Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Economist Deborah Figart ’81 focuses on workers

Deborah Figart ’81

At Wheaton, Deborah Figart ’81 chose to major in economics initially because she wanted to pursue a career in accounting or international business.

However, through her liberal arts coursework and the college’s internship program, her perspective broadened. Her interest shifted from finance to the plight of workers—particularly those who saw their livelihoods challenged when multinational corporations moved U.S. jobs overseas.

Figart considered working for a labor union or a public policy think tank, but it wasn’t long before she discovered a passion for teaching and research. “I taught my first economics course in graduate school in the fall of 1982, and I have been teaching ever since.” [Read more...]

Tale of two heroes 

Adar Cohen ’04 - MSNBCA new book co-authored by Adar Cohen ’04 explores a pivotal event in American civil rights history.

Jimmie Lee and James: Two Lives, Two Deaths, and the Movement That Changed America, written by Cohen and Steve Fiffer and published by Regan Arts in New York City, looks at the killings of civil rights activists Jimmie Lee Jackson and the Reverend James Reeb and how they inspired the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., leading to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. [Read more...]

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...]