Tag Archive for Class of 2021

Restored Peacock Displayed in Wesleyan’s Science Library

peacock

The entrance to the Science Library in Exley Science Center houses a taxidermied peacock that has been restored by faculty and students in the biology department. The peacock, originally rediscovered in 2018 and put on exhibit in spring 2019, is part of a bird collection that was first displayed at the museum in Judd Hall and now belongs to the Wesleyan Museum of Natural History.

The restoration team, which includes Professor of Biology Ann Campbell Burke, Yu Kai Tan BA/MA ’21, Andy Tan ’21, and Fletcher Levy ’23, recently updated the display to include new signage and fresh peacock feathers from biology professors Stephen Devoto and Joyce Ann Powzyk’s farm.

“It was found in storage alongside a whole bunch of minerals in Room 316 of Exley,” Yu Kai Tan said. “It was sitting way up high on this shelf, and probably since 1970, no one has looked at it or touched it. It was covered in dust and muck.”

When the team first found the peacock, it was in such poor condition that they needed to call for outside help.

73 Seniors Elected to Phi Beta Kappa

Kat Eaton '21

Phi Beta Kappa inductee Kat Eaton ’21 plans to work as an editor at a ghostwriting company while applying to creative writing programs at graduate schools.

During her four years at Wesleyan, Katherine “Kat” Eaton ’21 not only fell in love with creative writing, but she also discovered interests in martial arts, fire spinning, and tabletop roleplaying games—Dungeons & Dragons, Monster of the Week, Masks, and more. “Basically, I’m a storyteller, whether that’s on my own or with other people,” Eaton explained.

Eaton, who graduated on May 26 with honors for her English thesis titled “Myths and Legends of Aetheria: A Study in Worldbuilding,” is also among only 88 students from the Class of 2021 to graduate with Phi Beta Kappa honors.

On May 24, she and 72 of her peers were inducted into the Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa during a virtual ceremony. At Wesleyan, only 12 percent of each graduating class is elected to PBK, the oldest national scholastic honor society. Election is based on fulfilling general education expectations and having a grade point average of 93 or above.

Students are nominated by their major departments or class dean.

Chong ’21 Talks Solidarity Amid Hardship in Senior Class Welcome: “Juxtaposition”

Chong '21

Bryan Chong ’21 delivered the Senior Class Welcome during the 2021 Commencement. (Photo by Tom Dzimian)


Bryan Chong ’21, a double major in government and psychology, delivered the Senior Class Welcome at Wesleyan’s 189th Commencement.

In a speech that was at moments emotional and rousing, Chong reflected on “an extraordinary year that has restructured the ways we socialize.” He emphasized the ways that this time of “generation-defining change” has challenged students to re-examine their time at Wesleyan and the juxtaposition of coming together in unexpected community despite being forced apart by the pandemic. “Many say that we discover our true selves during times of crisis,” he said. “This year, I discovered that amidst all the chaos and change, it is exactly from the abolition of division where Wesleyan’s true identity emerged as a site of solidarity.”

Chong was motivated to submit his speech for consideration to capture the communal experience of persevering through crisis and to “emphasize the beauty of our collective journey through this difficult year,” encouraging his peers to carry those lessons forward. “It is a great honor and joy for me to be able to highlight the special moments that showed how we endured crisis by standing strong together,” he said.

Students Receive 2021 Academic Prizes, Scholarships, Fellowships

monogramThis month, the Office of Student Affairs presented the 2021 student prizes. The recipients and awards include:

George H. Acheson and Grass Foundation Prize in Neuroscience

Established in 1992 by a gift from the Grass Foundation, this prize is awarded to an outstanding undergraduate in the Neuroscience and Behavior Program who demonstrates excellence in the program and who also shows promise for future contributions in the field of neuroscience.

  • Kian Caplan 2021
  • Ana Finnerty-Haggerty 2021
  • Andrew Northrop 2021
  • Fitzroy “Pablo” Wickham 2021

Alumni Prize in the History of Art

Established by Wesleyan alumni and awarded to a senior who has demonstrated special aptitude in the history of art and who has made a substantive contribution to the major.

