All News

Kleinberg Authors New Book on Levinas’ Cultural Legacy

The first time Ethan Kleinberg, the Class of 1958 Distinguished Professor of History and Letters, immersed himself in the world of the French philosopher Emmanuel Levinas 20 years ago, he wrote a book.

“It was written as a traditional intellectual history and I found that what that I had done was to completely deactivate the aspects of Levinas’ thought where he believes that there are ethical guidelines that come to us from outside our own history, these transcendent ethical guidelines puncture any historical or contextual moment,” Kleinberg said.

He didn’t like what he’d written, so he took an unprecedented step—he tore it up and started over again over a decade later.

Kleinberg’s new take on Levinas’ cultural legacy, Emmanuel Levinas’s Talmudic Turn: Philosophy and Jewish Thought will be published this October in the Cultural Memory in the Present Series from Stanford University Press. Using a series of Levinas’ lectures on the Torah and the Talmud as the touchpoints, Kleinberg has crafted an exploration of his thinking that encompasses aspects of Western philosophy, French Enlightenment universalism, and the Lithuanian Talmudic tradition.

Levinas, a man of strong convictions and a sense of humor, was born in 1906 in present-day Lithuania. Levinas was the among the first to bring philosopher Martin Heidegger’s work to France, and later wrestled with the German’s turn toward Nazism.

Levinas became a French citizen in 1930 and served in the French military during World War II. He was captured in 1940 and spend the remainder of the war in a German prison camp. He was insulated from the Holocaust because of his status as a prisoner of war. Levinas held a relatively protected position despite his religion. His family in Lithuania did not, and were murdered by the Nazis.

Ethan Kleinberg

Ethan Kleinberg

While a prisoner, Levinas turned to sacred Jewish texts, which prompted an evolution in his thinking. Initially, a philosopher associated with the existentialists, his experience during the war led him to focus on what he called “being-Jewish.” He chronicled his thoughts in a series of notebooks, which were recently published.

New Visiting Faculty Bring Vast Academic Interests from High Altitude Ecosystems to Pharmacoengineering

visiting faculty 2021

Several new visiting faculty and scholars attended New Faculty Orientation in August. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Nineteen visiting faculty, including fellows, scholars, and postdoctoral researchers, join Wesleyan for the 2021-22 academic year. Their academic interests include high altitude ecosystems, Muslim political masculinities, Indigenous cultural studies, epidemiology and public health, 20th-century continental philosophy, pharmacoengineering, social media’s effects on adolescent development, and more.

Their bios are below:

Alisha Butler, Provost Equity Fellow in the College of Education Studies, is a mixed-methods researcher whose work draws on interdisciplinary perspectives to interrogate the overlapping ecologies of schools, neighborhoods, and cities that shape students’ and families’ experiences in schools. This work includes studies of school-family and school-community partnerships. Her dissertation leveraged qualitative methods to investigate gentrification’s effects on urban schools, focusing on how middle-class families in gentrifying communities select secondary schools for their children, how administrators and educators respond to changing school demographics, and how gentrification shapes the politics of family engagement. She earned her BA at Yale University and an MA in education policy from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she also will complete her PhD in education policy. Butler will join Wesleyan during the spring 2022 semester.

Alton Byers, Menakka and Essel Bailey ’66 Distinguished Visiting Scholar in the College of the Environment, is a mountain geographer, conservationist, and mountaineer specializing in applied research, high altitude ecosystems, climate change, glacier hazards, and integrated conservation and development programs. He received both his BA  and PHD from the University of Colorado, the latter focusing on landscape change, soil erosion, and vegetation dynamics in the Sagarmatha (Mt. Everest) National Park, Nepal. He joined The Mountain Institute (TMI) in 1990 as an environmental advisor, and over the next 25 years worked as co-manager of the Makalu-Barun National Park (Nepal Programs), founder and director of Andean Programs, director of Appalachian programs, and director of science and exploration. In 2015 he joined the Institute for Arctic and Alpine Research (INSTAAR) at the University of Colorado at Boulder as a senior research scientist and faculty, and currently works on a range of research, writing, and teaching projects in the Himalayas, Andes, Appalachian, and Rocky Mountains. His work has been recognized by the Sir Edmund Hillary Mountain Legacy Medal from the Nepali NGO Mountain Legacy; David Brower Award for Conservation from the American Alpine Club; Distinguished Career Award from Association of American Geographers, Mountain Specialty Group; Ecosystem Stewardship Award from The Nature Conservancy; and Honorary Lifetime Member of the Nepal Geographical Society. In 2016 he received a Fulbright Specialist award to teach mountain geography at Tribhuvan University, Nepal, and has twice been shortlisted for the Rolex Award for Enterprise. Byers is co-editor of Mountain Geography: Human and Physical Dimensions (University of California Press at Berkeley, 2013). His most recent book is titled Khumbu Since 1950, a unique collection of historic photographs of the Mount Everest region that he has replicated over the years. In April 2021 he was awarded the 2021-2022 Fulbright Nepal Research Award for continued work in alpine conservation and restoration work.

