Wesleyan Commencement and Honorary Degree Recipients May 2021

Dear friends,

Wesleyan is pleased to announce the speaker and honorary degree recipients for its 189th Commencement. The date of Commencement was previously announced as May 30th; however, given current pandemic conditions we are reviewing other options for the last week of May. The University is currently planning to hold the ceremony in-person on Wesleyan’s Middletown campus, though off-campus guests will be restricted to virtual attendance given the ongoing threat posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. More details about the ceremony and a definitive date for Commencement will be announced by the end of March.

Reginald Dwayne Betts, an award-winning poet, memoirist, and teacher, is this year’s speaker. MacArthur-winning researcher, writer, and activist Catherine Coleman Flowers and Scott Gottlieb ’94, a physician and former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, will also be honored. The recipients were chosen on the basis of their significant contributions to the social, environmental, and public health of the United States.

Be it through teaching, art, advocacy, medicine, or policy-making, these three individuals offer us shining examples of how we can work to forge better futures. Despite difficult circumstances, like the current public health situation, Reginald, Catherine, and Scott represent our ability to make progress on seemingly intractable problems, and, through their efforts, inspire us to direct our talents toward meaningful action.

Reginald Dwayne Betts is the award-winning author of four collections of poetry, a nonfiction memoir, and a powerful body of essays and scholarship that has been featured in such publications as The New York Times, The New Yorker, and The Washington Post. The founder and director of the Million Book Project, his work has earned him a Radcliffe Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, NEA Fellowships, and a PEN New England Award for poetry, among many other recognitions.

In his National Magazine Award–winning essay “Getting Out,” published in The New York Times Magazine in 2018, Betts explores the central themes of self-reflection and self-actualization, and the effects of incarceration on individuals, families, and communities. A gifted student in elementary and high school, Betts was himself sentenced to nine years in maximum security prison at age 16. During that time, he studied literature and poetry and laid the foundation for a career that has since seen him earn a BA from the University of Maryland, an MFA from Warren Wilson College, and a JD from Yale Law School. Betts has engaged in wide-ranging speaking engagements and has years of experience in public defense, advocacy, and public service. He has received an appointment from Governor Ned Lamont to Connecticut’s Criminal Justice Commission, the state body that hires all state prosecutors.

Betts is currently pursuing a PhD in Law at Yale University and continues to lecture on his formative experiences and the importance that grit, perseverance, and literature have played in his success, as well as the intersection between literature and advocacy. His most recent collection of poems, Felon: Poems (2019) was a winner of the American Book Award and the NAACP Image Award, and a finalist for the LA Times Book Award. He is also the author of the memoir, A Question of Freedom: A Memoir of Learning, Survival, and Coming of Age in Prison, and the poetry collections Shahid Reads His Own Palm (2010) and Bastards of the Reagan Era (2015).

Catherine Coleman Flowers is a renowned environmental health advocate whose work focuses on bringing attention to and developing solutions for failing water and waste sanitation infrastructure in rural areas, and increasing our understanding of how this infrastructure failure perpetuates health and socioeconomic disparities. For her work, Flowers was awarded a 2020 MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a “Genius Grant,” which goes to citizens or residents of the United States who demonstrate “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction.”

Originally from Lowndes County, Alabama, Flowers earned a BA from Cameron University in 1986 and an MA from the University of Nebraska in 2015, and worked as a high school teacher in Detroit, Michigan, and Washington, DC, before returning to Lowndes to begin her advocacy work. She is the founding director of the Center for Rural Enterprise and Environmental Justice, an Alabama-based policy and advocacy organization devoted to addressing the root causes of poverty in the state and developing multidisciplinary, grassroots solutions and models that can be replicated in rural communities throughout the country. Part of the organization’s work included a house-to-house survey in Lowndes that confirmed more than half of county households were either piping raw sewage into the ground or had failing septic systems, which led to the first open discussion of flaws in onsite water treatment (which previously had been governed under threat of incarceration by the Alabama Public Health Department). She is currently collaborating with The Guardian on a national study to identify and quantify wastewater infrastructure problems throughout the United States.