  • Nia Felton 2021
  • Riley Richards 2021

American Chemical Society Analytical Award

Awarded for excellence in analytical chemistry.

  • Cole Harris 2021

American Chemical Society Connecticut Valley Section Award

Awarded for outstanding achievement to a graduating chemistry major.

  • Emma Shapiro 2021

American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Inorganic Chemistry

Awarded to an undergraduate student in inorganic chemistry to recognize achievement and encourage further study in the field.

  • Abrar Habib 2021

American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Organic Chemistry

Awarded to a senior who has displayed a significant aptitude for organic chemistry

  • Niels Vizgan GRAD

American Chemical Society Undergraduate Award in Physical Chemistry

Awarded in recognition of outstanding achievement by undergraduate students in physical chemistry, and to encourage further pursuits in the field.

3 Seniors Awarded Inaugural Wesleyan Global Fellowship

As a one-year pilot program, the Fries Center for Global Studies has created the Wesleyan Global Fellowship with the intention of awarding graduating seniors nominated but not chosen for the Watson Fellowship, a grant for a year of independent exploration outside the United States post-graduation.

The three students who won this new fellowship for the 2021 academic year are William Briskin ‘21, Grace Lopez ‘21, and Indigo Pellegrini de Paur ‘21.

“The Watson is a unique program because it gives the fellow complete freedom in designing their project,” according to the Wesleyan & the World blog. “Since the fellowship involves travel, usually to distant locations, nominees who didn’t win the Watson might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue any part of their project without institutional support. The Wesleyan Global Fellowship supports their personal growth and affords them invaluable intercultural experience, allowing them to spend up to one month in one or more of the countries they included in their Watson proposal.”

Will Briskin is a double major in government and history who intends to pursue studies in woodworking by traveling to Japan and South Korea to interview woodworkers and participate in their creative process. Briskin hopes to learn more about the way woodworking captures traditions and collective histories, as well as binds communities together.

Grace Lopez is a film major who is also interested in anthropology. Lopez wants to explore the music genre of Cumbia, which originated in Colombia, and plans to travel to Colombia to work with and learn from Afro-Colombian bands who create Cumbian music.

Indigo Pellegrini de Paur is majoring in government and minoring in Middle Eastern studies. She will go to Turkey to observe the integration of refugee communities into Turkish life by working with the Youth and Sports Ministry, which is currently building sports facilities for young refugees. As a lacrosse player, she will use sports to build connections with the children she’ll meet there.

Chapbook By Ramos-Jordán ’21 Published by Center for Book Arts

Katerina Ramos-Jordán ’21

Katerina Ramos-Jordán ’21

In 2020, Katerina Ramos-Jordán ’21 won first prize in the Center for Book Arts Chapbook Contest for her chapbook titled “ECHOESISTEMAS /lentos cerramientos.” Now, her work has now been published in book form, designed and produced by book artist Erika Morillo.

Ramos-Jordán, born in Puerto Rico, is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellow and a 2020 recipient of the Beinecke Scholarship. She is double majoring in English and dance with a concentration in Caribbean studies.

“This collection is dense in its tenderness, adding tildes (accent marks) to words in English, harboring dialect, and embracing blank space as cavernous,” contest judge Raquel Salas Rivera wrote. “Its rootless branches continue to sound off long after and before origin.”

 

 

5 Students Inducted Into American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Honor Society

ASBMBThis year, five Wesleyan students were inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Honor Society. Thirty-one students nationwide were given this honor.

Inducted students must be juniors or seniors with a GPA of 3.4 or higher on a 4.0 scale, belong to a student chapter of the ASBMB, and “demonstrate exceptional achievement in academics, undergraduate research and science outreach,” according to the website.

