Monthly Archives: March 2009

2009 Honorary Degree Recipients Announced

Award-winning, best-selling author Anna Quindlen P’07, pioneering entrepreneur and philanthropist Azim Premji P’99, and two dedicated members of the Middletown community, Mark Masselli and Jennifer Alexander ’88, will be the honorary degree recipients at the 177th Wesleyan Commencement on May 24, 2009. Quindlen will also give this year’s Commencement Address.

Karsh ’87, Sciola on the Post-Graduation Job Search

Brad Karsh ’87 and Michael Sciola, director of Wesleyan’s Career Resource Center, are both quoted in a piece in The Wall Street Journal titled “Graduating with a Major in Go-Getting.” The article discusses a variety of strategies up-coming graduates may want to consider for their first post-commencement job search.

Quindlen P’07, Premji P’99, Masselli,                   Alexander ’88, to Receive Honorary Degrees

An award-winning best-selling author, a pioneering entrepreneur and philanthropist, and two dedicated members of the Middletown community will be the honorary degree recipients at the 177th Wesleyan Commencement on May 24, 2009.

Anna Quindlen P'07.

Anna Quindlen P'07

Anna Quindlen P’07, who will also give the Commencement Address, is a novelist, a journalist, and a champion of higher education. She currently writes the “Last Word” column on the back page of Newsweek and serves as chair of the board of Barnard College, where she received a degree in English literature.

Quindlen has published five novels, all of them bestsellers. Her most recent, Rise and Shine, debuted at number one on The New York Times bestseller list. She has also published many nonfiction books, including Thinking Out Loud, How Reading Changed My Life, and A Short Guide to a Happy Life, which has sold more than 1 million copies.

Quindlen spent most of

Mukerji Awarded NSF Funding for Her DNA Research

Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, uses a UV resonance Raman spectrometer to measure molecular vibrations. She examines the structure of DNA, to understand how protein modulation of the structure can lead to tumors and other diseases.

Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, uses a UV resonance Raman spectrometer to measure molecular vibrations. She examines the structure of DNA, to understand how protein modulation of the structure can lead to tumors and other diseases.

Errors in genomic DNA can lead to tumors and other diseases. By probing specific DNA structures, Ishita Mukerji hopes to gain an understanding of how such medical conditions can be prevented or possibly cured.

Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, studies how different proteins recognize and bind to DNA. Specifically, she examines four-stranded DNA structures, known as “Holliday junctions,” which are involved in DNA repair and recombination. These are different from the common, two-stranded DNA.

On April 1, Mukerji will receive a four-year grant worth $798,368 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to fund her research project, “Structure and Function of Holliday Junctions Complexed With Proteins Probed by Fluorescence and UV Raman Spectroscopic Methods.”

“Both DNA repair and recombination are vital functions of the cell, which are needed to maintaining a stable and active genome,” Mukerji explains. “Our goal is to study the structure of the junctions and how that relates to their function.”

Holliday junction structures can be changed by protein binding. Mukerji will examine how these structures are altered by proteins that are known to be involved in repair and recombination and are known to bind to junctions.

“These studies address the overall mechanism of how DNA recombination occurs in the cell and the function of these proteins,” she says.

Chemistry graduate students Andrew Moreno and Jon King, MBB graduate student Yan Li and molecular biology and biochemistry major Olga Buzovetsky ’10, will assist Mukerji with the ongoing research.

Two different methods are used to study the DNA interactions: fluorescence spectroscopy and a laser technique, UV resonance Raman spectroscopy. By using the fluorescence method, the Mukerji group can examine and compare the structure of the junction and the protein-binding sites. By using the Raman technique, which examines molecular vibrations, they can probe protein and ion binding sites.

Wesleyan’s Chemistry Department and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry Department own several fluorescence spectrometers, and Mukerji has built her own, specialized UV resonance Raman spectrometer.

Most of the proposed research will be completed in Mukerji’s lab, although some computational studies will be done in collaboration with David Beveridge, the University Professor of the Sciences and mathematics, professor of chemistry. She is also collaborating with the Hingorani lab (MBB department) to study how proteins involved in mismatch repair and meiotic recombination bind to Holliday junctions. One set of experiments will be conducted at SUNY Buffalo.

The group will also examine how the protein-junction complex either facilitates or suppresses certain processes.

“One theory that we have is that the proteins we are studying suppress recombination as a means of preserving or maintaining the genome.” Mukerji says. “This is an idea that will be tested with the proposed experiments.”

Whedon ’87 to Keynote Shasha Seminar in May

Joss Whedon '87.

Joss Whedon '87.

Joss Whedon ’87, writer, director and executive producer of such popular TV shows as “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Angel,” “Firefly,” and the new series “Dollhouse,” will give the May 30 keynote address for the seventh annual Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns. The unique seminar scheduled for May 29 through 31 will focus on “Defining American Culture: How Movies and TV Get Made.”

