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Monthly Archive for November, 2010

“Pricing Carbon: The Wesleyan Conference” will run Nov. 19-21 on campus.

Wesleyan, in conjunction with the Price Carbon Campaign, an umbrella organization of climate-policy advocates, is convening a conference to discuss and develop new approaches to pricing carbon emissions that are destabilizing Earth’s climate and driving global warming.

“Pricing Carbon: The Wesleyan Conference” will be held Nov. 19-21 at Wesleyan. Headline speakers include climatologist and Columbia University Professor James Hansen, author-activist Bill McKibben, and environmental-justice lawyer and advocate Angela Johnson Meszaros.

“Wesleyan University’s College of the Environment was established in 2009 to help students become better stewards of our fragile Earth,” says Barry Chernoff, director of the College of the Environment and professor of biology. “We welcome this opportunity to co-host a national conference (more…)

During Homecoming/Family Weekend 2010, more than 2,700 Wesleyan alumni, students, families, faculty and staff had the opportunity to attend WESeminars, root on the Cardinals in several Homecoming sporting events, tour campus and visit with old friends.

Pictured are a few highlights of the weekend:

More than 5,000 fans attended the Homecoming football game Oct. 23, where the Wesleyan Cardinals played Amherst College.


Richard Grossman, professor of economics. (Photo by Bill Burkhart)

So much has been written about the recession that befell the country in the late summer of 2008. It was “unprecedented;” it “caught experts by surprise;” “virtually no one saw it coming.”

After all, a recession triggered by a major segment of the economy that was vulnerable to speculation, occurring during a time of high government deficits, cuts in interest rates, and tax reductions combined with dramatic increases in federal spending? When has that happened before?

“Dozens of times, if not more, during the last one hundred and fifty years or so,” says Richard Grossman, professor of economics, economic historian and author of the new book Unsettled Account: The Evolution of Banking in the Industrialized World Since 1800 (Princeton University Press).

“The collapse we just (more…)

Laura Stark, assistant professor of science in society, assistant professor of sociology.

Mention “records and documents of a large bureaucracy” and images of stacks of dense paperwork, rows of beige filing cabinets, and perhaps even a slight sensation of suffocation comes to mind. But mention the same phrase to Laura Stark and her pulse steps up a beat as she sees something quite different: buried treasure.

“I am interested in the power of bureaucracies and the discretion people within them have to interpret rules,” says Stark, assistant professor of science and society, assistant professor of sociology. “How people who work in big organizations, including government agencies, apply general rules to specific cases is hard work and often not intuitive at all. I also find the people who work in bureaucracies to be endlessly fascinating.”

Stark, who earned her Ph.D. in sociology (more…)

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This issue, we ask “5 Questions” of Eric Aaron, assistant professor of computer science. His article, “Action Selection and Task Sequence Learning for Hybrid Dynamical Cognitive Agents,” was recently published in Robotics and Autonomous Systems. Aaron has a bachelor of arts in math from Princeton University; a master of science and Ph.D in computer science from Cornell University.

Eric Aaron, assistant professor of computer science, is an expert on artificial intelligence, intelligent robotics, hybrid systems and computational intelligence modeling.

Q: How did you become interested in computer science, and specifically artificial intelligence?

A: I’ve always been interested in logical problem solving and how people think. As an undergraduate, I majored in mathematics and took courses in psychology and philosophy, but each of those was only a part of the big picture that really interested me. As I studied more, I found that computer science, and especially artificial intelligence (AI), incorporated parts of all of these perspectives in a single, mind-openingly fascinating and mind-blowingly enormous area of study. (more…)

From left, Elliot Skopin '11, Terrence Word '11, Trevor Michelson '13 and Spencer Hattendorf '12 placed second at the Head of the Charles Regatta Oct. 23. (Photo by Arya Alizadeh '13)

Wesleyan’s varsity four entry Elliot Skopin ’11, Terrence Word ’11, Trevor Michelson ’13 and Spencer Hattendorf ’12 with coxwain Peter Chu ’14 turned in an outstanding performance during the Collegiate Four event at the prestigious Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston Sat., Oct. 23.

With a time of 17:41.27 over the three-mile course, the Cardinals quartet of rowers bested 39 other crews in the 41-boat affair, trailing just WPI by a seven-second gap.  Wesleyan made up more than two minutes in moving past the University of Massachusetts team.  (more…)

Erika Franklin Fowler, assistant professor of government, is director of The Wesleyan Media Project.

