Melissa Thornton ’20 is a current College of Environment Think Tank fellow from Atlanta, Georgia, and a winner of this year’s Sophie and Anne Reed Prize for best poem or group of poems at Wesleyan. A double major in the COL and French Studies, Melissa shared her thoughts on the importance of poetry in times of chaos.
The Posse Veteran Scholars Program identifies talented veterans interested in pursuing bachelor’s degrees, and places them at top tier colleges and universities, where they receive four-year full scholarships. Each year, Wesleyan accepts a “posse” of 10 veterans. Today, on Veterans Day, we honor all U.S. military veterans by shining the spotlight on two of our own: Gabe Snashall ’21 and Michael Freiburger ’21.
You’re both Posse Veterans here at Wes, class of 2021. Why did you join the military and what was your role?
Michael Freiburger (MF): I joined the Army right out of high school. I didn’t know what I wanted to do in life, and college wasn’t an option, but I knew that I needed to get out of my hometown. I spent the majority of my service at Fort Bragg North Carolina (5 years), and two years station in Germany. I deployed to Afghanistan twice and worked as an Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technician – Bomb Squad.
Gabe Snashall (GS): I joined right after graduating from High School in Fresno, California in 2011. At the time, the unemployment rate in my hometown was +18% and rising, so everybody I knew was leaving to either go to college, the peace corps, or the military. For me, the better option seemed to be a military program that offered college credit, a year or two of formal military training, and, of course, a decent amount of travel experience. Broadly speaking, I chose the military option for the opportunity to focus on and explore what I wanted to do in life, what I wanted to study, and where I wanted to go to school. I found that opportunity with the Naval Submarine Service and left my hometown a short two weeks after signing paperwork. That decision took me to Chicago for bootcamp and Connecticut for Submarine School. I was then stationed on the USS Pittsburgh (recently decommissioned) from 2011-2016, and was deployed to the Middle East, the North Pole, the Indian Sea, the Arctic Sea, and the Caribbean. In fact, I think we sailed the globe over three times while I was on board. On land, we would port in Scotland, Spain, the UAE, and Norway. On ‘The Pit’, I officially served as an Electronics Technician (ET)—specializing in satellite telecommunications, cryptographic operations, and radar and periscope maintenance. Unofficially, my peers knew me as “Snooki,” a nickname that was a reference to, and mostly making fun of, the loud and annoying way I would persuade submarine officers to accept my work requests or proposals. I won’t go into detail here, but the highly chaotic working world on a submarine brings out the most competitive side of all who work on board—so it’s an anything goes world, really.
How did you find out about the Posse Veterans program?
MF: I found out about the Posse Veterans program while I was processing out of the military. I was pretty fortunate that Posse representatives were at Fort Bragg the same week I was in mandatory exit briefs. I was lucky enough to meet with the program that week and began the process that brought me here to Wesleyan.
Last weekend various Wesleyan sustainability groups joined local community gardeners, farmers, and activists for a conference on all things urban farming and food justice. The event was cosponsored by the Green Fund, the Middletown Economic Development Commission, the College of the Environment, the Wesleyan Resource Center, the Science in Society Program, and the African American Studies Department. With this wide array of support, student coordinators were able to collaborate with local stakeholders to put together a conference that was able to bridge the gap between Wesleyan and the surrounding community, as well as to provide the space for connections between Wes sustainability groups.
On Saturday, October 5, hundreds of Wes and Middletown community members spent their day soaking up the sun at Long Lane Farm’s 2019 Pumpkin Fest. Cosponsored by the COE, the Green Fund, and Wesleyan Bon Appetit, the student-run event featured live local bands, local vendors, farm tours, crafts, free veggie burgers and cider thanks to Bon Appetit, baked goods for sale benefitting New Horizons Domestic Violence Shelter, a pie-eating contest with prizes courtesy of WesPress, and lots of Wes student groups, including the Sustainability Office, CAG, WesDivest, Bread Salvage, Resource Center Spirituality and Sustainability Interns, WildWes, Natural History Museum, Sunrise, Outing Club, Wesleyan Refugee Project, Uslac, Veg Out, Real Food Challenge, NEAT & WesNEAT. A special thanks to Wesleyan RJ Julia, NoRA Cupcakes, Auntie Arwen’s Spices, and Adelbrook Bark-ery for joining us for the day—and to an amazing lineup of talented performers for sharing their songs: Lopii, Iris Olympia, Barry Chernoff, Emcee Elvee, Rebecca Roff, and Skye Hawthorne! Click here to view 500+ photos!
Each academic year the COE gathers a small group of Wesleyan faculty members, a scholar of prominence from outside Wesleyan, and a small group of undergraduate students into a year-long academic think tank on a critical environmental issue. The aim of the think tank is not only to generate a deeper understanding of the thematic issue, but also to produce scholarly works that will influence national/international thinking and action on the issue. This year’s Think Tank theme: Meaningful Worlds: Listening and Learning Beyond the Human.
Wesleyan students organized various events for a day of climate action on September 20, 2019, as part of the week-long Global Climate Strike.
Events kicked off with a Climate Rally outside of Usdan, featuring speeches by students, staff, and other members of Wesleyan’s community. Students from Wesleyan’s Climate Action Group and other environmental groups spoke about the ongoing sustainability and activism efforts around campus and the next steps in the movement. Staff members and Middletown residents, including Professor Anthony Hatch, Chair of the Science in Society Program and COE faculty member; Ben Florsheim ’14, Middletown’s Democratic mayoral nominee; and Nur Fitzpatrick, Middletown resident and activist, also spoke about the importance of the Climate Strike and environmental activism at a local level. The rally was followed by a march around campus. Click here for more photos from the Climate Rally and March.
At 4:30 pm, Professor of Physics Brian Stewart presented his annual Climate Rant on the subject of Tipping Points. He contextualized the talk within the day’s events on campus and the climate action movement on a global and historical scale. Professor Stewart also posted a comprehensive introduction to the Climate Strike events on the Middletown Eye, a community news blog. His post details the science behind climate change as well as both governmental and public responses to the topic.
Later that afternoon, staff and students met at the front steps of Olin Library for a candlelight vigil, which ended on the corner of Church and High streets.
Related reading about the events: