Staff

Thornton Leaves Lasting Legacy of Student of Color Recruitment

Since joining Wesleyan in 1985, Thornton has been instrumental in establishing and leading the University’s historic commitment to a diverse and academically elite student body, a defining feature of the Wesleyan experience. As he wraps up his final fall semester, Thornton took time to sit down in his office across Foss Hill and reflect on his accomplishments, Wesleyan’s future, and some of his fondest memories.

Since joining Wesleyan in 1985, Cliff Thornton, associate dean of admission at Wesleyan has been instrumental in establishing and leading the University’s historic commitment to a diverse and academically elite student body, a defining feature of the Wesleyan experience. Having served Wesleyan—now for more than 30 years, Thornton recently announced that he will retire at the end of the Spring 2019 semester. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

To listen to Cliff Thornton speak with prospective students and parents is to feel included, even if you’re eavesdropping.

Thornton is associate dean of admission at Wesleyan, covering a wide geographic and socioeconomic range: the South Central U.S. from Kentucky to Louisiana, Manhattan, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Caribbean. Having served these communities—and Wesleyan—now for more than 30 years, it makes sense that he would demonstrate an ease and fluency in his relations with so many different people from such different backgrounds. He’s had a lot of practice.

But something unique about Thornton, which by many accounts has been true from the beginning of his time at Wesleyan, is how his holistic approach impacts students. To hear him tell it:

“Alumni will often start out by saying to me, ‘You probably don’t remember me, but I graduated from Wesleyan in 1995….’ And I always remember them. That’s why I’ve continued to do this work. I’ve had the privilege to witness their growth and success,” Thornton said.

“Working in admission is good in two ways. First, it’s great to be in an educational environment and to believe in the mission. Second, if practiced correctly, it’s a lot like teaching. It might surprise some to hear this, but at the end of the day I don’t consider it my job to make sure a student comes to Wesleyan. My job is to help them make an informed decision. Particularly with underrepresented populations, this is a big challenge. As Dr. Cornel West has said of the African American community: What we often suffer from is a poverty of information. That’s a driving force for me—making sure students have the right information to make such a crucial decision.”

This approach bears itself out in Thornton’s work on a daily basis. In a recent information session with a large group of prospective students and parents, he was clear that the session should be a conversation. Hearing and helping the group talk through their questions and concerns was as important as presenting to them. Fifteen minutes in, students and parents alike were openly talking about their college search experiences (good and bad), and were responding to and assisting one another. Thornton and senior interviewer Shana Laski ’19 served more as facilitators than lecturers. By the session’s end, the prospective group left informed and enthused—well-educated on what Wesleyan had to offer, and clearer about what they wanted and had to offer in turn.

Thornton’s unique understanding and approach at least partially derives from his own educational background. Prior to joining Wesleyan in 1985, he was an adjunct professor and actively considering a PhD. While dating someone who was already enrolled in a doctorate program, he was exposed to the “torturous path” of attaining that terminal degree, and was bumped from his adjunct role by another professor with a PhD.

“I lost my taste for wanting to be a professor,” he said.

Bloom ’75 Speaks on the Importance of Research in Storytelling, Character Development

Amy Bloom '75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, spoke on "Lies, Facts, and Research" during a Staff Luncheon Series talk Nov. 27 in Daniel Family Commons. Bloom, a New York Times best-seller, has been a nominee for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Bloom explained how she weaves historical events and research into her stories. "The story leads me to research, or research leads me to the story," Bloom said. "Research is behind the whole umbrella behind the story. It offers me so many opportunities to see, develop, and illuminate characters."

Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, spoke on “Lies, Facts, and Research” during a Staff Luncheon Series talk Nov. 27 in Daniel Family Commons. Bloom, a New York Times best-selling author, has been a nominee for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Bloom explained how she weaves historical events and research into her stories. “The story leads me to research, or research leads me to the story,” Bloom said. “Research offers me so many opportunities to see, develop, and illuminate characters.”

Amy Bloom

For her most recent novel, White Houses (Penguin Random House 2018), Bloom studied approximately 3,000 letters written over a 30-year-period between Eleanor Roosevelt and journalist Lorena Hickok at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library to develop her new take on the secretive relationship between Eleanor and “Hick.” Bloom also is professor of the practice in creative writing and professor of the practice, English. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Ask Questions, Attend Workshops at ITS Expo 2019

During the fall semester 2019, Information Technology Services will present the 2019 ITS Expo outside Exley Science Center. The event will be open to all faculty, staff, and students.

