Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

O’Connell, Alumni Participate in National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Workshop

Suzanne O’Connell, right, with Ed Laine ’69 and Kerry Brenner ’94 at a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop.

Suzanne O’Connell, right, with Ed Laine ’69 and Kerry Brenner ’94 at a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine workshop.

Suzanne O’Connell, professor of earth and environmental sciences, faculty director of the McNair Program, together with Ed Laine ’69 and Kerry Brenner ’94, attended a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) workshop in Washington, D.C. on April 20-21. The three were involved in a report on Service Learning in the Geosciences.

O’Connell presented the report at the meeting.

Laine, recently retired from Bowdoin College, was on the meeting steering committee, while Brenner, a senior program officer in the Board on Science Education in the Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education (NAS) coordinated the meeting.

A summary of the workshop will be published as a book by the National Academies Press in fall 2016.

Wesleyan, Middletown Community Members Vote at Beckham Hall April 26

For the first time this year, Wesleyan’s Beckham Hall served at Middletown’s District No. 14 polling location for the presidential primary election held on April 26. District No. 14 encompasses most of the Wesleyan campus as well most of downtown Middletown.

According to Cathy Lechowicz, director of the Jewett Center for Community Partnerships, the District No. 14 polling location was at the Senior Center on Broad Street for many years. When the relocation and construction of a new Senior Center required the polling place to be moved, Middletown’s Registrar of Voters asked if Wesleyan would be willing to serve as the new location. With assistance and input of several offices on campus, Beckham Hall was identified as the best location. It will host a November election every year going forward, and may host one or two additional elections in April and/or in August or September.

Undergraduate and graduate students at Wesleyan have the option to vote via absentee ballot based on their home residence, or can choose to register in Middletown. Wesleyan’s Office of the Registrar maintains information on local voting.

Photos of the polling location in Beckham Hall are below: (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Voting for the Primary Election in Beckham Hall, April 26, 2016.
Voting for the Primary Election in Beckham Hall, April 26, 2016.
Voting for the Primary Election in Beckham Hall, April 26, 2016.
Voting for the Primary Election in Beckham Hall, April 26, 2016.
Voting for the Primary Election in Beckham Hall, April 26, 2016.
Voting for the Primary Election in Beckham Hall, April 26, 2016.

10 Wesleyan Students, 1 Alumna Receive Fulbrights

Eleven Wesleyans were finalists in the Fulbright U.S. Student Program this year, including 10 from the Class of 2016, and a Class of 2013 alumna. In all, 23 people from Wesleyan applied for Fulbrights, and 12 were semi-finalists.

The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. The program operates in 160 countries worldwide. Primary funding for the program comes from an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Participating governments, host institutions, corporations and foundations in the U.S. and abroad also provide direct and indirect support.

The program provides grants for individually designed study/research projects or for English Teaching Assistant Programs. Candidates must submit a Statement of Grant Purpose defining activities to take place during one academic year in a participating country outside the U.S. Recipients are selected based on academic or professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential in their fields.

Van Vleck Observatory Celebrates Centennial with Exhibition, Event Series

Wesleyan’s iconic observatory dome was built to house the Van Vleck Refractor, used in research until the early 1990s. Photo by John Van Vlack.

Wesleyan’s iconic observatory dome was built to house the Van Vleck Refractor, used in research until the early 1990s. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

The building was named for Professor John Monroe Van Vleck, who taught mathematics and astronomy at Wesleyan from 1853 until his death in 1912.

The building was named for Professor John Monroe Van Vleck, who taught mathematics and astronomy at Wesleyan from 1853 until his death in 1912.

Wesleyan’s Van Vleck Observatory is celebrating its centennial this spring, with a series of events and an exhibition beginning in early May.

On May 6, the observatory’s library will reopen to the public with an exhibition on the history of astronomy at Van Vleck. Developed by a team of faculty, students, and staff, the exhibition will use the observatory’s extensive collection of scientific instruments, teaching materials, photographs, drawings, and correspondence to illustrate both the changes in astronomical research and teaching over the past century, and the observatory’s consistent mission of conducting instruction and research under the same roof. The exhibition will incorporate the history of science into Van Vleck’s existing public outreach programs through period lectures, demonstrations of historic artifacts, and gallery talks.