Students Network, Share Interests at Annual Involvement Fair

From Alpha Delta Phi Society to the WeSanskriti—a South Asian classical dancing group—Wesleyan’s 300-plus student groups offer opportunities for students with different backgrounds to meet peers with common interests.

As part of Wesleyan’s Week of Welcome (WesWOW), representatives from more than 100 student groups and clubs gathered on Andrus Field Sept. 10 for the Student Involvement Fair. Group members provided information, sign-up sheets, and various activities associated with their individual clubs.

Wesleyan has more than 300 student-run groups, focusing on activism, identity, sports, publications, performance and visual arts, community service, religious affiliations, cultural interests, and more. Among them are the Botany Club, Photography Club, Mexican Ballet Folklorico, EveryVoteCounts, WesClimb, Bell and Scroll Society, Jewish Voice for Peace, Powerlifting Club, Society of Physics Students, Student of Color Fashion Show Committee, Ujamaa Black Student Union, WesEMT, and more.

The 21st annual event is sponsored by the Wesleyan Student Assembly and the Office of Student Involvement.

“Joining a club or group is a wonderful way for students to meet like-minded students,” said Joanne Rafferty, director of student involvement and New Student Orientation. “It also can contribute to their entire Wesleyan co-curricular experience.”

Any group wanting to hold a meeting or event can book a space via WesNest.

Photos of the Student Involvement Fair are below: (Photos by Willow Saxon ’24)

WesleyanDoulaProjec

The Wesleyan Doula Project provides free and compassionate support for people in the position of terminating their pregnancies, working to combat the stigma around abortion and reproductive health and to ensure that each individual receives the care they deserve. The WDP strives to empower students to pursue reproductive health work and to strengthen connections between Wesleyan and the local community. Driven by the values of health equity and Reproductive Justice, the WDP is part of a national Full-Spectrum Doula Movement committed to making doula care accessible to all people and all pregnancy outcomes.

wes buds

WesBuds is a partnership between Wesleyan students and the students of Middlesex Transition Academy (MTA). MTA students, ages 18-21, may have intellectual or developmental disabilities and are looking to address their own individual transition needs after high school. In WesBuds, students make new friends, participate in fun events like soccer clinics, watching movies, dancing, and hanging out.

Student-Athletes Return to Regular Play Following 2-Year Hiatus

Three hundred spectators watched Wesleyan beat Emerson in men’s soccer 2-0 on Sept. 7, the first game in the fall sports season.

The men’s soccer team celebrated a winning 2-0 victory over Emerson College on Sept. 7. This was the first game in the fall sports season. (Photo by Steve McLaughlin)

Rob Borman, Wesleyan’s grounds manager, watched as Wesleyan and Emerson’s soccer teams went through warmups on a beautiful late summer day.

It was warm and the sun shined as the players went through passing drills and stretched on the perfect turf. Emerson’s players shouted through their drills. Wesleyan’s goalies bounded from side to side as they practiced knocking away shots on goal.

Borman, though, wasn’t looking at the players. He was checking out his brand-new field, installed in May. “That is 100 percent Kentucky bluegrass,” he said. “The ball should roll awesome.”

For the first time in two years, Jackson Field was alive.

