Campus News & Events

3 Student-Led Ventures Awarded PCSE Seed Grants

George Perez ’20

George Perez ’20 pitches his venture, Cardinal Kids, which provides affordable arts, technology and literacy programming to Middletown youth. Cardinals Kids was one of three projects awarded a Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship Seed Grant.

On March 2, Wesleyan students pitched their project ideas to a panel of judges at the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship (PCSE) Seed Grant finals. Of the six finalists who presented, three teams were awarded $5,000 seed grants to fund the launch of their social enterprise, program, organization or venture.

The winning projects address a compelling social problem, have a clear objective and data strategy, and have potential to produce a lasting and replicable impact. In addition to the project itself, judges based their decisions on the applicants’ passion, commitment, tenacity, leadership and personal integrity.

The 2018 Seed Grant recipients are:

Kai Williams ’20

Kai Williams ’20 pitches her organization, Eat at the Table Theatre Company.

Eat at the Table Theatre Company
Kai Williams ’20 and Emma Morgan Bennett
E.A.T.T. is a nonprofit theatre arts organization that is both founded, operated by and offers membership to actors of color under 22 years old. They will create theater opportunities for young actors of color in New York as a means of combating discriminatory and racist practices within the theater industry and to focus on developing and centering the work of marginalized artists.

Cardinal Kids (previously Middletown Green Youth Association),
George Perez ’20, Jessica Russell ’20, Jenny Chelmow ’19, Vera Benkoil ’18 and Katie Murray ’19
Cardinal Kids is a financially self-sustaining program that will bring affordable arts, tech and literacy programming to Middletown youth. The program will be a Monday through Friday after-school program taught by Wesleyan students.

Young Achievers Foundation Ghana
Ferdinand Quayson ’20, Derrick Dwamena (Michigan State University), Archibald Enninful (Yale University), Felix Agbavor (Drexel University) 
Young Achievers Foundation (YAF) Ghana is a student-run initiative which promotes access to higher education for students in Northern Ghana through scholarship workshops and innovative in-school mentorship programs.

The 2018 Seed Grant finalists are:

A Bridging Community Dinner (AB-CD) Project
Isobel McPhee ’19, Serene Murad ’18, Willa Schwarz ’19 and Shellae Versey (faculty fellow, College of the Environment; assistant professor, African American studies) 
AB-CD Project seeks to bridge communities through a simple concept—connecting with others through sharing meals. It provides the opportunity for refugees to build community relationships through communal dinners and to evaluate the project’s efficacy in helping refugee groups feel welcomed, build relationships and gather resources through community partnerships.

Kelly Acevedo ’20 speaks about Caput Productions.

Kelly Acevedo ’20 speaks about Caput Productions.

Caput Productions
Kelly Acevedo ’20 and Alex Vazquez (academic technology training specialist), with support from Asa Palmer ’18, Langston Lynch ’20 and Rachel Ellis Neyra (assistant professor of English)

Caput Productions will produce films that display the potential of South Central Los Angeles in spite of the “hood mentality” that so often prevents it from receiving needed resources. Their first film is “Sweet and Sour South Central Child.”

The Black Lady Theatre Summer Camp
Arline Pierre-Louis ’19
The Summer of Peace Theatre Camp, sponsored by the Black Lady Theatre, will expand arts education for students that are trapped in New York City’s school-to-prison pipeline.

A video recording of the pitches will soon be made available on the Patricelli Center website.

Local Youth Learn How to Use Technology for Social Good at “Hackathon”

Thafir Elzofri ’19

Thafir Elzofri ’19, at left, assists Random Hacks of Kindness Jr. participants in Beckham Hall.

On Feb. 24, Wesleyan hosted a “hackathon” for social good in collaboration with Random Hacks of Kindness Jr. The free event introduced more than 50 local children in grades 4 through 8 to technology and showed them how it could be used to create solutions that benefit nonprofit organizations. About half the children came from Middletown, while others came from as far away as Greenwich, Griswold and West Hartford to participate.

Seven Wesleyan students and two staff members served as volunteer mentors, working with the children to devise computer applications that addressed a range of problems facing local organizations. Five nonprofit social good organizations founded by Wesleyan students through the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship were the beneficiaries of these apps. Using MIT App Inventor, students learned the basics of app design, as well as the ideation and brainstorming process required to build a successful prototype mobile application.

