Monthly Archives: June 2007

The Wesleyan Connection: Campus Snapshot

BIO BLITZING: Scientific specialists teamed up with area students and teachers for BioBlitz 2007, held in Middletown June 8-9. The idea was get a snapshot of the biodiversity of a specific area in a 24-hour period. Wesleyan was a major sponsor of the event.

BioBlitz participant Brian Stewart, associate professor of physics, collects beetles during the BioBlitz. He and Michael Oliver, co-author of The Ground Beetles of Connecticut, found several beetles in the bark of a downed tree.
Wilbert Snow School in Middletown served as the BioBlitz laboratory, where species were identified and recorded.
Crabs, snakes, toads and turtles were all discovered during BioBlitz. This year, participants collected or sighted 2,231 species including 27 reptiles and amphibians, 93 birds, 20 fish, 237 beetles, 408 moths, 25 mammals and 468 vascular plants.
Barry Chernoff, Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Sciences, professor of biology, works with students in the laboratory. Chernoff helped identify and catalogue aquatic fish and invertebrates.
BioBlitz coordinator David Wagner, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Connecticut, leads BioBlitz participants in a night bio hunt. The Middletown BioBlitz is one of only two Connecticut events since 1999 to find more than 2,000 species. (Photos by Richard Marinelli)

For more information on the event go to: .

WesCard Coordinator Helps Students, Staff Gain Access to Buildings, Meal Plans

Cathy-Lee Rizza, WesCard coordinator, creates and programs all student, faculty, staff and special-occasion identification cards for the university.
Posted 06/20/07
“Smile for the camera.”

That’s a phrase Cathy-Lee Rizza may say a dozen times a day in Wesleyan’s WesCard Office. As WesCard coordinator, she creates Wesleyan’s faculty, staff and student ID cards and manages the information provided by ID holders.

“This card gives students access to their dorms, provides them with meals on campus, it also serves as a library and gym card. If the student is part of the Middletown Cash Program, they can purchase meals off campus at our downtown Middletown merchants, do laundry on campus, purchase chemistry supplies and it even lets them pay for transportation to Bradley International Airport or the New Haven Train Station,” Rizza says. “It’s a pretty important card and should be treated with care, just like a driver’s license or credit card.”

When a new student, staff or faculty requests a card, Rizza takes his or her photo, digitally places it into the proper template, inserts the person’s ID number and information, and adds in a meal plan, a Middletown Cash account and security access information as needed.

The photography part is her favorite.

“I enjoy taking people’s pictures, and trying to make them laugh for the photo,” she says. “Some people come in so tense because it’s their first day. I try to help them relax. I always like to tell them, ‘Welcome aboard!”

Everything is stored on – or inside– the card, Rizza explains.

WesCards are “smart ID cards.” The card contains a flexible printed circuit with a microprocessor and memory circuit. Among other data are embed security information which allows cardholders access to certain buildings, such as student residences or the Freeman Athletic Center.

Along with a photo and the holder’s name, the front of the card has a barcode, which contains information such as a student’s Wesleyan ID number and issue number. This is the same code used to check out material at Wesleyan’s libraries. The card’s backside has a magnetic strip that contains students’ campus meal plan information. It’s also separately encoded with information that allows users to create a cash pool for the Middletown Cash Program, for use at participating on-campus and off-campus merchants. Card holders can make deposits on their card with a credit card, check their balances or freeze their card if it is lost through a Web site Rizza helped initiate, Rizza is the site’s co-webmaster and adds new information about the card frequently.

Rizza’s busiest time of the year occurs during the first two weeks of each semester when students need new cards, or need to change their meal plans. And for the next 13 weeks in comes “a never-ending stream of students who have lost their IDs,” she says.

“I’ve had some students who I would see standing in line for the fourth or fifth time and I would get the paper work started on them ahead of time, because I just knew what they were back for. But then last week I had a graduate student come in, and for all those years he kept the same card. I told him I was so proud of him,” Rizza says, smiling.

Replacement cards aren’t free, and when Rizza isn’t making cards, she’s busy billing student accounts. She also deposits funds into WesCard accounts and makes sure Middletown Cash transactions are correctly deposited using a program called Blackboard Commerce Suite.

As the system’s operation administrator, Rizza often answers questions, solves technical issues and troubleshoot problems related to the software or communication lines. She also serves as the contact person to the software and hardware companies.

“There’s a lot more going on in this office than just creating WesCards,” she says.

Rizza‘s ties to Wesleyan date back to 1979 when she worked as an office assistant for Wesleyan’s former food contracting service, Saga. In 1989, Wesleyan began their contract with Aramark. Rizza stayed with the food companies until 2004, she was offered the WesCard coordinator position, doing similar computing operations, where she seamlessly converted the previous meal plan system into the Blackboard Transaction System.

