Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Registered Nurse Joan Ecklund Wins Louise Gazzara Award

Joan Ecklund is celebrating 30 years at Wesleyan this October.

Joan Ecklund is celebrating 30 years at Wesleyan this October. (Photo by Will Barr ’18)

In this issue of News @ Wesleyan, we speak to Joan Ecklund, registered nurse and nursing coordinator in Health Services.

Q: Joan, how long have you worked in Wesleyan’s Health Services? How has your role here changed over the years?

A: I am celebrating 30 years at Wesleyan this month. I started out in a temporary position and slowly started to work more hours through the years. I am currently the Nursing Clinical Coordinator in Health Services. I work to keep the daily operations flowing smoothly as well as working with students to assist with their health care needs.

Q: Did you work as a registered nurse in other settings prior to coming to Wesleyan, and if so, where?

A: Before coming to Wesleyan I worked at the Coast Guard Academy Infirmary. I have also worked in several hospitals. I also currently work at Yale New Haven Hospital on the orthopedic/trauma unit during long Wesleyan semester breaks.

Wesleyan’s Astronomical History featured in Astronomy Magazine


Astronomy magazine has an in-depth feature in its October issue on Wesleyan’s astronomical history and the restoration of its century-old, 20-inch refractor telescope, just in time for the Van Vleck Observatory’s centennial observation this spring.

Telescopes like Wesleyan’s 28-foot-long, two-ton refractor had once been cutting edge, and a source of pride for dozens of American universities. But as they “staggered into obsolescence” over the past half century, institutions have had to make tough choices about whether to renovate or retire them. In 2014, Wesleyan hired Chris Ray and Fred Orthlieb of Pennsylvania to give its refractor a second life.

The story traces the history of giant refractors through the 18th and 19th centuries, and Wesleyan’s acquisition of its own telescopes, and how they were used.

astronomymag2“Astronomical research and the teaching of students would go hand in hand at Wesleyan, [astronomer Frederick] Slocum told his audience (at the observatory’s dedication). But in an age of giant telescopes, even a 20-inch refractor was only modest. Worse still, New England’s weather is notoriously dreadful for astronomers. To make an impact, the Van Vleck Observatory would have to focus on a single fundamental question. By collaborating with Yerkes, England’s Royal Greenwich Observatory, and a consortium of other schools, Wesleyan researchers would measure parallaxes–a way to gauge how far away stars are through the tiny displacements in their positions caused by Earth’s orbital motion around the Sun. The astronomers would find the distances to the stars, Slocum said–and that’s exactly what they did.”

Wesleyan’s refractor was used to work on this problem from the 1920s through the 1990s, and it trained generations of young astronomers during that time. “In the 1950s, popularizer Walter Scott Houston peered through it to write his ‘Deep Sky Wonders’ column for Sky & Telescope.

Read the full story, which features a six-page spread of photos taken by Wesleyan photographers Olivia Drake MALS ’08 and Laurie Kenney, here.

Jennifer Tucker Talks Gun Control in Boston Globe op-ed, on WNPR’s ‘Scramble’

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker is the co-author of an op-ed in the Boston Globe titled, “What the Clean Air Act can teach us about reducing gun violence.” Tucker and co-author Matthew Miller of Northeastern University write, “The recent scandal over Volkswagen’s polluting engines vividly illustrates the contrast between the way Americans, and in particular elected officials, treat guns and the way we (and our elected officials) treat cars — both of which kill approximately 32,000 Americans every year.”

The Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, has averted tens of thousands of premature deaths though “a systematic and scientific approach to the impact of the actors of private actors (from auto owners to power station operators) on the health of their fellow citizens. The force of the law was then used to ensure that these externalities were borne by the companies contributing to the problem.”

Tucker and Miller argue the same approach should be applied to regulating firearms. At present, legislation now exempts guns from federal consumer-safety laws and provides immunity for gun manufacturers and dealers from liability lawsuits. And since 1996, the Centers for Disease Control has been effectively barred from funding research into the cause of firearm-related deaths.

Tucker also was a guest this week on WNPR’s “The Scramble” in a discussion about gun control, following the mass shooting at a community college in Oregon.

