Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Leading the way, helping researchers

Their fellow attendees may not have realized it, but an event at Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center last April included an impromptu meeting of two former presidents: Bill Clinton and Michael Zwolinski ’08, who was president of the Student Government Association during his senior year at Wheaton.

“It was a thrill to meet the former president,” Zwolinski said. “He’s as engaging in person as people say.”

The occasion was a fundraiser to benefit the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, with Clinton as one of the headliners. Zwolinski was there along with his colleagues from ACT for NIH: Advancing Cures Today. The nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy group is pushing Congress to restore funding to the National Institutes of Health. The group’s founder and chairman is on the MD Anderson board.

2008-Mike Zwolinski-and-President Clinton“After the main event was over, we expected President Clinton would leave,” Zwolinski said. “Instead, he came and visited with us for a long while. He was very generous with his time.”

Zwolinski, a 29-year-old Massachusetts native, moved to the nation’s capital after Wheaton to pursue his passion for politics. After working on campaigns and on Capitol Hill, he took a job at the trade association for college public-health programs; when his boss there was tapped to launch ACT for NIH, he asked Zwolinski to join him as its managing director.

ACT for NIH says federal funding for medical research has fallen nearly 25 percent since 2003, when adjusted for inflation. Zwolinski spends his days meeting with members of Congress and their staffers, tracking legislation, and working with others in the health advocacy community—all in an effort to reverse the trend. [Read more...]

All that jazz

Lauren Henderson ’09Lauren Henderson ’09 is currently shining in the spotlight of attention. She has released her second album, “A La Madrugada,” which is being played on about 50 radio stations nationally and internationally. And on May 20, she gave her first-ever headlining jazz performance at the Regattabar in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass.

Lauren-Henderson5“The show was a great success. We had a wonderful time and an excellent audience,” she said.

The Marblehead, Mass., native, graduated from Wheaton with a double major in music and Hispanic studies, switching her major from psychology after discovering a passion for performing. While at Wheaton, she took master classes from Cuban jazz master Paquito D’Rivera and the vocal group Take 6, she noted in an interview with the Patriot Ledger (Quincy, Mass.), which chronicled her career in a news article this spring.

“The more performing I had done on campus, the more I realized music was what I really wanted to do with my life,” Henderson told the Ledger. “There had always been jazz and Latin jazz in my home growing up and my parents and grandparents were big music fans. When I was at Wheaton, I ended up directing a singing group, singing with the jazz band, doing theater—every chance I got to perform.” [Read more...]

Well-fed Lyons

Wheaton m&m'sA crowd-funding initiative launched this spring raised more than $100,000 for the Wheaton Fund, thanks to the collaborative work of alumnae/i volunteers and Wheaton staff members. The Wheaton Fund supports every facet of the student experience, from experiential learning and scholarships to athletics and campus life.

Aptly called “Feed the Lyons,” the social media-driven campaign met the challenge of acquiring 325 new donors (those who didn’t give last year or who were first-time givers) for a $100,000 gift from an anonymous supporter. The campaign attracted 342 new donors from its launch date on April 9 to its close on June 12.

The “Feed the Lyons” campaign originated with the desire to boost engagement, particularly among alumnae/i from the classes of the 2000s and beyond, using the renovation of Chase Dining Hall to spark fond memories and interest, according to Molly Galler ’06, director of communications for the Alumnae/i Board of Directors and a member of the Annual Giving Committee. [Read more...]

Encouraging, strengthening common bonds

Alums gathered for the Student Government Association Alumnae/i affinity group reception at Homecoming.

Alums gathered for the Student Government Association Alumnae/i affinity group reception at Homecoming.

When Emily Firment ’11 arrived at Wheaton she was a January admit student, so she had missed a semester of bonding with her freshman classmates. To make up for time lost and to jump into her new campus community, she joined the Student Government Association. There she found a family of friends.

“I loved being swept up into such a close-knit group so quickly my freshman year,” said Firment, current Class of 2011 vice president. “I also loved feeling as though my voice and ideas mattered among my peers and the administration. The people I met through student government became my closest friends at Wheaton and we remain close friends today, even after we have graduated, moved across the country and gotten married.”

The powerful connection that Firment felt to her SGA mates and the college, based on common interests and goals, is exactly what the Alumnae/i Association and the Alumnae/i Relations Office are seeking to tap into and encourage through a new affinity groups initiative. [Read more...]