Lauren Rubenstein

Director of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Engage 2020 Off to a Running Start

E2020Wesleyan’s new Engage 2020 Initiative (E2020) is facilitating student educational experiences in the public sphere ahead of the 2020 elections. As part of this initiative, Wesleyan also is highlighting the contributions of higher education more broadly in promoting democracy.

Over the past few months, Wesleyan President Michael Roth ’78 has been speaking with other higher education leaders about the “shared responsibilities of higher education institutions for developing civically engaged citizens and contributing to the civic life of the United States.”

While the particulars of this work may look different at each institution, leaders at schools around the US have registered their commitment to three core principles:

  1. Developing civic preparedness is a core element of the mission of American higher education.
  2. Participating in American political life helps students learn from a diversity of ideas and people while developing skills for lifelong, active citizenship.
  3. Empowering students and teachers to engage with the complex issues facing the country are crucial facets of higher education’s contributions to the common good.

So far, over 60 other colleges and universities have joined Wesleyan in affirming these principles. These schools represent a broad cross-section of higher education, including public and private institutions, liberal arts colleges and research institutions, secular and religious colleges. A full list of these institutions, which will be continually updated as new schools sign on, can be viewed here.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsWesleyan in the News

1. Hartford Courant: “Jeanine Basinger, the ‘Professor of Hollywood,’ Is Wesleyan University’s Homegrown Screen Legend”

Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita Jeanine Basinger, whom this article notes has been dubbed “the professor of Hollywood” and “an iconic figure in American cinema, one of the most beloved and respected film history professors in the history of film studies” by The Hollywood Reporter, is interviewed on the occasion of her 60th year at Wesleyan, and the 50th since she created its film program. She talks about her next book on American film comedy, shares some of her favorite things, and muses on which actress would play her in a movie of her life.

2. Los Angeles Review of Books: “‘We Need More Vigorous Debate’: A Conversation with Michael S. Roth”

Daniel Steinmetz-Jenkins, managing editor of Modern Intellectual History, interviews President Michael Roth in connection with his latest book, Safe Enough Spaces: A Pragmatist’s Approach to Inclusion, Free Speech, and Political Correctness on College Campuses. Roth discusses his career path from intellectual historian to university administrator and professor, and offers his unique perspective on debates surrounding freedom of speech and political correctness.

3. Los Angeles Times: “Kirk Douglas Dead at 103; ‘Spartacus’ Star Helped End Hollywood Blacklist”

Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, comments on Kirk Douglas’s legacy following the film icon’s death at 103. Recalling when she first saw him on-screen in the 1940s, she said, “He wasn’t a traditional leading man, really, in looks, and yet he had an unmistakable charisma and power on screen—not just the glamour of the movie star, though he did have that, but real acting chops. So you knew he was going to be a star.” She added, “He was a very modern American antihero type, but he could also play anything, really.”

Slowik in The Conversation: Oscar-worthy Scores Unlock a Film’s Emotional Heart

Michael Slowik '03

Assistant Professor of Film Studies Michael Slowik ’03

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Assistant Professor of Film Studies Michael Slowik ’03 writes about how film scores can “convey and amplify a film’s emotional landscape” by considering two films nominated for 2020 Oscars for best score.

The secret to the success of two Oscar-nominated scores

Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awards an Oscar to the film with the best original score.

The best scores—like those from Lawrence of Arabia and Black Panther—convey and amplify a film’s emotional landscape.

How do composers pull this off?

Back in 2014, I wrote a book examining the musical methods of early sound films. Ninety years later, some of the basic techniques developed during that era remain relevant. They include what industry professionals call “spotting,” which refers to when music appears in the film, and decisions about which musical styles to incorporate.

This year, two very different Oscar-nominated scores—those from Marriage Story and Joker—show how style and spotting can have major effects on a viewer’s engagement and emotional experience with a film.

Sounding out the breakdown of a marriage

Marriage Story tells the story of a married couple whose separation leads to an increasingly bitter and contentious divorce.

The film’s score, composed by Randy Newman, uses music in a classical style—but mainly during moments of kindness and human connection.