“The Millionaire” Mechanical Calculator. Useful for determining distances to stars, this late 19th-century calculator had high precision (eight significant figures) and is still in perfect working order. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

“The Millionaire” Mechanical Calculator. Useful for determining distances to stars, this late 19th-century calculator had high precision (eight significant figures) and is still in perfect working order. (Photo by John Van Vlack)

The exhibition was spearheaded by Roy Kilgard, support astronomer and research associate professor of astronomy, Seth Redfield, associate professor of astronomy, associate professor of integrative sciences, Amrys Williams, visiting assistant professor of history, and Paul Erickson, associate professor of history, associate professor of environmental studies, associate professor of science in society.

More events are planned in the run-up to the exhibition opening. On May 1, the Wesleyan Orchestra will hold a concert featuring astronomically themed music, including John Cage’s Atlas Eclipticalis, which was composed using star charts from the Van Vleck Observatory library. On May 3, Special Collections & Archives will host an exhibition, “A Stellar Education: Astronomy at Wesleyan, 1831-1916.” Located on the first floor of Olin Library, the exhibition documents the study of astronomy at Wesleyan from the university’s opening through the construction of the Van Vleck Observatory. On May 4, the History Department is hosting David DeVorkin, senior curator at the National Air and Space Museum, who will give a talk situating Van Vleck in the history of American observatories.

Chitena ’19 Receives Davis Projects for Peace Grant to Teach Programming in Zimbabwe

Alvin Chitena ’19 at North College. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Alvin Chitena ’19, pictured here at North College on April 22, grew up in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and worked with computers from the age of eight. He took his first computer class at Wesleyan. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Alvin Chitena ’19 has been awarded a Davis Projects for Peace grant of $10,000 to launch his project Zim Code at five high schools in Zimbabwe this summer. Zim Code provides Zimbabwean youth with free access to resources they need—computers, internet access and instruction—to learn computer programming and how to apply their new skills in their community.

Davis Projects for Peace was created in 2007 through the generosity of Kathryn W. Davis, a lifelong internationalist and philanthropist who died in 2013. It supports initiative, innovation and entrepreneurship by undergraduate students focused on conflict prevention, resolution or reconciliation in countries around the world.

Chicago Cubs Executive VP, GM Jed Hoyer ’96 Discusses His Wesleyan Experience

Jed Hoyer at Wesleyan, 1995.

Jed Hoyer at Wesleyan, 1995.

(By Mike O’Brien, Director of Athletic Communication)

On April 18, Chicago Cubs Executive Vice President and General Manager Jed Hoyer ’96 spoke to the news site MLB Trade Rumors about his career and his time at Wesleyan. When asked what led him to choose Wesleyan, Hoyer responded:

“The over-arching goal of my college search was to combine three factors – great academics, the ability to continue playing baseball, and a campus environment that would broaden my limited horizons. I looked at a lot of different schools and the best combination of those factors was Wesleyan. In hindsight, I was less intense and strategic about that decision than I would have been later in life. I simply had a great feel for the school, loved my interactions with the baseball coach (Pete Kostacopoulos), and could picture myself on campus. I had a wonderful four years at Wesleyan and will always be thankful that my instincts were right.”

Hoyer was also asked to comment about how his major in history influenced his future career: “I loved being a history major. I loved the professors I had. I really enjoyed the reading material. Even today, if I get a chance to sit down and read a book, I’m going to grab a biography or something about a historical period. But I will say if I knew I’d be where I’m sitting right now, I certainly would have angled myself more towards economics or something more quantitative. I do think that’s important when you start your life after college to know that every move you make doesn’t have to be planned so specifically. I was kind of referencing that before in regards to coaching. I coached baseball because I loved being out there, and I wanted to stay involved with the game. It gave me an awesome perspective on the game that I never had. I worked for a couple consulting firms later on, and that really helped me learn how to build business models and advanced my quantitative skills. I think every job I’ve had has provided me with different skills or knowledge that I can use every day in baseball.”

