Andrew Logan ’18

Wesleyan Hosts 30th Annual Keck Geology Consortium Symposium

During the Keck Geology Consortium Symposium, participants explored the Bulls Bridge area in Kent, Conn. to learn about the importance of a knickpoint (change in gradient) on the Housatonic River. Participants also examined interesting formations of glacial pot holes.

During the Keck Geology Consortium Symposium, participants explored the Bulls Bridge area in Kent, Conn. to learn about the importance of a knickpoint (change in gradient) on the Housatonic River. Participants also examined interesting formations of glacial pot holes. (Photos by James Zareski)

From April 27-30 the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences hosted the 30th Annual Keck Geology Consortium Symposium at Wesleyan. The event involved several field trips to local sites of geographic significance and concluded with presentations at Exley Science Center from those who attended the field trips.

Graduate student Melissa Luna examines a piece of slag left behind from the Buena Vista Iron Furnace in Canaan, Conn. Iron furnaces were an important industry in Connecticut during the 19th century.

Graduate student Melissa Luna examines a piece of slag left behind from the Buena Vista Iron Furnace in Canaan, Conn. Iron furnaces were an important industry in Connecticut during the 19th century.

The first trip was led by Paul Olsen, the Arthur D. Storke Memorial Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. This excursion examined the Connecticut River Valley Basin for remaining traces of the mass extinction that preceded the rise of the dinosaurs 202 million years ago.

“The Connecticut River Valley Basin is one of the best places on the planet to observe the record of the biological and environmental of this mass extinction,” said Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences.

The second trip was led by Will Ouiment, assistant professor of geography at the University of Connecticut. It focused on the evolution of the New England landscape from the late Pleistocene to the present. Some topics included the impact of human activities, historic land use practices and landscape adjustment following deglaciation. The trip stopped at a variety of features including waterfalls, beaver dams, river terraces and wetlands.

Poet Kevin Prufer ‘92 Publishes Forgotten Poets, Essays on Literary Translation

Kevin Prufer( Photo by Mary Yost Hallab)

Poet Kevin Prufer ’92 has several current projects, including work on a series of “forgotten” poets. (Photo by Mary Yost Hallab)

Kevin Prufer ‘92 is co-editor a forthcoming collection of essays on literary translation Into English: Poems, Translations, Commentaries (Graywolf 2017). For this collection, Prufer invited 25 translators and poets to select a poem and three corresponding English translations. To follow the selections, each of the 25 contributors composed a brief essay on what these various versions say about the art of literary translation.

Additionally, Prufer co-curates the Unsung Masters Series, published through Pleiades Press, which attempts to bring out-of-print and relatively unknown poets to new readers. To complement the writer’s poems, each edition features critical essays, interviews, and letters.

Prufer sees this initiative as opportunity to add new voices to the world of poetry. “Poets are so frequently unknown,” says Prufer, “and the ones we do know tend to tell a very particular narrative.” The reason they lose favor, he says, “is almost always part of an intriguing story.”

One such poet, Dunstan Thompson, first inspired Prufer to launch the series. Thompson, a gay poet whose books had been out of print since 1948, frequently wrote homoerotic work that depicted the battlefields and combat hospitals of World War II. Once a highly regarded young American poet, Thompson struggled with his sexuality and renewed his religious devotion, eventually settling into obscurity in England.

Today the series often relies on dedicated readers to suggest additional subjects to explore. Many send e-mails, but sometimes, Prufer says, “people even come up to me at parties to suggest writers.”

Prufer is also at work on his own poetry—a collection of poems titled The Art of Fiction, focusing on how an author controls the passage of time within literature. He derived this particular interest in narrative structure, he says, in part from his experience writing fiction, which he pursued at Wesleyan as a College of Letters major.

Yet another book of his poetry, How He Loved Them, is forthcoming with Four Way Books in 2018 and features a political emphasis. When asked how his poems might relate to the current political climate, Prufer responded, “You know, poetry is really bad at telling you who to vote for; I think we have a enough of that…I think what poems do is meditate on the complexity of, in the case of political poetry, political situations, and to my mind, that seems like a more interesting act of politics.”

