Tag Archive for Class of 2012

English, American Studies Major Ross ’12 Participates in A Cappella Group, Equestrian Team

Grace Ross ’12.

Q&As with outstanding students is an occasional feature of The Wesleyan Connection. This issue we speak with Grace Ross from the Class of 2012.

Q: Grace, you’ll be graduating this May with a double major in English and American Studies. Why did you choose to major in those areas?

A: It was the American Literature survey course I took with Joel Pfister my freshman fall that drew me to English and American Studies. We read Mary Rowlandson’s Indian captivity narrative. Professor Pfister essentially summarized what I had been attempting to argue in A.P. U.S. History and offered analysis far beyond the scope of my high school research paper. I knew then that I wanted to major in both.

Q: You recently attended the Center for America’s Americas Forum on April 20, which focused on “Authenticity in the Americas: Constructions and Contestations of Identity.” (View photos of the event online here). Can you elaborate on what was discussed in this four-hour event?

A: The panel was structured around “authenticity” and how it functions within identity formation, nation building, and oppressive systems in North and South America. The panel was composed of six authors we had read throughout the semester: Daphne Brooks, Rebecca Earle, Ben Irvin, Jeff Pilcher, Scott Lyons and Florence Babb. Our Wesleyan professors (and postdoctoral fellows) Amelia Kiddle and Christian Gonzales, spearheaded the effort to find authors who could participate and mediated the event. It was primarily targeted toward the students, although many faculty were present. I was most excited to talk with Daphne Brooks, as she provided a key perspective in my thesis and I was most familiar with her work. She also teaches English and African-American studies at Princeton.

Q: In 2010, you spent your summer working at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. collecting, documenting, and transcribing surveys and managing all the archival material. Is this something you’d like to do more of?

Getting to know the Library of Congress was a rewarding experience and showed me a side of D.C. that I wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed to. It’s been illuminating to delve into the topic of ethical codes in human subject research. But, I’m really an extrovert. As much as I love working with archival material, I don’t see myself spending too much time in an archive, unless it’s research for a graduate thesis or maybe even a book way down the road.

Q: Tell us more about the student-run a cappella group, the Mixolydians.

 The Mixolydians is an ensemble group that performs choral music. Our final concert this spring includes pieces in French, Russian, English and Latin ranging from the past 300 years.

Q: What other organizations, services or clubs did you take part in during your four years at Wesleyan?

I rode on the Equestrian Team for three years, which provided a good excuse to get off campus every week and to be around horses. Right now, I’m volunteering for Julia Star, a program that sends Wesleyan students to talk with fifth graders about stereotypes and difference. I also served as a member of the English Department Majors Committee, promoting the major to pre-frosh and underclassmen.

Q: What are you going to miss most about Wesleyan, and what are your post-Wesleyan plans?

 I think I’m going to miss the people here most. Everyone you meet on this campus has a passion and has something to offer the world. Ultimately, the late night conversations, unexpected interactions, and multitude of events, performances, and shows will make me most nostalgic. After completing my thesis, I decided to take this summer off and travel around the world. Beyond that, I plan to move to New York in September with my sights set on the publishing industry.

Lana ’12, Spates ’12 Receive Baden-Württemberg Award to Study in Germany

Lana Lana ’12 and Jessica Spates ’12 received a Baden-Württemberg–Connecticut Exchange Grant for a one-year study in Germany.

The Baden-Württemberg Exchange Program offers students an opportunity to earn college credits in one of Germany’s top nine universities. Students spend the academic year at the university they choose.

The Baden-Württemberg Exchange originated from a legislative partnership formed between the State of Connecticut and the German state of Baden-Württemberg in 1989. The agreement invites all students enrolled in four-year colleges and universities in Connecticut to study at any institution of higher learning in Baden-Württemberg. With nine universities from which to choose and a large number of Fachhochschulen (advanced technical colleges) and Kunsthochschulen (art colleges), students of all disciplines can be accommodated.

The Baden-Württemberg Exchange is a reciprocal exchange program. This means that Connecticut students prepay their usual tuition and then trade places with a German student from the Exchange, who has paid their German tuition.

Tratner ’12 to Study Educational Alternatives as Thomas Watson Fellow

Cara Tratner ’12 plays guitar in Algorrobo, Chile, where she studied abroad. Tratner, a sociology major, will travel to Peru, Guatemala, Ghana, Uganda and India as a 2012-13 Thomas J. Watson Fellow.

