Joe Nucci ’16 sure does a lot. From playing on sports teams to participating in Psi U and the Wesleyan Republican Committee, to majoring in CSS, Nucci keeps himself busy—not too busy, however, for some pleasure reading about the decline of the moderate Republican. Our latest WesCeleb, Nucci sat down with The Argus to talk about dressing up as a naughty schoolgirl for Halloween, being brutally honest, and wanting to go on a date with conservative economist and historian Thomas Sowell.
The Argus: Why are you a WesCeleb?
Joseph Nucci: I guess two reasons. First, my last name, Nucci, and any of the endless nicknames that come out of that—like Gucci, Nucc, things like that. Whatever it is, people like to say it, so that’s definitely part of it. I’m also involved with a lot of different things on campus. I played water polo for all four years here, I was on the varsity swim team my first two years, I’ve worked for the Office of Residential Life for two years, I’m in the College of Social Studies. I’m an active member of Psi Upsilon. I’m somewhat involved with the Wesleyan Republican Club. And because of that, I know a lot of different people.
A: Is water polo a very dangerous sport?
JN: It can be. I think the best games I’ve played aren’t really violent and rough under the water, because it’s two teams that know how to play the game, and it’s just good water polo. But it can get pretty physical.
A: How is the CSS major?
JN: It’s been phenomenal. I swear by it. I came to Wesleyan wanting to go to med school and be a psychiatrist, actually—that’s what I envisioned for myself. I really loved Econ 101 and a couple of history courses I ended up getting into, and I went with it.
I really love to write. When I was little, I wanted to be an author, and I remember even when I was really young, I would write stories at my grandma’s house, and she would correct them with me. So the writing aspect of CSS has been really cool, to kind of return to that.
A: Tell me about being a part of WesRepublicans.
JN: It’s interesting. It was started last year, officially, by Emma Sveen [’17]. I think it’s good to have a space for like-minded people on this campus, especially because whenever I am outspoken about a particular issue here, the positive feedback often outweighs the negative—and it’s usually people emailing me, saying, “I completely agree with you,” or “Thank you so much for doing that; I’m too scared to be outspoken like that.” So I think the Wesleyan Republicans [Committee] is really good for allowing dissenting opinion to happen here. We’re all Wesleyan students, and we’re all passionate. I’m really about the debate and the conversation. So hopefully that continues.
A: What are you obsessed with these days?
JN: I’ve definitely really gotten into reading for pleasure again. I used to read a lot of fiction when I was younger, but going to college, and getting older, I’ve gotten into a lot of different types of nonfiction. In college you’re so busy reading for other classes, and in past years I really didn’t have the time. So I’m kind of obsessed with Olin right now—just roaming the stacks.
A: What’s something good that you’ve recently read?
JN: This past summer I read a book called “Rule and Ruin.” It was a history on the decline of moderate Republicans. The author basically says, “In academia, we study the rise of the radical right, but nobody has ever really looked at the decline of the middle.” I think it’s really relevant right now, and it’s very well written.
A: What were you for Halloween?
JN: I had four costumes. I love Halloween—it’s one of my favorite holidays. On Wednesday I was a sperm. I had a flagella and everything. That was pretty funny at the Nest. On Thursday I was a naughty schoolgirl. On Friday I was a Dalmatian, and on Saturday I was Harry Potter.
A: What are some of your pet peeves?
JN: I’m a really brutally honest and direct person, maybe even to a fault, I’d say. Because of that, people who lie or play any sort of games, it really pisses me off. I don’t like hypocrites, either.
A: What are some of your hobbies?
JN: I’m pretty active, so I like to run and swim. Like, T.V., I guess as much as anybody, and hanging out with friends. I also like to write a lot.
A: What do you write?
JN: I don’t know. I’ll write anything. I love writing, because you work through it when you put it on paper, and then you read it back to yourself like, “Hey, I didn’t even know that I knew that.” So [I write] if I’m having a stressful day and I need to process what’s going on in my life. I used to write a lot of poetry, actually. I used to be really into slam poetry, and it’s kind of ironic that I came to Wesleyan and didn’t get involved with slam.
A: Do you keep a diary?
JN: Not an official one. My computer desktop is covered in all these saved documents, so I could maybe piece a loose one together, but I don’t keep a diary.
A: Are you anxious about people stumbling upon those documents?
JN: Not really, just because I am a very honest person, and I think there are very few things that I would write for myself that I really wouldn’t want other people to see. And if I didn’t want people to see it, it would be a technical thing, like I didn’t spend enough time working on it.
A: What is your dream career?
JN: It would be super fun to host a talk show and meet and talk to really interesting people—even a radio-type one.
A: Are you nosey?
JN: Maybe. Maybe some people would interpret me that way. Going back to my brutal honesty and thick skin, what I might consider to be rude or prying is very different than what someone else would consider it to be. I’m a very curious person, but I don’t think I’m judgmental at all.
A: If you had to date a celebrity 60 years or older, who would it be?
JN: That’s crazy. I don’t even know who’s 60 years old, though—know what I mean? When I was younger, my celebrity crush was always Penelope Cruz. Is she 60 yet?
A: Oh, no way.
JN: Yeah, didn’t think so. I’m trying to think of older people that I know. He’s not a celebrity, necessarily, but there’s this economist and historian, Thomas Sowell, who is a Fellow at the Hoover Institute, which is a conservative think tank at Stanford. I’ve seen all of his YouTube clips and read a lot of his books. I’d go on a date with Thomas Sowell. I think we’d have some interesting conversation.
A: Are you attracted to his mind or to his body?
JN: I think it’s really difficult to separate it. Sometimes you’ll see a really beautiful person, just like aesthetically, and you talk to them, and for whatever reason it’s really awkward and horrible. And you just experience, like, a de-rection. At the same time, though, there may be someone who isn’t objectively the most visually appealing person, but they have a personality, or they’re really smart, or something about [their] humor or confidence that really gets [you]. Looks can be really overrated.
A: What’s the most frustrating thing about Wesleyan?
JN: Maybe this is really typical, but the very progressive bias that really permeates the campus. Even the most conservative members of the Wesleyan Republicans, for example, are still very, very liberal. It’s so funny to me when people tell me I’m conservative. Like, no, I’m not. I’m moderate and left-leaning on a lot of issues.
Why I love going to school here is because I’m not necessarily inclined to hold those value judgments or beliefs. I’m constantly refining how I think about the world, and it helps me to re-consider what I thought. And I think it’s too bad that not everybody gets to experience that. I think we’re rated the number one school for social change. I think we’d be that much better at achieving social change when we graduate if we had that practice while we were here.
A: What’s your favorite part of Wesleyan?
JN: Everyone here has a passion for something, and everyone here takes an in-your-face approach to life, which is something you don’t find on other campuses or in the real world. When I have friends come to visit me, they tell me exactly that: everyone here is so willing to talk to you about something real, or something deep.
This interview has been edited for length.