Cynthia Rockwell

Center for Prison Education Hosts First Graduation for Incarcerated Students

Clyde Meikle shares a hug with Giulio Gallarotti, professor of government, co-chair of the College of Social Studies, following Meikle’s graduation Aug. 1 at the Cheshire Correctional Institution. Gallarotti is one of several Wesleyan faculty who teach classes through Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

It was a typical graduation on Aug. 1, 2018: tasseled mortarboards and academic gowns, faculty in academic regalia, proud family members, the strains of “Pomp and Circumstance,” speeches—some recalling challenges; others looking toward further success—diplomas, handshakes, smiles for the cameras, and bear hugs of congratulations.

It was a graduation like none other: held in Cheshire Correctional Institution, it was the first time 18 incarcerated students in the maximum security prison received associate’s degrees through an innovative collaboration between Wesleyan University’s Center for Prison Education and Middlesex Community College.

A week earlier, a similar graduation had taken place in York Correctional Institution, with six women donning caps and gowns to receive their associate’s degree diplomas.

Since 2009, CPE has offered accredited Wesleyan courses to students at Cheshire Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison for men. Wesleyan faculty teach courses ranging from English to biology to philosophy, which have the same rigor and expectations as courses on Wesleyan’s Middletown campus. About 50 Wesleyan students volunteer in the program each semester, working in study halls at the prison or on campus filling research requests and serving as project assistants. The program was expanded to serve incarcerated students at York Correctional Institution in spring 2013.

Shasha Seminar 2018: Suicide and Resilience: Finding the Words

Professor Emeritus of Psychology Karl Scheibe and Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Jennifer D’Andrea PhD are codirectors of this year’s Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, Sept. 14–15.

This year’s Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns, “Suicide and Resilience: Finding the Words,” will be held Sept. 14–15. It will begin with opening remarks by Leslie Shasha ’82, PhD, in Memorial Chapel at 4 p.m., followed by the keynote address by author and suicide loss survivor Eric Marcus on “Resilience in the Aftermath of Suicide.”

The Shasha Seminar, an annual educational forum for Wesleyan alumni, parents, and friends, explores issues of global concern in a small seminar environment. Endowed by James Shasha ’50, P’82, the Shasha Seminar for Human Concerns supports lifelong learning and encourages participants to expand their knowledge and perspectives on significant issues. Last year’s seminar for example focused on Guns in American Society.

Karl Scheibe

This year’s codirector, Professor Emeritus of Psychology Karl Scheibe, spoke with the Connection about the preparation, the program, and his hopes for what this might bring to the campus.

Q: How did you come to be codirector of the Shasha Seminar this year?

A: It came to me as an invitation. It’s like a lot of things; it grows out of your history. Having been at Wesleyan a long time, I taught a lot of students, and many of them have gone on in psychology. Occasionally, one of those former students will have an assignment for me that, as a teacher, makes sense. Leslie Shasha ’82 is a psychologist, and she wanted to have a Shasha program focus on suicide: suicide awareness, suicide prevention, treatment for people who are suffering from loss, and a whole host of related problems.

Ashkin ’11, Delany ’09, Roginski ’87 Confront White Supremacy through Dance

Brittany Delany ‘09 and Sarah Ashkin ‘11, codirectors of GROUND SERIES dance collective, rehearse for task, “depicting the hierarchy, monstrosity, and sexual tension imbued in the weaponized white woman.” Sue Roginski ’87 served as dramaturg.

Sarah Ashkin ’11, Brittany Delany ’09, and Sue Roginski ’87 premiered an evening-length dance work, task, on Aug. 17–18, as part of the summer season at Highways Performance Space in Santa Monica, Calif., under the umbrella of GROUND SERIES dance collective. Ashkin and Delany, codirectors of GROUND SERIES since 2012, choreographed and performed the piece, with Roginski providing dramaturgical direction. As codirectors, Ashkin and Delany describe their work as  “collaborating in using dance performance as a tool of embodied intervention and research.”