Staff from ITS, the Fries Center for Global Studies, Olin and Science Library, Center for Pedagogical innovation, and the Center for Faculty Development will be leading workshops and poster presentations, as well as answering questions about the services that they offer.

“Want to learn something new about integrating media into your work? Attend a workshop covering a variety of topics? Do you have a quick question about media or technology? Come ask your question or make an appointment with our team to support your scholarship, service, or professional development,” said Bonnie Solivan, academic technologist for ITS. “Pick up some quick pointers, learn about student opportunities and enter a raffle. We look forward to seeing you there.”

Employees on the Move

The Office of Human Resources announces the following hires, transitions, and departures for May through July 2018:

HIRES

Nicole Potestivo, administrative assistant in Feminist, Gender & Sexuality Studies, on May 7
Lucas Fernandez, postdoctoral research associate in physics, on May 22
Alex Kavvos, postdoctoral research associate in mathematics, on May 29
Miya Tokumitsu, curator at Davison Art Center, on June 14
Lilibeth Soto, public safety dispatcher, on June 18
Edward Morehouse, postdoctoral research associate in mathematics, on July 1
Zeyad Abdulkareem, desktop support specialist in ITS User Services, on July 2
Andrew White, Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian, on July 2
Andrea Giuntoli, postdoctoral research associate in physics, on July 16
Fiona Coffey, associate director for programming and performing arts in Center for the Arts, on July 16
Jenna Waters, administrative assistant in physical education, on July 17
Janet Ortiz, assistant dean of admission, on July 23
Jane Ngoc Tran, assistant dean of admission, on July 23
Aidan Winn, assistant dean of admission, on July 23
Robyn Ewig, assistant director of financial aid, on July 23
Isabel Bartholomew, Center for Prison Education Fellow in the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, on July 23
Stephanie Lewis, area coordinator in Office of Residential Life, on July 30
Sarah Pietryka, assistant director of financial aid, on July 30
Monique Reichenstein, investment analyst in the Investments Office, on July 30
Matt Glasz, director for annual giving in University Relations, on August 1
Emily Voss, outreach and academic engagement librarian, on August 1

TRANSITIONS
Kindra Graham, public safety supervisor, on May 7
Jennifer Duncan, senior assistant director of financial aid/student employment coordinator in Office of Financial Aid, on July 1
Karri Van Blarcom, senior associate registrar, on July 1
Andrew Tanaka, senior vice president and chief administrative officer and treasurer, on July 1
Kristin McQueeney, administrative assistant in the Center for Pedagogical Innovations, on July 9
Scott Bushey, athletic operations and fitness coordinator, on August 1

DEPARTURES
Sami Aziz, University Muslim chaplain
Sarah Anne Benson, director of research and prospect management in University Relations
Steven Bertolino, academic technologist in ITS
Paula Blue, instructional technologist in ITS
Lauren Borghard, associate director of annual giving in University Relations
Kathleen Cataldi, access services coordinator in Olin Library
Wesley Close, assistant dean of admission
Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion
Kevin Flaherty, research associate in astronomy
Jacquelyn Fought, department assistant in the Gordon Career Center
Patrick Graham, public safety patrol person
Sandra Guze, education and program coordinator at Green Street Teaching and Learning Center
William Holder, director of University Communications
Leith Johnson, University archivist
Jim Kamm, desktop support specialist in ITS
Sona Kumar, research coordinator in psychology
Sara MacSorley, director of the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center and Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science
Jill Moraski, assistant dean of admission
Krystal-Gayle O’Neill, area coordinator in Office of Residential Life
Nathan Peters, vice president for finance and administration
Brendan Plake, desktop support specialist in ITS
Maritza Quinones, after school supervisor at Green Street Teaching and Learning Center
Edgardo Quinones, technical and maintenance coordinator at Green Street Teaching and Learning Center
Kate Smith, associate director of fellowships, internships, and exchanges
Luigi Solla, associate dean of admission
Erin Strauts, associate director of institutional research
Sitar Terrass-Shah, Center for Prison Education Fellow

Staff Spotlight: Andrew White Takes on Library’s Top Job

Andrew White, pictured here in the Olin Library stacks, became Wesleyan’s new Caleb T. Winchester University Librarian on July 2. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

(By Christine Foster)

Imagine being chosen to oversee a vast treasure trove, including more than a million items ranging from art and music to government documents and—oh, yes, books. Such is the job set before Andrew White, who was chosen in April to be the University’s next Caleb T. Winchester Librarian.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen wrote in a campus-wide email announcing White’s appointment that the search committee was drawn to his experience working collaboratively with different groups of people. The previous librarian, Dan Cherubin, died suddenly last September, after having made an outsized impact in just a year in the post.

