Tag Archive for Class of 2016

Alumni Create Environment-Focused Summer School for Youth in Japan

Kotaro Aoki and Kota Uno

Kota Uno ’16 and Kotaro Aoki ’16 are co-organizing a summer school program in Fukushima, Japan to help youth share their thoughts and values regarding nature, climate, and the environment.

For a truly sustainable future, Class of 2016 alumni Kotaro Aoki and Kota Uno believe it’s crucial to teach people how to view—and properly “use”— nature.

“Education is the most important piece in solving the root cause of climate change and environmental problems,” Aoki said. “If we don’t change our mindset, the same problem continues to rise no matter how drastic changes on the surface are.”

After reuniting recently in Fukushima, Japan during the COVID-19 pandemic, Aoki, a philosophy major, and Uno, a College of Social Studies major, discovered a shared interest in climate change. They agreed that they needed to help youth discover a deeper interest and respect for their natural environment. After months of planning, the duo, along with several other Wesleyan alumni, organized an environmental education program for Japanese youth to take place this summer in Aizuwakamatsu, near Fukushima.

From Aug. 17 to 20, the Kotowari Aizu Summer School program will help youth learn the relationship between humans and nature and reimagine a way of life moving forward. Kotowari is a Japanese word that means “unchanging law of truth that governs humans and the environment.”

“We’re not attempting to promote a certain idealism, value, or message, such as ‘let’s protect our environment for the future generation,'” Aoki said on the program’s website. “This is because we value individual journeys to reach their own conclusions. To promote that individual process, we will expose the youth to diverse perspectives on environmental and climate crises and help them unearth their thoughts and values.”

The idea for the summer program originated after Aoki returned to Fukushima after spending three years in India practicing ascetic meditation in the Himalayas. He had hoped to bring back “the sense of awe and prayer to today’s world, which used to be at the center of human life for thousands of years.” Uno, who was working as an organic farmer in Fukushima, was learning alternatives for human beings and nature to co-exist.

“We each shared a conviction that climate change and other environmental problems originate from the way we are today in relation to nature, which is totally out of sync with what nature truly is,” Uno said.

The duo knew they’d need more manpower to start a program, so they recruited other likeminded Wes alumni—molecular biology and biochemistry major Jianyi Lu ’17; government major Kohei Saito ’09; College of Social Studies major Yusaku Takeda ’14; and government and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies double-major Shizuha Hatori ’18 to help organize and teach the school.

The inaugural summer school will be small—capped at 20 participants between the ages of 15 and 22. Topics will include moral dilemmas of climate change, creating “value” in the economy and how that impacts the natural world, technology in connection with natural resources, the distinction between humans and nature, and finding a potential deeper meaning of nature.

Participants will engage in outdoor activities and discussions to gain first-hand experience and be exposed to different viewpoints.

The program is currently supported by Earth & Human, an environmental NPO founded by Japanese actor Ebizo Ichikawa. The co-founders also are leading a crowdfunding campaign in which donors are connected to activity reports, access to online lectures, and a Aizu Nature Blessing Course.

“Together, the program aims to lay the foundation for the youth to think deeply and take action regarding the climate crisis,” Uno said.

The group is looking for like-minded collaborators. Email info@kotowari.co for more information.

Volcanic Lake Study by Varekamp, Former Students, Published in Geology

Joop Varekamp

Joop Varekamp

Johan “Joop” Varekamp, Harold T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science, professor of earth and environmental studies, is the co-author of an article published in Geology, March 2021.

The study, titled “Volcanic Carbon Cycling in East Lake, Newberry Volcano, Oregon,” focuses on the bubbling East Lake, the site of the Newberry Volcano, and the geological implications of the carbon reactions happening there.

Varekamp co-authored the article with graduate student Christina Cauley and former students: Hilary Brumberg ’17, Lena Capece ’16, Celeste Smith ’19, Paula Tartell ’18, and Molly Wagner MA ’19. The team researched this geological phenomenon from 2015 to 2019, and they are currently preparing several longer papers on their Newberry lakes findings.