“Our nation’s lax attitude toward gun proliferation is partly the result of a Hollywood version of gun technology,” said Tucker. “There’s a 1953 movie ‘Shane,’ which has had a powerful influence. Shane is a gun fighter and in a conversation about gun control, he says ‘A gun is just a tool. It’s as good or bad as the man who uses it. We’ve heard this notion a lot, but that’s certainly not a notion… that we apply to other consumer products in America. We could take, for example, the recent scandal over Volkswagen’s polluting engines to illustrate this difference. So after Volkswagen’s recent admission that it used illegal devices to cheat on admission testing of diesel vehicles in the United States, the company faces billions of dollars of fines along with expensive recalls and class action lawsuits and criminal charges.”

Tucker describes the passage of the Clean Air Act in 1970 as having a major impact on public health, averting tens of thousands of premature deaths. “It succeeded because it took a scientific approach to the impacts of the activities of private actors on the health of fellow citizens. In contrast to that, while the impact of automobiles on the public’s health and safety is closely regulated, astonishingly, the firearms that are used to kill Americans are not subject to government oversight.”

Tucker is also associate professor of science in society, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, associate professor of environmental studies. She recently authored an op-ed on the history of gun control published on Inside Sources.

Nobel Prize Awarded to Satoshi Omura, Wesleyan’s Max Tishler Professor of Chemistry

Satoshi Omura

Satoshi Omura Hon. ’94, the honorary Max Tishler Professor of Chemistry, received a Nobel Prize on Oct. 5.

Satoshi Omura was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine for developing a new drug, which has nearly eradicated river blindness and dramatically reduced mortality from other devastating diseases. Omura made the discovery that led to this drug while a visiting professor at Wesleyan in the early 1970s.

Omura has remained in touch with Wesleyan colleagues since then and in 2005 was appointed the first Max Tishler Professor of Chemistry, an honorary position. He returns to campus every few years to meet with faculty and present his current research.

The Nobel Committee honored Omura and William Campbell for discovering the drug Avermectin, as well as Youyou Tu, who discovered Artemisinin, on Oct. 5.

“These two discoveries have provided humankind with powerful new means to combat these debilitating diseases that affect hundreds of millions of people annually,” the committee said in a statement. “The consequences in terms of improved human health and reduced suffering are immeasurable.”

Omura came to Wesleyan in 1971 while on sabbatical from the Kitasato Institute in Tokyo, and worked closely with the late Professor of Chemistry Max Tishler for a year and a half. According to Albert Fry, the E.B. Nye Professor of Chemistry, who was a young professor here at the time, Omura brought to Wesleyan a number of extracts from soil samples to analyze their effects on harmful microorganisms.

Bonin Keynote Speaker at Banking Workshop

John Bonin, the the Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Science.

John Bonin is the Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Science.

John Bonin, the Chester D. Hubbard Professor of Economics and Social Science, was the invited keynote speaker at the 5th annual CInSt Banking Workshop, hosted by the Center for International Studies at the National Research University Higher School of Economics in Moscow, Russia on Oct. 2.

The theme of the conference was “Banking in Emerging Markets: Challenges and Opportunities.” Bonin’s talk was titled, “Did foreign banks ‘cut and run’ or stay committed to emerging Europe during the crises?” Bonin presented research he did together with Dana Louie ’15. They examined the lending behavior of foreign banks during the global financial crisis and at the onset of the Eurozone crisis in eight new EU countries, known as “emerging Europe.”

At the conference, Bonin also served as a discussant on a paper titled “Market Discipline in Russian Regions: In Local Authorities We Trust?”

Patricelli Center to Host Social Impact Summit, Nov. 13-14

URAL15241_ShashaSummitPostcard_0811_smj-1On Nov. 13-14 Wesleyan will host the inaugural Social Impact Summit, a gathering of alumni and parents who are passionately working for social change on a local, national and global scale. The summit is underwritten by James Shasha ’50, P’82, and organized by the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life, and the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations.

Many alumni joke about the “Wesleyan Film Mafia” but less well-known is the “Wesleyan Social Impact Mafia,” a large web of alumni engaged in social impact work.

Ron Jenkins Discusses Dante’s ‘Divine Comedy’

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins participated in a discussion on WNPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show about Dante Aligheri’s 14,000 line epic poem, “The Divine Comedy,” of which “Dante’s Inferno” is the most famous section. This adventure story is based on Dante’s real life in 14th century Italy, where he was a city official, diplomatic negotiator, and a man who dared to cross the Pope. Jenkins has taught Dante at Wesleyan and in prison courses.