White is being asked to be the “cheerleader in chief” for the library, but also to mind the budget, to consider how best to use the physical spaces, and to invite different constituencies in to effectively access the rich resources Wesleyan has amassed over the years. White took some time from his busy first few weeks to share his history and vision in a Q&A for the Connection.

Q: What attracted you to Wesleyan’s libraries? What makes us special?

A: Wesleyan is an amazing place and I immediately felt at home when I stepped onto campus and into Olin Library. Wesleyan is a significant name in American higher education and that significance is reflected in both the scope and breadth of the collections, not only in the libraries, but across campus. We are one of the largest libraries among national liberal arts colleges and I could not pass up the opportunity to help make our resources more visible and relevant.

5 Employees Honored with Cardinal Achievement Awards

The following employees received Cardinal Achievement Awards during the past few months for demonstrating extraordinary initiative in performing a specific task associated with their work at Wesleyan University. This special honor comes with a $250 award and reflects the university’s gratitude for their extra efforts.

The awardees include:

Benjamin Michael, WESU general manager, WESU Radio

Geralyn Russo, administrative assistant IV, University Relations

Kathleen Logsdon, library assistant V/binding supervisor, Olin Library

Kate Lynch, assistant director, the Wesleyan Fund, University Relations

Miroslaw Koziol, senior electronics technician, Scientific Support Services

View all Cardinal Achievement Award winners here.

Employees Serve as Panelists at Sustainability Conference

Three Wesleyan employees participated in the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium’s Annual Meeting June 4-5. The meeting focused on effective collaborations within campus, between campuses, and between campus and community.

Three Wesleyan employees participated in the Northeast Campus Sustainability Consortium’s Annual Meeting, June 4–5 in Beckham Hall. The meeting focused on effective collaborations within a campus, between campuses, and between campus and community.

Valerie Nye, director of financial services; Jeff Murphy, facilities business manager; and Joyce Jacobsen, provost and vice president for academic affairs, participated on a panel focused on the theme "How to effect meaningful change by working with senior leaders."

Valerie Nye, director of financial services; Jeff Murphy, facilities business manager; and Joyce Jacobsen, provost and vice president for academic affairs, participated on a panel focused on the theme “How to effect meaningful change by working with senior leaders.”

Williams ’99 Tapped as Incoming VP, University Relations

Frantz Williams Jr. ’99, a 19-year veteran of University Relations, will succeed Barbara-Jan Wilson as vice president for University Relations when Wilson retires at the end of 2018. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

Frantz Williams Jr. ’99 has been named the successor to Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson, who has announced her upcoming retirement at the end of December 2018. A government major as an undergraduate, Williams joined the University Relations team right after his graduation and has continued to serve the University, most recently as assistant vice president for development.

“We’re fortunate that Frantz will lead University Relations,” said President Michael S. Roth ’78. “He is eminently well prepared to continue Barbara-Jan’s legacy of immensely successful fund-raising and friend-raising, and I am grateful that he will be at the helm when we launch Wesleyan’s next campaign.”

“Wesleyan has a strong, dedicated leader in Frantz,” said Wilson. “A loyal alumnus, he is a mentor to students and staff and alumni alike. His warmth, his care for the University and all of its people shine through in everything he does.”

Williams’s family was from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, moving to the States when Frantz, the third of four children, was 9: “In January 1986, on a very cold day, we landed at JFK airport, never having seen snow, and speaking only Creole—that was our start,” he recalls. “I entered the fourth grade, taking ESL courses, and trying to catch up with my classmates. It has been a journey.”

In a Q&A with the Connection, Williams traces his route to Wesleyan, talks about the mission that has kept him here, and reflects on what continues to engage him in Wesleyan’s future.

Castonguay Teaches Coursera Course on Career Decisions

Sharon Castonguay, director of the Wesleyan Gordon Career Center, discussed "The Psychology of Career Decisions."

Sharon Belden Castonguay created a new class on Coursera titled “Career Decisions: From Insight to Impact.”

On May 1, Wesleyan launched a new massive open online course (MOOC) on Coursera titled “Career Decisions: From Insight to Impact.” Free to Wesleyan alumni, the course aims to help learners understand their motivations, strengths, and goals, and appreciate how personal identity affects career decision making. A second version of the class for current Wesleyan students will go live in July, and entering students will be encouraged to complete it before they arrive on campus in the fall. The course is taught by Gordon Career Center Director Sharon Belden Castonguay, who also recently gave a talk at TEDxWesleyanU titled, “The Psychology of Career Decisions.”

