by Bill Holder •
Five Wesleyan students determined to make life better for girls in rural African areas have received a prestigious $10,000 Davis Projects for Peace grant.
Their start-up nonprofit, Rural Access, seeks to expand access to health and education in impoverished areas, while also raising awareness of pressing health issues. Among those is the need to address lack of menstrual hygiene products, which frequently keeps girls out of school and leads to high dropout rates, poverty, and other harmful outcomes.
This summer, Rural Access will be working in Ethiopia and Guyana to make menstrual hygiene kits and distribute them to girls. The project is far more complicated than it sounds because it involves establishing partnerships, winning the trust of communities, and overcoming adverse conditions, including near–civil war in Ethiopia.
Nebiyu Daniel ’18, the founder and leader of Rural Access, says that, “Work like this requires a lot of commitment. It takes a dedicated team, and we work on this every day.”
The team consists of Daniel, Momi Afelin ’19, Edelina Marzouk ’19, Betty Bekele ’19, and Emanuel Fetene ’20.
Daniel founded Rural Access on the principle that connection to the community served is essential. He was born in Ethiopia and spent his childhood there. In the summer of 2016, he returned to his native region of Garamuleta to work with elderly individuals and to distribute first-aid kits to 500 families.
by Olivia Drake •
On May 26, 78 members of the Class of 2018 were inducted into Wesleyan’s Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa Society, the oldest national scholastic honor society. The Wesleyan Gamma Chapter was organized in 1845 and is the ninth-oldest chapter in the country.
To be elected, a student must first have been nominated by the department of his or her major. He or she also must have demonstrated curricular breadth by having met the General Education Expectations, and must have achieved a GPA of 93 and above.
Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest surviving Greek letter society in America, founded in December 1776 by five students who attended the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The emblem contains the three Greek letters “Phi-Beta-Kappa,” which are the initials of the Greek motto, Philosophia Biou Kybernetes. This essentially means “the love of wisdom is the guide of life.”
The spring 2018 inductees are:
Ryan Adler-Levine, Rachel Alpert, Dakota An, Vera Benkoil, Nicole Boyd, Kerry Brew, Chloe Briskin, Hailey Broughton-Jones, Maxwell Burke Cembalest, Steven Le Chen, Taylor Chin, So Young Chung, Danielle Cohen, Darci Collins, Theresa Counts, Isabelle Csete, Emmet Daly, Joshua Davidoff, Rocco Davino, Nicole DelGaudio, Max Distler, Luisa Donovan, Rhea Drozdenko, Dasha Dubinsky, Rebecca Eder, Sara Eismont, and Julia Gordon.
Also Chris Gortmaker*, Jack Guenther, Kenneth Sabin Hecht, Brandon Ho, Mariel Hohmann, Josephine Jenks, Melissa Joskow, Joanna Korpanty, Gretchen LaMotte, Julia Lejeune, Ariana Lewis, Aryeh Lieber, Anran Liu, Caroline Qingyuan Liu, Maya Lopez-Ichikawa, Christine Mathew, Maile McCann, Louis Medina, Joel Michaels, Eva Moskowitz, Emily Murphy, Andrew Olivieri, Paul Partridge, and Joanna Paul.
by Olivia Drake •
On May 27, seven students graduated with a Master of Arts in Performance Curation through the Center for the Arts Institute for Curatorial Practice in Performance (ICPP).
Since being introduced as a pilot initiative in 2011, ICPP has graduated 16 students from the ICPP Master’s program (including this year’s class). ICPP encourages emerging curators to enrich their understanding of intellectually rigorous, innovative, and artist-centered curatorial models. Through a low-residency model, ICPP asks its students to not only engage with ideas but also to simultaneously put those ideas into practice in their professional lives, developing responsive curatorial practices that address the interdisciplinary nature of performance work today.
The mix of ICPP instructors—artists, scholars, curators, cultural leaders, writers, and theorists—is intended to spark new possibilities and connections both intellectually and professionally. Instructors provide theoretical and practical tools for students to deepen their research methodologies through reading, writing, viewings, and discussion.
