Tag Archive for Class of 2015

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn 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 Nation: “Edward Snowden Deserves to Be Tried by a Jury of His Peers, Just Like Everyone Else”

In this op-ed, Associate Professor of Government Sonali Chakravarti argues against the Justice Department’s decision to deny Edward Snowden’s request for a jury trial. She contends that in Snowden’s case, in which he is accused of leaking classified information from the National Security Administration in 2013, a jury trial “is not only a viable alternative to a hearing before a judge; rather, given the nature of the charges—where the defendant has supposedly acted to protect the people from the very state that would charge him with a crime—jury deliberation is the proper forum for discussion of appropriate punishment and is the bulwark against the potential misconduct of the state.”

2. Transitions Online: “Stuck in the Middle”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, professor of government, and Dmytro Babachanakh ’20 explore the history of U.S. involvement in Ukraine, and call upon U.S. leaders of both parties to stop “treating lesser powers as political instruments.”

3. Tulsa World: “Save the Little Grouse on the Prairie”

Alex Harold ’20 is the author of this op-ed that calls for the lesser prairie chicken to be placed on the endangered species list to get the protections it desperately needs, as over 90 percent of its habitat has been degraded or destroyed. While many haven’t heard of this bird, Harold explains that it is an “indicator species” that “reflect(s) the health of the entire prairie ecosystem.” Harold wrote the op-ed as an assignment in E&ES 399, Calderwood Seminar in Environmental Science Journalism, taught by Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences Suzanne O’Connell, this semester. The Calderwood Seminars are offered in a variety of disciplines to teach students how to effectively communicate academic knowledge to the public. Read more here.

Cultural Experiences Discussed at Power of Language Conference

More than 110 Wesleyan students, faculty, alumni, and local guests participated in the second annual Power of Language Conference, April 26-27 at the Fries Center for Global Studies. The event was open to the entire Wesleyan community.

The two-day event featured six panels that focused on: Creative Language Learning, Crossing Time and Border through Translation, Language and Society, Language in Curriculum, Arabic in the U.S., and  Polyphony through Literature.

“The presentations ranged from class final projects (such as a comic version of Dante’s Inferno, reimagined at Wesleyan) to senior theses (such as the challenges of translating early modern Spanish into accessible contemporary English),” said Steve Angle, Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies and director of the Fries Center for Global Studies. “Taken as a whole, the presentations captured the challenges and rewards of working with the world’s languages.”

Banks ’15 Receives Fulbright to Study International Crimes, Conflict, Criminology

Isabella Banks ’15 received a Fulbright Study/Research grant in International Crimes, Conflict, and Criminology for 2018–19.

Isabella Banks ’15 was awarded a 2018–19 Fulbright Study/Research Grant for the master’s program in International Crimes, Conflict, and Criminology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Combining perspectives and methodologies from the fields of criminology, law, psychology, sociology, and political science, the program also draws on resources available through its location near The Hague—home to the UN’s International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court.

“I hope to focus my research on transitional justice, which applies restorative principles to systematic, conflict-related human rights violations,” says Banks, who majored in the College of Social Studies with a certificate in international relations while at Wesleyan. Her honors thesis, “The Jury Is Out: Negotiated Agreements in the German Inquisitorial System,” is an exploration of the United States’ adversarial system of justice in comparison with the German inquisitorial system. A 2015 article in the Connection noted that Banks said her interest in exploring alternatives to the U.S. system of criminal justice was initiated by what she observed as its “growing dysfunction” as well as the increasing measure of disapproval it garnered.

After graduating, Banks studied abroad on a one-year Watson Fellowship, pursuing research in restorative justice in countries such as New Zealand, Australia, England, and South Africa. For her project, “Making Crime Personal: Restorative Alternatives to Criminal Justice,” she interviewed individuals involved in a range of restorative justice processes and acted as a participant observer in schools, prisons, and community organizations working to implement restorative practices.

She is currently affiliated with the Center for Court Innovation in New York City, whose founding director was John Feinblatt ’73 and current director is Greg Berman ’89. Banks serves as a planner for the Research-Practice Strategies team led by Director of Policy and Research Julian Adler ’02.

“My Watson year opened my eyes to the importance of human relationships in justice processes and fostered a fascination with conflict transformation that I am sure will drive my learning for years to come,” said Banks.

