Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

New Short Story by Scibona Published in Harper’s

Salvatore Scibona, the Frank B. Weeks Visiting Assistant Professor of English, is the author of a new short story published in the September 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine.

Titled, “Tremendous Machine,” the story follows Fjóla Neergaard, a failed fashion model, lacking direction, and living in seclusion at her wealthy parents’ vacant Polish country house. She sets out to purchase a sofa for the house, which contains almost no other furniture, and finds herself in an odd store full of pianos. She purchases a piano and signs up for lessons with an elderly, once famous pianist.

Ramos ’16 Studies Oceanography, Marine Policy in Hawaii

Robert Ramos '16 spent five weeks this summer at the Hawaii Pacific University’s Hawaii Loa campus, participating in a SEA Semester program called “Aloha ‘Aina: People & Nature in the Hawaiian Islands.” (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Robert Ramos ’16 spent five weeks this summer at the Hawaii Pacific University’s Hawaii Loa campus, participating in a SEA Semester program called “Aloha ‘Aina: People & Nature in the Hawaiian Islands.” (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this News @ Wesleyan story, we speak with Robert Ramos from the Class of 2016.

Q: Robert, where are you from and what is your major?

A: I’m from Philadelphia, and I’m a biology and earth and environmental sciences double major.

Ramos explained how the ship's sonar equipment works.

Ramos explained how the ship’s sonar equipment works.

Q: This summer you did a SEA Semester program, “Aloha ‘Aina: People & Nature in the Hawaiian Islands.” How did you become involved in the program?

A: I learned about the program from another Wesleyan student who had done it a few years ago. As a biology and E&ES double major, it sounded like it was right up my alley! At the time, I was thinking about how I was going to apply my studies—what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. This seemed like a good opportunity to explore new options.

SEA Semester does programs at sea all over the world. This summer just happened to be the trip to Hawaii, and I was very excited to go there! I also didn’t want to miss out on a whole semester on campus at Wesleyan, so this worked out well in that it was just five weeks in the summer.

Q: Please give us an overview of how you spent those five weeks.

A: I took two classes—on oceanography and marine policy—and did research on topics like ocean salinity, temperatures and currents.

Art History Research Team Led by Mark Wins Major Grant

Peter Mark on the summit of the Ortler, the highest mountain in the Italian Sudtirol, in August. At Wesleyan, Mark teaches a course on “The Mountains and Art History.” (Contributed photo)

Peter Mark on the summit of the Ortler, the highest mountain in the Italian Sudtirol, in August. At Wesleyan, Mark teaches a course on “The Mountains and Art History.” (Contributed photo)

An international research team headed by Professor of Art History Peter Mark has been awarded a grant for a project titled “African Ivories in the Atlantic World.” The $115,000 three-year grant from the Portuguese Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) will make it possible for the research team to carry out the first laboratory analyses of selected ivories, in order to determine more precisely the age and the provenance of these little-known artworks. In addition, team members will compile the first comprehensive catalogue of “Luso-African ivories” in Portuguese collections, as well as the first thorough study of those carvings that were exported to Brazil at an early date.

Mark is the co-founder and director of the research group, based in Lisbon, Portugal.

Wilkins, Wellman, Schad ’13, MA ’14 Paper Examines Reactions to Claims of Anti-Male Bias

Clara Wilkins, assistant professor of psychology, has studied perceptions of discrimination against whites and other groups who hold positions of relative advantage in society—such as heterosexuals and men—since she was a graduate student at the University of Washington. She became became interested in the topic of perceptions of bias against high status groups after hearing Glenn Beck call president Barack Obama racist. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Clara Wilkins

A paper authored by Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins, her former post-doc Joseph Wellman, and Katherine Schad ’13, MA ’14, was published in August in the journal Group Processes & Intergroup Relations. 

Titled “Reactions to anti-male sexism claims: The moderating roles of status-legitimizing belief and endorsement and group identification,” the paper examines how people react to men who claim to be victims of gender bias, an increasingly common phenomenon. In particular, the researchers considered how status legitimizing beliefs (SLBs), which encompass a set of ideologies that justify existing status hierarchies, and gender identification (GID) moderated men’s and women’s reactions to a man who claimed to have lost a promotion because of anti-male sexism or another cause.