In the film’s lengthy opening, for example, we hear Charlie and his wife Nicole describe what they love about each other. During this sequence, the audience hears strings, flute, harp and piano. Perhaps Newman chose classical music because, for many listeners, its sounds can evoke the perfection of a past era. He splices these sounds with dialogue reflecting what most people want from their romantic relationships: warmth, trust and mutual support.

Cohan in The Conversation: A Clue to Stopping Coronavirus

Fred Cohan

Fred Cohan

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In this article, Fred Cohan, professor of biology, Huffington Foundation Professor in the College of the Environment, PhD student Kathleen Sagarin, and Kelly Mei ’20 explain how viruses like coronavirus—and several others over history—spread from animals to humans, what determines the size of the outbreak, and how behavioral modifications and technology can stop the spread.

A clue to stopping coronavirus: Knowing how viruses adapt from animals to humans

As the novel coronavirus death toll mounts, it is natural to worry. How far will this virus travel through humanity, and could another such virus arise seemingly from nowhere?

As microbial ecologists who study the origins of new microbial species, we would like to give some perspective.

As a result of continuing deforestation, “bushmeat” hunting of wild animals and caring for our domestic animals, the novel coronavirus will certainly not be the last deadly virus from wild animals to infect humans. Indeed, wild species of bats and primates abound in viruses closely related to SARS and HIV, respectively. When humans interact with wild animal species, pathogens that are resident in those animals can spill over to humans, sometimes with deadly effects.

No new virus under the Sun?

Most “emergent” viruses that are new to humans are regular inhabitants of other species. In some cases, the animal hosts have reached a peaceful coexistence with their viruses, as in the case of bats. In other cases, the viruses are as deadly in their wild animal hosts as in us, as with chimpanzees and their immunodeficiency viruses. Human activities have increased the rate of spillovers of wild animal viruses into our species, particularly from bats.

Deforestation has brought bats closer to human habitations, resulting in recurrent spread of Ebola from bats to humans in sub-Saharan Africa. The trade in wild animals brought us SARS when bats infected captive civets in a live-animal market with the virus. Most profoundly, hunting chimpanzees in Cameroon brought humans HIV about a century ago, most likely by way of an accident in handling an infected carcass.

Other recent, emergent viruses have come to us from bats by way of our domestic animals. Hendra and Nipah virus spilled over in 1994 from fruit bats, by way of horses and pigs in 1999, respectively. In 2012 the MERS virus jumped to humans from camels, which were originally infected from bats several hundred years ago. Caring for our horses’ and camels’ runny noses was responsible for bringing us Hendra and MERS.

Recent Media Hits

NewsWesleyan in the News

  1. Connecticut Public Radio: “The Struggle for Sleep: Why More School Districts Are Considering Later Starts”

Speaking as both a scholar and a mother, Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman comments in this story on the movement to push schools in the state to start later. “People ask me, as a developmental psychologist, ‘Oh, we have this mental health crisis in the state, what are we going to do, what should we be funding, what kind of resources do we need to build in?’ And I just think it’s so silly when we have such a straightforward solution that has such large, measurable impacts.”

2. The Washington Post: “For the Super Bowl, Bloomberg and Trump Are Each Spending $10 Million on Ads”

Associate Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler and her colleagues on the Wesleyan Media Project write about what makes political advertising in the 2020 election cycle look so different (hint: two self-funded billionaires are blowing up existing records) and the unusual decision by candidates Michael Bloomberg and President Donald Trump to spend $10 million each to reach nearly 100 million American viewers at the same time. Fowler was also recently interviewed on Marketplace about political advertising.

3. Transitions Online: “Russian Government Reshuffle: Plus ça Change”

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, Professor of Government, analyzes the recent mass resignation of the Russian government following a surprise announcement from Russian President Vladamir Putin that he was rewriting the constitution. There is much unclear about the changes, including why Putin chose to make them at this time, and what the impact will be on Russia’s government. What is clear, Rutland writes, is that “Russia’s political system is broken” due to Putin’s constant tinkering with the country’s political institutions “to create the appearance of change while retaining power in his own hands.”