Prufer is the author of  six books of poetry, most recently Churches, which made the New York Times list of Ten Favorite Poetry Books of 2014. Also the editor of several anthologies, he is editor-at-large of Pleiades: A Journal of New Writing. With graduate degrees from Hollins University and Washington University, he is a professor in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston and the low-residency MFA at Lesley University. His awards include four Pushcart prizes, and he has received numerous awards from the Poetry Society of America, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Lannan Foundation.

Junger ’84, Garcia ’99 Screen Their Work at the Tribeca Film Festival

This month, Sebastian Junger ’84 and Liz W. Garcia ’99 will each feature their films at the annual Tribeca Film Festival in New York City. Founded in 2001 by Jane Rosenthal, Robert DeNiro and Craig Hatkoff, the Tribeca Film Festival attracts nearly half a million attendees.

Junger, a journalist, author and filmmaker, is co-director, with Nick Quested, of the film Hell on Earth: The Fall of Syria and the Rise of ISIS, 

It follows an extended family’s attempt to flee their homeland in the face of violence and tragedy. Edited down to 99 minutes from an extensive 1,000 hours of footage, it also captures the combat of Kurdish fighters in Sinjar and Shia Militias in Iraq.

Hell on Earth is the latest product of Junger’s long-held interest in war journalism. He directed the award winning documentary Restrepo (2010), which documents US military personnel stationed in Afghanistan’s Korengal Valley. This film would eventually become part of a trilogy that includes Korengal (2014) and The Last Patrol (2016).

Prior to his war journalism, Junger authored two notable works of nonfiction,The Perfect Storm, which was adapted into a film staring George Clooney, and A Death in Belmont. His writing and journalism has earned him a Magazine Award and a Peabody Award and has appeared in magazines such as Vanity Fair, Harpers and The New York Times Magazine.

Filmmaker Liz W. Garcia '99

Filmmaker Liz W. Garcia ’99

One Percent More Humid, which will also play at the festival, is director Liz W. Garcia’s second narrative film. It follows two college-age childhood friends, played by Juno Temple and Julia Garner, who return home from school for a New England summer. Although together they engage in typical summer mischief, the effects of their shared past traumas become increasingly pronounced. Yet as they attempt to process their traumas, a rift eventually arises in their old friendship.

Deborah Rudolph, assistant programmer at the festival, describes One Percent More Humid as “a sun-soaked, atmospheric coming-of-age tale of two young women looking to free themselves from distractions, to repair their friendship, and help each other reach the other side of grief.”

Previously, Garcia directed The Lifeguard, her directorial debut, which premiered in 2013 at the Sundance Film Festival. She was the co-creator of the 2010 TNT series Memphis Beat, and has written for television series like Wonderfalls, Cold Case, and Dawson’s Creek. Currently she is writing the final installment of the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants. Festival literature calls her “one of the most prolific female voices working today in film and television.”

Center for the Americas Hosts its 2017 Americas Forum on “Food Justice and Sustainability”

 Photo: Jade Beall.

Alok Appadurai ’00 (Photo by Jade Beall)

On April 28, the Center for the Americas will host its 2017 Americas Forum on “Food Justice and Sustainability” at the Ring Family Performing Arts Hall at 2:30 p.m. The keynote address will be given by Alok Appadurai ’00. Appadurai is the the founder of Fed by Threads, a sustainable, sweatshop-free, multi-brand, American-made organic vegan clothing store that has fed over half a million meals to Americans in need. He also recently founded GoodElephant.org, a global network that aims to promote social and environmental reform by nurturing compassion and empathy.

His time at Wesleyan helped to inform his current projects. As a student, he majored in American studies fashioning his own concentration that incorporated colonialism, workers’ rights, utopian communities, the environment and gender/class issues.

After the keynote, three scholars on a panel will present talks on food Justice and agricultural sustainability.  Elizabeth Hoover, the Manning Assistant Professor of American Studies at Brown University, will give the talk, “From ‘Garden Warriors’ to ‘Good Seeds’; Defining and Enacting Food Sovereignty Through American Indian Community Gardening Projects.” Following her, Brian Donahue, associate professor of American environmental studies at Brandeis University, will present his “Woodlands, Farmlands, and Communities: Visions for New England’s Future.”