“With our shared background in critical thinking, cultural studies, and artistic risk-taking fostered by the Wesleyan Dance Department, we wanted to create a work that responded to the current political moment,” Delany says. “The culmination of our collaboration, task, is a confrontation of white supremacy through dance performance.” Treating the theater as a site in this work, Ashkin and Delany continued their research and presentations of site-specific performance with the new challenge to remap and reframe the stage as a racialized space.

In the aftermath of their premiere, the three reflected on the experience for the Connection: 

Q:  What was it like to work with other Wes grads—those you knew on campus, those from different eras. Are there some commonalities, some ways of communicating, some understanding of dance as art and dance in the world, that you all have in common?

Butler ’71: Toward a Gentler Death

Katy Butler ’71 . (Photo by Cristina Taccone)

In Knocking on Heaven’s Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death, a New York Times Notable Book of 2013, award-winning journalist Katy Butler ’71 recounted shepherding her parents, Professor Emeritus of History Jeffrey Butler and artist Valerie Butler, through their final illnesses. When Katy’s father suffered a stroke and later was given a pacemaker, the family had no idea that the device would extend his physical life years past his cognitive ability to enjoy it or to function independently. After his death, Katy’s mother declined open heart surgery and chose instead to meet her own death head-on. From this experience Katy Butler presents her provocative thesis: Modern medicine, if allowed a single-minded focus on maximum longevity, will often create more suffering than it prevents. She has spoken on improving doctor-patient communication at Harvard Medical School and numerous hospitals around the country. Her upcoming book is The Art of Dying Well: a Practical Guide to a Good End of Life (Scribner, Jan. 2019).

In this Q&A, which ran in the May 2018 issue of Wesleyan Magazine, Butler discusses health care, modern medicine, Medicare, and more.

Q: How would you characterize the American health care system?

A: Absolutely brilliant with fixable problems—infectious diseases, drug overdoses, car accidents—where throwing many tests and treatments at someone has tremendous results. But when confronted by complex health problems that aren’t amenable to a quick fix, this kind of “fast medicine” can be pretty disastrous.

Q: Why is this?

A: Our insurance system, known as fee-for-service, pays physicians on a piecework basis—for volume, not quality. We don’t reward them financially for taking extra time with a patient who has multiple problems that need to be managed but can’t be fixed—the kind of problems that redouble as people get older.

Q: How would we judge quality in health care?

A: Quality should be defined as actually improving the patient’s life. Traditionally, medicine’s goals have been to improve function, to relieve suffering, and to prolong life. Currently, the hyper focus within medicine is on prolonging life—which also happens to be the best-compensated option. We rate surgeons on whether a patient survives for 30 days after surgery; but we don’t track whether that patient—especially an older, fragile patient—ends up so disabled by the stress that they have to move to a nursing home. And that happens quite a bit.

Q: Why do we not discuss these concerns with our doctors?

A: The communication between doctors and patients around end-of-life questions is absolutely terrible. It’s almost as if we need a foreign-language phrase book. For instance, if the doctor says, “I want to talk to you about your goals of care,” the patient might well not understand that the doctor is probably saying: “The time you have ahead of you appears to be limited, and, given that, how do you want to spend your time? Do you want to take a trip, or see a child graduate? Can medicine help you achieve this? And, if not, what are some achievable goals?” Patients can be equally tongue-tied about what matters most to them.

Ricci PhD ’14 Awarded Congressional Fellowship

(by Christine Foster)

James Ricci PhD ’14, an assistant professor of mathematics at Daemon College was named a Congressional Fellow. (Photo by Darrell Porter, Daemon College)

James Ricci PhD ’14 was awarded a 2018-2019 Congressional Fellowship. The program is administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in conjunction with The American Mathematical Society.

During this year-long fellowship, Ricci will be paired with either a member of Congress or a congressional committee. Fellows work as special legislative assistants learning about policy creation and contributing their own technical and academic expertise. “They are looking for people who are able to speak clearly and be advocates for STEM education,” says Ricci, who spoke by phone from a salmon fishing boat in Ketchikan, Alaska, where he is working this summer. “I am hopeful that I am all of those things.”

At Wesleyan, Ricci did research on number theory, with a primary focus on the arithmetic theory of quadratic forms. In April 2014 he was chosen as graduate student of the year. Since finishing his PhD, he has been working as an assistant professor of mathematics at Daemen College, near Buffalo, N.Y.

At Daemon, Ricci has worked on a team working to improve retention of students entering with weaker math backgrounds. This included reworking a computer science course he teaches adding in engaging current topics including cybersecurity, cryptocurrencies, artificial intelligence, and net neutrality.

Tyner ’13 Named Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellow

William Tyner ’13 is headed to Romania on a year-long Fulbright National Geographic Fellowship. He will create an immersive film documenting the civic-tech group, Code for Romania.

William Tyner ’13 was awarded a Fulbright National Geographic Storytelling Fellowship —one of only five of such grants awarded each year

The fellowship is made possible through a partnership between the U.S. Department of State and the National Geographic Society and is a component of the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. It provides opportunities for U.S. citizens to participate in an academic year of overseas travel and storytelling on a globally significant theme.

Tyner, who majored in anthropology at Wesleyan and enjoyed courses in the College of Film and the Moving Image, will be working with Code for Romania. He’ll be creating a documentary series that will explore Romania’s civic technology community.

“’Civic tech’ is a nascent field in which local ‘hacktivists’ use technology to deepen democracy and increase civic engagement,” he explained in his application.

Tyner notes that he has been affiliated with Codes for America, an organization that focuses on technology as a pathway to modernize government, make it more accessible—but he wanted “to observe civic tech as a social movement, from a sociological perspective.”

Romania, he says, will be the perfect place for his lens: “Their civic tech community is emerging within a historically unique anti-corruption movement. I’m going to chronicle a story of people taking action and control in their community.”

Paik ’16 Wins Goldman Sachs Funds for 3D-Printed Housing Nonprofit

Ellen Paik ’16 (right) speaks to Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein and the Partnership Committee on behalf of New Story, a nonprofit organization that seeks to address global homelessness through the development and application of 3D printing technology.

Ellen Paik ’16, an analyst at Goldman Sachs, teamed up with three colleagues to pitch New Story, an organization working on developing low-cost housing solutions via 3D printing technology, to Goldman Sachs’ CEO and Partnership Committee as part of the Analyst Impact Fund, a global firmwide competition. The prize: a grant to the finalist teams’ selected nonprofits. The event was broadcasted live online on Yahoo Finance (see Paik’s team come in around 38 minutes).

Paik’s group placed second in the global finals and earned New Story $75,000 in support of the organization’s 3D printing initiative. The grant will go towards building the very first complex of 3D printed homes constructed by a nonprofit, in El Salvador by 2019.

“The four of us were attracted to the idea of promoting a scalable technology solution that addresses a global issue,” explains Paik. “We came across New Story, an organization that we really admired because they involve the local community and government in every step of the home-building process—planning, design, and construction—in ways that many existing organizations do not. New Story has helped over a thousand families in Haiti, El Salvador, and Bolivia that used to live in life-threatening conditions and that have been affected by natural disaster. Now, these families are empowered homeowners and able to better secure economic opportunity, safety, access to education, and a sense of community.”

