Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Wesleyan University Awards 2018 Hamilton Prize for Creativity

Sydney Kim of Weston, Mass. has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan, worth as much as $200,000. Her submission, a short story titled, “The Driveway,” was selected by an all-star committee of Wesleyan alumni chaired by Hamilton writer/creator and former star Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ‘15 and director Thomas Kail ’99, from more than 550 entries. Kim attends Concord Academy, and will be a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 2022.

“This year’s submissions gave us insight into the minds of so many creative students,” said Miranda. “I admire their bravery in sharing who they are with the committee. Taking that leap isn’t easy. They are all inspiring.”

The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, which in 2016 won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. The first Hamilton Prize was awarded to Audrey Pratt in May 2017.

Hamilton: An American Musical has inspired and energized so many young people. Through this prize, we look forward to bringing promising new writers to Wesleyan, where they will find a community that encourages experimentation and values the sharing of creative work,” said Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth. “I can’t wait to see what these students produce with their Wesleyan educations.”

Wesleyan in the News

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

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. BBC: “How Economists Forgot Housework”

Joyce Jacobsen, the Andrews Professor of Economics, is interviewed about how unpaid labor—such as childcare and housework—can be measured, and the potential impact on GDP. Jacobsen is also provost and vice president for academic affairs.

2. The Hill: “Postal Service Banking System Possible If Past Pitfalls Avoided”

Masami Imai, professor and chair of economics, professor of East Asian studies, and Richard Grossman, professor of economics, are the authors of an op-ed in support of the proposed Postal Banking Act. The law would mandate that the U.S. Postal Service offer low-cost retail banking services, which, if properly implemented, would expand banking access to many low-income and rural families, improving their financial well-being, while also helping to shore up the USPS’s finances.

3. Connecticut Jewish Ledger: “Conversation with Vera Schwarcz”

Vera Schwarcz, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, Emerita, discusses her new book, In the Crook of the Rock: Jewish Refuge in a World Gone Mad—The Chaya Leah Walkin Story.

4. The Washington Post: “On the Subject of Evolution, a Way to Hang on to Both Science and Religion”

President Michael S. Roth reviews The Human Instinct: How We Evolved to Have Reason, Consciousness and Free Will, a new book by Kenneth R. Miller.

5. One Green Planet: “10 Colleges with Plenty of Vegan Options!”

Wesleyan is featured among the best colleges for vegans thanks to well-known vegan chef Stephanie Zinowski and her “to-die-for vegan apple crisp.”

Recent Alumni News

  1. Town and County: “How Lin-Manuel Miranda [’02] and His Family Made Giving Back Their Tradition” by Oprah Winfey and Quiara Alegria Hudes

In a Q&A with the Miranda family (Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, father Luis Miranda, brother-in-law Luis Crespo, wife Vanessa Nadal, mother Luz Towns-Miranda, and sister Luz Miranda-Crespo), Winfrey and In The Heights collaborator Hudes (Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater) ask the clan to explore the roots of their familial commitment to philanthropy.

2. NPR.org: “FDA to Take Action Against Companies That Sell Vape Pens to Teens”

National Public Radio Morning Edition host Rachel Martin asks U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb ’94 about the agency’s new enforcement actions against those who sell vape pens and other non-burning nicotine devices—such as JUUL—to children and teens.

3. Courant.com: “Senators Hail Ted Kennedy, Jr. [’83 P’16, ’20] After 4 Years in Chamber

Kennedy, who is not seeking re-election this fall, is lauded as a “down-to-earth, gracious, hard-working lawmaker” in the Connecticut Senate.

4. The Wellesley News: “Professor Kate Gilhuly [’86] Pursues Interest in Literature Through Research in Classics”

From a childhood where her mother read Homer and Edith Hamilton’s Mythology aloud, to becoming a classics major at Wesleyan, Gilhuly traces her path to Wellesley, where she is a professor in the Classics Department.

5. Travellers Times: “The Ciambra: A Feature Film About a Southern Italian Romani Family to Be Shown in UK Cinemas in June

The Ciambra, directed by Jonas Carpignano [’06] and executive produced by Martin Scorsese, is a gritty penetrating story of adolescence to adulthood set in Southern Italy featuring Romani actors and extras.” Carpignano was the assistant director of Benh Zeitlin’s [’04] Beasts of the Southern Wild.

