Students

Senior Voices: Tostado, Young, Erodici Reflect on Their Years at Wes

Vanessa Tostado Senior Voices

“Senior Voices” was held at Memorial Chapel on May 25.

As part of the 2019 Commencement weekend festivities, graduating seniors reflected on their unique and transformative Wesleyan experiences during the “Senior Voices” event held May 25 in Memorial Chapel. In addition to the speeches, this year’s event also included a farewell song, “Irish Friendship Wish,” performed by Maria Rodriguez-Castro ’19, Joy Adedokun ’19, and Olivia Backal-Balik ’20.

Seniors Vanessa Tostado, Kati Young, and Matthew Erodici spoke of the changes they had undergone during their years at Wesleyan and the community and support that they found while here. Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology Margot Weiss provided the faculty address, encouraging students to embrace “growth that takes unexpected and novel forms, that moves and spreads . . . unpredictable, unruly, creative.”

Below are the speakers’ remarks as prepared:

Vanessa Tostado

Vanessa Tostado ’19

Vanessa Tostado ’19

I would like to begin by sharing part of a reflection piece I wrote in 2015 before coming to Wesleyan: The transition couldn’t come sooner. The pressure is on, the time to reflect and panic is now. My high school, I feel, has prepared me for the rigors of college work. Now that I will begin a new chapter in my life, I hope that college pushes me beyond the boundaries that I have surrounded myself with. I can’t wait to see the new person that I become. Four years later, today, I stand before you in a similar position: The pressure is still on, I’m still panicking, and tomorrow, I will begin a new chapter in my life. It seems like nothing has changed, but in reality, everything has changed.

My freshman year routine at Wesleyan was the following: eat, code, gym, get eight hours of sleep, repeat. Really, had you met me freshman year you wouldn’t say I’m exaggerating. I was a straight arrow with tunnel vision going towards my target. Now, I’m not a physics major, but I know that an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Well, I’ve had my fair share of unbalanced forces. Somewhere along my four years at Wesleyan, my friends, family, traditions, and God changed the trajectory of my life. I struggled to let go of my routine—I didn’t know how. More importantly, I was afraid of the potential chaos. But I always knew something was missing; I didn’t feel like this was the time of my life, like so many people suggested it would be. Then one day, a friend said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.” That’s when I realized what had to change.

By sophomore year I was spending more time with friends outside of the library; I started attending mass and I even went on a spring break trip to the Bahamas. Junior year I went abroad to Hungary. Despite being anxious about not fitting in, my friends and mentors assured me it would be an unforgettable experience. And it was. During my last year at Wesleyan, I learned to ski, not black diamond or anything. On multiple occasions, I stayed up until 2 a.m. with my friends, not because we were studying, but because we were having fun. I took a step forward in my faith and was confirmed with my best friend as my godmother.

Without realizing it, I was slowly letting experiences outside of academia and other people enter my rigid routine. By educating my mind and my heart, my achievements reached horizons I didn’t think were possible. In fact, I wouldn’t have had the courage to come up here and share my story with you all, if it weren’t for the individuals on this campus that I’ve come to call close friends.

Tomorrow, I will begin a new chapter, a new adventure, only this time, I’m open to all of life’s unbalanced forces. Thank you.

Kati Young '19

Kati Young ’19

Kati Young ’19

You know what they say—timing is everything. As I’ve reflected on my experience these last four years, I’ve realized that this saying has truth to it—so much of my growth has happened because of experiencing two things at once, and discovering how the two interacted with and challenged one other. I’ve experienced this type of change socially, academically, and personally.

During my freshman fall, I was recovering from extensive bullying at my public high school, all the while forming my first lifelong Wesleyan friendships with my “freshman pack.” While I had learned in high school that I deserved to be ostracized, in college I was discovering what it meant to have friends who valued what I had to say and who actually showed up to support me.

During my sophomore fall, I still remember the gloomy, rainy Tuesday when our current [U.S.] president was elected. I felt overwhelmed by so many worldwide or national problems. But working with then-senior Leah Cabrera [’17], we responded by focusing on how we could change our direct community. Even Wesleyan felt too big—so we channeled our focus on just Division III: Natural Sciences and Mathematics. By forming the NSM Coalition, I learned the ups and downs and long hours it took to fight for inches of tangible change towards a more inclusive STEM community. So even though I felt hopeless about large-scale issues, I began to feel inspired by local-scale action.

