In Brief: Summer 2024 news, scholarship, and announcements from around campus

February’s Democracy in Action convening brought together the Wesleyan community and a variety of education, political, and media thought leaders for critical discussions about the roles universities and students can play in defending a vulnerable democracy. Part of the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, the two-day convening featured a variety of panels addressing dimensions of democracy ranging from civic education to art and activism, a media literacy workshop and civic action fair, a rousing keynote from Vanderbilt University’s Michael Eric Dyson, and an expansive conversation between President Michael S. Roth and Anand Giridharadas, a journalist and internationally best-selling author.

Jeanine Basinger—the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, and founding chair of the Film Studies Department whose 50-year teaching career at Wesleyan has had an indelible influence on Hollywood—received the prestigious Robert Osborne Award at the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) Classic Film Festival in April. According to TCM, the award was presented to Basinger “in recognition of her film scholarship, stewardship of notable filmmaker archives, and for her dedication to creating new generations of filmmakers.” Basinger, the namesake of the Jeanine Basinger Center for Film Studies as well as the founder of The Ogden and Mary Louise Reid Cinema Archives, is just the fifth person to receive this honor.  

Student-veteran Desaree Edwards ’25 was one of 60 student leaders selected as Truman Scholars in 2024 by the Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. Truman Scholars receive funding for graduate studies, leadership training, career counseling, and special internship and fellowship opportunities within the federal government. Edwards, who served eight years in the US Navy and is the first Wesleyan student to receive the scholarship since 1998, said she aims to go to law school to become a legal advocate for adult survivors of human trafficking.

Phoebe C. Boyer ’89, P’19, ’23 has been named Wesleyan’s next chair of the Board of Trustees. Boyer, who is currently president and chief executive officer of Children’s Aid, has served as a board member for the last 12 years—most recently as vice chair—and sees her new role as someone who will bridge the variety of constituencies represented by the board. She succeeds John B. Frank ’78, P’12, whose four-year term as chair ended in June 2024.  

Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education (CPE) held its graduation ceremony at the Cheshire Correctional Institution on June 5. The ceremony featured remarks from Khalilah Brown-Dean and US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. Seven CPE students were conferred Bachelor of Liberal Arts degrees from Wesleyan during the celebration.

To foster and promote civic engagement and political advocacy among the student population, the University awarded 13 students Wesleyan Action Grants through the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Also known as the Political Engagement Fund, the grants help offset costs associated with voter registration efforts, issues advocacy initiatives, local and national campaigns, and other projects.  

Khalilah Brown-Dean is Wesleyan’s new Rob Rosenthal Distinguished Professor of Civic Engagement and the new executive director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life. Brown-Dean—an award-winning scholar and author who has devoted her career to studying and teaching about issues ranging from voting rights to mass incarceration—will build on Wesleyan’s distinctive history as a student-focused learning environment by championing the scholar-teacher model and expanding the community center’s mission to lead and respond to society’s great challenges. A generous gift from David Resnick ’81, P’13 and Cathy Klema P’13 will make possible Brown-Dean’s work as executive director. In addition to her roles at Wesleyan, she will continue to host the popular Connecticut Public Radio program and podcast Disrupted 

Professor of Dance Hari Krishnan was among 188 individuals named Class of 2024 Guggenheim Fellows. Krishnan, who specializes in Bharatanatyam, queer dance, and contemporary dance from global perspectives, received a fellowship for his work in choreography.