 

 

Badr ’20 Guides Upward Bound Students to Write about Their Experiences

A 100-person choir performed “Identities,” which included a poem written by Wesleyan Upward Bound student Chelsea Anthony. Chelsea is pictured front and center with Ahmed Badr ’20, who led a storytelling workshop that resulted in Chelsea’s poem being published.

How did a young refugee from Iraq inspire a high school student from New Britain, Conn., to write a poem that went on to be performed by a 100-person choir made up of high schoolers from around the East Coast?

It all began at Wesleyan.

Ahmed Badr ’20 was born in Iraq and came to the United States as a refugee in 2008, after his family’s home in Baghdad was bombed by militia troops. As he struggled to adjust to life in the U.S., he started a personal blog to write about his experiences, and “found it incredibly empowering” to share his story.

“I soon began to realize the power of storytelling to inspire and bring people together,” he wrote on his website, Narratio. Determined to empower other youth, he created Narratio to publish written work by young people around the globe. It has been recognized by the United Nations, We are Family Foundation, and featured on NPR and Instagram. Today, Badr is a sophomore at Wesleyan, studying anthropology and pursuing independent projects as an Allbritton Fellow and Patricelli Center Fellow, while continuing to run Narratio, which includes leading creative storytelling workshops for youth around the country.

Students Inducted into Honor Society, Present Research at American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Meeting

Undergraduates from the Biology, Chemistry, and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry majors showed off their science at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From Left, Alex Shames '18 (MacQueen Lab), BA/MA student Arden Feil (MacQueen Lab), Will Barr '18 (Weir Lab), Christine Little '18 (Mukerji Lab), Cody Hecht '18 (Taylor Lab), and Emily Kessler '18 (Hingorani Lab).

Undergraduates from the biology, chemistry, and molecular biology and biochemistry majors showed off their science at the 2018 meeting of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. From left, Alex Shames ’18 (MacQueen Lab), Arden Feil BA/MA ’18 (MacQueen Lab), Will Barr ’18 (Weir Lab), Christine Little ’18 (Mukerji Lab), Cody Hecht ’18 (Taylor Lab), and Emily Kessler ’18 (Hingorani Lab).

Seven Wesleyan students recently were inducted into the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) Honor Society, and many of them presented research posters at the ASBMB annual meeting in San Diego, April 21–25.

The ASBMB Honor Society recognizes exceptional undergraduate juniors and seniors who are pursuing a degree in the molecular life sciences for their scholarly achievement, research accomplishments, and outreach activities. The Wesleyan students inducted were Will Barr ’18, Alexa Strauss ’19, Emily Kessler ’18, Christine Little ’18, Julie McDonald ’18, Rubye Peyser ’18, and Alexander Shames ’18.

The following students attended the annual meeting:

• Kessler, whose poster was titled, “Investigating the Mechanistic Basis of Mutant MutS DNA Repair Protein Malfunction in Lynch Syndrome”
• Barr, “An mRNA-rRNA base pairing model for efficient protein translation”
• Little, “Investigation into the Binding Interactions of Saccharomyces cerevisiae Histone H1 with Holliday Junction”
• Shames, “The Long and Short of Synaptonemal Complex Assembly: Investigating the genesis and functional relevance of a smaller Zip1 isoform”
• Cody Hecht ’18, “Escherichia coli Heptosyltransferase I: Examining Protein Dynamics with Pyrene Excimer Fluorescence and Tryptophan-Induced Quenching”
• Arden Feil BA/MA ’18, “Scraping the Tip of Zip1’s Role in Meiotic Chromosome Dynamics: Using lacO/LacI corecruitment to identify crossover promoting factors that interface with the N-terminus of a synaptonemal complex protein”

“It was a joy to present the research that I’ve been working on for the past two years as a part of Wesleyan’s Beckman Scholars Program,” said Barr. “Science research can seem like a roller coaster at times, and presenting my research in the company of scientists at all levels of their careers helped me remember just how thrilling this process has been.”

The mission of ASBMB is to advance the science of biochemistry and molecular biology through organization of scientific meetings, advocacy for funding of basic research and education, support of science education at all levels, promotion of the diversity of individuals entering the scientific workforce, and publication of a number of scientific and educational journals, including the Journal of Biological Chemistry and the Journal of Lipid Research.