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Chair of the Film Studies Department, and curator of the Cinema Archives will be the facilitator for this seminar. Other presenters include successful Wesleyan alumni who work as film and TV producers, directors, writers and actors.

“This seminar provides an opportunity for an intellectual examination of films and TV and their influence on our culture,” says Linda Secord, Director of Alumni Relations and the Shasha Seminar organizer.

Faculty Teach Elementary Students DNA, Natural History

Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology, taught a workshop on "Biodiversity in Connecticut and Beyond" during the Middletown Minds in Motion program March 21 at Snow Elementary School.

Michael Singer, assistant professor of biology, taught a workshop on "Biodiversity in Connecticut and Beyond" during the Middletown Minds in Motion program March 21 at Snow Elementary School. Singer taught participants about natural history and the biologically diverse animals that inhabit Connecticut ecosystems, focusing on insects, reptiles and amphibians.

Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, taught a workshop titled "Who Done It? A DNA Investigation."

Ishita Mukerji, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, taught a workshop titled "Who Done It? A DNA Investigation."

During a “Who Done It? A DNA Investigation,” elementary school aged children sported white lab coats and became “detectives” hoping to solve a crime.

The students learned about DNA structure by isolating DNA from wheat germ and comparing DNA samples from a ‘crime scene’ with the DNA from five suspects. They learn how DNA forensics actually works – just like on the television show “CSI.”

Social Justice Leadership Conference March 28

Wesleyan’s Social Justice Leadership Conference (SJLC) will provide participants an opportunity to learn more about social justice and how to apply it in their lives. The free, all-day March 28 event is open to all members of the Wesleyan community and to anyone who may be interested.

The SJLC, which is co-sponsored by the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) and the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development (SALD), grew out of the previously held WSA-sponsored Social Justice Day and SALD’s WesLead emerging leaders conference events.

“I think what we saw was that both events could be more successful if they were combined. The development of leadership skills and successfully creating change and social movements are closely related,” Tim Shiner, Director of Student Activities & Leadership Development, says.

According to Shiner, social justice concerns any issue that affects human rights, cultural differences or global or environmental sustainability.

The SJLC is a collaborative effort which provides a space for students, student groups, community members, alumni, faculty, and staff to discuss social justice and to learn and refine leadership skills. The SJLC seeks to empower its participants to create change by applying the skills and knowledge acquired during the conference.

Students, student groups, alumni, community members, faculty and staff will facilitate sessions in their area of interest or expertise. Sessions will focus on leadership skills that may be applied to any social movement and will provide information on the many manifestations of injustice and how participants can be involved in creating change. The SJLC provides participants with resources and opportunities for engagement on campus, in Middletown, in Connecticut and across the globe.

Sessions will be held on topics such as student lobbying, online organizing, food justice, alternative fuel and exploitation in the media. Ithaca-based consultant Alan Berkowitz will be leading a session on “Overcoming Difficulties & Fear of Political Incorrectness in Discussing Issues of Identity.”

The dynamic “Ableism Dance Workshop” will feature dance “that includes and accepts a wide range of disabilities (ranging from limitations in movement to limitations in the senses) as a platform to discuss and imagine a less ableist world.” A networking session called “Get Connected: Justice and Leadership Networking” will be held late in the day on Saturday. Members of social justice organizations, leadership organizations, and student justice groups will be represented at the networking session.

The Vermont-based art and theater company Bread & Puppet Theater will perform at the SJLC during lunch. The performers, who focus on political activism in their work, will also hold a workshop for Wesleyan students on March 27 and then work with these students to plan and execute the March 28 performance.

To see the day’s schedule, go here. Registration begins at 9:30 a.m. at Daniel Family Commons, 3rd Floor, Usdan University Center, 45 Wyllys Ave. Middletown, CT 06459. The event goes until 5 p.m. Attendees are welcome to attend as many or as few sessions as they would like.

To register to attend, go here. There is no cost to attend the Social Justice Leadership Conference. Pre-registration is advised.

For more information, email the Office of Student Activities and Leadership Development.

McKenna to Coach Women’s National Hockey Team

Coach Jodi McKenna.

Coach Jodi McKenna.

Jodi McKenna, head women’s ice hockey coach, was selected to be an assistant coach for the 2009 U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team. The team will defend its world title at the 2009 International Ice Hockey Federation World Women’s Championship from April 4-12, in Hameenlinna, Finland.

McKenna‘s preliminary roster includes four goaltenders, 10 defensemen and 18 forwards, and will be trimmed by 11 players prior to Team USA’s March 30 departure for Finland.