Hoyer also reflected on his favorite professor, Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, emeritus, on lessons learned at Wesleyan that he still uses daily, on his playing days at Wesleyan, and more: “The most vivid memory of the classroom at Wesleyan – and I think back on this quite a bit – there was a professor named Richard Slotkin, and he taught American Literature. His classes were incredibly hard to get into because he was such an amazing lecturer. I remember sitting in his lectures and thinking … I hope someday I can be as good at my job and as passionate about my job and as knowledgeable about the field of study as this guy is. Candidly, I think I’m still trying to get there. I think it’s great when you see anyone in any walk of life that so dominates their field – and you can tell that it brings them so much joy to share it.”

Read the full story here.

Wesleyan Green Fund Financially Supports Campus Sustainability Projects

The student-run environmental arts magazine Loam is dedicated to promoting the work of pioneering individuals and organizations in the realm of sustainability. The magazine, which features a printed and online version, is one of dozens of projects supported by the Wesleyan Green Fund.

The student-run environmental arts magazine Loam is dedicated to promoting the work of pioneering individuals and organizations in the realm of sustainability. The magazine, which features a printed and online version, is one of dozens of projects supported by the Wesleyan Green Fund.

“There is no single ‘right way’ to be an environmentalist.”

This is the philosophy of the Wesleyan Green Fund, which since 2010 has provided financial support to a wide range of sustainability projects on campus. Overseen by six to eight students, and advised by Sustainability Director Jennifer Kleindienst, the Green Fund has received 50 proposals for grants from over 30 organizations and individuals this year alone, and distributed close to $100,000 in funding.

The money distributed by the Green Fund comes from a $15 per semester opt-out fee paid by students along with tuition. About 90 percent of students participate, and on average, the Green Fund gets about $85,000 per year. The Green Fund accepts proposals from students, faculty and staff.

A monarch butterfly thrives in the West College Courtyard. The two acre garden is maintained by WILD Wes and supported by the Wesleyan Green Fund.

A monarch butterfly thrives in the West College Courtyard. The two acre permaculture garden is maintained by WILD Wes and supported by the Wesleyan Green Fund.

According to Green Fund Chair Zacko Brint ’16, at its founding, the organization’s original goals were to “decrease the carbon footprint of the University, decrease waste, increase the University’s use of renewable energy sources, and increase the visibility of environmentally responsible practices on campus.” Its focus was mainly on funding larger projects, such as WILD Wes, several capital projects at Long Lane Farm, and the first three years of salary for the sustainability coordinator. (See more examples here.)

In recent years, while the funding of large projects has continued, the Green Fund “has made significant efforts to expand the communities that we serve, and broaden the definition of sustainability,” said Brint. The 50 applications received this year range from the Sailing Club to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day symposium to a student-run papermaking club. Some proposals are to fund small sustainability-focused parts of a larger project, such as a student group wishing to print on sustainably sourced paper, which costs more than virgin paper.

“The Green Fund has supported so many projects that would not otherwise be possible on campus,” Kleindienst said. “It’s been exciting this year to see so many funded projects related to the intersection of environmental issues and social justice, including a zine on climate justice, a panel discussion on environmental justice, and a lobbying training workshop for students, which was brought back to campus to train other Wesleyan students.”

View all Green Fund projects online here.

Brint noted that because the Green Fund is not always able to fully fund all projects that apply for grants, one of their goals is to understand all funding sources on campus and build coalitions.

The Green Fund recently supported Wes For Peace, a group of 17 students who attended the Friends Committee on National Legislation's Spring Lobby Weekend. Students received intensive training from experienced lobbyists and congressional staffers, and put these skills into practice through lobbying around the issue of mass incarceration.

