Tag Archive for Senior Voices

Senior Voices: Tostado, Young, Erodici Reflect on Their Years at Wes

Vanessa Tostado Senior Voices

“Senior Voices” was held at Memorial Chapel on May 25.

As part of the 2019 Commencement weekend festivities, graduating seniors reflected on their unique and transformative Wesleyan experiences during the “Senior Voices” event held May 25 in Memorial Chapel. In addition to the speeches, this year’s event also included a farewell song, “Irish Friendship Wish,” performed by Maria Rodriguez-Castro ’19, Joy Adedokun ’19, and Olivia Backal-Balik ’20.

Seniors Vanessa Tostado, Kati Young, and Matthew Erodici spoke of the changes they had undergone during their years at Wesleyan and the community and support that they found while here. Associate Professor of American Studies and Anthropology Margot Weiss provided the faculty address, encouraging students to embrace “growth that takes unexpected and novel forms, that moves and spreads . . . unpredictable, unruly, creative.”

Bielikoff, Eismont, Machado, Vasilkova Deliver Senior Voices; Vogel Gives Faculty Reflection

Natacha Bielikoff ’18, Sara Eismont ’18, David Machado ’18, and Taisa Vasilkova ’18, delivered “Senior Voices” addresses on May 26, 2018, in Memorial Chapel. Assistant Professor Danielle Vogel of the Department of English offered the faculty reflection. Also, a student group (shown here at rehearsal) performed “Irish Wedding Wish.”

Shown here at rehearsal, pianist Jackson Barnett ’18, a classics major, and violinist Lila Levinson ’18, a neuroscience major, joined with vocalists for “Irish Friendship Wish,” performed at the Senior Voices event. (Musician photos by C. Rockwell)

Molly Bogin ’18, a neuroscience major with a writing certificate (left), and Katherine Paterson ’18, an environmental studies and theater major with a German minor—here at rehearsal—sang on Saturday evening with Barnett and Levinson.











Below are the texts of the reflections:

David Machado offered this reflection on “Home is Where You Are Accepted”

With conditional acceptance from a homophobic father and a childhood spent in a low-income family who had to move constantly, oftentimes hardwood floors served as my bed and hardships prevailed. Even with a loving mother and three amazing sisters, I didn’t feel like I had a place I could call home.

David Machado ’18 offered a Senior Voices essay on “Home is Where You Are Accepted.” (Photos of speakers by Caroline Kravitz ‘19)

I joined the Navy to pay for college, serve my country, and look for a place where I finally felt accepted. While I found additional family when I served alongside the Marines as a Navy medic, I couldn’t reveal my identity under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, which allowed the government to discriminate against the LGBT community. With this harbored in my mind and being forced to deploy all over the world, again, it didn’t feel like I had a place I could truly call home.

In 2015, I went into the Navy Reserve and received the opportunity to attend Wesleyan University. I asked myself the question: Would I find home here? I wasn’t sure, as I feared the rigorous curriculum and doubted that I would “fit in” among all of those extremely intelligent students.

My fears and doubts, however, were unfounded.…

Starr, Masand, Casareno Deliver “Senior Voices” Addresses

Jenna Starr ’15, Jasmine Masand ’15, and Camille Casareno ’15 delivered “Senior Voices” speeches on May 23 in Memorial Chapel. Below are the texts of their speeches.

Jenna Starr

I am grateful to Wesleyan. After a turbulent year at a different school, Wesleyan was the second chance I urgently needed.

When I first got here (literally the first day), I was scared. I was so scared that when my dad and aunt tried to leave, I secretly jumped in their car so they would take me home.

Lim Delivers “Senior Voices” Baccalaureate Address

Elvin Lim

Elvin Lim

Elvin Lim, associate professor of government, presented the following remarks during the “Senior Voices” baccalaureate address on May 25:

As we gather today to commemorate the last four years of our seniors’ career at Wesleyan, perhaps some of you are feeling some trepidation about your futures outside of this ivory tower. So I have decided to direct my remarks today on the subject of contingency, and the human reaction to it, uncertainty, which is the source of all our hopes and fears.

Plato had said that in order to understand the nature of justice, we must first observe its incarnations in just republics. So I shall try to do the same in my effort to understand contingency. Perhaps if we analyzed how civilizations have coped with uncertainty, we may better understand how we, as individuals, can cope with uncertainty. I will propose that the collective solution for uncertainty – stamping it out – is exactly opposite to the individual solution: embracing it.

So how did ancient, or pre-modern societies cope with uncertainty? Quite simply, they defined it away. And they did it in two ways. The Pagan religions tended to characterize the Gods as crazy. Contingency came in the form of the capricious Gods. The Judeo-Christian religions went the other way. They understood their God to be all-knowing and omnipotent. Since God was all-knowing, there was no contingency. We may not know what is to come, but God does. This can be encapsulated in the common phrase, “everything happens for a reason.” That was how we coped with uncertainty.

