Students

Docter-Loeb ’22 Serves as Panelist on D.C. Statehood, Racial Justice Discussion

Hannah Docter-Loeb ’22, a features editor at The Wesleyan Argus, participated in a public discussion about the intersection of D.C. statehood and racial justice Sept. 18.

The “Panel on D.C. Statehood and Racial Justice” was hosted by Georgetown Students for D.C. Statehood and featured Docter-Loeb; Anthony Cook, professor of law at Georgetown University; Jamil Scott, assistant professor of government at Georgetown University; and Cosby Hunt, adjunct professor at the University of the District of Columbia and senior manager of social studies education at the Center for Inspired Learning.

Docter-Loeb, a D.C. native, was invited to be a panelist after writing an article for Study Breaks on the same topic. She believes one reason D.C. statehood is meeting resistance is that the area is rooted in white supremacy and racism.

“D.C. residents have advocated for D.C. statehood since the 1980s, with no luck,” she wrote. “However, on June 26, the House approved the Washington, D.C. Admission Act (H.R. 51). This bill, if approved by the Senate and the president, would establish D.C. as a state and provide us with adequate representation in proportion to the city’s size, as well as other features that accompany statehood. . . . [Representatives’] comments reflect the racist belief that Black people are unfit to govern or play a role in our democracy by voting. These beliefs are still apparent in the current debate for D.C. statehood.”

A Call to Action: McMahon ‘22 Pushes for Student-Athlete Voter Registration

McMahon

Off the ice, women’s hockey team member Audrey McMahon ’22 is serving as Wesleyan’s resident ambassador for Voice in Sport (VIS), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to supporting women student-athletes and the #MoreVoicesMoreVotes initiative. (Photo by Jonas Powell ’18)

Although many amendments have been ratified since the first election in this country more than 230 years ago, the simple fact remains: Voting is a right and a privilege.

With just 46 days (upon the publishing of this article on Sept. 18), remaining until Election Day 2020, Audrey McMahon ’22 of the Wesleyan women’s ice hockey team has set an ambitious goal: to get 100% of eligible student-athletes registered and pledged to vote.

McMahon has taken on the role of Wesleyan’s resident ambassador for Voice in Sport (VIS), a nonprofit advocacy group dedicated to supporting women student-athletes. In an initiative that has gathered steam over recent months, McMahon has joined a campaign initiated by VIS called #MoreVoicesMoreVotes.

Wesleyan as a whole has taken drastic action in 2020, making Tuesday, Nov. 3 a University holiday with all classes canceled for the entire day. In addition, the athletic department has mandated no sport practices on Election Day, giving student-athletes the opportunity to vote at their own leisure. Building off the University’s support, Wesleyan students can register to vote in Middletown, making the process easier for those who haven’t registered elsewhere or who want to switch. McMahon is tripling down on the campus-wide initiative to create a groundswell that’ll make the voices of student-athletes heard.

McMahon is already encouraged by the initial support she has received amongst the athletic programs at Wesleyan. She started the campaign by contacting Wesleyan’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), who passed the message along to other members to distribute to their respective teams. From there, teams showing interest will designate a team leader tasked with ensuring each eligible teammate is registered and pledged to vote. Thus far, 17 teams have designated team leaders and committed themselves to the campaign with others expected to join in the weeks to come.

“Most of the athletes who have signed up as leaders, as well as the coaches who have reached out, are really supportive of the campaign itself,” McMahon said. “Since many students may already be registered, the pledging aspect of the process is key, which is simply making a plan for how you will vote. This is done by either determining the location of your in-person polling place or requesting an absentee ballot.”

Black Lives Matter Events Celebrate History, Navigate Race Conversations

On Sept. 4, Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD) hosted a four-part series of Black Lives Matter-themed workshops celebrating the contributions of the Black community at Wesleyan.

black lives matter

Alphina Kamara ’22 and Qura-Tul-Ain “Annie” Khan ’22 hosted the event’s opening remarks and provided an interactive history of racism at Wesleyan. Pictured, the students discuss the Fisk Hall Takeover, in which Black faculty, staff, and students took a stand against racism and occupied Fisk Hall on Feb. 21, 1969. Fisk Hall was one of the main academic buildings at the time.

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persude participants to take action. "While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views and having these conversations can help mitigate these views," Kamara said. 

The workshop was meant to inform, create conversation, promote activism, and persuade participants to take action. “While we might seem so liberal, people still have certain views, and having these conversations can help mitigate these views,” Kamara said.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan's first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, where approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

Kamara and Khan discussed Wesleyan’s first Black Lives Matter march in December 2014, when approximately 1,000 students, faculty, and staff marched through downtown Middletown as a show of solidarity with national protests against discriminatory treatment of Blacks in the criminal justice system and incidents of police brutality.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

In another workshop, members of the Wesleyan African Student Association (ASA) spoke about their experience being Black on campus and shared advantages of being in the ASA group.

BLM

“ASA is my home away from home,” said Alvin Kibaara ’22 of Kenya. “It provides a space for me to relate to people who come from the same continent that I do, and we find similarities, and it gives you confidence.”

Sydney Ochieng '22 of Kenya said, "Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn't know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I'm African."

Sydney Ochieng ’22 of Kenya said, “Coming to Wesleyan, being called a person of color, I didn’t know what it really means. That in itself made me upset. I was given a label. At the end of the day, I’m African.”

The third workshop, titled "Did My Professor Just Say That?" focused on navigating race among conversations with college professors.

The third workshop, titled “Did My Professor Just Say That?” focused on navigating race in conversations with college professors.

"All of us are born and raised and living in systemic racism," said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. "So nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember we all went through this too. You can talk to us."

“All [faculty] are born and raised and living in systemic racism,” said Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics. “I had to deal with micro-aggressions and people … so nobody is exempt from that.
 Remember, we all went through this too. You can talk to us.”

 "I see myself engaged in long game. You know, in a, in an Epic struggle for, for human freedom, there's many front lines of battle.
There's many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed
to overcome. So, you know, black folks, at least I'm speaking as a black person, we need to survive.

“I see myself engaged in a long game,” said Tony Hatch, associate professor of science in society. “In an epic struggle for human freedom, there are many front lines of battle. There are many different strategies and tactics that have to be deployed 
to overcome. So, Black folks, at least I’m speaking as a Black person, we need to survive.”

ted shaw

Keynote speaker Professor Theodore Shaw ’76, the Julius L. Chambers Distinguished Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Civil Rights at the University of North Carolina School of Law at Chapel Hill, was the fifth Director-Counsel and President of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc., for which he worked in various capacities over the span of 26 years.

shaw

“The essence of the Black Lives Matter movement: It’s extraordinary that the simple statement that Black lives matter should provoke the reactions that it does. You know, all lives matter, you know, blue lives matter.
 I don’t know that there was any doubt about those other lives mattering. But we can look at American history and look at Black and Brown lives
 and they haven’t mattered in the same way.
”

 

Class of 2024 Attends Virtual Orientation Program

class of 2024Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and state regulations, Wesleyan is delivering its annual Orientation Program virtually through live Zoom meetings, townhalls, and webinars.

Orientation activities began in mid-July, where members of the Class of 2024 and transfer students participated in sessions on charting a course through the open curriculum, sustainability at Wesleyan, wellness, financial aid, student employment, career center information, and working with an academic peer advisor. They also learned the Wesleyan fight song and participated in virtual social events including a virtual escape room, Jeopardy!, drag race bingo, and a magic show.

Sudbury, Mass. resident Sabrina Ladiwala ’24 chose to defer her on-campus enrollment until the spring semester due to the pandemic, but has participated in several first-year orientation webinars.

“After my orientation meetings, I would hang back to ask the leader a question. Multiple times, that simple exchange led to sharing experiences about what spring term was like for each of us or developed into a really in-depth talk about life on the Wes campus. As I started having more of these conversations, not only did I welcome all the information, but I also enjoyed listening to all the personal, on-campus stories these students told. In spite of sitting in my home, I already felt connected to the community,” she said.

Ladiwala also attended several social events, including a virtual escape room.

“After my group completed this fun exercise, we just stayed back and talked for around 20 or 25 minutes about moving in, what dorms we were in and how quarantine was going for us. Even though I am deferring, I was still included in that conversation which really meant a lot to me,” she said. “Even though orientation is over and classes are starting, I am excited to stay in touch with all my Wesleyan friends and am really looking forward to being on campus in the spring!”

Students also participated in several health and safety webinars on returning to campus, COVID-19 testing, and the importance of quarantine.


During an "End of Summer Bash" social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader.

During an “End of Summer Bash” social event on Aug. 21, students met with community artists, psychic
s, a Tarot card reader, and Rune stone reader in Zoom “breakout rooms.”

