Support Students on #GivingTuesday

Tomorrow, November 30, is Giving Tuesday, a chance to support organizations around the world doing important work to alleviate suffering and create opportunity. This is Wesleyan’s eighth year of participating in #GivingTuesday. Over the years, thousands of alumni, parents, students, and friends have chosen to support their alma mater on this day. By giving to Wesleyan, donors have together unlocked millions of dollars in matching funds for Financial Aid.

In this year’s challenge, trustee Sarah Kendall ’77, P’14 will match every gift made on #GivingTuesday with a dollar-for-dollar contribution—up to $150,000—for Financial Aid.

The collective action of alumni to support students has enormous power. Won’t you join us by using this link?

Thankful

At the end of last week, we sent this message to the campus community

Dear friends,

Like many here on campus, my approach to Thanksgiving includes trying to get through a backlog of work and meeting a variety of pressing obligations while also keeping one eye on the approaching holidays. What a semester it has been! We arrived in Middletown in late summer as the Delta variant was surging in different parts of the country, and although we had our vaccinations and testing, we were fearful that our lives would once again be turned upside down by the pandemic.

Yet, despite our frequent testing, wearing masks indoors, eating outside whenever possible, and exercising common sense hygiene, it has been a great semester. I’ve looked forward to seeing my students each week in class, and they’ve seemed engaged, hard-working, and creative. The Wesleyan Student Assembly has been thoughtful in advocating for campus needs, both short term and long term. Athletes had impressive fall seasons, as had theater people and musicians. The tents and outdoor dining options have been filled with smiling Wesleyans making the most of their time here.

Still, I have the pandemic jitters. After all, close to 800,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, and infection levels are rising with the cold weather. If we maintain our vigilance, though, if we continue to take care of one another, we can live with the virus without being dominated by it. I am deeply grateful to everyone on campus for their efforts—from food workers who make sure students in isolation are well fed, to faculty and staff who go the extra mile to ensure that everyone has opportunities to thrive. I am filled with thanks for our Wesleyan students who have more than managed through this crisis—they have found creative, sometimes joyful ways of making this semester work despite the pandemic.

So, as we head into the Thanksgiving break, I want to express my deep gratitude to everyone at Wesleyan (and the folks who support those of us on campus).

Have a peaceful holiday and stay well!

Michael S. Roth
President

Nietzsche, Fate, and Frisbees

I was preparing for class this morning (teaching Nietzsche and the problem of fate in Out of the Past) when I heard that Wesleyan’s indomitable men’s Ultimate Frisbee team, Nietzch Factor, qualified on Sunday to play in the National Tournament. It’s the first time in eight years and “only the second time this century.”

Congratulations to this merry, talented, group of athletes!

These often unsung heroes are raising money to get to the tournament in LA. Want to help? They have a GoFundMe page.

In any event, wish them well and cheer them on! Amor fati!!

Celebrate Our Extraordinary Student-Athletes, Coaches

Grace Devanny '23 (at left) was named NESCAC's Player-of-the-Year and Jenna Otaola '22 (at right) was named Defensive-Player-of-the-Year.
At left, Grace Devanny ’23 was named NESCAC’s Player-of-the-Year and Jenna Otaola ’22 was named Defensive-Player-of-the-Year.

As the women’s soccer and volleyball teams prepare for the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament this weekend, we can now celebrate some extraordinary honors bestowed on our teams by the NESCAC Conference. First, the coaches:

Geoff Wheeler, head coach of men’s soccer, has been named Conference Coach-of-the-Year. This was Geoff’s 23rd season at Wesleyan, and the third time he has won this honor. The team this year made use of its real depth, with 14 different players scoring goals!

Eva Meredith, head coach of women’s soccer, has also been named Conference Coach-of-the-Year. This was Eva’s 18th season as coach, and it has been a truly magical one. She leads a team that plays with smarts and with passion.

Now, the players:

(Volleyball) Jenna Otaola ’22 was named Defensive-Player-of-the-Year by NESCAC. Jenna is part of an amazing group of athletes, and she is a dominant defensive force with 59 more digs than the next-closest player in the NESCAC leaderboard! Jenna is joined by honorees Brina Kuslak ’22 and Mariko Tanaka ’24, both of whom were named to the all-star second team.

