In the Heights Will Soar

Tonight Wesleyan’s Theater and Music Departments present “In the Heights,” a fabulous musical that originated here on campus before taking New York by storm.

Here’s what the departments say:

“In the Heights” tells the universal story of a vibrant community in New York’s Washington Heights neighborhood—a place where the coffee from the corner bodega is light and sweet, the windows are always open, and the breeze carries the rhythm of three generations of music. It’s a community on the brink of change, full of hopes, dreams, and pressures, where the biggest struggles can be deciding which traditions you take with you, and which ones you leave behind.

With book by Wesleyan’s Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater Quiara Alegría Hudes, In the Heights is the winner of the 2008 Tony Awards for “Best Musical,” “Best Original Score” (Lin-Manuel Miranda, Theater ’02), “Best Choreography,” and “Best Orchestrations” (Alex Lacamoire and Bill Sherman, Music ’02). The Wesleyan production is a collaboration between the Theater Department and Music Department, directed by Associate Professor of Theater Cláudia Tatinge Nascimento, with music direction by Adjunct Assistant Professor of Music Nadya Potemkina, and design by Assistant Professor of Theater Marcela Oteíza (set and videos), Jiyoun Chang (lighting), Artist in Residence Leslie Weinberg (costumes), and Mike Skinner (sound).

 

Still tickets left for tonight, tomorrow, and Sunday at 8 p.m.

 

Sam Friedman and Friends Making Beautiful Music

Had the great pleasure today to hear Sam Friedman’s ’13 concert, “Just Breathe” at Russell House. Sam was joined by Howe Pearson ’12, Derek Frank ’15, Zack Rosen ’11 and vocalist Jackie Soro ’14 (Sam Wagner, who hung out here without picking up a diploma, joined on drums). From blues to more experimental polyrhythms, Sam led a magical hour of music.

 

Singer Jackie Soro '14
Singer Jackie Soro ’14

I first met Sam when he played piano at our holiday parties in the President’s House. His astonishing senior recital was a display of harmonica virtuosity and musical imagination. These were on display today. His teacher (and wonderful jazz musician) Noah Baerman wrote, “Wesleyan isn’t thought of as a place to get an undergraduate education that directly relates to a performance career in music. However, the resources are vast for someone with the right mix of discipline and broad-mindedness. The poster-boy for this in recent years is Sam Friedman, a multi-instrumentalist and multi-genre powerhouse.”

From now until the end of the semester there will be several opportunities to hear and watch amazing performances. I can’t write about most of them, but I am so glad they are happening.

THIS IS WHY.

Sam Friedman '13 breathes music
Sam Friedman ’13 breathes music
Sam Friedman '13 plays the blues
Sam Friedman ’13 plays the blues

Great Wes Day at the Game

It was a wonderful day for football at Corwin Stadium, for our last game of the season. By tradition, we play Trinity College to end the season, and for many years they have made us end on a somber note. Not today! In another exciting game, the Cardinals were victorious, besting their opponents by a point. I took photos with the intrepid cheer leaders, the volleyball team, and began dreaming of spring as the softball team sold raffles. But the fall season ended pretty well today. Here are a few pics (feel free to send me more!):

Wes seniors and families
Wes seniors before the game
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After the game
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Seniors and Final Score
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Coach Mike Whalen
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Team Sings Fight Song

Bruce Corwin, Wesleyan’s biggest fan, is in Los Angeles recovering from a transplant…. but glued to the game on his computer. His son tells me he took this photo just as Justin Sanchez saved the victory with a great tackle with time running down.

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THIS IS WHY.

 

 

Africa Innovation Summit- Fri Nov 7

Olayinka Lawal ’15 and Ibironke Otusile ’15 are spreading the word about a conference they are hosting on Friday on the extraordinary development of economy and society in Africa.

NOVEMBER 7, 2014

 

Image: via http://innovation.itu.int/

 

Wesleyan’s African Students Association will host the first Africa Innovation Summit on November 7, 2014. With co-sponsorship from Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship and other campus partners, this event will provide a platform for exposure and conversation about the growth of innovation on the African continent, and it will celebrate those who are paving a new path for progress in Africa.

Event details

Friday, November 7, 2014
2:30-8 p.m.
Daniel Family Commons, Usdan University Center
75 Wyllys Avenue, Middletown, CT

$5 Wesleyan Students
$10 General Admission
Space is limited and tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Free tickets are available to those who volunteer to help staff the event. Contact Olayinka Lawal ’15 to inquire.

