Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Wesleyan Refugee Project Aids Refugees from Around the World

Cole Phillips '16, center, and Sophie Zinser '16, right, volunteer every week at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven, helping refugees apply for housing and energy subsidy programs. Here, they are pictured with Ramez al-Darwish, a Syrian refugee from Homs.

Cole Phillips ’16, center, and Sophie Zinser ’16, right, volunteer every week at Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven, helping refugees apply for housing and energy subsidy programs. Here, they are pictured with Ramez al-Darwish, a Syrian refugee from Homs.

The world is currently facing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Concerned Wesleyan students are volunteering with community organizations, coordinating various speaker panels, fundraising for international NGOs and agencies, and engaging in advocacy efforts.

This fall, Casey Smith ’17 and Cole Phillips ’16 founded the Wesleyan Refugee Project (WRP). Smith, a College of Social Studies major who is pursuing certificates in Middle Eastern studies and international relations, has worked with refugees since high school, advocated for refugees’ rights in Washington, D.C., and volunteered for refugee resettlement organizations. She is currently studying abroad in Jordan, where she helps refugees access legal services with the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) and teaches yoga at the Collateral Repair Project (CRP). Phillips is a government major pursuing certificates in Middle Eastern studies and international relations. While studying abroad in Jordan, he worked for CRP, an NGO that provides aid to Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Phillips then returned to Jordan in August via a Davenport grant to conduct research for his thesis, and grew close with a Syrian refugee with whom he worked as an interpreter. These experiences inspired Smith and Phillips to engage the Wesleyan community in refugee aid work.

“More broadly, we also wanted to start conversations and bring awareness about refugee issues to campus,” said Smith.

Currently, there are 34 Wesleyan students volunteering through WRP, and many more have expressed interest. Every week, student volunteers work with three different organizations: Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS), helping refugees apply for housing and energy subsidy programs; the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP), working on refugees’ resettlement applications; and Paper Airplanes, tutoring Syrian refugees in English.

Sophie Zinser ’16 joined early in the project as the volunteer coordinator for the IRIS group, but her role has expanded to co-coordinating the group’s efforts. A College of Letters and French studies major, Zinser has been studying Arabic since her sophomore year at Wesleyan. After interacting with refugees as a student studying abroad in Paris and as an Olin Fellow in Morocco, Sophie was inspired to engage further with refugees via volunteer efforts on campus.

“Working with IRIS has exposed my fellow students and I to just how much time and energy incoming refugees and their case workers spend dealing with endless paperwork and bureaucracy just to ensure their eligibility for basic things, such as subsidized housing or electricity,” she said. “Realizing this has made my fellow students and I more passionate about being the friendly faces that guide them through the processes, so that they can spend more time worrying about the million other concerns on their minds, such as learning English, assimilating into American culture, and being happy.”

Casey Smith '17 is currently studying abroad in Jordan, where she helps refugees access legal services and teaches yoga.

Casey Smith ’17 is currently studying abroad in Jordan, where she helps refugees access legal services and teaches yoga.

Wesleyan Community Members Attend Conference for College and University Chaplaincy

On Nov. 17, several members of the Wesleyan community participated in the Conference for College and University Chaplaincy at Hartford Seminary. Protestant Chaplain Tracy Mehr-Muska, who is a doctor of ministry student at the seminary, worked with Director of the Doctor of Ministry Program Scott Thumma to organize the conference.

Other participants from Wesleyan included Director of Religious and Spiritual Life and Jewish Chaplain David Leipziger Teva, Therapist/Sexual Assault Resource Coordinator Alysha Warren, and a student. Teva participated in a workshop on mindfulness, while Warren and the student participated in a workshop about responding to sexual assault on college campuses. More than 80 chaplains from around the northeast participated in the conference.

See more information and photos from the conference here.

Student Artists, Bands Record Music at Red Feather Studios

Red Feather Studios head engineer Mikah Feldman-Stein '16 is one of the studio's founding members. 

Red Feather Studios head engineer Mikah Feldman-Stein ’16 is one of the studio’s founding members. Red Feather Studios has been responsible for the production of multiple EPs and dozens of songs.

The basement of the University Organizing Center at 190 High Street is now home to Red Feather Studios, Wesleyan’s first and only student-run recording studio.

