All potential alumni-elected trustees were asked to submit answers to the following questions for the Nominating Committee to review when selecting the 2014 slate.
- How has your Wesleyan experience directly contributed to your personal and/or professional success since graduation?
- If you were to describe Wesleyan to a prospective student and his/her family, what three aspects would you choose to highlight?
- What makes you particularly qualified to serve as a Trustee?
J. Gordon Cooney '81
Wesleyan has played a significant role in my personal and professional life. Faculty members, such as Dick Boyd, George Creeger, Andy Szegedy-Maszek and Clem Vose, challenged me to analyze and think both critically and creatively. I met students from different backgrounds, with different views, who helped me to become more open minded. I formed friendships that have stood the test of time. And, like many Wesleyan students, I had the good fortune to experience campus leadership, in my case on the lacrosse field, at Psi U, and with regard to alumni-relations activities.
I did not fully understand the benefits of my Wesleyan experience until after I graduated. I now know that Wesleyan helped forge a willingness to consider matters from all angles; a commitment to give back to the community; and the experience of leadership that has contributed to my professional and civic activities. I also know that my relationships with my Wesleyan friends are different. For example, when I see my Wesleyan friends--all of whom are accomplished in one way or another--no one feels the need to boast of their achievements, and instead we connect on a more substantial level.
Finally, I met my wife, Gretchen (’83), at Wesleyan. Although we did not marry until years after we graduated, we share a commitment to the University, to the friendships we formed while in Middletown, and to preserving and strengthening a very special institution that helped to shape who we are today.
Wesleyan combines the intellectual rigor and undergraduate focus of a small liberal arts college with the curricular breadth of a large university. An energetic teaching faculty challenges and engages students in small classes and dynamic programs, and students participate actively in campus life through a broad range of activities, including athletics, the arts, and affinity groups. Wesleyan benefits from a student body that is intellectually curious, highly creative, willing to challenge conventional wisdom, and unafraid to take on new challenges, even if those challenges carry a risk of failure.
Wesleyan is not for everybody. It is not for the timid. It is not for the student who is unwilling to consider, or be confronted by, competing views. And it is not the choice for one who wants their college education spoon-fed or who seeks a comfortable four-year ride. Wesleyan is ideal for the curious student who wants to be challenged; who seeks to be exposed to different ideas; and who chooses to be actively engaged in their community.
Wesleyan has been a special place for me since I set foot on campus in the fall of 1977. I respect Wesleyan’s past and am excited about its future. Through my governance experience with other not-for-profit organizations--including schools--I understand the challenges facing institutions like Wesleyan, and I appreciate the hard work and commitment that is expected of a Trustee. I would hope that my passion for Wesleyan and my fiduciary experience with other organizations would help me to serve the University, if elected.
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Lawrence "Muzzy" Rosenblatt '87
Wesleyan alumni, and the Wesleyan experience, are unique. We have collectively accomplished much, but it is the qualities of who we are that defines and distinguishes us. Wes alumni are the caring and generous, the open-minded and thoughtful, the creative…the confident. This truth is evident in us all, regardless of resume: parent and politician, educator and executive, scientist and social entrepreneur, artist and academic, and so much more. This fundamental truth of who we are derives significantly from our Wesleyan years. At Wes, we were pushed outside our comfort zone, to engage and embrace diverse ideas and diverse people. We were encouraged to experiment, take risks, and find our voice, all while contributing to the harmony of our campus and Middletown community. There is no better preparation for being citizens of our ever shrinking world. That may explain why Wes alumni seemingly are everywhere, and wherever we are, we are there for each other.
What made this possible for us is what makes Wes exceptional, to this day. Wesleyan believes in those it serves with absolute confidence and a depth of conviction. It sees in all of us not just what we have done, but our potential for what we can – and will – do. I was a young adult who found my confidence and my voice at Wesleyan. At BRC, where I’ve worked for 14 years and in government where I worked for over a decade, I find myself trying to re-create these values, investing and believing in those who others have abused and abandoned; seeing their potential, creating the opportunities for them to achieve it, and inspiring them to do so.
Now I’d like to come back to where it all started, where we found our identity, and help ensure that the opportunity we had continues and is preserved for the future. I not only understand and appreciate this responsibility; I know what it takes to make it a reality. I’ve created, turned-around and led large nonprofit and governmental organizations, improving mission-driven outcomes, while maintaining fiscal stability. I’ve served on numerous advisory and charitable organization boards, including Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship and the Wes 25th Reunion committee. I also mentor and advise students and alumni, lending support to WEServe; WAPPS (Wesleyan Alumni in Philanthropy and Public Service); the Wesleyan Career Center; January WEShadow Program; Management Leadership Conference; and more.
I would be honored to serve as a Wesleyan trustee, and proud to have arrived there having been elected by my fellow alumni.
