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Last week was full of conference talks for me. I’m not really a fan of these sorts of meetings, but I was asked to speak on liberal education at Aspen and Cambridge and thought I’d take the opportunity to wave the flag. Both meetings turned out to be really interesting, full of ideas that might be relevant for Wesleyan in the future.

Aspen meetings

Aspen meetings

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Aspen outside the meetings

At Aspen, I was particularly impressed by talks I heard by Donald Berwick on health care and continuous improvement; by Eric Mazur on innovations in the flipped classroom; by Maya Jasanoff on globalization and educational quality; and by Robert Putnam on educational inequality. Don Berwick has run Medicare and was a major figure in the planning and implementation of policies that led to the Affordable Care Act. He gave a powerful talk on how to create a culture of continuous improvement in an organization. This is not done through heroic individuals but through an entire workforce acting as a team to offer better services while holding down costs. He knows it can be done because he has seen it work! I am still thinking about how the analogy might work with higher education.

Eric Mazur is a legend in innovative pedagogy. You can check out his flipped classroom ideas here. At Aspen he reminded the audience that even a great lecturer (he is one) can create a better learning environment through the use of readily available technologies that in the end support peer learning. After giving us a simple physics lesson, Eric had us on the edge of our seats as we debated with one another an answer to a basic question about the heating of hard solids. Really! And project-based learning can work, he suggested, in any discipline.

Maya told us a historical tale of globalization, focusing on shipping. Having herself taken a cargo ship from Hong Kong to Europe, she described the ways in which globalization in the beginning of the 20th century drove down the price of goods but also increased certain basic forms of inequality. Will the same thing happen today with the globalization of education? Will we lose the research and preservation dimensions of the academy, and will we accelerate trends of inequality through which only the elite have access to high-touch, high-quality learning experiences?

OECD Speaker at Goldman Sachs- Harvard Conference on the Future of Education

OECD Speaker at Goldman Sachs-Harvard Conference on the Future of Education

Inequality was the core of Robert Putnam’s very moving talk based on the research from his latest book, Our Kids. He described to this audience of higher ed leaders how his own hometown of Fort Clinton, OH has suffered from de-industrialization and worse. Not everyone has suffered, of course. One of the key determinants for one’s prospects for a decent life? Education. In today’s America, if you don’t have the opportunity to attend college, your chances for basic economic security, health care…even a fulfilling family life, are dramatically reduced. Putnam has strong data on this, but he brought the point home with powerful stories of how many children today, our kids, are being condemned to blighted lives while others are given the support they need to take care of themselves and contribute to their communities.

While on the road, whether I was talking with the Dean of the Humanities at Hong Kong University or an entrepreneur whose company teaches English online (both of whom were on my panel at Harvard), I am continually struck by the relevance of the experiments going on here at Wesleyan. Our faculty, staff and students are rethinking higher education while they are in the middle of it, making innovation a reality on campus. This is practical idealism at its best!

Wounding Us All

The heinous attack in a Charleston, South Carolina church last night wounds us all. At a time of intense and conflicting conversations about race, bigotry and the aspiration toward equity and inclusion, a gunman’s attack on a prayer meeting is a brutal reminder that the legacies of racist violence can still be activated to terrorize African-American communities.

Our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were murdered in the Charleston church last night, and all those who are wounded this morning.

 

UPDATE:

I received this message from Pastor Moses Harvill today:

Please join the Cross Street Church on Tuesday, June 23, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. for a Community  Prayer vigil in wake of the tragedy in South Carolina. Please encourage congregations, civic leaders, government officials, Law Enforcement Officers, and families to attend. This event is open to the public.

Cross Street Candlelight Vigil

One of the great community assets in central Connecticut based at Wesleyan is our radio station, WESU 88.1. This is community radio at its best, with eclectic programing, opportunities for students to work in a great medium, and a mission that makes the station a valuable contributor to the Middletown community. It’s PLEDGE TIME at WESU, and you can help. Station manager Ben Michaels wrote in a recent appeal email:

Once again, I am reaching out again to WESU’s closest friends. Everyone receiving this email is connected to WESU in one way or another. Many of you are already volunteers and/or donors. Others reading this email are musicians, artists, activists, politicians, professors, writers, business people, and civil servants, whose views, art, and ideas have been broadcast throughout the Connecticut River Valley, thanks to the WESU airwaves. The remainder of you perhaps won a concert ticket, music CD, or T-shirt from one of the dozens of giveaways WESU offers each year.  Together, we make up the inner circle of WESU listeners and supporters, people who appreciate this unique approach to radio.

If you have yet to make your contribution, and you find value and meaning in the service that WESU provides to the many communities we serve, we need your support, now!  Every dollar raised will help ensure that we close our fiscal year with a balanced operating budget in addition to completing our 18 month capital campaign for studio upgrades. I hope you will join the relatively small group of people who sustain this unique radio treasure. Please make your donation online or by sending a check to: WESU Radio 45 Broad St 2nd Fl Middletown, CT 06457.

Please help us keep WESU strong! If you have already given, thank you! If not, remember you can also GIVE ONLINE and LISTEN ONLINE !

