Tag Archive for Class of 2023

Student Researchers Discover Potential “Plastic-Eating” Bacteria on Campus

Chloe De Palo '22

Chloe De Palo ’22 explains how potential plastic-degrading bacteria were collected from a soil sample at Long Lane Farm.

A team of researchers at Wesleyan has discovered new strains of bacteria—located on the University’s campus—that may have the ability to break down microplastics and aid in the world’s ongoing plastic waste crisis.

Microplastics, which measure less than .20 of an inch, enter the ecosystem— and our bodies— largely through the abrasion of larger plastic pieces dumped into the environment. According to a study published in the Journal of Environmental Science and Technology, the average person consumes at least 50,000 particles of microplastic a year and inhales a similar quantity.

“Plastic is typically classified as a non-biodegradable substance. However, some bacteria have proven themselves to be capable of metabolizing plastics,” said Chloe De Palo ’22. “Ultimately, through our research and experiments, we hope to find an effective method of removing plastic pollutants from the environment.”

Fatai Olabemiwo

Fatai Olabemiwo

De Palo ’22, along with Rachel Hsu ’23; Claudia Kunney ’24; and biology PhD candidate Fatai Olabemiwo are members of the Cohan Laboratory in Microbiology, led by Fred Cohan, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, professor of biology. The team has spent almost two years working on a project titled “Isolating Potential Plastic Degraders from a Winogradsky Column.” They presented their most recent findings at Wesleyan’s Summer Research Poster Session.

On March 7, 2020 the research team gathered soil samples from Wesleyan’s Long Lane Farm. They placed samples of the agricultural soil, along with plastic strips, inside a modified Winogradsky column, a microbiological tool for culturing broad microbial diversity. The device—invented by Russian scientist Sergei Winogradsky in the 1880s—is still commonly used today to culture bacteria from natural soil and sediments.


Pictured is a Winogradsky column on day 1 (March 7, 2020) and day 496 (June 28, 2021)

“We modified this wonderful device to yield a range of plastic degrades by placing plastic strips at four different zones inside the column,” Olabemiwo explained. “Then we added a medium called Bushnell-Haas Broth, which contains all the requirements for the growth of the microbes except for carbon, to the modified device.”

Now that the columns are sealed, it’s time to wait—for 16 months.

“During this time, we expected the bacteria to ‘tickle’ the strips and eventually adhere to the strips,” Olabemiwo said.

The experiment worked surprisingly well. After 496 days in the soil-broth mixture, Cohan Lab members removed the plastic strips aseptically. Not only did they weigh less, proving that bacteria were effectively decomposing the plastic, but the strips also hosted a diverse community of bacteria from which the lab members isolated 146 strains.

While the majority of the bacteria cultures could be identified through the National Center for Biotechnological Information (NCBI) taxonomy browser, the researchers learned that 24 were discovered species but not characterized and classified, and 28 were novel, undiscovered species.

“We’ll actually be naming them, genomically sequencing them, and adding them to the NCBI taxonomy browser, ” Cohan said.

Now that each bacterium is isolated, the Cohan Lab is working this fall to confirm their potential plastic-degrading abilities by feeding them minute plastic discs in a petri dish. If confirmed, the “plastic-eaters” could help biotechnological companies create a product that could remove microplastics from the environment.

Rachel Hsu '23, Kunney, Chloe De Palo '22

Rachel Hsu ’23, Chloe De Palo ’22, and Claudia Kunney ’24 are the undergraduate researchers working on the project.


Rachel Hsu, a biology and psychology double major, holds samples of the isolated bacteria in a petri dish.

Restored Peacock Displayed in Wesleyan’s Science Library


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.

Matteson ’23 Wins WIDA’s Letter to Biden Contest


Connor Matteson ’23

Connor Matteson ’23 penned an open letter to President Biden as part of the Washington International Diplomatic Academy’s (WIDA) essay contest, which prompted college students to share their views on the role the United States should play globally. Matteson’s letter, titled “The World Needs a Democracy That Educates Its Citizens to Lead It” is one of two winning essays published on WIDA’s website.

“Not just in the realm of democratic ideas, but also in the realm of environmentally sustainable economics, the United States should be a laboratory of tomorrow, a place where forward-thinking leaders from around the world can congregate to observe innovation at work and be inspired to implement positive change in their own societies,” Matteson wrote. “In this way, the United States can continue to project the soft power that will ensure not only its own security and prosperity, but also that of the wider community of nations.”

