WESeminars provide opportunities to revisit the classroom and experience firsthand the academic ecellence that is the essence of Wesleyan, with presentations by scholars, pundits, and other experts in their fields. Programs run approximately 60 minutes, including audience Q&A. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis and because of the state fire code, the University is unable to offer standing room space on the floors or aisles of venues.

This is a chronological list of the WESeminars scheduled throughout the weekend. Please visit the Reunion & Commencement Schedule of Events for a complete listing of all of the activities during the weekend.


Friday, May 25, 2018

3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
WESEMINAR This Place Matters: Student Research on Middletown’s African American History commemorates 50 Years of AFAM at Wesleyan
In the 1820s, as northern slavery ended and the political battle over southern slavery intensified, free African Americans formed a remarkable property-owning community on what is now the western edge of Wesleyan’s campus. These men and women transformed Middletown, a slave trading river port during the 18th century, into a center of the antislavery movement. Here they sheltered those escaping on the Underground Railroad, hosted renowned abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, and owned homes that demonstrated free African Americans’ independence and fitness for freedom in a slave society skeptical of both. Join Professor Jesse Nasta and the students in his African American Studies/service learning course as they share their research on Middletown’s nationally-significant African American history. Through the efforts of the Vanguard Class fifty years ago in establishing the Center for African American Studies, the relationship of this community to Wesleyan can be told.
Presenter: Dr. Jesse Nasta is a Visiting Assistant Professor of African American Studies. His Black Middletown Lives service learning course draws upon his 2007 Wesleyan honors thesis, “‘Their Own Guardians and Protectors’: African American Community in Middletown, Connecticut, 1822-1860.”
Student presenters: TBA
Room 116, Judd Hall
3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
WESEMINAR Five Years Out
Alumni from the class of 2013 will come together to talk about their career paths, the struggles they've faced and the successes they've achieved, and share their perspectives on navigating today’s workforce as a young professional. Sharon Belden Castonguay, Director of Wesleyan’s Gordon Career Center, will offer opening remarks and facilitate the discussion. Bring your own stories and add your voice to the conversation; interactive audience participation is encouraged.
Presenters: TBA
Room 112, Boger Hall
3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
WESEMINAR Expanding Access with the Center for Prison Education
Since 2009, the Center for Prison Education has brought the transformative power of a Wesleyan Education behind prison bars. Please join us for a panel discussion of why college-in-prison is important for reversing the trends of mass incarceration and fostering healthier communities and universities.
Presenters: TBA
Room 208, Fisk Hall
3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
WESEMINAR The Circle of Life and the Lost Rites
In our drive to live in a highly technical but basically desacralized cosmos, we modern humans have lost those Rites of Passage that guided our forebears through life’s great transitions – adolescence, midlife, and the elder passage. This seminar will re-introduce those Lost Rites, using ancient wisdom to inform and give shape to contemporary rituals to fill the vacuum. Although we will discuss all three Rites, our focus will be on the Rite for the Elder Passage.
Presenter: Bill Roberts ’63, P’95, lived in Africa when he was a student at Wesleyan. There he met a traditional shaman, a ju ju man, and heard about the rituals that initiate adolescents into adulthood. When he returned for his senior year, he wrote an honor’s thesis on African Religious Thought and began a life-long quest to rediscover the power of classic Rites of Passage. Bill was an Assistant Dean of Admissions in the dynamic but turbulent late 1960s, then the minister of the First Church in Middletown for nearly 20 years, where in 1974 he created an Initiation Rite. He has published two books: INITIATION TO ADULTHOOD: AN ANCIENT RITE OF PASSAGE IN CONTEMPORARY FORM and CROSSING THE SOUL’S RIVER: A RITE OF PASSAGE FOR MEN (AT MIDLIFE). He has offered courses in the Wesleyan Institute for Lifelong Learning, including most recently a course on Psyche and Science.
Putnam Classroom (114), Boger Hall
4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
WESEMINAR The Workplace for Wesleyan Women Today
Wesleyan women have been making their mark on the world for over forty years. In light of #MeToo, Time’s Up and other women’s movements, what does the workplace look like for Wes Women today? Alumnae from across the decades come together to share their experiences. Interactive audience participation is encouraged.
Presenters: Lynn Chen ’98 is an actor, food host/blogger, and an Ambassador for The National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA). She is directing her first feature film later this year. More info at lynnchen.com. Lisa Renery Handalian ’88 is a User Experience Researcher at UBER. She spends her days interviewing Drivers and telling their stories back to the Design and Product teams to improve the Driver experience. Lisa learned at UBER during the 2017 upheaval that exposed gender inequities found in many Silicon Valley corporations. Libeth Morales ’08 is a public relations professional with over ten years of experience in entertainment publicity, cause marketing, and social justice movement communications. She is a proud LA native and an avid Dodgers fan. Additional speakers TBA.