The Green Fund recently supported Wes For Peace, a group of 17 students who attended the Friends Committee on National Legislation’s Spring Lobby Weekend. Students received intensive training from experienced lobbyists and congressional staffers, and put these skills into practice through lobbying around the issue of mass incarceration.

“We have established working relationships with many different offices and funding sources on campus, and if we have a project that we need help funding, we can call and help expedite the process,” he explained. “In a lot of ways, we act as a liaison for projects.

Members of the Green Fund also actively pursue projects of their own. Currently, this includes an initiative to start an Environmental Justice student forum next fall, as well as working with the administration to hire a faculty member to teach a similar course. Members of the Green Fund are also working on purchasing an electric vehicle that will serve in the Department of Transportation’s fleet.

In the future, Brint expects the Green Fund to continue expanding what it means to be sustainable and, in doing so, to reach new communities. He credits Kleindienst with helping the entire Wesleyan community shift towards thinking about sustainability. One such initiative involves getting more professors to incorporate sustainability modules into their syllabi. The Green Fund has provided financial backing to run a seminar for professors at Wesleyan and other Connecticut college on how they can incorporate sustainability into their courses.

Wesleyan Leading the Way in Connecticut With Its Microgrid

Alan Rubacha, director of Physical Plant, stands near the university's microgrid engine that generates power to provide heat and electricity to the school. The engine is located in the Combined Heat and Power room at the Freeman Athletic Center. (Photo courtesy of Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant)

Alan Rubacha, director of Physical Plant, stands near the university’s microgrid engine that generates power to provide heat and electricity to the school. The engine is located in the Combined Heat and Power room at the Freeman Athletic Center. (Photo courtesy of Cloe Poisson/Hartford Courant)

In a story about the spread of microgrids in Connecticut, The Hartford Courant points to Wesleyan as a leader. Wesleyan’s microgrid was the first project to come online under the inaugural round of Connecticut’s first-in-the-nation statewide microgrid pilot program.

According to the Courant, the $23 million state program to create a network of mini power generation plants across Connecticut was prompted by Tropical Storm Irene and Hurricane Sandy, which caused widespread power outages, flooding and other problems. In the case of a widespread power outage, microgrids can continue providing power to water treatment plants, emergency shelters, hospitals, police and fire stations.

In March 2014, Alan Rubacha led a tour of Wesleyan’s new generator package that delivers 4,700 mWh annually. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In March 2014, Alan Rubacha led a tour of Wesleyan’s new generator package that delivers 4,700 mWh annually. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

The Courant interviewed Alan Rubacha, director of Wesleyan’s Physical Plant, who said these mini-power plants offer advantages that go beyond providing power in emergencies. He said the university’s microgrid, which went on line in 2014, is producing enough electricity and steam to save Wesleyan an estimated $300,000 a year in energy costs.

Not only does the university’s natural gas engine produce electricity “as efficiently as a utility,” according to Rubacha, “the big thing is we use all the heat off the back end” as steam to heat the Freeman Athletic Center.

Wesleyan’s plant was one of the first Connecticut microgrids and the overall cost amounted to $4.1 million, including a $603,836 state grant. The combination of university and state funding paid for a 676 kilowatt natural gas engine that operates continuously to power the athletic center.

The center is also a designated emergency center for the area and a distribution point for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Wesleyan’s microgrid includes some solar power as well, and Rubacha said university officials calculate that the system will pay back the entire investment in a little over a decade.

Read more about Wesleyan’s microgrid here, and learn about the new solar array in the works that will supply power to the microgrid.

Ulysse’s Essay Says U.S. Foreign Food Aid Policy Undermines Farmers in Haiti

Gina Athena UlysseIn her latest essay on The Huffington PostProfessor of Anthropology Gina Athena Ulysse takes on the matter of U.S. foreign food aid policy vis-a-vis Haiti, which she writes is undermining farmers in the Caribbean nation. She focuses on mamba, the Kreyòl word for peanut butter, which she fondly recalls being made by locals when she was growing up in Haiti.