“I discovered that I could learn a lot about Dante by teaching it in prison. I brought my Wesleyan students and my Yale students into prison to work with him,” said Jenkins. “I discovered that a lot of stereotypes are shattered by going into a prison with a text like that because although the commonplace understanding of Dante is a writer who writes about hell and awful, horrible things, the men in prison immediately understood that this was a poem about hope. They immediately identified with Dante. One of the reasons they identified with Dante is he was not only in exile, but he was a convict. He was convicted of crimes, that’s why he was put in exile. As soon as men in prison hear that, they pay attention more closely. […] They identify with Dante’s journey through hell, through purgatory, to a better place, and they can connect to that. They latch onto the hope that’s in Dante’s poem. […] They want to think about where they can go when they leave prison, if they can leave prison, or where they can go spiritually even if they can never leave prison.”


IntraGreek Council to Host Fall Harvest Festival Oct. 10

Wesleyan’s IntraGreek Council (IGC), in partnership with the Division of Student Affairs and the Athletics Department, is inviting Middletown families to participate in the inaugural Wesleyan Fall Harvest Festival on Oct. 10.

Traditional carnival games with prizes, face painting, a crafts table and other fall activities will be offered for children 13 and younger. The ICG will collect canned food donations for the Office of Community Engagement’s Thanksgiving food drive. The festival will run simultaneously with the home football game against Colby College. During half-time, children who come in costume may walk across the field in a parade, and will have a chance to win one of several different prize packages in a costume contest.

“The Wesleyan Greek Community and the IGC are excited to sponsor this fantastic event, showcasing how we do Greek Life the ‘Wes Way’ by participating in community engagement in a fun and unique way,” said Jason Brandner, a senior in Alpha Epsilon Pi and the current IntraGreek Council president.

“Wesleyan students have a long history of involvement and volunteer work with Middletown community,” added Vice President for Student Affairs Michael Whaley. “Our Greek organizations in particular have philanthropy as a significant part of their missions, and I’m thrilled to see the Greek community collaborating on this event for Middletown children.”

Students in the seven Greek Letter Organizations at Wesleyan strive to provide an open, inclusive environment that promotes scholarship, leadership, civic engagement, and personal development. Through their combined efforts, Greek students have raised thousands of dollars for local and national charities including Habitat for Humanity, Take Back the Night, Relay for Life, and more.

For more information about the festival, please contact:

Abby Reed ’16, community engagement chair for IGC, at;
Jason Brandner ’16, president of IGC, at; or
Zack Pfeifer, coordinator for Greek life, at or 860-685-2773

Robinson, Students, Alumna Author Article on ‘Wanting,’ ‘Liking’ in Addiction

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, is the author of an article published Sept. 27 in Current Topics in Behavioral NeuroscienceTitled, “Roles of ‘Wanting’ and ‘Liking’ in Motivating Behavior: Gambling, Food, and Drug Addictions,” the article is co-authored by Adam Fischer, previously Robinson’s lab manager, Aarit Ahuja ’16, Hannah Maniates ’16, and Ellen Lesser ’15.

In this paper, the authors argue that two separate but interconnected subcortical and unconscious processes direct motivation: “wanting” and “liking.” These two processes work together but can become disassociated, especially in cases of addiction. For example, in drug addiction, repeated consumption of drugs sensitizes the mesolimbic dopamine system–the primary component of the “wanting” system–resulting in excessive “wanting” for drugs and their cues. This long-lasting change occurs independently of the “liking” system, which typically remains unchanged or may develop a blunted pleasure response to the drug. This results in excessive drug-taking despite minimal pleasure and intense cue-triggered craving that may promote relapse long after detoxification.

The authors describe the roles of “wanting” and “liking” in general motivation and review recent evidence for a dissociation of “liking” and “wanting” in drug addiction, known as the incentive sensitization theory. They also make the case that sensitization of the “wanting” system and the resulting dissociation of “liking” and “wanting” occurs in both gambling disorder and food addiction.