Three hundred spectators watched Wesleyan beat Emerson in men’s soccer 2-0 on Sept. 7, the first game in the fall sports season. In a full sports week, Wesleyan’s women’s soccer team defeated Keene State 7-0 and the women’s field hockey squad downed Western New England 6-1.

Ethan Barrett ’24

Ethan Barrett ’24

You would never know that the Cardinals had almost two full years off because of the global pandemic.

“It felt great. It was about 600 days since the last time we played, so sophomores and first years were extremely excited to get out there,” said Ethan Barrett ’24, a member of the men’s soccer team. “This is the thing we were talking about. This is the thing we were dreaming about, to get on this field.”

New International Students Hail from 64 Countries

international students

On Aug. 31, Wesleyan welcomed 112 new international students to campus. The largest groups come from China, India, Canada, Japan, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

ISO

Richard Bennet Morales ’24, pictured in front, center, is one of several international student orientation leaders who help new international students acclimate to campus life.

Richard Bennet Morales ’24 is what you’d call a “third culture kid.”

By definition, the term refers to a child who grows up in a culture different from the one in which his or her parents grew up. And Bennet Morales fits the description.

Born in Puerto Rico to Spanish and American parents, he moved to Paris at the age of 3, and to Barcelona 11 years later. After graduating from a French-speaking high school, he resided in Madrid, briefly, with his family.

And now, he’s among 392 international students studying at Wesleyan this fall.

“I was really interested in going to the U.S. since high school, especially looking for liberal arts schools due to the academic flexibility that it offers, as opposed to European universities that have more restrictive curriculums,” Bennet Morales said. “I toured several colleges around Boston, New York, and Washington D.C., and out of those I saw, Wesleyan was the one that felt most welcoming and sincere during the tours. I felt like Wesleyan could be one of my ‘homes.'”

Edvin Tran Hoac ’24 of Sweden began his Wesleyan journey remotely during the spring 2021 semester and is “super excited for classes to start,” he said. “I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to major in yet, but I’m really happy with my current schedule, which covers both my curiosity and academic interests.”

Before applying to Wes, Tran Hoac, who is a Davis International Scholar, was first impressed by the “lovely people” he met and the “beautiful campus” he encountered during a campus visit.

“I particularly liked that the university was known for being diverse and inclusive on top of being a top academic institution. These aspects, combined with the generous financial aid I was offered that made it economically feasible for me to attend, were the reasons I decided to come to Wesleyan,” he said.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan’s intellectually dynamic faculty, students, alumni, staff, and parents frequently serve as expert sources for national media. Others are noted for recent achievements and accolades. A sampling of recent media hits is below:

Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 participated in a Newsweek podcast debate titled “Is Higher Education Broken?” “I think the idea that only rich people should be able to experience the benefits of learning—whether that’s about math and science, or whether it’s about literature and philosophy—that’s a huge mistake. (Aug. 31)

President Roth also wrote a book review of Allan V. Horowitz’s A History of Psychiatry’s Bible for The Washington Post. “In this history … Horwitz emphasizes the social construction of scientific concepts. This account underscores the economic incentives in play as psychiatrists tried to reach consensus on how to describe specific disorders so that they could treat them—and be paid well to do so.” (Sept. 3)

In The Washington Post, Kyungmi Kim, a cognitive psychologist and assistant professor of psychology, explains why people tend to hold onto material possessions. “Mostly, when people think about the self, the self is residing within the physical boundary of our body,” she said. “However, we also have an ‘extended self’ which includes important people in our lives, plus certain objects that help us ‘define ourselves because they belong to our personal history.'” (Sept. 2)

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the much anticipated directorial debut tick, tick…BOOM! by Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 is timed to detonate Nov. 10 as the Netflix film opens the 35th edition of AFI Fest at Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre. Bradley Whitford ’81, Hon. 20, will play the role of Stephen Sondheim. The Emmy-winning actor tells The Hollywood Reporter that he found the obligation of playing a legend like Sondheim “scary” but he found a soft place to land on Miranda’s set. “We had the same wonderful, crazy acting teacher in college,” Whitford said of the late William “Bill” Francisco, professor of theater, emeritus. “Whitford says while there’s a relatively small percentage of the audience that has ever seen Sondheim, those who do know him love and adore him. ‘It’s scary to have that obligation but Lin was there to pull the blood out of me.'”

