Frederic Wills '19

‘Walking Elephants Home’ Project by Winkler ’16 Nominated for Conservation Grant

 Becca Winkler ’16

Becca Winkler ’16 launched “Walking Elephants Home,” a project that provides a new model of tourism, and has been nominated for a European Outdoor Conversation Association grant.

“Walking Elephants Home,” a Mahouts Elephant Foundation (MEF) project launched and run by Becca Winkler ’16, has been nominated for the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) grant—and voting is open until March 23.

“From many conversations with elephant owners struggling to make ends meet and who were unhappy with the conditions their elephants live in at elephant camps, I could see that we needed a new model,” Winkler said. “The forests of Thailand have been home to the Asian elephant for thousands of years; it is their birthright. ‘Walking Elephants Home’ is on a mission to to prove that tourists should do the work to see elephants in their habitat, rather than removing the elephants and forcing them to live in a tourist camp for our benefit.”

Winkler, a Feminist, Gender and Sexuality Studies major who first began working with elephants in Thailand as an undergrad, wrote her thesis on “Walking with Giants: Eco-feminist Insights on Elephant Tourism in Thailand.” She received a Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship grant in 2016 that helped her launch and run “Walking Elephants Home” through the MEF, a nonprofit that supports elephants and their mahouts (owners) in Thailand. Collaborating with indigenous people, the MEF offers a successful business model with ethical tourism alternatives to those who free their elephants. Their goal is to not only improve the elephants’ well-being by returning them to their natural habitat but also enhances biodiversity and prevents further deforestation.

McGuire ’17, Araki ’17 Receive Seed Grant to Spearhead MindScope Health

MindScope Healthmindscope, an organization led by Siri McGuire ’17 and Taiga Araki ’17 has won the $10,000 Connecticut College Aetna Foundation seed stage grant—a branch of InnovateHealth Yale and the Aetna Foundation.

MindScope works to improve the quality of life for patients with brain diseases and mental illnesses. Founded by patients of brain diseases and mental illnesses, MindScope Health aims to transform the way that invisible diseases and symptoms are communicated and treated. By allowing patients to alternatively communicate their symptoms to their doctors through the use of an app, symptoms can be recorded overtime, as patients rate the severity of their symptoms throughout the day. That information is then compiled and displayed for doctors, creating a patient-led and patient-centered design process.

Bloom ’75 Hosts Talk On Women’s Physical and Emotional Health

Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom

Amy Bloom ’75, director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing and the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, leveraged her more than 30 years of experience as a licensed clinical social worker to be a featured guest speaker at “Lady Parts: Car Talk for Women’s Bodies Fundraiser,” which took place March 5 at the Ivoryton Playhouse.

The afternoon was a blend of comedy and candid conversation. Bloom and co-host, Dr. Mary Jane Minkin, a Yale-trained OB-GYN, gave audience members an avenue to discuss everything from hormones and menopause, to lactation, STDs, contraceptives and pregnancy. “It was an opportunity to learn and ask all you ever wanted to know about you body, but were too afraid to ask.”

The event served as a fundraiser for the Women and Family Life Center (W&FL)—a place, which empowers women and their families to face challenges and transitions in their lives with grace and dignity. The Center offers individual guided referrals, as well as, support and wellness programs for women and their families to find help as they face divorce, violence, bankruptcy, bereavement or other major life challenges. Bloom and Dr. Minkin have done this show numerous times as fundraisers for organizations focusing on women’s lives and health, throughout the state.

Bloom is a distinguished author, having been nominated for both the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her repertoire currently includes, three novels, three collections of short stories, a children’s book, and a collection of essays. More on Bloom and her work can be found by visiting her website.

Wesleyan Named A Fulbright Student Top Producer

Wesleyan University has recently been recognized as a Fulbright Student Top Producer for the 2016-2017 academic year.

As the flagship program for international research, study, and teaching, sponsored by the U.S. Government, the Fulbright U.S. Student Program is available for recent graduate and graduate students to explore their research topics, as well as cultivate a meaningful cultural experience in over 140 countries.A bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) is generally required by the start of the Fulbright grant period. Wesleyan has produced more than 140 Fulbright students from 1943 – 2015, with seven more recent graduates and alumni making up the 2016 – 2017 class of mentioned below:

Leah Bakely ’16 is a teaching assistant Fulbright in Spain. She wants to use her teaching skills in Spain because it offers her the opportunity to meaningfully engage with her academic interests and career aspirations, and improve her language skills.

Students Present Thesis Work at Biophysical Society Meeting

Three Wesleyan Molecular Biology and Biochemistry majors received the unique opportunity of presenting their thesis work at the 61st annual Biophysical Society meeting in New Orleans, Feb. 11-15.