Wesleyan Inducts 6 Alumni to 2018 Baseball Wall of Fame

Wesleyan’s Baseball Wall of Fame boasts five years of inductees, along with historical players pre-1931. The idea for the wall originated with Todd Mogren ’83 and Tom Miceli ’81 in 2014, says Coach Mark Woodworth ’94. ”It was a perfect concept to celebrate the long history of success of the players in the program,” says Woodworth. ”In turn, we immediately started inducting classes and holding a yearly dinner/induction ceremony with alumni, players, and parents. It was a running joke every year that we would eventually figure out a physical ‘Wall of Fame,’ while in actuality, we could never quite figure out where and how to do it.” With its need to be portable, the project presented a creative challenge, noted Woodworth, “but this year, Harvey Ricard from Connecticut Stage Supply agreed to custom-build a wooden faux-brick backstop that would be portable and satisfy the unorthodox curves and unique demands.” The backstop is stored safely all summer, fall, and winter, but every spring, the Wesleyan Baseball Wall of Fame will be visible every day at Andrus Field. (Photo courtesy Mark Woodworth)

On May 4, Wesleyan Baseball Coach Mark Woodworth ’94 inducted six new members into the Wesleyan Baseball Wall of Fame. Also inducted was a historical class of eight alums who graduated between 1866 and 1931 who were instrumental in the early years of the program. This year, a new brick backstop was built not only for the field, but to serve as an actual “Wall” for the Wall of Fame.

Eudice Chong ’18, Coach Mike Fried: A Scholar-Athlete Program for Champions

Eudice Chong ’18 Coach Mike Fried, and Victoria Yu ’19 relax after a match last October at the Division I Fall Nationals. “Eudice and Vicky had just beaten the top team from the University of Kentucky (the defending champions) to advance to the doubles quarterfinals,” says Fried. “The photo was taken by Dr. Tim Russell, CEO of the ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association), who later told me that it was his most popular tweet ever.”

On May 26 Eudice Chong ’18, a member of the Wesleyan tennis team, did something that no other collegiate tennis player—in any division—had done before: She won her fourth consecutive National Collegiate Athletic Association Singles Championship. And to add a twist to that already thrilling game, Chong, ranked number one on Wesleyan’s team, played the final match against her teammate, doubles partner, and friend, Victoria Yu ’19, ranked second on the team.

Back on campus following the victory, Coach Mike Fried reflected on the program and the experience. As an undergrad at Brown he had played on their tennis team and then enjoyed a stint as a professional player. Most recently, Fried had spent 10-plus years as a stock trader and asset manager in New York City before signing on as head tennis coach of Wesleyan’s men’s and women’s program in 2013 (“Wall Street allowed me to figure out how I wanted to be spending my time”). 

At Wesleyan, he was determined to create a team that drew on his experience at Brown—and built beyond it: “Most important was to create an environment that would allow us to be among the best teams in the country—and to do that in a way that was never at the expense of academics.”

And what was that environment? “Commitment; unwavering support for each other; and camaraderie, friendship.”

Fried recalls that, when recruiting for the team he imagined, Chong was “an incredibly good tennis player—but I’d be lying if I said I saw the full depth of her character or how invaluable a leader she’d be—let alone that she’d win four NCAA singles titles! We were lucky enough to convince her to join the program that we were creating, that Wesleyan was where she wanted to spend her college years—both for academics and tennis. We got very lucky.”

After Commencement, Chong, who majored in psychology with a minor in the College of East Asian Studies, headed home to China. There, she’ll play tennis at the professional level. The Wesleyan Connection caught up with her for a Q&A in New York City, where she was spending a few days before her flight.

Q: Will you talk about the experience of winning that fourth NCAA singles championship? What was it like to compete against your teammate, friend, and doubles partner Victoria Yu?

Q&A with Lacrosse Coach John Raba: What Makes a Winning Team

The 2018 Wesleyan lacrosse team won the Division III championship 8–6 over Salisbury University, a powerhouse that had been in the finals 18 times before. Taylor Ghesquiere ’18, who co-captained the team along with Jake Cresta ’18, Eric Meyreles ’18, and Harry Stanton ’18, said: “This championship wasn’t just for us or our class, it was for everyone. It was a culmination of the body of work that has been put in by every class for the past 22 years Coach Raba has been at the helm of the program. I think that was so evident in the alumni support we had all season and especially on Sunday at Gillette.”