They found that for both men and women, SLB endorsement was was associated with a more positive reaction toward this man, consistent with theory that claiming bias against a high-status group reinforces the status hierarchy. With regard to group identification, they found that men evaluated the claimant more positively the more strongly they identified with their gender, while women who identified more strongly with their gender evaluated the claimant more negatively. The researchers also demonstrated that SLBs and GID moderated the extent to which the claimant was perceived as sexist. They discussed how these reactions may perpetuate gender inequality.

Poisson Discusses Simone de Beauvoir on France Culture Radio

Catherine Poisson

Catherine Poisson

Associate Professor of French Catherine Poisson recently participated in a radio series on the French writer and intellectual Simone de Beauvoir. The series aired the week of August 17-21 on the France Culture network; it can be heard online here.

Taped in Paris, New York and Chicago, the Grande Traversée (the “great crossover”) show sought to reveal another Simone de Beauvoir, considering every stage of her life–from the dutiful daughter to the independent and engaged woman to, finally, breaking the taboo of old age. It showed her as passionate and multi-voiced—intimate and political, unleashed in her youth diaries and love letters, audacious in her novels, rigorous in her autobiography.

Appearing in multiple episodes in the series, Poisson discussed the personal and literary companionship of Beauvoir with Jean-Paul Sartre and Nelson Algren. She also talked about Beauvoir’s complex relationship with America, and read excerpts from America Day by Day, Beauvoir’s book recounting the four-month journey she took from coast to coast in the U.S., immersing herself in the country’s culture, customs, people and landscape.

Jenkins Profiles a Popular and Provocative Puppet Master

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins writes in The Jakarta Post about Wayan Nardayana, a popular and provocative puppet master in Bali who “combines the political insight of a social activist with the spiritual wisdom of a priest and the comic instincts of a master entertainer.”

Jenkins describes the artist’s recent performance at a celebration of the birthday of Indonesia’s first president, Sukarno. “The dalang’s ability to make connections between sacred texts, Indonesian history and contemporary reality is at the core of his art,” Jenkins writes.

Nardayana tells the audience, “Indonesians today can also harness the power of their ancestors to inspire them to take the actions to make their country as strong as the other great nations of the world. Sukarno is one of those ancestors and remembering him is one way our generation can preserve our cultural identity and use it to take the actions necessary to create freedom today.”

Students Study Kangaroo Behavior in Response to Environmental Changes

Angus McLean and Mariel Becker collecting kangaroo droppings in Boundary Road Reserve. (Photo courtesy of the Bathurst Kangaroo Project)

Angus McLean and Mariel Becker collecting kangaroo droppings in Boundary Road Reserve. (Photo courtesy of the Bathurst Kangaroo Project)

Two Wesleyan students and a former visiting professor have just wrapped up a seven-week-long research project on kangaroo behavior in Bathurst, Australia. Working with Liv Baker, an animal studies postdoctoral fellow in the College of the Environment in 2014-15, Angus McLean ’16 and Mariel Becker ’18 have collected “more than 600 pages of data recording kangaroo behavior in response to daily changes and threats in their environment,” according to an article in Western Advocate.

“There were noticeable differences in behaviour between the kangaroos we observed out of town, and between the three different mobs around the Mount,” McLean told the paper.

Angus MacLean observes a kangaroo at one of their sites. At this site, kangaroos were extremely habituated to humans.

Angus McLean observes a kangaroo at one of their sites. At this site, kangaroos were extremely habituated to humans.

“We’ve also collected a freezer full of kangaroo droppings being stored at Charles Sturt University, and which University of Technology Sydney will be testing for cortisol levels, which indicate stress. Our supervisor Dr. Liv Baker from Wesleyan University will be analysing both sets of data and writing up a paper about how Mount Panorama kangaroos are responding to stressors in their environment.”

The project began in June, when Baker held a workshop at the Bathurst Art Gallery collating descriptions of kangaroo behaviors to inform the students’ character-state recognition records.

Mariel Becker collected fecal samples, which were sent to a lab in Sydney. The samples are analyzed for cortisol levels, which is a hormone produced when the animal is stressed.

Mariel Becker collected fecal samples, which were sent to a lab in Sydney. The samples are analyzed for cortisol levels, which is a hormone produced when the animal is stressed.

Seamon is Author of New Book on Memory and the Movies

Professor John Seamon has studied cognitive psychology for more than 40 years at Wesleyan.

Professor Emeritus John Seamon studied cognitive psychology for more than 40 years at Wesleyan.