 

Feldstein ’15 Wows in Broadway Debut

Actress Beanie Feldstein ’15 has made her Broadway debut as Minnie Fay in the sold-out, Tony-winning revival of Hello, Dolly! this past April. The role has her playing a fresh-faced shopgirl in this comedic musical theater hit about a meddlesome matchmaker named Dolly Gallagher Levi. Starring alongside the iconic Bette Middler and Broadway veteran Kate Baldwin, Feldstein is living out her childhood dream night after night in Broadway’s Shubert Theatre—and certain magazine outlets, such as Vogue, are asking whether we are seeing the next Middler in Feldstein.

Paper by Dancey, Masand ’15 Focuses on Congress’s Response to Deaths

Logan Dancey, assistant professor of government, and Jasmine Masand ‘15 are the co-authors of “Race and Representation on Twitter: Members of Congress’ Responses to the Deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner,” published in Politics, Groups, and Identities in July 2017.

This paper investigates the public responses of members of Congress to the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and the subsequent protests and grand jury decisions. To do so, the authors examined members’ engagement with the issue on Twitter, which became a platform for public protest with such hashtags as #BlackLivesMatter and #ICantBreathe.

“We find that a member’s race is a more robust predictor of their engagement on the issue than is the member’s partisanship or the partisan and racial demographics of their district,” Dancey explained. “By showing that descriptive representation may overwhelm more traditional notions of district-based representation in responses to a racially charged issue, we further highlight the role descriptive representation in Congress plays in ensuring that the diversity of voices coming out of Congress reflects the diversity of voices in the public at large.”

Elion ’15, Mitchell ’15 of the Overcoats Release Album

JJ Mitchell ’15 and Hana Elion ’15 have been performing since they were undergrads as the Overcoats and have released their album, Young.

JJ Mitchell ’15 and Hana Elion ’15 have been performing since they were undergrads as the Overcoats and have released their album, Young.

Only two years out of Wesleyan where they met, Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15, the duo who are Overcoats, have enjoyed several markers of success this spring. While both Elion and Mitchell describe the formation of the band as something that “just sort of happened,” Elion adds that a career in music seemed like “a faraway dream that I didn’t expect to happen in reality.” But it is.

Their debut album, Young, released on April 21, 2017, is what they consider work-in-progress since their graduation, The title, they say, reflects the album’s emotional content: the confusion and wonder of the recent college graduate. The out-in-front vulnerability has a purpose: “By sharing these feelings through music,  it will make you stronger: you can create a community and connection around these hard feelings, which everyone has but doesn’t talk about.” One of the issues that Young explores is the newfound adult perspective on childhood— rediscovering the significance of “the tough love that our fathers would give us,” as well as  “what our mothers went through, as we come into the world as women and experience what it means to be an adult.”

In Young, the two connect the personal nature of their lyrics with different musical influences than they’d previous explored—from folk-like harmonies to pop and synth beats—allowing Overcoats an expanded vocabulary in which to reach their audience. “A good dance beat makes you heal faster,” is how they describe the eureka moment of embracing mainstream instruments in pop music.

In an earlier highlight this spring, National Public Radio invited them to give a Tiny Desk Concert, the intimate video concerts that are recorded live at the desk of “All Songs Considered” host Bob Boilen. “To actually do a Tiny Desk Concert and sing the music we had written and be totally ourselves—It’s something we will never forget,” says Mitchell.

On tour across the United States, with several venues in Canada this summer, the Overcoats say that the nomadic life of a musician has required them “to find a home in each other on the stage.” Now, with the release of Young. Overcoats offers their fans the opportunity to share in the sound of this home that Elion and Mitchell have created for each other, through the journey of their music.

Wilkins, Alumni Author Paper on Consequences of Perceived Anti-Male Bias

Clara Wilkins, assistant professor of psychology, has studied perceptions of discrimination against whites and other groups who hold positions of relative advantage in society—such as heterosexuals and men—since she was a graduate student at the University of Washington. She became became interested in the topic of perceptions of bias against high status groups after hearing Glenn Beck call president Barack Obama racist. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Clara Wilkins

Men in the U.S. today increasingly believe themselves to be victims of gender discrimination, and there are a record number of recent lawsuits claiming anti-male bias. In a study published in March in Psychology of Men and MasculinityAssistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins and her co-authors assess the consequences of these perceptions of anti-male bias. Are men who perceive discrimination more likely to discriminate against women? How do beliefs about societal order affect men’s evaluations of men and women?