Hansel Lecture Hall (001), Public Affairs Center (PAC)
7:30 PM to 8:30 PM
WESEMINAR The Leavers: A Novel
The Wesleyan R.J. Julia bookstore welcomes Lisa Ko ’98, author of The Leavers, a novel which was a finalist for the 2017 National Book Award for Fiction and won the 2016 PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction.
One morning, Deming Guo’s mother Polly goes to her job at the nail salon and never comes home. Left with no one to care for him, eleven-year-old Deming is eventually adopted by two white college professors who move him from the Bronx to a small town upstate. They rename him Daniel Wilkinson in their efforts to make him over into their version of an “all-American boy.” But far away from all he’s ever known, Daniel struggles to reconcile his new life with his mother’s disappearance and the memories of the family and community he left behind.
A vivid and moving examination of borders and belonging, The Leavers is the story of how one boy comes into his own when everything he’s loved has been taken away—and how one woman learns to live with the mistakes of her past.
Presenter: Lisa Ko’s ’98 writing has appeared in Best American Short Stories 2016, The New York Times, BuzzFeed, O. Magazine, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and the MacDowell Colony, among others. Born in Queens and raised in Jersey, she lives in Brooklyn.
Wesleyan R.J. Julia Bookstore, 413 Main Street

Saturday, May 26, 2018

9:30 AM to 10:30 AM
WESEMINAR The Transgender Body and Undoing the Male Gaze
This Capstone project presents the work of master photographers Alfred Stieglitz, Edward Weston, Imogen Cunningham, and Ruth Bernhard and how their work inspires and informs the portrait photography of the author. The project also includes the book Transfiguration: How Bright Is the Light, a collection of 45 photographs of the author's wife, Brianna Johnston, a trans woman. The paper and the photographs delve into the challenges of being transgender in society, how the gaze -- male and female -- influences photographs of women, and the radiant beauty of a woman simply being her true self. *Please note: nude photographs are included in this presentation.
Presenter: Sharron Emmons holds an MBA and MS in Industrial Relations from the University of New Haven and will receive a MALS degree this weekend from Wesleyan University. She is a retired energy industry professional who actively participated in the Marriage Equality movement and continues to work on other social justice efforts.
Room 208, Fisk Hall
9:30 AM to 10:30 AM
WESEMINAR Lessons from Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, the guiding force of Hamilton, studied at Wesleyan University and for a time with Karl Scheibe, Professor of Psychology Emeritus. Hamilton is a convincing example of the value of melding the perspective of theater with the concepts of psychology. The play is not only a lesson in history—celebrating the genius of an 18th Century figure. It is also an exhibition of what might be achieved by adroit leadership of a talented group of people—where the ensemble performance is more than the sum of its parts. This is a musical for the ages—producing an experience for its audiences that has multi-dimensional depth—of character as well as of history. It is a work suffused with emotion and productive of joy.
Presenter: Karl E. Scheibe is Professor of Psychology Emeritus at Wesleyan University, where he taught from 1963-2005. From 2004-2017 he was Director or Director Emeritus of the Wasch Center for Retired Faculty at Wesleyan. He received his undergraduate degree at Trinity College and his Ph.D. in Psychology from the University of California. He was twice a Fulbright Professor at the Catholic University of São Paulo, Brazil. He is a social psychologist and licensed clinician, author or editor of eight books and scores of journal articles. He is the former Director of the Saybrook Counseling Center. His recent books include Self-Studies, The Drama of Everyday Life, Deep Drama: Explorations in psychology and theater, and The Storied Nature of Human Life: The Life and Work of Theodore R. Sarbin.
Hansel Lecture Hall (001), Public Affairs Center (PAC)
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
WESEMINAR Celebration of Wesleyan Writing
Taylor Meeting Room (108), Usdan University Center
10:00 AM to 11:00 AM
WESEMINAR Genetics in Medicine: How technology is improving our ability to screen, diagnose, and treat
How does modern medicine use genetics? Join ’03 leaders in the field for a discussion about recent technological breakthroughs, and how these advances influence diagnosis and treatment today.
