Tag Archive for community partnerships

Startup Incubator Class Pitches Ideas to Middletown Community

start up

The members of Wesleyan’s Startup Incubator stand together on pitch night, held in downtown Middletown on the second floor of Main Street Market. From left to right, beginning with the front row: Tommy Doyle ’21 and Bobby Iwashima ’22. Along the wall: Itzel Valdez ’23, Daniel Banks ’22, Lucas Pabarcius ’22, Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, MA ’11, Shane Chase, program director at reSET (an affiliated organization), Nigel Hayes ’23, Ona Hauert ’20, Will Huestis ’22, Zachary Zavalick ’20, and Nolan Collins ’23 (missing from photo: Beckett Azevedo ’21). (Photo by Dennis Hohne)

Eleven students from CSPL 239, Startup Incubator: The Art and Science of Launching Your Idea, took turns standing before an audience of their peers and members of Middletown’s Chamber of Commerce on the second floor of Main Street Market. Each offered a polished presentation detailing the need for their proposed startup, their mission, target market, and success indicators for the business, nonprofit, or community-based program they imagine. The evening was hosted through Collision-CT and the Middletown Entrepreneurs Workspace Plus (MEWS+). The course was made possible by CTNext and the Newman’s Own Foundation.

Taught this year by Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Rosemary Ostfeld ’10, MA ’11, the course was initially developed in 2018 by Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, in collaboration with reSET, the Hartford-based social enterprise trust.

Watson Directs the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships

Director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships Clifton Watson notes that Wesleyan students have a reputation for high civic engagement and looks forward to further engagement with the Middletown community. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

In this Q&A, we speak to Clifton Watson, who joined Wesleyan as director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships (JCCP) in February. A New Haven, Conn., native, Watson holds a BA from the University of Connecticut in African American studies, an MA from North Carolina Central in history, and a doctorate from Fordham in history. His dissertation explores the northern migration of African Americans who settled in the Newhallville area of New Haven—which is where he grew up.

Q: Please tell us a bit about your background . . . what drew you to Wesleyan? How did you know this was the place for you?

A: I credit my career to an experience I had during the summer before my freshman year in college. I responded to an ad to be a summer camp counselor in New Haven (which is where I grew up). My primary interest was in earning some money to offset some of my college expenses. I envisioned facilitating recreational activities and leading field trips. However—unbeknownst to me—I had applied to become a staff member of LEAP (Leadership, Education, and Athletics in Partnership). The organization, which was in its inaugural year—was committed to supporting the academic and leadership development of young people from some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. This was not your typical summer camp—in fact it was a program, with a summer component. The organizers had been very thoughtful and strategic in the development of its program design and the stakeholders recruited to support their work.

The program was the brainchild of a Yale undergrad and law student—and supported by Dwight Hall (the JCCP’s institutional counterpart at Yale). This program created a “community” of diverse stakeholders united by their interest in improving outcomes for youth and city residents. This jumpstarted my interest in leadership development and civic engagement and remains a shining example of a university-led—but cocreated with the community and mutually beneficial—project.

I was drawn to Wesleyan’s Jewett Center for Community Partnerships because each one of its projects has the same transformative potential I saw in the LEAP experience.

Q: What are you most excited about?

A: I am most excited about further harnessing student enthusiasm and willingness to engage with the greater Middletown community—while ensuring that the center continues to be supportive of student leaders (in both their professional and leadership development) and that the JCCP projects are effectively responsive to community needs. As I have recently moved to the area (Meriden), I am super excited about contributing to the civic fauna of my own community.

Q: What has been the biggest surprise in your time with Wesleyan?

A: Wesleyan students have a reputation (which stretches far) for being enthusiastically committed to civic engagement. This was on full display as soon as I arrived on campus. I was struck by the number of students who emailed, called, and dropped by to greet me and ask questions about my plans for the Jewett Center or discuss an idea for a program or event. In fact, the week before I officially started, I came to campus to briefly meet with Marc Eisner [Dean of Social Sciences and Henry Merritt Wriston Chair of Public Policy]. When Marc walked me over to Allbritton Hall to show me my office space, I was met by a student reporter from the Argus, who somehow learned I was on campus! She wanted to interview me and discuss my vision for the JCCP. Overall, I’ve been surprised by the pure number of projects being led by Wesleyan students and thoughtfulness with which they approach their work.

Q: And what are your hobbies? What do you do in your time off?

A: Over the past three years, I’ve really gotten into gardening. I can’t say that I have a green thumb—but I’ve had a ball learning through trial and error. I’m committed to having a solid sweet potato crop! Gardening is one of those things my grandparents and parents were into and encouraged me to learn about, but I just couldn’t get into when I was younger. Years later, I’m begging for advice! In some ways, I am “late to the party,” but glad I finally decided to take an interest.

Q.: What is your favorite book?

A: My favorite book is All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw, by Theodore Rosengarten. All God’s Dangers is the autobiography of a black tenant farmer from east-central Alabama, who came of age in a society of former slaves and slaveholders. This is the narrative of a common man moved to confront the injustices that limited his economic and political freedoms. Through the book, he recounts dealings with landlords, bankers, fertilizer agents, mule traders, gin operators, sheriffs, and judges—detailing stories of the social relations of the cotton system, while offering his rationale for joining a tenant farmers union in the early 1930s. I’ve found this to be a compelling narrative about an “everyday person” who first developed an analysis of a pretty complicated economic and political system, then moved into action to confront it—despite the certainty that his efforts would be met with brutal violence. This has always been a favorite of mine because it recognizes the enduring and complex—though infrequently highlighted—resistance culture and organizing tradition which undergirds the black experience in America.