Matteson, a College of Social Studies major at Wesleyan, emphasized the importance of his generation finding the United States’s proper place in the world.

“There’s historically been a tendency in the foreign policy community to be completely focused on the world’s problems while ignoring the fact that our capacity to effectively and constructively engage with those problems is directly tied to whether we have our own house in order,” Matteson said. “I hope my essay’s win is a sign that this is finally starting to change, because this country is at its best when we lead by example.”

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.

4 Students Win Case for a Cause Competition

elebrating the win outside of the Butterfields dorm. April 9, 2021. Left to right: Ransho Ueno, Pim Wandee, Sarah Rizky Ardhani, and Asa Sakornpant

Ransho Ueno ’23, Pim Wandee ’23, Sarah Rizky Ardhani ’23, and Asa Sakornpant ’23 celebrate their Case for a Cause competition victory near the Butterfields Residences on April 9.

Four Wesleyan sophomores won consulting company Roland Berger’s annual Case for a Cause competition on Friday, April 9.

The competition, which raises money for the Make-A-Wish-Foundation, gives students a space to apply their practical skills and simulate strategy consulting work.

Asa Sakornpant ’23, Natchanok (Pim) Wandee ’23, Sarah Rizky Ardhani ’23, and Ransho Ueno ’23 belong to the Consulting Pathways Club and are all pursuing the data analysis minor through Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center.

Sakornpant, Ardhani, and Ueno are Freeman Asian Scholars and were sponsored by the Gordon Career Center to take part in the competition.

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.

Merjos ’23: “How Student Bands Live on During COVID-19”

The following essay was written by Rose Merjos ’23 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction

It’s a Friday night in February 2019. People are rushing down the outdoor stairwell into the lower level of a dorm. The heavy bass drum and colorful strobe lights pulse through the windows of the basement into the courtyard of West College. More than a hundred people are piled into the WestCo Cafe, barely able to move. The crowd in front of the stage lurches across the room like a wave. The colorful lights illuminate the graffiti on the back walls of the cafe. The smell of sweat wafts through the dense air.

On stage, the student band Love, Grandma is playing an original. The guitarist, Liam Murray, is standing in front. His black painted nails move up and down the neck of his guitar. His messy ginger hair falls in front of his face. The audience dances to the beat of the drum, hollering at Liam and his three bandmates.

That was a typical Love, Grandma show before the coronavirus hit Wesleyan University and the rest of the country.

In February 2020, Wesleyan students resumed classes after a challenging fall semester. An additional 40 students enrolled in the university this spring, where 85% of the student population is studying in person and 15% are remote.

Although the U.S. infection rate is gradually declining and widespread vaccination is on the horizon, Wesleyan is still taking the necessary precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19. On campus, students must wear masks in shared spaces, practice social distancing, and ensure they are tested for COVID-19 twice a week. Visitors are also restricted from campus and students residing in dorms can only have one guest over at a time.

President Michael Roth told The Wesleyan Argus that “after a successful reactivation of campus last fall, we are confident that we’ll be able to offer a vital Wesleyan experience to students this spring while limiting the spread of COVID-19 on campus.”

But cultivating an authentic Wesleyan experience under harsh safety guidelines can be challenging. On top of existing anxiety about the pandemic, students worry that life on campus is less worthwhile. Although Liam, a Wesleyan sophomore, shares this sentiment, he is adjusting to a new normal, creating new experiences along the way.

When Liam returned to campus last fall, he got Love, Grandma back together and started to organize rehearsals. The group wasn’t able to work on any music over the summer months, but they were ready to perform in any way they could.

WestCo Cafe became a regular rehearsal space for the band. People living nearby would occasionally stop by, sit on the couch opposite the stage and chat as Liam and his bandmates tried out new chord progressions.

This was one of the few indoor spaces where Love, Grandma could rehearse while following the university’s guidelines. To practice in the Cafe, the band had to reserve the space 72 hours in advance and abide by the COVID capacity of 10 people.

Liam sees a lot of positives in being a college musician during COVID-19. Using the Cafe as a new practice space provided opportunities for him and his friends to hang out while following safety guidelines. “It’s great to have a practice space close to where everyone lives,” he says. “You’re doing art that makes you feel good around people that make you feel even better.”