At its Annual Meeting just before Commencement, Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees’ Equity and Inclusion Task Force presented the full Board with a statement of principles. This task force’s work grew out of the board retreat in 2014 at which trustees made the commitment to pursue fairness and community building throughout the University’s functions. Here is the statement:

The Wesleyan University Board of Trustees is committed to a campus culture characterized by diversity, equity, and inclusion. We believe that in order to meet the University’s educational mission and provide a thriving educational environment, the University’s governance, curriculum, and operations should be regularly reviewed and renewed to ensure that they reflect and address the broad diversity of the Wesleyan community.

The members of the board commit to conversations regarding diversity, equity and inclusion, and to monitoring progress in promoting equity and inclusion in all aspects of University life, including:

Eliminating the comparative disadvantages in educational experience that may separate student groups on the basis of race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and/or other factors; and

Honest conversations, openness, and metrics regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion and evidence reflecting student success, faculty and staff recruitment and retention, and institutional performance.

This morning I read an article in The Chronicle of Higher Education that noted that efforts to promote diversity, equity and inclusion can be most effective with strong commitment from the top of the organization. I am proud to work with trustees who have embraced these goals and are working to integrate them throughout our operations.

 

It was great to see so many alumni back over the Memorial Day Weekend. Trustees had a very productive meeting, and we all cheered Eudice Chong’s ’18 historic victory as NCAA Division III Women’s Tennis Singles Champion. There were great Wesleyan seminars to attend, and many friends with whom to reconnect. This is Why.

Here are some fun video highlights

For me, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Commencement Speech was also historic. He connected with our students, alumni, and the deep reservoirs of his creativity. You can watch the speech here.

And now, students and faculty are getting ready for Summer Session! Go Wes!!

What a glorious morning for R&C Weekend!

R&C 2015

It’s great to see all the Wesleyan families on campus.

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After very productive trustee and trustee emeriti meetings on Thursday and Friday, we were treated to an amazing performance of Freestyle Love Supreme on Friday night.

Freestyle Love Supreme

Any moment the alumni parade begins. Here’s a video of the band getting ready.

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We also enjoyed some student singers.

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We’ll be updating this photo gallery of festivities throughout the weekend. You can also follow all coverage of the weekend on Storify.

This is Why.

 

Wesleyan in China

Last week I joined a group of Wesleyan professors and invited scholars for the third Forum jointly planned by the Social Sciences of China Press and our university. The topics of the first two seminars were Tradition and Enlightenment, and this third gathering focused on Modernization. We learned a lot from one another, not in spite of our differences but because of them.

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Topics ranged from the different path of China for economic growth and social change, to comparisons with the Soviet Union, to political education and the legal system, to visualization of science, to education and modernization. We’ve met every two years, and the next gathering will be in Middletown.

While in Asia I attended Wesleyan events in Hong Kong and Shanghai. These were high energy receptions where alumni, parents and pre-frosh could meet and deepen their Wes connections. Here are some photos from the Hong Kong event:

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Here are some photos from Shanghai:

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Just before returning to campus, I gave a lecture at Fudan University on liberal education (what else?) where my host was Vice-Provost Ying Wang P’16. It was great to share ideas on a broad, contextual education with professors and students there. Here are a couple of photos from that event:

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Wherever you go in the world, you can find Wes folks doing great things. THIS IS WHY.

 

 

 

I heard the news all the way in Hong Kong: Wesleyan’s baseball team won another NESCAC Championship! Congratulations to Mark Woodworth and the entire team for an amazing season. The rivalry with Amherst continues, as the Lord Jeffs beat our guys in a Sunday morning match-up. But that was just the first time in five games this year, and the Cardinals came back to win the next game and the championship 4-3 in extra innings. Guy Davidson ’16 hit a home run in the 12th to put Wesleyan ahead, and Ethan Rode ’17 in relief sealed the deal to get his first win of the year. Onto the NCAA tournament!

Speaking of the NCAAs, Eudice Chong ’18  has been named both NESCAC women’s tennis Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year as well as a first-team all-NESCAC choice in both singles and doubles following her tremendous first year. In doubles, usually with Helen Klass-Warch ’18, Chong fashioned a 20-3 record at the #1 spot.  Klass-Warch received a nod to the all-NESCAC first team in doubles. Chong and Klass-Warch are the first women’s tennis individuals from Wesleyan to earn qualification to the NCAA Championship. Congratulations!

Another Wes tennis player is NCAA bound. Michael Liu ’17 has been named first-team all-NESCAC as well as an NCAA Division III singles qualifier. This is just the second time a Wes men’s tennis player has been selected for the tournament. Congrats!!

And they all still have to study for finals!!

 

 

 

The amazing curator/organizer artist and CFA leader Pam Tatge announces a music and art festival at the Connecticut River in Middletown on Saturday, May 9 from noon to 5 p.m. It’s at Harbor Park, Harbor Drive, in Middletown, and it’s FREE!