“The idea behind this course is that it will provide a ‘flipped classroom’ for career advising,” Castonguay said. “We hope to encourage students to think about their motivations, interests, and goals as early as possible in their Wesleyan career, as well as guide their conversations with both their career and academic advisors. For alumni, we see this course as a way to frame thinking about possible course corrections as they navigate a dynamic employment market.”

In this course, Castonguay draws from her decades of experience as well as research from the fields of psychology, organizational behavior, and sociology to help students understand best practices for making career decisions. She designed the content to help students develop the tools they need to make the right choices—from deciding an area of study to exploring potential lines of work to pursue.

The course is catered to those facing transition in their lives.

“Perhaps you are thinking about switching jobs or changing careers. Maybe you’re starting college and are trying to get a handle on what you want to study. Or you just graduated and are trying to figure out what to do next. If you’re interested in making good career decisions, this course is for you,” Castonguay said.

Through a four-week program, students will watch 20 videos and participate in multiple practice quizzes and three graded reflection papers. Students will explore how cultural norms affect how they think about academic and career choices; take stock of what they devote time to and what that reveals about their motivations; use a design-thinking framework to learn how to broaden their exploration for possible working identities; and much more.

The Career Decisions class joins 12 other courses and specializations created by Wesleyan University scholar-teachers and offered by Coursera. The University seeks to build a diverse, energetic community of students, faculty, and staff who think critically and creatively and who value independence of mind and generosity of spirit.

Alumni can register free online here.  Alumni need to log-in or sign-up for a Coursera account using their Wesleyan.edu email address in order to enroll in the course. Once you log-in with your wesleyan.edu email address, Coursera will send you an email verification.

Investment Associate Zhao on the Art and Science of Portfolio Management

Doris Zhao, an investment associate in Wesleyan’s Investments Office, considers intellectual curiosity a key component for success in the field of portfolio management. (Photo by Olivia Drake ’08)

Doris Zhao, an investment associate with Wesleyan’s Investments Office, joined Chief Investment Officer Anne Martin’s team in 2013, after graduating from Yale. Since then, she has completed all three levels of the prestigious Chartered Financial Analyst credential. “My role here at Wesleyan is to help manage the portfolio through monitoring our current managers and selecting new managers,” she says. When we approached her for this Q&A, we discovered that scheduling was an issue: Zhao’s position sends her on frequent travel across the country and internationally, but on a sunny December afternoon she was on campus and spoke with us about her career, her background, and her interests beyond financial matters.

Q: How much time do you spend traveling?
A: When I first started, not as much, because it’s important to build foundational understanding before you go out. Now I travel almost every week, often for multiple days. In the extreme case, like November, I was only at home for one full workday in the month. And I just came back from Toronto yesterday—so you caught me in the office on my one day this week.

Q: With that schedule, It would be hard to have pets.
A: Yes. I don’t even have houseplants.

Q: What brought you to Wesleyan?
A: I was an Ethics, Politics, and Economics major (a multidisciplinary program similar to Wesleyan’s College of Social Studies) at Yale. I concentrated on international development, and my research focused on cash transfer programs as a method of alleviating long-term poverty in developing countries.

In my junior year I did an internship in investment banking and thought that would be my path, but in my senior year, I ended up working as a research assistant for a vice president of China’s sovereign wealth fund. We researched how to build and manage a good private equity program. That served as my gateway to portfolio management, and I started looking for opportunities in that field. Anne was recruiting for an analyst at the time. We connected and the rest was history.

Employees on the Move

The Office of Human Resources announces the following hires, transitions, and departures for January–April 2018.

HIRES
John Lundell, athletic facility maintenance, on Jan. 2
Johanna DeBari, director of survivor advocacy and community education, on Jan. 3
Lee Walsh, postdoctoral research associate in physics, on Jan. 17
Kara Murphy, development research analyst in University Relations, on Jan. 22
Clifton Watson, director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, on Feb. 5
Dennis Hohne, video producer in University Communications, on Feb. 12
Nafeza Kingston, facility and events manager in Usdan Campus Center, on Feb. 12
Matthew Magenheim, senior investment associate in the Investments Office, on Feb. 12
Suzanne Rivera, public safety dispatcher, on Feb. 12
Wengang Zhang, postdoctoral research associate in physics, on Feb. 12
Jacob Nite, postdoctoral research associate in chemistry, on Feb. 15
Megan Lenzzo, assistant director of Annual Giving, on Feb. 19
Rani Arbo, campus & community engagement manager in Center for the Arts, on Feb. 26
Richard Contrastano, curatorial, archival and programming assistant in Cinema Archives, on Feb. 26
Daniel McGloin, CPE program coordinator, on Feb. 26
Durga Nyame, project coordinator, Upward Bound Math-Science Program, on Feb. 26
Nathan Mealey, associate university librarian for technical and digital services, on March 1
Ashley Alvarado, public safety officer, on April 2
Benjamin Chaffee, associate director of visual arts in Zilkha Gallery, on April 2
Glenn Knight, assistant director, Graduate Liberal Studies, on April 2
Erin Strauts, associate director of institutional research, on April 16