The Wesleyan Media Project has received a $100,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

The Wesleyan Media Project is a non-partisan initiative designed to perform comprehensive tracking and analysis of federal and gubernatorial political advertisements by candidates, parties and special interest groups. It also provides experiential learning for graduate and undergraduate students in the review, coding and analysis of political advertisements.

Since its launch in late September 2010, The Wesleyan Media Project (more…)

Dina Kaplan ’93

In September, Dina Kaplan ’93, co-founder and COO of blip.tv, appeared on Fortune’s list of the 2010 Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs. According to Fortune, the “idea was to find the most innovative, ground-breaking, game-changing female entrepreneurs in the U.S.”

Kaplan recently talked to BusinessWeek about “Making More Women Entrepreneurs.” In the Q&A, she says: “There is a very strong camaraderie emerging among women in digital media. Women founders can encourage friendships and build a support network and potential business relationships to try to create a bit of an ‘old girls’ club’ for digital media.”

Peter Durwood ’86 and Grover.

Singer and composer Peter Durwood ’86, who crafts music and sound design for Sesame Workshop digital products, recently created the sound for a Sesame video that has become popular on YouTube.

In it, Grover, the furry blue monster, riffs on the Old Spice web-ads.

“I was an art major at Wes, but an unofficial music minor, particularly enjoying Mark Slobin’s Worlds of Music course, several semesters of African Drumming with Abraham Adzinyah, and Bill Lowe’s remarkable History of African-American Music,” says Durwood.

His album, Peter Durwood, will soon be available on iTunes.

Seth Halpern '09

Most people don’t become CFO of a national organization just one year out of Wesleyan—as a first job, no less—but Seth Halpern ’09 did just that.

A government major, he moved to Washington D.C. after graduation to look for employment, but the job market was difficult and a month later he was still unemployed. One morning at a local cafe he got to chatting with someone who said he worked at a software start-up, NationalField. Halpern admits that he’s always been “tech savvy” and the two hit it off. From there, he was introduced to the NationalField founders and he accepted a volunteer position with the team. A short time later, the CEO gave Halpern one of the top positions in the organization, formally naming him chief financial officer for NationalField, (more…)

Film by Sam Fleischner '06

Wah Do Dem, the delightful and often surprising indie film directed by Sam Fleischner ’06 and Ben Chace, is now available on DVD, after a successful theatrical tour in June.

The film centers on a young man named Max (Sean Bones) who lives in Brooklyn and is abandoned by his girlfriend (Norah Jones) two days before they are set to take a cruise they won to Jamaica. Max winds up alone on the high seas navigating through crowds of grey-haired cruisers. When the cruise liner docks in Jamaica, he quickly escapes the tourist zone, loses track of time and his personal belongings, and encounters a diverse group of local inhabitants along the way.

The movie contains music and appearances by MGMT (Ben Goldwasser ’05 and Andrew VanWyngarden ’05), Santigold (Santi White ’97), Yeasayer, The Congos, Suckers, Myskal Rose, Mr. Lexx and Sean Bones.

Wah Do Dem played at several film festivals, including the Los Angeles Film Festival (Winner Juror’s Award), BFI London Film Festival, Vancouver Film Festival, Spokane International Film Festival (Winner Best Picture), New Zealand Film Festival, San Francisco Indiefest and Reggae Film Festival in Jamaica.

Work by writers Steve Almond ’88 and Wells Tower ’96 have been selected for the recently published The Best American Short Stories 2010 (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), edited by fiction writer Richard Russo.

Steve Almond '88

Almond’s story in the collection, “Donkey Greedy, Donkey Gets Punched,” about a psychoanalyst who plays poker, was published originally in Tin House. The story will appear in his next story collection God Bless America. Almond is the author of two previous story collections, My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil B. B. Chow, the best-selling Candyfreak, and most recently, the nonfiction book Rock and Roll Will Save Your Life.

Wells Tower '96

Wells Tower’s story in the anthology, “Raw Water,” was written for McSweeney’s for an issue of stories set in the year 2024. According to Tower, his work deals with  “a manmade sea gone wrong, and the folks unfortunate enough to live on its shores.” Tower is an accomplished award-winning fiction and nonfiction writer, and his recent story collection, Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned, received acclaim in both the United States and abroad. Tower was chosen this year by The New Yorker as one of the best “20 Under 40” writers, which honors fiction writers under 40 years of age. He is currently a fellow at the New York Public Library’s Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Center.

The Best American Short Stories 2010 was recently featured in The Boston Globe and The Los Angeles Times.

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