Celebrating Students ’13: Kaitlin DeWilde

            This past summer, I decided to take a bit of a risk, and I spent six weeks learning how to take a bucket shower, haggle incredibly cheap prices in a foreign language, and, hopefully, a little bit of something to write in my senior thesis. On June 9, I got on a plane and headed out to Sierra Leone, to my parents’ great concern. Sierra Leone is a small country in West Africa, famous for its diamonds, child soldiers, and the bloody conflict that razed across it from 1991-2002. Although the conflict has ended, Sierra Leone still resides close to the bottom of every global list involving money and fiscal prosperity.

            But I did not entirely think about what colossal poverty would mean when I got on a plane leaving London Heathrow, heading out to a new continent, on my own, with people I had never met before awaiting my arrival. In retrospect, it was a bit stupid; if I had not gotten incredibly lucky and been adopted by a generous local family, I would have had a much rougher time. But even with a family that cooked for me, took care of me, and introduced me to more friends than I could talk to, I still had some immense challenges to overcome. In the space of six weeks, I was bit by a dog (yes, I got my rabies shots), infected by a parasite (thank god for cheap medical care), and had about $350 stolen. Over there, that’s an awful lot of money, and my friends and family were absolutely floored at the amount. Every day, I met new challenges, from learning a language, to getting yelled at every time I walked down a street, to being squeezed into the back of a rickety bus and praying that it managed to avoid the open gutters.

            But it’s not all bad. I met some of the most incredible people I will ever meet and built relationships that I think will last me the rest of my life. Oh, and I did the research for my senior thesis. Even though that was the salient reason for flying across the Atlantic, I had so many intense experiences in Sierra Leone that academics can start to feel like a detail. I did forty interviews with native Sierra Leoneans aged 18-28, trying to start gauging the effects of growing up with omnipresent violence on social and ethical development. I asked questions like “How would you define the word “victim?” and “Do you think war is necessary or inevitable?”

            I don’t yet know what academic knowledge I’ve gleaned from this trip – the many requisite hours for a senior thesis over the next year will reveal that. But I do know that I learned how to wash my clothes by hand, I learned what foods to eat when you’re sick and without medicine, and I learned a new, stronger definition of what constitutes a relationship and binds together a community.

Celebrating Students ’13: Davenport Grant Recipients

Congratulations to all those 2013’ers who are the recipients of the Davenport Grant, which funds summer research in public affairs, and primarily in the social sociences. These funds are made available through a gift to Wesleyan from the Surdna Foundation in honor of Frenderick Morgan Davenport, Class of 1889, and Edith Jefferson Davenport, Class of 1897. 

Grant recipients for the Summer of 2012 are Zain Alam, Dahlia Azran, Katya Botwinick, Emma Caccamo, Sarah Cassel, Sarah Chrystler, Aria Danaparamita, Marjorie Dodson, Catherine Doren, Jacob Eichengreen, Alexandra Ellerbeck, Alexandra Galef, Maxwell Hellman, Charlotte Heyrman, Stephanie Huezo, Kim Ingebritsen, Leah Koenig, Ka-Ya Lee, Kathryn McConnell, Joseph O’Donnell, Agueda Ortega, Gavin Swee, McNeil Taylor, Nandita Vijayaraghavan, Elizabeth Waugh, Elizabeth Williams, Bingxin Wu, and  Catherine Zhou. 

Again, congratulations!

Celebrating Students 2013: Corey Guilmette


Congratulations to Corey Guilmette ’13, this year’s recipient of the Peter Morgenstern-Clarren Award.  Corey is being recognized for his work as chair of the Wesleyan Committee for Investor Responsibility. 

The Peter Morgenstern-Clarren ’03 Social Justice Award was created in memory of Peter Morgenstern-Clarren who pursued social justice while a student at Wesleyan.  We are grateful to Dr. Hadley Morgenstern-Clarren and The Honorable Pat Morgenstern-Clarren for their generosity in sponsoring this award that honors their son’s activism for the public good.

Celebrating Students ’13: Martin Kafina

I spent my summer interning with Yale Professor Nihal deLanerolle, who also teaches Neuroscience courses at Wesleyan.  After taking his class, “Functional Anatomy of the Brain,” I became interested in his research involving temporal lobe epilepsy and worked in his lab this past summer at the neurosurgery department of the Yale University School of Medicine.  I worked with a rodent population to localize and measure the affects of cellular damage from temporal lobe epilepsy.  In particular I learned about staining and subsequent microscopic examination techniques that can be performed on hippocampal sections to analyze the processes involved in inhibiting the physiologic effects of epilepsy.

 About 40 million people have epilepsy, and medical or surgical treatment is only effective in 45%. The pathology is not fully understood, but a history of febrile seizures in early childhood is common in temporal lobe epilepsy.  There seems to be neuronal loss in the hippocampus and reorganization of neural circuits.  Hopefully, elucidating certain molecular pathways involved with temporal lobe epilepsy will give us a handle on future treatments.       
Subletting an apartment on Yale’s campus in downtown New Haven, I had a change of scenery from my hometown of Lincoln, MA.  During my 8 week stay, I explored the city, met new people, and trained for the winter swim season.  Overall, life in New Haven and my work at Yale was a great experience.  It showed me the dedication of the Neuroscientists in the lab, and reinforced my belief that I made the right decision in choosing the Neuroscience and Behavior major at Wesleyan.