Wesleyan’s Courtney Fullilove, associate professor of history, will conclude the panel with “Seed Saving in Economies of Scale: Some Questions about Sovereignty and International Governance.”

‘Because When God is Too Busy’: Ulysse’s Newest Book with Wesleyan Press

9780819577351Wesleyan Professor of Anthropology and Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies Gina Athena Ulysse’s newest publication, Because When God Is Too Busy: Haiti, Me, & The World, (Wesleyan University Press, April 2017), is a coIlection of poems, performance texts, and photographs that explores longing for a sacred and ancestral past—now entangled by Western and postcolonial inheritances. Both a lyrical and meditative work, the publisher calls it “a poetic journey through silence, rebellious rage, love, and the sacred.” In it, Ulysse blurs the lines between genre and medium, as well as the personal and geopolitical.

The work has already garnered attention. Edwidge Danticat, a former MacArthur Fellow and National Book Critics Circle Award recipient, lauds Ulysse as “a force of nature…Fierce, fearless, and passionate, she delights us, shakes us up, educates us, and after reading her poignant and powerful book, she becomes indispensable to us as her amazing work.”

Diana Taylor, Professor of Performance Studies and Spanish at NYU’s Tisch School, writes that “this beautiful set of reflections on being Haitian…goes beyond the disciplinary divides…[to] help us remember our ancestral stories and practices,” and calls the book, “a brave and necessary exploration.”

Ulysse, an artist-anthropologist-activist originally from Pétion-Ville, Haïti, is a frequent blogger, a poet, and author of numerous essays and books, including, most recently, Why Haiti Needs New Narratives: A Post-Quake Chronicle (Wesleyan University Press, 2015). In 2008 she published Downtown Ladies: Informal Commercial Importers, a Haitian Anthropologist and Self-Making in Jamaica with the University of Chicago Press.

Ulysse’s artistic and academic practice also incorporates spokenword, performance art, and installation pieces. Her performance VooDooDoll Or What if Haïti were a Woman: On ti Travay sou 21 Pwen or An Alter(ed)native in Something Other than Fiction debuted at Encuentro in Montreal in 2014.

Faculty, Students, Alumnus Co-Author Paper in Biochemistry Journal

Wesleyan co-authors published a paper titled “The Stories Tryptophans Tell: Exploring Protein Dynamics of Heptosyltransferase I from Escherichia coli” in the January 2017 issue of Biochemistry.

The co-authors include chemistry graduate student Joy Cote; alumni Zarek Siegel ’16 and Daniel Czyzyk, PhD ’15; and faculty Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry; Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry.

Their paper investigates the intrinsic properties of Tryptophan amino acids found within the protein, Heptosyltransferase I, to understand the ways this protein moves during catalysis. Understanding the movement of this protein is an important step in developing its inhibitors.

When this protein is inactive, either because it was genetically altered or inhibited, hydrophobic antibiotics become more effective, so inhibitors could be useful in reactivating antibiotics that are current not effective against these bacteria.

While it is popularly believed that inhibiting a protein requires a compound to compete with the substrate, their paper argues that instead one can design a inhibitor to disrupt protein dynamics, preventing activity. The co-authors compare the function of this “protein dynamics disruptor” to a wedge holding open a door–once inserted, the inhibitor prevents the protein from performing its function.

Their research on Tryptophan residues also found that distant regions of the protein communicate whether or not they are binding their substrate to other regions.

“It would be like if your right hand knew that your left hand was holding a pencil just by the changes in the position of your left hand. We are currently pursuing computational studies to look for these motions via molecular dynamics experiments,” Taylor said.

Poet Reece ‘85 and Honduran Orphans Are Subject of James Franco Documentary

Episcopalian priest and poet Spencer Reece ’85 taught poetry to the children of Little Roses, an orphanage in Guatelmala, the "murder capital of the world."