Cassidy in The Conversation: No, the War in Afghanistan Isn’t a Hopeless Stalemate

Col. Robert Cassidy, Retired Officer Teaching Fellow at Wesleyan.

Col. Robert Cassidy, Retired Officer Teaching Fellow at Wesleyan.

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 a new article, Col. Robert Cassidy, Retired Officer Teaching Fellow at Wesleyan, writes about both the apparent stalemate in the war in Afghanistan, as well as why he harbors hope of an eventual resolution. Cassidy is a scholar of Afghanistan and strategy, as well as a soldier who served four tours in the country.

No, the war in Afghanistan isn’t a hopeless stalemate

The war in Afghanistan has become so protracted that it warrants the epithet the “Groundhog Day War.”

Fighting has gone on for nearly 17 years, with U.S. troops in Afghanistan seven years longer than the Soviets were.

The U.S. leadership claims to have a strategy for victory even as warm weather brings in yet another “fighting season” and new rounds of deadly violence in Kabul.

Sixteen years and seven months of violence, loss, sacrifice and significant investment, without victory, is alarming – but is it without hope?

As a scholar of Afghanistan and strategy and a soldier who has served four tours in the country, I’d like to explore both the apparent stalemate and the reasons for harboring hope of an eventual resolution.

The ‘Groundhog War’

In terms of fighting battles and taking ground, momentum in the war in Afghanistan has ebbed back and forth from the coalition formed by the U.S., NATO and Afghan troops to the Islamist insurgents who call themselves the Taliban, or “the students.”

Student-Athletes Honored at 6th Annual Dinner, Awards Ceremony

On May 2, the sixth annual Scholar-Athlete Dinner was held in Beckham Hall to honor top scholar-athletes in all 29 varsity sports.

Photos from the event are below: (Photos by Tom Dzimian)

Francine Rivkin '78 was honored with the Cardinal Award, the Athletic Advisory Council's recognition of extraordinary contributions and dedication to the success of the Wesleyan Athlete Program. Rivkin is pictured with Mike Whalen, the Frank V. Sica Director of Athletics and chair of Physical Education, at left.

Francine Rivkin ’78, a former five-sport athlete at Wesleyan and an ardent supporter of Wesleyan Athletics, was honored with the Athletic Advisory Council’s Cardinal Award. Mike Whalen, the Frank V. Sica Director of Athletics and chair of Physical Education, presented the award to Rivkin in recognition of her extraordinary contributions and dedication to the success of the Wesleyan Athletics program.

Eisner Participates in Prestigious Department of Defense Program

Dean of the Social Sciences Marc Eisner was selected to participate in the Joint Civilian Orientation Conference (JCOC), a program hosted by the U.S. Secretary of Defense. It is the oldest and most prestigious public liaison program in the Department of Defense, and has been held since the 1940s.

Marc Eisner

Marc Eisner

On April 22–25, Eisner joined other college and university deans, provosts, and presidents at military installations in Virginia, where he engaged with senior military officers and U.S. service members. He participated in a variety of tactical training exercises and, through conversations and experiences, gained a better understanding of the roles and mission of the U.S. Armed Forces as well as their skills, capabilities, and equipment.

According to Eisner, the goal of the program is to help bridge the civilian-military divide. Leaders in the fields of education, business, and religion are invited to gain a better understanding of the military in order to help them better serve veterans.

“Unlike past periods in our country’s history, we have an all-volunteer Armed Forces now. The vast majority of students at Wesleyan would likely never know anyone who has served in the Armed Forces or been deployed to one of our recent wars,” said Eisner. “There’s a lack of understanding as to the nature of the wars and the people fighting in them.”

Bringing veterans to campus—as students, such as through the Posse Veteran Scholars program, or as faculty, such as through the Retired Officer Teaching Fellowship (ROTF)—is an important way to introduce students to new and different viewpoints. According to Eisner, Wesleyan’s first retired officer teaching fellow, Col. Bob Cassidy, just signed on for a second year at Wesleyan. His course on “Policy and Strategy in War and Peace” has been extremely popular, with students being wait-listed, and he has also guest lectured in other courses and given presentations on campus.

At the same time, said Eisner, many people in the military lack understanding of college campuses. It was interesting for him to speak to service members and learn why they decided not to pursue college, or left college early to join the military. He also observed that many service members were now taking classes online or at nearby institutions.