Presenters: Matthew Fox ’03 is the Chief Executive Officer for Pairnomix, a genetic research company focused on rare neurological disease. Prior to joining Pairnomix, Matthew led corporate strategy on the executive team at Upsher-Smith Laboratories, a branded and generic pharmaceutical company. Before joining Upsher-Smith, Matthew spent a decade as a professional healthcare investor, last working as a Portfolio Manager at Bank am Bellevue in Zurich, Switzerland. Additionally, Matthew is a Board Member for Proximagen, a clinical stage biotech company, and Treasurer of the Edina School Board in his home town in Minnesota. He holds a B.A. in Neuroscience and Behavior from Wesleyan University. Mark Umbarger ’03 is the Head of Technology – Reproductive Health at Invitae. Mark has over 14 years of experience developing enabling genomic technologies, including the polony sequencing system, one of the first next generation DNA sequencing (NGS) systems, which he worked on while in lab of George Church at Harvard Medical School. More recently, Mark was responsible for the development of Good Start Genetics’ (now Invitae) genetic testing portfolio which included carrier and preimplantation genetic screening offerings, tests that made routine genetic testing both more accurate and affordable. Mark holds a PhD in Genetics from Harvard University and a BA in Chemistry and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry from Wesleyan University.
Room 116, Judd Hall
10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
WESEMINAR College of the Environment
Regardless of one's opinions about issues such as climate change or carbon taxes, it is clear that environmental issues will dominate national and international politics and news over the next century. To fully prepare students to participate effectively in these important discussions, Wesleyan has taken a major step to support environmental research, communication, teaching, and policy development, with its Environmental Studies Program and the College of the Environment (COE). Come listen to the exciting details of the Environmental Studies Program and the College of the Environment by Professor Barry Chernoff, Chair of the Environmental Studies Program. Then join us while the Class of 2018 presents their senior capstone projects during our poster session.
Woodhead Lounge, Exley Science Center
10:30 AM to 11:30 AM
WESEMINAR Wesleyan and The Great War
In 1914, The Great War—known later as World War I—broke out in Europe. Wesleyan became a war campus in the years that followed. After the U.S. Congress declared war on Germany in 1917, college life at Wesleyan “took on a belligerent aspect,” as Carl F. Price, Class of 1902, observed later. “Minor sports, dramatics, dances, were dropped. The students were in army uniform, rose early in the morning to drill, were allowed no cuts from classes. A trench seamed part of the back of campus, and armed guards challenged all comers.” By the time the Armistice was signed in 1918—100 years ago this year—some 1,200 Wesleyan faculty, staff, students, and alumni provided military or civilian service, including twenty-six students and alumni who died. Attend this illustrated presentation to learn how the “War to End All Wars” impacted Wesleyan.
Presenter: Leith Johnson, University Archivist
Room 112, Boger Hall
1:00 PM to 2:00 PM
WESEMINAR Epilepsy Research & Advocacy at Wesleyan and Beyond
One in 26 Americans will develop epilepsy in their lifetime and 65 million people around the world need a cure. Randy ’83 and Lisa Siegel are parents of a daughter with severe epilepsy and a healthy adult son. They are strong advocates for families and parents of children with epilepsy and help to spread the word about epilepsy and the search for new cures. They are regular visitors in neuroscience classes at Wesleyan, and have inspired many undergraduates when talking about their advocacy work. Randy and Lisa have generously supported five research internships for Wesleyan undergraduate students working on novel therapies for epilepsy in the Naegele Lab. In this panel, three former Siegel summer research fellows will join Randy, Lisa and Jan to talk about the impact that this fellowship has had on their careers and the importance of translational research on epilepsy. The students are: Dan Lawrence ’15, MA’16, Elizabeth Paquette ’16, BS '18, and Sylwia Lipior ’18.
Presenters: Janice R. Naegele is the Alan M Dachs Professor of Science, Professor of Biology, and member of the Program in Neuroscience and Behavior. Research in the Naegele Lab focuses on gene and neural stem-cell based therapies for epilepsy. Professor Naegele is a member of the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering. Since joining the faculty in 1991, she has served as Chair of the Department of Biology, Director of the Center for Faculty Career Development and is currently Chair of the Wesleyan faculty. Randy Siegel ’83 is CEO of Advance Local, one of the largest media groups in the United States, which operates the leading news and information companies in more than 25 cities. Since joining Advance Publications in 2001, Randy has served as President of Local Digital Strategy as well as President of Parade Publications when it was part of Advance Publications. He was also an executive at The Washington Post Company. Randy has published three children’s books with Neal Porter Books and has written for several publications including The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Advertising Age. He has served on the boards of Share our Strength, Research America, An Open Book Foundation, Cure Epilepsy and the Epilepsy Foundation.
Room 116, Judd Hall
1:30 PM to 3:30 PM
WESEMINAR The Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival presents The Wedding Doll
This WESeminar will consist of the screening of the Israeli movie Wedding Doll, followed by a Q/A session with its director, Nitzan Gilady, Center for Jewish Studies Distinguished Scholar in Residence. Wedding Doll inaugurated the 10th Annual Ring Family Wesleyan University Israeli Film Festival in 2017 and is the first feature film which he directed, wrote and produced. It won 3 International awards at the Jerusalem Film Festival 2015 (including Best Debut Film), premiered at the Toronto Film Festival, received 9 Israeli academy award nominations and received 2 awards: Best Actress and Best Costumes as well as 7 additional international awards.