Episcopalian priest Spencer Reece ’85 and his poetry students, the children of an orphanage in Honduras, were the subject of a documentary executive produced by actor James Franco.

The film, Voices Beyond the Wall: Twelve Love Poems from the Murder Capital of the World, documents the experiences of poet, priest, and teacher Spencer Reece ’85 in the year he spent teaching poetry at Our Little Roses, a home for abused and abandoned girls in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

Executive produced by Hollywood actor James Franco and directed by Brad Coley, the film had its world premier at the Miami Film Festival in March. Sherri Linden, in the Hollywood Reportercalled it “eloquent,” adding that “[i]t captures an inspiring connection between Reece and his students, whether they’re discussing love and loss or exploring meter through Auden and salsa dancing. It’s the connection between language and life.”

Reese, whose debut collection, The Clerk’s Tale, (Houghton Mifflin, 2004) was chosen for the Bakeless Poetry Prize, had been ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2011, and first visited Our Little Roses as a three-month-long Spanish language immersion program to help him serve his community. He told Joan Crissos of the Washington Post (The Priest Who Healed Orphans with Poetry) that over the course of these months he was struggling to learn Spanish and did not spend much time with the girls. But the night before he returned to America, he noticed one of the girls outside his room. Speaking in a language he was just beginning to understand, she told him, “Don’t forget us.”

And he didn’t. Back in the States, he applied for a Fulbright to return to teach poetry to the girls, “using the lines of meters and verse to help them excavate the layers of emotional scars left behind after their parents abandoned them.” The Fulbright, he admitted to Crissos, might have seemed an unlikely stretch: “’The whole thing didn’t look very good on paper…. I hadn’t taught before, I wasn’t a priest that long, and I hardly spoke Spanish.’

“‘But poetry was what I knew…. It gave me a place where I could find solace, feel that I was loved.'”

With the grant—and a film crew to help tell his story—Reece returned in 2013. His curriculum included a variety of English language poets such as Shakespeare, W.H. Auden, and Langston Hughes, and he encouraged the girls to write their own poetry, which they would translate from Spanish into English. He had planned to publish these poems, and the book, Counting Time Like People Count Stars (Tia Chucha Press), will be published in time for Christmas, he notes on the Little Roses Facebook page.

 

Kolcio Leads Somatic Exercises for the Ukrainian National Guard

Professor of Dance and Environmental Studies Katja Kolcio leading a somatic workshop with Ukrainian National Guardsmen. What I’ve learned is most radical about being invited by the National Guard – The have instituted counseling and mind-body programming in an effort to mitigate the dehumanizing effects of war. There is a great concern about the long term effects that this invasion political conflict with Russia will have in Ukraine on the present and future generations.

The Ukranian National Guard invited Wesleyan Professor of Dance and Environmental Studies Katja Kolcio to their country to lead somatic workshops for Guard personnel. The request from a reserve military force, says Kolcio, was unprecedented, and it illustrates that country’s radically new understanding of conflict. “They have instituted counseling and mind-body programming in an effort to mitigate the dehumanizing effects of war,” Kolcio says. “There is a great concern about the longterm effects that this political conflict with Russia will have in Ukraine on the present and future generations.”

Wesleyan Professor of Dance and Environmental Studies Katja Kolcio traveled again to Ukraine in April, this time to work with soldiers and psychologists in the National Guard. It was her third trip to the region to teach somatic practices to those undergoing the stress of political conflict, displacement, and combat.

Somatics are “mind-body practices that combine physical activity and motion with deep reflection,” she explained in “Somatics and Political Change: Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity,” (Contact Quarterly, summer/fall 2016), detailing her first trip to the region after Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. In June 2015 she had been invited to lead somatic workshops for the volunteers working with refugee families and injured soldiers and offered her first set of classes in Ukraine then.

“One goal of somatics is to become more aware of subtle physical indications of dis-ease before they become acute or chronic issues,” she wrote. “Somatics is also a practice of “sense-making’—of integrating internal experiences with the external environment in order to become more conscious in the present moment.”