Students Accelerate Their Research Skills through New Summer Bootcamp

poster

This summer, McNair Fellow Mohammed Ullah ’22, participated in a virtual McNair Bootcamp where he created a hypothetical study titled “One Drug for All RNA Viruses.” “My idea was to make a single drug for all RNA-based viruses, and based on my findings and all the online research I did on the drugs, techniques, etc., I was able to come up with a proposal based on my idea and expand it into something that can happen for several years,” Ullah said. “With the resources and knowledge from a biochemist and virologist, this idea/proposal is something that can happen in real life if people took an interest in it.”

This summer, 12 Wesleyan students who identify as first-generation/low-income learned more about research methods and proposal-writing through the first McNair Bootcamp.

Held in conjunction with Wesleyan’s Ronald E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Program and the Wesleyan Mathematics and Science Scholars (WesMaSS) Program, the bootcamp provided a solution for summer research students who were unable to transition their in person research projects into remote research during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“You certainly don’t want students doing organic chemistry in their kitchens back home,” said bootcamp co-founder Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry. “Many types of research aren’t able to be translated to ‘virtual research’ in response to campus closing down, so we wanted to make sure these students didn’t have a ‘lost summer’ with respect to their growth as researchers.”

Taylor and Ronnie Hendrix, associate director of the McNair Program, focused their new program on teaching students how to conduct independent research. Students learned to brainstorm, build hypotheses, work collaboratively with peers, write a research proposal based on the criterion of the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program application, peer-review a research proposal, edit and improve a research proposal, and ultimately craft and present a research poster.

3 Students Win Scientific Imaging Contest

Images depicting star collisions, atom movement in yeast ribosomes, and herbaceous plant root scans were the winning entries of the 2020 Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest.

The Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest, held annually in August, recognizes student-submitted images—from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member—that are scientifically intriguing, as well as aesthetically pleasing. The contest is organized by the College of Integrative Sciences as part of the summer research program.

The winners included Osama Elgabori ’22, Carol Dalgarno ’21, and Jolie Villegas ’21. Elgabori’s advisor is Brian Stewart, professor of physics; Dalgarno’s advisor is Michael Weir, professor of biology; and Villegas’ advisor is Sonia Sultan, professor of biology.

Chong ‘21 Rallies against ICE Policy, Speaks at Capitol Press Conference

chong

Bryan Chong ’21 spoke during a press conference at the state Capitol, where Attorney General William Tong announced a lawsuit filed by Connecticut, 16 other states, and the District of Columbia against the government’s proposal to revoke student visas for international students should their universities choose to move classes online due to COVID-19. (Photo courtesy of Mark Mirko @markmirko/Hartford Courant @hartfordcourant)

On July 6, when the U.S. government made a federal ruling that international students would be deported should their studies be held exclusively online, Bryan Chong ’21 took immediate action to fight back.

The Hong Kong native and visa holder had already spent six years in Connecticut, attending high school in Kent before enrolling at Wesleyan. If the COVID-19 pandemic moved Wesleyan to return to an all-online format again, the policy would have forced Chong to return to China for his senior year of college. But he wasn’t worried about himself as much as his international peers.

“I couldn’t imagine the mental toll this would have on international students who don’t necessarily have a secure home to go home to. There are many international students who see colleges and universities as a safe haven from their hometowns, or maybe from income insecurity, housing insecurity, and food insecurity,” Chong said.

After receiving blowback from universities and colleges across the country, on July 14 the government abruptly rescinded the proposal, easing the minds of the more than 400 international students at Wesleyan.

2 Students of Color Receive Tokita Prize for Literature

Jade Tate '22 and Jake Kwon '21

Jake Kwon ’21, top, and Jade Tate ’22 are recipients of the Shu Tokita Memorial Prize.

Jake Kwon ’21 and Jade Tate ’22 are the recipients of the 2020 Shu Tokita Memorial Prize, which is awarded annually to a student of color majoring in literature or language with a focus on literature, who demonstrates financial need.

The award, which comes with a $1,500 prize, was established 20 years ago by the friends and relatives of Shu Tokita ’84, who passed away in 1989 from leukemia. He had received a BA in English literature from Wesleyan and an MA in Japanese literature from Tsukuba University. The prize seeks to reflect Tokita’s interest in literature and is focused on supporting students of color, for whom the study of literature, Tokita’s family and friends felt, is often considered a “luxury.”

Applicants may be affiliated with the following departments: English, College of Letters, other language/literature departments, or related studies in East Asian studies concentrating on Chinese or Japanese literature.

Tate and Kwon received the prize during a virtual awards ceremony on June 30. The selection is based on the submitted 750-word essay and on financial need, and not on academic standing.