The inducted students include the following:

Nour-Saïda Harzallah ’21, a College of Integrative Sciences student majoring in molecular biology & biochemistry (MB&B) and physics. Harzallah, from Tunisia, works in Professor Francis Starr’s physics lab, belongs to the Wesleyan Women in Science steering committee, and is a STEM intern for the Office of Equity and Inclusion.

“Her involvement in racial and gender equity in STEM has shaped her commitment to work on projects that serve the underrepresented and marginalized outside the lab and from the lab bench,” reads her ASBMB bio. “Her wildest dream is to develop initiatives that translate cutting-edge technologies into accessible and marketable means of diagnosis and therapeutics in her home country of Tunisia.”

Jack Kwon ’21, who works with Professor of Biology Michael Weir to study the ribosome.

“We are aiming to elucidate the function of a highly conserved region of the ribosome called the “CAR interaction surface” through wet lab experiments and dry lab Molecular Dynamics simulations,” Kwon wrote in his ASBMB bio. Kwon intends to graduate with a master’s degree in MB&B through Wesleyan’s BA/MA program before pursuing a PhD in a related field.

Shawn Lin ’22, who is majoring in biology, MB&B, and biophysics. Lin works in the MB&B lab of Professor Ishita Mukerji and the physics lab of Professor Candice Etson.

“His research topic is “Elucidation of interactions between integration host factor and a DNA four-way junction,” reads Lin’s ASBMB bio. “In addition to research, he is also the founder of NORDSAC (National Organization for Rare Disorders Student Association Connecticut). The goal of this organization is to raise awareness of rare disorders among students in Connecticut through fundraising, guest lectures, and rare disease day events.”

Alex Poppel, a master’s student in the MB&B department. Poppell works in Professor Amy MacQueen’s MB&B lab.

“As a member of Wesleyan’s ASBMB Student Chapter, his outreach involvement has mainly focused on improving his school’s community, such as by promoting undergraduate research opportunity awareness and equity and inclusion efforts in the sciences,” Poppel’s ASBMB bio reads.

Maya Vaishnaw ’21, a double major in psychology and MB&B. Vaishnaw works with Professor Erika Taylor in her chemistry lab.

“The Taylor Lab takes a multidisciplinary approach to characterizing enzymes with applied chemical and biomedicinal applications,” Vaishnaw’s ASBMB bio reads. “In the future, Maya hopes to pursue research in clinical genetics.”

 

Art Studio Seniors Display Thesis Exhibitions from the Art Studio Program in the Zilkha Gallery

Gabriela Banda presented a series of oil paintings on stretch canvas titled "MIRA PA’CÁ."

Gabriela Banda ’21 presented her art studio thesis, “MIRA PA’CÁ,” during the Senior Thesis Exhibition’s virtual opening reception on April 21.

This month, the Center for the Arts is hosting three virtual opening receptions for 19 graduating art studio majors to showcase their work as part of the Senior Thesis Exhibition.

Since Zilkha Gallery is only open to Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff during the pandemic, the virtual format allows alumni, parents, friends, and other members of the Wesleyan community to view the students’ work.

“We’re hoping to create access—especially for those of you who are not on campus—to see these shows in person and see what [the artists’] work looks like in space and scale,” said Benjamin Chaffee, associate director of visual arts and adjunct instructor of art. “We’ll also have a chance for some brief conversations with each of the artists who can enlighten us about their process. Our hope is that these conversations might approximate one aspect of an opening reception—the opportunity to hear directly from the exhibiting artist about their work.”

Nonfiction Journalism Class Explores the Continuing Battle for COVID-19 Normalcy

tin can

In a recently-published essay, Chapin Montague ’21 tells the story of Wesleyan students Michayla Robertson-Pine ’22 (top left) and Elizabeth “Liz” Woolford ’21 (top right) who created a virtual after-school learning community for children called Tin Can Learners during the COVID-19 pandemic. Montague and several other Wesleyan students wrote pandemic-related essays for their class, The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction.