The degree recipients include Michèle Steinwald ’13, Ellina Kevorkian, Ali Rosa-Salas, Brian Hyunsuk Lee ’13, Katrina De Wees, Rachel Scandling, and Michelle Daly. Steinwald and Kevorkian were unable to attend the commencement ceremony.
Following the 186th Commencement ceremony, the recent alumni gathered for a reception with their friends and family at the Center for the Arts. Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Tom Dzimian)
by Cynthia Rockwell •
Natacha Bielikoff ’18, Sara Eismont ’18, David Machado ’18, and Taisa Vasilkova ’18, delivered “Senior Voices” addresses on May 26, 2018, in Memorial Chapel. Assistant Professor Danielle Vogel of the Department of English offered the faculty reflection. Also, a student group (shown here at rehearsal) performed “Irish Wedding Wish.”
Below are the texts of the reflections:
David Machado offered this reflection on “Home is Where You Are Accepted”
With conditional acceptance from a homophobic father and a childhood spent in a low-income family who had to move constantly, oftentimes hardwood floors served as my bed and hardships prevailed. Even with a loving mother and three amazing sisters, I didn’t feel like I had a place I could call home.
I joined the Navy to pay for college, serve my country, and look for a place where I finally felt accepted. While I found additional family when I served alongside the Marines as a Navy medic, I couldn’t reveal my identity under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which allowed the government to discriminate against the LGBT community. With this harbored in my mind and being forced to deploy all over the world, again, it didn’t feel like I had a place I could truly call home.
In 2015, I went into the Navy Reserve and received the opportunity to attend Wesleyan University. I asked myself the question: Would I find home here? I wasn’t sure, as I feared the rigorous curriculum and doubted that I would “fit in” among all of those extremely intelligent students.
My fears and doubts, however, were unfounded.…
by Olivia Drake •
On May 11, the West African Dance and West African Music and Culture classes performed at the Center for the Arts Courtyard. The invigorating performances featured Wesleyan Artist-in-Residence and choreographer Iddi Saaka, Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music and master drummer John Dankwa, and master drummer Mohammed Alidu. Throughout the semester, students learned the fundamental principles and aesthetics of West African dance through learning to embody basic movement vocabulary and selected traditional dances from Ghana. Photos of the performance are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)
by Cynthia Rockwell •
On May 9, a group of students, faculty, and Middletown friends joined Jumoke McDuffie-Thurmond ’19 and Chief Ayanda Clarke ’99 in a spiritual commemoration ceremony to honor a woman, Silva Storms, who died in 1820 and was buried in the cemetery on Vine Street, across from the Beman Triangle. Research indicates she had been born in Africa and was brought to Middletown as an enslaved person. The event was part of McDuffie-Thurmond’s research project for Black Middletown Lives, the service-learning course taught by Jesse Nasta ’07, visiting assistant professor of African American studies.
Nasta notes that McDuffie-Thurmond, who had been documenting the African American burials in the cemetery as part of his final project in the class, “completely took it upon himself to take that 10 steps beyond the assignment, to envision this ceremony. Jumoke is not just documenting the gravesites, but honoring the people who were enslaved here in Middletown.”
For his part, McDuffie-Thurmond remembers the first time Nasta took the class to the cemetery as a significant experience. “I’d never been to the section of the graveyard that was designated for Black Middletown residents, and Silva Storms’s gravesite—her tombstone stood almost alone in an open space—resonated with me. Professor Nasta told us it was the oldest tombstone in the African American section. I sat down there and listened to what was around me, what I felt, and I thought, I have to do something that tends to the spirit. We have a legacy of slavery in this land that constantly informs the space we live in—and it is unresolved. I wanted to do something that would resonate with those of us who live here now. It was a very intuitive decision.”
by Lauren Rubenstein •
How did a young refugee from Iraq inspire a high school student from New Britain, Conn., to write a poem that went on to be performed by a 100-person choir made up of high schoolers from around the East Coast?
It all began at Wesleyan.