Eisner also is the Henry Merritt Wriston Chair in Public Policy, professor of government, professor of environmental studies.

Haddad, Cho in The Conversation: The Goal in Korea Should Be Peace and Trade–Not Unification

Mary Alice Haddad

Mary Alice Haddad

Joan Cho

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 a new article, Mary Alice Haddad, professor and chair of the College of East Asian Studies; Joan Cho, assistant professor of government, assistant professor of East Asian studies; and Alexis Dudden, professor of history at the University of Connecticut provide historical context to the negotiations happening between North and South Korea, and argue that the focus now should be on peace and trade. Haddad also is professor of government, professor of environmental studies.

This article emerged as a direct result of Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Jin Hi Kim’s One Sky II project. Haddad, Cho, and Dudden spoke on a panel April 17 at a Music Department Colloquium on the current political conflict, and U.S. and North Korean policy, as well as Korean urban culture.

The goal in Korea should be peace and trade – not unification

Last week, the world witnessed a first tangible step toward a peaceful, prosperous Korean peninsula.

On April 27, 2018, Kim Jong-Un became the first North Korean leader to step foot in South Korea – where he was welcomed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

A few days later, the South Korean government reported that Kim had promised to give up his nuclear arsenal under certain conditions.

While some viewed the summit with skepticism and issued reminders about Kim’s villainous past, others began talking of a unified Korea – a reasonable reaction considering that the leaders signed a document called the Panmunjom Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula.

The intentions of these two leaders is key. For while Donald Trump and Xi Zinping and Vladimir Putin may tweet and hold meetings, it is the nearly 80 million Koreans who will determine the future of how they will share their peninsula.

Taylor in The Conversation: Why Are Some E. coli Deadly?

Erika Taylor

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 a new article, Erika Taylor, associate professor of chemistry, explains why some E. coli live peacefully in our bodies while others make us very sick. Taylor also is associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of integrative sciences.

Why are some E. coli deadly while others live peacefully within our bodies?

E. coli outbreaks hospitalize people and cause food recalls pretty much annually in the United States. This year is no different.Obviously some E. coli can be deadly for people. But not all strains of these bacteria make you sick. In fact, you have a variety of strains of E. coli in your intestines right now – including one that’s busy making the antioxidant vitamin K, crucial for your and its survival.Scientists like me often characterize E. coli by the sugar coat they display on their cell surface. A molecule called a lipopolysaccharide is the anchor that displays a collection of sugars to their environment.These sugars help the bacteria stick to surfaces and reveal their identity to your immune system. Human cells do this, too – your blood type is defined by sugars displayed on your blood cells, for instance.

The sugars E. coli display vary from strain to strain. Some sugar coats are associated with strains living symbiotically in your stomach – E. coli HS, UTI89 and CFT073 are some of the most commonly found to be helpful. Others are associated with illness – like E. coli O104:H4, also called enterohemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC), which caused a major outbreak in Europe in 2011. According to the CDC, this latest outbreak is due to E. coli O157:H7 – a strain that’s caused at least one food-borne outbreak in the U.S. each year since 2006.

The letters and numbers that name a strain serve as a code for which sugars are present. While the sugars bacteria display aren’t what makes you sick, they’re quickly and easily detectable and help scientists and doctors differentiate whether a present strain will generate toxins that can make you ill.

File 20180424 94157 1hsgfxd.jpg?ixlib=rb 1.1

From a human perspective, some strains are good, some are evil. (Photo by fusebulb/Shutterstock.com)

Bacteria rely on what researchers term virulence factors: molecules that aid their survival while undermining your immune system. Both the EHEC and O157 strains of E. coli are able to make a virulence factor called a Shiga toxin. Shiga toxins were discovered first in Shigella dysenteriae, the bacterium that causes dysentery. Later researchers discovered that the EHEC and O157 strains of E. coli had gained the gene for Shiga toxins from the dysentery bacterium through a process called horizontal gene transfer.

When bacteria reach a critical mass in your body after you eat a contaminated food, they secrete these toxins as part of their strategy for finding a new host. The toxins enter the cells of your intestines, causing symptoms including low-grade fever, stomach cramps, diarrhea (often bloody) and vomiting.

