2014 in Review: Wellesley Experts Shared Insights on World Events and Trends in the News and in These Pages

December 18, 2014
calendar page: December 2014

As is human habit, when the last page of the calendar is in view, we look back to remember what has shaped the past year.  In 2014, Wellesley faculty members shared their expertise, research findings, and viewpoints on numerous happenings around the globe. They were sought by news outlets as well as the community, and covered a range of topics.

Starting early in the year, the Olympic Games in Russia surfaced issues of women’s status and equity (or lack thereof) in sports, reflected upon by the WCW in its blog and by Director of Athletics Bridget Belgiovine and others in a panel during the Albright Institute. It also turned the spotlight on a region that would shortly be in the news again, as events in Ukraine and Crimea took center stage. Nina Tumarkin, professor of history and director of the Russian Area Studies Program at Wellesley, shared some thoughts with us as she coordinated a panel of experts who put their heads together on the topic at a public event at Wellesley called Ukraine! What Next?

On a lighter note, we gathered some Wellesley faculty members whose work involves cinema and film to share their thoughts on the previous year’s films in the run-up to the Academy Awards in late February.

Spring, as always, brought the Boston Marathon racing past Wellesley’s doors. As the first Marathon to be run since the finish line bombing, the event was particularly significant. Wellesley students became the experts here, as they made the 2014 Scream Tunnel the loudest one ever, and contributed mightily to the universal rallying to take back the event from fear.

In July, Associate Professor of Political Science Christopher Candland reported to us from the world’s largest election. In Indonesia, where voters (not legislators) elect the president, 150 million people turned out on election day. Candland has been conducting research in Indonesia. He kept us apprised too, that a Wellesley alum, Rini Mariani Soemarno Soewandi '80, was named to lead the president-elect’s transition team.  Later we learned she was named minister of government enterprises for the Republic of Indonesia, and elsewhere in the region, another alum Kobkarn Suriyasat Wattanavrangkul ’83 was appointed minister of tourism and sports for Thailand.  

The outbreak of Ebola fever took over headlines as summer came to a close. Assistant Professor of Africana Studies Donna Patterson, who has looked in depth at medical delivery systems in Africa as well as global public health, discussed the significance of the outbreak and the nature of global health security. Wellesley student Cindy Coffee ’16 talked to the Boston Globe about her decision to follow through on a planned trip to Ghana, although it meant traveling near the region where the disease was at its worst.

Throughout the year Wellesley remained engaged in conversation about climate and environment, starting with January’s Albright Institute public event in which former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ’59 had a conversation with former Environmental Protection Agency head Carol Browner, moderated by Public Radio International environmental editor Peter Thompson.

Faculty from Biological Sciences and Environmental Studies shared thoughts on the centenary of the death of the last passenger pigeon; Associate Professor of Environmental Studies Jay Turner penned an op-ed for the Seattle Times on the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act; and Associate Professor of Political Science Hahrie Han spoke to WBUR about the significance of the People’s Climate March in New York City.

Throughout the year, Wellesley economists’ voices were heard on hot topics facing the nation, from child immigration to jobs, from birth rate to aging populations and social security; as well as the general outlook. Should we be optimistic or not?

Whatever the answer to that particular question, one thing remains true. We can be optimistic about the wide-ranging intellectual energy and engagement at Wellesley—it will be with us in 2015 and beyond!