During my junior fall, I was surrounded by people who loved me, enrolled in classes I was interested in, and involved with clubs I found meaningful. But it was during this season that I also struggled with severe health challenges. I found incredible strength through my Christian faith, where I read from the Holy Bible the words of Paul, “I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength” (Philippians 4:12–13).

During my medical leave, I could no longer prove my worth by As or by a laundry list of leadership positions. Who was I if I was no longer a Wesleyan student? Who was I if I was no longer a successful student? In the months of recovery, I had to find value in being myself, not in doing. This meant reconnecting with the core of my Christian faith, redefining my values, and finding a new kind of balance. I at last prioritized my health—emotional, physical, spiritual.

Balance and timing—that’s what I’m taking away as a Wesleyan graduate. Learning how to balance two significant ideas—whether it’s being treated different socially, taking classes that interplay with each other in unique ways, finding what type of change-making moves me, or somehow finding gratitude whilst struggling with illness—these are all part of my journey. And I ask all of us here tonight to embrace this appreciation of timing, to strive towards balance, but mostly, to love ourselves so we can love others.

Matthew Erodici '19

Matthew Erodici ’19

Matthew Erodici ’19

As I look back on my four years at Wesleyan, I am amazed by how much I have changed—in no small part due to the incredible people I have met. Not only have I gained self-confidence and compassion through lifelong friends, but also practical thinking and independence through impactful mentors. Through a marathon of academic challenges and chemistry research, my measurement of success has shifted more and more away from letters and numbers (albeit still important) toward being able to apply knowledge and teach others freely. Some of my most fulfilling academic moments have come while working as a peer tutor or collaborating on problem sets—witnessing others have that “a-ha” moment or breakthrough on a concept. Furthermore, as a tutoring group co-leader and ultimate frisbee captain, I have come to know both the difficulties and joys of making an organization or team function together—and the importance of having spaces away from class to decompress and cultivate my other passions.

Through all of these experiences, I emerge with a stronger conviction than ever that none of it would have been possible without my sources of inspiration—namely, my parents, my close friends, and my faith. These past four years, while being a period of immense growth, have not come without their extreme hardships. Finding a way into graduate school did not happen without dedicating long nights to writing lab reports, studying chemical reactions for exams, and parsing academic articles for independent research. I credit all my success to my parents, whose never-ending love, support, and encouragement have been the engine behind my work and the catalyst behind some of the biggest risks I have taken—such as committing to a senior thesis and applying to a PhD program. Moreover, getting through some of my toughest weeks at Wesleyan—such as coming back to projects and tests after a full weekend at a frisbee tournament—could not have happened without friends who constantly had my back, checked in with me, and provided good laughs over late-night meals. In addition, my Catholic faith—and the Catholic community at Wesleyan—have never failed to be a source of strength, love, healing, and wisdom—particularly when life seemed overwhelming or my mind had trouble decluttering. In short, all of these people have lifted me to the achievements I take pride in today, and their unwavering support will continue to push me beyond Wesleyan. I want to extend a heartfelt congratulations to the rest of the Class of 2019 and, especially, to their pillars of support along the way.

Margot Weiss

Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology Margot Weiss

Margot Weiss, associate professor and chair of anthropology; associate professor of American Studies; and associate professor, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

“A Queer Baccalaureate”

I want to start by thanking you so much for inviting me to join you in this celebration—I know this part, tonight, is just for you, and I am honored to be the faculty voice you’ve invited to this event. I am standing here now at the end of my 10th year of teaching at Wesleyan. I have only been at this particular podium twice before: once to introduce Judith Butler back in 2013, and once to interview Chelsea Manning in 2017. For this queer academic these were life highlights—but this honor tops them both.

Tomorrow is it, right? Except of course, it isn’t really. As I thought about what words to share with you, I thought about the words I’d most have wanted to hear, way back in 1995, when I found myself graduating from college with no idea what I would do next. And so this is for any of you who feel as uncertain, ambivalent, and anxious as I did—proud of all that you’ve accomplished but also certain that it isn’t enough. Those of you who feel a little ragged, and not so perfectly formed and directed.