Thank you to our sponsors: African Students Association, Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, African Studies Cluster, Office of Academic Affairs, WesleyanWorldWednesdays, African American Studies Program, and the Center for African American Studies 

Schedule

2:30 p.m. Check-in and Keynote
3 p.m. Panel #1
4 p.m. Panel #2
5 p.m. Panel #3
6 p.m. Dinner
7 p.m. Dessert Reception hosted by the African Students Association

This schedule is subject to change. More complete details will be posted prior to the event, and a final program will be available upon arrival.

Speakers

Keynote
Hirut M’cleod ’00, World Bank

Children & Youth panel
Steve Kallaugher ’73, Young Heroes
Gabrielle Fondiller ’07, Hatua Likoni
Marina King ’16, Shining Hope for Communities
Moderated by Alice Hadler, Associate Dean for International Student Affairs

Healthcare panel
Tiffany Aquino, Unite for Sight
Shadrack Frimpong, Healthy Africa
Chelsea Tweneboah ’15, Cape Coast Regional Hospital, Ghana
Moderated by Laura Ann Twagira, Assistant Professor of History

Business & Development panel
Jim Brenner ’79, Broad Cove Partners
Mikako Tai ’11, Africa America Institute
Oladoyin Oladapo ’14, JooMah
Moderated by Anthony Keats, Assistant Professor of Economics

With video greetings from
Kathlyn Patillo ’12, African Leadership Academy

Others to be announced. Bios and photos coming soon.

Contacts

Olayinka Lawal ’15 and Ibironke Otusile ’15

 

Conversations, Education, Awards

At the beginning of the week, Ruth Weissman and I hosted over 90 faculty members for a lunchtime conversation about how best to coordinate residential education with what we do in the classroom. There were great ideas about how to link formal studies with the educative experience we want to happen through residential liberal education. There was general agreement that Wesleyan would be most empowering if we improved the coordination between the academic and co-curricular dimensions of campus learning.

After teaching on Tuesday, I headed to Los Angeles for an alumni event titled “How to Destroy Higher Education.” That was the title The Daily Beast gave one of my op-eds, and in LA I was to address the topic with Matthew Weiner ’87 and Dana Delany ’78. Lots of alumni and parents came out to the new offices of UTA, where we were hosted by Jeremy Zimmer P’12.

Wes Los Angeles Event

Dana spoke about a class on Proust that continues to be important to her decades later, and Matt said that all his work comes out of the cultural immersion championed by the College of Letters. We had a great time.

Talking with Dana and Matt

Alumni and parents from across the decades had a great time reconnecting or meeting for the first time.

Los Angeles Wes Event

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(All photos by Maiz Connolly.)

I left LAX before dawn yesterday to head for Toronto, where Dr. Satoshi Omura was being honored with Canada’s prestigious Gairdner Prize. Dr. Omura is a great friend of Wesleyan and one of the world’s leading bioorganic scientists. His dedication to the idea that nature contains the compounds to help us deal with our greatest challenges has led to extraordinary improvements in public health. He 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 improved countless lives.

Satoshi Omura

In the program for this prestigious event, Professor Omura is wearing a Wesleyan cap, a wink back to the institution where he studied chemistry with Max Tischler in the early 1970s. I was so pleased to be part of the celebrations for this wonderful scientist!

Now, I’m off to Chicago for another discussion of why liberal education matters!

This is Why.

Time to Come Home to Wesleyan

It’s Homecoming weekend, and this evening the Athletic Hall of Fame will induct a new class of distinguished Wes athletes.

  • Joe Barry Morningstar ’39, a three-sport standout (football, basketball and baseball) for whom Wesleyan’s annual men’s basketball outstanding player award is named;
  • Cochrane Chase ’54, a tremendous football and wrestling talent during his undergraduate career;
  • Marion J. Stoj, M.D. ’74, a high-scoring forward in men’s soccer who earned All-America honors;
  • Thomas Vincent Reifenheiser III ’94, the most accomplished men’s tennis player in Wesleyan history, who earned NESCAC crowns and national Division III ITA titles and also played squash, two seasons as the team’s No. 1 player;
  • Sarah D. Hann, D.V.M. ’95, an outstanding distance runner for the Cardinals with a NESCAC cross-country title and All-America laurels to her credit, who went on to international repute as a runner after graduation;
  • J. Elmer Swanson, who joined the Cardinal staff in 1963 as track and cross-country coach, adding the women’s teams in both sports to his portfolio when they turned varsity during the 1970s, and served as a mentor to hundreds of Wesleyan student-athletes during his 30 years as a full-time head coach.