Rizza, a native of Cromwell, Conn. and 32-year resident of Middletown, is married to Joe Rizza. They have one son, Joe Jr., and one dog and two cats. Cathy-Lee Rizza enjoys gardening, cooking, cross word puzzles and managing her “lifestyle change.” Since August 2005, Rizza has dropped more than 100 pounds through Weight Watchers.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Assistant Plans Environment-Related Events, Writes Grants, Markets Wesleyan Program

Valerie Marinelli, administrative assistant for the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, recently helped plan and coordinate the local BioBlitz science event in Middletown.
Posted 06/20/07
Q: Valerie, when did you come to Wesleyan and what brought you here?

A: I started as a temporary employee in August 2006 in the Environmental Studies Certificate Program. In late October 2006, I became the department’s full time administrative assistant.
Q: Broadly, what is the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, and who is able to receive this certificate?

A: The Environmental Studies Certificate Program, known as ESCP, is an interdisciplinary certificate program for undergraduate students that includes but is not restricted to natural science, public policy, philosophy and economics. This program is similar to a ‘minor’ at some other institutions and implies that one chooses a major and then takes a set of additional courses in areas concerned with environmental studies. A certificate is given upon graduation and completion of the assigned courses. During the 2006-07 academic year, we had 15 seniors complete the ESCP, our largest number yet.
Q: Who else works in this program?

A: Currently, this department consists of Barry Chernoff, Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies and director of the Environmental Studies Certificate Program, and myself. Together, we are working to expand this department. This summer, we have four interns that are funded by the Robert Schumann Grant and four Hughes/Mellon interns. We will have two other interns in the fall.

Q: The ESCP and Wesleyan was one of the sponsors of BioBlitz 2007. What was this event?

A: For the 180-plus scientists involved, this was basically an exciting event where they gathered together for a 24-hour period on June 8 and 9 to comb the area of Middletown in search of particular species. It may have been fish, butterflies, spiders, bats, moths, spiders, plant pathogens, beetles, fungus, bacteria, or others species. For the junior scientists and teachers, this was a fantastic opportunity to be exposed to hands on science. They had the chance to work side by side and learn with these scientists over the 24 hours. For the general public, this was an opportunity to view what scientists uncovered right in their backyard. The amazing discovery was that there were 2,231 different species found right here in Middletown.

Q: What was your role in planning the event?

A: In October 2006, I was asked to represent Wesleyan on the Bioblitz Steering Committee and report back to some of the key participants within the university. Mainly, the committee would meet once a month to organize all the logistics that would lead up to this 24 hour event. I started as a member and before long, I was one of the principal organizers and coordinated all the logistics for this year’s event. My key roles were coordinating the Friday Night Dinner for the sponsors, scientists, campers and volunteers; working on the press releases to the media and community; assisting with the banners and posters; keeping a handle on the overall budget, which was a major feat in itself; soliciting sponsors and donations; working with the exhibitor committee; organizing the photographer and Wesleyan University video crew, and many of the behind the scene logistics and last minute happenings. I must say though, I enjoyed every minute of it and hope someday to get involved in the next Bioblitz, where ever and whenever that happens!

Q: What are your principal duties in the ESCP?

A: The ESCP is funded by the Robert Schumann Grant. My main responsibilities are to manage the department and its events. I coordinate and manage all the details for major campus events, such as lectures, symposiums, the Earth Day Keynote Address, just to name a few. I design and print posters for these events. I work closely with the press and other universities/colleges in the Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York area by informing them through press releases and e-mails about upcoming ESCP events. I assist student groups with planning and organizing all details for themed events for the program. I work in promoting the ESCP program in order to increase awareness to the Wesleyan University students. I act as a liaison to administration and other Academic Departments. I maintain our department’s budget and website. Currently, I am supervising several interns that are funded by our new Mellon Grant, as well as the students that are working at Long Lane Farms.

Q: What are other events you have helped plan? Are there any up and coming?

A: Over the last year, I had been instrumental in planning, the 2006 Pumpkin Festival with the Long Lane Farm Students, Where On Earth are We Going III, which was our huge Environmental Symposium, various day and evening guest speakers, our Earth Day Keynote Address which was given by Connecticut General Richard Blumenthal and just recently, Bioblitz 2007. Right now, we are in the midst of planning the 2007 Pumpkin Festival and this year’s Environmental Symposium. We hope to have more lectures for both students and faculty over the 2007-08 academic year.

Q: What aspects of your job are the most challenging?

A: When planning an event, it is most challenging to understand what type of audience I will get. Should I plan for 50 or 200? I have had night lectures, where there were very few students and faculty in attendance, but at the same time, I have had daytime lectures, where the rooms were packed to capacity. What I hear is that students love the luncheon lectures and tend to squeeze those talks into their busy daytime schedules more often than the evening events.

Q: What is your educational and professional background?

A: I graduated in 1983 from the University of Hartford. My degree was in marketing and computer science. I’ve worked for Data General Corporation, Xerox, Apple Computer and just recently, The Bushnell. In 1990, I started my own typesetting business out of my home, in order to work and be with my children.

Q: And who are they?

