Tag Archive for Class of 2021

Wesleyan Wins “Best in Show” at 2019 DataFest

 Anna Zagoren '20, Frederick Corpuz '20, Joseph Cutler '21, Arianna Sang '20 

Anna Zagoren ’20, Frederick Corpuz ’20, Joseph Cutler ’21, and Arianna Sang ’20 won “Best in Show” during the 2019 DataFest.

A Wesleyan team took the top award—“Best in Show”—during DataFest on April 7.

DataFest is a data analysis competition where students are presented with a large, complex, surprise data set and work over the weekend to explore, analyze, and present their findings to a panel of judges. Teams of 3–5 students work together and compete against other teams. This year, students from Wesleyan University, Yale University, the University of Connecticut, and Bentley University participated.

Under the auspices of the American Statistical Association, the event is organized by Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center

The winning team was made up of Anna Zagoren ’20, Frederick Corpuz ’20, Joseph Cutler ’21, and Arianna Sang ’20.

Winners were honored with a $50 cash prize, a medal, a certificate, and a yearlong membership to the American Statistical Association.

3 Students Awarded Summer Research Grants in India

Three Wesleyan students will conduct laboratory research in India this summer as recipients of the U.S. Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program (UISFL) grant.

Claire Glickman ’21, Guadalupe (Lupita) Sanchez ’20, and Jaye Jeong ’20, will work at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR) in Mumbai. Their grants are being administered by the College of Integrative Sciences, with support from the Fries Center for Global Studies.

Wesleyan received the two-year $165,699 grant to support the teaching of Hindi and Urdu, the research of STEM faculty and students in India, and the increase of cultural programming related to South Asia. The grant funds 50% of the total expenditures to which Wesleyan is committed over the two-year life of the grant, with the remaining 50% ($165,699) coming from nongovernmental sources.

Students Volunteer at Nonprofits during Interfaith Service Trip

During the Interfaith Service Trip, representatives from Wesleyan volunteered at the Manna House Soup Kitchen in Newtown, N.J.

During the Interfaith Service Trip held over spring break, representatives from Wesleyan volunteered at the Manna House Soup Kitchen in Newtown, N.J.

Wesleyan students and staff traveled to Johnsonburg, N.J., March 18-22 to participate in the fourth annual Office of Religious and Spiritual Life Interfaith Service Trip. The group had representation from the Protestant, Catholic, and Muslim communities.

The student participants included Nacala Gadsden ’21, Joy Adedokun ’19, Fitzroy Pablo Wickham ’21, Brynn Assignon ’20, and Fatima Sepulveda ’21. The trip was led by University Chaplain Rev. Tracy Mehr-Muska and Sandy Durosier ’13, area coordinator for residential life.

“The purpose of the trip was to engage in community service and learn about other faiths,” Mehr-Muska said.

The group stayed at the faith-based Johnsonburg Camp and Retreat Center and volunteered their time at the Barnyard Sanctuary in Johnsonburg; Trinity Methodist Church Thrift Shop in Hackettstown, N.J.; and Manna House Soup Kitchen in Newton, N.J.

“Each of these incredible nonprofits happened to be run by women, and the students were able to see the complexity and rewarding nature of developing and sustaining important, life-giving community organizations,” Mehr-Muska said.

Tran ’21 Wins Japanese Language Essay Contest Prize

Jess Tran ’21

Vietnam native Jess Tran ’21 grew up learning her native language alongside English, but it wasn’t until her freshman year at Wesleyan that she decided to give a third language a try—Japanese.

Tran, an economics major and College of East Asian Studies minor, immersed herself in the new language for two years. This month, she won a prize at the annual Consulate General of Japan in Boston Japanese Language Contest.

The essay prompt was “What is Japan to me?”

“In essence, I talked about how my initial admiration for certain aspects of Japan inspired me to think about how I can contribute to Vietnam—my home country, and how learning Japanese actually gives me a better understanding of my own mother tongue and solidifies my interest in language and Asian culture,” Tran said.

Learning Japanese, Tran explained, is much different, grammatically, than English or Vietnamese, although it is indirectly connected with Vietnamese through certain shared characteristics with Chinese.

“So often, as I learn Japanese, I would learn something new about or learn new ways of thinking about Vietnamese, and it’s very fascinating to see how the differences in cultural values tie into the differences in the two languages,” Tran said. “I feel like I’m not only learning a new language but a new thinking structure.”

Tran took third place in the contest’s intermediate level essay division, which is open to students who have completed fewer than two years of Japanese language study and have not studied in Japan.

Tran said she’d “definitely recommend everyone who’s interested in Japanese to participate [in the essay contest] because it’s a great learning experience.”

