale festivals.

Other 2021 Academy inductees include Spike Lee, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Barbara Kingsolver, Adrian Piper, and Tracy K. Smith. Read the full list here.

Gottlieb ’94: Apply Wesleyan Spirit to “Decisive Juncture in History”

Scott

Scott Gottlieb ’94 made remarks during the 189th Commencement Ceremony, (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)


Scott Gottlieb ’94, a physician, public health and policy advisor and advocate, received an honorary doctorate of science during Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement on Wednesday, May 26. Gottlieb, who earned a BA in economics from Wesleyan, was the commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 2017 to 2019. He is currently a special partner with the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates, and a resident fellow at public policy think tank the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

In his speech, Gottlieb drew distinctions between his time at Wesleyan 25 years ago and the experiences of the Class of 2021. Yet he highlighted characteristics shared by all Wesleyan students: the “seriousness” in academic studies, the belief that actions can “transcend the University boundaries to influence the country,” and the feeling of “obligation” to make a difference in individual communities.

“I hope you take that spirit into this uncertain period we’re in, at this very decisive juncture in history, when the country may be more ready than it’s been in many years to hear your voices, and to set about making lasting changes,” he said.

He made the following remarks (as prepared) during Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement Ceremony:

It’s an honor to be here with you today. Twenty-five years ago, I sat here at my own graduation. it was very different. We didn’t have masks. We weren’t social distancing. Senior year was a lot different.

Distinguished Alumni Honored during Reunion

Each year, Wesleyan’s Alumni Association recognizes an extraordinary group of alumni and members of the Wesleyan community with Alumni Association Awards. These awards recognize individuals who have made remarkable contributions or achievements in their professions, their communities, or the creative arts. Traditionally presented at the Wesleyan Assembly and Annual Meeting during Reunion & Commencement Weekend, the awards this year were presented virtually by President Michael Roth ’78 as part of Virtual Reunion 2021.

The recipients and descriptions are here.

Thesis by Krotinger ’19 Published in PLOS ONE

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

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

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

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.