A: Gregory, who is 16 years old and Ryan, who is 13 years old. My family means the world to me. My husband, Richard and I have been married for 21 years. We live a very active life. When we are together, we enjoy vacationing, going to Boston; especially seeing a Red Sox game, visiting my family in New Jersey, socializing with our friends, watching a good movie or going to a theater production. I usually like to spend my free time relaxing, shopping, helping my friend’s plan their Bar/Bat Mitzvah’s, watching a “chick flick”, volunteering, taking walks with my husband or just hanging out with family and friends.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Molecular, Life Sciences Building Site Proposed

Bob Shaeffner of Payette Architects explains a proposal for Wesleyan’s new Molecular and Life Sciences building during an open house and design review June 12.
At left, Ben Winslow, a biology Ph.D candidate, listens to Robert Schmidt, project manager, explain a proposed design plan for the Molecular and Life Sciences building.
Posted 06/20/07
Physical Plant-Facilities held an open house and design review for Wesleyan’s new Molecular and Life Sciences building June 12.

The open house allowed Wesleyan staff and faculty, and members of the local community to comment on the proposed plans.

The goal of the building is to create a stronger sense of community among students and faculty in different areas of science by increased opportunities for informal interaction. Wesleyan is taking into account ways to use space more efficiently, improve administrative and science support services and to address mechanical, corrosion, and safety problems in the science buildings.

Bob Shaeffner of Payette Architects highlighted four proposals of where the new facility should be placed. In all plans, four Wesleyan-owned homes would be razed and replaced.

More than 60 Wesleyan staff, faculty, students and Middletown residents attended the meeting. Participants were welcome to ask questions and share their ideas.

For more information on the proposed Molecular and Life Sciences building project go to:

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Teter Named Radcliffe Fellow to Study Premodern Poland

Posted 06/20/07
Magdalena Teter, assistant professor of history, will study religious groups of premodern Poland as a Radcliffe Institute Fellow in 2007-08.

Teter was one of 32 women and 19 men selected by the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University. Teter will work individually and across disciplines on projects chosen for both quality and long-term impact.

Her project is titled “An Anatomy of Religious Violence: Jews and Christians in Premodern Poland.” She will research the close social interaction between Jews and Christians; the role of lay and religious instigators in exploiting religious sentiments; position of the accused Jews in the community; local economic dynamics; and, the role of gender.

“I am very thankful for this opportunity to spend a year at Radcliffe both working on my project and interacting with and learning from other fellows” Teter says. “I hope that next year I will be able to make major progress on my second book.”

Teter was selected from a pool of more than 775 applicants, made up of distinguished and emerging scholars and artists from the United States and other countries. Teter will be working among scientists, humanists, social scientists. and creative artists.

“In my years as dean, I have been privileged to watch the fellows interact with one another and with faculty members in various departments,” says Drew G. Faust, dean of the Radcliffe Institute and president-elect of Harvard. “I will continue to watch and admire their path-breaking work and interdisciplinary approaches.”

Now in its seventh year, the Radcliffe Institute Fellowship Program is a highly competitive program that has provided yearlong residencies to more than 350 award-winning writers, artists, scientists and other scholars. Examples of past fellows are acclaimed installation artist Shimon Attie, Pulitzer Prize–winning author Geraldine Brooks, and anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes, a leading commentator on the global traffic in human organs.

For a full list of fellows, go to:

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Chemistry Lab Has New Environmental Perspective

Andrea Roberts, visiting instructor of chemistry, has introduced “green” techniques into her organic chemistry laboratory sections. Students use fewer chemicals, producing less waste.
Posted 06/20/07
At first glance, Wesleyan’s Organic Chemistry Laboratory doesn’t appear much different to the naked eye. But a closer look shows that virtually everything in the lab has changed.

“We’re going green,” says Andrea Roberts, visiting instructor of chemistry and Ph.D candidate. “We’re promoting sustainability and teaching the leaders of tomorrow better ways to do chemistry.”

Roberts started teaching the organic chemistry lab in Spring 2004, using a routine syllabus. The class had nine weeks of typical organic reaction labs and one, three-week final project.

“The Chemistry Department had been teaching the same organic chemistry curriculum for years,” Roberts says. “Some of the organic reactions students were doing were the same ones I did as an undergraduate. Although they were tried and true, they were becoming outdated. Very few industries nowadays are performing chemical reactions the way we were teaching them, and our experiments were producing a tremendous amount of chemical waste.”

In Spring 2007, Roberts made changes to the curriculum that allowed her to teach the same material using “greener” methods. This meant minimizing materials – chemicals, solvents and testing equipment; reusing or recycling materials in the lab; replacing harmful mineral acids and organic solvents with less toxic oxidants like peroxide and alcohols as solvents ultimately minimizing waste.

She began with the lab titled Introduction to Chromatography. For this task, students needed to separate a mixture of two compounds, fluorene and fluorenone.

Students previously used a gravity-based technique called column chromatography to separate and purify the chemical compounds. This slow method required .5 grams of fluorene and fluorenone to pass through a tube, or column, of 10 grams of silica gel. About 200mL of hexane was used to separate the compounds.

Roberts replaced this old-fashioned method with flash chromatography, a rapid method that pumps solvent through a cartridge, leading to quicker separations with less chemical waste. She replaced the fluorene and fluorenone with drops of water-soluble food coloring and used only .75 grams of silica, which later is recycled. Only 10mL of isopropyl alcohol is used, rather than hexane.