(Women’s Soccer) Grace Devanny ’23  has been named Player-of-the-Year in NESCAC. The engine of the Cardinal’s offense, Grace is a joy to watch as she sets up teammates or curls one of her own shots into the net. Julia Meehan ’22 joins Grace on the first team of NESCAC all-stars, and Sarah Hammond ’22 made the second team.

(Men’s Soccer) Liam Devanny ’23 (yes, a sibling) was named to the all-NESCAC second team for his stellar work in goal. He is joined by Lucas Ruehlemann ’25 on the second team to which he was named for his extraordinary ability to make passes that put teammates in a position to score.

(Field Hockey) Diana Schwarz ’23 was named to NESCAC’s second all-star team. She led the team in goals, the first player in more than a decade to end up in double figures in that stat.

What a fall! There are more matches to play, but please join me in celebrating these extraordinary coaches, and student-athletes.

Marking Veteran’s Day

On this Veteran’s Day, I’m reposting from last year. I am so grateful for the many contributions that faculty and students are making to our campus.

***

Today, November 11th, is Veterans Day, a great time to acknowledge the service of the many in the Wesleyan community who have served in the U.S. armed forces. In 1918, the Armistice was signed on November 11th, and after that brutal conflict that left tens of millions dead and wounded, the world hoped to put war behind us. Alas, that was not to be, and over the last hundred years, we have at various times depended on servicemen and servicewomen to step into the breach.

There are now more than three million post-9/11 veterans, and many of them want to continue their education after leaving the service. About seven years ago, Wesleyan began partnering with the Posse Foundation to recruit veterans interested in a liberal education at the highest level. These students have contributed immeasurably to our campus culture, and I am very grateful for their participation in all dimensions of campus life. A few years after beginning our partnership with Posse, we began recruiting faculty members with military experience and academic expertise to teach at Wesleyan. The divide between civilian and military culture does a disservice to both, and Professors Robert Cassidy and Joseph Slaughter make many contributions inside and outside the classroom.

You can read about a few of our Posse Veteran students here and here, and learn more about the research and teaching of Professors Cassidy and Slaughter on our website. Wishing all a good Veterans Day!


 

Happy Homecoming and Halloween!

We are welcoming alumni and parents back home to campus this weekend. We have many great programs and athletic events planned, and although the weather will be challenging on Saturday….all you need are the right clothes! The women’s soccer team has had a magical season this year, and they continue at home on Jackson field Saturday at 12:30 vs Bowdoin. The football team tries to continue its undefeated season against Amherst on Andrus Field at 1:00 pm. There’s lots of other things happening on campus, and you can find the program here.

My favorite part of Halloween these days is the parade of preschoolers who walk across campus to trick or treat. Olivia Drake snapped a few pictures this morning in front of South College.

Homecoming and Halloween highlight some of the strengths of our community, and I’m reminded of how fortunate we are this year to be able to celebrate together.

Fall Break Reflections

During Fall Break I traveled to Los Angeles for a series of Wesleyan meetings and events. I also had the good fortune to visit family – my two young grandchildren (ok, and their parents) fill me with joy.

Around the time I was leaving Middletown, students received an announcement concerning social media and the harmful disruptions that can occur when rumors and anonymous accusations are passed around. We see this all over the country – from conspiracy theories gaining traction to a social media outrage machine undermining possibilities of connection across differences. It’s hard to protect oneself against the noxious noise of angry posts, and we should beware of contributing to a climate that undermines possibilities for solidarity. I found myself these last few days explaining to my 2-year-old grandson about sharing with the other kids at preschool. Sharing is obviously such a good thing, but as I thought about another kind of sharing on social media, I considered how hurtful it can be. Even if we know that it’s in the business plans for social media companies, we don’t have to be online conduits for negativity.