Varekamp’s research centers around volcanic lakes, mercury pollution, and rising sea levels.

Haymon ’16, Morreale ’19 Discuss Theatermaking

miranda

Katherine Brewer Ball, assistant professor of theater, joined her former students Sam Morreale ’19 and Miranda Haymon ’16 over Zoom for a conversation about Haymon’s work and aspirations.

On March 18, the Center for the Arts presented “A Conversation with Theater Artist Miranda Haymon ’16.” Haymon, visiting instructor of theater, is Wesleyan’s inaugural Breaking New Ground Theater Artist-in-Residence, a new residency that brings early-career Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) theater artists to campus.

The discussion was led by Sam Morreale ’19. During the conversation, Haymon discussed artistic processes, Blackness, queerness, Brechtian analysis, the impacts of the pandemic on artmaking, and ideas for the future.

Haymon compared a theater performance to a “living document” in which the performance, audience, and actors are constantly changing.

“The work changes, and I change; we’re all changing. It’s that kind of symbiosis that I find really comforting actually. So I think a lot of my work is focused on the pure theatricality of the thing I love—when my actors are sweating, and they’re breathing hard, and they’re crying,  . . .  they’re laughing or they’re dancing. I’m obsessed with the human body; I’m obsessed with what it can do. I’m obsessed with what it can’t do. How can we make meaning from the human body?”

Haymon’s residency at Wesleyan is co-sponsored by the Theater Department, the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the Center for the Humanities, the African American Studies Department and the Center for African American Studies, and the Center for the Arts.

Haymon also has two related upcoming events:

  • A virtual Lunchtime Career Talk at noon, April 6, for Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff. Haymon will discuss their career post-Wesleyan as a freelance artist working in theater, television, film, and commercials, and how COVID-19 has shaped and changed that journey. RSVP is required.
  • Haymon’s upcoming radio play version of Pedro Pietri’s The Masses Are Asses (1974), on WESU Middletown 88.1FM at 10 p.m. on May 13 and May 20, 2021. The Masses Are Asses is an absurdist satire that exposes issues of social class, parodies the notion of the American Dream, and plays with political parody.
Miranda Haymon ’16

Haymon is a Princess Grace Award/Honoraria-winning director, writer, and curator. Recent projects include A Cakewalk (Garage Magazine & Gucci), Really, Really Gorgeous (The Tank), Everybody (Sarah Lawrence College), In the Penal Colony (Next Door @ New York Theatre Workshop, The Tank), and Mondo Tragic (National Black Theater). Haymon has held directing fellowships at Women’s Project (WP) Theater, New York Theatre Workshop, Manhattan Theatre Club, Roundabout Theatre Company, and Arena Stage.

sam

Sam Morreale ’19 is an advocate and facilitator for QTBIPOC+ (Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous People of Color) storytellers and makers. Most of their work takes form through producing, directing, and consulting, particularly with a practice rooted in anti-racism and anti-oppression, transformative justice, healing, and harm reduction. Morreale’s recent work includes being a facilitator/curator for Rattlestick Playwright’s Theater Community Conversations, and a consultant for ART/NY, Center Theatre Group, and Boston Court Pasadena.

Miranda Haymon ’16

“You really have a great eye for taking up topics for conversation that are on our minds now, and also the existential crises of our generation, like climate change and technology and culture,” Morreale said to Haymon.

penal colony

Haymon began writing and directing In the Penal Colony at Wesleyan in 2014, and it premiered at The Tank in 2018. Adapted from Franz Kafka’s short story of the same name, Haymon’s play investigates the performance of power, patriarchy, and punishment. “Penal Colony felt incredibly generative, incredibly time-consuming,” Haymon said. “The notion of the penal colony is all about punishment. It’s about how we punish each other. If we should be done with it. If it should continue just because it’s part of history.”

haymon

Haymon shared a performance of their self as BB Brecht, a social media influencer named in honor of German theater playwright Berthold Brecht. BB Brecht uses he/him pronouns and focuses on the ideas of suffering, alienation, and desperation and what it means to be human. “I think that for me as an artist, BB Brecht [gives me an opportunity for] all of my interests to converge,” Haymon said. “I’m really eager to use every single tool I have, which is directing music theory, culture, social media, Instagram, my time in Berlin, my German studies major—converge under this roof of an opportunity for me as an artist to really express every single facet of my identity as an artist and frankly as a person.”