But practicing in front of his friends also evokes a longing for the past. “I experience a lot of nostalgia because I’m doing some of the same things I was doing last year. It is a brief moment of escape,” Liam says.

Practicing in the Cafe and producing music in his dorm room provided a sense of normalcy for Liam throughout the fall semester. He chased those moments that brought him back to the pre-COVID era, but also found new ways to express his passion for music.

He did this by organizing a show over Zoom where students performed from their rooms at Wesleyan and across the world. Liam and his band played a song they had written in 2019. The patterned tapestry and flickering string lights hung up in his room emulated a concert hall. In a tiny box adjacent to Liam’s on the Zoom screen, the band’s vocalist, Gib Bernath, sang into a mic in his room two doors down from Liam. After the performance, the applause bellowed out from his computer. “We love Love, Grandma!” two girls shouted.

“It felt strange to play alone in my room in front of 50 people on the computer screen,” Liam recalls. “But watching other student bands perform, I realized that we’re all experiencing a sense of frustration and we need to support each other.”

A lot of bands had been working on music all summer and were excited to share it in any forum. But Liam knew that a Zoom performance wasn’t enough. He wanted to feel the body heat and echoing cries of the audience. He wanted to feed off of the crowd’s energy the way he did on that Friday night in February 2019.

So Liam decided to plan an outdoor concert on a Saturday evening in November. He wanted to organize Duke Day, an annual fall gathering for West College students. By November, the infection rate on campus was low and the safety guidelines were easing up. “This could actually happen,” he thought. And that prospect was enough to meticulously plan out every detail.

Duke Day started in the late 80s as a music festival hosted by WestCo that revolved around drug experimentation. In the past decade, however, it has turned into a school-wide event where dozens of student bands perform on Foss Hill. While a large-scale event was out of the question, Liam had the idea of organizing a modest Duke Day to keep the tradition alive.

Liam made sure that every aspect of the concert was acceptable under the university’s COVID restrictions. Duke Day would take place on the outdoor walkway connecting the second floors of Foss 2 and 3, two of the four West College dorms. The balcony overlooks the West College courtyard, so the audience could watch Love, Grandma perform from above.

The COVID capacity of the courtyard is 25 people. But what distinguished Duke Day from any outdoor performance was the 15 rooms facing the courtyard. Liam envisioned those people dancing on the balconies, leaning over railings to feel closer to him and the band. He could almost hear his guitar reverberating off of the concrete walls. He dreamed about how euphoric it would feel to perform, even at a further distance from the crowd.

On the day of the concert, Liam hung up Duke Day posters on the WesCo bulletin boards and slid flyers under everyone’s doors. He sent out an email asking everyone to social distance and wear masks during the show. And he enlisted a few friends to ensure that the number of people in the courtyard did not exceed 25.

Liam and his bandmates carried amps, mics, a piano, a drum kit, two guitars, and a bass up three flights of stairs. They laid out a mat and plugged in extension cords. It was a brisk November afternoon. The sun was already starting to set, creating a pink hue in the sky.

Love, Grandma started to rehearse around 4:30 pm. Less than an hour later, they received an email from the area coordinator saying that Duke Day was canceled. As of that day, the university had enacted new COVID-19 guidelines, restricting outdoor gatherings to five people.

After he read the email, Liam felt the disappointment rush over him. He had dedicated himself to finding new ways to perform during COVID. But now he wondered if performing was a possibility at all. “That night, our momentum got halted,” says Liam. “We had no idea what we wanted to do or where we were headed.”

Later that evening, Liam and Love, Grandma still played some music. A few friends sat against the railing of the walkway and chatted the same way they did during the band’s rehearsals.

Four months later, Love, Grandma have just released a song, “Grace,” that Liam and his bandmates worked on during winter break. He doesn’t know when Wesleyan will hear it live.

Although the future for Love, Grandma is less than promising, Liam is holding onto his passion. In the absence of crowds, playing music isn’t what it used to be. “Rehearsing in front of my friends is great. But then I remember that all I want to do is perform to a bunch of sweaty people, all screaming,” says Liam. Yet, performance is not the sole reason why Liam appreciates music, and COVID-19 is allowing him to discover new ones every day.

Curtin ’23: “Time Away Offers Clarity”

The following essay was written by Rory Curtin ’23 as an assignment for the Spring 2021 semester course Topics in Journalism: The Art and Craft of Journalistic Nonfiction.