Kolcio considers this crucial work for her Wesleyan students, including first-year students “who are away from home for the first time, encountering world-shifting ideas.” Working with the breath and experiencing the body in the environment—its weight, the stress it holds—helps to orient the practitioner in the present moment—and envision new possibilities, make sense of the world in a different way.”

This work of integrating experiences is particularly important for those in regions undergoing crises, Kolcio believes—and it is what she can offer this country where she has familial roots. At the invitation of the National Guard of Ukraine this time, Kolcio returned to implement a somatics program to alleviate the injuries that soldiers sustain in combat.

Offering two-day workshops, Kolcio taught the creative and contemplative physical practices of somatics, as well as the cognitive approaches to build psychological flexibility and stress resistance among soldiers. Some of the techniques included the history of the body, self-awareness, breathing, body weight, muscle tension and movement.

“Various events leave a mark not only in memory but also in the body,” says Kolcio. “Thus, when helping patients recover from traumatic events, it is important to consider not only the memory in a classic sense, but the memory within the body.”

A political science major as an undergraduate, Kolcio places her body work in the context of that country’s history. The peaceful protest of the Revolution of Dignity has helped that country envision “another kind of orientation, one that seemed intent on superseding ethnic, national, and religious definitions,” she wrote in Contact Quarterly.

”What if we treated social-political orientation in the way we approach awareness in a somatic workshop?” she asks in her article. “I believe this is why my somatic workshops are being embraced here. People are seeking new ways of making sense in the world…. Somatics is an individual practice; I also see it as a social movement.” dlya_oficeriv-psyhologiv_provely_trening_za_uchasti_zakordonnyh_ekspertiv_2

 

Juhasz, Brewer ‘13 Co-Author Article in Psycholinguistic Research Journal

Associate Professor Barbara Juhasz is interested in how words are processed during reading

Associate Professor Barbara Juhasz is interested in how words are processed during reading.

Wesleyan Associate Professor of Psychology Barbara Juhasz and alumna Jennifer Brewer ’13 recently coauthored an article titled “An Investigation into the Processing of Lexicalized English Blend Words: Evidence from Lexical Decisions and Eye Movements During Reading” in the Journal of Psycholinguistic Research.

Their work examines the process of blending, through which a new word or concept develops from the synthesis of two source words. Some examples of common blended words include “smog,” “brunch” and “infomercial.” Though previous research on blending has inspected the structure of blends, Juhasz and Brewer examined how common-blended words are recognized compared to other kinds of words.

Pairing blend words with non-blend control words of similar familiarity, length and frequency, the study asked participants to complete tasks involving lexical decisions and sentence reading. The results found that participants processed blend words differently from non-blend words according to task demands. In the lexical decision task participants recognized blend words more slowly but received shorter fixation durations when read within sentences.

Draper ’12, Celestin ’13, Khandros ’13 Create Film Festival on Greek Island

The Syros International Film Festival was founded in 2013 by a team of four—including Nathaniel Draper ’12, Casandra Celestin ’13, and Aaron Kahndros ’13—and will run this year for five days in July.

The Syros International Film Festival was founded in 2013 by a team of four—including Nathaniel Draper ’12, Casandra Celestin ’13 and Aaron Kahndros ’13—and will run this year for five days in July.

How does one convert a shipyard into a cinema? “With a lot of gumption and very little sleep,” reports Nathaniel Draper ’12, the technical director of the Syros International Film Festival (SIFF).

For five days in July, Draper and his colleagues Cassandra Celestin ’13, Aaron Khandros ’13 and Jacob Moe will transform the small Greek island of Syros into a multifaceted cinema space.

Projectors hauled over three hours by boat from Athens will be erected on Syros’s docks, beaches and quarries to screen a variety of films, from art house to Hollywood. Musicians and filmmakers will gather for all-night multimedia performances and, with the help of participants, will construct musical instruments and perform. These are just a few of the unconventional features of the Syros International Film Festival.

Initiated in 2013 by Celestin and Khandros, the festival began as a DIY project financed out of pocket. But it has grown rapidly. Today, their sponsors—the Onassis Foundation, the US Embassy of Athens, Institut Français and Huffington Post Greece, among others—cover much of the expenses.

