c/o Elena Brennan

c/o Elena Brennan

This week, The Argus sat down with one of the most influential students on campus. Orly Meyer ’24 chatted about being this year’s Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) president, and also math, the College of Letters (COL), and letting boredom propel her into leadership. Plus, we finally sus out the event that gave both Meyer and myself COVID-19 in Spring 2021, sending us into rooms at the Inn at Middletown across the hall from each other.

The Argus: So, first and foremost, why do you think you were nominated to be a WesCeleb?

Orly Meyer: I’ve been hearing that I can’t be a WesCeleb because I wrote for The Argus for a long time, so I was surprised to know that I can now be a WesCeleb. I guess I’m a friend of The Argus, and my housemate Anne [Kiely ’24] told me about it—that was exciting.

A: Obviously, you’ve been a part of the WSA pretty much for your whole time at Wesleyan. What made you initially want to be on it, way back when? 

OM: I was really bored. It was the pandemic. I didn’t run in the first-year election; I applied for an appointment position. I was a new student with not a lot going on, and I wanted a way to spend my time in a meaningful way. So I applied and got on and then just kept doing it because it’s a great way to spend your time helping your peers and learning about the school.

A: And within your time on the WSA, you’ve played a major role for a long time, from [Student Life Committee] chair to now president. What has that meant for you, and what are some of the things that you’re proudest of that have happened there?

OM: I’ve spent a significant amount of my time on the WSA in a leadership position, so the majority of my time has been helping other students with projects. I’ve had my own initiatives, which are rewarding in themselves, but I think I’ve had the most impact and found the most reward in helping other senators work through their projects and connect them with administrators or student groups so that they can work on what they’re passionate about. I [most] enjoy helping other people follow through on their ideas.

A: What are you most excited about for this coming year of being WSA president? 

OM: It’s been weird. I wasn’t at the first two general assembly meetings because of Jewish holidays, so I’m just excited to get to know the rest of the general assembly and continue strengthening our relationships with other groups on campus.

I think last year we kind of began that work in connecting with the [American Association of University Professors] and student advocacy organizations, but this year I want to focus a lot [on] spreading the wealth of WSA resources in terms of all of our connections to the administration and institutional power. It was intended to be for WSA senators to represent their student body, but I think it can have an even wider impact if we are getting other people who are excited and involved actually at all those meetings, so it’s not just senators.

A: What drew you to the COL and math majors? 

OM: I knew about the COL coming into Wesleyan, and I was very intrigued. I’ve always been a big reader, and the whole Great Books curriculum idea was very exciting to me. It just seemed like a perfect opportunity to get to approach all of these amazing works of literature and philosophy with the guidance of really strong faculty in a way that, if I tried to read all this stuff on my own, I would have desperately failed. I [also] love the idea of getting to develop a community around a shared love of books and talking about those ideas.

For math, it’s just something that I think is so much fun! I was interested in math in high school and took advanced classes there, so I started my first year taking math classes at Wesleyan. It’s only an eight- or nine-credit major, so it’s not a significant chunk of my coursework, and I’m not taking grad courses— I’m doing just the very standard math major. But it’s also a great community. It’s very collaborative—in most of my classes, with every problem set you’re working with your classmates. I have one friend in the major who we’ve taken almost every class together, so every week I see her, we do our problem sets, and that’s a lot of fun. But there’s nothing better than the feeling of writing a good math proof and being confident in your answer. 

A: Are there any particular classes or professors that have significantly influenced your time at Wesleyan?

OM: The spring of my first year, I took a course on the Divine Comedy [“The Cosmos of Dante’s ‘Comedy’” (COL234)]. I had taken other COL and philosophy classes in the fall, but they were more introductory and with a lot of other first years. That was my first class where I was surrounded by people who knew a lot about what they were talking about and were really invested and interested in the text. So that was a confirmation that I wanted to do COL and read books in that way.

In the math department, I’ve taken three courses with [Associate Professor of Mathematics Felipe A.] Ramirez, who’s also my advisor. He’s just so wonderful and excited about math and makes the classes really approachable and inviting—not necessarily in a way where he’s trying to relate it to your everyday life, because most math is never gonna do that. He just makes it so it’s something that you’re invested in and curious to see why certain proofs or theorems came around. It goes into the history of math, and that’s fun too.

A: What legacy do you plan to leave behind at Wesleyan?

OM: Woah.

A: Yeah, I know, it’s kind of a lot.

OM: I’m not really thinking about that or planning a legacy. I’m just here for four years. I’m just trying to get an education and help my peers get an education. If people forget about me next year, that’s totally great. 

A: I don’t think people are going to forget about you next year. But, kind of in a similar vein, what are your plans for beyond Wesleyan?

OM: I can let you know in May 2024. 

A: Slay. Very fair. Do you have any advice for current students or prospective students who might be thinking about Wesleyan next year?

OM: For any first-year student at Wesleyan or in general approaching or starting college, I’d say just get involved in whatever interests you, even if you don’t have any experience. The way that I got involved in the WSA taught me a lot about taking chances and exploring new things. I had never done any student government stuff or had a ton of leadership experience, and now it’s been the main way that I spend my time at Wesleyan outside of class. If I hadn’t been bored enough to be reading my email and see the WSA was doing appointments, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity. So take chances on yourself early on! You’ll try a lot of things!

There were also many clubs that I tried that didn’t work out. I loved The Argus, but I didn’t have time for it. I was on [Vicious Circles] for a semester. You’ll try a bunch of different things and just see what sticks; don’t try and think about the long term as much. 

A: Editor-in-Chief of The Wesleyan Argus Elias Mansell ’24 wants to know what you thought of the COL readings this week. He said they were particularly strange.

OM: I haven’t done them yet. I’m gonna do that this afternoon. 

A: Almost last question, do you think that we both got COVID-19 at the WSA formal in Spring 2021?

OM: Yes. Definitely. That was my first maskless event and then [I got COVID-19]. It was so bad.

A: It was so bad. It was a little funny. Do you have anything else that you want to say to the people of The Argus and campus at large?

OM: Spend time outside while we can. It’s getting cold. Prepare for winter.

This article has been edited for length and clarity.

Orly Meyer is a former Staff Writer and Layout Editor for The Wesleyan Argus.

Sam Hilton can be reached at shilton@wesleyan.edu.

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