More alumni will arrive Saturday morning for what promises to be a glorious fall weekend. There will be plenty of competition to enjoy, and you can check out the full schedule here.

Saturday is also our second annual Middletown Day. Starting at 11 a.m., visitors can enjoy family entertainment (face painting, balloon art, a bounce house for little visitors, and a DJ), and snacks.

middletownday

And one more thing:  Beat Amherst!!

 

Discussing Liberal Education in Texas

I write this from Dallas, where last night Kari, Ed Heffernan ’84 and I discussed liberal education with about 30 Wesleyans. There were alumni from the last few years, from 60 years ago — and a high school senior who told us that Wes is his “dream school.” Ed is here explaining why his big data company, Alliance Data Systems, looks for well-rounded students who can contribute to his enterprise over the long haul (they just hired a bunch of Wes grads).Wesleyan DallasEarlier in the day I met with a group of high school teachers, administrators and guidance counselors in Dallas. They had great questions about the importance of a liberal education, and I was particularly impressed by the student journalists from the Greenhill School.

On Wednesday I was in Houston, where Michelle Lyn ’84, P’12,’15, Rusty Hardin ’64 and I spoke with a group of dedicated Wes folks about how liberal education has informed our lives. Michelle is a doctor working in pediatric medicine, married to a Wes alum, with two kids who have gone here. She talked about the importance of a broad education for the work she does and for her life in her community. Rusty gave a full-throated defense of a liberal education allowing one to experiment with tolerance and curiosity.

Tolerance and a delight in inquiry and ambiguity — that’s a pretty good prescription for learning. I saw all that when Dan Routman P’16 gave me a tour of the Nasher Sculpture Collection. Here I joined a group of kids trying out the super cool chairs by designer Thomas Heatherwick.

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Back on Campus

I just arrived back on campus after spending part of the summer in the Berkshires. That’s a place we’ve grown to love, and I find we get a fair amount of work done on our research and course preparation while also enjoying the outdoors. I think Mathilde enjoys it most of all:

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Over the next week I’ll be meeting with staff and faculty to plan for the coming year, and I am looking forward to my first discussions with student groups. Arrival Day will be here very soon, and this quiet campus will be all abuzz with the energies of the Class of 2018.

A recent alumnus, Peter Frank ’12, recently invited me to take the “ice bucket” challenge to call attention to the importance of giving support to research to find a cure for ALS.

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Please join Peter and me, and many, many Wesleyan alumni in supporting research to find a cure!

 

 

Wesleyan out West

I’m getting ready to return to Wesleyan after a few days in Los Angeles followed by a brief visit to San Francisco. The occasion was the Shasha Seminar on the road, organized by Jeanine Basinger. The topics for the day were Women in Film, TV Writing, and the Business of Film. Each panel was thoughtful, funny and very engaging. We had almost 200 alumni, students and friends at William Morris-Endeavor, and there was plenty of time for making new connections and pursuing good conversation among old friends. Scott Higgins and Steve Collins joined us for the discussions, and I spoke about the Mellon Foundation encouraging us to build an endowment for the College of Film and Moving Image with a $2 million challenge grant. If we raise $4 million, the foundation will make a $2 million contribution to the endowment of the CFMI. It’s a great time to support film at Wesleyan, and many alumni and parents have already made significant donations.

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Marc Shmuger ’80, Jan Eliasberg ’74, Brad Fuller ’87, Jane Goldenring ’77, Matthew Greenfield ’90, and Paul Weitz ’88
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With me are David Stone ’04, host; Scott Higgins, associate professor of film studies at Wesleyan; Professor Jeanine Basinger; and Steve Collins ’96, assistant professor of film studies at Wesleyan

While on the West Coast I made a quick trip to San Francisco to meet with Wesleyan supporters of financial aid. I am so grateful for their efforts to provide scholarships for Wes students. Before heading to the airport, I spent an hour talking about liberal education at KQED, the Bay Area’s NPR station. On Michael Krasny’s Forum show, we talked about Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters and took questions from callers. A couple of Wes alumni called in, and there was strong support for broad, contextual education. There was also recognition that we must make it more affordable and reduce student indebtedness. You can listen here.