This year, the festival roster will explore the comedic and psychotic implications of its thematic idiom, “Cracking Up.” As such, it will feature a mix of cinema and expanded cinema that will, according to Draper, break open “the traditional confines of the projection experience.” One of the selections is a 1926 silent film by Japanese director Teinosuke Kinugasais A Page of Madness, which depicts the lives of patients in a insane asylum through an expressionistic style.

These alternative cinematic performances inspired Draper and his team to engage with the shadow puppetry of Indonesian gamelan performance, which Draper was first introduced to through Wesleyan’s world music program. They hope to feature the experimental musician Mike Cooper, performing alongside Gods of Bali, a film that documents Gamelan music and dance. With the assistance of an expert from nearby Cyprus, volunteers and participants will also learn to perform in a Gamelan ensemble built from from items gathered on Syros.

Quite literally a product of its environment, the SIFF has also had to contend with the Greek economic crisis–ironically, the opening night of the 2015 festival coincided with Greece’s vote for austerity.

The SIFF is not Draper’s first experience curating film: As an undergrad, he helped create the “Cinema Sorcery Front,” a club that ran independent film screenings for students. A film major, he fondly remembers Associate Professor of Film Studies Steve Collins ’96, who supported his work and pushed the boundaries of his classroom education.

Smoklin Contributes to “Year of Russia” at KSU

Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock

Victoria Smolkin

Participating in Kennesaw State University’s “Year of Russia” program, Assistant Professor of History Victoria Smoklin presented on the current state of US-Russia relations. KSU’s “Year of Russia” invites academics, artists and dignitaries “to promote a deeper appreciation for and understanding of Russia and its people.”

During her presentation Smoklin discussed ideological struggle over national identity in contemporary Russia. She noted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s involvement in this struggle. His strategic engagement with his country’s history he has led to an unprecedented gain approval ratings. In particular, she cited Putin’s construction of a 54 foot tall statue of the 10th century Slavic leader and proponent of Orthodox Christianity, Vladimir the Great.

Commenting on Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Smoklin argued that Russia’s actions suggest not merely a desire to seize control of the area but rather to assert its claims. This increasing expansion is part of Putin’s desire to create “a spiritual geographic entity” that will replace the “narrative of liberal democracy” that inadequately supported Russia after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

You can learn more about “Year of Russia” online here.

Faculty, Students, Alumni Attend the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference

Avi Stein ‘17.

A group of Wesleyan faculty, students and alumni attended the 48th Lunar and Planetary Science Conference in The Woodland, Texas March 20-24. The annual conference unites 2,000 international specialists in petrology, geochemistry, geophysics, geology and astronomy to present their latest research in planetary science over the course of several days.

Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences and the George I. Seney Professor of Geology Martha Gilmore coordinated Wesleyan’s group. While at the event, she presented her work on the oldest rocks on Venus and Mars gully analogues on Earth.

McKeeby MA ’17 and Tarnas ’16 (Photo by Martha Gilmore)

McKeeby MA ’17 and Tarnas ’16.

A number of her current graduate and undergraduate students attended and several also presented their work. Ben McKeeby MA ’17 discussed his work on Mars-analogue volcanic sites on Earth; Shaun Mahmood MA ’17 discussed his work on lunar water; and Avi Stein ’17 discussed his work on Venus sediments. All three of these students were supported by the NASA Connecticut Space Grant. Earth and Environmental Sciences graduate student Jordyn-Marie Dudley MA ’18 also attended the conference.

Professor Martha Gilmore and Golder MA ’13 (Photo by Martha Gilmore)

Professor Martha Gilmore and Golder MA ’13.

Numerous alumni made contributions at the conference including astronomy majors Bob Nelson MA ’69 and Jesse Tarnas ’16; earth and environmental sciences majors Tanya Harrison MA ’08, Nina Lanza MA ’06, Keenan Golder MA ’13 and James Dottin ’13.

Earth and environmental sciences and chemistry double major Peter Martin ’14 and physics major Ian Garrick-Bethell ’02 also contributed.