Wesleyan and the NCAAs

Today Eudice Chong ’18 repeated as the national champion in women’s tennis at the NCAA tournament at Kalamazoo College. Eudice vanquished her rival from Williams College to claim the crown.

Chong by Ellen Friedlander

Eudice title

Educie and doubles partner Aashli Budhiraja ’18 had a great tournament as a duo, making it to the finals before falling to a team from the Claremont Colleges.

The Women’s Crew Team also had a historic season, which they capped off with a bronze medal at the NCAA tournament in Sacramento. The Cardinals Varsity 8 boat  consists of Ava Miller-Lewis ’17, Remy Johnson ’16, Annalee Holmdahl ’17, Emma Koramshahi ’16, Ricky Flowers ’19, Emma Halter ’17, Annie Dade ’16, Amanda Molitor ’18 and coxswain Elisa Greenberg ’18.

Wes Women's Crew Claims the Bronze!
Wes Women’s Crew Claims the Bronze!

Congratulations to all these great athletes!!

 

Wesleyan Issues 100-Year Bond

Wesleyan University has issued $250 million of 100-year, fixed-rate taxable bonds, refinancing the majority of its existing debt. The current market for “century” bonds offers a historically unique opportunity to obtain long-term debt at favorable rates (4.781 percent). Over the last 30 years, century bond rates have been below this point less than 2 percent of the time. Wesleyan is the first educational institution in over a year to successfully issue a century bond.

This is a move toward solidifying our economic future. After refinancing the existing debt, the remainder of the proceeds will be invested alongside the endowment for future needs. The university has not made any commitments to specific projects, and Wesleyan’s excellent credit rating from Moody’s (Aa3) and S&P (AA stable) will not be affected by the bond sale. The sale also acts as an inflation hedge with a fixed interest rate for 100 years, and will help manage the university’s debt service costs. The bonds, the sale of which was approved by the Board of Trustees, are payable in 2116. We’re not borrowing to spend, but rather restructuring our debt to ensure greater security and flexibility in years to come.

I want especially to thank John Meerts and Nate Peters for their leadership on this process. They and their team have been attentive to every detail, and they have been persistent in seeking out and maximizing this strategic opportunity.

Finance team Toasting Century Bond
Finance team Toasting Century Bond

Trustee Diana Farrell has been with us every step of the way, and along with the bond group and the finance committee, Diana has devoted time, energy and thoughtfulness to this complicated process, and we are deeply grateful to her. I am so pleased that in these last weeks of the fiscal year (and in the last weeks of Joshua Boger’s and John Meerts’s terms as Chair and Treasurer, respectively), we were able to take this important step.

Liberal Education in Tough Times

Commencement is around the corner and college campuses around the country grow quieter every day. At this time of year graduating seniors and those preparing for summer jobs or internships may well be wondering how they are going to translate what they have been learning at school into what they will do Beyond the University. What possibilities await?

Being open to discovering new possibilities has been a hallmark of American education for a very long time. When the generation that founded this country was considering higher education, many believed, like Thomas Jefferson, that it was crucial that students not think they already knew at the beginning of their studies where they would end up when it was time for graduation. For all those who have followed in this American path of liberal education, learning was all about exploration—inquiry was most productive if one was open to unexpected possibilities. That’s why W.E.B. Du Bois argued that a broad education was a form of empowerment that must be accessible to those disenfranchised by the economy or by legacies of discrimination. That’s why Jane Addams insisted that a liberal education worthy of the name enables you to connect with others, helping the most vulnerable while also learning from them.

In today’s climate of renewed economic anxiety, many are prompted to jettison this tradition of pragmatic liberal education. In search of shortcuts to vocational success, they undermine students’ ability to respond to changes in the economy by preparing them only for what is valued right now. This is a terrible mistake. Instead, we must cultivate our tradition of pragmatic liberal education not only because it has served us so well for so long, or because it will make people “well-rounded.” We must cultivate a broad, inquiry-based education because it can revitalize our economy, lead to an engaged citizenry, and create a culture characterized by connectivity and creativity.

I am more convinced than ever that what is really needed today is the kind of pragmatic liberal education John Dewey called for a century ago: one that must never be reduced to short-term training, but instead should empower graduates to be productive while also being engaged citizens. Sure, by narrowly preparing themselves for 21st-century jobs, broadly educated graduates can reduce fears about life after college. But as empowered citizens, they can also work to transform an economy and polity now hell-bent on reproducing privilege and poverty.

We need liberal education in these tough times.


Wes Women Athletes Off to NCAAs

Two Wesleyan teams, Women’s Crew and Women’s Tennis, are heading to their respective NCAA National Championship tournaments. In tennis, this is the first time in 15 years the team has been selected, and only  the second time in program history. The Cardinals earned an at-large bid Monday afternoon. The Cardinals will play in second round action Saturday, May 14 at Amherst, MA, after earning a first round bye. I took this picture of the team when we were all out in California during spring break.

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The Women’s Crew team is heading to the NCAA races in Sacramento, CA. These Cardinals are a nationally ranked powerhouse, and just finished fourth out of 21 teams at the 2016 ECAC/National Invitational Rowing Championship Sunday in Worcester, Mass.