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. The Chronicle of Higher Education: “Beware the Doyens of Disruption”

In this op-ed, President Michael Roth ’78 responds to predictions that COVID-19 is going to “change everything” in higher education with a reminder that “the desire of bright young people from all over the world for an on-campus education remains strong.” He writes, “It’s because the connectivity among people and practices that takes place in person intensifies the learning experience.”

2. HxA Podcast: “Michael Roth, Safe Enough Spaces”

President Michael Roth ’78 is interviewed on the Heterodox Academy’s podcast about his book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Heterodox Academy recently chose Safe Enough Spaces as the subject of its first ever book club. Roth was also recently interviewed on “The Way We Live Now,” a podcast from Dani Shapiro P ’22.

3. The Wall Street Journal: “Noted: Class of 2020”

The Wall Street Journal featured remarks by Caroline Bhupathi ’20 delivered at Wesleyan’s virtual commencement ceremony on May 24.

4. TLS: “Respect New Haven”

Assistant Professor of English Hirsh Sawhney reflects on the past, present, and politics of New Haven as he takes long, rambling walks through his city with his dog Pinky, a tiny chihuahua-dachshund mix.

5. PIX11: “College Students Create Program Connecting Young People with Senior Citizens in COVID-19 Isolation”

Marysol Castro ’96 features “Support a Pal,” a program created by Walker Brandt ’22 and Lars Delin ’22 to form connections between college students and elderly people in order to combat social isolation during the pandemic.

5. NJ.com: “‘A Smile Never Left His Face’: Steve Pikiell’s Forgotten Season Leading a Division-3 Underdog, 20 Years Before Rutgers”

Wesleyan alumni recall Steve Pikiell’s brief but memorable time as head coach of Wesleyan’s basketball team, long before he became head coach of Rutgers’ men’s basketball team. “I needed a guy like that in my life when he came along,” said Josh Schaer ’96, one of the senior captains on the team. “He had this infectious energy about basketball. He made me love the game again. He was just able to give us a boost. He lived up to expectations. He was a breath of fresh air. A smile never left his face. He loved where he was and he loved what he was doing.”

Wesleyan Named a Top Producer of Fulbright U.S. Students

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 are Ellie Martin ’16, Emma Distler ’19, and Rachel Yanover ’19.

The Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) recently announced that Wesleyan is included on the list of United States colleges and universities that produced the most 2019–2020 Fulbright U.S. Students. The Fulbright Program is the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program.

fulbright Not only is Wesleyan a top Fulbright producer nationwide with its seven grantees, but it also has more winners than any other liberal arts institution in Connecticut.

“We are delighted to see that the colleges and universities we are honoring as 2019–2020 Fulbright top-producing institutions reflect the geographic and institutional diversity of higher education in the United States,” said Marie Royce, assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. “We are committed to the Fulbright Program’s goals of creating lasting professional and personal connections by sending passionate and accomplished U.S. students of all backgrounds to study, research, or teach English in communities throughout the world. These Fulbrighters serve as citizen ambassadors for the United States in their host communities, and we will benefit from the skills, knowledge, and global connections they build on their exchanges long after they return home.”