Roberts is able to recycle used silica gel in-house. As a result, no solid waste is generated in this experiment and only 10mL of alcohol is output as liquid waste.

Experiments with organic chemistry, a branch of chemistry that focuses on the properties and reactions of carbon-containing compounds, have the potential to be bad for the environment, explains Bill Nelligan, associate director of Environmental Health and Safety. By going green, Nelligan estimates the lab has reduced its solid and liquid waste by 50 percent each.

According to EPA guidelines, waste must be documented and discarded properly. These chemicals are sent to EPA-permitted Treatment Storage and Disposal Facilities for disposal or to be used as fuel in energy conversion plants.

“Wesleyan owns all chemicals, from the time they are brought into the university, to the time they are used, and from the time they are recycled or end up in a hazardous waste facility or landfill,” Nelligan explains. “Chemicals are a cradle to grave responsibility.”

Roberts began the quest to go green in Summer 2006 when she met with Margaret Kerr, who received her inorganic chemistry Ph.D. from Wesleyan in 1998. Kerr is currently an assistant professor of inorganic chemistry at Worchester State College and an expert on green chemistry.

Kerr directed Roberts to the online database, Greener Education Materials for Chemists. This site features an interactive collection of chemistry education materials focused on green chemistry.

“I was able to find the same lessons using green chemistry and plug them into our curriculum,” Roberts says.

Organic Chemistry Laboratory is a required course for anyone majoring in chemistry or pre-medical, dental and veterinary studies. The updated, environmentally-friendly course, CHEM 258, has increased student enrollment 25 percent over the last few years. Roberts teaches six sections comprising no more than 20 students each.

By going “green,” Wesleyan is taking part in the U.S Environmental Protection Agency’s Green Chemistry Program. Green Chemistry Program has built hundreds of collaborations with academia, industry, government agencies, scientific societies, trade organizations, national laboratories and research centers to promote the use of chemistry for pollution prevention through completely voluntary, non-regulatory partnerships.

Next fall, Roberts will co-teach the laboratory-based Integrated Chemistry course Chem 375 with Albert Fry, professor of chemistry. Roberts plans to introduce green chemistry concepts to the lab.

“If we just focus on being one university going green, in one state, in one country, we are doing our part,” Roberts says. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every university in every state did their part? Imagine the impact.”

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

PIMMS Assistant Director Plans the Programs

Patti Miller, assistant director of programs, grants and marketing for the Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics and Science (PIMMS).
Posted 06/04/07
Q: Patti, when did you start working at Wesleyan and what were you hired in as?

A: I started in Fall 2000 and I was hired on a part-time/temporary basis to assist a wonderful woman who was diagnosed with a terminal illness to help her manage PIMMS workshop registrations and promotion.

Q: You are the assistant director of programs, grants and marketing for the PIMMS. What is the overall purpose of the program?

A: PIMMS mission is to provide high-quality professional development for mathematics and science educators – mostly at the Pre-K to grade 12 level. We accomplish this by offering workshops in the summer and throughout the academic year to improve teachers’ command of the subject matter, use of technology, and their pedagogical and leadership skills as well as foster colleagueship among educators. The PIMMS Fellowship program was initiated in 1983 for very dedicated educators by providing intensive training of over 200 hours and lasting 18 or more months. Since then, more than 600 PIMMS Fellows have been named. PIMMS also provides training for individual school districts with on-site and in-service workshops for staff as well as consulting services to help educational leaders evaluate their programs, curriculum and student progress.

Q: What are some of the PIMMS programs?

A: We are currently wrapping up a 20-month Connecticut State Department of Education grant project to train 43 math leaders in middle and high schools in 14 districts in the state. We are also one year into a 3-year CSDE grant for 25 middle school science teacher-leaders. This summer, we will continue our work with the eesmarts program sponsored by United Illuminating and Connecticut Light and Power, funded by the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund. This project provides training for K-8 teachers to enhance their knowledge of energy and energy conservation to improve delivery of instruction in their science classrooms and to promote an energy-efficiency ethic in our communities. PIMMS Chair, Bob Rosenbaum, will also return to the classroom this summer with two mini-mathematics courses for a small group of educators finishing their PIMMS Fellows training.

Q: What is your role as a grants writer and marketing person?

A: I am responsible for taking ideas about grant projects and putting them into a final form that, hopefully, results in funding for the project. These ideas may come from within the PIMMS House or from Wesleyan professors who wish to work with K-12 schools in their projects. Once we receive funding for a project, I oversee the operation of the project to make sure all staff and participants are informed about events and activities and I produce promotional materials needed for the project as well as gather data and evaluation materials for preparing final reports. I also maintain the PIMMS Web site, which houses information about all our current programs and, as needed, produce fliers and brochures for workshops and events hosted by PIMMS.

Q: Who founded PIMMS?