Kwon, a biology and English double major, had a lifelong struggle with literature as a person of color. POC voices, he says, were undermined in the American education system.

Wickham ’21 Speaks on the Black Student Experience in STEM

posterAs the Black Lives Matter movement continues to shine a light on the Black experience in America, one Wesleyan student is doing his part to foster better understanding for students of color in STEM fields.

On July 2, Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham ’21 participated in a panel discussion on “Black Lives Matter and Neuroscience: Why This Moment Matters.” The event, hosted by the Society for Neuroscience and moderated by Trinity College President Joanne Berger-Sweeney, provided a forum to discuss hurdles faced by Black students and faculty in STEM and ways to enhance recruitment, mentoring, and retention in STEM fields.

Wickham, a neuroscience and theater double major, is the Class of 2021 president and a College of Integrative Sciences summer research student. A native of Jamaica, Wickham prefaced his comments by acknowledging that as a West Indian Black his experience does not necessarily reflect the full breadth of experiences had by African American students in science. But for his part, Wickham hopes that in sharing his perspective as a neuroscience undergraduate, he can help move the conversation forward in terms of “how we can make the field more inclusive and equitable” and in particular to voice some of the challenges Black students encounter when navigating STEM.

Geology Class Maps Local State Park for Geological Survey

geology class

Members of the Geologic Field Mapping course explore a gneiss and schist outcrop at Gillette Castle State Park in East Haddam, Conn.

geology class on zoom

The class met with members of the Connecticut Geological Survey staff through Zoom. Pictured, top row, from left: Caroline Murphy ’20, Professor Phil Resor, and Oliver Benson ’22. Middle row, from left: Emmy Hughes ’20, Alexa Trujillo ’22, and graduate student Donald Koepp. Bottom row, from left: state geologist Margaret Thomas, geoscience resource assistant and graduate student Zach Kläng, and geoscience resource assistant Taryn Isenburg.

This spring, a group of five students enrolled in Wesleyan’s Geologic Field Mapping service-learning class undertook a project to map the geology of Gillette Castle State Park and develop educational materials for the general public based on this map.

The 184-acre park, which was purchased by the State of Connecticut in 1943, sits atop a hill overlooking the Connecticut River. Here American actor and playwright William Hooker Gillette, known for playing Sherlock Holmes on stage, built and lived on this estate from 1919–1937. His 14,000-square-foot, fieldstone-faced mansion resembles a medieval castle, hence the park’s namesake, Gillette Castle.

The ‘castle’ is surrounded by woodlands, trails, ponds, cliffs, and massive rock outcrops.

“In order to make educational materials that are approachable and useful, we needed to make it of interest to anyone—whether they were a Connecticut geologist or a family looking for a place to picnic,” said Alexa Trujillo ’22. “We found joy in toeing the line between too scientific and not scientific enough. All of us coming from different experiences with geology, writing for an audience, and education made us the perfect team to create something like this.”

geology class

The class’s report was made using the ArcGIS StoryMaps software.

On May 15, Trujillo, Caroline Murphy ’20, Oliver Benson ’22, Emmy Hughes ’20, and graduate student Donald Koepp presented their work to their “clients” at the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) State Geological Survey. The project was supervised by course instructor Phillip Resor, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences and education studies.

“Even after we moved to distance learning, the students rose to the occasion and did a great job synthesizing their fieldwork along with other material to create GIS and interactive maps,” Resor said.

The class first met in person at the Connecticut DEEP headquarters in early February, where staff introduced students to the park and provided examples of geologic maps and story maps from other parks. After learning basic GIS skills, students created base maps and spent three afternoons on site, conducting fieldwork in February and early March.

While in the park, the students looked for outcrops of rock.

“These were crucial in the geologic story because they are pieces of what was once under the ground, but came up through the surface. They can tell us the story of what went on underneath where we were standing,” said Trujillo, a sociology and education studies double major. “We looked for folds, banding, mineral types, strike, dip, and much more. Basically, we wanted to know everything. We cataloged everything we found because any piece could be the missing connection to the geologic story.”

The class ultimately produced an interactive map through the software ArcGIS that shows the park’s trails, unique locations, benches, parking, and “all of the outcrops we found, some cool locations to check out, bathrooms, and anything else you would normally find on a map,” Trujillo said.

They also created a “StoryMap” that includes sections on Gillette himself and his castle, the geology, and hidden gems located within the state park. The maps will be published online by DEEP at a future date.