Red Feather officially opened in spring 2015 after being a work in progress for a few years.

Oscar Parajon '16 at Red Feather Studios.

Oscar Parajon ’16 at Red Feather Studios.

“The music culture at Wesleyan is unlike any I’ve seen at other universities,” added Oscar Parajon ’16, a founding member and head studio manager at Red Feather, who is majoring in American Studies. “Before Red Feather Studios, what was happening was a plethora of ‘bedroom producers’ throughout campus that did not have a platform to make their art.”

According to Parajon, the studio’s name comes from the Wesleyan cardinal mascot, “and the idea that its red feathers have the potential to lift the cardinal to extraordinary heights.”

“I think the need for Red Feather stemmed from a discrepancy between Wesleyan students’ creative output and our collective access to creative resources on campus,” said Derrick Holman ’16, another founding member and head of external affairs. While other colleges and universities have student-run studios, Holman said that Red Feather is unique in being a completely student-run venture, with everything from the idea to the funding to the construction to the day-to-day operations under student control.

Derek Holman in the studio.

Derek Holman ’16 in the studio.

“In my personal experience, I have found that there is so much value in creative freedom and—unlike any other musical space on campus—Red Feather provides its leadership and users with the ability to experiment in an unconstrained manner, not only musically, but also with the process of developing and managing a creative space,” Holman, a sociology major, said.

In its first semester of operation, the studio was booked for upwards of 175 sessions, during which artists, bands and performers logged more than 500 hours of recording, production and musical output, according to Holman.

“So far the response has been amazing,” he added. “To date, we have been responsible for the production of multiple EPs and dozens of songs, and even have a member whose self-produced album is now available for purchase on iTunes that was completed almost entirely in our facilities.

Angle’s Book Published in Chinese Translation

A book by Stephen Angle, the Mansfield Freeman Professor of East Asian Studies, was recently published in Chinese translation by Jiangxi People’s Press. Titled, “Contemporary Confucian Political Philosophy: Toward Progressive Confucianism,” the book was originally published by Polity in 2013. The Chinese version includes a new preface.

According to the blurb for the English-language version:

Confucian political philosophy has recently emerged as a vibrant area of thought both in China and around the globe. This book provides an accessible introduction to the main perspectives and topics being debated today, and shows why Progressive Confucianism is a particularly promising approach. Students of political theory or contemporary politics will learn that far from being confined to a museum, contemporary Confucianism is both responding to current challenges and offering insights from which we can all learn.

The Progressive Confucianism defended here takes key ideas of the twentieth-century Confucian philosopher Mou Zongsan (1909-1995) as its point of departure for exploring issues like political authority and legitimacy, the rule of law, human rights, civility, and social justice. The result is anti-authoritarian without abandoning the ideas of virtue and harmony; it preserves the key values Confucians find in ritual and hierarchy without giving in to oppression or domination. A central goal of the book is to present Progressive Confucianism in such a way as to make its insights manifest to non-Confucians, be they philosophers or simply citizens interested in the potential contributions of Chinese thinking to our emerging, shared world.

Angle is also professor of philosophy, professor of East Asian Studies.

Roth Disputes Narrative of ‘Coddled’ College Students in Op-Ed

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

Writing in the The Washington PostPresident Michael Roth questions the predominant media narrative painting college students as “pampered with coddled minds.”

Roth argues that such denigration of young people by older generations is an age old tradition, dating back to the founding fathers shaking “their heads about dueling and drinking on campus.”

He writes:

When I look around my campus and visit others, I don’t find pampered students with coddled minds. I find math majors in the gym every day preparing for a soccer match or a swim meet. I find writers pulling all-nighters to finish a project working side by side with computer science students developing new software. There are more double majors than ever, and on every campus I visit there are impressive percentages of students doing volunteer work or creating organizations that will have a positive impact locally, even globally – be it making their campuses more sustainable or improving the education of girls in Africa. These hard-working, dedicated students fill the ranks of those now protesting for more equitable and inclusive educational institutions.

And just like older alumni, not all student activists see things the same way, Roth writes. “We are an educational institution: It is a good thing when we can articulate why and how we disagree.”