A: In 1979, Robert Rosenbaum, University Professor of Mathematics and the Sciences, Emeritus, convened a group of citizens who were concerned about the quality of mathematics education in the state of Connecticut. These meetings included mathematics teachers and faculty from the public school, community college, and university levels, as well as school administrators and representatives of business and industry. Their collaboration resulted in the formation of the Project to Increase Mastery of Mathematics. PIMMS began in 1983 when the organization’s scope was broadened to include science.

Q: Who are the key people you work with in the office?

A: Our office is quite small and although we all work somewhat independently, we overlap considerably on our various projects. Included are Mike Zebarth, director; Bob Borello, associate director for Science; Sandie Coelho, associate director for mathematics; and Lorraine Karatkewicz, who holds everything together as our office manager. Bob Rosenbaum, chair and founder of PIMMS, is our stalwart consultant and guide in all matters pertaining to education, mathematics, science, and general good sense. My work generally supports everyone in the office.

Q: What do you do throughout your day and when does it become the busiest?

A: My day involves a lot of work at the computer – writing, communicating with project participants, Web site work, producing brochures and announcements, and processing workshop registrations or Continuing Education Units. Crunch time occurs when grant proposals or final reports are due or if we have a large number of workshops scheduled in a short time-span.

Q: What is the Early Childhood Mathematics and Science Leadership Institute?

A: We recently managed two grant projects intended to expose early childhood educators to new research and techniques for fostering mathematics and science thinking in the young child. This growing field is emerging as an important means for helping young children, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds, to develop skills and some “big ideas” about science and mathematics to get them ready for K-12 education. We hope to be able to continue work in this area.

Q: What is your background in?

A: I have an undergraduate degree in fine arts and a master’s degree in exercise science, not your typical combination. I have worked as an artist, a graphic artist, and as an exercise physiologist managing grant projects and training and certification programs.

Q: What are some the challenges of your job?

A: The most interesting “challenge” for me at PIMMS occurs during the exploratory stages when a new grant proposal is in the works. I enjoy the background research, especially, in gathering evidence in support of the intended goals and activities of the project and find that I learn an enormous amount about the topic in the process. Structuring a project so that it fits within a budget, meets the grantors objectives, meets the grantees goals and interests, and makes sense as a total package to the grant readers and funding agency is always a challenge, especially when many players are involved in brainstorming the possibilities.

Q: Where is your office located on campus, and what is the story behind this building?

A: PIMMS is located at 178 Cross Street, across from the softball fields and practice soccer and lacrosse fields. PIMMS House was built in downtown Middletown circa 1750 and moved to its present location in the early 1800s.

Q: Do you have children? What are some activities you enjoy doing together?

A: My husband, Jeff Miller, and I have three daughters 18, 20, and 22. Jeff is the associate director of facilities management at Physical Plant. All of us have been involved in running and track and field at some time and this summer I will continue to coach as a volunteer with the Connecticut Track Club which I founded in 2001 – a youth program for ages 9 and older and currently expanding to include adult distance runners.

Q: What are your hobbies?

A: Exercise is a “hobby” I pursue as a necessary counterpoint to many hours in front of a computer. I also enjoy photography and stained glass.

Q: Anything else you’d like to say about your role at Wesleyan?

A: Wesleyan University is a fabulous institution in many ways, most notably in the educational experiences it provides but also in its relationship with and support of its employees. I consider working at Wesleyan a privilege.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor

Class Uses Local Lake as Laboratory

Posted 06/04/07
About 30 years ago, unnatural and excessive biological growth started occurring in the small, man-made Beseck Lake six miles southeast of Wesleyan’s campus.

Septic systems from lakeside homes deposited nutrients into the water, altering the biogeological cycles of carbon, sulfur, nitrogen and phosphorus in the aquatic ecosystem.

By 2002, the problem was remedied by connecting the homes to a city sewer system and the quality of the lake water improved. However, excess algae growth continued to form, proving that some unwanted nutrients continued to exist.

“What was still polluting the lake?’” asked Tim Ku, assistant professor of earth and environmental science. Ku and 18 Wesleyan students volunteered to help find the answers.

As part of Wesleyan’s Service Learning Course, Environmental Geochemistry Laboratory, the students had an opportunity to research the lake focusing on cultural eutrophication – or the result of nutrient pollution in an ecosystem.

Prior to conducting the actual research, Ku taught the class a variety of geochemical analytical techniques. Classes were held on campus but the 116-acre Beseck Lake served as the laboratory.

The students broke into small groups to conduct individual studies. During the winter they cut holes frozen-over lake (pictured) and lowered probes into the water and sediment. The sediment measurements allowed the young researches to identify changes that have occurred in the lake since 1849, when the lake was created. Students also analyzed the lake’s water and the surrounding air.

Sarah Gillig ‘09, an earth and environmental studies major, worked on an organic sediment deposit study. Her goal was to find what was still causing the pollution in the lake, which can harm people and kill fish and natural aquatic life.

“We wanted to know if the problems were caused by outside factors, such as external organic pollution, runoff from a nearby mountain, or if they were internal,” Gillig explains. “We ultimately discovered they were internal.”

Jordan Schmidt ’08, earth and environmental sciences major, analyzed the amount of phosphate in the lake’s sediment. High phosphate levels can result in excess algae growth.

Emily Keeler ‘07, an earth and environmental sciences major, says she took the Service Learning Class because she’s interested in the ways that humans impact environments. Keeler focused her Beseck Lake studies on water chemistry.

By measuring the levels of dissolved oxygen, Keeler was able to investigate the magnitude of oxygen depletion and also whether the lake is overturning and mixing. She and her peers calculated alkalinity and measured ion concentrations in the water to determine existing contaminations.

“It’s difficult to look at this ecosystem and see how it’s being destroyed,” Keeler says. “People want to use it for recreation. They aren’t necessarily thinking about the fact that in order for the lake to not be eutrophic depends on a balanced lake ecosystem. That means they’re going to have to change parts of their lifestyle, like not using chemical fertilizers that run into the lake.”

Ku says once excess phosphate enters the lake, much of it is continuously cycled from the sediments into the water column. The Town of Middlefield has submitted a $100,000 bond proposal to the Connecticut State Bond Commission to improve the water quality and clarity of Beseck Lake. The bond has been approved by the Environment Committee and the Finance Committee, and is awaiting a vote.

To solve the algae problem, the class investigated the use of alum, a compound that binds phosphate. While this treatment could decrease the algae blooms at Beseck Lake the students cautioned that an alum application must be carefully designed and monitored. Too much alum may harm aquatic life such as fish; too little will not inhibit the algae growth.

“There is no easy solution for eutrophication at Beseck Lake, the nutrients can be very difficult to remove or inactivate,” Ku says. “Hopefully, the class research will lead to the remediation of the lake.”

The Service Learning project was held in cooperation with the Beseck Lake Association. Students took turns presented their finding to 35 members of the lake community on May 8.

“For a long time we have wondered whether the nutrients in the lake were caused by leaves washing down the mountain, farm animals that live on either end of the lake, or sewage that is stored in the sediment after 75 years of septic tank leakage,” says Richard Boynton, president of the Beseck Lake Association. “The students answered this question. Middlefield is lucky that Wesleyan provided this valuable research study, which would have otherwise cost us thousands of dollars.”

Gillig says the Service Learning program is a valuable addition at Wesleyan, and provides them with practical experience in things that are otherwise very abstract.

“Once you’ve done it yourself, you have a completely different comprehension and appreciation for things,” she says.

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photos contributed by Tim Ku and his class.

Scientists, Students Team Up for BioBlitz Event

David Wagner, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Connecticut, talks to Wesleyan faculty and Wesleyan Hughes and Mellon Fellows about the 2007 BioBlitz, to be held in Middletown June 8-9.
Posted 06/04/07
BioBlitz 2007 is coming to Middletown and Wesleyan faculty and students are playing key roles.

For those unaware, BioBlitz is a 24-hour environmental diversity survey that was originated in the state by the University of Connecticut and several partners. During BioBlitz, scientific specialists are partnered up with grade school students and others for field surveys and other activities. The idea is to get a snapshot of the biodiversity of a specific area in a 24-hour period.

This year, BioBlitz 2007 will focus on Middletown, taking place from June 8-9, with the public invited to attend between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. June 9.

Wesleyan has contributed $5,000 toward the survey and events. Wesleyan faculty, staff and students have been involved in planning, logistics, events as well as participating in the actual surveys. This includes Laura Appel, visiting associate professor of biology; Barry Chernoff, Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Sciences, professor of biology; Valerie Marinelli, administrative assistant for the Environmental Studies Program; Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology; and Michael Weir, professor of biology, director, Hughes Program in the Life Sciences. Both Chernoff and Singer will be leading field studies.

The fieldwork teams headed by Chernoff will survey three locations and identify and catalogue aquatic fish and invertebrates. He will be assisted by Kevi Mace ’07 and Nick Field ’09. Singer’s field teams will be in two locations identifying and cataloguing caterpillars. He will be assisted by Tim Farkas ’08, and Christian Skorik ’09.

As part of the ramp-up to BioBlitz 2007, the coordinator of the program David Wagner, associate professor of ecology and evolutionary biology from the University of Connecticut, spoke to students on campus from the summer Hughes Program in the Life Sciences and Mellon Scholars, as well as others from the university community.

Along with Wesleyan, BioBlitz 2007 sponsors include the City of Middletown, University of Connecticut Center for Conservation & Biodiversity, the Connecticut State Museum of Natural History, Pratt & Whitney, the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, and Middletown Public Schools.

For more information go to:

By David Pesci, director of Media Relations

Pulitzer Prize Winner Keynote Speaker at Writers’ Conference

Posted 06/04/07
Edward P. Jones, pictured at left, a winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award, will be the keynote speaker at the 51st annual Wesleyan Writers Conference, held on campus June 17-22.

The Writers Conference welcomes experienced writers, new writers and anyone interested in the writer’s craft. One of the leading writers conferences in the nation, it has launched many writers’ publishing careers, notes Anne Greene, director.

“All of the programs are designed to offer you new perspectives on your work and the company of other writers who share your interests,” Greene says.