“My Japanese professors were extremely patient and helpful during the process, and it really helps consolidate what was taught in class,” she said.

In 2018, Zhaoyu Sun ’20 took second place in the contest.

Poulos, Students Collaborate on 2 Publications

Helen PoulosHelen Poulos, adjunct assistant professor of environmental studies, is the coauthor of two published papers in February.

Response of Arizona cypress (Hesperocyparis arizonica) to the Horseshoe Two Megafire in a south-eastern Arizona Sky Island mountain range,” is published in the February issue of International Journal of Wildland Fire (Issue 28, pages 62-69). It is coauthored by Andrew Barton, professor of biology at the University of Maine at Farmington.

This study documents the effects of the 2011 Horseshoe Two Fire in the Chiricahua Mountains of southeastern Arizona on Arizona Cypress. Two Wesleyan students, Hunter Vannier ’20 and Michael Freiburger ’21 assisted with the fieldwork in 2018 as part of their College of the Environment summer fellowships.

The group documented the effects of a fire-sensitive tree species that survives wildfire through fire-induced seed release (serotiny). On sites subject to severe fire, most mature cypresses were killed, the canopy opened, and seedlings established abundantly. Their results firmly establish Arizona cypress as a fire-sensitive but fire-embracing species that depends on stand-replacing fire (the loss of overstory trees) for regeneration.

“A drier future with more frequent wildfires could pose serious threats to all New World cypresses if these species do not have enough time between fire events to reach sexual maturity,” Poulos explained.

The second paper, titled “Invasive species and carbon flux: the case of invasive beavers (Castor canadensis) in riparian Nothofagus forests of Tierra del Fuego, Chile” was published in the February issue of Climatic Change. It is coauthored by biology major Chloe Papier ’17 and Alejandro Kusch of the Wildlife Conservation Society in Punta Arenas, Chile.

For this study, Papier completed a month of fieldwork in Patagonia on a College of the Environment winter fellowship.

The researchers documented the effects of invasive North American beavers (Castor canadensis) on carbon sequestration of riparian Nothofagus forests in Tierra del Fuego, Chile. Their results suggest that beaver invasion can result in major differences between aboveground carbon in invaded versus un-invaded forest stands.

Gary Yohe, professor of economics; the Huffington Foundation Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies; and professor, environmental studies; serves as the coeditor in chief of the journal.

6 Students Honored for Creative Writing, Poetry, Essays

Caridad Cruz, Oriana Ullman, Doc Polk, Nic Guo, Natalie Ruby, and Sahara Sidi.

Caridad Cruz ’21, Oriana Ullman ’21, Doc Polk ’19, Nic Guo ’20, Natalie Ruby ’19, and Sahara Sidi ’22 presented readings at Russell House on Feb. 13. All six students are recipients of creative writing and English Department Prizes. (Photo by Douglas Martin, assistant director of creative writing)

Six Wesleyan students were recently honored by Creative Writing at Wesleyan and the English Department.

Caridad Cruz ’21 is the recipient of the Sophie and Anne Reed Prize. Established by Leon Reed; his sons, S. Chadwick ’41 and Dr. Victor Reed; and his grandson Ted Reed ’70, the prize is named in memory of Sophie Reed and Anne Reed, for the best poem or group of poems.

Film by Leter ’21 to Premiere in Paris

The poster for “Pau” was designed by Sarina Hahn ’21 and Vincent Warne ’18.

The poster for “Pau” was designed by Sarina Hahn ’21 and Vincent Warne ’18.

“Pau,” a feature-length film by Alexandre Leter ’21 will be premiering at the Cinéma Saint-André Des Arts in Paris on March 13.

“It’s a very engaged art-house and cinema that’s very supportive of young filmmakers,” Leter said. “I sent them a DVD of the film last summer, and they agreed to show it.”

Leter, who is majoring in religion and minoring in film studies, started making “Pau” during his senior year of high school in Paris and finished the film during his freshman year at Wesleyan. The film follows “Pau,” a young girl who begins to experience hallucinatory visions as a result of mourning her father’s premature death. The idea for the film came to Leter after his junior year of high school, when his father passed away.

“When you’re grieving someone, you start imagining them around you in a way, as if they’re still there, if you walk by a place where you used to go with that person,” Leter said. “For me, I would start seeing my dad there, imagining him in my head. The idea of the film was having that kind of experience, these illusions or hallucinations, of someone who just lost someone who was close to them.”

Leter’s mother is from Chicago, and both his mother and his sister went to colleges in the U.S., so Leter knew early on he wanted to follow in their footsteps.

“In France, you need to know exactly what you want to study after high school,” Leter said. “Even though I loved film, I didn’t want to be set on doing one thing right out of high school…I felt like the liberal arts education here was a really good fit.”