The image of students concerned only with the micro frustrations of everyday life as opposed to “real” issues bears no relation to the real students I encounter at colleges and universities. These students are well aware, for example, that climate change may significantly alter their lives, and that it will surely disrupt the lives of people around the world. They are learning about this accelerating catastrophe in STEM classes and political science seminars, and they are striving to find ways of mitigating its effects through sophisticated science and through policy analysis.

Our students are also well aware that they will graduate into an economy and society with greater inequalities and less social mobility than in any time since early industrialization. American college students recognize that powerful forces are dynamically increasing the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few.  They are studying how one can create robust economic growth without just reinforcing this inequitable trend, while grappling with a political arena ever more responsive to money. […]

Today, campuses are more diverse because some Americans fought for educational opportunities to be more equitably distributed. Thanks to their achievements, todays students have higher awareness and higher expectations, so we can expect continued tensions on our campuses. Racism and inequality are still powerful beyond the borders of the university, and campuses themselves are not immune.

These are not “minor” or “micro” issues, and our students know it. They are faced with a world beyond the university that is threatened ecologically, economically and culturally, and they are doing their best to prepare themselves for these challenges. They are studying physics and religion, design and economics, and sometimes they stand up and make themselves heard.  Sometimes they are filled with rage, sometimes with fear. They will make mistakes, but they don’t need columnists to tell them that the main problem isn’t Halloween. If only it were.


Matesan Writes About Strategic Response to ISIS Attacks on Paris

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

In an op-ed written for Inside Sources (and appearing in Las Vegas Sun and other newspapers), Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan questions whether the swift French military response to the recent ISIS attacks on Paris will be effective in preventing future attacks and improving security for civilians.

Matesan, who studies contentious politics and political violence in the Middle East, considers different opinions on ISIS’s strategic logic and what each would mean for the repercussions of a military response. She concludes that the most likely logic is one of provocation.

She writes:

[Provocation] is a strategy beloved by al-Qaida and many other extremist groups, who count on the emotional response of their opponents, and who know that the use of indiscriminate violence against them will turn them into martyrs and heroes, boosting their ranks and recruitment potential. And if this is the case, then the escalation in military strikes, the resurgent sectarian rhetoric and the bubbling xenophobia in the West in response to the attacks is precisely what ISIS was counting on, and hoping for.

That is not to say that the military strikes might not be effective in destroying the military capabilities or even much of the leadership of the Islamic State. The fact that the group has a very clear geographic concentration in Syria makes this quite possible. But would such a destruction of capabilities count as “success”?

Over the last decade the United States has recognized that destroying the military capabilities of a group does not equate to winning “the war on terror,” it does not necessarily undermine the sources of violent extremism, and it does not always make civilians at home or abroad any safer. Furthermore, if we’ve learned anything over the last decade of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency, it’s that clandestine organizations learn and adapt, quite often much faster than military organizations and state governments.

Matesan writes that it’s critical to recognize that much of ISIS’s recruiting has been fueled by a refrain of social justice and opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

We would be remiss if we condemn the violence perpetrated by ISIS and remain silent about the unthinkable violence that Assad has inflicted on his country’s population over the past five years. Improving domestic security can work, but it can also become counterproductive if it results in profiling, and if it doesn’t prioritize human security.

Unlike what some governors in the United States might have us believe, showing hospitality toward Syrian refugees might in some ways be the best way to undermine radical groups, and to show that the United States is indeed committed to social justice and to the protection of human life.

This is particularly important because there is growing evidence that individuals who engage in terrorist groups can and do renounce violence and leave the organization if they become disillusioned with the group and with the cause. This is an incredibly important silver lining and opportunity that liberal democracies should be able to take advantage of, and which might hold more promise than a solely military approach, which we have seen fail time and again.

A student group also invited Matesan to discuss the recent attacks on Paris, Beirut, Baghdad and the Sinai and alternative policy responses at 4 p.m. Nov. 23 in PAC 002.

Muslim Coalition of Connecticut Honors Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts


The Muslim Coalition of Connecticut honored Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts on Nov. 15 for its “outstanding contributions and standards of excellence in advancing higher education,” according to a proclamation from Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman. The awards dinner in Hartford was attended by Center for the Arts Director Pam Tatge, Associate Provost Mark Hovey, and faculty, staff and students from the advisory committee and Wesleyan’s Muslim Students Association. View the event’s photo gallery online.