Cara Tratner ’12 grew up in the dorms of Stanford University where her dad taught English. Immersed in academia from the start, she did not begin to question her educational privilege until her freshman year at Wesleyan.

“As I became aware of the unequal patterns of access to education in the U.S.,” Tratner comments, “I looked back at my own schooling in a different light, starting to think critically about the level of segregation even in my own ‘good’ high school, and the way in which my success as a student was to a certain extent dependent on the failure of so many others.”

After this realization, Tratner began exploring alternative models of education and working with educational organizations seeking to reach those excluded from the type of education she grew up with. She taught in diverse settings ranging from Philadelphia public middle schools to Argentinian high schools to Connecticut prisons.

Yet Tratner shares that her experience in these teaching positions only complicated her understanding, leaving her wondering how and when educational structures actually benefit the communities they serve. “In my teaching experience I struggled to determine whether alternative educational practices were truly built out of the needs of those communities, or whether they functioned more to integrate individuals into a standardized educational paradigm,” she says.

As a 2012-13 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, sociology major Tratner will explore the topic “Overcoming Exclusion: Community-Based Educational Alternatives” in a year-long “wanderjahr.” Tratner is one of only 40 Watson Fellows selected to follow her passion in a self-designed project in countries outside the U.S. The fellowship comes with a $25,000 stipend. “The Watson is a way for me to learn about the work of educators who aim to empower marginalized communities to construct their own education,” she says.

Tratner will begin her wanderjahr in Peru, where 70 percent of Peruvian children who live isolated in Andean mountain communities do not complete more than five years of school. She’ll also explore and compare the work of educators in Guatemala, Ghana, Uganda and India who are developing culturally-relevant education programs for communities that have been left out of the formal education system.

Tratner will examine how cultural context influences the pedagogical methods of the educational response in each region. She’ll explore the diverse ways educators around the world are seeking to solve the problem of educational exclusion.

“The wanderjahr is a perfect opportunity for me to see first-hand the incredible variety of innovative initiatives around the world aiming to create a culturally-relevant education,” she says. “If I can discover how educators are able to empower entire communities to construct their own model of education, I hope that I too will be able to locate myself within a global educational community and work to construct my own path as I step forward into the world of education.”

Video Feature on Wesleyan Students Addressing Global Issues

Rachel Levenson ’12, saw a need for an elevated, intellectual based conversation on how to evaluate programs, scale up effective programs, and allocate funds in a way that will have the biggest positive impact. Levenson designed The Forum For International Development to create a space at Wesleyan for that discussion so people could learn from each other as well as from speakers that Wesleyan Students brought in from all over the country.

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Conducive Classrooms, Numerical Representation, Lignin Degration are Topics of McNair Fellow Presentations

Wesleyan's 2011-12 McNair Fellows receive guidance, research opportunities and academic and financial support.

Eleven Wesleyan seniors will speak on their undergraduate research projects during the Spring 2012 McNair Fellow Presentation Series March 29 through April 26. The presentations describe the research that students conducted with Wesleyan faculty mentors.

Many of the projects also are the subject of student theses or final papers presented for the Wesleyan B.A. requirements.

The Wesleyan University Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement McNair Program was established in 2007. It assists students from underrepresented groups with preparing for, entering, and progressing successfully through postgraduate education. They are often first generation college students from low-income families, OR African-American, Hispanic, Native Hawaiian, other Pacific Islander, or Native American.

The program provides guidance, research opportunities, and academic and financial support to students planning to pursue Ph.Ds. Junior and Senior Fellows do research with faculty mentors and participate in program activities with the McNair cohort. More than 59 students have participated in the program, 40 of whom were first generation college attendees.

The program provides guidance, research opportunities, and academic and financial support to students planning to pursue Ph.Ds.

“We’re very proud of our graduating fellows,” says Santos Cayetano, administrative director of the McNair Program. “Many of our fellows go on to graduate school and post baccalaureate programs. We welcome the entire Wesleyan community to come hear about their research.”

All talks are at noon in Exley Science Center 109. The schedule is as follows:

March 29
Julia Marroquin-Ceron ’12 will present “Spanish legal translation and interpretation: Wesleyan students and involvement in the greater Middletown community.”

Khan ’12 is a “Young Woman to Look Out For”

In honor of International Women’s Day, DoSomething.org named Tasmiha Khan ’12 one of the “11 Young Women to Look Out For.”

