After an unusual 18 months of hybrid teaching, working remotely, and navigating university life during a pandemic, Wesleyan’s faculty and staff are eager for some normalcy this fall. In this News @ Wesleyan piece, we speak to several employees about what they are most looking forward to during the fall 2021 semester.
Morgan Keller became director of international student affairs on Aug. 23 after stints at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of California-Santa Cruz, and Clemson University. He learned of Wesleyan through his cousin, Adam Keller ’14, who spoke favorably of the university during his time here as a film major.
“This fall, I’m excited to meet the new and continuing international students and get a sense of the different ways we can holistically support them,” he said. “I’d like to create initiatives and co-curricular opportunities to increase our international students’ engagement with their U.S. American peers and enhance their sense of belonging in the campus community.”
As a New England newbie, Keller also is looking forward to experiencing the fall season in Connecticut and attending festivals and agricultural fairs with his wife and two daughters, ages 6 and 9.
This fall, Abderrahman Aissa, adjunct assistant professor in Arabic, is teaching Elementary Arabic, Intermediate Arabic, Advanced Arabic, and a new Fries Center for Global Studies course—Introduction to Tamazight: The Native Language of North Africa and Beyond. This course will introduce students to the language and culture of the Amazigh people, an ethnic group native to North Africa and West Africa. The Tamazight language has been a written language for almost 3,000 years.
“I can’t wait to be with my students in class and hopefully go back to a full normal teaching and learning environment,” he said. “I’m also looking forward to teaching Introduction to Tamazight for the first time ever, especially since this language is practically unheard of in U.S. colleges’ curricula.”
Emily Gorlewski, director of the Office of Study Abroad, is excited that at least 35 students will be able to go abroad again this fall—some of whom have applied to go for three semesters and were prevented by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It has been a long road to get here,” she said. “The students who are going have been through a lot and persevered so they are truly our intrepid souls. We hope that even more students will be able to study abroad in spring 2022.”
Colin Smith, assistant professor of chemistry, will be teaching his first-year CHEM 143: Principles of Chemistry course this fall.
“I’m looking forward to having all students on-campus and able to attend my lectures in-person,” he said. “I will also be teaching simultaneously on Zoom for any students who are not comfortable/able to be in class, or may have trouble making it out of their dorm rooms before the 8:50 start time! I taught the same way last year and got great feedback from the students.”
In lieu of the 360-degree cameras that were available last year, Smith is planning to carry around an iPad and AirPods to capture himself and chalkboard notes in the Exley 150 lecture hall.
“The students found it very helpful to have recordings of all the lectures,” he said.
For Heather Brooke, special assistant to the president, being back in person with her colleagues and classmates (she’s also a Bachelor of Liberal Studies student!) is the fall semester’s most welcome change. “I’m taking undergraduate classes in person in a classroom for the first time this semester, so I am very excited about that, but also very nervous. I already felt ancient doing this over Zoom last year, now they’re going to be able to see all the wrinkles!”
“It is nice for all of us to be back in the Office of the President at the same time. We were in and out before we were vaccinated, but the restrictions on how many people could be in the physical space at the same time were difficult,” she said. “Even in May as Commencement approached, we were conscious of who was going to be in and when. Now we can all be together even if we do have to be masked!”
Brooke recalls the All-Staff Convocation on Aug. 24, where all staff members gathered together again in the Mink Dining Hall.
“It was very moving to be back together rather than meeting on Zoom,” she said. “I even met a colleague in person for the first time despite having worked together for months already!”
In addition to serving his 14th year as President this fall, Michael Roth ’78 will be teaching FILM 360: Philosophy and the Movies: The Past on Film.
“Although I taught in person last year, I so missed celebrating student, staff, and faculty accomplishments in person,” he said. “I’m looking forward to seeing students engage in the full range of co-curricular activities, from athletics to theater, from poster sessions to art installations, as we get back in the swing of things.”
Laura Ann Twagira, associate professor of history, will be teaching HIST: 267: Development in Question— Conservation in Africa and HIST302: Reproductive Politics and the Family in Africa this fall.
“Coming back to campus, I am looking forward to seeing students from the online class I taught last spring. Teaching in-person for the fall, I am also excited for class discussions and collective film screenings in my two courses.”
Outside the classroom, Twagira is “overjoyed” at the re-opening of the Ubuntu House. “It is a space dedicated to Africa, and one of the many places students will be building community on campus,” she said.
Jeffrey Gilarde, director of scientific imaging, doubles as Wesleyan’s head golf coach. The 2021-22 season kicks off Sept. 8 vs. Eastern Connecticut State in Middlefield, Conn., and Sept. 11 at the Duke Nelson Invitational in Middlebury, Vermont.
“I’m looking forward to the golf season,” he said. “We have a strong team this year and should do well.”
Demetrius Colvin, director of the Resource Center, is excited to work with the students in person to create community, consciousness raising, and caring program spaces.
“While we did find ways of doing that virtually last year, nothing truly replaces that synergy that can happen when having students on campus who are living and learning in the same environment,” he said. “Many Wesleyan students have an innate drive to seek and apply knowledge in a way that will allow them to have a positive impact in their lives and the world around them. I look forward to working with the students on using their events and community spaces as sites of liberatory praxis and practicing the kinds of reality that they want to share in the world.”
Wesleyan is excited to welcome our faculty, staff, and students back to campus this fall with a 95 percent vaccination rate for COVID-19. All campus services and activities will return to pre-pandemic operations. Given the heightened transmissibility of the Delta variant, even a vaccinated campus like ours will not be impervious to infection. Please do your part to Keep Wes Safe.