In Wicked Local, Jasmine Fridman ’25 shares her thoughts about working for the Mystic Mural project this summer. Fridman wants to major in environmental science as a result of working on the mural. “We learned a lot about the current effects of climate change on a global level, but also on a local level and on our home,” she said. “Not only did we paint nature, but we also took field trips to learn about the environment — it was very enriching.” (Sept. 2)

Peter Gottschalk, professor of religion, was mentioned in The Conversation for writing an article about an eighth-century female Sufi saint, known popularly as Rabia al-Adawiyya. “[She] is said to have walked through her hometown of Basra, in modern-day Iraq, with a lit torch in one hand and a bucket of water in another. When asked why, she replied that she hoped to burn down heaven and douse hell’s fire so people would—without concern for reward or punishment—love God.” (Aug. 30)

In The Connecticut Patch, William Wasch, Sr., ’52, is remembered for his long career with Wesleyan. “In 1964, Bill returned to Wesleyan and began a long career with the university, initially running the annual fund and then becoming Director of Development and Alumni Relations in 1967. While at Wesleyan, he oversaw several large capital campaigns and successfully kept more traditional alumni connected to the university during the very difficult years of campus unrest in the late 60s and early 70s. He retired from Wesleyan in 1985.”

 

Performance Helps New Students Navigate Human Differences, Social Positionality

I, You, (We)s

Through a series of skits performed by new student orientation leaders, the Class of 2025 campus newcomers learned how they may experience power, privilege, and difference as they navigate different communities at Wesleyan.

Titled “I, You, (We)s,” the Sept. 2 performance, held during New Student Orientation, presented frequent challenges in community engagement and offered suggestions for engaging authentically, thoughtfully, and collaboratively.

“The goal of this program was to introduce new students to the topics and conversations that would be relevant during their time at Wesleyan,” explained Esme Maria Ng ’22, who co-wrote the scripts with fellow student playwright and “I, You, (We)s” actor Luna Dragon Mac-Williams ’22.

When writing skits for the program, Ng and MacWilliams based their pieces on their own individual strengths, interests, and stories.

“The biggest thing that came to mind is how my identity interacts with the mostly white, cishet, economically privileged environment around me,” Ng said. “Thus, my pieces were hoping to pose questions along the lines of ‘what is our responsibility to one another when we can’t understand one another?’ ‘How do we reconcile ourselves with the world around us, thinking especially about how/where our privilege places us in these spaces.'”

Ng and Mac-Williams worked on writing and editing the script for about a month this summer. Their revision process involved sharing the work with the actors and Wesleyan faculty and staff to ensure the script had a clear message and maintained historic and geographic accuracy.

Centering the principles of the Cardinal Community Commitment, the skits also addressed topics including racism, imposter syndrome, tokenization, navigating power dynamics, hierarchy, and Wesleyan-Middletown relationships.

The performance was directed by Marcella Trowbridge, artistic director of the local non-profit theater company ARTFARM. “I am delighted to be back at Wes as a guest artist working with students addressing current issues through theater,” Trowbridge said. “This is a new script and we hope it will become an annual part of New Student Orientation.”
The project was supported by a plethora of campus partners including the Center for the Arts, the Resource Center, the Sustainability Office, the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, the Theater Department, the Allbritton Center, Student Activities and Leadership Development, Fries Center for Global Studies, and the Office of International Student Affairs.

Additional photos of the “I, You, (We)s” rehearsal on Aug. 31 are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

I, You, (We)s
I, You, (We)sI, You, (We)s

I, You, (We)sI, You, (We)sI, You, (We)s

I, You, (We)s

Students Embody Dances from Different World Cultures during Annual Common Moment (Video)


The Class of 2025’s New Student Orientation concluded on Friday, Sept. 3 with a celebratory return to an in-person “Common Moment” which was held on Andrus Field.

The annual shared participatory arts event is one of the culminating experiences of students’ first week on campus. The movement experience for incoming students, which has been held since 2008 starting with the Class of 2012, featured both faculty and alumni choreographers from Wesleyan’s Dance Department.