Ahmed Badr ’20 gave a keynote address, in which he discussed Narratio, the platform he created for refugees to tell their stories.

Higgins in The Conversation: Letting Audiences Twist the Plot

Scott Higgins, the Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies, writes in The Conversation about a film innovation flop.

Scott Higgins, the Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies, writes in The Conversation about a film innovation flop.

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” Ahead of the 2018 Oscars ceremony that celebrates the best in film, The Conversation explores some of the worst film innovations of years past. Scott Higgins, director of the College of Film and the Moving Image, writes about Interfilm, a “choose your own adventure” theater technology that flopped in the early 1990s. Higgins is also the Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies, chair of Film Studies, and curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives. Read his bio on The Conversation.

Letting audiences twist the plot

Artists have long sought to erase the boundary between a film and its viewers, and Alejandro Iñárritu’s 2017 Oscar-winning virtual reality installation “Carne y Arena” has come close.

But the dream of putting audiences in the picture has fueled a number of film fiascoes, including an early 1990s debacle called Interfilm.

Students Honored for First-Year Seminar Essay Writing

Seven members of the Class of 2021 were honored for their first-year essays. Pictured, from left, are Sam Libberton, Sarah Backer, Olivia Siegal (back), Kimberly Wipfler, Julia Rose Atkinson, Fritz Spofford and Ethan Addis.

On Feb. 27, Wesleyan celebrated the success of students in the Endeavor Foundation First-Year Seminar Essay Contest. Winners received $200 awards and a book, selected by their course instructor.

A three-year, $225,000 grant from the Endeavor Foundation of New York has supported an expansion of the First Year Seminar Program. These seminars are writing intensive courses that introduce students to a variety of topics and writing associated with various disciplines. Students learn the methods used to collect, interpret, analyze and present evidence as part of a scholarly argument. Faculty teaching these classes highlight the type of writing associated with their respective disciplines, and help students develop, compose, organize and revise their writing.

Nguyen to Research Refugee Narratives in New Orleans as ACLS Fellow

Marguerite Nguyen

Marguerite Nguyen

As an American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellow, Marguerite Nguyen will spend the 2018-19 academic year working on her second book project in New Orleans, La.

Nguyen, assistant professor of English, received the ACLS Fellowship in February.

ACLS, a private, nonprofit federation of 75 national scholarly organizations, aims to advance scholarship in the humanities and the social sciences by awarding fellowships and strengthening relations among learned societies. Since 1957, more than 40 Wesleyan faculty have received an ACLS fellowship.

Nguyen will focus her fellowship on Vietnamese American accounts of forced displacement in New Orleans to outline a broader paradigm for interpreting refugee culture. Her project is tentatively titled “Asian American New Orleans: Rethinking Refugee Aesthetics, Agency and Archives.”

“When we see refugees portrayed in the media, they are typically depicted in terms of crisis and emergency,” Nguyen said. “But refugee narratives often describe migration differently—as temporally elongated experiences that cannot be understood in terms of finite periods of migration, asylum and resettlement.”

Giant Glyptodon Emerges in Exley Science Center

Joel LaBella, facility manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Bruce Strickland, Instrument maker specialist; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Freeman Scholar Yu Kai Tan '20; Freeman Scholar Andy Tan '21; Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences; Annie Burke, chair and professor of biology; and David Strickland, instrument maker.

The Glyptodon, a giant fossil cast that has been in storage since 1957, is now on display in Exley Science Center. Several members of the Wesleyan community helped install the 8-foot-long cast on Feb. 26. Pictured, from left, are Joel LaBella, facility manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Bruce Strickland, Instrument maker specialist; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Freeman Scholar Yu Kai Tan ’20; Freeman Scholar Andy Tan ’21; Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences; Annie Burke, chair and professor of biology; and David Strickland, instrument maker. Glyptodon means “grooved or carved tooth” in Greek. The creature lived approximately 2 million to 10,000 years ago.