Fraternal Discussions

Near the end of my first year as Wesleyan’s president, I wrote the following:

Fraternities have historic roots with alumni that are important to maintain, and I believe that the frats (including Eclectic) at Wes can continue to play a very positive role at the university. We will not be adding any new Greek societies because there are now many other ways for students to join together in residentially based groups. Wesleyan’s students have a rich choice of social organizations in which to participate, from the very traditional to the most avant-garde. I’m committed to keeping it that way.

In my April 2014 blog post, “Campus Conversations on Fraternities,” I described how my thinking had changed. Six years of hearing about high-risk drinking at fraternities and dealing with fallout from highly publicized incidents of sexual violence have had an effect.  Of course, the larger world has changed too. Today there’s more emphasis upon Title IX and a much greater awareness of sexual assault. The U.S. Department of Education says that under Title IX, schools must “take prompt and effective steps reasonably calculated to end the sexual violence, eliminate the hostile environment, prevent its recurrence, and, as appropriate, remedy its effects.”

Are fraternities at Wesleyan hostile environments? It was striking to everyone here when so many students said yes. The students just conducted a survey on their own which indicated that 47 percent feel less safe in fraternity spaces than in other party spaces; the great majority of those thought that making the fraternities co-educational would be helpful in making those spaces safer. But is that true?

Last week at the Annual Meeting of the Board of Trustees we discussed this issue in executive session. Some found the experiences of peer institutions instructive. Connecticut College and Vassar have no Greek life and Bates has never had it. Amherst, Williams, Bowdoin, Middlebury and Colby all eliminated Greek. Amherst abolished fraternities on campus in 1984 (after a brief failed experiment with co-education) and earlier this month eliminated even unsanctioned Greek life. Williams did it in 1962 and students still sign a pledge not to participate in Greek life. By 2000, the Greek system was officially dismantled at Bowdoin, in part because it was losing high-quality students who didn’t want to go to a school with fraternities. At Colby fraternities and sororities were abolished in 1984 because they were inconsistent with the fundamental values of the community, and in 1992 Middlebury did likewise because it found fraternities to be “antithetical to the mission of the college.”

Swarthmore still has two fraternities, and now a new sorority to provide access to Greek life for women. And then there’s Trinity, still in the anguished throes of dealing with angry alumni and students after it mandated co-education of fraternities, raised GPA requirements for frat membership, and did away with the pledging process. There are some who believe that the most draconian approach, eliminating Greek life entirely, is no more painful.

As you might imagine, many Wesleyans don’t care much about the experience of our peer institutions. Others point out that many fine institutions still have active Greek life, or that Wesleyan shouldn’t imitate any institution. Still others emphasize that the rates of sexual assault at schools that have eliminated fraternities don’t give any indication that those institutions are safer environments. For many, the issue is about equity and inclusion more than about direct correlations with rates of reported sexual assault. How can a co-educational institution approve of having a significant percentage of its social spaces controlled by all-male organizations?

Following our discussions, the trustees have asked me to prepare a plan to address the future of Greek life. Ideally, this would be ready before the school year begins, but certainly no later than the November board meeting. Here are the options before us:

(1) We can require fraternities to become safer places through training and education.

(2) We can eliminate single-sex residential organizations or require co-education (with full membership).

(3) We can eliminate Greek residential life entirely.

(4) We can eliminate all Greek life (on campus or off).

(5) We can dramatically expand Greek life so that there are social spaces controlled by women.

None of these options will eliminate the problems of binge drinking and sexual assault. That’s not the point. Which changes in our residential and co-curricular program will make us a more inclusive, educational and equitable place? For now, our question is simple, but it may not be easy to arrive at a consensus on the answer to it: Will Wesleyan be a stronger university (“dedicated to providing an education in the liberal arts that is characterized by boldness, rigor, and practical idealism”) with or without Greek life?

Many people have written to the president’s office to weigh in on this issue. If you would like to do so over the next month or so, we have set up a special mailbox: comments@wesleyan.edu.

We will report back to the trustees and the Wesleyan community at the end of the summer on our plans concerning co-curricular life at the university in general and residential programs in particular. Stay tuned.