The event had pivoted to an asynchronous event last summer. The Class of 2024 participated virtually (view performance) from their residence halls on Aug. 28, 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Choreographers this year included Chair of the Dance Department and Professor of Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Hari Krishnan, Assistant Professor of Dance Iddi Saaka, Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance and African American Studies Joya Powell, Visiting Instructor in Dance Nik Owens ‘12, Visiting Associate Professor of Dance Doug Elkins, and Eury German ‘16.

Following the performance by first year students embodying dances from different world cultures, there was a concluding fire dancing performance by the student group Prometheus.

Past guest teaching artists at the Common Moment have included the Asphalt Orchestra, Heidi Latsky, and the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange. View past Common Moment celebrations online here.

New Students Arrive at Wesleyan Full of Hope (with Video, Photos)


Wet weather couldn’t dampen the feelings of excitement, anticipation and, above all, hope that abounded on Wesleyan University’s new student Arrival Day.

Over 900 students in the Class of 2025 – the second largest in Wesleyan’s history – as well as transfer students and students who deferred admission, moved in Wednesday morning. Many of this diverse group of young people from across the country and the globe navigated their entire application process through the complications of a global pandemic, demonstrating resilience in addition to intellectual and social acumen.

On this rainy morning, harnessing and shaping all of that nascent energy is a task for the future. As they moved into their dorms and said goodbye to their parents, the students’ minds were on new beginnings and, perhaps above all else, finding lasting friendships.

As she directed students to Clark Hall Wednesday morning, Anna Nguyen ’22 remembered her own Arrival Day three years ago.

Nguyen, an international student, had come to campus a few days before everyone else. “I remembered that I was alone, arriving at 8 p.m. But everyone was welcoming right away,” said Nguyen, who is now the Wesleyan Student Assembly president and works for the Office of Residential Life.

She called out to students walking toward their new home. “Welcome to Wesleyan,” she said. “Now I get to be that person,” Nguyen said.

Cars started pulling onto Andrus Field early in the morning. By 8:45 a.m. parents and students started the process of unloading. Current students helped parents wheel bins of necessities into the students’ dorm rooms—one mom had a plastic container of homemade cookies carefully perched on her kid’s boxes. The first rainy Arrival Day in over a decade was filled with anxious energy.

Pennsylvania resident Xzavier Pacheco ’25 felt good on his first day — he wasn’t nervous, at least not that he would say. He was excited to explore the freedom being at school offers and hoped that majoring in archaeology would feed his love of travel and history. “I just thought Wesleyan would be a good fit for me,” he said.

Faculty, Staff Prepare for a New Semester at Wesleyan

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

Morgan Keller

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.

Abderrahman AissaThis 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

Emily Gorlewski

New Play Revisits 1971 Attica Prison Riot

incarcerated stories

Artwork by Ojore Lutalo, which is inspired by the Attica Prison Riot of 1971, will be on exhibition later this month in Zilkha Gallery as part of “Remembering Attica: Legacy of a Prison Revolt,” a series of events commemorating Attica’s 50th anniversary.

Edward Torres, an assistant professor of the practice in theater, can’t help but be moved when he performs the words of L.D. Barkley, a prisoner who played an important role during the 1971 Attica Prison riot, raising morale for incarcerated men protesting their mistreatment. 

“We are men! We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such,” Barkley said in 1971 shortly before he was killed by police. 

For Torres, the most devastating part of performing the new play Echoes of Attica is to know that every word is real.

“This is a piece of history I am reliving,” Torres said. “It comes alive on the page because of that. It’s very powerful. The emotion is all there in the words, so you don’t have to overdo it.” 

The play, written and directed by Professor of Theater Ronald Jenkins, will be performed at 3 p.m., Sunday, September 12 in the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts. Admission is free for Wesleyan students, faculty, and staff. 

Rap poet and activist BL Shirelle will be performing new music she wrote for the play “Echoes of Attica.”

Rap poet and activist BL Shirelle will be performing new music she wrote for the play “Echoes of Attica.”

The cast features the formerly incarcerated actors and musicians Darío Peña, BL Shirelle, Naomi Wilson, and Crystal Walker, who all take on multiple roles in the play. 