When I taught at Duke University, the students there talked about the pressure to achieve what they called “effortless perfection”—to be academically successful, socially poised, properly gendered, practically perfect in every way, but with no visible effort, no sweat on the brow. I think those students are a little more polished and shiny and suited up for business school than you all are, but still, that effortlessness and that perfection, both, might not be entirely foreign. And that’s a lot.

Tonight is the night before your commencement, your graduation. Both words pointing to a precipice that you are standing on, about to jump, or be shoved off. Graduation marks the end—the end of your time at Wesleyan, in college, the end of the before you go out there and join the “real world.” Commencement marks the beginning—the beginning of your real life, your future you, the start of what you were meant to do and be. And that, too, is a lot.

So I thought I would speak to you a bit about uncertainty and ambivalence, about not knowing and not being sure, about something queer theorist and anthropologist Martin Manalansan calls “queer mess,” which we might oppose to that effortless perfection and bright, shining certainty. And I thought I might speak, too, against the press of straight time, a time that forces you into clean endings and brisk beginnings—and instead wallow a bit in the queer and messy middle, in the sideways and the now, where we might find ourselves together, asking, thinking, dreaming.

  1. So first, Queer Failure

In The Queer Art of Failure, his ode to the minor, the low, and the childish, Jack Halberstam celebrates “ways of being and knowing that stand outside conventional understandings of success,” measured by “reproductive maturity combined with wealth accumulation.” This is the thrust of straight time in our heteronormative, capitalist society: from A to B to C; working your way up the corporate ladder; and the marriage plot, from meet-cute to side-by-side graves. What would it mean, he asks, to turn away from these logics and instead celebrate “failing, losing, forgetting, unmaking, undoing, unbecoming, [and] not knowing”? Might failure allow us to escape the punishing norms that discipline and manage our lives “with the goal of delivering us from unruly childhoods into orderly and predictable adulthoods”?

I don’t think I knew how to celebrate failure when I graduated from college. I know I felt uncertain: I thought that I wanted to become an academic, but I wasn’t sure; I knew I didn’t want to return home to the suburbs of Connecticut and join my father’s business. A year before I graduated, I had gone to the career center at the University of Chicago. I still remember sitting across the desk from the career counselor as she said to me, “Well, it’s not enough just to be good at school—in order to become a successful academic, you need to be able to create new knowledge; you need to have a unique point of view.” I was 20 years old. No one in my family had a PhD. I didn’t know if I could “make new knowledge.”

I recently read an essay about the plight of unemployed PhD students called “What Happens After You’ve Gotten All the As.” There you are, the author writes, a good student, a success. But after all the achievements, after you finish everything on the syllabus, after you’ve gotten all the As, you look up and you wonder, how do I cultivate a sense of worth when the rubric “by which you have always been able to measure and confirm your self value has suddenly…been taken away?”

Her answer is to slow down, to take time, to look inside, and, most of all, to risk failing. To risk failing at what binds and controls you, not what helps you thrive. To fail queerly is to succeed otherwise: not through rigid metrics and standards, but through other paths—winding, overgrown, circular, even—that you make for yourself.

I wish that I had said to that career counselor that I probably did not have a unique point of view, since knowledge is made with others—collaboratively, collectively. I think of what Fred Moten and Stefano Harney call “study,” an unregulated, unprofessional thinking with others. In their celebration of the subversive intellectual and the renegade thinker, they turn away from excellence, productivity, and rigor; from forms of professionalization that glide along tracks already laid down, that serve institutions, not us. Study isn’t disciplined, or ready-made, they write, it “is what you do with other people. It’s talking and walking,” it is speculative, “playing in a band,” or “old men sitting on a porch, or people working together in a factory.” They urge us to treat theory as a toy box, a playground; to build places to think together; for study, as the live shape of thought, can create new relations and new ideas, ideas that might serve us, not our credentials. This matters more than individualized “success.”

In the four years that you have been at Wesleyan, you have learned so much. You have mastered courses, topics, certificates, theories. There is so much that you know. But more importantly, you have learned how to learn, how to ask and puzzle, how to reflect and worry over problems that don’t have an easy solution. How to study—in an emancipatory way—how to think with others, which is not the same as the thinking required to get that A. So tonight I first want to celebrate not only what you know, but also what you don’t know, what you are uncertain about. To celebrate not so much the bright moments of your successes, measured by the already-formed, the already-known, but also the moments of your failures: the places of imperfection, times where you risk thinking aloud, moments where your thought with others builds worlds. To celebrate you learning how to build sandcastles with others—studying, asking, wondering.

