Monthly Archives: September 2012

Basinger Reviews Biography of Actor Dana Andrews

The Wall Street Journal recently published a review by Jeanine Basinger, chair of film studies and Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, of, “Hollywood Enigma: Dana Andrews,” a new biography of the actor. Basinger considers why Andrews, who had a long career as a leading man in film, has been relegated to a “second tier” of actors, seldom listed among the legendary male stars of the studio system.

Wesleyan to Offer Free Online Courses through Coursera Partnership

Wesleyan is the first small liberal arts college focused on the undergraduate experience to partner with Coursera.

Wesleyan is the first small liberal arts college focused on the undergraduate experience to partner with Coursera.

Wesleyan announced on Sept. 19 a new partnership with Coursera, a company offering the public access to free online courses from top colleges and universities. Wesleyan was one of 17 new institutions to sign on this month, and is the very first liberal arts institution focused on the undergraduate experience to do so. Other partners among Coursera’s 33 participants include Stanford, Princeton and Brown; public research universities such as the University of Florida; and specialized schools such as Berklee College of Music.

Coursera was founded by two Stanford University professors seeking to expand educational opportunities through technology. Since its launch in January, Coursera has enrolled more than 1.3 million students, and now offers more than 200 MOOCs—or “massive open online courses”—some of which attract tens of thousands of students.

“As a school dedicated to teaching and scholarship, Wesleyan is pleased to be joining Coursera’s impressive initiative to provide intellectual challenge and reward to anyone with the desire to learn,” says President Michael S. Roth. “Liberal education cultivates freedom through lifelong learning, and American universities now have a great, unprecedented opportunity to promote freedom worldwide by sharing great teaching.”

Students move through Coursera classes at their own pace, watch videos of lectures by world-class professors, complete online interactive exercises and test understanding of concepts. Classes span the humanities, social sciences, math, science, medicine, business, music, computer science and more.

The recent announcement of Coursera’s expansion drew attention from many national news outlets, including The New York Times and The Chronicle of Higher Education.

In an interview with The Hartford Courant, Roth explained, “This is really about taking the education available to a few students at selective schools and making a version of it, not the same thing, but making a version of it available to millions.”

In a post on his blog, Roth elaborated on the thinking behind Wesleyan’s partnership with Coursera:

“The idea that Wesleyan will be offering free, massive online classes will strike some as paradoxical. We are a small university at which almost three quarters of the courses are taught in an interactive, seminar style. How is that related to online learning? In important respects the classes offered through Coursera are very different from the ones we teach here in Middletown. Our residential liberal arts education depends on the ongoing interaction of students with one another and with faculty. MOOCs encourage interaction of a different sort: through social media and chat rooms.

“Nonetheless, we want to understand better how students learn in these contexts, precisely because they are so different from our own. And we think it is simply a good thing to share versions of our classes with the wider world. The Wes educational experience does not scale up — but we can make available online adaptations of our classes so that those with a desire to learn have access to some of what we have to teach.”

Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology, will teach the online course, “Passion Driven Statistics.”

Alumni, parents and anyone else who wants a taste of the Wesleyan educational experience can visit to view current course offerings. Roth himself will offer a course, “The Modern and the Postmodern,” beginning Feb. 1, 2013. Other courses to be offered initially by Wesleyan professors include “Property and Liability: An Introduction to Law and Economics,” by Richard Adelstein, the Woodhouse/Sysco Professor of Economics, chair of economics; “Passion Driven Statistics,” by Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology; “The Ancient Greeks,” by Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, the Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, professor of classical studies; “The Language of Hollywood: Storytelling, Sound and Color,” by Scott Higgins, associate professor of film studies; and “Social Psychology,” by Scott Plous, professor of psychology. The courses range from five to seven weeks in length.

After one day of posting, 10,000 individuals had signed up to take Wesleyan Coursera courses.

Whitford ’81 Speaks to Film Students, Alumni

Actor Bradley Whitford ’81 and Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and chair of film studies. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Actor Bradley Whitford ’81 and Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and chair of film studies. (Photo by Cynthia Rockwell)

Speaking in the Center for Film Studies on Sept. 24, actor Bradley Whitford ’81 shared wisdom on subjects ranging from show business to politics to dealing with the insecurity inherent in being an actor.