Highlighting the roster are 24 players who have competed in previous IIHF World Women’s Championships, including 23 who have been on gold medal-winning squads, either in 2005 or 2008. Nineteen of the 20 members of the world champion 2008 U.S. Women’s National Team are in contention for roster spots on this year’s entry into the tournament.

Tyrnauer ’91, Leff ’90, Burden ’89 Create Valentino Documentary

Matt Tyrnauer '91, left, talks with Valentino.

Matt Tyrnauer '91, left, talks with Valentino.

Matt Tyrnauer ’91, special correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, has produced and directed an engaging new documentary, Valentino: The Last Emperor, which was released nationwide in March. (The film opened in Manhattan on March 18 at the Film Forum.)

Co-produced by Adam Leff ’90 with Carter Burden ’89 as executive producer, the film celebrates the colorful career of the renowned Italian fashion designer Valentino, covering the period between his 70th birthday and his final couture show. It tells the story of his extraordinary life, examines the fashion business today, and deals with the designer’s relationship with fame.

The Last Emperor</em>.

Valentino, center, in Valentino: The Last Emperor.

At the center of the documentary is the unique relationship between Valentino and his business partner and companion of 50 years, Giancarlo Giammetti. Tyrnauer and his crew had exclusive, unprecedented access to Valentino and his entourage. In production from June 2005 to July 2007, the filmmakers shot more than 250 hours of footage.

In March, Valentino and Giammetti were guests on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and the film was also featured on The Charlie Rose Show and The View. The documentary has been received favorably in the press. Lisa Berman of Entertainment Weekly says: “I really enjoyed Matt’s film. He did an amazing job, and the access was phenomenal. I found it fascinating how it … became a business story.”

Tyrnauer comments: “The movie, in certain ways—thanks almost entirely to its stars—plays more like a feature film than a documentary. What started as a journalistic inquiry, in the end, revealed a unique love story with the world of fashion as a backdrop.”

Tynnauer was recently interviewed by several publications, including Women’s Wear Daily and IndieWire.

Film website:
http://www.valentinomovie.com/

Wesleyan Choir Joins Middletown Chorale for Performance

Keith Lee '09, a member of the Wesleyan Concert Choir, sings amongst Greater Middletown Chorale members during a rehearsal March 10 at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Middletown. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

Keith Lee '09, a member of the Wesleyan Concert Choir, sings with Greater Middletown Chorale members during a rehearsal March 10 at the Church of the Holy Trinity in Middletown. (Photos by Olivia Bartlett)

Twenty-four Wesleyan students will hit a high note in their singing careers April 19, when they perform with one of the preeminent choral groups in Connecticut.

The Wesleyan Concert Choir is teaming up with Greater Middletown Chorale, the region’s 32 year-old community chorus, and a 22-piece string orchestra of professional instrumentalists drawn from the New Haven Symphony and Yale Symphony Orchestras for a concert to be held at Crowell Concert Hall.

“On measure eight, energize it, not with volume but with energy,” says director Joseph D’Eugenio, during a March 10 group practice. “And be very anticipatory of the diminuendo

Wesleyan Participates in Mural Project with Local Youth

Green Street Arts Center students are working on designs for the community mural. (Photo courtesy of Marela Zacarias)

Green Street Arts Center students are working on designs for the community mural. (Photo courtesy of Marela Zacarias)

The Green Street Arts Center is launching the Green Street Community Mural Project, an 18 month-long art program that will culminate in a large public mural, to be installed in the spring of 2009 on the corner of Main and Green Streets in the North End of Middletown.

Led by mural artist Marela Zacarias, the project’s participants are a diverse group of Middletown children, their families, professional artists, Wesleyan students, and other community members. A core group of students in Green Street’s Afterschool Program will work with the artists on the project regularly.

The primary goal of the Green Street Community Mural Project will be obvious to every driver and pedestrian who passes Green Street.

“This mural will brighten Main Street with the colorful art of our students,” says Zacarias. “It will also help to raise awareness of the wonderful activities that the Green Arts Center offers for the Middletown community.”

The Green Street Community Mural Project is funded by a $10,000 grant

Blog to Collect Input on Wesleyan Web Presence

Wesleyan has launched a web redesign blog to solicit input from the Wesleyan community.

Wesleyan has launched a web redesign blog to solicit input from the Wesleyan community.

The web at Wesleyan is undergoing major design and functionality changes, and the Website Design Team is seeking input from the Wesleyan community.

“This team has been charged with preparing a new website design strategy for the university,” says Melissa Datre, director of the Information Technology Service’s New Media Lab. “Through their request for feedback, peer school interviews, and faculty and student input, they will, over the next several weeks, propose to a new design concept for Wesleyan’s website presence.”

In early March, the team launched a web redesign blog to give every member of the campus community the opportunity to participate, contribute thoughts,