  1. Growing Sideways

Well, not to give the ending away, but I did end up becoming an academic. And I ended up back in Connecticut, too—much to my surprise and, to be frank, dismay. As some of you know, I grew up nearby, and, as a young queer angry punk rock teenager I was desperate to leave the closure of the suburbs, the relentlessly heteronormative and stifling spaces in which I’d grown up. My version of the good life was forged in the 80s, and so I imagined my future in the city where I would wear heavily shoulder-padded suit jackets and sneakers as I raced to the office from the subway. (If you have no idea what I am talking about, see the movie 9 to 5.)

As soon as I graduated from high school I went away, as far as I could get—Chicago, and then, San Francisco, Oakland, Boston, New York, Durham. I never thought that I would return to Connecticut; I never wanted to. But then, after four years of precarious employment on temporary contracts, I got the call that offered me this job, a wonderful job, one of the best—I mean, they wanted to hire a queer anthropologist!—and so I came back.

And as I looked around, I was surprised to feel a new appreciation for things I had, it turned out, been missing all those years: the four full seasons, the ice storms, the farm stands, the broad central Connecticut accent. I built a new life here, in the ruins of the old, a life that—sometimes, at least, when the light catches it just right, feels open, and full of possibility—not the suffocating one I had fled, but a rich and sustaining one. It doesn’t always feel that way, to be sure, and I still hate the suburbs. But I know this place differently now, and I know myself differently now. I am not so much back here as still here or here anew.

I don’t mean this as an ode to Connecticut; many of you, I know, can’t wait to leave this little state, and I get why! I mean it as an ode to unexpected turns; paths we didn’t predict and couldn’t know. It is my own belated realization of the value of, as Donna Haraway puts it, staying with the trouble, rather than trying to find a way out or up or over it. What if the possibility of the good life isn’t over there, out there, but here, with us, already?

With us already because we don’t grow up, we grow sideways. Kathryn Bond Stockton talks this way about a queer movement that is lateral, about width and depth, rather than a unidirectional height. Growing sideways is expansive, incorporative, it refuses neat phases and stages of growth marked by beginnings and endings, in favor of lingering, sliding, lengthening, suspending. Growing sideways stretches toward the horizontal not the vertical, it is connective and comradely, rather than hierarchical and discrete.

As you ready yourself to leave Wesleyan, as you stretch that piece of packing tape over the last box, I don’t think that you are sealing off your past and starting a whole new future. What I take from Stockton is that we don’t have to grow “up” when we can, instead, grow sideways. Hold on to the connections to your friends, your lovers, your exes, the expansive communities you have made here. And know that you can’t predict the form your life will take, the circles and squiggles that make a life—a real life, not one that is ready-made, pre-ordered and focus-group tested. Growing sideways is growth that takes unexpected and novel forms, that moves and spreads. It is unpredictable, unruly, creative—it is your life, your real one, and you are already living it.

  1. And finally, Queer Mess

Maybe you haven’t quite finished packing up your room, and it is at the point now when everything—all the flotsam and jetsam of your life—is spewed all over the floor, on the bed, and hanging from the lampshades. Maybe you are here tonight seeking a brief respite from the mess, what is unfinished, what has yet to be neatly pressed and put away, stored for another day.

Martin Manalansan writes about the wild success of home improvement and make-over shows, picking especially at Marie Kondo’s “tidying up.” “I love mess,” Kondo says, but Manalansan points out that of course she really doesn’t seem to—instead, it seems like she hates mess, and everything else that is “matter out of place,” as Mary Douglas had it long ago: matter that disrupts, clogs, clutters, spoils, bogs down, rumples. Against mastery and control, against perfection and poise, Manalansan celebrates queer mess, that which “messes up” the pristine order of things, “the neat normative configurations and patterns that seek to calcify lives and experiences” into rigid, acceptable forms.