Wesleyan Strengthens Sexual Assault Prevention Efforts by Partnering with Community Services


On Dec. 19, Wesleyan President Michael Roth signed an MOU with Beth Hamilton, at left, representing CONNSACS and Carissa Conway, at right, representing Women and Family Services (WFS) of Middletown.

Wesleyan seeks to strengthen sexual assault prevention and response programs by developing partnerships with local community resources.

On Dec. 19, President Michael Roth formalized a partnership with the Women and Families Center of Middletown (WFC) and Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, Inc (CONNSACS) through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

This MOU formalizes the commitment of all three agencies to work together to provide trauma-informed services to student and employee victims of sexual assault and to improve the overall response to sexual assault at Wesleyan and within the greater Middletown community.

Jazz Orchestra Performs for Local Public Schools

Elizabeth Gauvey-Kern '11, a music and government double major, sings Duke Ellington's "It don't mean a thing (if it ain't got that swing)" during a Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra performance April 30 at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Middletown.

Elizabeth Gauvey-Kern '11, a music and government double major, sings Duke Ellington's "It don't mean a thing (if it ain't got that swing)" during a Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra performance April 30 at Woodrow Wilson Middle School in Middletown.

Wesleyan jazz musicians have been tooting their own horns to the local community.

During spring semester, the 20-member band has performed six times at public elementary, middle and high schools in Middletown. They work under the direction of vibraphonist-composer Jay Hoggard, adjunct associate professor of music.

Jay Hoggard directs the Wesleyan jazz orchestra at Woodrow Wilson Middle School.

Jay Hoggard directs the Wesleyan jazz orchestra at Woodrow Wilson Middle School.

“It’s good for the Wesleyan students to get out of their little shell of the universe according to Momma Wesleyan, go a few blocks away and play for young people who may or may not have been exposed to this type of music before,” Hoggard says. “We’re representing jazz and we’re representing Wesleyan.”

The orchestra’s 2009 repertoire consists of music by Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Thad Jones, Charles Mingus, Sonny Rollins and Jelly Roll Morton. The group spends the fall semester listening and learning music, and performs select pieces at the schools during the spring semester.

The Wesleyan students dress to impress. On stage, they don black pants, shirts and a Cardinal red vest.

The concerts themselves lasted for about 50 minutes. If time allowed, Hoggard also introduced the Wesleyan musicians and their instruments, which ranged from clarinet to trumpet to piano.

“We sound, and we look, impressive,” Hoggard says. “The audience, especially the elementary-age kids, look at the Wesleyan students as professional artists.”

Baritone saxophonist Bob Gambo ’10 played for a large jazz orchestra in high school and joined the Wesleyan orchestra to continue his musical education, and gain a deeper understanding of jazz music.

“Playing at local schools is a great experience; we learn a lot about ourselves as musicians, the music we play and the community at large,” Gamo says. “Jay emphasized the community-building nature of these concerts, and refers to us as ‘ambassadors’ of jazz music to the children and school faculty that we entertain. The response has been positive and encouraging from the students we perform for.”

Elizabeth Gauvey-Kern ’11, a music and government double major, sings two songs, “It don’t mean a thing (if it ain’t got that swing)” a famous anthem of jazz written by Duke Ellington, and Frank Foster’s arrangement of “In a mellow tone,” another Ellington tune. She also sings in the band, rather than in front of the band, for Charles Mingus’s “Moanin.”

“It’s really an honor for me how Jay makes me part of the band,” Gauvey-Kern says. “As a singer, it is often typical to be the final add-on, the last piece, not really included in the day to day rehearsal process. Jay doesn’t let that happen. I haul equipment and take part in rehearsals. He makes sure I’m one of the band.”

The students travel to the schools in their own vehicles, or a Wesleyan passenger van. They leave campus around 12:20 p.m. and return by 2:30 p.m. But it’s the getting there – and getting back – that teaches the Wesleyan students the most about life as a musician. Hoggard says the prep and take-down account for more than 50 percent of the time at the schools.

“It can become a real madhouse when you have 20 students packing and loading up instruments and equipment, setting them up, getting into place, hurrying up to get ready and finally playing for about an hour,” Hoggard says. “But, that’s what being a musician is. No one cares if you had to break your back carrying a piano up the steps. The audience just wants to hear the music.”

The young musicians are given a sample of the touring life in a way that few of them have ever experienced.

“Jay emphasized these practical aspects of the concerts just as much as the musical aspects, teaching us lessons of responsibility and leadership at the same time,” Gambo explains. “We became used to moving, unpacking and setting our equipment up quickly so as to maximize our time playing for the students.”

This is Hoggard’s 17th year directing the Wesleyan Jazz Orchestra at local schools. He started the program in 1992, when his own children were enrolled in the Middletown Public School system. He’s maintained the connection with the schools ever since.

In Spring 2009, Hoggard directed the Jazz Orchestra at, Keigwin Middle School, Wesley Elementary School, Moody School, Middletown High School and Woodrow Wilson Middle School.

“As a band-leader and professor, Jay cultivates the responsibility, independence and humility that are essential components to life at and beyond Wesleyan,” Gambo says. “Few other professors have the ability to do this so effectively.”

Photos of the orchestra below by Bill Burkhart.

Wesleyan, Community Design Festive Greens

The Center for Community Partnerships hosted a "Green Your Holiday" craft event Dec. 6 for the Wesleyan staff, faculty and students and the local community. Volunteer Shelia Gray Smith, at left, taught participants how to make festive centerpieces using fresh pine greens.

The Center for Community Partnerships (CCP) hosted a "Green Your Holiday" craft event Dec. 6 for the Wesleyan staff, faculty and students and the local community. Volunteer Sheila Graham Smith, at left, taught participants how to make festive centerpieces using fresh pine greens. Elisa Del Valle, assistant director of student activities and leadership development, is pictured at right.