Celebrating Students ’13: Mark Nakhla

Expression is an integral part of behavioral health treatment. The doctors at Westchester Medical Center struggled to get the children there to express their ideas and feelings across; some were physically unable to do so, while others were unwilling. I worked in the Behavioral Health Center at this hospital, and after deliberating with my boss, I started an expressive therapies class every Tuesday.  There was only one slight catch – there was very little talking allowed.  The class was in American Sign Language. I worked with young children between the ages of 4 and 13, none of whom were deaf or had known any sign language previously. The idea was that if they weren’t willing to vocalize their feelings, maybe they would sign them instead.

The idea seemed really interesting to me, but I was unsure how successful it would be.  Luckily, it worked much better than I could have imagined. After I spent a day teaching the kids different signs, we’d have a group session and they would sign to me what they were feeling that day.  Then they would talk about it if they felt comfortable enough doing so. It wasn’t always easy for them, but using sign to break the perceived communication barrier really helped facilitate the discussions.

Eventually, the kids really looked forward to seeing me; I wasn’t just a psychiatry intern with a fancy badge on the medical team – I was a friendly face that they could joke around with and share ideas and feelings with. The comfort the kids felt allowed me to help them in ways that the psychiatrists and therapists could not. They now had a skill that they could revert to whenever they felt like they couldn’t talk to any of the people around them.

Sign Language gave these kids the gift of expression. It’s also given me the same gift for one of my hobbies now is signing songs. I perform songs in ASL in schools around Connecticut and record videos and put them on YouTube for both deaf and hearing people to enjoy. It’s quickly become a passion of mine. Expression is key. It’s helped the kids at the hospital get their feelings out, and helps me portray music to people who cannot hear.

Note:  Check out Mark’s YouTube at www.youtube.com/pacersfan191.  –D.B.

Celebrating Students ’13: Grace Asleson

When thinking about internships for the summer, I thought I’d try a career that many sociology majors pursue—public relations. It has a nice ring, doesn’t it? Relating to the public. Professional schmoozing. I thought it’d be simple—I’d go to parties, eat a few fancy crackers with tiny orange egg toppings, and chat with people in Brooks Brothers cardigans.  

That’s what I thought in May.  Sixteen weeks later, I had a different story to tell. I can safely say that I did not attend any work-related parties, ate zero crackers with tiny orange eggs, and was seldom surrounded by Brooks Brothers. I did, however, get an invaluable glimpse of what life may be like once I leave Wesleyan, which is, in so many words, H-A-R-D.

I worked twelve to thirteen hour days at a one of the world’s largest public relations firms based in San Francisco. I built media lists, called reporters, researched competitors, created media monitoring reports, compiled clipbooks, participated in client phone calls, and met with people who mentored me within the company. And all of that time, I thought I would be wearing pencil skirts and collecting fancy ballpoint pens.

The PR world was tedious and stressful, but above all, it was eye opening in wonderful and surprising ways. Every day, I’d enter our downtown office to a room buzzing with excited young account executives, high on coffee and fresh creativity. I got to see brainstorming in action outside a liberal arts setting—I never realized that my seminar classes could turn into seminar-style meetings. I never realized that a Wesleyan-like environment could be found in even the most corporate of settings. I never realized that my voice could be taken seriously even as a lowly intern.  I was told at my internship that I should take my job into my own hands—to focus on what I love and try to make that what I do the most. What I found that I loved the most was the electric energy that is ignited at Wesleyan every day—an energy that can be brought to any career in any setting.


Celebrating Students ’13: Alex Kuwada

This past summer, I spent seven weeks on the campus of Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, Massachusetts working for the Northfield Mount Hermon Upward Bound Summer Academy. Upward Bound is a federally-funded educational program that serves low-income, first-generation college-bound students. The summer academy I interned at brought in students from high schools in Holyoke, Springfield, and Franklin County, Massachusetts for an intensive six-week program in an academic and residential setting.  I was a dorm staff member in the male dorm and was the lead teacher of two classes, sophomore geometry and independent study in sophomore Algebra 1, among various other roles such as a tutor during study hall and the program photographer. The internship presented me with new experiences and challenges, especially as the only teacher in a mathematics classroom of 12 high school students. I enjoyed every minute of the six weeks the students were on campus. From seeing the proverbial light bulb switch on when a student mastered a math concept to playing board games with the students in the dorm lounge, the students lit up each of my days, while I felt like I was making a positive impact in fostering their growth as scholars.                                                                           Alex, second from right

While the Upward Bound Summer Academy gave me invaluable educational and leadership experience in a positive and enjoyable atmosphere, the value of the program to its students is unparalleled. These incoming high school sophomores, juniors, and seniors willingly and enthusiastically went through a rigorous academic and residential program during their summer. Their commitment to scholarly achievement and to paving their way to a bright future was inspiring, and it is all made possible by the NMH Upward Bound program, which continues throughout the school year through tutoring and activities, and provides the students with priceless rewards. One day during the summer academy, various NMH Upward Bound Summer Academy alumni returned to share their experiences post-graduation from the program. The alumni, however, did not dwell on their current achievements, but on the skills they gained from and the doors that were opened to them through Upward Bound.