Rachel Savage ’17 presented her senior honors thesis titled, “Investigation of the Melting Thermodynamics of a DNA 4-Way Junction: One Base at a Time,” which was done in collaboration with Francis Starr, professor of physics.

Rachel Savage ’17 presented her senior honors thesis titled, “Investigation of the Melting Thermodynamics of a DNA 4-Way Junction: One Base at a Time,” which was done in collaboration with Francis Starr, professor of physics.

Cohan Elected to Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering

Fred Cohan

Fred Cohan

Frederick Cohan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, has recently been elected to the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering (CASE). Set to be inducted during the 42nd Annual Meeting and Dinner on May 22, 2017, Cohan will join 23 others as “Connecticut’s leading experts in science, technology, and engineering,” and the academy’s newest members during their ceremony at the University of Connecticut.

In line with CASE’s mission to honor those “on the basis of scientific and engineering distinction, achieved through significant contributions in theory or application,” Cohan’s work has led to the “development of a comprehensive new theory for the origin, maintenance, and evolutionary dynamics of bacterial species diversity that integrates ecological and genetic criteria; and to the initiation and co-development of associated software tools, which allow microbiologists to identify distinct bacterial species from DNA sequence data.”

Cohan is a graduate of Stanford University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences in 1975. He went on to earn his PhD in organismic and evolutionary biology from Harvard University in 1982. His professional work takes him across the biological and environmental world, including, but not limited to topics such as microbial ecology, evolutionary theory, origins of bacterial diversity, molecular systematics and gene cluster analysis, horizontal genetic transfer and bacterial transformation.

Acopian ’16 Nominated Snapchatter of the Year

Recent Film Studies graduate Ani Acopian ’16 has been nominated for the “Snapchatter of the Year” award, presented on behalf of The Shorty Awards.

Created to honor the best of social media by recognizing those with an influential and significant presence, The Shorty Awards draws nominees from sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, Snapchat and more. Acopian gained significant Snapchat clout with her colorful snaps, specializing in narrative pieces, branded content, and music videos. Some of her work featured in her Shorty Award profile include turning the famous Angkor Wat into a real life Temple Run, and creating content for the healthy restaurant chain Sweetgreen.

Acopian’s videos can be viewed on her Shorty Award profile, and be sure to vote for Acopian everyday until voting closes, Feb. 16.

Shapiro Publishes Work on French Literature

Screen Shot 2016-12-12 at 10.48.26 AMNorman Shapiro, the Distinguished Professor of Literary Translation, is the author and translator of Creole Echoes: The Francophone French Poetry of 19th-Century Louisiana, a new addition to Second Line Press, New Orleans’ Louisiana Heritage Series, published Dec. 1.

Shapiro also previously contributed to the Louisiana Heritage Series, New Orleans Poems in Creole and French (2013), a title, which covers almost all the French and Louisiana Creole poetry of noted intellectual Jules Choppin between 1830-1914.

Future translated works to be published by Second Line Press include, two plays of poet and playwright Victor Séjour— “The Fortune-Teller” (La Tireuse de cartes), a five act play in prose based on the celebrated Mortara Affair, and the five-act formal-verse drama, “The Jew of Seville” (Diégarias).

More details on Shapiro’s work is online here.

Jenkins on the Life and Legacy of Dario Fo and Franca Rame

Ron Jenkins, professor of theater and scholar on the life and work of the late Italian artist, Dario Fo, has the pleasure of honoring the legacy of Dario Fo and his wife, Franca Rame.

On Oct. 13 Italian actor/playwright/director/painter/designer/activist/Nobel Laureate Dario Fo died at the age of 90. His wife, Franca Rame a actress/playwright/activist passed away in 2013. Together, they were symbols of hope, as their work, based in satirical theater, served as an inspiration for activist and theater makers around the world. “… Fo’s plays gave voice to his times and continue to live most fully in the moment of performance,” Jenkins states.

Serving as the chief American translator for the written and on-stage performances of Fo and Rame, Jenkins has worked with the couple since the 1980’s and has now become one of the pre-eminent scholars on their work. In an article Jenkins wrote on the life of Dario Fo and his wife, published in the American Theatre, Jenkins highlights Fo’s creative process and the significance it had on the times. He remembers watching Fo create new work by “first making drawings, then putting the drawings into motion, recreating them through gesture while improvising a text for an audience. Only then would he put the script on paper making his words born out of vibrant images and physical actions.”  Jenkins job was to capture that raw kinetic energy in his on-stage translations, and he recalls that every time, he was “possessed by his (Fo’s) language, allowing himself to be taken over entirely by the rhythmic drive of his sentences.”

This also was a topic of conversation in Middletown’s effort to commemorate Fo’s legacy. Jenkins was a guest speaker at “The Politics of Laughter: A Tribute to Dario Fo and Franca Rame,” held at the Buttonwood Tree in Middletown on Dec. 8.