“To me, mamba is as quintessentially Haitian as basketball is (North) American. Now, it faces risks as another charitable gift of food aid undermines Haitian autonomy by threatening to bench local farmers’ peanuts production, our cultural practices, and even our tastes,” she writes. “This is not our first time. Haiti has been tripped up by the U.S. before.”

Ulysse quotes retired Wesleyan Professor of Sociology Alex Dupuy, who puts this in historical context: “First, the U.S. destroys Haitian agriculture by compelling the then Aristide government to lower tariffs to a level lower than anywhere else in the Caribbean, and then exports its own subsidized agricultural goods (rice, cereals, chickens, etc.) to the country, as former President Clinton acknowledged with crocodile tears. Now, it is dumping its subsidized peanuts on Haiti and undermining the ability of Haitian farmers to increase peanut production. The hypocrisy never stops, and Haiti’s own sycophantic government officials are all too willing to abide them in their destructive policies for the crumbs they get in return.”

Ulysse concludes by urging President Barack Obama to “address this foul play” and “avoid another post-presidential apology that Haiti’s people and fragile economy can actually do without.”

Ulysse also is professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies.

Miranda ’02 Wins Pulitzer Prize for Hamilton

(Photo by Joan Marcus/The Public Theater)

Hamilton star/writer Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15, center, won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. The honor was announced April 18 during the Pulitzer Prizes’ 100th award ceremony. (Photo by Joan Marcus/The Public Theater)

Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 has won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for his hit musical, Hamilton, directed by Thomas Kail ’99. According to Playbill, Hamilton “joins an exclusive club of just eight other musicals that have won the prestigious award since it was founded nearly a century ago.” The awards were announced April 18.

The Pulitzer is awarded to “a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life.” It includes a $10,000 cash prize.

Dierker, Mukerji Honored as Women of Innovation

Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker

Lisa Dierker, professor of psychology, director of pilot programs for the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, and Ishita Mukerji, the Fisk Professor of Natural Science, professor of molecular biology and biochemistry, professor of integrative sciences, were both honored at the 12th annual Women of Innovation Awards. Presented by the Connecticut Technology Council, the awards celebrate the energy, creativity and success of women and students from Connecticut’s science and technology community.

Both professors were honored in the category of Academic Innovation and Leadership. The celebration was held April 6 in Plantsville, Conn.

Dierker was honored for her work developing a curriculum to introduce students to a passion-driven, project-based course in applied statistics, data analysis and programming. Through a growing network of high schools, community colleges, and universities as well as a massive open online course (MOOC), she is dedicated to creating real access for women and other underserved populations, both locally and across the globe.

Ishita Mukerji

Ishita Mukerji

Mukerji was recognized for her research focused on the study of protein-DNA interactions to understand the mechanisms of gene expression, DNA replication and DNA repair. She previously served as dean of science and mathematics at Wesleyan, where she helped to establish the Wesleyan Math and Science Scholars program and the College of Integrative Sciences.

Faculty, Students, Alumni Attend Political Science Conference

Students presented research at the 74th annual Midwest Political Science Association conference in Chicago.

Students presented research at the 74th annual Midwest Political Science Association conference in Chicago.

The 74th annual Midwest Political Science Association (MPSA) conference in Chicago April 7-10 was attended by several Wesleyan faculty members, students and recent alumni. The conference, held every April, is one of the largest political science conferences with more than 5,000 presenters from throughout the United States and around the world. It is traditionally held in Chicago’s historic Palmer House Hilton.

Assistant Professor of Government Erika Franklin Fowler, Assistant Professor of Government Logan Dancey, and Assistant Professor of Government Yamil Velez all presented research at the conference. They were accompanied by Joli Holmes ’17, John Murchison ’16, Grace Wong ’18, Anh Tuan Nguyen Viet ’16, and Eki Ramadhan ’16, students who contributed to and presented research.

Also in attendance were recent alumni Leonid “Leo” Liu ’14, who presented research with Fowler, and Matt Motta ’13, now a graduate student at the University of Minnesota.