The Glyptodon as seen from the front (upper) and back (lower) in its glory days, when it was displayed in the Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences, before 1957. Note the skull and hind left foot present, and the armored tail visible from the rear. Copy of 1876 advertisement by Ward, dated 1876, in which he names ‘the Wesleyan University of Middletown, Conn.’, as having purchased a number of his ‘Casts of celebrated Fossils’.

Prior to 1957, the Glyptodon was displayed in the Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences. Pictured in the center is an 1876 Ward advertisement, in which he names “the Wesleyan University of Middletown, Conn.” as having purchased a number of his “casts of celebrated fossils.”

For the past 60 years, a massive megafauna mammal thrived in crates buried in Wesleyan’s tunnels and attics. This month, the creature, known as a Glyptodon, has emerged in Exley Science Center for public viewing.

Although the armored armadillo-like animal became extinct more than 10,000 years ago, Wesleyan acquired a fossil cast in the 1870s, where it became a showpiece at the university’s Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences.

In 1957, the museum closed and thousands of artifacts, including the Glyptodon, were haphazardly stuffed into crates and boxes and hauled to multiple locations throughout campus.

“After the museum closed, everything was scattered all over, anywhere there was a place to put it,” said Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences and research professor of earth and environmental sciences. “Just recently, we’ve started to uncover all these lost treasures and we’re working to get them organized and cataloged. The Glyptodon is one of our major finds.”

Veritas Forum to Explore Religious Liberty Issues in American Society

On March 1, Wesleyan will host the Veritas Forum featuring a discussion between Michael Wear, previously Faith Outreach Director of the Obama Administration, and President Michael Roth. Professor of Government Mary Alice Haddad will moderate. The event, titled, “The Trouble with Freedom: A Dialogue on Freedom in 21st Century America from a Religious and Secular Perspective,” will take place at 7–8:30 p.m. in Daniel Family Commons, Usdan University Center. It is free and open to the public.

The forum will explore the political, social, cultural, and religious implications of religious liberty. The presenters will share their past experiences and worldviews on religious liberty on college campuses and beyond.

“Having rich, deep, and meaningful dialogue is increasingly difficult in this polarized world, and I am looking forward to this event that brings together thoughtful, committed individuals who are willing to respectfully engage with one another publicly on topics that are complex and personal,” said University Protestant Chaplain Tracy Mehr-Muska. “I am proud of my students for the phenomenal effort they have put into this program and their continued commitment to learning and dialogue.”

Wear is the founder of Public Square Strategies LLC, and a leading expert and strategist at the intersection of faith, politics, and American public life. He directed faith outreach for President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and was one of the youngest White House staffers in American history, leading evangelical outreach and helping manage the White House’s engagement on religious and values issues. Today, Public Square Strategies LLC is a firm that helps religious and political organizations, businesses and others effectively navigate the rapidly changing American religious and political landscape. Wear is the author of Reclaiming Hope: Lessons Learned in the Obama White House About the Future of Faith in America, and frequently writes articles for The Atlantic, USA Today, Christianity Today, and other publications.

Wesleyan Named a Top Producer of Fulbright U.S. Students

For the second year in a row, Wesleyan is proud to be included on the list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most 2017–2018 Fulbright Students, as recently announced by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. Top-producing institutions are highlighted annually in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

For academic year 2017–2018, six recent alumni and one graduate student from Wesleyan received Fulbright awards. Those who accepted and are currently participating in Fulbright are:

  • Kate Cullen ’16, academic Fulbright in Chile. Cullen is researching innovative ways to monitor glacial retreat and effective climate change adaptation strategies, focusing on Mocho Glacier in the Chilean Lake District. She has partner with local experts in Santiago and Valdiva to evaluate local vulnerability and hazards from rapid glacier melt.

Gallarotti in The Conversation: Trump’s Protectionism Continues Long History of U.S. Rejection of Free Trade

Giulio Gallarotti

An article by Professor Giulio Gallarotti appeared in The Conversation. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a recent article, Professor of Government Giulio Gallarotti debunks the myth that Trump’s protectionist tendencies fly in the face of America’s tradition of free trade. Gallarotti is also co-chair of the College of Social Studies and professor of environmental studies. Read his bio in The Conversation.