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Saeyun Lee '93
Wesleyan University is a truly exceptional institution because it encourages students to push intellectual and personal boundaries, promotes diversity of thought and experiences, and provides access to expansive academic and extracurricular opportunities. My years at the University – four as an undergraduate and three as an employee in the Office of Admission – have made me the woman I am today, and my appreciation for the institution has only increased over time.
At Wesleyan, I had the freedom to pursue new academic disciplines; as a philosophy major, I learned how to think, write, and actively direct my own learning. These skills have been critically important since I left the University, and they will stay with me for the rest of my life.
With regard to my social and emotional growth, I attribute the exhilarating journey that I experienced to the unique environment at Wesleyan. The students, faculty members, administrators, and other community members with whom I learned, laughed, celebrated, and at times, struggled – influenced every aspect of my identity for the better. I had the opportunity to explore my cultural identity as a Korean American and Asian Pacific American woman and also as a member of a vibrant community of color. I gained an awareness of how to be a valuable contributor to my immediate community as well as the community beyond the boundaries of our campus, and the remarkable individuals at Wesleyan opened my eyes to new possibilities.
With regard to my professional growth, the lessons that I learned while working in the Office of Admission established the foundation for a twenty-year career in the education sector. As an admission officer, I spoke with prospective students, family members, and guidance counselors in high schools across the country, and I deeply appreciated the opportunity to increase students’ access to postsecondary educational experiences. But as I traveled from one school to the next, I saw stark and painful disparities among schools and districts and witnessed their impact on students; for every student with whom I spoke, there were literally hundreds of students who would never have access to a Wesleyan education. I have had the opportunity to execute different types of responsibilities as a researcher, provider of technical assistance to states and school districts, faculty member, Policy Director in the Executive Office of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and as the Senior Assistant Commissioner for Academic Affairs in the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education – but my passion for closing achievement and attainment gaps that disproportionately affect students of color is the direct result of my work as an admission officer, and those experiences continue to drive the work that I do every day on behalf of students and families.
As an alumni-elected trustee, I will utilize my twenty years of experience in the education sector to ensure that all current and future Wesleyan students – especially those who may have not had consistent access to high-quality educational opportunities – will have transformative educational experiences that will enable them to achieve college, career, and lifelong success. I am deeply committed to supporting University-wide efforts to successfully and strategically achieve short-, mid-, and longer-term institutional goals. I am excited about the future of our institution, and honored to be included on the ballot for alumni-elected trustees.
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Andrew Calica '01
Wesleyan ingrained in me the importance of contributing to knowledge. In my law practice, I have published articles and developed presentations that are intended to advance the discussion concerning a particular subject matter. The importance of teaching is another legacy from my Wesleyan experience. Mentoring younger attorneys is a part of my professional life in which I take great pride. Leadership is a further core principle linked to my Wesleyan experience. Whatever success I have enjoyed in the law is the result of taking ownership of the matters on which I work, and by focusing on the needs and broader interests of the client. My service on the Wesleyan Student Assembly, particularly as its president, helped teach me how to operate within an institution, lead a team, and to consider the needs of different constituencies. My Wesleyan experience gave me group problem solving skills that have been invaluable in my professional career. My work on the Student Judicial Board helped me learn about group dynamics and how to make decisions under challenging circumstances.
At Wesleyan, you become part of a community; evolving engagement with the University follows you through student life to your alumni career. Wesleyan is a thought leader. Innovative programs like the College of the Environment marry liberal arts education with policy and societal change. A Wesleyan graduate has the skills necessary to think critically (and in many instances globally) about a range of problems, to appreciate the power of writing (and teaching) and to work collaboratively with those from different backgrounds and differing viewpoints. Those skills are rooted in the curriculum and the rigor that Wesleyan demands of its students. I also believe the programmatic importance of the Wesleyan Career Center (CC) cannot be overstated. From internships to interview skills, the CC helps students transition what they have learned at Wesleyan to their careers. Wesleyan is a place where people form lasting relationships. There are opportunities to do research with engaging professors, to interact with talented people from across a spectrum of backgrounds and viewpoints. The same student at Wesleyan can major in the sciences, play a sport, direct a play and serve classmates on the student assembly.
My experience as vice-chair of the Wesleyan Fund, co-chair of my fifth and tenth year reunions, and work as a class agent has provided me with insight into the campaign, the University’s fund and friend-raising needs, and the interests and concerns of the alumni. Working closely with Wesleyan Fund staff, I helped lead my class to record fundraising for a tenth reunion. I am committed to the long-term success and financial health of the University. Wesleyan faces complex competitive and financial challenges; I am confident that I can help craft pragmatic strategies for meeting those challenges. I am well-versed in the goals of the campaign and how those goals match the core mission and commitments of the University. My strength as a volunteer in fund and friend-raising will be valuable in this next period.