Whitford addressed an audience of film and theater majors, prospective majors and alumni. Best known for his role as Josh Lyman on The West Wing, Whitford was recently elected to Wesleyan’s Board of Trustees. He has also had starring roles in the shows Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The Good Guys. Recently, he co-starred in a film, “Cabin in the Woods,” written by Joss Whedon ’87.

In introducing Whitford, Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies and chair of film studies, highlighted a few lesser-known facts about the actor: In 2007, he was honored by the Alliance for Justice for his political involvement. (Basinger pointed out this interest in the wider world outside the arts marks him as a typical Wesleyan product). He is the father of three children, a certified yoga teacher, and is deeply committed to his juicer.

“You’re at a really amazing place at an amazing time in your life, reaping the gifts of an amazing woman who has created something out of nothing that is renowned worldwide,” Whitford told the students, speaking of Basinger and Wesleyan’s film program. He pointed to the remarkable number of Wesleyan alumni who go on to careers in Hollywood, a crowd that is jokingly referred to as “the Wesleyan Mafia.”

Juhasz’s Study Ties Word Processing Speed to Sensory Experience

Assistant Professor Barbara Juhasz is interested in understanding how words produce a certain sensory experience when read.

Assistant Professor Barbara Juhasz is interested in understanding how words produce a certain sensory experience when read.


Read the following words in your head:




Though it may be happening on a subconscious level, all these words share an important feature: They all evoke a sensation or perceptual experience in the mind of the reader. Incense brings to mind a particular scent; lemon, a tart taste in the mouth; and kick activates a part of the brain responsible for motor behavior. Research suggests that these mental reactions occur very quickly—within fractions of a second—after reading a word.

In the Eye Movement and Reading Lab at Wesleyan, Barbara Juhasz, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, studies how readers recognize, understand and catalogue words in their mental dictionaries. Since 2006, when she first arrived at Wesleyan, Juhasz has been interested in understanding how words produce a certain sensory experience when read.

Concerts, Workshops, Courses in Music, Public Life Exploration

Music & Public Life at WesleyanDuring the 2012-2013 academic year, Wesleyan will celebrate and study the sounds, words and spirit of music in public at the local, national and transnational levels through concerts, workshops, gatherings and courses, all designed to cross disciplines and to engage both the campus and regional communities.

Wesleyan’s new Music and Public Life series, presented by the Center for the Arts and Music Department, has a global scope and features performances and lectures by scholars and artists from nine different countries. Events during the fall semester include the New England premiere of “Voices of Afghanistan” (Sept. 28) and concerts by Noah Baerman (Nov. 2), Cross Street A.M.E. Zion Church Choir and Rani Arbo and daisy mayhem (Nov. 8), and La Cumbiama eNeYé (Colombia) and Merita Halili and The Raif Hyseni Orchestra (Albania) (Nov. 9); talks by ethnomusicologist Anthony Seeger (Nov. 8) and Ben Ratliff of The New York Times (Nov. 14); and a celebration of the centenary of John Cage (Dec. 5-8).

As part of the celebration, the public is invited to explore, share, and remix the sounds of Middletown throughout the year as part of MiddletownRemix, a project that combines location-based cell phone technology, a database, and a web application allowing individuals to record and store sounds and images of Middletown using free mobile phone software for iPhone/iOS and Android devices. These sounds will ultimately be remixed and performed by students, faculty and community members on Saturday, May 11, 2013.

Voices of Afghanistan's New England premiere kicks off the Music and Public Life series at Wesleyan. The concert is at 8 p.m. Sept. 28 in Crowell Concert Hall.

Voices of Afghanistan’s New England premiere kicks off the Music and Public Life series at Wesleyan. The concert is at 8 p.m. Sept. 28 in Crowell Concert Hall.

The Music and Public Life series is supported by grants from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the New England Foundation for the Arts, and is co-sponsored by the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, the Center for the Arts, the Music Department, the Office of Academic Affairs, the Office of the Dean of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Programs, Wesleyan Writing Programs and the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns.

For a full listing of all Music and Public Life events, click here.