Ahmed Badr ’20 was born in Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, after his family’s home in Baghdad was bombed by militia troops. As he struggled to adjust to life in the U.S., he started a personal blog to write about his experiences, and “found it incredibly empowering” to share his story.
“I soon began to realize the power of storytelling to inspire and bring people together,” he wrote on his website, Narratio. Determined to empower other youth, he created Narratio to publish written work by young people around the globe. It has been recognized by the United Nations, We are Family Foundation, and featured on NPR and Instagram. Today, Badr is a sophomore at Wesleyan, studying anthropology and pursuing independent projects as an Allbritton Fellow and Patricelli Center Fellow, while continuing to run Narratio, which includes leading creative storytelling workshops for youth around the country.
by Olivia Drake •
Wesleyan students celebrated the end of the 2017–18 academic year during the annual Spring Fling, held May 10 on Foss Hill. Music acts included Girltype Behaviors, Gus Dapperton, Injury Reserve, and Kamaiyah. Italian ice and caramel corn vendors provided snacks during the event.
The event is organized by Wesleyan’s Spring Fling Committee and the Office of Student Activities. (Photos by Olivia Drake)
Students Inducted into Honor Society, Present Research at American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Meeting
by Lauren Rubenstein •
Seven Wesleyan students recently were inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Honor Society, and many of them presented research posters at the ASBMB annual meeting in San Diego, April 21–25.
The ASBMB Honor Society recognizes exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors who are pursuing a degree in the molecular life sciences for their scholarly achievement, research accomplishments, and outreach activities. The Wesleyan students inducted were Will Barr ’18, Alexa Strauss ’19, Emily Kessler ’18, Christine Little ’18, Julie McDonald ’18, Rubye Peyser ’18, and Alexander Shames ’18.
The following students attended the annual meeting:
• Kessler, whose poster was titled, “Investigating the Mechanistic Basis of Mutant MutS DNA Repair Protein Malfunction in Lynch Syndrome”
• Barr, “An mRNA-rRNA base pairing model for efficient protein translation”
• Little, “Investigation into the Binding Interactions of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Histone H1 with Holliday Junction”
• Shames, “The Long and Short of Synaptonemal Complex Assembly: Investigating the genesis and functional relevance of a smaller Zip1 isoform”
• Cody Hecht ’18, “Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I: Examining Protein Dynamics with Pyrene Excimer Fluorescence and Tryptophan-Induced Quenching”
• Arden Feil BA/MA ’18, “Scraping the Tip of Zip1’s Role in Meiotic Chromosome Dynamics: Using lacO/LacI corecruitment to identify crossover promoting factors that interface with the N-terminus of a synaptonemal complex protein”
“It was a joy to present the research that I’ve been working on for the past two years as a part of Wesleyan’s Beckman Scholars Program,” said Barr. “Science research can seem like a roller coaster at times, and presenting my research in the company of scientists at all levels of their careers helped me remember just how thrilling this process has been.”
The mission of ASBMB is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, promotion of the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce, and publication of a number of scientific and educational journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Lipid Research.
by Olivia Drake •
On May 7, the DANC 354 course, Improvisational Forms, performed a roving improvisational performance on campus as part of their final assignment. The group started at Exley Science Center, traveled to Olin Library and the Public Affairs Center, and finished at Usdan University Center. During the performance, the students explored campus architecture with their bodies and movements. They traveled in interconnected clumps, and also as individuals, and interacted with objects and passersby.
Throughout the semester, students explored various approaches to dance improvisation and studied movement vocabulary; increased compositional awareness; developed their creative thinking and observational skills; and sharpened their performance presence. Students learned about improvisation exercises, structured improvisational forms, development and performance of scores, and exploration of the relationship between movement, sound, and music.
This class is taught by Susan Lourie, adjunct professor of dance, who is retiring this year after teaching for 40 years at Wesleyan.
“Roving improvisational dances bring the unexpected to everyday spaces,” Lourie said. “When people come upon dancers in the middle of a busy walkway, on a staircase, or in a doorway, it interrupts/disrupts the normal flow of life and challenges everyone’s assumptions.”
Photos of the performance are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake and Cynthia Rockwell)