Monthly Archives: May 2011

President Roth: “Is a College Diploma Worth It?”

On the PBS NewsHour, Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth joined PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel of The Thiel Foundation, Azar Nafisi of Johns Hopkins University, Richard Vedder of Ohio University’s Center for College Affordability and Productivity, and NewsHour moderator Jeffrey Brown to discuss whether a college degree is still worth the investment in today’s society.

President Roth will also be featured in a live chat on the subject sponsored by The NewsHour in June.

Wesleyan Celebrates 179th Commencement, Class of 2011

Wesleyan's 179th annual Commencement ceremonies were held on Andrus Field on May 22.

“Keep the habits of critical analysis you’ve learned at Wesleyan. This may sound like an austere and overly-sober message,” said Dr. Paul E. Farmer. “But by critical I don’t mean you should be contrarian…By being critical I mean taking an extra moment to interrogate accepted wisdom.”

This observation was the cornerstone of the address delivered by Dr. Farmer at the 179th Commencement Ceremonies at Wesleyan University, on Sunday, May 22.

Farmer, a physician-anthropologist and author, founded Partners in Health, an international nonprofit organization that provides direct health care services to the sick living in poverty. Partners in Health also undertakes research and advocacy on behalf of under-served, impoverished populations. Farmer is also the Kolokotrones University Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School; Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Woman’s Hospital; and the United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti under former U.S. President Bill Clinton.

Gift Establishes the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship

Robert and Margaret Patricelli

Wesleyan University is establishing the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, which will support students who want to create programs and organizations serving the public good – anywhere in the world.

The Patricelli Center and its programs are supported by a generous $2 million leadership gift from the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation. Robert E. Patricelli ’61 is chairman and chief executive officer of Evolution Benefits and of Women’s Health USA and an emeritus trustee of Wesleyan. Margaret Patricelli is president and CEO of the Robert and Margaret Patricelli Family Foundation.

The Center will provide workshops, speakers, and networking opportunities to help students become successful social entrepreneurs, and will award small grants to undergraduates engaged in specific projects. It is intended to serve as an incubator of ideas and initiatives.

“For generations Wesleyan students have been venturing into the world as social entrepreneurs, applying what they learned on campus to help others,” says President Michael S. Roth. “The Patricelli Center will build on this tradition and will prepare students to make an even greater difference in the world. I’m so grateful to Bob and Margaret for their vision and generosity.”

Neuroscience and Behavior Capstone Focuses on Service

Mandela Kazi ’12 speaks about "The Human Connectome Project." Plastic model brains are arrayed on the table in front of him.(Photo by David Pesci)

“Let’s pass around the brains, but please be careful,” Jennifer Cheng ’11 says. “They break easily.”

Maryann Platt ’11 and Mandela Kazi ’12 hand out the brains, detailed plastic models with interlocking, removable pieces that allow anyone picking them up to study the organ’s specific areas.

“I don’t think you need to use the stands,” says Janice Naegele, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior.  “I think you can just give them the brains.”

The students nod and make a note and return to their presentation, titled “The Human Connectome Project,” which focuses on the brain, connectomes and the new 3-D technology being used to better map both. The presentation is a practice session that the other students in the class, Neuroscience and Behavior (NS&B) 360, watch and then give feedback. The real thing came a few weeks later in front of high school students, an event that the NS&B 360 students have been anticipating all semester.

NS&B 360 is a new offering this year, a combination capstone course – an intense, rigorous experience that is cumulative and requires students to draw on their previous coursework – as well as a service-learning course, which combines active learning with providing a service to the local community.

Cottier ’12 Explores Tales from a Middletown Historic House

Charlotte Cottier ’12 spent the week hanging posters for her exhibit at the General Mansfield House on Main Street. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

While the rest of her classmates finished exams and headed for Foss Hill, Charlotte Cottier ’12 spent the sunny days of Finals Week inside the General Mansfield Home, getting ready to reveal excerpts from personal letters documenting a husband’s Western frontier travel to his wife at home, a nearly-failed courtship, and a myriad other stories that a nearly 200-year-old house can hold.

Cottier, an American studies and sociology major, is a guest curator for the Middlesex County Historical Society, hanging her exhibit “Within These Walls: One House, One Family, Two Centuries,” which opened May 20.