As part of a class assignment for the spring 2021 course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction, students were tasked with writing short essays on the continuing battle for normalcy while attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The class is taught by Daniel de Visé ’89, Koeppel Journalism Fellow. After graduating from Wesleyan and Northwestern University, de Visé spent 23 years working in newspapers. He shared a 2001 team Pulitzer Prize and garnered more than two dozen other national and regional journalism awards. He’s also the author of three books.

Journalistic nonfiction, de Visé, explained, uses the tools of the newsroom to create long-form stories that read like novels. Books such as Moneyball, The Orchid Thief, The Warmth of Other Suns, “are grounded in journalistic nonfiction,” he said.

“The class is about how to write nonfiction using the tools of novel-writing and cinema,” de Visé said. “It’s all based on journalism—fact-based reporting. We’re reading and writing stories that have central characters who overcome literary conflicts in a scene-driven narrative.”

A sampling of the articles are published here and descriptions are below.

basketball team

Kiran Kling ’24, pictured at far left, wrote an essay about being on the men’s basketball team during the COVID-19 pandemic. Olu Oladitan ’24, pictured in the center, is featured in the essay.

Kiran Kling ’24 focused his essay, “The Call” on being a student-athlete during the pandemic. With spring sports canceled during the 2020-21 academic year, Kling explained how the 15 members of the men’s basketball team would gather on Zoom every Wednesday night to share updates, network with alumni, and “crack jokes in the players-only group chat during the call.” Read Kling’s essay online here.

Sophie Talcove-Berko ’21 shared her experience of being a college senior during the COVID-19 pandemic. In her essay, “Ski School,” Talcove-Berko wrote about the difficult decisions her peers made during their final year at Wes: “some deferred, some returned, and some went remote.” Talcove-Berko framed her essay around Tammy Shine ’21 who originally planned to return to Wesleyan this spring for her final semester of college, but instead chose to study remotely in Lake Tahoe. “While it was her final chance to live with her college friends on campus, she found the mountains rejuvenating for the mind, body, and soul,” Talcove-Berko wrote. Read Talcove-Berko’s essay online here.

Talcove-Berko ’21: “Ski School”

The following essay was written by Sophie Talcove-Berko ’21 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction

Speeding down the slopes at 20 miles per hour, Tammy Shine stopped to catch her breath and a glimpse of the Sierra Nevada mountain range. For a college senior at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut, this was a drastically different start to the school morning from semesters past, frantically making coffee and rushing to class.

As COVID-19 surged this winter, college seniors from across the country faced an important decision: how to complete their college careers during an unprecedented pandemic. Some deferred, some returned, and some went remote.

At Wesleyan, students were given the option of an on-campus spring semester, as long as they abided by the rules. While students mostly acknowledge that these rules are effective and reasonable for a pandemic, they’re finding that pandemic restrictions have changed the academic and social experience at the school considerably. The rules for the spring semester include a mandatory two-week quarantine, twice-weekly COVID testing, mostly online classes, limited extracurricular activities, and restricted travel.

Administrators tried to replicate the success of the fall semester, when COVID tests yielded a 0.07% positivity rate for students and 0.13% for employees. The restrictions are even tighter this spring. While in the fall, students were allowed to travel within 25 miles of Wesleyan’s campus, travel this spring is limited to grocery stores and medical appointments within Middletown.

Shine, a senior at Wesleyan from Los Angeles, originally planned to return to Wesleyan this spring for her final semester of college. After spending winter break as a retail sales associate at Squaw Valley Ski Resort in Lake Tahoe, California, Shine reconsidered.

Every morning in January, Shine would step outside her lakefront apartment around 6 a.m., feeling the cool breeze and looking up in awe at the snow-covered mountains and their glistening reflection on the alpine lake. This was usually followed by an arduous half-hour of scraping snow off her rental car, working laboriously to unbury the car from a few feet of snow. Once Shine began the drive to the retail stores at Squaw Valley, she would be generously rewarded for the early wake-up call with a view of the pink illuminated ski and a bright yellow sun rising over the Sierra Nevada mountains.