Pulling off a winding highway into a run-down gas station, Anabel DiMartino [’23] checked her phone. An unexpected text flashed across her screen: “hey this is crazy but me and lila are looking a third roommate for an apartment in western mass this semester.”

After a long, hot morning of driving with her mom, the text was the last thing she expected. The pair were en route to New York City to get Anabel’s first tattoo from an artist she had been following on Instagram for years. After six excruciatingly mundane months living at home in Red Hook, New York, the trip was something Anabel had been looking forward to.

Merging back onto the wooded Taconic Parkway, Anabel was flooded with immediate exhilaration. For months, she had been mulling over her prospects for the impending semester. “It seemed like everyone was making a decision,” she says. Returning to campus felt like a question burdening everyone she knew. She had been texting with peers often, checking in on what their plans were. Seemingly everyone was wary of what campus would look like in the era of COVID-19, but no one was certain enough to actually make alternate plans.

Anabel had found the opportunity she was looking for in Mary’s text, even if it came as a total surprise. Move-in loomed in Anabel’s mind as an equally distant and dismal reality. Despite low numbers of COVID cases, she had an inkling that the worst of the virus was yet to come. Feelings of intense uncertainty had been circulating in the back of her mind.

Making small talk with her young tattoo artist later that day, she found out that he had gone to school close to where Mary was looking for a lease. It had only been a few hours since receiving the text, but Anabel responded to the artist excitedly, telling him she was considering moving there next month. Verbalizing the reality of her prospective life only made her excitement grow stronger. On top of that, the coincidence felt like a sign.

Walking out of the shop, she glanced down at her freshly inked chicken tattoo under the clear bandage. It reminded her of her rural hometown, dotted with idyllic farms and chickens just like the one that now adorned her forearm. That place that had been both a haven and prison throughout the pandemic seemed to look back at her as she finally responded to Mary’s text.

The summer months marked a stressful time as colleges across the country struggled to develop plans for re-opening amidst the pandemic. Students, parents, professors, and employees alike struggled to get answers to their burning questions: How will classes work? What will happen to a student who contracts COVID? What will campus life look like?  The option of deferral lingered in the back of everyone’s minds, but it too was mired with logistic uncertainty.

A flurry of emails piled up in the inboxes of Wesleyan students. Each one seemed to pose a hundred questions for every one it answered. Families around the world were tasked with difficult discussions around dinner tables. The safety and well-being of an entire community were at stake, but no one seemed to have a clue as to how the daunting semester would end.

On top of this, many students had been struggling to adjust to the new normal, facing difficulties with online classes, forced living situations, and restricted social life. The pandemic has posed a major threat to the mental health of college students everywhere. According to the CDC, around 3 in 4 people aged 18 to 24 reported poor mental health tied to the pandemic.

For Anabel, quarantine marked a personal low in terms of her mental health, which played a big role in her decision not to return. “I was really not in the right place to go back to school,” she said. “I just needed more time.” The tumultuous nature of the world, coupled with crippling boredom, took a toll on her.

After receiving the text from Mary, Anabel had about a week before she was scheduled to move into her single in the Nics, a mixed first- and second-year dorm just behind Foss Hill. She put off making a final decision, instead of jotting down pro-con lists on anything she could find. As the moment drew closer and closer, the right decision seemed to naturally emerge. Two days before she was supposed to move in, she officially emailed her dean to defer, sitting on the floor of her childhood bedroom, surrounded by unfilled boxes and walls still full of posters and pictures.

Anabel recalls September as a major turning point in her overall happiness: her deferral provided something to be excited about, while still giving her time to work through her feelings. As on-campus students acclimated to an entirely new Wesleyan, Anabel, Mary, and their third friend, Lila, spent the month securing a lease on a house in Holyoke, Massachusetts, and lining up jobs in the area. Anabel’s final month at home in Red Hook was spent doing many of the same things she had been doing all summer: dog-walking, journaling, reading, spending time with her mom. Yet, somehow she began to emerge from summer’s depressive haze as she turned her focus to a new and exciting experience on her horizon.

Anabel recounts a period of hectic adjustment upon moving into the house with her new roommates, Mary Ahlstrom and Lila Blaustein, both Massachusetts natives themselves. “After spending so many months with just my mom and my brother, it was just such an energy shift that took time to get used to,” she recalls. Their new space was a historic three-bedroom hilltop home down the street from a Friendly’s. Surrounded by families with kids and minivans, the three girls eventually embraced an endearingly domestic livelihood.

As the leaves changed, a sort of rhythm emerged as the trio got used to their new life. Anabel threw herself into taking an online creative writing course through SUNY New Paltz, spending her mornings sitting out on their screened-in porch in Zoom class. Mary took up a job at a local children’s book warehouse, immersing herself in a sort of comfortingly mundane work. An afternoon ritual formed around feasting on the fresh baked goods and coffee brought back by Lila’s early morning shifts at a local cafe.

Weekends consisted of outings around the sprawling Pioneer Valley area, known for its rural beauty and distinctly progressive population. A Holyoke native, Mary showed Anabel and Lila around her favorite childhood spots. Sometimes they would throw small parties with another small group of Wesleyan students with whom they eventually formed a COVID-safe “pod.” Their house, however, seemed to be the heart of their experience, where they grew to relish in the comforts of domestic living. Communal TV time, cooking, and dance parties became staples of their daily lives.

A favorite memory of Anabel’s is their Halloween celebration, which entailed a group costume inspired by their recent Netflix obsession: “Emily in Paris.” Their kitchen walls reflected other relics of their quirky communal fixations that included a poster of Michael B. Jordan above the stove and an off-putting ad for kombucha torn out of a magazine in the foyer. Each crevice of the home filled in over the three months with colorful memories from a semester unlike any other.

Their experience came with its respective hardships, however, especially as the trio navigated COVID boundaries. Their newfound independence left them completely independent to make their own decisions for the first time in months. Anabel remembers a few small disputes over visiting friends and a budding relationship in their pod. Being off-campus was not necessarily a cure-all for the arduous negotiations of social distancing.

For Anabel, the experience was one of healing, growth, and reflection. She fulfilled a long-standing goal of starting therapy and cutting back on her smoking habits, allowing for new clarity on what she wanted from her Wesleyan experience. As the end of their lease approached, it was obvious to Anabel that she wanted to resume being a full-time student. The decision unfolded similarly for the other two, who decided moving back on-campus made the most sense financially and academically.  Above all, Anabel recalls, it “just felt right” to come back to the campus they had slowly grown to miss.

Sitting atop her new Twin XL bed, Anabel surveys her new single in Lotus House. Her belongings have begun to settle into the new space she calls home. A jewelry box with a hand-painted purple werewolf that was once perched on the girls’ “Twilight” shrine now holds pens and pencils. “Being back just mostly feels like school,” she says.

For Anabel, this is a welcome change, despite hiccups in acclimating to campus culture, an adjustment most of her classmates have already made. Her time off has offered her clarity in what she wants to major in, and her renewed academic energy has positively impacted her relationship with school. “Taking time off gave me the perspective to get more out of classes and dedicate myself more,” she says.

Five weeks into the fresh semester, she isn’t totally sold on being back, but each day the new normal grows on her slowly. Despite what she describes as a “meh” beginning to the semester, she is hopeful for things to get easier. A lot has changed on campus, but so has Anabel.

As Anabel finishes that thought, Mary and Lila burst into the room, coaxing Anabel to come downstairs and cook dinner with them. They excitedly tell each other about their days, and Mary shows off new jeans she got in the mail, posing in Anabel’s mirror.  On their agenda for the night is more meal-prepping, music-making, and movie-watching. As I follow them into the Lotus House kitchen something above the stove catches my eye: it’s Michael B. Jordan’s smiling face.

Students Gather to Honor Atlanta Victims, Combat Anti-Asian Violence


Students organized a vigil on March 30 to reflect on a recent attack against Asians and Asian Americans. (Photo by Nathaniel Pugh ’21)

On March 30, more than 150 students gathered outside Usdan University Center for a community vigil to mourn the victims of the March 16 Atlanta spa shootings and to create a safe space for Asian and Asian-American students to discuss the rise of anti-Asian violence and be heard by the community.

The vigil was organized by Emily Chen ’23, Kevin Le ’22, and graduate student Emily Moon, in conjunction with members of the Asian American Student Collective.

Students read poems, played music, and shared their reflections during the event. Towards the end, the organizers gave anyone moved to speak the opportunity to do so.