Womens Crew Team

In addition to Women’s Tennis and Women’s Crew qualifying for the NCAA Championships, baseball is defending its back-to-back NESCAC Championship crown this weekend in Nashua, NH. The conference tournament begins Friday and is double-elimination, and the championship game is Sunday. Baseball earned the top-seed in the NESCAC West for the fourth consecutive season.

These athletes are negotiating finals and other end-of-the-year obligations while competing at the highest level. Congratulations and good luck!!

Dancing to Different Beats

This weekend Kari and I had the opportunity to see the performance that was a product of Allison Orr‘s class collaboration with the Middletown Water and Sewer Department. Allison is the Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment, and she and her students have built many bridges and discovered and created the arts in unlikely places. Here are two of her collaborators, Justin Giuliano and Michael Edwards ’16, after the opening performance at the Riverfront Festival:

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Later on Saturday afternoon we celebrated 46 years of teaching by Abraham Adzenyah, Wesleyan’s beloved retiring professor of African drumming and dance. His students raised over $225,000 for a scholarship in his honor, and here is Prof. Adzenyah standing in front of the rehearsal hall named for him.

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After Abraham spoke, we were treated to a concert of music and dance, and on Saturday evening groups of former students and admirers made music long into the night. My legs still hurt from dancing!

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Equity Task Force Report

This past weekend I received the final report from the Equity Task Force. One can clearly see how much hard work and engaged thinking went into the committee’s deliberations, and I am very grateful for the efforts of all its members: Gina Athena Ulysse (Faculty and Tri-Chair), Elisa Cardona (Staff), Antonio Farias (Staff and Tri-Chair), Matthew Garrett (Faculty), William Johnston (Faculty), Makaela Kingsley (Staff), Caroline Liu ’18 (Student), Henry Martellier, Jr. ’19 (Student), and Shardonay Pagett ’18(Student and Tri-Chair).

The report is labeled an intervention in history, and it is vital that we seize this moment to improve the educational experience for all Wesleyan students, most especially those who have felt marginalized by practices of this institution, past or present.

You will see that the main body of the report has three major recommendations. The first is to develop a Center with an “intellectually grounded mission in Social Justice and a focus on intercultural development and literacy.” The Appendix on a Gender Resource Center (important in its own right) gives some idea of what such a center might look like. The second recommendation is to devote significant resources toward redressing long-term issues of discrimination and marginalization, especially as this affects the composition of our faculty and staff as well as the development of the curriculum. The third recommendation calls for a standing institutional committee to coordinate, communicate and support change in these areas.

Although I have only had a short time to digest the report, I can say that we will move forward immediately on all three recommendations. We will plan a Center within the time frame suggested that will enable students to deepen their education and enhance their ability to thrive on campus – especially those groups of students who have struggled against legacies of discrimination. This will build on the accomplishments of student activists, and also of professors and staff members who have worked hard to make this university a more equitable and inclusive place. Of course, this means a place that thoughtfully engages with different ideas of what constitutes justice, diversity, individual rights and political freedom. Our differences can make us stronger.

As per the second recommendation, we will add to the considerable resources we have already dedicated to recruiting and supporting students, faculty and staff from under-represented groups. Through the efforts of VP for Equity and Inclusion Antonio Farias and Provost Joyce Jacobsen, we will continue to aggressively pursue opportunities to diversify the faculty. Furthermore, by doing things like replacing loans with grants for low-income students and improving employment conditions for student workers, our goal is to ensure that all students have every opportunity to excel in all sectors of the curriculum and co-curricular activities. As called for in the third recommendation, we will establish a committee to coordinate our efforts and measure their outcomes.

In news very much related to issues of inclusion, we are announcing today that in future admissions cycles Wesleyan will consider undocumented and DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applicants who have graduated from a U.S. high school as if they were U.S. citizens or permanent residents. You can read more about that decision here.

Please do read the report and its appendices. It is an important intervention in Wesleyan University’s history. We will build on this good work to make our campus an educationally empowering place for all who live and work here.

Talking Education at Middlesex Chamber of Commerce

Bright and early this morning I was the featured speaker at the Middletown Chamber of Commerce monthly breakfast.  (Watch the full address here). This was the annual Business Education Recognition Breakfast, and there were a couple of hundred people there to celebrate mentorship, teaching and learning.

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As I often do, I spoke of the three things everybody should learn in college: Discover what you love to do; get better at it; learn to share it with others. It’s not enough to pursue those things that you’ve done well in, and it’s not enough to “discover your passion.” All students should find the kinds of work that are personally rewarding, and then they should hone their skills to become more adept at whatever it is that gives them meaning and purpose. Sharing that work with others—in the marketplace or in the not-for-profit world—should also be a part of one’s education. I believe these are key elements of the American tradition of pragmatic liberal education.

I had occasion to talk about the many ways that Wesleyan contributes to the surrounding community. For example, through the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, more than 750 students engage in programs every semester doing volunteer work such as tutoring and mentoring in local schools, addressing issues of housing with Habitat for Humanity, delivering food to three elementary schools to address food insecurity, and more.