At one of the Wesleyan events, an alum asked me about the tension between protecting academic freedom and protecting student sensitivities. I replied that the students I encounter are quite resilient and that they require little protection. They do seek to change conditions that they perceive as unfair or systematically unjust. Academic freedom is at the core of our mission. The ability of students and teachers to speak their minds, to inquire widely over difficult and disturbing subjects is fundamental to a liberal education. There are times when we must step in to protect members of our community from harassment or intimidation – when we must protect “safe enough spaces” so that academic freedom and open inquiry can continue. Most of the time, though, we can exercise resilience, vigilance, and care so as to nurture the freedom of ongoing teaching, artistic practice, and research. We learn from that exercise habits of mind and spirit that are relevant far beyond the borders of the university.

I’m looking forward to the second half of the semester. There are bound to be plenty of experiences and achievements worth sharing.

Celebrating Those Who Make Wesleyan Work!

A university needs more than just teachers, students, and educational tools. A university needs many people who behind the scenes ensure that classrooms, labs, houses, offices, fields, and so many other places at Wesleyan are the kinds of spaces in which we can learn, discuss, inquire. This week we will celebrate some of those people in an outdoor performance piece. WesWorks features students and folks from Custodial Services and Physical Plant who help make our campus a beautiful and hospitable environment for learning. Allison Orr’s Forklift Danceworks has been collaborating with workers and students to build relationships and will perform this week at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, starting on Andrus Field. “I think this [show] opens up a world of understanding for students of the incredible support network that is on a university campus,” said the CFA’s Rani Arbo in a recent article.

Building on seven years of Forklift Danceworks’ engagement with Wesleyan, WesWorks was developed through a series of residencies and intensive course collaborations over the past year and a half. The multi-site outdoor performance invites the audience to witness the virtuosic and skilled work of Facilities staff as performed by the workers themselves, and to celebrate their indispensable place at Wesleyan.

You can read more about the performance and the work leading up to it here. You can also reserve a spot!

I remind my colleagues whenever I get the chance that whatever our job titles at Wesleyan, we are all educators. I look forward to admiring the work and learning from fellow staff members this week!

forklift
Allison Orr, third from left, celebrates a successful WesWorks rehearsal with custodial staff on Oct. 1.

 

One Month Into the Semester…

There’s a chill in the air, and the leaves are changing colors. Midterms are around the corner, and we’ve already had dance recitals and a home football game (what a dominating performance). After great preparation and more than a little anxiety, with masks and regular testing, we are having a much more normal semester than I’d feared in mid-August. One month into the semester, I know that students and faculty are making progress on important projects, and staff is supporting that work while planning for Wesleyan’s long term future.

I’ve already mentioned how much fun I’ve had seeing our students perform at a high level in athletics. And this week something terrific happened when NESCAC chose three Wesleyan students as players-of-the-week!

Liam Devanny ’23 – the men’s soccer goalie who has been super in the net for the Cardinals.

Brina Kuslak ’23 – the women’s volleyball middle blocker was a “kill machine” for Wes during the last week. (Check out the games this weekend!)

Audrey Lavey ’23 – the women’s soccer forward had three goals during the week, including two within a few minutes against Bowdoin.

As we move into October, let’s cheer on the Wes folks doing great things all around campus. And let’s stay vigilant about reducing Covid risk…. By doing so, we make everything else possible.

Check out a Performance—Athletics or Otherwise!

Yesterday I finally found some time to see our students out and about in the late afternoon. I say “out and about,” though it would be more accurate to say many were working hard. I was heading over to see the women’s soccer game, and on the way, and I saw baseball players training, runners getting race-ready, the women’s lacrosse team doing strength drills, the football team preparing for Saturday’s home contest against Hamilton, and some men just leaving what must have been an intense lacrosse workout. I thought I saw a volleyball net outside, but it was coming down as I walked toward Smith Field.

The women’s soccer team is having a great season, and it was fun to see them in action. Keeping their impressive win-streak alive, they scored three unanswered goals in the first half, and it was inspiring to see their level of skill and quality of teamwork. This afternoon I’ll get a chance to see the men’s soccer team take on Trinity College on Jackson Field, and with any luck, tomorrow I’ll see the amazing volleyball team face off against Connecticut College.

I love seeing our students perform at the highest level, whether it be in athletics, the arts or in poster sessions about their research. I bet almost everybody at Wesleyan has friends on a team or in a dance, theater, or orchestral performance, or in a band, and that you take the opportunity to cheer them on!

Go Wes!