The article is co-authored by former post-doctoral fellow Joseph Wellman, now an assistant professor at California State University–San Bernardino, Erika Flavin ’14, and Juliana Manrique ’15, MA ’16.

In a blog post on the study, the authors write:

Traditionally men have had higher status than women in the U.S.; they have been better educated, more likely to be employed, and have tended to earn more than women with the same job and qualifications. People vary in the extent to which they believe that this particular ordering of society is fair and the way things should be. Some believe this type of inequality is legitimate, while others believe it should change. We expected that men who believed men should have higher status in society would be most upset about the thought that men now experience discrimination, and that they would react by favoring men over equally-qualified women. This effort would be a way to reestablish men’s perceived rightful place in society.

They conducted two studies to test this prediction. In the first, male participants read an article about increasing bias against men or another group, and then were asked to evaluate the résumé of a man or woman as part of an ostensibly unrelated study. The résumés were identical except for the name and gender. The researchers found that men who believe the social hierarchy is fair tended to give more negative evaluations of the female candidate relative to the male candidate after reading about bias against men. They also showed less desire to help the female candidate. The same effect wasn’t seen after male participants read about bias against an unrelated group. The researchers conclude that beliefs about the legitimacy of the hierarchy and perceptions of bias against men together seemed to disadvantage women.

In a second study, the researchers manipulated participants’ beliefs about society’s fairness by having them create sentences by unscrambling strings of randomly ordered words that suggested system legitimacy. For example, they created sentences like “effort leads to prosperity” – which makes people believe that hard work in society is rewarded. Or, they unscrambled other words to create neutral sentences unrelated to society. Unscrambling system-legitimizing sentences caused participates to believe the social structure is legitimate, and in turn, caused those primed to perceive discrimination against men to more negatively evaluate female targets. They also reported being less willing to help the female targets than male targets.

The researchers gave participants an opportunity to provide feedback on how to improve targets’ resumes. Those primed with beliefs that the social structure is legitimate reacted to perceiving bias against men by providing more constructive feedback to male targets than female targets. They write that these findings are striking, as the resumes were identical – only the names varied.

This research suggests that men who believe that men should be high-status in society react to perceiving bias against men by engaging in efforts to maintain men’s position of power. These individuals may be unaware that they favor their own group or disadvantage women; they may simply perceive that they are righting a perceived wrong. However, this explanation was not supported by other research results. When the researchers primed men to perceive discrimination against women, they did not react by favoring women over men. It seems as though they are uniquely concerned about maintaining their own group’s position in society, they write.

The researchers conclude that when high-status individuals perceive increasing bias against their group, those who endorse the legitimacy of the social hierarchy may perpetuate social disparities. Thus, if men increasingly perceive discrimination against their group, they may be more inclined to discriminate against women and provide other men with an extra boost. They recommend adopting hiring and evaluation processes that mask gender to prevent these potentially deleterious effects of perceiving bias against men.

Read the complete research article here.

Williams ’15 Awarded NSF Graduate Research Fellowship

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LaNell Williams ’15

LaNell Williams ’15, currently enrolled in the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s to PhD Bridge Program, was named a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellow for 2016. This fellowship program not only recognizes but also supports outstanding  students in NSF-supported STEM disciplines who are pursuing research-based master’s and doctoral degrees at accredited U.S. institutions. With more than 17,000 applicants, Williams was one of 2,000 selected for the three-year stipend, with its professional development and international research opportunities.

At the Fisk-Vanderbilt program, which aims to increase the number of underrepresented minority students engaged in PhD-level STEM research, Williams is focusing her research on the development of an innovative medical imaging radiation detector, examining new types of crystalline materials that will improve the resolution of Gamma ray detection.

A physics major as an undergraduate at Wesleyan, Williams was an integral member of that community. Christina Othon, assistant professor of physics, was Williams’ advisor.