This summer’s program include seminars, informal workshops, guest speakers, manuscript consultations and publishing advice, as well as quiet time for writing. Topics include the novel, short story, graphic novels, poetry, memoir, journalism, long-form nonfiction, writing about social issues, mixed-media work, and new forms of publishing.

The conference faculty includes some of the nation’s most distinguished writers and promising new voices: fiction writers Robert Stone, Roxana Robinson, Alexander Chee, Richard Bausch, Paul LaFarge, and Josip Novakovich; poets Honor Moore, Laura Cronk, and Sherwin Bitsui; journalists Lis Harris, Jonathan Schell, Gayle Pemberton, Jennifer Gonnerman, Katha Pollitt and George Packer; and several panels of editors and agents. Also musician and small-press founder Johnny Temple, Allison Lorentzen of the award-winning journal N+1, and Ravi Shankar, founder of the Internet poetry magazine, Drunken Boat.

Three readings are open to the community free of charge:

Author George Packer will speak at 3 p.m. June 20 in the Center for the Arts Cinema. Packer is the author of The Assasin’s Gate: America in Iraq and is a New Yorker staff writer.

Novelist Robert Stone, winner of the National Book Award, will read from his best-selling new book, Prime Green: A Memoir of the Sixties, at 4:30 p.m. June 20 in the Center for the Arts Old Cinema.

Edward P. Jones will read from his recent work and answer questions. He received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, the National Book Critics Circle Award, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, and the Lannan Literary Award for his novel, The Known World. He has also published two award-winning short story collections, most recently All Aunt Hagar’s Children. In 2004 he received a MacArthur Fellowship. Jones will speak at 8 p.m. June 21 in the Center for the Arts, Old Cinema.

For complete information and registration, go to the Wesleyan Writers Conference web site: or contact Anne Greene at 860-685-3604 or

By Olivia Drake, The Wesleyan Connection editor. Photo by Bettina Strauss.

3 Faculty Awarded for Excellence in Teaching

Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of American Studies and English, was one of three faculty members to receive the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching by President Doug Bennet during Commencement Ceremonies May 27.
Posted 06/04/07
Joyce Jacobsen, the Andrews Professor of Economics; Richard Slotkin, the Olin Professor of American Studies and English; and T. David Westmoreland, associate professor of chemistry were the 2007 recipients of the Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching. They received the prize during the 2007 Commencement ceremony May 27.

The Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching was inaugurated in 1993 as an institutional recognition of outstanding faculty members. One to three Binswanger Prizes for Excellence in Teaching are presented each year and are made possible by the generosity of the Binswanger family that counts numerous Wesleyan alumni, alumnae and parents in its ranks.

The standards and criteria for the annual prizes include excellence in teaching as exemplified by commitment to the classroom and student accomplishment, intellectual demands placed on students, lucidity, and passion.

Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of emeriti, current faculty members and appointed members of the Alumni Association’s Executive Committee. Recommendations are solicited from members of the last ten graduating classes, the current junior and senior classes, and current graduate students. Recommendations are based on any of the types of teaching that are done at the University including, but not limited to: teaching in lecture courses, seminars, laboratories, creative and performance-based courses, research tutorials and other individual and group tutorials at the undergraduate and graduate level.

Each recipient receives a citation and monetary prize made possible by the generosity of the Binswanger family. Previous recipients are excluded from consideration for seven years.

The credentials of this year’s honorees are extensive. Briefly:

Joyce Jacobsen joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1993. She received an A.B. in economics from Harvard University, a M.Sc. in economics from London School of Economics, and a Ph.D. in economics from Stanford University. Her main research interest is gender and racial/ethnic differences in employment and earnings patterns. Professor Jacobsen teaches courses on economics of gender, urban economics, econometrics, and microeconomic theory, and serves often as the CSS economics sophomore tutor.

Her books include The Economics of Gender (2007), Labor Markets and Employment Relationships (with Professor Gil Skillman, 2004), and a forthcoming reader on Queer Economics, co-edited with Adam Zeller ’00 (2007). She is the author of numerous book chapters and articles that have appeared in such publications as the Journal of Income Distribution, the European Economic Review, and the Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance. She is the editor of Eastern Economic Journal and the associate editor of Feminist Economics.

Richard Slotkin joined the Wesleyan faculty in 1966. He developed the American Studies Program and chaired it for 20 years, and also has been a major contributor to the development of film studies at the University. This is Slotkin’s second time receiving the award.

His latest book is Lost Battalions: The Great War and the Crisis of American Nationality (2005), the story of two World War I regiments: the African-American “Harlem Hell Fighters” and the “Lost Battalion” of the 77th Division, raised from the immigrant peoples of New York’s tenements, who fought heroically for a country which refused to recognize them as equal citizens. He is best known for an award-winning trilogy of scholarly books on the myth of the frontier in American cultural history. Regeneration Through Violence: The Mythology of the American Frontier, 1600–1860 (1973) was a finalist for the 1974 National Book Award and received the 1973 Albert J. Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association. The second volume, The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800–1890 (1985) received the literary award of the Little Big Horn Associates, and has become a standard reference in the field of American studies. The final volume, Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth-Century America (1992) was a finalist for the 1993 National Book Award. Slotkin also has written three historical novels: Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln (2000), which received the Michael Shaara Award for Civil War Fiction (2001) and the Book Award (2000); The Return of Henry Starr (1988); and The Crater (1980).