4. The Middletown Press: “Wesleyan Student Heading to Hollywood Among Writers of the Future Winners”

Students Volunteer with Civic Organizations Over Winter Break

Perri Easley '23 spoke at her former high school, Morristown-Beard School in Morristown, N.J., to educate students about important issues around the 2020 elections, including the U.S. Census, the Electoral College, and voter suppression. Easley worked with Rock the Vote, a non-partisan group dedicated to building the political power of young people. (Photo by Steve Patchett).

Perri Easley ’23 spoke at her former high school, Morristown-Beard School in Morristown, N.J., to educate students about important issues around the 2020 elections, including the US Census, the Electoral College, gerrymandering, and voter suppression. (Photo by Steve Patchett)

The first cohort of students participating in the Wesleyan Engage 2020 (E2020) initiative dedicated their winter breaks to working for voter registration and issues advocacy groups, as well as for a range of candidates for presidential, congressional, and local offices.

The 18 students participating over winter break were stationed in states as far-flung as Georgia and Alaska, New York and Arizona. Wesleyan awarded over $20,000 to assist with participants’ living and travel expenses while they conducted this work.

Many students chose to work with organizations advocating for particular issues, including criminal justice reform, housing justice, reproductive rights, and immigration.

Others focused their efforts on voter engagement and registration. Perri Easley ’23 spoke at her former high school, Morristown-Beard School in Morristown, N.J., and at the Morris County Chapter of Jack and Jill of America to educate young people about important issues around the 2020 elections, including the US Census, the Electoral College, gerrymandering, and voter suppression. Voter registration drives were held at both events for high school students who are of eligible age to register to vote.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

1. The Washington Post: “How One College Is Helping Students Get Engaged in Elections—and, No, It’s Not Political”

President Michael Roth writes about Wesleyan’s initiative to engage students meaningfully in work in the public sphere ahead of the 2020 elections, and calls on other colleges and universities to do the same. He writes: “Now is the time for higher education leaders to commit their institutions to find their own paths for promoting student involvement in the 2020 elections. This kind of direct participation in civic life provides an educational benefit that will help students develop skills for lifelong active citizenship; participants will gain organizational skills, learn to engage productively with others with whom they disagree and learn about themselves.”

2. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education: “Nicole Stanton Will Be the Next Provost at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut”

Professor of Dance Nicole Stanton will begin her new role as Wesleyan’s 12th provost and vice president for academic affairs on May 15. She joined Wesleyan in 2007 as associate professor of dance, and currently serves as dean of the Arts and Humanities.

Pinch Consults on Recent Hindi Feature Film

William "Vijay" Pinch (Photo credit: Thomas A. Pinch)

William “Vijay” Pinch (Photo by Thomas A. Pinch)

Professor of History William “Vijay” Pinch, a scholar of South Asian History, recently consulted on Laal Kaptaan, a Hindi feature film directed by Navdeep Singh. The film was released in India in October 2019 and can be viewed on Amazon Prime in the US.

Director Singh referred to one of Pinch’s books, Warrior Ascetics and Indian Empires (Cambridge University Press, 2006), in imagining the period and the drama’s lead character, a warrior ascetic in the late 18th century.  Pinch was then contacted to read and comment on the script, and to answer questions during the filming.

In November 2020, Pinch and Singh will jointly present at a film/history symposium held in conjunction with a film festival in Windsor, Canada. Read more about Pinch’s presentation here.

Read more about the film in the Firstpost article “Laal Kaptaan’s textured portrayal of warrior ascetics brings a new, much-needed focus to an obscure history,” and see an interview with the director on Scroll.in.

Wesleyan Invests in the Future of Campus

PAC

In early 2020, the University is planning for a $75 million bond issue which will support construction on the Public Affairs Center.

Wesleyan’s physical campus plays an important role in the distinctive residential liberal arts education it offers students. Facilities planning has been a focus on campus recently, with major upgrades in the works for the academic buildings housing Wesleyan’s art, social science, and science programs.

“Our work on campus involves modernizing, upgrading, and, in some cases, expanding our core academic centers. These facilities will be transformed into spaces where courageous faculty and students can activate their ideas to make a difference in the world,” said President Michael Roth ’78. “We are taking steps now to ensure Wesleyan is a high-impact university for decades to come.”