John Seamon, professor of psychology, emeritus, is the author of a new book, Memory and the Movies, published August 14 by The MIT Press. The book is an outgrowth of a Psychology course, “Memory in the Movies,” which Seamon taught at Wesleyan for five years before his retirement in 2013. He is currently preparing a MOOC version of it to run on Coursera next winter.

The book examines what films such as Slumdog Millionaire, Memento, and Away From Her can teach us about how human memory works. Seamon explains that memory is actually a diverse collection of independent systems, and uses examples from movies to to offer an accessible, nontechnical description of what science knows about memory function and dysfunction. He also demonstrates how movies frequently get certain things, like amnesia, wrong.

Read more about the book on The MIT Press website.

President Roth Makes the Case for a Broad, Contextual Education

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

Writing for Inside Sources, President Michael Roth made the case for a broad, contextual education, in a counterpoint to an essay by Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson, arguing for education that provides “a transferable set of skills.”

Roth writes that the types of contentious debates currently raging over the value of a college education are as old as America itself, something he explores in-depth in his book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters. He writes:

Several of the Founding Fathers saw education as the road to independence and liberty. A broad commitment to inquiry was part of their dedication to freedom. But critics of education also have a long tradition. From Benjamin Franklin in the 18th century to today’s Internet pundits, they have attacked its irrelevance and elitism — often calling for more vocational instruction.

Yet Franklin was also dismissive of anti-intellectual displays, and believed that earlier and earlier specialization would make Americans “less capable citizens and less able to adjust to changes in the world of work.”

Roth writes:

Citizens able to see through political or bureaucratic doubletalk are also workers who can defend their rights in the face of the rich and powerful. Education protects against mindless tyranny and haughty privilege. Liberal learning in the American tradition isn’t only training; it’s an invitation to think for oneself. Broadly educated citizens aren’t just collections of skills – they are whole people.

It’s no wonder that in a society characterized by radical income inequality, anxiety about getting that first job will lead many to aim for the immediate needs of the marketplace right now. The high cost of college and the ruinous debt that many take on only add to this anxiety. In this context, some assert that education should just focus on practical skill building.

But when the needs of the market change, as they surely will, the folks with that narrow training will be out of luck. Their bosses, those responsible for defining market trends, will be just fine because they were probably never confined to an ultra-specialized way of doing things. Beware of critics of education who cloak their desire to protect privilege (and inequality) in the garb of educational reform.

Staff on the Move, July 2015

The Office of Human Resources reported the following new hires, transitions and departures for July 2015:

Newly hired

Jake Bussani ’14 was hired as defensive football intern on July 1.

Jonathan Day ’15 was hired as offensive football intern on July 1.

Amanda Fairchild was hired as a library assistant on July 6.

Sara Howard was hired as social science reference librarian on July 1.

Meredith Nyser was hired as swimming and diving intern in athletics on July 1.

Devin Ford was hired as public safety dispatcher on July 6.

Jaclyn Wilson was hired as Wesleyan Press marketing manager on July 6.

Jennifer Roach was hired as civic engagement fellow on July 7.

Scott Lukas was hired as interim assistant director of athletic operations on July 9.

Eileen McNamara was hired as residential operation coordinator on July 9.

Alexia Thompson was hired as area coordinator life on July 9.

Kristin Inglis was hired as Center for Prison Education academic development and planning manager on July 13.

Khrystyna Stefak was hired as assistant director of alumni and parent relations on July 13.

Emily Moss was hired as assistant dean of admission on July 15.

Paula Bryant Blue was hired as instructional technologist on July 16.

Samuel Marquez was hired as a public safety officer on July 16.

Jordan Nyberg was hired as program and events coordinator on July 20.

Robert Coughlin was hired as director of financial aid on July 27.

Jiang Liu Rao ’15 was hired as postdoctoral research fellow on July 27.

Coady Johnson ‘15 was hired as Center for Prison Education fellow on July 30.

Transitions

Karen Whalen was hired as director of athletic fundraising on July 1.

Frederick Ludwig was hired as assistant football coach, offensive coordinator, offensive line coach and assistant strength and conditioning coordinator on July 1.

Nicola Bennett was hired as project coordinator on July 6.