“The main theme is the social history of the house—showing the changing landscape of people and ideas that have marked a steadfast building so that it really comes alive,” she says.

The exhibit is culmination of a year-and-a-half of work and was sparked by the anthropology course, Middletown Lives, which she took in the spring of her first year. It was in the context of this service-learning course that Associate Professor Gina Ulysse “framed for me the idea of doing a public service by documenting history that hadn’t been recorded.”

Chan, Higgins, Plous Honored with Binswanger Awards for Excellence in Teaching

President Roth, at right, honored Scott Plous, professor of psychology, and Wai Kiu Chan, associate professor of mathematics, with the Binswanger Award. Scott Higgins, associate professor of film studies, also received the award.

Every year Wesleyan recognizes outstanding teaching with three prizes awarded at Commencement. These prizes, made possible by gifts from the family of the late Frank G. Binswanger Sr., Hon. ’85, underscore Wesleyan’s commitment to its scholar-teachers, who are responsible for the university’s distinctive approach to liberal arts education.

Recommendations are solicited from alumni of the last 10 graduating classes, current juniors and seniors, and current graduate students. Recipients are chosen by a selection committee of emeriti and current faculty members, as well as members of the Alumni Association Executive Committee.

This year, Wesleyan honored Wai Kiu Chan, associate professor of mathematics; Scott Higgins, associate professor of film studies; and Scott Plous, professor of psychology, for their excellence in teaching.

Provost Announces New University Professors, Artist-in-Residence, Research Professors

Rob Rosenthal, provost and vice president for academic affairs, the John E. Andrus Professor of Sociology, announced a change of title for several faculty members.

These new titles take effect July 1, 2011.

New University Professors

Ronald Kuivila, University Professor of Music, has been teaching at Wesleyan since 1981. He creates sound installations, performs experimental music, and integrates computer programming with music composition. More than 50 of his sound installations have been exhibited internationally, more than 40 works of his concert music have been given major performances, 12 of his works of music for dance have been performed in dance works by major choreographers including Merce Cunningham, his discography includes 11 recordings,

Staff, Faculty to Plant Community Garden

Faculty and staff can rent a garden plot at Long Lane Farm. Each gardener is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their garden plot. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Wesleyan faculty and staff are growing a community.

This summer, up to 50 employees have the opportunity to maintain their own plot in a Wesleyan Community Garden at Long Lane Farm.

“We hope that the community garden will promote local growing and give people the space to grow their own produce,” says Bill Nelligan, director of environmental health, safety and sustainability.  “We will be planting alongside the student garden which will facilitate a growing atmosphere.”

Each plot measures 10 by 15 feet. Plot fees are $50 and include fence upkeep, annual soil amendments and community tools.

Each gardener is responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of their garden plot. Watering, weeding, harvesting and any other garden related maintenance are all the responsibility of the gardener. Gardeners may arrange for other gardeners to water their plots.

A limited number of tools, hoses and watering equipment will be available in the community garden storage shed for use during non-scheduled work times. Each gardener will be given one key to the garden and the storage bin for access to tools and watering equipment.

Children are welcome in the garden but must be accompanied by an adult and must be supervised at all times.

In addition to maintaining their own gardens, employees are expected to help during the season with general chores. These may include site maintenance, phone calls, mailings, plot assignments, path maintenance, construction projects, watering, annual planting, fall cleanup, composting and social events.

Only organic fertilizing techniques are allowed.

For more information e-mail Bill Nelligan at

Farmer, Cook, Ibargüen, Shaws Receive Honorary Degrees

Honorary Degree Recipients, from left, are Robert Patricelli '61, P'88, P'90, Margaret Sweetland Patricelli, Joshua S. Boger '73, P'06, P'09, Ralph "Biff" H. Shaw '51, P'79, Jean Adams Shaw P'79, Dr. Paul E. Farmer, Alberto Ibarguen '66, P'97 and Barbara Nell Cook. President Michael Roth '78 is pictured on the right.

