Ongoing Need for Help

Many of our friends and colleagues have been profoundly impacted by the ongoing tragedy in Haiti in the wake of the earthquake. Just this morning, a large aftershock sent people fleeing from the damaged places in which they’ve sought shelter. I know that Wesleyan students, faculty and staff have responded generously to calls for help. Some of the organizations that have been recommended to me are:

  • Texting “HAITI” to “90999” to donate $10 to the Red Cross.  The US State Department very quickly put together this number to channel relief contributions directly to first responders who will be on the ground there.
  • Partners in Health.  PIH ( is already on the ground in Haiti and mobilizing their relief efforts. PIH has worked in Haiti to provide health care and education to the poorest of Haiti.
  • Save the Children (

There are many more fine organizations on the ground in Haiti providing assistance. Please help!

[tags]Haiti, earthquake, Red Cross, Partners in Health, Save the Children[/tags]

Investment Office Update

This morning we had the all staff meeting kicking off the new semester. I thanked everyone for their hard work over the course of the year, and acknowledged the difficulties we’ve faced in this challenging economic environment. Faculty and staff are working harder than ever to keep Wesleyan at the forefront of higher education.

The  unpleasant task I had this morning was to provide a brief update on the university’s lawsuit against former Vice President and Chief Investment Officer Thomas Kannam. This afternoon I have emailed the following update to the campus community, and I thought it best to share it with this blog’s readership:

Many of you are aware that Wesleyan has commenced litigation against former Vice President and Chief Investment Officer Thomas Kannam. For those of you hearing about this for the first time, here are the basic facts: On September 30, 2009, Wesleyan received a report through its Whistleblower Policy concerning Mr. Kannam’s potential violation of Wesleyan’s Conflict of Interest Policy. This report was fully and promptly investigated. We believe that Mr. Kannam was a principal in one or more other substantial business ventures and that his work was potentially in conflict with his responsibilities at the University. As a result of this activity, Wesleyan believes that Mr. Kannam had, at a minimum, violated the Conflict of Interest Policy and his employment agreement with the University. Mr. Kannam was terminated on October 13, and on November 24 Wesleyan brought suit in Connecticut Superior Court against him and related parties.

An unpleasant matter like this one, touching a community like ours, stimulates questions and speculation as a matter of course. In this case our strong desire for transparency must be weighed against both legal interests and institutional policy regarding personnel issues. Given the pending litigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment at length. What I can say is that the situation, while disappointing, is no cause for alarm. However, the University has an obligation to all those who have supported it over the years to hold members of the campus community to the high standards expected of them, and this litigation reflects just how seriously the University takes its fiduciary responsibilities and adherence to its policies. Once the nature and scope of Mr. Kannam’s activities were revealed, we acted quickly and judiciously.

Wesleyan’s endowment is being overseen by the Treasurer’s Office in close consultation with the Portfolio Subcommittee of the Board of Trustees. A search process is underway that will result in new leadership for endowment management, and I will be able to report on this in the spring. In the meantime, I am gratified by the continuing support the University has been receiving from its alumni and others.

[tags]Vice President and Chief Investment Officer Thomas Kannam, Conflict of Interest Policy, lawsuit[/tags]

Studying Abroad

I’m traveling with Board Chair Joshua Boger and his wife Amy this week to meet with some alumni overseas. We’ve been in Bangalore the last few days and had an extraordinary visit with Azim and Rishad Premji at their Wipro headquarters. Rishad graduated from Wesleyan in ’99, and just last year we awarded his father Azim an honorary doctorate for his outstanding philanthropic work. The Azim Premji Foundation is focused on making a national impact on the educational system here – with particular attention given to helping girls erase the literacy gap. I also learned about the Foundation’s programs helping very young children of migrant workers, as well as an ambitious plan to open the Azim Premji University in a few years. This university will have teacher training as its core mission. I’ve been deeply impressed by the foundation officers and their work.  They taught me so much in a short time, and I’m optimistic about their chances of success.

Wipro is a major international technology services company based in India, and it is increasingly taking on work in “green industries.” Joshua, Amy and I met with a group of Wipro executives responsible for the professional development of the staff (over 100,000 employees!). They are practically running a university at Wipro, and it was fascinating to hear about their approach to continuing education through seminars, lectures and mobile device access. I took plenty of notes!

Our conversations with Azim Premji and Rishad Premji focused on how to raise Wesleyan’s profile in India and on how a liberal arts education can prepare graduates very well to become imaginative engineers.  I look forward to continuing these conversations as we enhance internationalization at Wes and develop connections between our programs and the broad spectrum of engineering (from infrastructure to technology and sustainability).

We had the chance to see a bit of Mysore today, and we’re off tomorrow before dawn. Next stop, London, for a brief visit with the Wes community there.



[tags]Azim Prenji, Rishad Prenji, Wipro, philanthropy, Wesleyan overseas, internationalization[/tags]

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!

[tags]winter break, 2009, 2010, spring semester[/tags]

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!

[tags]Phi Beta Kappa, General Education Expectations, honors society, Peace Corps, Dr. Satoshi Omura, Ivermectin, River Blindness[/tags]

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…

[tags]Unigo, Wall Street Journal, admissions process, applicant pool, Jordan Goldman ’04, Navaratri Festival performance, Professor Nicole Stanton, Ariela Rotenberg ’10[/tags]

Wesleyan and its “Peers”

On Wednesday evening eight Admissions Deans from some great schools will be visiting Wesleyan to discuss how they approach the admissions process. The event in the Daniel Family Commons (Usdan) is sponsored by UNIGO and the Wall Street Journal. UNIGO was founded by Jordan Goldman ’04, and he will be here to moderate the discussion. The University of Pennsylvania, Williams, Princeton and Grinnell are among the schools that are sending deans. The discussion will be broadcast live. Check out for details.