This event is part of “Remembering Attica: Legacy of a Prison Revolt,” a series of events commemorating the Attica anniversary, including lectures, films, and “Behind Enemy Lines: The Prison Art of Ojore Lutalo,” an exhibition of prison protest art by Ojore Lutalo, in the South Gallery of the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery. The exhibition will be on display on campus from Tuesday, September 21 through Sunday, October 17. Lutalo will give an artist talk at the opening of the exhibition at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, September 21.

In September 1971, 2,200 prisoners took over the state prison at Attica, New York, demanding better living conditions and political rights, holding 42 staff members hostage. Negotiations with prison officials broke down and the state police took back the prison by force. Forty-three people were killed in the riot, the vast majority by the police. 

Jenkins, who has facilitated theater workshops in Italy, Indonesia, and the United States for over a decade, saw the potential in the story after listening to Attica survivors speak about their experiences. Working with the cast and hearing their personal stories of police abuse, medical mistreatment, and general degradation at the hands of authorities, offering an added dimension to the script.

Peña spoke of being thrown down the stairs and having his ribs broken. Shirelle talked about being beaten. Wilson never thought she’d survive prison and rewrote her obituary fifteen times. There is nothing theoretical in their rehearsal conversations. 

Jenkins believes that the heart of the play rests with the music. Gospel songs performed by Wilson and rap music written by Shirelle provide an important piece of the story’s emotional journey. “The songs come from a place of sincerity,” Shirelle told a preview performance audience. “They are real. I spent ten years in prison and when I wrote the song about medical mistreatment in prison, it was easy because I had seen it all so many times.” 

In addition to the emotional truths unearthed by the actors, there are the literal truths found in the script. Jenkins crafted the play using thousands of pages of reports, FBI files, and interviewing survivors of the prison. The records are poignant, disturbing and, in some instances, just absurd. (Jenkins points to a conversation where President Richard Nixon congratulated New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller for his good work on handling the riot despite the deaths of innocent people.)

While the play might explore the past, the ills of the present are never far away.

“It’s important to remember that Attica is not just about the past. Attica is about the present, the things that are happening right now, things that are being done every day in the criminal justice system,” Jenkins said. “It helps us understand the origins of the violence that the state commits against communities of color.”

The play will be published in Spring 2022 by MIT Press in Performing Arts Journal. 

The performance is supported at Wesleyan by the African American Studies Program, the Film Studies Department, the Theater Department, the Art Studio Program of the Art and Art History Department, the Music Department, the Center for the Arts, the Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program, the History Department, the Science in Society Program, the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, the Provost’s Committee on Equity and Diversity, and the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

Alumni Share Experiences with Forklift Danceworks; Prepare for ‘WesWorks’

Rivera and Porquillo worked together, wiping down tables and vacuuming floors. They began with just introducing themselves

Last spring, Tamara Rivera ’21 job shadowed SMG employee Maria Porquillo, who has worked for more than two decades at Olin Library. Once a week, Rivera met Porquillo at the library to observe her movements and rhythms, and ultimately choreographed a piece for Porquillo to perform on stage. This fall, students will participate in a similar multidisciplinary dance project titled “WesWorks.”

This October, Wesleyan will present a multidisciplinary dance project titled “WesWorks” that transforms the ordinary, mundane, and skillful movements of facilities and custodial employees into a performance accompanied by live, original music and stories told in the workers’ voices.

Led by Allison Orr, the choreographer and artistic director of Forklift Danceworks, a distinguished fellow in the College of Environment, “WesWorks” will teach students techniques of community art practice through performance.

In these Q&As, we speak with Forklift Danceworks employees and Wesleyan alumnae Gretchen LaMotte ’18 (click to read), choreographer and programs manager and Penny Snyder ’16 (click to read), communications manager for Forklift.

Penny Snyder '16

Penny Snyder ’16

“There’s nothing in the world like going to a Forklift show. It feels almost utopian … It’s really an emotional experience to me because there is a throughline of trust that flows between the choreographers, the performers, and the audience,” Snyder said.

Read More:

Wesleyan Facilities, Custodial Staff Celebrated through Performance