The Fulbright competition is administered at Wesleyan through Fulbright Program Advisor Magdalena Zapędowska, assistant director of fellowships in the Fries Center for Global Studies. The 2019–2020 grantees (who are all recent alumni) are: Jordan Legaspi ’19, Emma Distler ’19, Ulysses Estrada ’17, Amad Amedy ’19, Stephanie Loui ’14, Emma Porazzo ’19, and Katie Murray ’19. Ellie Martin ’16 also received a Fulbright, however she didn’t apply through Wesleyan. Fulbright grant offers were also extended to Rachel Yanover ’19 and Hai Lun Tan ’18, who declined them to pursue other educational plans. (See the 2019–2020 Wesleyan Fulbright announcement article here.)

Wesleyan was listed as a top producer of Fulbright U.S. students in the Feb. 9, 2020, issue of The Chronicle of Education under the “baccalaureate institutions” category.

The Fulbright Program was created to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. More than 2,200 U.S. students and over 900 U.S. college and university faculty and administrators are awarded Fulbright grants annually. In addition, some 4,000 Fulbright foreign students and visiting scholars come to the United States annually to study, lecture, conduct research, or teach their native language.

Wesleyan also was named a Fulbright U.S. Student Top Producer in 2017-18 and 2016-17.

Students Celebrate 2018-19 Leadership Prizes, Fellowships, Scholarships at Reception

Edelina Marzouk '19 won an Outstanding Collaboration Award and a Scott Biomedical Prize for demonstrating excellence and interest in commencing a career in academic or applied medicine. Emma Distler '19 won the Scott Prize-Italian for excellence in modern languages. Jordan Legaspi '19 won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award.

Edelina Marzouk ’19 won an Outstanding Collaboration Award and a Scott Biomedical Prize for demonstrating excellence and interest in commencing a career in academic or applied medicine. Emma Distler ’19 won the Scott Prize-Italian for excellence in modern languages. Jordan Legaspi ’19 won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Award.

On May 8, the Office of Student Affairs hosted a reception honoring students who received academic or leadership prizes, fellowships, and scholarships in 2018–19.

More than 315 students and recent alumni received one of the University’s 180 prizes. (View the list below or on the Student Affairs website.)

Scholarships, fellowships, and leadership prizes are granted to students and student organizations based on criteria established for each prize or award. Certain University prizes are administered by the Student Affairs/Deans’ Office, while others are administered by the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD).

Students, Faculty, Alumni Present Research at 50th Annual Planetary Science Conference

Jeremy Brossier presented a talk titled "Radiophysical Behaviors of Venus’ Plateaus and Volcanic Rises: Updated Assessment." He also presented a poster titled "Complex Radar Emissivity Variations at Some Large Venusian Volcanoes."

At left, earth and environmental sciences postdoctoral research associate Jeremy Brossier presented a poster titled “Complex Radar Emissivity Variations at Some Large Venusian Volcanoes” during the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.

Several Wesleyan students, faculty, and alumni attended the 50th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference (LPSC) March 18-22 in The Woodlands, Texas. Members of the Wesleyan Planetary Sciences Group presented their research on a range of planetary bodies.

This annual conference brings together international specialists in petrology, geochemistry, geophysics, geology, and astronomy to present the latest results of research in planetary science.

Earth and environmental studies major Emmy Hughes ’20 presented a poster titled “Observations of Transverse Aeolian Ridges in Digital Terrain Models” during a session on “Planetary Aeolian Processes.”

Earth and environmental science graduate student Reid Perkins MA ’19 presented a talk titled “A Reassessment of Venus’ Tessera Crater Population and Implications for Tessera Deformation” and a poster titled “Volumes and Potential Origins of Crater Dark Floor Deposits on Venus.”

Zinser ’16 Receives Prestigious Schwarzman Scholar Award

Sophie Zinser ’16 has been selected for membership in the Schwarzman Scholars Class of 2020, located at Schwarzman College in Tsinghua University, where she will study China’s growing influence on foreign aid.