I will miss this event because I’ll be in New York for a meeting with the presidents from the Consortium for Financing Higher Education (COFHE). The purpose of the organization is to “examine how selective, private colleges and universities could discuss their commitment to providing exceptional educational opportunities for highly talented students as well as best practices in fiscal management.” There are 31 COFHE members, including some of our traditional peer institutions like Amherst and Williams. Among the liberal arts colleges, Carleton, Mount Holyoke, Oberlin, Pomona, Smith, Swarthmore, Trinity, and Wellesley are represented. The Ivy League universities, Northwestern and the University of Chicago are some of the larger schools included. We share best practices to promote student access and promote affordability, and we also can check in with one another about cultural and economic trends that have an impact on higher education in this country.

This is the season when high school seniors are busy preparing applications (or awaiting Early Decision results). Over Thanksgiving I spent some time with some Wesleyan international students who were reminiscing about how happy they were to get the “thick envelope” in the mail. I also saw parents whose kids have made the Early Decision commitment and now are anxiously awaiting the results. Given our great surge in applications last fall (which seems to be holding this year) the competition is very stiff, indeed.

There are still a few intense weeks left in the semester, so those of us carried away by our work on campus can forget how excited we were when first given the opportunity to join the Wesleyan community. Over the next few weeks there will be plenty of events to remind us of our good fortune: Eiko & Koma’s exhibition in Zilkha, the Ebony Singers in Crowell, theater in 92, hockey and basketball in Freeman…

It’s good to meet with our peer institutions, but there’s no place like home.

[tags]admissions process, UNIGO, Jordan Goldman, Consortium for Financing Higher Education, financial aid[/tags]

Thinking of Summertime

There’s a chill in the air, the leaves have almost all fallen to the ground, and so naturally thoughts turn to SUMMERTIME!

In the summer of 2010 Wesleyan will offer students the opportunity to take classes that contribute to majors and broaden one’s experience. In addition to the individual courses across the three divisions, we are offering three two credit institutes: neuroscience and psychology, computer programming and music, and visualizing/creating theatrical performance.

Student housing and meals will be available, as is limited financial aid. The campus will be a great place to spend part of the summer with Wesleyan faculty and classmates. Check out the website to see the list of classes:

[tags]summer, summer courses[/tags]

Writers Everywhere!

Yesterday I wrote on the Huffington Post about the ways that liberal arts institutions can combine intimate face to face learning with plugging into broad networks of information and creativity ( . We can see a great example of this “plugging in” as two important writers visit campus today.

Tonight (November 18th) there is an embarrassment of riches when it comes to creative writing at Wesleyan. At Russell House at 8 pm Renee Gladman will be reading from her experimental work combining fiction, poetry and nonfiction. Author of books such as Not Right Now and Juice Gladman has been teaching in the literary arts program at Brown University.

In the new Shapiro Creative Writing Center on the third floor of Allbritton at 8 pm I will be interviewing Jay Cantor, one of my favorite American authors. Cantor has reinvented the historical novel by exploring how it can be a genre full of fantasy and psychological exploration. His novel Krazy Kat knocked my socks off, and I have been reading him with great pleasure ever since. We will be talking about politics, art, teaching (Cantor teaches at Tufts), history and fantasies of radical invention. Jonathan Cutler’s sociology class has read Cantor’s big novel about the 1960s, Great Neck, and I’m sure that we’ll talk about his depiction of that era.

Great writers are on campus tonight. Come check it out!

Here is a picture of last night's event!
P.S. Here is a picture of last night’s event!

[tags]Huffington Post, Renee Gladman, Jay Cantor, Shapiro Creative Writing Center[/tags]

Sweet 16 for Men’s Soccer!

Yesterday I saw one of the the most exciting athletic contests I’ve ever witnessed. Our soccer team was in the second round of the NCAA tournament, having dispatched Saint Joseph’s on Saturday. We had come from behind against WNEC and the score was tied at 1 a piece at the end of a very even match. Each overtime period was tense with end-to-end action, and Wes had a few very close chances. But it was still tied after two overtimes, and so we went into the penalty kick round. Our first-year all NESCAC goalie, Adam Purdy, made a great stop on the sixth WNEC player, which sealed the deal for Wesleyan. We were moving on!

For the first time, Wesleyan’s Men’s Soccer Team will participate in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tourney. We play Rochester at Messiah College in PA on Saturday.

This has been a great year for the team. Seniors Nick Whipple and Woody Redpath were named to the All-NESCAC first team, along with Adam Purdy, who was also named Rookie of the Year. Wes had another three players named to All-NESCAC second team: seniors Asante Brooks and Keisuke Yamashita, and junior Jacob Mergendoller.

Coach Geoff Wheeler deserves high praise for putting together this great team, and he was just recognized with the NESCAC Coach of the Year award. GO WES!!

[tags]men’s soccer, NESCAC, Adam Purdy, Nick Whipple, Woody Redpath, Asante Brooks, Keisuke Yamashita, Jacob Mergendoller, Geoff Wheeler[/tags]