“LaNell was a vital mentor and friend to many of our students in the sciences, and she went out of her way to support her fellow students by fostering networks, support systems, and a sense of community,” Othon said. “Even today, she continues to mentor undergraduates at Wesleyan, despite undertaking the challenges of starting her own graduate career in physics. Her success is well deserved.”

Class Dean Renee Johnson Thornton praises William’s work ethic and scientific mind.

“When I think about the impressive young woman in a Memphis, Tennessee high school that Cliff Thornton, associate dean of admission, was determined to enroll at Wesleyan so many years ago, I am reminded that LaNell was always destined for greatness. We, at Wesleyan, are lucky that she chose us. Her commitment to breaking barriers and encouraging others to pursue science is the standard we should all emulate.”

Bonin, Louie ’15 Co-Author Paper in Journal of Comparative Economics

John Bonin, the Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Science, and his former student Dana Louie ’15, are authors of a new paper published in Journal of Comparative Economics titled, “Did foreign banks stay committed to emerging Europe during recent financial crises?”

In the paper, Bonin and Louie investigate the behavior of foreign banks with respect to real loan growth during times of financial crisis for a set of countries where foreign banks dominate the banking sectors. The paper focuses on eight countries that are the most developed in emerging Europe and the behavior of two types of banks: The Big 6 European multinational banks (MNBs) and all other-foreign controlled banks. The results show that bank lending was impacted adversely during recent financial crises, but the two types of banks behaved differently. The Big 6 banks’ lending behavior was similar to domestic banks supporting the notion that these countries are treated as a “second home market” by these European MNBs. However, the other foreign banks in the region were involved in fueling the credit boom, but then decreased their lending aggressively during the crisis periods. The results suggest that both innovations matter for studying bank behavior during crisis periods in the region and, by extension, to other small countries in which banking sectors are dominated by foreign financial institutions having different business models.

“I am particularly proud of this collaborative publication because it does not stem from a student’s honors thesis, but rather from work that began with the Quantitative Analysis Center summer program and that Dana and I continued throughout her senior year in addition to her regular coursework,” Bonin said.

The paper is available online and will appear in a forthcoming hardcopy issue of the journal.

Feldstein ’15 Dubbed ‘Breakout’ for Neighbors 2

With Yahoo's Kevin Polowy, Beanie Feldstein ’15 dishes about behind the scenes in Neighbors 2 versus her real-life college experience.

With Yahoo’s Kevin Polowy, Beanie Feldstein ’15 dishes about behind the scenes in Neighbors 2, versus her real-life college experience.

“There is an entire neighborhood full of funny people in Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising,” wrote Kevin Polowy, senior editor at Yahoo! Movies. “But some of the film’s biggest laughs belong to newcomer Beanie Feldstein, who makes her major-studio movie debut as the party-hearty sorority pledge Nora.”

Feldstein ’15, a Los Angeles, Calif. native and sociology major at Wesleyan has been acting on stage since she was 5, with “three to six musicals a year every singer year from 5 to 22,” ending last year with graduation.

She tells Yahoo that Neighbors 2 was not a typecasting situation: “My college experience was nothing like Nora’s. I was such a lame person. I had never done drugs. They had to teach me how to use a lighter, and how to inhale. That scene where I smoke weed in the movie was actually my first time smoking anything.”

Also invited to appear on the Conan O’Brien Show, Feldstein recalls more of her college career: four years as a tour guide. “My friends like to call me TGB—Tour Guide Beanie—and it’s an entirely different person than me. I’m already pretty peppy, but she’s on a whole other level. I could sell anything at that point—I mean Wesleyan’s really easy to sell; it’s a great place.”

NPR Previewed SXSW Performers Elion ’15 and Mitchell ’15 of Overcoats

Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival. (photo credit: Lex Voight)Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival. (photo credit: Lex Voight)

Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15 are Overcoats. Recently, the duo performed at South By Southwest Music Festival.

NPR’s All Songs Considered featured the former Wesleyan band Overcoats in its preview of the 2016 South by Southwest Music festival in Austin Texas. Overcoats, made up of Hana Elion ’15 and JJ Mitchell ’15, have made the leap from small on-campus concerts to performances in New York City’s Mercury Lounge and the Longitude Festival in Ireland. Currently, Overcoats resides in New York City where they are performing and recording new music in studio.