5 Questions with . . . William “Vijay” Pinch on Maritime History

William "Vijay" Pinch, professor of history, adjusts the topsail of the Joseph Conrad, during an NEH-funded summertime institute in June. Pinch participated in the five-week institute, in part, to refine and improve his maritime world history course. (Photo by Heather Agostini)

William “Vijay” Pinch, professor of history, adjusts the topsail of the Joseph Conrad, during an NEH-funded summertime institute in June. Pinch participated in the five-week institute, in part, to refine and improve his maritime world history course. (Photo by Heather Agostini)

In this issue of The Wesleyan Connection, we ask “5 Questions” of William “Vijay” Pinch, professor of history. Pinch spent five weeks this summer interacting with maritime scholars and working in the archives and library at Mystic Seaport. 

Q: What were you studying at Mystic Seaport this summer?

A: From June 25 to to July 27, I was privileged to be a student in a “summer institute” at Mystic Seaport, focused on “The American Maritime People.”  The institute is usually pitched to graduate students, but every few years it is offered to college and university faculty with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  This was one of those NEH-funded summers.  The faculty who teach at the institute represent some of the top scholars in maritime history, especially in the context of the Atlantic and (mostly) North American world.  What was especially interesting to me, as someone who was not originally trained in maritime history (or North American history for that matter), was to see how the field of maritime history has broadened, so that it now encompasses everything under the rubric of the human interaction with and perception of the sea over time.  This appealed to my wider world-historical instincts. Similarly, it was instructive to see the ways in which the maritime experience mediated New England’s interaction with other parts of the Americas and the wider world.  We also examined marine environmental history, fisheries history, the history of oceanography, naval history, and the recent maritime past and maritime present–including the geo-strategic challenges on the horizon (especially in the Pacific and Indian Oceans), the rise of container shipping, bulk cargo supertankers, and the mega-cruise ship phenomenon.

Q: How does this inform, or how is it informed by, your other areas of interest?

A: My initial interest in the summer institute at Mystic stemmed from a desire to refine and improve my maritime world history course.  I’ve offered the course in varying incarnations over the past seven years or so, and each time I struggle with what to include and how to organize it.  So the five-week course was excellent for stimulating new thinking along these lines.  I’d like for students to be able to take better advantage of all that Mystic and the wider region have to offer. What makes the summer institute special is the combination of traditional classroom learning with more hands-on “public history” kinds of activities.

Wesleyan to Co-sponsor 4th Annual Middletown International Film Festival

“Common Ground 2012,” the 4th annual Middletown International Film Festival, kicks off Oct. 11 with a screening of  My Voice (Nha Fala), a 2002 film in Portuguese directed by Flora Gomes. The film will be shown at 7 p.m. at Wesleyan’s Film Studies Department.

Five more films from around the world will be aired as part of the festival. They are:

Thursday, Oct. 18 at Russell Library
Seraphine (French, 2008)
Directed by Martin Provost

Thursday, Oct. 25 at Russell Library
The Concert (Russian, 2009)
Directed by Radu Mihaileanu

Thursday, Nov. 1 at Wesleyan Film Studies
Poetry (Korean, 2010)
Directed by Chang-dong Lee

Thursday, Nov. 8 at Wesleyan Film Studies
Dancing Dreams (German, 2010)
Directed by Rainer Hoffman

Thursday, Nov. 15 at Russell Library
As It Is In Heaven (Swedish, 2004)
Directed by Kay Pollak

All screenings begin at 7 p.m., and are free and open to the public.

The festival is supported by a grant from the Middletown Commission on the Arts, as well as Friends of the Russell Library, gener8or communications/Moving Pictures, the Haddad Family, and many individuals. It is co-sponsored by Wesleyan, Middlesex Community College and Russell Library.

For more information, visit the Russell Library’s website.


Wesleyan Hosts Water Station Design Competition

Thirsty for money? Build a Wesleyan water station and win a $1,000 cash prize!

As a part of its commitment to becoming a bottled water-free campus, Wesleyan is seeking alternatives to hydrate the campus community at outdoor events.

The Sustainability Office, Center for the Arts, The Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, and the College of the Environment are co-sponsoring a student competition to design a mobile water station, which will be used at Reunion & Commencement, Homecoming/Family Weekend, and other outdoor events.

Molecular Biophysics Hosts 13th Annual Retreat Sept. 27

Bertrand García-Moreno

Bertrand García-Moreno

Wesleyan will host the 13th annual Molecular Biophysics and Biological Chemistry Retreat Sept. 27. The public is invited.