In 1995 he received the Mary C. Turpie Award from the American Studies Association, for his contributions to teaching and program-building. He also received Wesleyan’s Binswanger Prize for Excellence in Teaching in 1997.

T. David Westmoreland received a B.S. degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Ph.D. from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the Wesleyan faculty in 1989, he held postdoctoral appointments at Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley. His research interests are concentrated in the area of inorganic chemistry. He and his research group are particularly interested in the functions of metal ions in biological systems. His research publications have spanned a number of topics in this area, from the relationship between electronic structure and spectroscopic features of molybdenum-containing oxidoreductase enzymes, to new manganese and chromium-based contrast agents for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). In addition, his work includes exploring fundamental aspects of atom transfer reactions that are related to biological and industrial oxidation processes. His work has appeared in The Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry, Inorganic Chemistry, and Organometallics.

Professor Westmoreland teaches introductory general chemistry as well as advanced courses on inorganic chemistry and on chemical applications of symmetry concepts. He also has taught general education courses on pattern formation in nature and on scientific research ethics. He has been a research mentor to 24 Wesleyan undergraduates and six graduate students over the years.

Photo by Bill Burkhart, university photographer.

Alumni Pledge $5M to Create New Center on Campus

Elena ’93 and Trustee Robert L. Allbritton ’92 have donated $5M to Wesleyan, to help build the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.
Posted 06/04/07
Trustee Robert L. Allbritton ’92, his wife Elena ’93 and family have pledged $5 million toward the renovation of Davenport Hall to house Wesleyan’s new Center for the Study of Public Life and to challenge younger alumni classes to contribute to the Wesleyan Fund. The Center will be named for the Allbritton family.

“Public life is changing, in part because new media have accelerated the exchange of ideas among leaders in government, business, the arts and sciences, and grassroots activism,” said Allbritton, founder of The Politico, a newspaper and web site already renowned for its coverage of Capitol Hill and national politics. “I am proud to think that The Politico supports and informs this exchange. I believe that the Center for the Study of Public Life at Wesleyan also can help us understand and elevate our evolving public discourse.”

The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life is a response to significant changes across the social sciences, which include the creation of new interdisciplinary ventures, the use of multiple methodologies in research, and the rethinking of the idea of the public in a variety of intellectual and social movements. The Allbritton Center will build on evolving relationships between scholarly research and both the political process and the greater public. It will host courses taught by people who have had distinguished careers in public service, including law, business, government, the non-profit sector, and media. It also will house a Quantitative Analysis Center to educate students in the analysis and interpretation of large bodies of data.

Architectural planning is underway for the renovation of Davenport Hall, currently in use as a campus center, to house the Allbritton Center.

The Allbritton gift, in honor of Robert’s 15th reunion, is unprecedented in size for alumni of this generation. The Allbrittons have pledged a portion of their gift as matching funds to challenge members of Wesleyan’s younger alumni classes to give more.

The gift also honors two Wesleyan presidents: Doug Bennet, the University’s 15th president, who will complete a 12 year term this June, and Michael Roth, who will become the 16th president on July 1.

“Both Doug and Michael exemplify the finest qualities of the liberally educated,” said Allbritton. “Each has innovated across a range of activities and institutional settings. They are engaged, adaptive, and resourceful leaders.”

Bennet’s career has combined leadership roles at the U.S. Department of State and the presidencies of National Public Radio and Wesleyan. Roth, a historian, has shaped programs bridging scholarship, the arts and public life at Scripps College, the Getty Research Institute and California College of the Arts.

“This generous gift will help Wesleyan education keep pace with rapid changes in the workings of our democracy and our global society,” said Wesleyan President Doug Bennet. “I am grateful to Robert Allbritton for his own commitments to quality and innovation and to the Allbritton family for their willingness to help keep Wesleyan in the forefront.”

The Politico features intensive coverage by seasoned political reporters that is targeted both at decision-makers and the public at large. Its primary medium is the Internet, so important stories often are updated three or four times a day, said Allbritton. At the same time, it produces a print edition and news programming for television and radio.

Robert Allbritton is chairman and CEO of Allbritton Communications Company, headquartered in Washington, D.C. ACC is a family-owned company that owns and operates seven ABC-affiliated stations across the United States. ACC also owns and operates NewsChannel 8, a local 24-hour news cable programming service in the Washington metropolitan area.

Elena Allbritton is a physician and a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 1993. The pledge comes jointly from Robert and Elena Allbritton and from a family foundation established by Robert’s parents, Joe L. and Barbara B. Allbritton.

“Wesleyan has a grand tradition of connecting research and education to the improvement of our public life,” said President-Elect Michael Roth. “I am very excited by the prospects of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Political Life to advance our understanding of how to be more effective global citizens. I look forward to working to ensure its success.”