Holiday Break, Holiday Anticipation

When I went out to get the paper this morning just before six, I saw the big bus out behind Usdan loading up passengers. Finals were over just yesterday, and the residence halls would soon be empty. Many staff members took some vacation days this week, and faculty are at home or in their offices grading. The Winter Break is here.

Yesterday I wrote briefly to our campus community reflecting back on 2009. It was a year of great extremes: from intense sadness and mourning, to great joy and celebration. Through it all, I have felt so fortunate to be surrounded by friends and colleagues at Wes. And now, as I see just a few young sledders coming down Foss Hill, the campus seems to be catching its breath.

College Row

foss sleds 09

I just came back from the libraries, where I was looking for materials for my spring semester class. But I know it’s time for a break. There are presents to open, and Mathilde is eager to have more time to run in the snow.

I’ve already thanked faculty, students and staff for their remarkable contributions this year. I’d also like to thank those alumni and parent readers for their input and their support. This ongoing participation shapes the future of our university while connecting us to our vital traditions. Thank you for helping to make Wesleyan such an extraordinary place!

I wish you all a peaceful and joyful holiday season. I’m already looking forward to a great 2010!

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Celebrating Achievement

This past week I had the pleasure of welcoming students, faculty and their guests to the Fall Initiation of our Phi Beta Kappa chapter. One of the oldest honor societies in America, PBK acknowledges great student academic achievement. Good grades aren’t enough though; the undergrads must satisfy the General Education expectations and be nominated by their home department.

Most of the Phi Beta Kappa members of the class of 2010 will be inducted in the spring semester, and it is a special honor to be asked to join during the fall. This semester the initiates are:

Sue Hyun Chung
Alexis Horan
Megan Hughes
Peter Hull
Samuel Kurtis
Elias Leight
Rebecca Loomis
Anna Mageras
Mark McCloughan
Juan Pablo Mendoza
Anne Merley
Ari Tolman
Rebecca Turkewitz
Chan-young Yang
Jake Zuehl

The research and co-curricular projects of this year’s group are as varied as they are impressive, ranging from sophisticated research in microbiology, economics and political philosophy to worthy efforts in the realms of education and public health, theater and the Peace Corps. Some of the PBK students are headed to Kenya, others to Ecuador, and I bet a few wind up in Brooklyn.

Yesterday, Provost Joe Bruno and I joined the Chemistry Department and Board Chair Joshua Boger in celebrating Betty Tishler’s 100th birthday with her family and friends. Max Tishler, Betty’s late husband, was a great Wesleyan scientist, and she has been a beloved member of our community for four decades. One of the very special guests was Dr. Satoshi Omura, who came in from Tokyo for this event. Dr. Omura, one of the world’s leading bioorganic scientists, discovered and developed the drug ivermectin, which is on track to eradicate onchocerciasis, or River Blindness. Millions of people across the globe have been taking ivermectin, and the results have revolutionized public health.

Dr. Omura was at Wes in the early 1970s, and as we stood together looking across Andrus Field yesterday, he grew wistful. He told me that he was so happy to be back at Wesleyan since this was the place where he first developed his scientific ideas. It was in our Chemistry Department that he began the work that would change the lives of millions of people around the world.

Maybe some of our Phi Beta Kappa students will have similar stories to tell one day!

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Getting In… Checking things Out

Last night admissions deans from eight schools gathered for an online forum at Wesleyan sponsored by Unigo and the Wall Street Journal. Thousands watched live as Jordan Goldman ’04 and members of the audience asked questions aimed at clarifying how highly selective institutions go about selecting a first-year class. Check out the video of the event (and some good footage of the campus).

The selection process is increasingly intense. Last year our applicant pool was as strong as ever, and it was more than 20% larger. Most university observers expected us to have some decline in apps this year, which is the normal rhythm at schools like ours. But the latest figures show that we have continued to grow — this year by more than 10% over last. The geographical and cultural diversity of the pool continues to improve, and the academic credentials of our applicants are truly impressive. I’m glad I don’t have to read the files!

One of the exciting aspects of last night’s event was the international web audience for it. The university has been using the web to share some of the great events on campus. Last year’s wonderful Navaratri Festival performance has now had more than 100,000 views on Youtube.

This weekend there are plenty of non-virtual chances to check out Wes culture. Friday at 8 pm, dance professor Nicole Stanton performs a piece created collaboratively with students and colleagues at Schönberg Dance Studio. Saturday at Freeman one can see several of our teams (track, swimming, squash, hockey) competing. I am looking forward to seeing Ariela Rotenberg’s ’10 senior thesis project, Our Day Will Come , at the Patricelli ’92 Theater. Maybe I can stay offline for a few days…

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