After a month working at Squaw Valley, Shine began to reconsider whether returning to Wesleyan was the best decision. While it was her final chance to live with her college friends on campus, she found the mountains rejuvenating for the mind, body, and soul. Reflecting on the fall semester, which Shine had spent on campus, she recalled feeling stuck and, at times, claustrophobic. While she appreciated the safety that a pandemic bubble brings, the COVID-19 restrictions resulted in a great deal of monotony. In late January, days before students were set to return, she made her final decision for the spring 2021 semester. Shine decided to remain in Lake Tahoe, pursuing an option that she felt would be more of a growing experience.

Shine is one of many college students who have decided to create an alternative college experience during these unique times. According to Wesleyan’s director of residential life, Frances Koerting, 2,446 students have chosen to be on-campus for the spring semester and 441 students have chosen to be remote learners. These numbers are almost identical to the number of on-campus and remote learners for the fall semester.

Off-campus college housing “bubbles” have risen in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. With the options limited to remaining at home with one’s family or being largely restricted to one’s dorm room on campus, groups of college students have rented out houses across the country. These differ in price and location, ranging from Hawaii to Montana and expensive to cheap.

While in the fall, Shine would spend the majority of her time within her living space, an average spring semester day begins on a ski lift. Shine has ditched her dorm-room workout and become a novice snowboarder, shredding down the slopes. Following a morning run at the ski resort, Shine will spend a couple of hours working at the retail stores before retreating to the back rooms of the resort for a virtual class.

Last semester felt very static. In Lake Tahoe, Shine has regained her busy, dynamic lifestyle. However, Shine noted that the academic experience is considerably different as a remote learner in Lake Tahoe. She feels a lot less motivation. She Zooms into her classes from a storage room in the retail shops. Wifi access is spotty, and she finds it a lot harder to sit down and complete her work in this new environment. While she is no longer living within a college community, she lives with two friends from L.A., which has made the adjustment to her new “campus” a lot easier.

Shine said that Wesleyan never felt like the “typical college experience.” So, while she is experiencing an unusual final semester, it does not feel completely out of place. She is taking the experience for what it is, day by day. Growing up, Shine spent every summer in nature, resulting in a lifelong love for the natural world. The mountains have felt like a nice change of pace. As for the impact of going from a suburban college town to living in the mountains, Shine said, “There are all these man-made evils happening right now and it’s really nice to be constantly reminded that there is a lot of beauty in the world…things can be beautiful: you just have to know where to look.”

Montague ’21: “A Tin Can of Friendship Beans: Creating A Community for Kids in the Age of Virtual Learning”

The following essay was written by Chapin Montague ’21 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction

When Michayla Robertson-Pine ’22 returned to her hometown of Amherst, Massachusetts in March after receiving Wesleyan University’s “Do Not Return” email, a message all too familiar to college students across the country, she knew she couldn’t sit around and do nothing. So she teamed up with her friend Tessa Levenstein, an Amherst College student, to create an after-school Harry Potter book club for children of Amherst professors. After a few Zoom sessions, they realized that while witchcraft and wizardry were an enticing draw for kids, what they really needed was a space to play, a fix that would normally come from recess and play dates but was deemed disposable in the new reality of virtual learning.

Robertson-Pine and Levenstein adapted. They hosted a TriWizard Tournament via Zoom–an iconic competition drawn from the Harry Potter universe. Robertson-Pine manufactured a goblet out of a Kiddush cup and candle, and the kids created their own imaginary academies of magic under the ice in Antarctica or in a treehouse hidden deep in the forest. They hosted trivia nights and scavenger hunts, asking kids to look for something they would find in Dumbledore’s office. The kids loved it, and their parents gained a much-needed respite from the chaos of early quarantine.

Then, things got serious. Word spread among parents that kids were falling behind in math, especially concerning considering data predicting that students could lose months of math instruction in the 2020-2021 school year. Kids also became sounding boards for their parents’ anxieties. They were nervous and frustrated about having to stare at screens all day and could not fathom getting through a 9 a.m.-4 p.m. school day alone in their rooms on Zoom. So, Robertson-Pine and Levenstein got serious, too.