Against a smooth and shiny surface, mess is unfinished, raw—tangled, wayward, untidy. But it is also the raw material for a life lived otherwise. And as such it is hopeful: it doesn’t wait for the world we want or a better, perfect version of us—it makes do and makes the most of the ragged connections and jagged edges of our real lives today. What if we embrace the disorder, the clutter, and the chaos, and resist the “cleaning up” function of the normative? What if we live in the muck, the mess, without “preset itineraries or maps”? What if the goal is “to lose one’s way”—in order to find what really matters?

So, those of you who are uncertain, I am talking to you. You are not at the end or at the beginning; you are in the middle, you are always in the middle—the messy middle, muddling through and that is the wonder of it all. And if it is a mess, it is a queer mess, filled with potential and possibility—a colorful and rich and excessive one—it is all of the things, and too much of them all. And if it is a failure, it is your own splendid one, a life lived collectively, with each other, bent away from success measured and monitored and tracked by the growth charts of the normative order. It is your life, for you and those you love—and this life, lived sideways, the study with others, a world for everyone, is what I want and I hope for you all.

How is it that you will live otherwise? What alternatives, large and small, will you learn, make, build, dream?

I can’t wait to see.

115 Students Present Statistical Research at QAC Poster Session

In the Quantitative Analysis Center course, QAC 201: Applied Data Analysis, students are introduced to statistics and data collection through asking and answering statistical questions that they care about.

Topics come from a large range of disciplines including psychology, sociology, government, and environmental science. Students generate hypotheses based on existing data, conduct a literature review, prepare data for analysis, and conduct descriptive and inferential statistical analyses.

On May 3 in Beckham Hall, 115 students presented their projects at a poster session. Twenty-five guests evaluated the posters, including faculty from Wesleyan, Sacred Heart University, Quinnipiac University, City University of New York, Central Connecticut State University, and Vassar College; research fellows; alumni and staff; social scientists; research analysts; and other industry professionals.

The poster session served as the final exam for the course.

Photos of the event are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Jodie Kahan '21 presented her study titled, "Do Children Listen?: The Association Between a Child's Perception of their Mothers' Attitudes About Sex and a Child's Willingness to Engage in Sex."

Jodie Kahan ’21 presented her study titled, “Do Children Listen?: The Association Between a Child’s Perception of Their Mothers’ Attitudes About Sex and a Child’s Willingness to Engage in Sex.” Her evaluator is Kendall Hobbs, a research librarian at Wesleyan.

Tinatin Omoeva '21 discussed her poster called, "Control Yourself! The Association Between Self-Control and Financial Skills."

Tinatin Omoeva ’21 discussed her poster called, “Control Yourself! The Association Between Self-Control and Financial Skills.”

Joshi ’20 Honored with Research Award to Study DNA Mismatch Repair

Meera Joshi '20

Meera Joshi ’20

Meera Joshi ’20 is the recipient of an American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Undergraduate Research Award for her work on the DNA mismatch repair system.

The $1,000 award will support her research titled “Exploring the Dynamics of Msh2-Msh6 Binding to Holliday Junction Through ATPase Activity. Her advisor is Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Joshi’s research focuses on a DNA mismatch repair protein called Msh2-Msh6 that initiates the repair of DNA mismatches after replication in eukaryotes. This is a highly conserved process from bacteria to humans and has implications for human health.

“We are particularly interested in Msh2-Msh6 because of it’s involvement in DNA repair, which when faulty, can lead to cancer,” Joshi explained. Mutations in this protein have been linked to Lynch syndrome, an inherited cancer syndrome, and tumor development.

Joshi is building on the work of a previous Mukerji lab student who characterized the binding affinity of Msh2-Msh6 with Holliday Junctions—a cross-shaped DNA structure with four strands of DNA, mostly seen during genetic recombination. This structure is also an important intermediate in the repair of damaged DNA. As Msh2-Msh6 usually binds to DNA containing one mismatched base pair, the lab is interested in understanding its role when binding to Holliday Junctions.

In order to study how the protein interacts with the Holliday Junction, Joshi will use fluorescent analogs to observe how the protein binds to the junction and if there are any changes in structure because of binding. The award will be used to fund the fluorescent analogs and the DNA needed for the experiments.

“Meera is a strong research student who is dedicated and hard-working,” Mukerji said. “I think she will make a lot of progress on her project this summer and am excited to see the results.”

After graduating from Wesleyan, Joshi hopes to attend graduate school and find a lab that focuses on protein dynamics.