Trump’s Protectionism Continues Long History of U.S. Rejection of Free Trade

Free traders have vilified President Donald Trump as a pernicious protectionist because of policies such as hiking tariffs, abandoning the Trans-Pacific Partnership and saying he’s prepared to walk away from the North American Free Trade Agreement.

They fear his policies will hurt the U.S. economy by restricting access to foreign goods. But are these policies really so radically different from past administrations?

Absolutely not. The fact is the U.S. has never been a truly free trade country—one with virtually no barriers to trade with other nations—as some people seem to think. The idea that the U.S. ever was is a myth.

Ulysse’s Book Long-Listed for PEN Open Book Award

A book by Professor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse was long-listed for the PEN Open Book Award.

The PEN Open Book Award confers a $5,000 prize upon an author of color to celebrate racial and ethnic diversity within the literary and publishing communities.

Ulysse’s first poetry collection, Because When God Is Too Busy: Haiti, me & THE WORLD, was published in 2017 by Wesleyan University Press. The lyrically vivid meditative journey embraces and reclaims a revolutionary Blackness that has been historically stigmatized and denied. Ulysse crafts experiments with “ethnographic collectibles” of word, performative sounds and imagery to blur genres and the lines between the geopolitical and the personal. These poems, performance texts and photographs gather fractured memories—longings laced with Vodou chants confronting a past that looms in the present.

Ulysse also is professor of anthropology and professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Read “I am a Storm” from Because When God Is Too Busy in this Wesleyan Magazine Backstory.

Samy ’18 Honored by College Squash Association

Laila Samy ’18 concludes her collegiate career in dual-match play with an incredible 83-1 overall record. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)

Laila Samy ’18 highlighted the day for the Wesleyan women’s squash team as she was named the 2018 Betty Richey Award winner Feb. 18 at Harvard. The award is the most prestigious annual honor bestowed by the College Squash Association (CSA). With another win on Feb. 18, Samy concluded her dual-match season with a perfect 24-0 record; however, the 21st-ranked Cardinals lost to 18th-ranked Tufts, 7-2, to finish fourth in the Walker Cup “C” Division of the CSA National Team Championships.

The Betty Richey Award is given to the women’s college squash player who best exemplifies the ideals of squash in her love and devotion to the game, her strong sense of fairness, and her excellence of play and leadership. The winner is determined by a vote of both coaches and players—each varsity team casts one coach and one team vote.

Laila Samy ’18

The senior concludes her collegiate career in dual-match play with an incredible 83-1 overall record. She is a three-time First Team All-American and was named the 2017 NESCAC Player of the Year. She will have her eyes set on an individual national title when she competes at the CSA Individual Championships March 2-4 at George Washington University.

“Laila is at heart a team player and as a coach I could not have asked for more in Laila’s passion towards her teammates succeeding on and off the court. I consider her as an extension of the coaching staff and she has always gone above and beyond to help her teammates improve,” said head coach Shona Kerr. “Laila is well-liked and respected by other coaches, officials and players on other teams. She has grown as a player and as a person over her college career and will go on to be a great ambassador for college squash as she looks to pursue a career in the sport.”

Wesleyan Athletics Hosts Competitive Fundraising Initiative Feb. 21-28

Wesleyan Athletics Giving Days (WAGD) is a competitive fundraising initiative bringing together donors and volunteers in support of Wesleyan Athletics. For a week, athletic teams compete for the greatest percentage of donor participation for their sport. At the end of the week, the highest scoring teams—one men’s and one women’s—each win $5,000 for their most critical needs.

The program runs Feb. 21–28, 2018. Donors making a gift online or over the phone at 860-685-2110 increase their team’s overall participation percentage, moving them up the leaderboard. The WAGD website will be updated each day.

In addition to the winning men’s and women’s teams scoring $5,000 for their individual sport, if the number of participating donors exceeds 1,500, an extra $5,000 will be unlocked for Sports Medicine enhancements.

“Sports medicine is an essential part of the overall athletic experience for all Cardinal student-athletes, said Director of Athletics Mike Whalen. “Strengthening the Athletic Injury Care program to meet the needs of our athletes is one of many non-sport-specific reinvestment opportunities planned for Wesleyan Athletics.”