Flowers is the author of Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret (2020), and has published articles in Anglican Theological Review, Columbia Human Rights Law Review, and American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, among other journals. She is also the rural development manager for the Equal Justice Initiative, a senior fellow for the Center for Earth Ethics at Union Theological Seminary, and a member of the board of directors of the Climate Reality Project and the Natural Resources Defense Council. Flowers was recently appointed to the Biden-Sanders Task Force on Climate Change, co-chaired by United States representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and former Secretary of State John Kerry, who is now a special envoy for climate.

 Scott Gottlieb ’94 is a physician, public health and policy advisor and advocate, and a special partner with the venture capital firm New Enterprise Associates. He served as the 23rd commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 2017 to 2019 and is currently a resident fellow at public policy think tank the American Enterprise Institute (AEI).

Dr. Gottlieb’s work spans a great many aspects of health care. At the FDA, he oversaw a record number of generic drugs, novel medicines, and innovative medical devices in two consecutive years, helping to make the regulatory process in those areas more efficient; advanced policies to address opioid addiction; reduced death and disease from tobacco; and guided important progress on drug pricing, food safety, and vaccination. At AEI, he has pursued public health improvements through entrepreneurship, and continued to focus on medical innovation and expanding regulatory approaches aimed at patient and physician autonomy.

After graduating from Wesleyan with a BA in economics, Dr. Gottlieb went on to earn his MD from Mount Sinai School of Medicine and conducted his residency in internal medicine at Mount Sinai Medical Center. He serves on the boards of Pfizer, Illumina, Aetion, and Tempus; was previously a senior policy adviser to the administrator at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and a clinical assistant professor at New York University School of Medicine, in addition to a practicing physician and hospitalist. He is a frequent contributor to CNBC and CBS’s Face the Nation, and has also published commentary and articles in Health Affairs, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and The New York Times, among many others.

A list of past honorary degree recipients and Commencement speakers is available here. The President’s Office welcomes suggestions for future recipients of honorary degrees. Please contact presoffice@wesleyan.edu.

Michael S. Roth


Major, Minor and Certificate Certification for Graduation

From: Susan Krajewski <skrajewski@wesleyan.edu>
Sent: Wednesday, February 24, 2021 1:05 PM
To: Senior on campus Announcement <senioron-l@wesleyan.edu>
Subject: Major, Minor & Certificate Certification for Graduation

Dear Senior:

Now that Drop/Add has closed for the spring semester, it’s time to review your Major/Minor/Certificate CertificationForms to ensure they are ready for submission beginning March 1st.

  1. Click on the Major/Minor/Certificate Certification link in WesPortal. There you will find secondary links to all your current majors, minors and/or certificates. Click on those links to access each of your forms.
  2. The first thing you need to do is mark the courses you wish to offer in satisfaction of each requirement.  The form is built so that it pre-populates with courses that are pre-approved to count in various categories.  You need to check the box next to the courses you wish to offer.
  3. If you wish to offer a course that does not automatically appear on your form, click the request override link on the requirement line where you want the course to appear.  That will open up a drop-down menu that displays your entire academic history, including study-abroad courses. Simply select the course from the drop-down and click the Submit Override button.  That will cause the course to appear in green and the status will say “pending advisor approval.” Your advisor will receive an automated email alerting them to your override request so they can approve it. Important note: you cannot submit your final certification form if you have overrides pending so submit those now if necessary.
  4. Make sure you offer something in satisfaction of each and every requirement listed on the form.
  5. Lastly, select a Capstone Experience and click the SAVE button to update.

Beginning Monday, March 1st seniors will see a Final Submit button appear on the landing page where you access each of your certification forms.  After you review your forms to make sure they are in good order, click the Final Submit button to send the form to your academic department for final certification.  This is an important step in the graduation clearance process that you must initiate.