Wesleyan’s direct and indirect economic impact is powerful: $434 million in labor income; $624 million in value added to state economy; supporting almost 7,000 jobs on campus and beyond. We hope to continue this by working closely with the city and Mayor Dan Drew on projects that are beneficial to all. This morning we issued a request for proposals to see if we can find a suitable space on Main Street for a new Wesleyan bookstore. Stay tuned!

Middlesex Chamber of Commerce
Middlesex Chamber of Commerce

Wesleyan Record Setters

Records aren’t broken every day, but this year has seen new marks set in track and field. Just last week,  Andrew McCracken ’19 took home first place in the pole vault with his mark of 4.40m,  and Kiley Kennedy ’16 won the pole vault with a mark of 3.45m. Both are school record holders.

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Here’s an older photo of Kiley setting a record:

 

Christina Hebner ’17 holds the record in 3000 meter steeple chase and Alexis Walker ’16 holds the record in the 60. Alexis is also our long jump record holder. Sydney Cogswell ’16, Nikita Rajgopal ’17, Aida Julien ’18, and Aidan Bardos ’17 hold the fall 4×100 record, while Melissa Luning ’15, Ananya Subrahmanian ’18, Ellie Martin ’16, and Sarah Swenson ’18 hold the outdoor 4×400 standard.

Agbon Edomwonyi ’16 holds school records throwing the shot and the weight. I’ve gotten to know Agbon as a student in two of my classes, and it was a pleasure to watch him throw this past weekend. His mother took this pic last weekend at the J. Elmer Swanson Invitational.20160423_135807[1]

Our track team will be in Amherst this coming weekend for the NESCAC Championships. Maybe some more records will fall!

 

Vote on Campus!

Tuesday, April 26th  is primary day in Connecticut, and many people at Wesleyan will be able to vote right here on campus. Beckham Hall is a polling place for lots of folks in the area, and it will be open from 6 a.m. – 8 p.m. There will be more traffic in the area, and changes for the day in regard to parking. Here’s a note from Public Safety:

Tomorrow Beckham Hall will be used as a polling location for area voters. To facilitate access for voting, the extension lot E on Wyllys Avenue (smaller lot) will be closed to regular Wesleyan parking and reserved for voter parking. Some parking will be allowed on Wyllys Avenue for voters’ use, and this will be clearly signed. This will be an inconvenience for some members of our community who are accustomed to parking in this area. Increased vehicle traffic by people who may not be familiar with the area may present some traffic conflicts. Pedestrians should use extra care. Students should not park in this lot during the evening hours as the lot will be blocked off.

This election may turn out to be the most consequential in a long time. Please exercise your right to vote!

 

Earth Day 2016

On April 22, 1970, a political, cultural and educational movement was born to improve the environment, to protect the earth. As earthday.org tells it, “20 million Americans took to the streets, parks, and auditoriums to demonstrate for a healthy, sustainable environment in massive coast-to-coast rallies. Thousands of colleges and universities organized protests against the deterioration of the environment. Groups that had been fighting against oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness, and the extinction of wildlife suddenly realized they shared common values.”

When I was a student at Wesleyan in the 1970s, the Clamshell Alliance was a prominent environmental group fighting against the reckless use of nuclear power. Today at Wesleyan, artists, activists, teachers and students are coming together to stimulate action that can make a significant difference in battling climate change—the most significant hazard facing countless species around the world. From the CFA to the Science Center, students, staff and faculty are working to raise awareness of environmental issues and to develop a coherent path forward. In 2009 we launched the College of the Environment, at which research, policy and creative performance come together on a regular basis. Wesleyan was one of the initial signatories of what is now the Climate Leadership Campus Carbon Commitment (was ACUPCC), through which we aim to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. We are making progress toward that carbon goal: emissions are down 21% from 2005 levels!

The university is releasing a new Sustainability Action Plan (SAP), a very useful tool to help us cut our campus carbon footprint while also addressing sustainability in our curriculum and all aspects of campus life. It involved over 130 students, faculty, and staff, shepherded by our Sustainability Office. The SAP is a detailed blueprint of our intended goals, objectives, and strategies over the next 5 years.

The SAP is short on rhetoric and long on action items. It really is a big deal, demonstrating Wesleyan’s commitment to making our campus sustainable. The plan covers three categories: what we do institutionally (Administration), what we do academically (Academics), and how we maintain our campus (Operations). The primary focus is on environmental sustainability, but with significant attention to social issues and economic viability.

A big shout-out to Sustainability Director Jen Kleindienst, who has shepherded the plan through all its stages. None of this would have been possible without SAGES, our campus sustainability committee, which developed the plan and is leading implementation.

This is not just a document gesturing toward a long-term future. Many here at Wesleyan are already hard at work: Of our 112 strategies for the 0-2 year range, we have already completed six and have started on 47 others.

The Sustainability Action Plan is an invitation for all of us to make sustainability part of all that we do. You can find a link to the complete document and discover more about how you can participate here. You can email questions and comments to Jen Kleindienst at sustainability@wesleyan.edu.