Bertrand García-Moreno, professor and chair of the Department of Biophysics at John Hopkins University will deliver the keynote lecture at 4:15 p.m. He will speak on “Molecular Determinants of Electrostatic Effects in Proteins.” García-Moreno investigates the relationships between protein structure, function, energetics, and dynamics with an emphasis on electrostatic properties that govern the actions of proteins in all biological processes. His research on ionizable groups buried in the hydrophobic interior of proteins provides fundamental insights into their special chemical properties and critical roles in protein function. He is currently the editor-in-chief of Proteins: Structure, Function, and Bioinformatics and serves on the editorial board of Biophysical Journal.

Additional seminars include Professor of Biology Michael Weir, the director of the Hughes Program in the Life Sciences, at 10:15 a.m.; Kylie Walters, associate professor of biochemistry, molecular biology and biophysics at the University of Minnesota, at 11 a.m.; Amy MacQueen, assistant professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, at 1:30 p.m.; and David Beveridge, the Joshua Boger University Professor of the Sciences and Mathematics, at 3:15 p.m.

A student poster session will begin at 1:30 p.m.

The event is sponsored by the Molecular Biophysics Program and the Departments of Chemistry and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. The retreat begins at 10 a.m. and takes place at the Wadsworth Mansion, 421 Wadsworth Street in Middletown.

For more information on the retreat, see the complete schedule.




Grabel Reports on State of Stem Cell Research

According to an article in The Hartford CourantLaura Grabel, Professor of Biology, Lauren B. Dachs Professor of Science and Society, spoke this week at an informational hearing of the Connecticut state legislature’s appropriations committee, held to discuss stem cell and genomics research in the state. Grabel reported that the state’s financial support of stem cell research has fostered a sense of collaboration among universities researchers. She also discussed her lab’s ongoing research into using stem cell therapies to treat epilepsy.

MacLean ’14 Helps Ill Children, Supports Students with Disabilities

Catherine MacLean received a $1,000 scholarship from Citizen’s Bank TruFit Good Citizen Scholarship program on Sept. 14.

Q&As with outstanding students is an occasional feature of The Wesleyan Connection. This issue we speak with Catherine MacLean from the Class of 2014.

Q: Catherine, what are you majoring in at Wesleyan, and why?

A: I am a biology and science and society double major. I have been fascinated by biology for quite a long time, so I was pretty sure I wanted to study it when I came to Wesleyan. I am very interested in the way that such basic low-level structures can combine synergistically to give rise to an organism and the complexity of life. The combination of elegant simplicity and endless complexity in biology is really interesting to me. Once I got to Wesleyan, I stumbled upon the Science in Society Program and found that it was a perfect combination of my love of science and social science. In the same way that context is key in studying cells and systems in biology, the context of the historical, political and social conditions in which science is done is key to studying science.

Q: You recently received a $1,000 scholarship from Citizen’s Bank TruFit Good Citizen Scholarship program for your efforts with the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp in Ashford, Conn. What is your role with the camp?

A: The Hole in the Wall Gang Camp is a summer camp and year-round center serving children with serious illnesses and their families. In the summer, there is a summer camp program that allows kids with sickle cell disease, HIV, cancer, metabolic and mitochondrial disease, and blood disorders to attend a traditional overnight summer camp.

I’ve been involved at camp for a number of years. I’ve helped out at fundraisers and events held at the camp, and volunteered at both summer and weekend camp programs. My freshman year at Wesleyan, I hosted the camp leadership for an information session at Wes so that other students could get involved. This led to several students volunteering or working at Hole in the Wall and associated SeriousFun Children’s network camps.

I love working at camp. It is an incredibly positive and friendly community where I have made fantastic friends. Being able to provide support, fun and relaxation to parents and children who really need it is very important work to me. 

Hall Receives Cardinal Achievement Award

Dave Hall is Wesleyan's grounds and events manager.

Dave Hall is Wesleyan’s grounds and events manager.

David Hall, grounds and events manager, received a Cardinal Achievement Award in August. Hall was honored for demonstrating extraordinary initiative or providing outstanding service with regard to specific tasks in his department. This special honor comes with a $150 award and reflects the university’s gratitude for those extra efforts.

The award recipients are nominated by department chairs and supervisors. Nominations can be made anytime throughout the year.

For more information or to nominate a staff member for the award, visit the Human Resources website and scroll down to Cardinal Achievement Award under “Forms.”

Recipients will continue to be recognized in The Wesleyan Connection.