It’s virulence factors like these that are to blame for human illnesses and that give E. coli a bad name – even if all strains don’t deserve it.

 

This article was originally published on The Conversation, and also appeared in Scientific American and Newsweek, among other news outlets. Read the original article.

Weissman Receives Lifetime Achievement Award

Ruth Striegel Weissman

Ruth Weissman

Ruth Striegel Weissman, the Walter A. Crowell University Professor of the Social Sciences, Emerita, was presented with the Academy for Eating Disorders (AED) Lifetime Achievement Award during a ceremony in Chicago on April 21. The award honors senior AED members for their lifetime of contributions to the field of eating disorders.

In presenting the award, Marsha Marcus, professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, spoke of Weissman’s “impressive history of NIH-supported research, [which] has led to findings that have elucidated eating disorders risk, epidemiology, classification, psychopathology, treatment, health care policy, and cost-effectiveness.” This scholarship “has had a major and enduring influence on the field,” Marcus said.

Weissman taught in Wesleyan’s Department of Psychology for nearly three decades, serving twice as chair of the department. She also served the University as vice president for academic affairs and provost.

In addition, Weissman was a member of the Working Group of the Eating Disorders Task Force of the DSM-5 (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders). She has served on numerous grant review committees and editorial boards. She is a member or fellow of numerous scientific societies, and has served as president of both the Academy for Eating Disorders and the Eating Disorders Research Society (EDRS). According to Marcus, Weissman was essential to the establishment and growth of both organizations, and has been recognized previously for her scholarly and organizational contributions. In 2005, Weissman was given the AED Leadership Award in Research, and in 2008 she gave the James E. Mitchell Lecture at EDRS.

Weissman currently serves as editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Eating Disorders, the leading scientific journal in the field, and as chair of the Board of Directors of the Livingston HealthCare Foundation.

Wesleyan Students Win Prestigious Consulting Competition

From left, Justin Liew ’18, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Jake Kwang ’20 won first prize in Roland Berger's "Case for a Cause" competition in April.

From left, Justin Liew ’18, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Jake Kwang ’20 won first prize in Roland Berger’s “Case for a Cause” competition in April.

Imagine you are advising a company that is a leading producer of a certain type of fruit product in the United States. The Chinese market has recently opened for export of this fruit product. How should the company best respond to this new market opportunity in China? What is the competition likely to do?

This was the scenario facing 30 teams of students from across 16 schools in the Roland Berger Case for a Cause 2018 competition, which simulates the work of a strategy consultant. Wesleyan’s team of four students, sponsored by The Gordon Career Center, tied for first place in the competition, which benefits Make-A-Wish Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According to Anne Laskowksi, business career advisor at the Gordon Career Center, this was Wesleyan’s second year participating in the competition. This year, the four students—Jake Kwang ’20, Rosanne Ng ’19, Carlo Medina ’18, and Justin Liew ’18—formed the team on their own. The group met up to three times each week to work on the case, with many additional hours of individual work each week.

Wesleyan University Press Book Is a Pulitzer Prize Finalist

semiautomatic, a book of poetry by poet and literary scholar Evie Shockley, published by Wesleyan University Press, has been named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry.

“Evie Shockley’s semiautomatic is an urgent, energized poetry giving voice to the pain at the intersection of racism and gender-based violence. These vibrant and musical poems turn rhetoric to poetry while questioning our ‘semiautomatic’ performance of daily life,” said Wesleyan University Press Director Suzanna Tamminen. “We are thrilled to see her work receive such a prestigious recognition.”

According to the Press’s website, semiautomatic “responds primarily to the twenty-first century’s inescapable evidence of the terms of black life—not so much new as newly visible. The poems trace a whole web of connections between the kinds of violence that affect people across the racial, ethnic, gender, class, sexual, national, and linguistic boundaries that do and do not divide us. How do we protect our humanity, our ability to feel deeply and think freely, in the face of a seemingly endless onslaught of physical, social, and environmental abuses? Where do we find language to describe, process, and check the attacks and injuries we see and suffer? What actions can break us out of the soul-numbing cycle of emotions, moving through outrage, mourning, and despair, again and again? In poems that span fragment to narrative and quiz to constraint, from procedure to prose and sequence to song, semiautomatic culls past and present for guides to a hoped-for future.”