Once he began searching for schools, Leter became interested in Wesleyan for its emphasis on the arts.

“Wesleyan really caught my eye for being really strong in the arts and also academically, and having a really good film program, and having a lot of really dynamic people,” he said.

Watch a trailer for “Pau” online here. The film will run at the Cinéma Saint-André Des Arts until March 25.

Read more about Leter and “Pau” in this Feb. 13 LeParisien article.

Posse Vet Snashall ’21 Proposes Higher Education Policy

Gabriel Snashall ’21 Gabriel Snashall ’21

Gabriel Snashall ’21

Gabriel Snashall ’21 is a Posse veteran studying government and the author of a policy proposal that aims to introduce consumer transparency to the college application process. Similar to a dealership’s sheet on a car window that lists mileage and crash test ratings, Snashall designed a simple form that breaks down the important data on an institution that incoming students should know but often don’t, such as accreditation status and post-grad job placement rates. The proposal earned Snashall a fellowship with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Student Veterans of America joint legislative group, which later garnered him support from Connecticut Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty.

Snashall discovered the need for better policy after leaving the navy and going back to school in 2016. The year before coming to Wesleyan, he enrolled in two schools in his hometown of Fresno, California: a local community college and the University of Phoenix (a for-profit college). Thanks to military benefits, schools can pay student veterans a basic allowance for housing (BAH). The average BAH rate in Fresno was $1,200 a month, but University of Phoenix offered him $3,500. Snashall attended class one evening a week, and in return was able to pay off his mom’s mortgage. “I didn’t really put much effort into University of Phoenix because it was just like a source of income,” said Snashall “but I got to see some things that I was just shocked at. The education they were providing.”

Students Receive Research Awards from NASA

Three undergraduates and one graduate student received NASA Connecticut Space Grant Awards from the NASA Connecticut Space Grant Consortium (CTSGC). The CTSGC is a federally mandated grant, internship, and scholarship program that aims to inspire the pursuit of careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

Astronomy and math major Nicole Zalewski ’20 received a $5,000 undergraduate research fellowship to pursue her study on “Measurement of the Radar Properties of the Oldest Rocks on Venus to Constrain Mineralogy.” Her advisor is Martha Gilmore, the George I. Seney Professor of Geology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, co-coordinator of planetary science, and director of graduate studies.

Students Honored for First-Year Seminar Essay Writing

Seven members of the Class of 2021 were honored for their first-year essays. Pictured, from left, are Sam Libberton, Sarah Backer, Olivia Siegal (back), Kimberly Wipfler, Julia Rose Atkinson, Fritz Spofford and Ethan Addis.

On Feb. 27, Wesleyan celebrated the success of students in the Endeavor Foundation First-Year Seminar Essay Contest. Winners received $200 awards and a book, selected by their course instructor.

A three-year, $225,000 grant from the Endeavor Foundation of New York has supported an expansion of the First Year Seminar Program. These seminars are writing intensive courses that introduce students to a variety of topics and writing associated with various disciplines. Students learn the methods used to collect, interpret, analyze and present evidence as part of a scholarly argument. Faculty teaching these classes highlight the type of writing associated with their respective disciplines, and help students develop, compose, organize and revise their writing.

Giant Glyptodon Emerges in Exley Science Center

Joel LaBella, facility manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Bruce Strickland, Instrument maker specialist; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Freeman Scholar Yu Kai Tan '20; Freeman Scholar Andy Tan '21; Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences; Annie Burke, chair and professor of biology; and David Strickland, instrument maker.

The Glyptodon, a giant fossil cast that has been in storage since 1957, is now on display in Exley Science Center. Several members of the Wesleyan community helped install the 8-foot-long cast on Feb. 26. Pictured, from left, are Joel LaBella, facility manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Bruce Strickland, Instrument maker specialist; Jim Zareski, research assistant/lab manager for the Earth and Environmental Sciences Department; Freeman Scholar Yu Kai Tan ’20; Freeman Scholar Andy Tan ’21; Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences; Annie Burke, chair and professor of biology; and David Strickland, instrument maker. Glyptodon means “grooved or carved tooth” in Greek. The creature lived approximately 2 million to 10,000 years ago.

The Glyptodon as seen from the front (upper) and back (lower) in its glory days, when it was displayed in the Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences, before 1957. Note the skull and hind left foot present, and the armored tail visible from the rear. Copy of 1876 advertisement by Ward, dated 1876, in which he names ‘the Wesleyan University of Middletown, Conn.’, as having purchased a number of his ‘Casts of celebrated Fossils’.