They added three new members to their team — Vanderbilt student Natalie Elliot, UMass Amherst student Rafael DePillis, and Wesleyan student Elizabeth (Liz) Woolford ’22—and started a Google folder titled “Let’s Start a School.” From there, the group came up with lesson plans focusing on everything from pre-algebra to movie-making to a full-blown NASA mission simulation. They added tutoring sessions and additional clubs for crafting and baking. They applied for a grant, created a website, made a budget, and launched an advertising campaign. They decided on tuition—$185 for three weeks—but offered a pay-what-you-can option for parents who were having trouble making ends meet. And so, Tin Can Learners was born—a virtual after-school program for the kids of Amherst, Massachusetts, dedicated to building a virtual, after-school learning community for kids.

To unpack the world of Tin Can Learners is to fall down a rabbit hole of chaotic genius and layers of lore that makes you wish you were part of the gang. The average day for a student may consist of concocting a field guide for a one-of-a-kind mythical creature in Homegrown Naturalists, building a shot list for the Tin Can Film Festival: Murder Mystery production, or experimenting with family recipes with the Cook Book! course. The instructors, in the words of one parent, are young enough to feel more like an older sibling than a teacher. Their enthusiasm matches the kids’ own level of imagination and wonder, showcased best in the final project of the Music VideOh! course where instructors Woolford and Robertson-Pine go all out with their students in a choreographed performance featuring Katy Perry’s “Hot N Cold.” Complete with lip-syncing, funky hats, and hairbrush mics, it was like one long virtual slumber party you never want to end.

Each six-week session ends with the long-anticipated showcase—a virtual exhibition for parents to see the work their kids have created and for the students to celebrate. Many students were Tin Can veterans from the early days of Harry Potter, and for them, the showcase was the event of the season.

Emceed by the instructors, these nights were jam-packed with easter eggs of Tin Can lore. There was King Ga Zorp A Zorp, an alien known for abducting instructors and demanding student artwork as ransom; the elusive founder of Tin Can, Old Man Roger Cannery; and, of course, the iconic friendship beans taped to the wall that held everything together. Within a year that had taken so much from them, these kids took ownership over these rituals. In Woolford’s words, it became their thing.

Now, Woolford and Robertson-Pine sit on the floor of Woolford’s room in their wood frame. They decided to come back to campus in-person this semester, and they’re still trying to find words for how they feel about it, but it’s clear they really miss their students.

“Adults on Zoom are just so boring,” says Robertson-Pine before they both assumed the mannequin-esque position of every virtual college student– muted, sporting a sulky face, and slouching.

The Tin Can kids never showed up to class muted with the camera off; they came in blabbering, peering into the lens like a telescope, constantly climbing on desks and peering out from behind walls. They spammed the chat with emojis, came to class dressed as wizards because it was their birthday, and had an ongoing prank of renaming each other in the chats. They acted like kids, and kids are so much more fun.

But Woolford and Robertson-Pine also recognize that Tin Can had to end after their final session this past winter. Eventually, their students had the opportunity to do in-person classes, soccer practices, and tae kwon do in parking lots. They got to actually be together, albeit outside, masked, and distant after the time warp of online school.

“We made the internet the best that it could be for kids,” says Woolford. “In the beginning, some parents told us it was the reason their kid got up in the morning, and now, there’s something better out there.”

And yet, for the instructors, a lot of these kids only ever existed online, which made for bizarre goodbyes. There was no big cleanup, no meeting the parents during pickup, no real closure. Instead, like so many virtual relationships of this past year, these tiny humans they had come to care for blipped out of their lives as quickly as they had Zoomed in. Unlike the fleeting memories of camp, however, virtual learning yielded a vault of Tin Can archives. Now, Woolford and Robertson-Pine are able to marvel at their students’ homemade movies, comics, coding games, and yes, the illustrious Katy Perry music video, whenever adult Zoom just isn’t cutting it.