Wesleyan parents, alumni, faculty, staff, and students gathered together virtually Oct. 16–17 to celebrate Wesleyan’s 2020 Homecoming and Family Weekend.
Participants were treated to popular WESeminars, live campus tours, a Parents’ Assembly, two symposiums, and more, all from the comfort of their own homes. (Videos of the events are online from Friday and Saturday.)
Screenshots of the various events are below.
More than 70 Wesleyan alumni participated in the virtual Alumni Volunteer Summit on Oct. 17. Guest speakers included Board Chair John Frank ’78, P’12; Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer and Treasurer Andy Tanaka ’00; and Vice President for Advancement Frantz Williams ’99. The gathering provided an in-depth look at Wesleyan’s response to the COVID-19 crisis and plans for Wesleyan’s future. Students who are living on campus also joined the conversation to share their experiences from this semester.
“What ties us together is our experiences and how we loved being at the University, and our alumni connection,” said Suzanne Appel ’02 during the Alumni Volunteer Summit. “Wesleyan is a really bright spot during these dark times. As I’ve been hearing news of campus, it fills me with a lot of hope and pride that Wesleyan, my alma mater, decided to try and wasn’t just going to accept that classes would be only online. There’s some great press in the world right now, and so much good news coming out of Wesleyan. We need to make sure other alumni know about this and hear from us, their peers, about what is going on at Wesleyan.”
On Oct. 17, the Wesleyan Lawyers Association presented a conversation titled “Fortifying the Franchise–Voter Protection in the 2020 Election.” Distinguished alumni attorneys Caitlin Swain ’05, Michael Pernick ’10, Ted Shaw ’76, and Max Rodriguez ’10, along with moderator and WLA Board Member Meg Vasu ’12, discussed the legal framework for voter protection, recent developments in the fight for expanded enfranchisement, and their experiences working in the voter protection space. “The right to vote is a sacred right, but it also is our most important civic responsibility,” Shaw said. “I think all of us understand over the next couple of weeks we’re going to be in for a bumpy ride. We’re uneasy and our democracy can’t be taken for granted.”
During the Annual Parents Assembly on Oct. 17, Rick Culliton, associate vice president/dean of students (top left); Mike Whaley, vice president for student affairs (top right); Nicole Stanton, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs (bottom left); and Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 (bottom right) provided remarks and answered questions from family members. “I wish I was welcoming you back to campus. It’s a strange time to have a parents’ assembly when we’re not allowing visitors on campus,” said President Roth. “We’re determined to have a semester where we learn from Wesleyan classes and a liberal education setting while at the same time protecting ourselves against the virus and staying engaged in the world, because we may have to live with this virus for quite a while. Can we live with it and be safe? I think our teachers and our staff members and our students are proving you can do it. It’s not easy, but it’s possible.”
Dean Whaley showed several examples of what campus life looks like this semester, highlighting how students are being compliant with mask-wearing and social distancing.
Stanton spoke about the academic experience on campus, noting that 2,840 students are enrolled, 432 of whom are studying remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Several are expected to return to in-person learning next spring. “The way I would characterize campus life now is that it’s
different, but it’s still vital,” she said. “Students and faculty have been really rising to the challenge of this
unique semester and finding new approaches to teaching and learning in the classroom.”
Maren Westgard ’22 (pictured) and Sophia Ryterband ’21 led a virtual campus tour and Q&A session on Oct. 16. Several tours were offered throughout Homecoming/Family Weekend.
On Oct. 16, the College of Film and the Moving Image and the Wesleyan Documentary Project presented a panel Q&A with the alumni filmmakers behind the new documentary Narrowsburg. The talk was moderated by Tracy Heather Strain, professor of the practice in film studies; Randall MacLowry, assistant professor of the practice in film studies; and Scott Higgins, Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies and chair of film studies. “The documentary is something we’re emphasizing at Wesleyan now, and we do so because it’s at the forefront of the film world and television world,” said Higgins. “And of course, we’re living through a time when facts and truth are mistrusted and revised; in fact, storytelling is so important.”
The Narrowsburg creative team includes Chris McNabb ’13, editor (at left); Beck Kitsis, producer (at right); and Martha Shane ’05, director and producer. The film tells the story of a French film producer and a mafioso-turned-actor who attempt to turn a tiny New York town into the “Sundance of the East.” Persuading the townspeople that they can be movie stars, the duo creates a fever pitch of excitement, launching a film festival and shooting a gangster movie. As this stranger-than-fiction tale unspools, it becomes a meditation on the power of cinema, and the fine line between dreams and delusions.