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Sohana Punithakumar '04
My housemate from Wes recently texted me: “you’re like the American dream.” I nearly responded with something glib, until I thought about it. My family moved to the United States to escape a civil war in Sri Lanka. We didn’t have much, and I benefited from Wesleyan’s considerable financial aid. At Wesleyan, I found peers who helped me appreciate my heritage, which created the foundation for my professional pursuits.
Throughout my career as a marketing professional, strategy analyst, and development consultant, I have built expertise in strategic communication, project management, research and analysis. Yet, it is my ability to understand and succinctly translate the needs of key stakeholders that has most influenced my career success. I developed and honed this combination of skills and instincts at Wesleyan. Consistently confronted by people with opposing viewpoints, Wesleyan taught me to evaluate ideas without judgment so that I could develop actionable solutions to problems.
Attending Wesleyan is at once humbling and empowering. You are surrounded by people whose excellence is intimidating and inspiring, helping you to explore and cultivate your own sense of what’s extraordinary. Embedded in Wesleyan’s ethos is a reminder that our privilege comes with responsibility. It is incumbent upon us to make our world better, regardless of our chosen discipline. Wesleyan is a residential learning community, a place of perpetual enrichment. With Wes students and alumni, the conversation can seamlessly migrate from entertainment to politics to the arts. This is part of what creates the palpable energy of the Wes community.
While at Wes, I twice served as a student trustee and as vice president and president of the WSA. I understand how general sessions and subcommittees work and the importance of not simply reading the board books, but also doing auxiliary research. I was an active participant in discussions and a master planning session on residential learning communities. I would bring this history and knowledge to my role as an alumni-elected trustee. Now, a decade later – after working in New York, Sri Lanka and Seattle, in boutique companies and multinational corporations – I am all the more equipped to make my three-year term productive. I believe that I can be a powerful voice for young alumni, but especially West Coast alumni and alumni of color.
I have successfully worked in multiple industries and disciplines because I am able to get up to speed quickly, bring a fresh perspective, and ask the right questions. My marketing and PR expertise make me acutely aware of potential perceptual challenges and how they can be overcome when problem solving. I am also sensitive to the notion of a vocal minority and would actively seek out opinions and engagement to create more robust solutions. Most importantly, Wesleyan has given me so much, and I would be grateful for the opportunity to repay the debt.
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Kennedy Odede '12
When I was eighteen, I had a job in a factory where I performed hard labor—dangerous work-for $1 per day. Without Wesleyan, this was going to be my entire life. As a young man living in Africa’s largest slum with big dreams but no access to further education, Wesleyan took a tremendous chance on me. I grew up knowing that education was the only way my life would change, and the only path that would enable me to truly transform communities like mine. However, because my family could barely simply survive, school was often out of the question. At 23-years-old my life changed forever: against every odd, I was offered a full scholarship and admission as a freshman to Wesleyan University.
At Wesleyan, the community rallied to support me—a nontraditional student to say the least. Professors, students, alumni—everyone believed in me and wanted me to succeed. This was the first time in my life I felt valued. The gift of my Wesleyan education empowered me to work to return this same opportunity and dignity to thousands of others. I started Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO) in my freshman dorm room with another student, who later became my wife (Wesleyan truly changed every aspect of my life!). Shining Hope grew because the entire Wesleyan community embraced it. Without Wesleyan’s support of me, and the community’s involvement in the movement we are building, we would not be where we are today. SHOFCO will serve over 60,000 people this year and is rapidly expanding across Kenya’s urban slums. We are building a movement to tackle the growing issue of urban poverty, and Wesleyan gave me the tools to make this a reality. I don’t feel that this is something that I have done—this is something that Wesleyan enabled me to do.
I speak about Wesleyan all of the time—to everyone—because what Wes did for me defines the very highest potential of a liberal arts education. Wesleyan is a place that takes big risks—and allows you to do the same. At Wesleyan, students dare to hope, and this then creates more hope in the world. Wesleyan produces thinkers and dreamers who say “yes” to new possibilities, to challenges, and to differences. Finally, what sets Wesleyan apart is the kindness embedded within our deeply entrenched values of community. This is the Wesleyan that I would describe to any potential student or family.
Wesleyan has given me so much—and it is truly important to me that throughout my life I try to repay my incredible debt to Wesleyan. If given a chance to serve as a member of the Board of Trustees, I will draw on my experience and connections to ensure Wesleyan continues to be an institution that takes chances to engage with the world. Wesleyan proves again and again that it does not matter where you come from—only where you want to go. I want to dedicate myself to ensure Wesleyan can continue to open its doors to students from all walks of life. It is this culture of compassion and curiosity that makes Wesleyan unique. As a trustee, my own experience will allow me to lend unique perspective along with heartfelt and dedicated service.
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