ASBMB’s mission is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through the publication of scientific and educational journals, the organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, and promoting the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce.

Gillman ’20 Wins Goldwater Scholarship to Pursue Education in Number Theory

Nate Gillman ’20 received a Goldwater Scholarship that will support his tuition and related academic expenses during his senior year at Wesleyan.

Nate Gillman ’20, a computer science and mathematics double major from Maryland, is the recipient of a 2019 Barry Goldwater Scholarship. He’s one of 496 college students in the country to receive the award.

The Goldwater Scholarship is awarded to sophomores and juniors who show exceptional promise of becoming the next generation of research leaders in the fields of mathematics, natural sciences, and engineering. The scholarship provides up to $7,500 a year to help cover costs associated with undergraduate tuition, mandatory fees, books, and room and board.

Gillman knew he wanted to study math—specifically analytic number theory—after enrolling in a calculus class in high school.

“I have unwavering appreciation and love—and fear—for number theory,” he said. “Appreciation, because the concrete yet abstract nature of number theory captured my imagination at a younger age. Love, because nothing feels better than using a particularly clever estimate to demonstrate a result. And fear, because using tools from calculus to prove fundamental results about numbers entails delving into profound, universal truths.”

7 Prominent Speakers Share Ideas at 2nd Annual TEDxWesleyanU

Members of the 2019 TEDxWesleyanU team gathered on the TEDx stage in Beckham Hall following the successful conference. Tickets for the event sold out within 12 hours.

Members of the 2019 TEDxWesleyanU team gathered on the TEDx stage in Beckham Hall following the successful conference. Tickets for the event sold out within 12 hours.

On April 27, seven prominent thought leaders including Wesleyan alumni, two medical doctors, and local politicians shared their ideas during the second annual TEDxWesleyanU Conference held in Beckham Hall.

In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. 

Psychology Department Hosts Research Poster Session

More than 120 students presented 65 posters during the Department of Psychology's Research Poster Presentation April 25 in Beckham Hall. 

More than 120 students presented 65 posters during the Department of Psychology’s Research Poster Presentation April 25 in Beckham Hall.

Will Ratner '22 shared his poster titled "Relationship between Coping Strategies and Self-Esteem." Ratner's advisor is Sarah Kamens, the David Scott Williams Visiting Professor of Psychology

Will Ratner ’22 shared his poster titled “Relationship between Coping Strategies and Self-Esteem.” Ratner’s advisor is Sarah Kamens, the David Scott Williams Visiting Professor of Psychology.

Sammi Diep ’20 and Helena Sanchez ’21 presented their poster titled “What’s Sexual Orientation and Race Got to Do With It? Examining Multiple Domains of Psychosocial Adjustment at University.” Their advisor is Royette Tavernier, assistant professor of psychology.

Students Receive Undergraduate Research Prizes from Friends of the Wesleyan Library

Two Wesleyan students are the recipients of the Friends of the Wesleyan Library’s third annual Undergraduate Research Prize.

Emma Leuchten '19

Emma Leuchten ’19

Isaac Klimasmith ’20

Isaac Klimasmith ’20

Emma Leuchten ’19, an anthropology and religion double major, received the first place prize for her senior essay, “Anthropology Beyond Belief: Navigating Dreams and Reality in the Burmese Weikza Tradition.” Leuchten based the paper on fieldwork she conducted in Myanmar during a semester abroad. Her advisor was Elizabeth Traube, professor of anthropology.

The essay explores quests for power and knowledge in a contemporary Burmese wizardry tradition. Drawing from personal interviews with weikza (wizard-saints), devotees, and skeptics, Leuchten examines the tensions that have arisen between this tradition and orthodox Buddhist institutions in the post-colonial religious and political landscapes of Myanmar.

“I write against the anthropological impulse to study the symbolic or cultural value of religious figures and experiences—the tendency to explain ‘what’s really going on’ beneath a spiritual event,” Leuchten said. “Beginning with the premise that what I’m studying is real, I propose that a rigorous but open exploration of alternate ontologies can work to destabilize the dominant ontological assumptions that sociocultural discourse takes for granted.”