On May 27, 2018, Wesleyan lacrosse won its first National College Athletic Association Championship, defeating Salisbury University, 8–6 at Gillette Stadium for the Division III title. 

When Lacrosse Head Coach John Raba, a graduate of the University of New Haven, began at Wesleyan in 1997, he was 25 and an assistant coach with the football team. Lacrosse—now his sole focus as head coach—was something additional that first year.

“If someone had told me back then that Wesleyan would win a national championship, I would’ve said, ‘Oh, great. What sport?’ Twenty-one years later, here we are. Congratulations, team!”

In a Q&A, Raba describes the growth of Wesleyan lacrosse—and what was special about the 2018 team.

Q: What words describe the Wesleyan lacrosse program?

A: Wesleyan lacrosse is an extremely disciplined team, focused on progressing each and every day. If we are disciplined and focused on getting better each and every day we feel we can compete with anyone in the country.

Q: And how have you built this team in the years since you started?

Cassidy, Veteran Posse Students View Newest Film by Junger ’84

On May 22, 2018, aboard the aircraft carrier the USS Intrepid (now a National Historic Landmark), Retired Officer Teaching Fellow Robert Cassidy (third from left, blue jacket) and several members of the Wesleyan Veteran Posse, along with two students from Cassidy’s class, enjoyed a screening of Going to War. This documentary film, for which Sebastian Junger ’84 served as co-executive producer, explores the experience of serving in the military during war through interviews with veterans. Junger (third from right; back row, suit jacket) took questions from the audience—including the Posse group—and met with the Wesleyan contingent separately, posing for this photo. “Michael Freiburger ’21, one of our Posse veteran students asked Junger, ‘How do we find better ways to communicate who we are and what we feel about having been at war?’” recalls Cassidy. “I think there was a mutual respect between the veterans and Junger, who spent almost a year in the Korengal Valley, a very rough place in Afghanistan.” Some of the Posse veterans who attended hope to plan more events next year to explore this question further, in order to cultivate a shared understanding among traditional Wesleyan students and Wesleyan’s veteran students. (Photo courtesy Robert Cassidy)

 

Students Showcase Design and Engineering Projects

Final projects for Introduction to Design and Engineering (IDEA 170 in the Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences Minor) included a bicycle powered by a chainsaw motor; reusable, lockable shipping boxes requiring no tape; an electricity-producing dance floor; and the “solar rover”—solar panels with storage batteries mounted on wheels and designed for long-term use around the University as a mobile power source for events and solar power education.

Taught by Professor of Physics Greg Voth, who chairs the department, and Assistant Professor of the Practice in Integrative Sciences Daniel Moller, the course offered 16 students the opportunity to work collaboratively on project-based studies at the intersection of design, the arts, and engineering. The course is part of a new interdisciplinary minor, the Integrated Design, Engineering, and Applied Sciences (IDEAS) program, hosted and administered by the College of Integrative Sciences (CIS).

Professor of Physics and Director of the CIS and the IDEAS program Francis Starr noted, “These projects are amazing examples of what Wesleyan students can do when given the skills and opportunity to creatively explore design and engineering. And I think this is why we have already seen about 30 students enroll in the new IDEAS minor in just its first year. I can’t wait to see what next year brings.”

Moller concurs: “IDEA 170 is a great opportunity for students to explore an open-ended design and fabrication environment, to recognize the technical challenges of putting ideas into action, and to learn about themselves as designers.”

(Photos by Cynthia Rockwell and Daniel Moller)

The Chainsaw Bike Group—Asim Rahim ’19, Jake Abraham ’20, Eiji Frey ’20, Coby Gesten ’19 (pointing to Professor Moller)—attached a chainsaw motor to power a bicycle.