Fifteen student forums have been approved for the 2020 spring semester, covering topics from the psychological aspects of “Harry Potter” to the history of the indigenous land that the University resides on. These pass/fail (CR/U) student-led courses are offered by 10 different departments as a full- or half-credit class.
Leaders of the new student forums were inspired to teach their peers for a variety of reasons. Belen Morote ’22 and Jaylene Delgado ’22, who are leading “Un Sabor de America Latina: Culture in the Kitchen,” came up with the idea for their forum after having conversations about meaningful ways to unite the Latinx community at Wesleyan.
“We wanted to bring the Latinx community together and strengthen the ties to our similar heritages through cooking and discussion,” Morote and Delgado wrote in an email to The Argus. “Our main goal for this forum is to bring unity among Wesleyan students through culture and cuisine.”
For Avi Friederich ’22, the lack of coursework at the University related to military history led him to create the Government student forum “The History of War: From Athens to Afghanistan.”
“The idea partially manifested itself out of frustration, as I scrambled through the course listings semester-after-semester and I couldn’t find a course dedicated to military history,” Friederich wrote in an email to The Argus. “Also, the history courses that I have taken at Wes only sparsely touched on warfare, thus I thought to myself: why not take matters into my own hands.”
Alessandra Viegas ’20 and Emily Chackerian ’20, who are co-leading “Introduction to Playwriting,” wanted to make playwriting classes more accessible for students who have not been able to take the University’s introductory theater courses.
“Intro Playwriting is notoriously hard to get into and we believe playwriting should be open to all students of varying experience levels and academic backgrounds,” Viegas and Chackerian wrote in an email to The Argus. “We also realized that many of the theater classes on campus choose to teach canonical plays that do not speak to a contemporary audience. We want our class to introduce students to many kinds of playwrights, writing styles, and allow them to experiment with their writing.”
Maggie Rothberg ’20 is leading “Rewrite, Revolt, Repeat: Translating Ancient Drama Through Performance 1” as part of her senior thesis project, which will create an original translation of the ancient Greek comedy “Assemblywomen.” Rothberg, along with Joanna Gerber ’22, Rowan Hair ’20, and William Mahoney ’21, wants to build a production of the play that puts it in conversation with the modern world.
“Most of the major published English translations [of “Assemblywomen”], all of which are written by men, have sought to faithfully preserve the text as a historical artifact,” Rothberg wrote in an email to The Argus. “For this project, we want to reframe it through a contemporary feminist lens in order to generate a new, live theatrical event.”
Many of the forums have seen a strong interest from students, with Rothberg needing to expand her forum in order to take everyone interested in participating.
“We had to open two sections of the forum, one for designers and one for actors because one section would not be enough to accommodate the 30+ people participating in the production!” Rothberg said.
Luke Green ’20 and Mercedes Reichner ’20, who are leading “Psychology of the Wizarding World” together, also received an abundance of applications for their forum.
“The interest in the forum has honestly been a little overwhelming,” Green wrote in an email to The Argus. “We knew it would be popular but we only have 15 spots and we had to turn so many people away.”
Faced with so many applicants, Green and Reichner focused on accepting students who did not have past experience with the series.
“Deep down Mercedes and I cherish this story and want as many people to read them as possible, so we prioritized accepting people who had never read them before,” Green wrote.
Similarly, Viegas and Chackerian, who gave priority to underclassmen and students of color when receiving applications, see their forum as a chance to offer students a different avenue into theater by studying a variety of newer plays.
“Theater is not just for the elite,” wrote Viegas and Chackerian. “It is for all of us, and we’re just trying to open the door for other students at Wesleyan to find ways to see and tell stories that are too often forgotten or simply not given a chance because of the historically exclusive nature of theater both past and present.”
All the forum leaders share a passion for the subjects they will explore throughout the semester, and hope to share that enjoyment with their students.
“I hope they have fun!” Green wrote. “I want them to learn from one another and think about the messages that JK Rowling tried to convey and how they relate to our lives. I want people to be creative in how they analyze this story and how different ideas of psychology, race, class, representation, etc. are present throughout the story.”
Jiyu Shin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tanvi Punja can be reached at email@example.com.