Kurtz Delivers “Senior Voices” Baccalaureate Address

Matthew Kurtz, associate professor of psychology, associate professor of neuroscience and behavior, presented the “Senior Voices” baccalaureate address on May 26.

I want to start by thanking the class of 2012 for inviting me to speak at this baccalaureate celebration and permitting me to be part of these festivities. I am so happy for all of you! It’s been an honor for me to see you all mature over the past 4 years, see you become more confident in your ideas and thinking, more poised and subtle in the expression of your ideas, and more skilled in interacting with those around you, and watching students used to relaying the ideas of others, become adept at formulating their own ideas
This has been a class of many success stories, stories of individual accomplishment but this is the case with just about all Wesleyan classes. What makes this class so remarkable, and perhaps to some extent unique in its history, are the number of new non-profit organizations targeted at helping those in need around the globe—this class has helped turn Wesleyan into a truly global university.

I. Accomplishments- The formation of the MINDS organization. Started by a devoted cadre of highly committed class of 2012 students Raghu Appasani, the organization is dedicated to both the identification of and intervention with people with severe mental illness in rural India—severe depression, bipolar illness, schizophrenia and substance abuse.

“Senior Voices” Address by Ali Chaudhry ’12

Ali Chaudhry ’12 presented a “Senior Voices” speech in Memorial Chapel on May 26. 

When I came to Wesleyan from Pakistan, I came with my fair share of prejudices about the United States and Americans. Don’t hate me for that. It was natural. I hadn’t interacted with Americans before, so my understanding of the U.S. and Americans was limited to the media, hear-say and the odd American I came across. As my economist friends would say, my sample size was really small, which wasn’t good. Some people told me that Americans are very self-interested and will actively work to take advantage of you. Others told me that I should be careful about revealing my Muslim identity, lest I be discriminated against.

But in reality, my interaction with the people at Wesleyan, some of whom held radically different ideas to mine, had a very humanizing effect. Those, whom I conveniently labeled as the “other” without ever interacting with them, actually came to life in the Wesleyan experience and it made me question the stereotypes and prejudices that I held about them.

“Senior Voices” Address by Ben Shiling ’12

Ben Shiling ’12 delivered a “Senior Voices” Address May 26.

Hi, my name is Ben and I am an English major. To many, my parents included, this was a deliberate choice to either a) bank on grad school for a “good job,” or b) become an English teacher. Period. English major did not say to them “this is a man with a diversified future.” I was asked recently “what were you planning on doing with that” at a job interview. Ah! The life of a liberal arts graduate! We are a disreputable bunch, misfits, iconoclasts, destined, as Whitman proudly boasts, “to lean and loaf at our ease.” Well, it’s not that easy, but it is fun.

My story is largely one of making mistakes and getting out of holes I dug for myself. I needed lots of help to do this. My parents, a few friends, some providential support and even more mistakes gave me strength to eventually enlist in the Marines at 20, earn a degree from community college and succeed here at Wesleyan.

Upon arriving at Wesleyan, I realized three things. One, I was scared. Two, I belonged here. and Three, I had a lot to learn. I was more afraid of research papers than of convoy security on top of a Humvee in Iraq. It was terrifying, but easy to accept since I had no choice. Coming to Wesleyan was different.  I had made a choice to come, and the choice involved abandoning other choices that seemed more secure job wise. It was like jumping out of a plane with a parachute but no idea how to pull the chord. I was giving up, piece by piece. My wife and my two little girls kept me anchored, my friends in my recovery program from alcoholism kept me sane, and my parents kept me out of poverty while I looked desperately for a job.

“Senior Voices” Address by Max Bevilacqua ’12

Max Bevilacqua ’12 presented a “Senior Voices” speech in Memorial Chapel on May 26. 

There aren’t many places that I have felt comfortable wearing a dress in public. If you had told me, before I transferred from Georgetown, that in a few short months I would be sporting a cute little pink number with a deep v-neck in Beckham Hall, my Jesuit professors would have cried, and I would have laughed in disbelief. And if you had told me, that in a few short months at Wesleyan, I would be welcomed so warmly, challenged so fiercely, or inspired so deeply…I’m not sure I would have believed that either.

The night before my parents dropped me off on campus, I was curled up in the fetal position on the pullout couch of the Rocky Hill Marriot – taking comfort only in my reasonably priced Wesleyan sweatshirt from Broadstreet Books located conveniently at the intersection of Broad and William street. I didn’t think I could handle transferring as a junior. It wasn’t just about classes or making friends – it was the fear that I would never really feel like I belonged to the place I was walking into so late.

From the start, Wesleyan was a humbling experience. I missed the fact that it was prerequisite to have the voice of an angel or the ability to nonchalantly paint like Rembrandt. But I was going to be a varsity tennis player here…until I didn’t make the team.