Sultan Speaks at Conference on New Trends in Evolutionary Biology

Sonia Sultan

Sonia Sultan

Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, was a guest speaker at the “New Trends in Evolutionary Biology: Biological, Philosophical, and Social Science Perspectives,” conference hosted by The Royal Society, London held Nov. 7-9.

The international event, in an effort to encourage cross-disciplinary discussion, brought together researchers from the humanities, sciences and social sciences to examine the many “developments in evolutionary biology and adjacent fields, which have produced calls for revision of the standard theory of evolution.”

As part of the conference, Sultan spoke about “Developmental Plasticity: Re-conceiving the Genotype,” a topic which examines the possibility of “re-conceiving the genotype as an environmental response repertoire rather than a fixed developmental program.”

Sultan’s work also was featured in an article published in The Atlantic on Nov. 28, which highlighted the move to expand upon the theory of evolution.

Using the smartweed plant and its living, environmental conditions as an example, Sultan explained how allowing the plant to grow in low sunlight versus allowing the plant to grow in bright sunlight produces plants “that may look like they belong to different species, even though they’re are genetically identical.” In low sunlight the leaves take on a very broad shape, where as in bright sunlight they are narrower. “This flexibility or plasticity in adapting to the amount of sunlight can itself help drive evolution, by allowing the plant to spread to a range of habitats,” she says.

More on Sultan’s work, as well as, the work of other presenters can be found here.

Lefkowitz ’12, Thomas, Varekamp Co-Author Chapter On Volcanic Lakes

Based on the senior thesis of Jared Lefkowitz ’12, “A Tale of Two Lakes: The Newberry Volcano Twin Crater Lakes, Oregon, USA,” was published online, Nov. 25, by the Geological Society of London, U.K, as part of the volume, Geochemistry and Geophysics of Active Volcanic Lakes. The study is co-authored by Lefkowitz; Ellen Thomas, research professor in earth and environmental science; and Johan Varekamp, the Harold T. Stearns Professor in Earth Science. Varekamp also is professor of environmental science, adjunct professor in Latin American studies, and chair of the Geological Society of America’s Limnogeology Division. Thomas also is the University Professor in the College of Integrates Sciences.

The chapter examines the complex ecosystems of Newberry Volcano’s two small crater lakes, East Lake and Paulina Lake, which are of interest to scientists because of the presence of highly toxic components and the signs gas-charging in East Lake. “These factors present natural hazards, which may change when new volcanic activity is initiated,” Varekamp explained. The presence of nearby “seismic triggers or disrupted lake stratification gives scientists a situation to monitor, as these factors can cause sudden intense CO2 degassing in the very different chemistries and gas contents of the two lakes.”

The authors’ abstract is online here.

Additionally, Varekamp contributed papers on Taal Lake in the Philippines and on the Copahue Volcano crater lake in Argentina. Both of these chapters will be published in the same volume in the upcoming weeks.

Weiss ’83 Shares Her Faith With Sick and Shut-ins

Cheri Weiss '83, a cantorial intern at Congregation Beth El in La Jolla, looks through scripture found on the glass walls of the synagogue. She has recorded a CD of High Holy Days prayers and songs that she's distributing free to shut-ins. (Photo by Nancee E. Lewis)

Cheri Weiss ’83, a cantorial intern at Congregation Beth El in La Jolla, looks through scripture found on the glass walls of the synagogue. She has recorded a CD of High Holy Days prayers and songs that she’s distributing free to shut-ins. (Photo by Nancee E. Lewis)

Cheri Weiss ’83 was recently featured in an article titled “Cantor-in training brings the spirit to Jewish shut-in,” published in the San Diego Union Tribune. Highlighting her work within the Jewish community, the article follows Weiss’ journey to bring the prayers and songs sung during High Holy Days to sick and shut-ins not able to attend services.

A project stemming from a tragedy in her own personal life, Weiss started this project as a gift to her father-in-law who, at the time, was in hospice care and not strong enough to attend High Holy Days services. His wish was to hear her sing the “Kol Nidre,” the central prayer of Yom Kippur, so she mailed him a CD of her singing sacred songs and prayers. About three weeks later he passed. But in that moment of grief she “started thinking about how many other people must be in his situation— stuck at home because they are disabled or too sick,” she states in the Tribune article. She is now the co-producer of an album titled, “HINENI: Music for the High Holy Days,” which includes songs and prayers from Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur that she gave away to more than 1,000 rabbis and other faith leaders, as well as hospital chaplains, and retirement and nursing homes this year.

Weiss plans to expand the project in the coming years. With a goal of delivering and sharing 10,000 CDs next year, she no longer wants to “leave the sick and shut-in forgotten and in the shadows.”