Friday, November 5, 2010

Wesleyan and the Start of the Symposium

I woke up tired from the time difference and the fact that I had to stay up late rewriting my blog post because the WiFi crashed. However, I got to nap and work a bit on the two-hour drive to Middletown, Connecticut. Once at Wesleyan, we grabbed some breakfast at the dining hall before the tour.

There were posters everywhere in there. Several student associations had put up messages arguing against affirmative action, and later when we returned for lunch a different group of students was standing on tables arguing passionately for affirmative action. Another set of posters had to do with raising awareness of sexual violence and promoting a safe atmosphere on campus. The students of Wesleyan are an active bunch, and these are only two examples of the issues they are concerned with.

Although it was a rainy day, I was equipped with three sweaters, and several people were kind enough to let me share their umbrellas throughout the tour. I had heard mixed reviews about the appearance of Wesleyan’s campus, but personally I think it’s simple and pleasant. The clean smell and dewy droplets left everywhere by the rain made it even more beautiful. The tour guide, Spencer, introduced me to a “social justice and anti-oppression program house” called 200 Church Street, the College of Social Science, and “service learning classes,” which piqued my interest. The “service learning classes” which combine community service and traditional academics for class credit (e.g. Prison Education). When we met with Chris Lanser, the admissions officer for Northern California, he explained more about these programs in detail.

Chris explained that 200 Church Street is one of several “program houses” that are options for student housing at Wesleyan. It’s not a co-op, but it provides many opportunities to volunteer around Middletown, brings in campus speakers, and hosts events relating to social justice. Wesleyan’s system of student housing encourages students to live more independently with each year, which I like. Freshmen can choose to live on coed or single-sex floors, with only other freshmen or sophomores as well. Juniors and seniors can live in apartments and houses owned by the university, in small groups.

The College of Social Science appeals to me a lot. Everyone who I talked to about it said that it was extremely challenging, but that only made me more interested. The Colleges at Wesleyan (the others are the College of Letters and the College of the Environment) are their own majors, with about 2 classes per semester for 3 years. The College of Social Science is run through colloquiums and seminars and admits about 25-30 students each year. The Colleges are extremely interdisciplinary by definition – if I’m not mistaken, the required areas of study include history, government, economics, and philosophy. Final exams are very rigorous, giving an oral exam and a 5-page paper every day for a week.

Wesleyan also has an ice rink that’s open from October through March, and nearby Cromwell has a year-round rink with many coaches and figure skating programs, according to Chris. It turns out that his 14-year-old daughter also figure skates like me, and just recently landed her double salchow! As far as I know, Wesleyan is probably one of the only colleges that I am interested in that has such close and convenient connections with figure skating. They also have a relatively high-level marching band (at least from my point of view, having only participated in a small high school marching band), which my other college choices do not have. Barnard and Brown have scatter bands, and Oberlin has a tiny, kind of disorganized marching band.

Below, you can see the description of an interesting piece of art that we came across at one of the Wesleyan student art galleries. There's also a view of the dining hall and a picture of me in front of the admissions office.

Back in Providence at the Leadership Symposium, I was reunited with some of my friends from the Women and Leadership summer course.  We went to dinner where Dean Rose and several young panelists presented their own social justice plans that were in progress. There were even two siblings from Chicago whose goal was to put transparent shields on school buses to make them more aerodynamic and therefore more efficient in terms of gas usage. Students were given time to ask questions of the panelists, and I asked some questions mostly directed towards the GreenShield siblings.

We closed up with some community building exercises, as always. We played some name games and some fun icebreakers, then were free until midnight, when we had to check into our rooms. My roommates are very nice and friendly. Tomorrow I’ll be attending the content-specific workshops and the 2 other workshops that we could choose. I’ll wrap up now, since my roommates are trying to sleep and I have an early morning again tomorrow.


  1. Irene,

    The progress that I'm seeing in the quality of the blogs that both you and Lydia are writing is impressive. Don't get me wrong, Irene, they were always good but they are now so much better.

    The use of photos is always a great enhancement but the way you're both describing things makes for VERY enjoyable reading.

    I especially love the photo of you reaching to point out 'Wesleyan'. A great photo.

    I should have expected that you might check out the skating opportunities nearby any schools you'd be looking at.

  2. Thanks! The writing practice over the summer and the AP Lang class that I'm taking now are probably responsible for the improvement in my writing.

    Skating is important to me, so I'm asking about it at the colleges that I'm visiting, but it's not a make-it-or-break-it factor. It's just a bonus.