TRANSITIONS               
Alexander Vazquez, academic tech training specialist in Information Technology Services, on Jan. 2
Claudia Wolf, library assistant/accounting specialist in Olin Library, on Feb. 5
Nancy Putnam, assessment and research services librarian in Olin Library, on March 1
Paul Turenne, systems analyst in Information Technology Services, on March 22

DEPARTURES
Zehra Abbas, study abroad advisor
Joan Adams, administrative assistant in Athletics
Allen Alonzo, director of auxiliary services in ITS
Kimberley Alonzo, administrative assistant in Center for Pedagogical Innovation
Gaylord Brown, analyst programmer in ITS
Colin Desjardins, HVAC/utility mechanic in Physical Plant
Jennifer Enxuto, administrative assistant in FGSS/SiSP
Alecia Goldfarb, business manager in Center for the Arts
Holly King, administrative assistant in chemistry
Emily Lai, web developer in University Communications
Jean Lawrence, administrative assistant in University Relations
Juan Liu, research associate in molecular biology & biochemistry
Jay Mantie, public safety supervisor
Emily Moss, senior assistant dean of admission
Sarah-Jane Ripa, associate director for student services and outreach, Continuing Studies
Kimberly Spachman, research analyst in University Relations
Roney Thomas, postdoctoral research associate in physics

Administrative Departments Encouraged to Apply for a Green Office Certification

Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion, and Megan Flagg, executive assistant to the provost and vice president for academic affairs, proudly display their Green Office Certification on the third floor of North College. The third floor is the first space on campus to be Green Office Certified by the Sustainability Office.

Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion, and Megan Flagg, executive assistant to the provost and vice president for academic affairs, proudly display their Green Office Certification on the third floor of North College. The third floor is the first space on campus to be Green Office Certified by the Sustainability Office. “The process was quite easy,” said Flagg, who served as the office coordinator. “Since Wesleyan is so focused on sustainability, we were already doing many of the green office checklist items. The brief checklist was quick and easy to fill out. Now we’re exploring what we can change to see if we can get to the next level of certification.”

This year Wesleyan will reward administrative offices that go green.

The new Green Office Certification Program, overseen by the Sustainability Office, is designed to recognize, support, and promote offices that engage in environmentally sustainable practices. All administrative and academic offices are eligible to become certified.

To get started, a department needs to elect an office coordinator who will fill out the Green Office Certification form, coordinate office participation, and review completed checklists with the Sustainability Office.

The coordinator will distribute individual checklists to all employees in the office or within a defined space.

If at least 75 percent of the office has completed the checklist, the office may receive an award. Certificates will be issued and offices are encouraged to hang their plaque in a location visible to office visitors. Certifications are valid for three years from the date awarded and come in bronze, silver, and gold levels.

“The Green Office Certification Program encourages employees to be environmentally conscious while at work,” explained Jen Kleindienst, sustainability director. “To be certified, departments may need to make small changes in their work environment, for example, share a communal garbage bin, forgo individual refrigerators, or be willing to turn down the thermostat while away from the office. There’s little things that can make a huge difference.”

To date, the third floor of North College (consisting of the Offices of Academic Affairs; Institutional Research; Corporate, Foundation and Government Grants; and Equity and Inclusion) is the only academic space to be Green Office Certified. Although they are proud to boast their silver-level award, they’re not stopping until they reach the gold.

“We are now trying to work up from our silver certification to gold certification,” explained third-floor office resident Joyce Jacobsen, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “As part of our additional efforts to improve our certification level, we’ve replaced most fluorescent lights with energy-efficient LED lights; replaced disposable coffee stirrers with reusable metal stirrers; encouraged everyone to use mugs off of our mug tree instead of disposable cups; and switched to a sugar shaker instead of using individual sugar packets. We’ve also replaced our powered shredder with hand-cranked shredders and use a recycling shredder service for big jobs.”

For these extra efforts, the Sustainability Office will offer bonus points toward their certification.

The Sustainability Office and Wesleyan’s Green Team offer many tips for creating a more eco-friendly office environment. For additional information, contact the Sustainability Office.