Note: you must do this for each and every major/minor or certificate you intend to complete.  If you do not intend to complete one of your current plans, you should use the Declaration tool in WesPortal to drop it.  Your Class Dean will work closely with the Registrar’s office to confirm your major completions.  Minors and Certificates are handled differently. It is solely the student’s responsibility to submit their Minor and Certificate Certification forms for approval. Minors and Certificates that are not certified prior to graduation will not be posted to your academic record so make sure you submit them!

The senior deadline for submitting all certification forms is Friday, March 19th at 5pm.

Faculty members then have 2 weeks to complete their certifications by Friday, April 2nd.

If you need assistance working with the forms, please contact me or your Senior Class Dean.


Another Note from Your Senior Class Officers (SOCs)

Dear Seniors,

Thank you for submitting an overwhelming amount of survey responses! The SCO Team will be organizing and considering them thoroughly. To make sure that we are adhering to the timeline for submitting budgets and planning events, we will be closing the Google form on Wednesday night, 2/17/21, at 11:59 PM. If you have not already done so, please fill out the form here. Again, if you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to: Pablo Wickham, President (fwickham@wesleyan.edu); Jake Kwon, Vice-President (hkwon02@wesleyan.edu); Carolina Montano, Secretary (cmontano@wesleyan.edu); Paulina Veliky, Treasurer (pveliky@wesleyan.edu). Thank you so much!


The SCO Team for Class of 2021

Notes from the Class Dean – 2/5

Dear members of the Class of 2021,

I hope that all of you have taken the time to rest and enjoy winter break. Classes begin on Tuesday, February 9th, and I’m writing to follow up with some additional information/resources to help you start the semester well and successfully complete the drop/add period. You may also access this message on our class blog.


Starting on Saturday, February 6th you are required to enroll in the University. To enroll, login to WesPortal, click through the yellow alert banner at the top of the page, then click on the “Enroll Me” button. Please be aware that you will not be able to participate in drop/add until you have enrolled in the University. You must enroll in the University by Monday, February 22nd, at 11:59pm, EDT. You must do this regardless of whether you will attend classes in-person or remotely this spring.

In addition to enrolling, you must resolve any holds in your list of Action Items. To access your list, go to:

WesPortal > Enrollment Checklist & Addresses > Hold/Enroll

Instruction(s) on how to resolve each action item are provided on the page. Many action items can be resolved with a simple click of the mouse.

All action items must be resolved within the first week of classes. Please be aware that you will still be able to participate in drop/add even if you have unresolved action items (as long as you have already enrolled in the University using the “Enroll Me” button).

Change of Grading Mode

The last day to change the grading mode for courses with the Student Option is Tuesday, March 2nd by 5pm, EDT.

Digital Learning Tips for Classes and Drop/Add

Remember there are resources to help you navigate our online and hybrid learning environments. You may access a set of tips and resources to navigate the upcoming drop/add period and online learning through our class blog.

COVID-19 Campus Protocol for Students on Remote Study Status & Leaves of Absence

Students on remote study status are not permitted to visit campus for any reason during the Spring 2021 semester. This includes attending in-person classes, events, practices, meetings or visiting with students on campus, etc.

Students on medical, academic or non-academic leave must also adhere to the COVID-19 mitigation protocol to not visit campus for any reason during the Spring 2021 semester.

Additionally, the state of CT has a mandatory quarantine order in place for those traveling to any part of CT from other states on their list. You may access that information here: https://portal.ct.gov/Coronavirus/travel.

Senior Paperwork & Resources

I will begin sending reminders within the next few weeks to help you prepare to finish your last semester at Wes.

Please review the resources to help you prepare for completing your last semester and graduation. You may access the Senior Packet and more useful information on our class blog.

As of now, you should review your Credit Analysis Report, General Education Report, and Major/Minor Certification Forms in WesPortal. You may have already received an email from me about oversubscription. You may access more information about this here.

Check to make sure your full legal name is spelled correctly for your diploma. You may access information on how to confirm your diploma name here.