Presenters: Nitzan Gilady is a director, producer and scriptwriter of the documentary films “Jerusalem Is Proud To Present,” “Family Time,” “In Satmar Custody” and “The Last Enemy”. His films have received 13 international awards, participated in hundreds of international film festivals and been broadcast by prestigious TV channels all over the world (among them: Sundance channel and ZDF-ARTE). Dalit Katz, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies, will introduce the director and moderate the discussion.
Ring Family Performing Arts Hall
2:00 PM to 3:00 PM
WESEMINAR What if the community was your classroom? What we have learned from 20 years of Service Learning at Wesleyan
Service Learning integrates experiences outside the classroom with an academic curriculum taught within the classroom. How did it begin at Wesleyan and what has happened since? Faculty and alumni instrumental in shaping this experiential learning program share stories from its twenty year history.
Speakers: Peggy Carey Best is Director for Service Learning. Rob Rosenthal was a founding director of the Service-Learning Center and the Center for Community Partnerships. He retired as John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology on January 1, 2018. Tim Whyte '98 is Secretary General at ActionAid Denmark, a global justice organization. He helped start the Service Learning program while at Wesleyan and has since worked in the field of global development, human rights and social activism. Alan Schlechter ’98, MD is a clinical assistant professor at NYU Langone Medical Center and the director of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Outpatient Services at Bellevue Hospital Center. Alan teaches “The Science of Happiness” to almost 1,000 NYU students each year, in which he shares the mental health education that he believes all people should receive early in life. Alan is interested in using the best science that we have to foster behaviors and thoughts that might help prevent mental illness and grow well-being. Other speakers TBA.
Hansel Lecture Hall (001), Public Affairs Center (PAC)
2:30 PM to 3:30 PM
WESEMINAR U.S. Healthcare: Achievements, Problems, and a Glimpse of the Possible Future
How will the next generation physicians and consumers thrive in the era of artificial intelligence, healthcare mergers and mobile biometrics technology? Join members of the class of ’73 for an engaging conversation about the future of healthcare.
Presenters: Wayne Barber ’73 MD, FACS, is the co-founder of Hearing.Games. He graduated from Yale Medical School, and completed his residency at Harvard Otolaryngology - Mass Eye & Ear/Mass General Hospital. Wayne is a former member of Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees. Tom Kelly ’73 has held a series of executive positions in health care financing and delivery. Most recently (2014 – 2016), he served as CEO of HealthSmart, the largest independent (non-carrier) administrator of health benefits. Prior to his work at HealthSmart, Tom served (2006 – 2013) as Head of Medicaid for Aetna, and as President then CEO of Schaller Anderson, its predecessor. During his professional career, Tom has also served in a wide variety of community leadership positions. He is a current board member at Fidelis Care New York (the single largest Medicaid plan in the country), among others, and also serves on advisory boards of four development stage companies. Jim Powers ’73, MD is Professor of Medicine, and Adjunct Associate Professor of Nursing at Vanderbilt where he runs the Geriatric Fellowship. He is also the Associate Clinical Director of the Tennessee Valley GRECC. Dr. Powers received his MD with Distinction in Research from the University of Rochester (NY) in 1977 and served in the USPHS National Health Service Corps from 1980-83. He was then recruited to Vanderbilt to develop a Geriatric Medicine Teaching Program, which has grown into a Geriatric Division, with over twenty sites of care and numerous Geriatric curricula throughout the medical center. Also an accomplished author, Dr. Powers has devoted his academic career to Geriatric Nutrition, Education, and Healthcare Quality and Safety.
Room 116, Judd Hall
3:00 PM to 4:00 PM
WESeminar: Meditation with Dina Kaplan '93, Founder of The Path
Dina will guide us in a half-hour meditation, followed by Q&A, covering three different techniques of meditation: mindfulness, mantra and loving-kindness. Beginning and advanced meditators are welcome to this relaxed gathering for anyone interested in mind training.
Putnam Classroom (114), Boger Hall
3:30 PM to 4:30 PM
WESEMINAR Curatorial Walkthrough: Thesis Art Exhibition
Join Sara Kim '19 and Rachel Rosin '19, student curators of the Thesis Art Exhibition, for a guided curatorial walkthrough led by Ben Chaffee, Associate Director for Visual Art at the Center for the Arts. Curators will share personal highlights of the exhibition and the exhibition-making experience. Reception to follow this session. Co-sponsored by the Center for the Arts and University Relations.
Main Gallery, Ezra & Cecile Zilkha Gallery
4:00 PM to 5:00 PM
WESEMINAR From Disruptions and Disasters
Shanklin 107