Alongside celebrating the student graduates of 2022, the 190th Commencement Ceremony also honors the esteemed individuals, alumni, and faculty whose work and service has educated and inspired so many to action and toward creating a better world.

Congratulations to Our University Prize and Award Winners!

Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching

Every spring, Wesleyan recognizes outstanding faculty with three Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching. Made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, these prizes underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the University’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, as well as current juniors, seniors, and graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of faculty and alumni.

The following faculty will be honored for their excellence in teaching:

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    Frederick M. Cohan

    Professor of Biology

    Frederick M. Cohan, professor of biology, has been a member of Wesleyan’s faculty since 1986, serving as chair of the Department of Biology from 1999 to 2002, and from 2012 to 2013. He has a BS in biology from Stanford University, a PhD from Harvard University in organismic and evolutionary biology—the first awarded PhD from Harvard’s then-new department. Cohan was awarded the Huffington Foundation Chair in the College of the Environment in 2019, a position he continues to hold, and was elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering in 2017. He is also serving as the chair of the Environmental Studies Program for the 2021–22 academic year. Professor Cohan teaches various courses at Wesleyan in evolutionary biology, bioinformatics, and the effects of global change on infectious disease, while continuing to study the origins of diversity in bacteria. Cohan has received numerous grant awards, participated in symposium talks, led workshops, belongs to several professional societies, and has authored and co-authored more than 100 academic papers throughout his career.

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    María Ospina

    Associate Professor of Spanish

    María Ospina, associate professor of Spanish, began teaching in Wesleyan’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures in 2011. She earned a BA in history from Brown University, and an MA and PhD in Hispanic literatures from Harvard University, where she was a college postdoctoral fellow. She has authored numerous academic and nonacademic articles and published her first book, El rompecabezas de la memoria: Literatura, cine y testimonio de comienzos de siglo en Colombia (2019), as well as a collection of short stories, Azares del cuerpo (2017) that has been translated into Italian and English. She has served as chair of the Latin American Studies program since 2021 and has been a member of the Vassar-Wesleyan Madrid Program Consortium since 2016. She directed the Vassar-Wesleyan program in Madrid in 2017–18. And since 2012, Ospina has organized Wesleyan’s annual Hispanic Film Series that showcases Latin American and Spanish film, while also receiving several fund grants to bring visiting Latin American filmmakers and artists to campus. Her courses include: Territories of Dwelling, Desire and Resistance in Latin America, Screening Youth in Contemporary Latin American Film, and Writing Short Fiction in Spanish.

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    Victoria Smolkin

    Associate Professor of History

    Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history, joined Wesleyan’s faculty in 2010. She holds a BA in European literature and history from Sarah Lawrence College, and an MA and PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley. Smolkin’s work has been supported by various fellowships and grants, including Princeton University’s Shelby Cullom Davis Center for Historical Studies, the Social Science Research Council, and the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship. At Wesleyan, she was awarded the Carol A. Baker ’81 Memorial Prize for excellence in teaching and research, and faculty fellowships, including from the College of the Environment and Center for the Humanities. She has been invited to speak at lectures, seminars, and various symposia throughout the world about her studies of Communism, atheism, religion, and ideology in Russia and the former Soviet Union. Her first book, A Sacred Space Is Never Empty: A History of Soviet Atheism (2018), was awarded Honorable Mention for the 2019 Wayne S. Vucinich Book Prize for the most important contribution of Russian, Eurasian, and East European studies in any discipline of the humanities or social sciences. She is currently at work on two projects: “The Wall of Memory: Life, Death, and the Impossibility of History,” and “The World of Tomorrow: Communism, Cosmism, and the Fate of Utopia.”

Honorary Doctoral Degree

Wesleyan University is proud to present honorary degrees to three remarkable individuals whose work exemplifies inclusive engagement. The recipients were chosen on the basis of their significant contributions to civic life in the United States, including the example they set in bringing new voices into the public sphere and spurring others to productive dialogue and action.