Through the organization Brighter Dawns, Khan raises awareness about the water-related illnesses in Bangladesh and builds wells, latrines and shower rooms in an effort to combat sanitary ignorance and the inability to access safe sanitation.

With a goal of 5 million active members by 2015, DoSomething.org is one of the largest organizations in the U.S. for teens and social change.

The story is online here.

Aaron ’14, Malamut ’12 Receive NASA Research Grants

Two undergraduates each received a $5,000 grant from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium on Jan. 1.

Lavontria Aaron ’14 to will study minerals on Mars with Martha Gilmore, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences; and Craig Malamut ’12 will research local interstellar mediums with Seth Redfield, assistant professor of astronomy.

Student Volunteers Provide Education in India

MINDS volunteers work with children in India.

Over winter break, eight volunteers from Wesleyan, including founder Raghu Appasani ’12, traveled to India with the MINDS Foundation to complete the first phase of their three-phase program in India. The organization, founded by Appasani in 2010, is committed to eliminating the stigma of mental illness in developing nations. Through a grassroots approach, they provide educational, financial, medical, and moral support for patients suffering from mental illness in developing countries.

Volunteers Shyam Desai ’15, Sam Douglas ’12 (a psychology major and director of research & development), Emma Kingsberg ’12, Rehan Mehta ’14, Lauren Seo ’14 (president of the Wesleyan chapter of the foundation), Rishi Shah ’12 (director of business development), and Zach Valenti ’12 joined Appasani ’12 for their nearly month-long study and service.

Phase I of the process, explains Appasani, is educational: the goal is to give people accurate information about mental illness and begin to take away some of the stigma and blame associated with it, and to begin conversations. Volunteers spent their time leading workshops and discussions, showing a documentary, and working with young children on dramatics arts projects to illustrate the lessons.

Rachel Fifer ’12: Acrobatic Yoga Instructor Says Wesleyan is “Hugely Instrumental”

Rachel Fifer '12 teaches the class DANC420.01 “Acrobatic Partner Yoga and Thai Massage” at Wesleyan.

Q: Rachel, please explain what acrobatic yoga is, and how you got involved.

A: AcroYoga, as it’s called, is acrobatic partner yoga that mostly involves a “base” who uses their legs to hold a “flyer” in the air as they both collaborate to move through therapeutic poses as well as acrobatic maneuvers. I got involved when Ryan Rogers and Miles Bukiet ’11 led an AcroYoga student forum last year.

Q: What is the partner class you teach and how many students are in the class?

A: Lizzie Simon ’12 and I teach a student forum class called Acrobatic Partner Yoga and Thai Massage for a full credit. Seventeen students are enrolled for credit, but about 30 people take the class in total, because it’s so much fun it’s worth it even without credit!

Rachel Fifer '12 (denim shorts) and Morgan Hill '14 (black pants) practice acrobatic yoga behind the Usdan University Center Feb. 23.

Q: What are the benefits of acrobatic partner yoga?

A: Phew…I could go on for ages. It improves flexibility, strength, trust in yourself, trust in a partner, body awareness, comfort with your own body and others’, breath awareness in yourself and others, balance, connection with communities around you…It’s a practice that makes you feel confident, challenged, and it still super goofy and relaxed.

Q: Are you going to become licensed?

A: At the moment, I can’t afford to become licensed. Someday, maybe.

Q: What are your academic interests?

A: I’m majoring in Latin American studies and environmental studies. I love understanding how people and societies think. So history, sociology, psychology, politics…pretty much anything related to how things work.

Q: And other hobbies?

A: Folk dance! And singing and playing instruments. But mostly dancing. Blues, contra, salsa, waltz, swing, international.

Q: Why did you choose Wesleyan?

A: Honestly? Because after my dad made me check it out because it was in a book of “colleges that change the world,” they gave me the biggest scholarship. Just turned out that Wesleyan was a nearly perfect fit for me. I got lucky! I’m so very glad I picked Wesleyan. I feel like the ways that Wesleyan has challenged me (comfort with sexuality, being aware of the immense weight words carry, questioning who writes history) and at the same time provided me with community and opportunity (dancing, a small enough school that I always see familiar faces, the chance to teach my own class) has been hugely instrumental in my growth as a person.

Q: What are your plans after graduating?