This summer, I gained skills in teaching and counseling students, but equally importantly I gained insight into the importance and value of the Upward Bound program. The Upward Bound program as a whole is at risk due to major cuts in federal budget cuts. More than focusing on my experience, I would like to stress the importance of this program to its scholars and to raise awareness of its uncertain future. The program song ends with this message: “So let’s rise to the occasion with each dawning of the sun– As we strive for the future and the best in everyone.” The Upward Bound program gives the opportunity to its inspiring and motivated scholars to rise to the occasion and truly to find the best in themselves.

Celebrating Students ’13: Alanna Greco

Lights! Camera! Gender binary?  This summer I plunged into the depths of the entertainment industry of Los Angeles by interning at a production company and a talent agency.  While any normal, sane company would appreciate the free labor of a bright, charismatic, humble college student like myself, good internships were hard to find. While I alternately considered working all summer to earn money to invest (read: buy shoes), my mother gently tried to coax me into vying for an internship as I might ‘learn something’. (She’d tricked me with that one before. Jewish camp? Not my idea.)  Then, one day, it struck me–my major has a focus on “Gender and the Media.” Was the production of television shows and movies not this so-called media? Was selecting the very people who will represent and transfer cultural ideals and norms through the screen, both big and small, not this ‘media’ thing as well? And these same people must identify with some part of the gender spectrum. Gender? Check. Media? Check. Academically relevant? Check. Proud mother? I think so!

In my internship, I got to sit in the writers’ room for the SyFy show “Haven,” watch pilots from every channel for this Fall season, and meet (more like ogle) celebrities on the set of the film “Sexy Evil Genius.”  I was so caught up in reading spec scripts, meeting industry professionals and screening dailies (the uncut, unedited film from a day of shooting) that I had to step back and recognize that I was living the gender dynamic.  Being inside this frame of reference was skewing my ability to analyze the genderfication in these spec scripts, the people working in my office, and the very television shows I was “helping” produce. With this realization, I was able to analyze and reflect upon its significance. My bosses generously allowed me to interview them, and with supplemental research I came to the conclusion that gender discrimination pertaining to the production aspects of the industry are largely based on subconscious association rather than conscious consideration of gender. This insight has aided my further study in my academic concentration, “Gender and the Media.”

I returned back to Wes this year feeling as if I truly had had an academically-enriching experience this summer.

Celebrating Students ’13: Genevieve Aniello

I spent my summer interning at the New York University Infant Cognition and Communication Laboratory (NICCL).  The first two weeks I was terrified of making a single typing error as I was warned any incorrect data would completely ruin any scientific findings and all the work the lab had done so far.  As the weeks went on, I realized that this was not exactly the case.  However, I did begin to understand the urgency of being unbelievable mindful of every move.  In our weekly meetings, during which we often discussed the reasoning behind the studies, I realized that the foundational research done with infants at NICCL is necessary in understanding any cognitive abnormalities that are diagnosed later in development, such as Autism.

The other four interns and I spent each day preparing the schedule of the infants coming in to be run in the studies, the study rooms, and paperwork, such as parental permission and general information.  We were also able to act in studies using the “violation of expectation” method, which examines the subject’s ability to understand cause and effect.  For example, a scene would be acted out in which the obvious outcome would not occur, and the subject’s reaction is recorded.  We also transferred and processed video, coded data, and scheduled infants to come into the lab for the following weeks.  Interning at NICCL was extremely hands-on and an eye-opening experience into the way that every published study we read in our psychology courses comes to fruition.  As I continue to explore the psychology major at Wesleyan, the two months I spent at NICCL are already proving to be an invaluable experience.

Celebrating Students ’13: Taryn Murray

I spent my as an intern at the Pancreas Center at Columbia University Medical Center.  Part of my time was spent on the more administrative aspects of a hospital.  For example, I Collaborated with the Administrative Director of the Pancreas Center to develop new tools to enhance the patient experience, created a personalized patient brochure for the Pancreas Center’s new marketing initiative, and conducted an internal audit for multiple research trials at the Pancreas Center to maintain compliance with the IRB regulations.  However, I was able to spend some of my time there shadowing Dr. John Chabot (the Vice President of Columbia Doctors, Chief of the Division of GI/Endocrine Surgery, and the Executive Director of the Pancreas Center).  I had the opportunity to scrub in for multiple surgeries, including a distal pancreatectomy and a Whipple (the Whipple involves removal of the head of the pancreas, the duodenum, a portion of the stomach, as well as the gallbladder and a portion of the bile duct).  The Whipple that I watched him perform lasted fourteen hours, though I only viewed the first eight.  Watching Dr. Chabot perform surgery was truly inspiring.  His passion was contagious and it further confirmed my desire to pursue a career in medicine.