Sophie Zinser ’16, deputy director of Syria Direct in Amman, has been selected as a Schwarzman Scholar, one of the world’s most prestigious graduate fellowships, located at Schwarzman College at Tsinghua University in Beijing. This Schwarzman Class of 2020 is only the fourth in the program’s history, with 147 Schwarzman Scholars selected from over 2,800 applicants. The class is comprised of students from 38 countries and 119 universities, with 40 percent originating from the United States, 20 percent from China, and 40 percent from the rest of the world. The Class of 2020 will enroll in August 2019.

In a press release announcing the news, Stephen A. Schwarzman, cofounder, chairman, and CEO of Blackstone, and chairman of Schwarzman Scholars, said, “Our newest class includes a diverse group of future leaders from around the world. They join a global network of Scholars who have committed themselves to being a force for change, regardless of where their professional or personal passions take them. My hope is that a year in Beijing will inspire and challenge these students in ways they haven’t even imagined. I look forward to seeing how this new class will leave its mark.”

At Wesleyan, Zinser double-majored in the College of Letters and French studies. She cofounded the Wesleyan Refugee Project, and following graduation, Zinser worked on a congressional campaign in Minnesota and in international development with the International Rescue Committee’s Emergency Team in New York. Last year on a Fulbright scholarship to Jordan, she led innovative research on safety risks to rural and refugee women. In her current role with Syria Direct, she manages a team of Syrian and foreign journalists in Amman and leads the media nonprofit’s expansion. At Schwarzman College, Zinser will study China’s growing influence on foreign aid.

Paik ’16 Wins Goldman Sachs Funds for 3D-Printed Housing Nonprofit

Ellen Paik ’16 (right) speaks to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the Partnership Committee on behalf of New Story, a nonprofit organization that seeks to address global homelessness through the development and application of 3D printing technology.

Ellen Paik ’16, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, teamed up with three colleagues to pitch New Story, an organization working on developing low-cost housing solutions via 3D printing technology, to Goldman Sachs’ CEO and Partnership Committee as part of the Analyst Impact Fund, a global firmwide competition. The prize: a grant to the finalist teams’ selected nonprofits. The event was broadcasted live online on Yahoo Finance (see Paik’s team come in around 38 minutes).

Paik’s group placed second in the global finals and earned New Story $75,000 in support of the organization’s 3D printing initiative. The grant will go towards building the very first complex of 3D printed homes constructed by a nonprofit, in El Salvador by 2019.

“The four of us were attracted to the idea of promoting a scalable technology solution that addresses a global issue,” explains Paik. “We came across New Story, an organization that we really admired because they involve the local community and government in every step of the home-building process—planning, design, and construction—in ways that many existing organizations do not. New Story has helped over a thousand families in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia that used to live in life-threatening conditions and that have been affected by natural disaster. Now, these families are empowered homeowners and able to better secure economic opportunity, safety, access to education, and a sense of community.”

Leung ’16 Awarded Prestigious Congress-Bundestag Fellowship

Melissa Leung '16 (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Melissa Leung ’16 (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Melissa Leung ’16 is 1 of 75 Americans selected to participate in the 2018–2019 Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX) for Young Professionals, a yearlong fellowship for study and work in Germany. CBYX for Young Professionals provides opportunities for youth to collaborate, interact with new people and new ideas, and, ultimately, to become better global citizens and better leaders. The program annually provides scholarships to 350 Americans and also brings 360 Germans to the United States.

While in Germany, Leung will attend a two-month intensive German language course, study at a German university or professional school for four months, and complete a five-month internship with a German company in her career field (foreign aid). Participants are placed throughout Germany and have the opportunity to learn about everyday German life from a variety of perspectives.

Funded jointly by Congress (through the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs) and the German Bundestag, the CBYX program is a unique opportunity for young Americans to enhance their professional skills, as well as broaden their political and cultural awareness by experiencing life in another country. Leung will act as a citizen ambassador of the United States, helping to promote a positive image of the U.S. abroad and creating lifelong friendships and professional connections that will keep German-American relations strong for years to come.

