Last day of Finals: Good Luck and Have a Great Summer!

Kari and I were walking Mathilde last night when we bumped into several students studying for their last exams or finishing up their final papers. It was a beautiful day, just the hardest time to keep you nose in a book or your hands on the computer keyboard. The Wes students we saw were doing just that, but also looking forward to a break. Some will start summer session after Commencement to take a class they really need for their majors or to grab an elective they hadn’t had time for during the regular semesters. There is still room in some summer session courses, and you can access them here and on Wesmaps.

Professors don’t tend to sit out on Foss Hill reading, and this time of year most are super busy reading papers and grading exams. Many on our faculty double down on their research efforts during the summer, going more deeply into their fields of specialization or expanding their intellectual horizons by turning to new subjects. These sorts of research endeavors invariably find their ways back into the classroom, connecting teaching and scholarship in a very virtuous circle.

I’ve got papers to grade myself! If YOU have the time, check out these videos of Wesleyan faculty members. Happy almost-summer!


Check Out SWERVED and Good Luck on Finals!

Thanks to the suggestion of some parents, over the weekend I’ve been checking out the wonderful Wesleyan student website, It’s a great collection of creative work in a variety of media. As I explored photography and video and listened to cuts on the “Sound” section, my admiration for our students’ work grew with each click.

We’re now in the final days of the semester, so I’d like to wish all our students the best of luck with finals! I’m looking forward to a fabulous Commencement/Reunion Weekend, as we honor the class of 2012 along with Senator Michael Bennet ’87, Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards ‘P13, and artist Glenn Ligon ’82. We’ll also be honoring President Douglas Bennet ’59,  P’87, P’94 and his family by re-naming Fauver Frosh Bennet Hall.

I have an extra graduation ceremony to attend this year. I’m proud to be receiving an honorary doctorate from Eastern Connecticut State University this week. I give the Commencement Address tomorrow in Hartford for our state’s public liberal arts university.

Kari and I hope to spend lots of time during the next few months in the Berkshires (where I am supposed to make progress on a book project). Recently, I sat down with the head of our local NPR affiliate for an interview about Wesleyan, Freud, memory and history…

Summertime is almost here…

Approaching the Finish Line

The last week has been a whirlwind of opportunities to see some of the best of student work at Wesleyan. I’ve enjoyed seeing the senior theses art exhibitions as they’ve gone up in the Zilkha Gallery (and there’s a greatest hits version now), and it is fun to see the work of this term’s drawing and painting students in their work spaces. Tula Telfair’s students will have work on display today, and the photography exhibition of work collected for Wesleyan by the late Puffin D’Oench continues in Davison Gallery through Commencement. The Davison collection is one of the jewels of our Center for the Arts, and we recently hosted the Friends of the Davison for a reception at the President’s House. The group raises money to acquire new works of art, and they have really helped keep the collection an important resource for the university. You can check out their blog.

I strolled over to Russell House last week to listen to the writing prize winners read from their work. It was a revelation, and I was deeply moved by the stories, essays and poems I heard. The pride and affection of the writing faculty for their students was so clear, as was the support of our ever-growing community of writing students!

There has been lots of film, music and dance across the campus over the last several days, and Kari, Sophie and I were fortunate to witness much of it. From Rent to African drumming and dance, from a cappella groups to Mark Slobin’s Yiddish theater production, I’ve been hearing and seeing some stunning performances.

Tomorrow our finals begin, and I think I’ll be hearing a lot of tapping on computer keyboards as students write and faculty grade exams and essays. Good luck to all!

Finals Week

The campus during the day is quieter than usual. The library is full, but the Usdan Center is calm. Maybe it’s the brisk wind that’s dropped temperatures down again this week, but Foss Hill is not attracting the same number of students seeking sun and good company. It’s Finals Week at Wesleyan. Time to finish up those papers and study for those exams.

I remember well the pressures and pleasures of staying up all night writing, or looking for that one book or article that you imagine will clinch the argument you are trying to make. I remember friends heading into their science labs hoping to gather the data points necessary to complete experiments, and others who were consulting various oracles to take their best guess as to what Prof. X might ask on the notoriously difficult exam. If I close my eyes, I can still feel the thrill of turning to the last page of a paper I wrote to see the comments and the grade. I remember my excitement at learning that Prof. Abelove thought I might have something interesting to say about Freud. And I also remember a comment from a visiting philosopher – Michael Davis —  suggesting that, if I were going to make the claim that Nietzsche was among the most important philosophers ever (a claim I was in no position to make after one philosophy course!), I ought to at least spell his name right. Ouch!

But mostly I remember the camaraderie of this time of year, when friends stood by you as you stressed out, or celebrated with you when you got things done. It always felt just a little sad to finish up the work of the semester since it often meant that we would all be heading off in different directions for the summer. This year, of course, there is the possibility of staying around to take summer classes; and for those not graduating there’s always the anticipation of returning to campus to find new challenges, and old friends, in the fall.

[tags]finals, term papers, Summer Session, Nietzsche, Michael Davis, Freud[/tags]


This is a time of transition in the rhythm of the school year. Faculty and students know what to expect from their classes now, but the great challenge of execution to meet the highest standards is still ahead of us. After Thanksgiving there is a mad dash to the finish line of the semester, but now there is music to hear, lectures to learn from, theater or sports in which to participate, and, of course, there’s mountains of work to do. Transitions.

Looking out on our beautiful campus, one can see those same transitions. Suddenly the temperature rises and it feels again like late summer. And then, like yesterday, the wind kicks up, the leaves swirl, and the sky reminds you that winter is coming. This morning, as I write this, the temperature hovers just above freezing, but the bright sunshine still works magic with the leaves, the increasingly bare trees, and the stately buildings of College Row. Tonight we may see our first flurries. Transitions.

photo of campus by Olivia Bartlett
photo of campus by Olivia Bartlett

Even within what our students call the Wesleyan bubble, the campus community watches the world’s economic malaise with great trepidation. In the administration, we are adjusting to these turbulent times by trimming our expenses, making a case for the strategic value of our programs, and by planning for reduced revenue over the next few years. But we are also protecting the academic core of our university, and continuing to recruit an extraordinary faculty and student body. We work for the best even as we plan to deal with a worsening economic context. Transitions.

And of course we hope for change. Whatever our political affiliation, we hope that a new leadership team at the national level will make a positive difference. We desperately need another model for economic growth and social cohesion. Transition, we trust.

[tags] Transition, Thanksgiving, College Row, economy, change, politics [/tags]