Departures

Ilona Bass, research associate/lab coordinator

Sydney Lewis ’14, assistant dean of admission

Marina Melendez ’83, MALS ’88 dean for the class of 2018

Susan Lastrina, accounting specialist

Brian Lee ’13, assistant director, The Wesleyan Fund

Shannon Nelson ’14, center for prison education fellow

Daniel Schnaidt, academic computing manager for arts and humanities

John Siedlecki, assistant football coach

Leslie Starr, marketing manager, Wesleyan Press

Quijada Co-Edits New Volume, Co-Authors Article with Stephen ’13, MA ’14

Justine Quijada, assistant professor of religion, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies, has co-authored a new article, together with Eric Stephen ’13, MA ’14 and a colleague at Indiana University, in the journal Problems of Post-Communism. Published July 30, it is titled, “Finding ‘Their Own': Revitalizing Buryat Culture Through Shamanic Practices in Ulan-Ude.”

Research was conducted by Quijada and Kathryn E. Graber of Indiana University on a grant funded by the National Council of Eurasian and East European Research – Indigenous Peoples of Russia Grant, and included collecting survey data at a variety of shamanic ceremonies. Stephen conducted extensive statistical analysis at Wesleyan’s Quantitative Analysis Center on the survey data during a faculty/student internship in 2014. He wrote his MA thesis in psychology using the data. He is currently working toward an MA in religious studies at Harvard Divinity School.

According to the paper’s abstract:

The shamans working at the Tengeri Shamans’ Organization in Ulan-Ude, Republic of Buryatia, claim that their work is devoted to reviving “traditional” Buryat culture, despite local criticism of the “nontraditional” institutional nature of their practices. Ethnographic and survey data collected in 2012 confirm that this is in fact the case for the urban Buryats who are drawn to the organization. Shamanic healing at Tengeri requires patients to learn family genealogies and revive clan rituals, and it offers both practical opportunities and encourage- ment for the use of the Buryat language, thereby providing a locus for cultural revitalization.

Quijada also recently co-edited a book, Atheist Secularism and its Discontents: A Comparative Study of Religion and Communism in Eurasiapublished in July by Palgrave MacMillan as part of its Global Diversities series. The volume grew out of a workshop that Quijada organized with co-editor Tam T. T. Ngo at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity in Goettingen, Germany during her post-doctoral fellowship there prior to joining Wesleyan’s faculty.

“The goal was to compare the relationship between politics and religion in case studies across the communist and former communist countries, and to get away from the standard presumption that communist regimes repressed religion and that was the end of the story,” Quijada explained. “Instead, our authors look at the ways the governments compromised with powerful religious institutions, co-opted religious practices, and in some cases, unwittingly promoted religions, as was the case with neo-paganism in Russia. We also have authors who look at how secular and atheist presumptions fostered by communist states influence how people practice religion. The chapters cover case studies from Poland, Russia, Kyrgyzstan, China, Vietnam, Laos, and North Korea. By crossing a traditional area studies divide, between the study of Russia/Eastern Europe and the study of East Asia, we wanted to enable our readers to see the connections between the two and think about communism as a global phenomenon.”

Courant Explores History of Astronomy at Wesleyan Ahead of Centennial Celebration

cam_vvo_2013-0102225113Ahead of the centennial celebration of Wesleyan’s Van Vleck Observatory, The Hartford Courant explored a bit of observatory history, including some recent discoveries of rare artifacts.

A team of Wesleyan professors and students, together with the Astronomical Society of Greater Hartford, is preparing for an exhibit this spring, “Under Connecticut Skies: Exploring 100 Years of Astronomy at Van Vleck Observatory in Middletown, Connecticut.”

“We’ve been looking into every nook and cranny to see what we have here,” Associate Professor of History Paul Erickson told the Courant. One exciting find: a rare early mechanical model of the solar system, long believed to be lost, known as “Russell’s Stupendous and Magnificent Planetarium or Columbian Orrery.” Back in the 1830s, the device traveled the country in a wagon to be exhibited to big crowds.

According to the story:

Some of the other finds include an early 18th century French refractor telescope and a late 19th century mechanical calculating machine known as “the Millionaire.” The Swiss-made machine was employed in the principal research of the observatory, attempting to calculate stellar distances. “Astronomy involves a lot of number crunching, so this was a very useful tool before the computer,” Erickson said.

Of particular interest is the observatory guestbook, which records the visits of world-famous astronomers, such as Harlow Shapley, the first scientist to correctly estimate the size of the Milky Way, and Edwin Powell Hubble, for whom the Hubble Telescope is named. There is also a visit in the 1920s of a young Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, the Indian-born astrophysicist who went on to win the Nobel Prize.

Read more about a project to restore the Van Vleck Refractor telescope here. The project is set to wrap up this summer.