Students Use GIS-Based Maps, Apps to Study the Effects of the Pandemic

mapsThroughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the public has relied on dynamic visualizations in the form of maps and apps to keep up-to-date with the spread of the disease on both local and global scales.

And with the use of geo-enabled apps, individuals can locate COVID-19 testing and vaccination sites, order groceries and other goods online, find uncrowded outdoor spaces, and track and even map the number of available medical resources in area hospitals.

“All of these services are available due to geographic information systems (GIS),” said Kim Diver, associate professor of the practice in earth and environmental sciences. “By using spatiotemporal visualizations, we can provide citizens, researchers, health care providers, and policy makers with a powerful analytical framework for visualization, data exploration, spatial pattern recognition, response-planning, and decision-making during the current pandemic.”

Students Reflect on Presidential Election Voting Experience


From left, Annie Roach ’22, Julia Jurist ’22, and Emma Smith ’22 proudly display their “I Voted” stickers after casting their ballots in Beckham Hall on Nov. 3. “The whole process of voting was much easier than I expected,” Jurist said. “It was very convenient and easy to be able to vote on campus.”

By Annie Roach ’22 and Olivia Drake MALS ’08

After the whirlwind of 2020, Wesleyan students—many of them first-time voters—were particularly eager to exercise their right to vote in the presidential election. While several students cast absentee ballots in their home states weeks ahead of time, others voted in person on Nov. 3.

Marangela James

Marangela James ’24

Marangela James ’24 decided to vote in person in Connecticut, here on campus at Beckham Hall. She registered at Wesleyan earlier this semester, when some students had set up a voter registration table in front of Usdan. “It was a little bit hard navigating how to vote at first with everything going on,” she said, “but I thought it was helpful that Wes had a table set up to register us.”

Thomas Holley ’22 voted via absentee ballot. However, he physically dropped it off in the election box outside his town hall in Cheshire, Conn. “I mostly chose to vote absentee because of its ease and to avoid crowds on Election Day,” he said. “I voted in the 2018 midterms, but this election feels much more important. This statement comes from an unbelievable point of my privilege, but this is the first time political events have directly impacted my daily life. In 2018, I enjoyed voting, but going to the polls did not have the same sense of necessity.”

In conversations with his peers, Holley feels there is a shared sense of “we have to act now, and voting is the least we can do.” Issues such as climate change, reproductive rights, and the virus have come up frequently in discussions, he said.

Students’ On-Campus Arrivals Staggered Over One-Week Period

Wesleyan welcomed students back to campus during the week of Aug. 24. Traditionally, students would arrive on New Student Arrival Day, and be accompanied to their new home-away-from-home by families and fellow students. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Residential Life stretched Arrival Day activities over the span of seven days, and students were assigned a formal arrival date and time to minimize crowds and allow for appropriate social distancing. Only students could enter residences during the move-in period. Classes began virtually on Aug. 31.

While COVID-19 is continuing to tear through Japan, Tokyo resident and first-year-student Takumi Abe ’24 feared he wouldn’t make it to campus this fall. But “I managed to make it here,” he said. “I am excited about the new experiences that I will have with new students and staff, the lessons that are starting next week, and about the summer heat coming to an end. The change in the working and living environment feels like a fresh start and I am motivated in making this first semester productive and fun.”

Prior to moving into their residence halls and homes, every student was tested for COVID-19 at Wesleyan’s testing site.

Photos of Arrival Week are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake and Simon Duan ’23)

arrival week

Natalie Aller ’23 carries a packaged chair to her West College residence on Aug. 27. “While moving in this year was pretty different from last year considering our current situation, I found the process to be relatively easy with the help of my roommate! It definitely was a lot less hectic, as I was the only person in my hall to move on that day and I felt as though I had way more time to settle in,” she said. “Overall, I believe that everyone is doing their best to adjust to this new way of living on campus while maintaining health and safety precautions, and hopefully, the actions we take now will allow us to experience a more normal semester moving forward!” 

T. Abe

Takumi Abe ’24 shows off his dorm room in Nicolson 5, which is home to both first-year and upper-class students. Abe arrived on campus late on Aug. 24, and a Public Safety officer guided him to his room. “The atmosphere has been nothing short of welcoming, whether it be at the PI Cafe or the ResLife Office,” he said.

arrival week

arrival week