Here’s the announcement:

Spend an afternoon at Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter, which will feature live music, visual art installations, a kids’ activity zone, environmental education exhibits, plein air painters, a farmer’s market, a craft fair, and much more to bring you closer to the rich culture, history, and science of the Connecticut River.

The festival celebrates the Connecticut River as a source of cultural inspiration and creativity. Admission to the festival is free to the general public. There will be free parking at the Melilli Plaza Municipal Parking Lot, located on Melilli Plaza between Washington Street and Court Street; and at Arcade Parking Lot, located off of Court Street, in Middletown. The festival will be held rain or shine.

For the full schedule of performances and events, a complete list of activities and participating environmental organizations and craft fair vendors, and a festival map, please click here.

Live music will include performances by roots music singer-songwriter Peter Siegel; the acoustic string band Mattabesett String Collective; acoustic indie rock band Honey and the Sting, featuring Gemma Smith ’13, Melanie Hsu ’13, Skip Robinson, Jessica Best ’14, and Sam Long ’12; the folk Americana group Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem featuring Andrew Kinsey, Anand Nayak ’96, and Scott Kessel ’88 MALS ’92; and the sailor music of The Royal Boys, featuring Geoff Kaufman, Craig Edwards ’83, and Dan Spurr on the Main Stage; the youth circus company Circophany’s Circus by Artfarm and Oddfellows Playhouse Youth Theater; music, yoga, theater, and circus arts with the husband and wife duo Anastasia and Christopher Jankowski; camp singer-songwriter and storyteller Margie Warner; and members of the Middletown High School Band under the direction of Kimberly Everson on the Kid’s Stage.

Kids activities designed for all ages to learn more about the Connecticut River will be organized by Kidcity Children’s Museum, Jonah Center for Earth and Art, Wesleyan University’s Rho Epsilon Pi, and the Middletown High School Crew Team.

Other festival events will include artist Anne Cubberly‘s giant “Water” puppet roaming the festival (from noon to 3 p.m.); drawing and painting boat tours on six-person cata-canoes (departing each half hour from noon to 5 p.m., subject to weather conditions) with Sandbox Arts Collective; a drumming circle organized by The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center (from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.); environmental tours with Wesleyan students; a farmer’s market featuring locally grown and made produce, bread, smoothies, and other delicious goods organized by the North End Action Team; plein air painters organized by the Middletown Art Guild; craft vendors; and installations in the pedestrian tunnel, including sounds by Wesleyan University graduate student Cecilia Lopez and her Buenos Aires-based indie pop band Vigilante Margarita, and artwork by Middletown children.

Food trucks and vendors will include Firedog, Jammed 4 Thyme, Mamoun’s Falafel Cart, Mattabesett Canoe Club, NoRA’s Cupcake Company, Pizza to the People, and Spuds Your Way.

The “Feet to the Fire: Riverfront Encounter” festival was inspired by the Connecticut debut performance by The Nile Project at Wesleyan’s Crowell Concert Hall, which took place on April 10, 2015 and featured a dozen musicians performing collaboratively composed songs drawn from the diverse styles and instruments of the countries along the Nile Basin, including Burundi, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, and Uganda.

This event is part of Feet to the Fire, a program of Wesleyan’s Creative Campus Initiative. Partners include The Buttonwood Tree Performing Arts & Cultural Center, the City of Middletown, Jonah Center for Earth and Art, Kidcity Children’s Museum, Middlesex Community College, Mattabesett Canoe Club, Middletown Garden Club, Middlesex County Historical Society, Middletown Public Schools, and Oddfellows Playhouse.

Made possible by the State of Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development’s Arts Catalyze Placemaking program, the City of Middletown and the Middletown Commission on the Arts, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Wesleyan University’s Green Fund.

There seemed to be music everywhere on campus this past weekend. Concerts and Cabaret on High Street, a capella in the library and the CFA, live bands in the Fountain backyards, and the mighty Wesleyan Orchestra in Crowell. And there is poetry and other forms of creative writing echoing through the halls. I know I’m just scratching the surface. We raise our voices in song, or just move to the beat, as we also struggle to write those last papers, prepare presentations, study for exams.

So much gets bunched up at the end of the semester. It takes a long time to prepare a recital, whether in dance or in instrumental music, and so it’s no wonder that we have so many here in the last week of term. Lectures and conferences abound, even as we are struggling to focus on getting those last assignments completed. Today many heard from students and staff who were reflecting on what it’s like to be a person of color on this campus. Our colleagues and fellow students took the time to share their experiences, their pain and their hopes, even as they also have to get all the work of the end of term completed in a timely way. I am grateful for their efforts.

These days when the spring semester ends it is only a short break before Summer Term begins. Popular fields during the school year are offered in small classes in the summer — like psychology and computer science. And there are also new classes that are not found during the school year — like “Legal Thinking.” So, if you are already worried about aching to be in class, check out the Summer session webpage.

Thoughts of summer are hard to keep at bay as the temperature rises and music drifts over Foss Hill. But I have one more lecture to give and an exam to prepare….and students have miles to go before they can sleep. At least we are moving together accompanied by poetry, song, and the back beat of musical Wesleyan.

 

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