Students to Work in Public Sphere Over Winter Break

engageNearly 20 Wesleyan students are dedicating their winter breaks to civic participation.

Eighteen Wesleyan students will spend a portion of December and January engaging in projects related to voter registration and issues advocacy in Iowa, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, and Arizona, amongst others states through the Wesleyan Engage 2020 Initiative. E2020 is a comprehensive University effort to support student learning via civic engagement and liberal arts education.

“This will be an intense learning experience for students,” said Clifton Watson, director for the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships. “Students will engage folks from diverse backgrounds—across the country—during a unique moment in American society, around issues that many Americans are deeply passionate about.”

Participants in the initiative will enroll in CSPL494, a quarter-credit course that includes orientation, structured reflection, and a final paper. Students may apply to the E2020 Fund for funding to offset transportation and living expenses while participating in engagement work. All applications are assessed on the degree to which they address the educational value inherent in civic engagement, as well as the reasonableness of proposed budgets. E2020 is open to and encourages participation regardless of political affiliation or stances on specific issues.

A full menu of programs aligned with E2020 will be announced in the coming weeks. In addition, students may apply for financial support for work over spring break (deadline: Feb. 7, 2020) and over summer and fall breaks (deadlines to be announced at a future date).

Wesleyan has a long history of providing opportunities for student engagement in the public sphere. The Civic Action Plan sets goals for building civic preparedness among students, faculty, and staff, and for enhancing the University’s role in public life.

Wesleyan in the News

NewsIn this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Wesleyan in the News

  1. NPR: “Book Review: ‘The Movie Musical!’ Is a Symphony in Praise of the ‘Razzmatazz’ of the Genre”

“Encyclopedic in scope, but thankfully not in structure, The Movie Musicals! is a downright delightful read,” this NPR review of Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, Jeanine Basinger’s new book proclaims. The Movie Musicals! truly “dazzles” for its insight into the roles these films have played over the 20th century and into the 21st, the review states, noting, “And throughout the hefty volume, Basinger addresses—both directly and indirectly—the essential question at the heart of musicals: What compels us to suspend disbelief and accept, if not wholly enjoy, the fantastical idea of people spontaneously breaking into song? What does this sorcery say about the immersiveness of film, and the power of song, and the mechanism of the human imagination?”

2. BBC: “Galileo’s Lost Letter”

Professor of Religion Mary-Jane Rubenstein is interviewed on “Discovery” from the BBC about the historical conflict between religion and science. “The notion that religion is somehow a backward, authoritarian, anti-rational opponent to science really comes at the end of the 19th century,” she says. There is a misperception that science and religious belief have to always be in conflict, but in actuality, Rubenstein says, it is “a battle between Protestants and Catholics that gets grafted onto and renewed as some sort of dispute between the secular and the religious.” Rubenstein comes in around 15:44 minutes.

3. PBS Newshour: “Why Haitians Say They Won’t Stop Protesting”

Center for Prison Education Honored by Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities

From left, Cheryl Sharp '90, deputy director of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO); Jason Torello, Center for Prison Education alumnus; Allie Cislo, CPE program manager; Daniel McGloin, CPE academic development and planning manager; and Tanya Hughes, CHRO executive director at the 2019 Leaders and Legends award ceremony on Nov. 21.

From left, Cheryl Sharp ’90, deputy director of the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO); Jason Torello, Center for Prison Education alumnus; Allie Cislo, CPE program manager; Daniel McGloin, CPE academic development and planning manager; and Tanya Hughes, CHRO executive director, gathered at the 2019 Leaders and Legends award ceremony on Nov. 21.

On Nov. 21, Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education (CPE) was honored by the Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) at its annual Leaders and Legends award ceremony in Hartford, Conn. The ceremony celebrates the state’s civil rights leaders in many different areas, including education, business or law, community activism, civic leadership, and social justice.

CPE received the Edythe J. Gaines Award for Inclusive Education, named in honor of the first African American and first woman to head the Hartford school system. The award recognizes educators who dedicate their careers to promoting equality, inclusion, and fairness in education.

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, and 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. CPE held its first graduation ceremony for incarcerated students in August 2018.

Learn more about the Center for Prison Education here.