Additionally, don’t forget about programs and services offered by Gordon Career Center and the Cardinals Helping Cardinals program.

Commencement 2021

Commencement is scheduled for May 30th. Additional details about the format (e.g. in-person and/or virtual) will be available later this spring.

Class Dean Office/Appointment Hours

I am still working remotely until further notice, but I am accessible through email, appointment hours, etc. I will continue to conduct appointments through Zoom or Google Meeting, and my calendar is available through the following link for the duration of the Spring 2021 semester: https://tinyurl.com/deanleathers. I look forward to speaking with you soon!

Last year was difficult for so many of us, and we’re clearly not out of the woods yet. I’m hopeful for what is in store for us this year. And while uncertainty appears to be a hallmark of our present time, the love and care that we show for one another can be as well.

I wish you a wonderful start to spring classes, and do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns moving forward.

All my best,

Dean Leathers

2021 Diploma Name System Open

To:   Candidates for Bachelor of Arts Degree
From:  Rosie Villard, Administrative Assistant V, Office of the Registrar

To ensure that your full legal name is spelled correctly on your diploma, we are asking you to confirm your diploma name.  Please confirm your name as soon as possible.

In your WesPortal under ‘My Information’ click on Diploma Name and Address. The name that we currently have on file will be displayed on this page.  If your name is correct, please click on Confirm/Update button at the bottom of the page.  If your name is not correct, please make any necessary corrections before selecting the Confirm/Update button.

Please note that you will only be able to update your name once per day – if you confirm your name in error, you will need to return to the page the following day to make any corrections.

If your name contains special characters or accents, please confirm the spelling of your name without the characters or accents.  In order to make sure that the special characters or accents appear correctly on your diploma, you will be asked to link to the Special Character Diploma Name Confirmation form and send it to the Registrar’s Office.

To make a correction to your legal name for all other university records, you will need to send a form of legal identification (birth certificate, passport, driver’s license, or legal name change document if your name has been legally changed) to the Registrar’s Office.

The diploma name system will close on Sunday, April 18th at 11:59pm.

Senior Packet 2021: Preparing for Graduation

Greetings Class of 2021!

This post contains important information about the graduation process and Wesleyan’s graduation requirements. As you continue to choose courses and build a program of study for the rest of your senior year, it is essential that you know exactly where you stand in terms of fulfilling Wesleyan’s graduation requirements so that everything goes smoothly when degree certification takes place in the spring. Students completing their degrees this fall have already addressed or accessed much of the information provided here. Please review the contents carefully and contact Dean Leathers immediately (tleathers@wesleyan.edu) if you have any questions or concerns.

Graduation does not just happen; you must make it happen! It is important that you fully understand Wesleyan’s graduation requirements and that you are able to interpret your academic record in light of these requirements. Remember, you are responsible for your own graduation and must fulfill all graduation requirements by the end of the Spring 2021 semester in order to earn your diploma.

  • Preparing for Graduation: This explains Wesleyan’s graduation requirements, the Major Certification Form, the Credit Analysis Report, oversubscription, December Completion, and honors.  Read it!
  • Frequently Asked Questions about the Senior Year: Answers to common questions about graduation requirements and the graduation process.
  • Academic History: Can be found in your WesPortal in the “Student Toolbox–>Academics” bucket.
  • Major Certification Form: Used to identify and track the courses you have taken and will be taking to complete your major, must be approved by an authorized advisor in your major department. Can be found in WesPortal in the “Student Toolbox–>Academics” bucket.
  • Credit Analysis Report: Reviews your academic record in light of oversubscription and monitors your progress towards meeting graduation requirements. Can be found in WesPortal in the “Student Toolbox–>Academics” bucket.
  • General Education Report: Reviews the courses taken and applied towards General Education expectations. Can be found in WesPortal in the “Student Toolbox–>Academics” bucket.
  • Honors and Thesis Information: Deadlines and other important information for students undertaking honors theses.

-Dean Leathers