Isaac Klimasmith ’20, a biology major, received the second place prize for his essay, “Waters in the Wilderness and Rivers in the Desert: Irrigation Myths in the History of Early Mormon Agriculture.” Klimasmith wrote this paper while taking the class ENVS 307: The Economy of Nature and Nations, taught by Paul Erickson, associate professor of history; associate professor, environmental studies.

Wesleyan Mock Trial Team Takes 8th Place in National Competition

Mock Trial

Wesleyan Mock Trial club competitors gather after their eighth-place finish in their division of a National Championship Tournament.

This year, approximately 740 teams from more than 350 universities across the country competed in tournaments hosted by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). And of those 740 teams, Wesleyan’s Mock Trial Team A placed eighth in the country in the Temple Law Division during the National Championship Tournament on April 7.

The AMTA hosted three rounds of competition for the 5,300 participating college students: Regionals, the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS), and the National Championship. 

Wesleyan’s three teams—A, B, and C—qualified for the ORCS tournament leading up to Nationals. And for the first time in Wesleyan’s history, teams A and B both earned a bid in the National competition.

Whitney ’19 Wins DAAD Scholarship to Support Graduate Study in Germany

Lizzie Whitney ’19

Lizzie Whitney ’19

Lizzie Whitney ’19, a College of Letters and German studies double major from California, is the recipient of a 2019 DAAD scholarship for study/research in Germany.

The Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst, or German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) supports the internationalization of German universities and promotes German studies and the German language abroad. The study scholarship is presented to graduating seniors at the top of their class.

Whitney, who is applying to the University of Konstanz for graduate school, will use her DAAD scholarship to support her studies in comparative literature. The study scholarship also provides students with a monthly stipend plus funds for health insurance and travel costs.

“I’d also like to focus on the creation of a concept of German national identity through literature and literary confrontation with the Other, in whatever form that might be over the past few centuries,” she explained.

Since 1925, more than 1.9 million scholars in Germany and abroad have received DAAD funding.

9 Wesleyan Students, Alumni Win Fulbrights

2019 Fulbrights

The 2019-20 Fulbright award winners include, from top left, Jordan Legaspi ’19, Emma Porrazzo ’19, Katelin Murray ’19, Amad Amedy ’19, Stephanie Loui ’14, Hai Lun Tan ’18, and Ulysses Estrada ’17. Not pictured is Ellie Martin ’16 and Rachel Yanover ’19.

Nine Wesleyan seniors and recent alumni are the recipients of 2019-20 Fulbright English Teaching Assistantships (ETA) and Fulbright Open Study/Research Awards.

The English Teaching Assistant (ETA) Programs place Fulbrighters in classrooms abroad to provide assistance to local English teachers. ETAs help teach English language while serving as cultural ambassadors for the U.S. The age and academic level of the students varies by country, ranging from kindergarten to university level.

Applicants for Open Study/Research Awards design their own projects and will typically work with advisors at foreign universities or other institutes of higher education. The study/research awards are available in approximately 140 countries.

Ellie Martin

Jordan Legaspi ’19 received an ETA to Taiwan. Legaspi is a McNair scholar and a psychology major from California.

Ellie Martin ’16 received an ETA grant to Colombia. She is an anthropology and Hispanic literatures and cultures double major.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Middletown Press“Wesleyan Students Helping Former Prisoners to Gain Job Skills”

Wesleyan Students for Ending Mass Incarceration (SEMI) is a group of students working to help formerly incarcerated individuals acclimate back into society by providing them with job skills. The goal, according to member Asiyah Herrero ’22, is “making re-entry into the workforce a little bit easier. There are usually a lack of resources when people get out of prison, and starting to look for work, especially because there are a lot of jobs that do discriminate or have discriminatory ideas about people who have been in prison.”

Case, Hingorani Coauthor Study on Repair of DNA Damaged by Sunlight

Brandon Case

Molecular biology and biochemistry graduate student Brandon Case and Professor Manju Hingorani are coauthors of a study published in Nucleic Acids Research in March 2019.

The paper, titled “The ATPase mechanism of UvrA2 reveals the distinct roles of proximal and distal ATPase sites in nucleotide excision repair,” reports new findings on how the UvrA2 protein uses its ATPase activity to probe DNA for damage lesions, such as those caused by UV radiation, and initiate nucleotide excision repair (NER). This DNA repair process corrects tens of thousands of lesions introduced daily into the human genome by UV rays and chemical agents.