Prior to 1957, the Glyptodon was displayed in the Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences. Pictured in the center is an 1876 Ward advertisement, in which he names “the Wesleyan University of Middletown, Conn.” as having purchased a number of his “casts of celebrated fossils.”

For the past 60 years, a massive megafauna mammal thrived in crates buried in Wesleyan’s tunnels and attics. This month, the creature, known as a Glyptodon, has emerged in Exley Science Center for public viewing.

Although the armored armadillo-like animal became extinct more than 10,000 years ago, Wesleyan acquired a fossil cast in the 1870s, where it became a showpiece at the university’s Orange Judd Museum of Natural Sciences.

In 1957, the museum closed and thousands of artifacts, including the Glyptodon, were haphazardly stuffed into crates and boxes and hauled to multiple locations throughout campus.

“After the museum closed, everything was scattered all over, anywhere there was a place to put it,” said Ellen Thomas, the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Integrative Sciences and research professor of earth and environmental sciences. “Just recently, we’ve started to uncover all these lost treasures and we’re working to get them organized and cataloged. The Glyptodon is one of our major finds.”

Wesleyan in the News

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

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. Rolling Stone: “Bethesda Founder Christopher Weaver on the Past, Present and Future of Video Games”

Christopher Weaver MALS ’75, CAS ’76, the Distinguished Professor of Computational Media in the College of Integrative Sciences, is profiled.

2. Transitions Online: “The Search for a New World Order, Then and Now”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, writes that a century after President Woodrow Wilson promulgated his “14 points” to guarantee world peace and prosperity, we are “still not that much closer to a stable world order.”

3. Medium: “Gabriel Snashall—Navy Submariner to Wesleyan!”

Gabriel Snashall ’21 discusses his path from serving as a cryptographic communications supervisor aboard the USS Pittsburgh to studying at Wesleyan through the Posse Veteran Scholars program. He plans to pursue a career in bioethics law.

4. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan University Class Research Published in Archaeological Society Bulletin”

Four Class of 2017 graduates who completed the service-learning course “Decolonizing Indigenous Middletown: Native Histories of the Wangunk Indian People,” are co-authors of articles published in the Bulletin of the Archaeological Society of Connecticut.

5. CTNow: “Amy Bloom to Give Talks on ‘White Houses'”

Amy Bloom ’75, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, will discuss her new book, White Houses, at several public events around Connecticut this month.

Recent Alumni News

  1. RollingStone: “Review: MGMT Rediscover the Electric Feel for ‘Little Dark Age’

The duo who began playing together as MGMT when they were Wesleyan undergraduates, Andrew Van Wyngarden ’05 and Ben Goldwasser ’05, released a new album to favorable reviews: “MGMT are back to their roots on Little Dark Age, with concise tunes built from cushy keyboard beats and cute, kiting melodies,” wrote Jon Dolan in Rolling Stone.

[Also: Entertainment Voice, TheMusic.com, Interview Magazine and others]

2. TBR Newsmedia: “SBU’s Lerner Uses the Theater for Autism Therapy

Matthew Lerner ’03, an assistant professor of psychology, psychiatry and pediatrics in the department of psychology at Stony Brook University is part of a team—with scientists from Vanderbilt and University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa—that received $3 million in funding from the National Institutes of Mental Health to study how participation in a theater production can help people with autism spectrum disorders. “The process of putting on a play with others and being able to successfully produce and perform that has key benefits to learn and practice,” said Lerner.

3. Huffington Post: “10 Years Ago, Screenwriters Went On Strike and Changed Television Forever”

Craig Thomas ’97 and Carter Bays ’97 recall the 100-day battle between the Writers Guild of America and the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers when their creation, “How I Met Your Mother,” was in only its third season and all filming was to be done without any writers on the set.

4. Scripps College News: ”Ulysses J. Sofia [’88]: Weinberg Family Dean of Science of the W.M. Keck Science Department

Called “a scientist and an adventurer” who enjoys the liberal arts environment at Scripps, “U. J. began his own college career at a large research university before transferring to Wesleyan University, a liberal arts college, during his junior year. ‘It was like the angels singing—I thought, this is where I belong, this feels right. I learned all of my physics, all of my astronomy in those two years.’”

5. BroadwayWorld:The Wheel Theatre Company Presents Owen Panettieri’s [’01] A Burial Place

This production of A Burial Place by award-winning playwright Owen Panettieri ’01 at the DC Arts Center in Washington, D.C., runs March 8-17, 2018. The plot features Emmett, Colby and Marcus reuniting in their hometown after sophomore year at college, gathering for their annual summer sleepover. “Instead, they come back to find their town at the epicenter of a major police investigation. A gruesome discovery out in the woods where they used to play has resulted in public outrage and a growing list of unanswered questions.”