Jeff Levine ’91

At Wesleyan I learned about important concepts like “paradigm shifts” through the Science in Society Program and took courses in creative writing with author Annie Dillard and in literary journalism with New Yorker journalist Lis Harris. I also discovered my passion not just for the idea of social and environmental change, but also for how to implement change in a democracy.  While I didn’t realize it until a few years after I graduated, my future lay in a combination of public policy and communication.

It wasn’t until I was trying to promote livable, sustainable communities several years into my career in urban planning that I fully appreciated Wesleyan’s unique combination of liberal arts education, strong social mission, and respect for esteemed and useful institutions. In city planning, we often need to break down disciplinary boundaries to help engineers think like social workers, and social workers think like engineers. I appreciate the value of having good communication skills and the ability to translate complex ideas into simple ones.

In my career, I continue to meet Wesleyan alumni who are also working on important issues of sustainability, social justice and livability. As the director of Planning & Urban Development for the City of Portland (Maine—the original), I work with not one, but two city councilors who graduated from Wesleyan! Portland must be the only city in the country where Cardinals make up almost one quarter of the council. Our ability to balance competing concepts and develop workable compromises comes out of our education in Middletown.