Participants must be U.S. citizens between the ages of 18–24, and have clear career goals and experience in their professional fields. Young professionals in STEM, business, agricultural, and vocational fields are especially encouraged to apply, though candidates in all career fields are eligible. This year more than 600 young professionals vied for a place in this prestigious program.

Alumni, Faculty, Graduate Students Make Presentations at Planetary Science Conference

Melissa Luna E&ES MA ’18, Jordyn-Marie Dudley E&ES MA ’18, Keenan Golder MA ’16, Reid Perkins E&ES MA ’19, Ben McKeeby MA ’17, Kristen Luchsinger MA ‘17

Graduate student Melissa Luna; graduate student Jordyn-Marie Dudley; Keenan Golder MA ’13; graduate student Reid Perkins; Ben McKeeby MA ’17; and Kristen Luchsinger MA ’17 recently attended the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in Texas.

Faculty, graduate students, and alumni attended the 49th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference March 19–23 in The Woodlands, Texas.

Graduate student Reid Perkins

Three graduate students were awarded funds from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant that allowed them to travel to this meeting.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Reid Perkins presented a research poster titled “Where Are the Missing Tessera Craters on Venus?” Perkins’s advisor is Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Melissa Luna presented a poster titled “Multivariate Spectral Analysis of CRISM Data to Characterize the Composition of Mawrth Vallis.” Her advisors are Gilmore and Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

Earth and environmental sciences graduate student Jordyn-Marie Dudley presented a poster titled “Water Contents of Angrites, Eucrites, and Ureilites and New Methods for Measuring Hydrogen in Pyroxene Using SIMS.” Dudley’s advisor is Jim Greenwood, assistant professor of earth and environmental sciences.

“At their poster presentations, our graduate students were engaging with the top scientists in our field, who were very interested in their work,” Gilmore said. “I was very proud to see them attending talks across a range of disciplines, asking questions of speakers and making such solid scientific contributions.”

Gilmore also presented a study at the conference titled “Formation Rates and Mechanisms for Low-Emissivity Materials on Venus Mountaintops and Constraint on Tessera Composition.” In addition, she worked with NASA scientists on issues related to Venus exploration.

The following alumni authored abstracts presented at the conference: Avram Stein ’17; Jesse Tarnas ’16; Peter Martin ’14Nina Lanza MA ’06; Ian Garrick-Bethell ’02Robert Nelson MA ’69; and William Boynton ’66. Keenan Golder MA ’13; Ben McKeeby MA ’17; and Kristen Luchsinger MA ’17 also attended.

Faculty, Students, Alumnus Co-Author Paper in Biochemistry Journal

Wesleyan co-authors published a paper titled “The Stories Tryptophans Tell: Exploring Protein Dynamics of Heptosyltransferase I from Escherichia coli” in the January 2017 issue of Biochemistry.

The co-authors include chemistry graduate student Joy Cote; alumni Zarek Siegel ’16 and Daniel Czyzyk, PhD ’15; and faculty Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry; Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Their paper investigates the intrinsic properties of Tryptophan amino acids found within the protein, Heptosyltransferase I, to understand the ways this protein moves during catalysis. Understanding the movement of this protein is an important step in developing its inhibitors.

When this protein is inactive, either because it was genetically altered or inhibited, hydrophobic antibiotics become more effective, so inhibitors could be useful in reactivating antibiotics that are current not effective against these bacteria.

While it is popularly believed that inhibiting a protein requires a compound to compete with the substrate, their paper argues that instead one can design a inhibitor to disrupt protein dynamics, preventing activity. The co-authors compare the function of this “protein dynamics disruptor” to a wedge holding open a door–once inserted, the inhibitor prevents the protein from performing its function.

Their research on Tryptophan residues also found that distant regions of the protein communicate whether or not they are binding their substrate to other regions.

“It would be like if your right hand knew that your left hand was holding a pencil just by the changes in the position of your left hand. We are currently pursuing computational studies to look for these motions via molecular dynamics experiments,” Taylor said.