Wesleyan Astronomers Detect Shock Waves from Exoplanet

Astronomers at Wesleyan have detected shock waves produced by a high-speed “hot Jupiter” exoplanet caught in a tight orbit around its host star, io9 reported. The story explains:

It’s a potential indication of an incredibly powerful magnetic field around the planet.
Also known as “roaster planets,” hot Jupiters are so named because they have many characteristics in common with the largest gas giant in our solar system, most notably mass. But they have much hotter surface temperatures because they orbit much closer to their parent stars.

Researcher in Astronomy Wilson Cauley has published a new study on the topic in the Astrophysical Journal. io9 quotes Cauley’s website:

If the planet is moving supersonically through the stellar wind or coronal plasma, a bow shock will form between the planet and the star at an angle that is determined by the relative velocity of the planet and the plasma. If the planet has a magnetosphere, the bow shock will form where the pressure between the plasma and the magnetosphere balance. For planets with strong magnetic fields, the bow shock can form many planetary radii ahead of the planet in it’s orbit. If the compression of the stellar wind material in the bow shock is high enough, the line-of-sight column density of material in the bow shock between us and the star can be high enough to produce a visible absorption signature in the stellar spectrum. This absorption signature occurs before the planet normally transits the star.

President Roth Remembers Carl Schorske

The Washington Post published a remembrance by President Michael Roth of Carl Schorske, a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian who died this month at age 100. Schorske taught at Wesleyan for many years, and was a mentor to Roth.

Roth writes:

Carl was the great historian of anti-historical thinking. What does that mean? He charted how at times a wave of culture makers attempted to break free of any connection to the past. But Carl, with care and precision, wove their rejection of history into a narrative that made meaning out of context and change over time. In his masterwork,  “Fin de Siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture,” he explored “the historical genesis of modern cultural consciousness, with its deliberate rejection of history.”

[…] Carl was an extraordinary teacher —  erudite, humane and sensitive to the different ways that students learned. He was an activist, a scholar and a pedagogue. These aspects of his personality all worked together in his intellectual practice as a scholar-teacher. When he was teaching a subject he was deeply engaged with as a scholar, he said he “was really cooking with gas.” He took culture seriously, and he took enormous pleasure in it, too. That seriousness and capacity for pleasure was something that his students were so fortunate to share in.

Roth was also quoted in a New York Times obituary of Schorske.

“Many of us academics write like klutzes,” Roth said. “What Schorske did in each essay was write in a way that lived up to the intellectual and aesthetic standards of the culture makers he had studied.”

Tucker on the Wild West, Hollywood and Gun Control

Jennifer Tucker

Jennifer Tucker

At a time when gun deaths are spiking and Congress has failed to enact significant legislation to tackle the problem, Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker writes an op-ed looking at how we got here. She contends that it is Hollywood’s version of history—not reality—that is behind the belief that guns have been a critical part of American culture over centuries. She writes:

The 1953 movie “Shane” exemplifies the narrative of a “good man with a gun.” Responding to a woman’s wish that guns be banished, Shane replies: “A gun is just a tool, Marian. It’s as good or bad as the man that uses it.”

This notion is central to the National Rifle Association’s worldview. But it is a classic and tragic example of what Oxford professor Margaret McMillan has called “bad history,” or picking only a small part of a complex story.

In reality, the 19th century Wild West was the setting for the passage of some of the nation’s first gun control laws, and it was widely understood that civilized people did not walk around carrying guns. It wasn’t until the 1980s when laws liberalizing concealed carry swept the country, and the most profound changes in gun law occurred in 2008 and 2010.

Tucker concludes:

Our “gun industrial complex” is not the inevitable outcome of two centuries of gun-possession; it is the result of changes in the law and cultural attitudes over the past couple of decades.

Today, 36 states have adopted “shall-issue” laws.

Texas allows unlicensed people to carry semi-automatic rifles in public. In May, the NRA fought the efforts of Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin to restrict guns at parks, fairgrounds and recreational areas. And with a proliferation of guns in homes — which is associated with a twofold increase in the risk of homicide — 2013 saw 1,670 children die by gunshot and an additional 9,718 injured.

Guns might not kill people but guns get people killed.

Gun owners should familiarize themselves with the true history of the frontier. Regulation advocates should make more of the fact that history is on their side.

Tucker is also associate professor of science in society, associate professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, and associate professor in the environmental studies program.