Center for the Arts Director Pam Tatge accepted the award from the Muslim Coalition of Connecticut.

Center for the Arts Director Pam Tatge accepts the award.

The honor recognized the CFA’s Muslim Women’s Voices series during the 2014-15 academic year. The series explored and celebrated the complexity of Muslim women today, and the historical and cultural context from which they have emerged, through music, theater, film, dance and artist talks.

“The Wesleyan community and the entire State of Connecticut have benefited immensely from the leadership and integrity Wesleyan University Center for the Arts has exemplified through its work both on and off campus,” Wyman’s proclamation said. “CFA’s unwavering dedication to its community and the promotion of shared values and understanding is truly extraordinary. Its work has improved the quality of life for so many, and serves as an inspiration to all.”

‘Where We Live’ Features Wesleyan CPE, Doula Project

Two members of the Wesleyan community participated in a discussion on WNPR’s Where We Live focused on “Confronting Social Injustice.”

Bashaun Brown, a former student at Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education who spent more than six years incarcerated at Cheshire Correctional Institution, is now pursuing an entrepreneurial venture called TRAP House.

“All prison experience is pretty bad, but thanks to Wesleyan, I was able to transform my prison space. My prison experience was one of educating myself, and trying to get better and make sure I never make the types of mistakes that I made to get into that situation in the first place. Wesleyan Center for Prison Education allowed me to imagine I was in a college setting throughout four years of my prison sentence,” he said.

There are not many programs available to help inmates work through the issues that got them incarcerated, Brown explained, and the time is wasted for many people. People who run prisons are primarily concerned with safety and security.

“In reality, if you really want to change the people in prison, you focus more on bringing more programming to prison. I think everybody should be able to get the opportunity that I had to take part in a quality, in this case liberal arts, education. If anyone wants to make the case for liberal arts, it should be in the prison,” he said. “Getting a liberal arts education allowed me to really evaluate where I’m at politically, socially, economically on the spectrum. Exactly where do I stand as a black man in America, now as a felon in America? How did we get here, and what can I do to change the situation? There’s something valuable to learning psychology, literature, and mixing and matching all types of education to custom make your experience.”

Later in the show, Hannah Sokoloff-Rubin ’16 discussed the Wesleyan Doula Project, a social entrepreneurship venture that she co-leads.

“The Wesleyan Doula Project is an organization that trains students and a few community members to work as non-medical support people for women receiving abortions,” she explained. There’s a common misperception that doulas only support women going through birth, but the Wesleyan Doula Project is part of a new movement to support women across the “full spectrum” of pregnancy outcomes, from miscarriage to stillbirth to adoption.

“One of the reasons I’ve devoted all of my time as a student to this project is become I think it both hits a level of social justice that’s really important…and helps fix a broken healthcare system, especially around reproductive healthcare, in that we have a problem where the care that is being provided really isn’t meeting the needs of the people who are receiving it.” The Wesleyan Doula Project helps to increase patient safety, open lines of communication, and make the process go more smoothly, she said.

Loui, Jung ’16, Alumni Authors of Article in Frontiers in Psychology

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, assistant professor of integrated sciences, is the co-author of a new study, “Rhythmic Effects of Syntax Processing in Music and Language” published in Frontiers in Psychology in November. The article’s lead author is Harim Jung ’16, and it is also co-authored by Samuel Sontag ’14 and YeBin “Shiny” Park ’15.

According to Loui, the paper grew out of her Advanced Research Methods in Auditory Cognitive Neuroscience course, and is the precursor to Jung’s senior and master’s theses. The study uses a behavioral test to look into how music and language—two universal human functions—may overlap in their use of brain resources. The researchers show that perturbations in rhythm take up sufficient attentional resources to interfere with how people read and understand a sentence. The results support the view that rhythm, music, and language are not limited to their separate processing in the auditory circuits; instead, their structure creates expectations about tempo, harmony, and sentence meaning that interfere with each other in other sensory systems, such as vision, and in higher levels of cognitive processing.