Overcoats describe their style as “combining electronic backdrops with soaring, harmonic intimacy — a sort of Chet Faker meets Simon & Garfunkel.” Their songs “draw strength from vulnerability, finding uplifting beauty in simple, honest songwriting,“ the duo write.

In their preview, NPR host Bob Boilen wrote, “The charming East Coast duo Overcoats reminds me of [the Scandinavian folk duo] My bubba — the heart of what these two do is in the playfulness of their vocal performances.”

Bevilacqua ’12 and Alam ’15: Translating, Publishing Wiesel’s Night in Indonesian

Max Bevilacqua ’12 spent a year teaching English in Indonesia on a Fulbright. Elie Weisel's memoir, Night, proved a bridge to understanding between cultures.

Max Bevilacqua ’12 spent a year teaching English in Indonesia on a Fulbright. Elie Weisel’s memoir, Night, proved a bridge to understanding between cultures. (photo credit: Sarah Gormley)

It doesn’t seem an obvious choice, publishing one of the most important memoirs to come out of the Holocaust into the language of a country that is home to the world’s largest Muslim population—but that’s exactly the project Max Bevilacqua ’12 and Mansoor Alam ’15 have taken on.
The project is the brainchild of Bevilacqua, who grew up in a Jewish household and studied Christianity as a religion major at Wesleyan. As a Fulbright scholar, he requested placement in Indonesia, which is 88 percent Muslim, and where he taught English. State department officials—as well as family and friends—encouraged Bevilacqua not to reveal his religious identity, since Judaism is not sanctioned there.

“I struggled with that,” he said. “But I came to see it as— I wanted to be ‘Max, the American who is our teacher.’ I didn’t want my religion to be distraction.”
Still, the secret weighed on him. Ten days before his year was complete, he gathered his friends. “You should know that I’m Jewish,” he said.

His announcement was met with some confusion—why hadn’t he told them? It was a time to acknowledge his own fears and biases—and the best way seemed to be with a book: Night, by Elie Wiesel. This memoir recounted Weisel’s horrific experiences as a young boy in the German concentration camps during World War II.

“The book provided an epiphany of the trauma that has been associated with being Jewish,” Bevilacqua said.

Back in the United States, Bevilacqua continued pondering the bridge he’d found. What would it take to share this powerful book with a country that had never had it available to them?

He remembered that he already knew a publisher: Mansoor Alam ’15. The two had met as undergrads. Alam describes Bevilacqua as “very personable—you can sit down and really talk with him.” Bevilacqua calls Alam “humble and brilliant; a true Renaissance man.”

With his own publishing company, Mansoor Alam ’15 was the ideal partner for Bevilacqua. In this 2012 photo, Alam was in Karachi, Pakistan, supporting community educational initiatives.

With his own publishing company, Mansoor Alam ’15 was the ideal partner for Bevilacqua. In this 2012 photo, Alam was in Karachi, Pakistan, supporting community educational initiatives.

Alam had started his own publishing company as a first-year student at Wesleyan. “There are so many good writers and great content that doesn’t make it to readers; I wanted to figure out a way to give authors autonomy and make it cost effective,” he explained. He provides his clients with assistance in copyediting, graphics and marketing.

“When Max talked to me about the project, I knew we absolutely had to do this,” Alam said. “The challenge of it—the ‘what’— was thrilling to me, and Max was so passionate about the ‘why’ of it.”

The “what” began with obtaining rights from the French publishing company, in a series of carefully crafted letters written in French. Next, they lined up a cohort of French/Indonesian translators.

The process is intensive. “It’s such a visceral, personal book,” Bevilacqua said.

Bevilacqua urges us not to forget Indonesia when we, in the West, look to form relationships with Muslim-majority countries.

Bevilacqua urges us not to forget Indonesia when we, in the West, look to form relationships with Muslim-majority countries.

“Max was worried about losing the impact of those details,” Alam said. “To make sure that doesn’t happen, we rely on a network. Translators compare their work—how they rendered this word, that phrase.”

With the translation nearly completed, Bevilacqua is focused on coordinating classrooms in American and in Indonesia who will read Night together. “It’s a book that can bridge cultures,” he said. “When we think about the Muslim world, let’s also look to developing friendships in Indonesia.”

To follow their progress, see http://growingoodfaith.org/.