A: I’m saving up money to live in Spain with a friend of mine for the summer and then moving to Asheville, N.C. to teach AcroYoga and work with an environmentally-minded community organizing group and dance all the time because it’s the city with the best dance scene in the country!

Neufeld ’12, Bartle ’12 Co-Produce Middletown Youth Radio Project

Harry Bartle '12 and Maddie Neufeld '12 are co-producers for the Middletown Youth Radio Project.

A show on bullying in a Middletown neighborhood ,produced by Maddie Neufeld ’12 and Harry Bartle ’12, was recently featured on WNPR and GPRX radio.

Neufeld and Bartle are co-producers of the Middletown Youth Radio Project.

After submitting a proposal to Generation Public Radio Exchange (GPRX), Middletown Youth Radio Project was selected to produce a piece on bullying in Traverse Square, a federally subsidized complex in Middletown.

“We wanted to understand what bullying might look like in a community. DJ DZhane and DJ Elizabethyano took on the project and went around Traverse Square with a microphone and recorder in hand, interviewing family, friends and neighbors about bullying,” Neufeld explains.

The story is online here. It was aired as a part of a one-hour special on bullying put together by WNPR and GPRX.

Khan ’12 to Present Research Poster at Psychological Convention

Tasmiha Khan ’12 will present the poster “Responses to Group Devaluation among American-Muslims” at the 2012 Association for Psychological Science Annual Convention, May 24 – 27 in Chicago, Ill. In this poster, Khan will present results with her ongoing research with Patricia Rodriguez Mosquera, assistant professor of psychology, on how American Muslims feel about negative societal images of their group. Khan has been working in Rodriguez Mosquera’s Culture and Emotion Lab since 2009 where she is also involved in another research project on the meaning of honor among South Asian women.

Wilkerson ’12, Williams ’12 Receive Teaching Education Fellowships

Nearly half of the nation’s students – 44 percent – are students of color, but only one of every six teachers is a teacher of color. To help recruit, support and retain individuals of color as K-12 public school teachers, the Woodrow Wilson-Rockefeller Brothers Fund Fellowships for Aspiring Teachers of Color offers scholarships to to ensure that greater numbers of highly qualified teachers of color enter public school classrooms around the country.

Randyl Wilkerson '12

This year, the Fund awarded fellowships to two Wesleyan seniors: Randyl Wilkerson ’12 and Nastassia Williams ’12.

Wilkerson, an English major, and Williams, an African American Studies major, were chosen through a competitive selection process. They will each receive a $30,000 stipend to complete a master’s degree in education, preparation to teach in a high-need public school, support throughout a three-year teaching commitment, and guidance toward teaching certification.

Wilkerson, of Chicago, Ill., is a member of Wesleyan’s AIDS Sexual Health Awareness Group and is the university’s campus campaign coordinator for Teach for America. She also volunteers as a sexual education teacher for Connecticut high school students. Wilkerson is a poet with a published collection, Astrobiology. She is a member of the Wesleyan Poetry Slam Team and is a winner of the Best Persona Piece Award, National Poetry Slam. She’s minoring in American Studies.

Wilkerson will use her fellowship to attend graduate school through the Boston Teacher Residency, and receive a M.A. in education.

“After I get my master’s, I want to teach in Boston Public Schools for a few years to understand how best to serve inner city youth today,” she says. “But ultimately, I want to start an enrichment program teaching youth to think and write critically, while empowering them through acts of creativity. I want to help public school students develop their own voices and gain a sense of agency.”

Nastassia Williams '12

Williams, of the Bronx, N.Y., works as a tutor for Middletown’s Traverse Square, an organization for elementary students. She also is a SAT tutor with the Let’s Get Ready program and is currently learning how to deejay. She’s minoring in English.

Williams has already applied to the Bard College Master of Arts Teaching Program, the Boston Teacher Residency and the Newark-Montclair Urban Teaching Residency.

“I’d like to earn a master’s degree in teaching and probably teach English at the middle school or high school level,” she says. “And with the fellowship, I will complete the program and continue to work in a public school in an urban or rural high-needs area.”

Current trends indicate that by the year 2020, the percentage of teachers of color will fall to an all-time low of five percent of the total teacher force, while the percentage of students of color in the K-12 system will likely near 50 percent. This Fellowship offers an opportunity to ensure that greater numbers of highly qualified teachers of color enter public school classrooms around the country.