Paul Farmer received a Doctor of Science during the 2011 Commencement. Farmer is an inspirational scholar, doctor, teacher, and leader. As a physician-anthropologist, he has dedicated his life to serving the world’s poor and to raising the standard of health care around the world. In 1983 he co-founded Partners In Health, an international nonprofit organization that provides direct health care services and undertakes research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. His work focuses on community-based treatment strategies for infectious diseases, health and human rights, and the role of social inequalities in determining disease distribution and outcomes. Dr. Farmer and his colleagues have successfully challenged the policymakers and critics who claim that quality health care is impossible to deliver in resource-poor settings.

Dr. Farmer is the Kolokotrones University Professor and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School; Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and United Nations Deputy Special Envoy for Haiti, under Special Envoy Bill Clinton.

Margot Boyer-Dry ’11 Delivers Senior Class Welcome

Margo Boyer-Dry '11 delivers the Senior Class Welcome to the Class of 2011 on May 22. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

By Margot Boyer-Dry

Early in our time at Wesleyan, we witnessed a student-led campaign to ‘Keep Wesleyan Weird’. At that time, the movement’s language struck me: What does it mean to ‘keep Wesleyan weird’? Surely, there is no shortage of unusual happenings here. You’d be hard-pressed to find another place where people are so excited about raw milk coops, acro-yoga, and entrepreneurial peer haircutting. Still, I don’t think the campaign’s philosophy was so simple. As I have experienced Wesleyan’s bounty of oddities, I have carried with me the words of that early campaign, ‘Keep Wesleyan Weird’; and now, years later, I think I finally understand their meaning.

What those students referred to as Wesleyan’s ‘weirdness’ is what distinguishes this place from the many others that are holding their own commencement ceremonies this weekend. The concept of this ‘weirdness’ translates, for me, to a deep commitment to individual authenticity. Wesleyan has instilled in us the bravery to actively cultivate a lifestyle based on the things that we value.

Rubenstein Leads Senior Voices Baccalaureate Address

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Mary Jane Rubenstein, assistant professor of religion, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, presented the “Senior Voices” baccalaureate address:

Dawn points, and another day
Prepares for heat and silence
Out at sea the dawn wind
Wrinkles and slides.
I am here
Or there, or elsewhere.
In my beginning.

T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets all cycle around the theme of beginning with a kind of solemnity that’s both attentive and introspective. He looks out as the dawn points—out to the almost-day to feel the wind wrinkle and slide. He looks in and finds himself here, or there, or elsewhere.

Robert and Margaret Patricelli Honored with Baldwin Medal

Robert 61, P’88, P’90 and Margaret Patricelli received the Baldwin Medal from Wesleyan President Michael Roth.

Robert 61, P’88, P’90 and Margaret Patricelli are among the Hartford area’s leading citizens and friends of Wesleyan. Their philanthropic and service activities have ranged from the arts to a science museum; from hospitals and educational institutions to programs that assist low-income neighborhoods.

For their efforts, President Michael Roth awarded them with the Baldwin Medal during commencement ceremonies May 22. The Baldwin Medal pays tribute to the late Judge Raymond E. Baldwin ’16. Baldwin was the only man to have held the offices of Connecticut governor, U.S. senator and chief justice of the Connecticut Supreme Court. First awarded September 20, 1981, during the opening convocation of Wesleyan’s Sesquicentennial, the Baldwin Medal is the highest honor Wesleyan’s alumni body presents for extraordinary service to Wesleyan or for careers and other activities which have contributed significantly to the public good. Recipients are selected by an ad-hoc committee of the Wesleyan University Alumni Association consisting of the Chair of the Association, an Alumni-Elected Trustee appointed by the Chair and the President of Wesleyan University.

Robert Patricelli is chair and chief executive officer of Women’s Health, USA. He previously was founder, chair, and CEO of both Value Health, a NYSE company and the nation’s leading company in specialty managed care (sold in 1997), and Evolution Benefits, a provider of electronic payment solutions (sold in 2010). After graduating from Harvard Law School, he began his career in the federal government, starting as a White House Fellow and then serving as minority counsel to a U.S. Senate Subcommittee, deputy under secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and administrator of the Urban Mass Transit Administration. He then joined CIGNA Corp., rising to executive vice president of the parent company and president of the health care group.

At Wesleyan, he served as a trustee for 15 years and is