“We think that the role of rhythm in this sharing of brain resources dedicated to music and language is an important finding because it could help people who use music as a therapy to help their language functions,” explained Loui. “For example, people who have aphasia (loss of language) due to stroke are sometimes able to sing, a fascinating paradox that led to the development of Melodic Intonation Therapy—a singing therapy designed to help aphasics recover their language functions. Rhythm is important for this therapy, but its precise role is unclear. By studying how rhythm guides the way the brain shares its processing between music and language, we might be better able to target Melodic Intonation Therapy in the future.”

GLS Presents Jazz Concert, Open Course Session, Nov. 30

Noah Baerman

Noah Baerman

Graduate Liberal Studies will present a special concert and open session of the course Monk and Mingus: The Cutting Edge of Jazz with Jazz Ensemble Coach Noah Baerman, Nov. 30 in Russell House. Baerman will perform on piano, accompanied by bassist Henry Lugo, and Visiting Assistant Professor of Music and Private Lessons Teacher Pheeroan akLaff on percussion.

The first hour of the class (6:30-7:30 p.m.) will be a discussion, demonstration and Q&A session, followed by a performance of music composed by and associated with Thelonious Monk and Charles Mingus. Attendees interested in learning more about Graduate Liberal Studies are encouraged to arrive at 6 p.m. for an information session with GLS Director Jennifer Curran. The event is free and open to the public, and will be followed by a reception.

Kennedy Odede ’12 Tells His Story in David Brooks Column

Pictured in center, Kennedy Odede '12 and Jessica Posner '09 operate the non-profit organization Shining Hope for Communities in Kibera, Kenya.

Pictured in center, Kennedy Odede ’12 and Jessica Posner ’09 operate the non-profit organization Shining Hope for Communities in Kibera, Kenya.

“Kennedy Odede is one of the most joy-filled people I’ve met,” begins David Brooks in his regular New York Times column.

On November 10, Brooks turned his column over to Odede ’12, who grew up in the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya and attended Wesleyan. Together with his wife Jessica Posner Odede ’09, Odede created the community organization Shining Hope for Communities (Shofco) and a school for girls in Kibera. Together, they’ve authored the new book, Find Me Unafraid: Love, Loss and Hope in an African Slum.

In the column, Odede tells his story in his own words. He describes a tumultuous childhood filled with hunger, violence, and the death of many loved ones. Brooks asks, “How did this delightful man emerge from this horrific childhood?”

“While I didn’t have food, couldn’t go to school, or when I was the victim or witness of violence, I tried to appreciate things like the sunrise — something that everyone in the world shares and can find joy in no matter if you are rich or poor. Seeing the sunrise was always healing for me, it was a new day, and it was a beauty to behold,” Odede writes.

He learned to replace negative addictions with a positive one—to books—and to learn that no situation, no matter how dire, lasts forever. He writes:

For every bad person I encountered who hurt me and caused me suffering and pain, I also met a lot of good people. For the priest that abused me, I met a man of God who saved my life on the day I stole a mango and was almost beaten to death (he paid back the mango’s price and more).

“My mom taught me that while there is a God, that one God might be very busy, so we have to rely on the people we encounter in our life who become what she called ‘small gods.’

O’Connell Honored by Association for Women Geoscientists

Suzanne O'Connell

Suzanne O’Connell

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, received the Exchange Award from the Association for Women Geoscientists at its annual awards breakfast on Nov. 2. The Exchange Award recognizes the contribution of those who exchange technical, education, and professional information in the field.

The award ceremony took place at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland in conjunction with the Geological Society of America’s annual meeting. O’Connell is also faculty director of the McNair Program.

According to Blair Schneider, president of the Association for Women Geoscientists, O’Connell won the organization’s Outstanding Educator Award in 2000. Since then, she has been an active member of the group’s Outstanding Educator Award committee, and has continually written articles highlighting the winners for the group’s quarterly newsletter. In explaining O’Connell’s selection for the Exchange award, Schneider pointed to her rare “exemplary teaching” in which she uses “hands-on learning with research for undergraduates.”

“Suzanne is also an incredible supporter of the organization and exchanges information about who we are to her own students and young professionals at every meeting. For example, she pays to bring her own students to the AWG awards breakfast so that they can learn about the organization and see women being recognized for their achievements,” Schneider added.

O’Connell also recently co-edited the publication, “Women in the Geoscience: Practical, Positive Practices Towards Parity.”