In its 10th year of real-time analysis of election ads, the Wesleyan Media Project is navigating a more complex media environment than it did a decade ago. During the WESeminar “Tracking 2020 Political Advertising: Behind the Scenes with the Wesleyan Media Project,” Erika Franklin Fowler, professor of government and director of the Wesleyan Media Project (pictured at right) led a discussion on the latest 2020 advertising trends, latest innovations, and how student researchers assist with the process.
Franklin Fowler was accompanied by Eleanor Raab ’21, representing the WMP human coding team; Spencer Dean ’21, representing WMP’s Delta Lab; and Angela Loyola ’21, representing GOVT 378, the WMP-based lab course.
Dean (pictured) represented the Delta Lab, a student-centered data analysis of political advertising and news, and spoke about his work analyzing political ads through Snapchat and Facebook. “This project gave me an opportunity to develop creative computational solutions to questions myself and other lab members had about the data,” he said. “The collaborative process is really valuable for honing skills that we can apply to the real world.”
On Oct. 17, the Wesleyan Alumni of Color Council presented the 28th Annual Dwight L. Greene Symposium titled “Educating for Equity – Building Racial Competencies.” Several alumni of color who work at independent schools served as panelists to share their strategies on addressing race, diversity, and equity at institutions with longstanding histories of privileging sameness. Panelists included: Aléwa Cooper ’98, head of the Foote School in New Haven, Conn.; José De Jesús ’97, head of the Lake Forest Academy in Lake Forest, Ill.; Javaid Khan ’96, head of the middle division at the Horace Mann School in Riverdale, N.Y.; Semeka Smith-Williams ’97, director of diversity and equity at the Packer Collegiate Institute in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Steven Tejada ’97, head of the upper school at Maret School in Washington, D.C.; and Gillian Todd ’98, first program director at the Dalton School in New York, N.Y. Francisco Tezén ’97, CEO/president of A Better Chance in New York, N.Y., served as the event’s moderator.
During the 18th annual “Where on Earth Are We Going? Symposium of the Robert F. Schumann Institute of the College of the Environment,” Jacob Scherr ’70 (left) and Amy Gomberg Kurt ’04 (center) served as keynote speakers of a discussion titled “Accelerating the Climate Revolution.” Barry Chernoff (right), the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology and earth and environmental studies, served as the event’s moderator.
On Oct. 17, four-time Emmy-award winner Justine Gubar ’88 (left), executive director of the Sports Emmy Awards, hosted a WesTalk titled “The NBA in Unprecedented Times” with Wesleyan Trustee Michele Roberts ’77 (right), executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. Roberts is the first woman to head a major professional sports union in North America. In her role, Roberts serves as the primary advocate for all players, ensuring the protection of the organization and its membership, including serving as the lead negotiator in all collective bargaining activities. Through a Q&A format, Gubar interviewed Roberts about the pandemic’s impact on professional basketball and the league’s response to Black Lives Matter.
Roberts recalled the NBA’s reaction to the murder of 46-year-old black man George Floyd on May 25. “It was a fascinating thing to watch,” she said. “The players were not going to have this game distract from a burgeoning conversation that they felt this country needed to have. They elected to play only if the league understood that they were going to continue the conversations during and after the games. We had Black Lives Matter on the court through all our games. Once [the players] were convinced [the game] wouldn’t distract from the conversation, they agreed to play.”
On Oct. 16, Sharon Belden Castonguay, executive director of the Gordon Career Center, presented “Teacher, Banker, Coder, Artist: Learning Career Management in a Liberal Arts Environment” as part of HCFW. Belden Castonguay discussed why a liberal arts education is critical preparation for navigating careers in the 21st century. “When you go out and talk to employers, or to executives, about what it is that they’re looking for, from a skills standpoint, from new graduates, what you hear are typically referred to as soft skills—the ability to effectively communicative orally, critical thinking skills, good judgment, being able to organize one’s work, to write well, to communicate their knowledge,” she said. “The reason these employers have come to the conclusion that it’s a lot it’s easier to train workers on technical skills than to teach them things like critical thinking is that, if you didn’t learn it in college, then you’re probably not going to learn it on a job, and this is where the value of liberal arts come in. Regardless of what you major in, you’re going to come out with those skill sets.”
Belden Castonguay discussed the career center’s innovative approach to career education, which encourages students to design their own careers by exploring the intersection among their interests, the skills they have and wish to acquire, and market demand, and to learn about the career services and resources available to Wesleyan students throughout their undergraduate years and beyond.
Homecoming and Family Weekend participants were encouraged to download a Cardinal spirit mark and share the image on social media.