Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Roth: College Should Prepare You for Life

As college admissions season heats up, President Michael Roth makes a case in The New Republic for a broad pragmatic liberal education. College should be seen not as a path to get their first jobs, he advises prospective students, but rather “as a remarkable opportunity to explore their individual and social lives in connection with the world in which they will live and work.”

Books by Roth, Bloom, Waldman ’86 Honored by Washington Post

Beyond the University

President Michael Roth’s Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters

The Washington Post selected President Michael Roth‘s book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, on its list of top 50 notable works of nonfiction in 2014. A brief summary of the review states:

The president of Wesleyan University describes two distinct traditions of a liberal education–one philosophical and “skeptical,” the other rhetorical and “reverential”–and argues that both are necessary for educating autonomous individuals who can also participate with others.

Beyond the University was originally reviewed in the Post on May 23 by Christopher Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. In that review, Nelson calls the book “a substantial and lively discussion” as well as “an economical and nearly jargon-free account of liberal education in America.”

Amy Bloom's Lucky Us

Amy Bloom’s Lucky Us

Two other members of the Wesleyan community were honored in the Post‘s “Top 50 Fiction Books for 2014.” The list included Lucky Us by Amy Bloom, distinguished university writer-in-residence and director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, and Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman ’86.

Wilkins Published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology

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

Assistant Professor of Psychology Clara Wilkins is the co-author of a paper titled “You Can Win But I Can’t Lose: Bias Against High-Status Groups Increases Their Zero-Sum Beliefs About Discrimination” published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, November 2014. The article will be published again in the in the journal’s March 2015 print edition. Wilkins co-authored the article with several other researchers including Joseph Wellman, formerly a postdoctoral fellow in psychology at Wesleyan, who is now at California State University, San Barnardino, and Katherine Schad BA ’13/MA ’14.

The study considered what causes people to espouse “zero-sum beliefs”—or beliefs that gains for one social group come at a cost to another group—and what the consequences are of those beliefs. The researchers found that “high-status groups” (specifically, whites and men) held zero-sum beliefs more often when they contemplated increasing bias against their own group than when they contemplated decreasing bias against their low-status counterparts (blacks and women). Furthermore, greater endorsement of zero-sum beliefs corresponded with efforts to decrease outgroups’ ability to compete in society and efforts to increase the ingroup’s ability to compete. The researchers also discuss how this pattern may perpetuate social inequality.

Tucker on Facial Recognition Technology

Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker writes in The Boston Globe about the FBI’s new Next Generation Identification System, a “billion-dollar project to replace the bureau’s old fingerprinting system with the world’s biggest biometric database….Perhaps most controversially, it will use state-of-the-art facial recognition technology, allowing the government to identify suspects across a gigantic database of images collected from mug shots, surveillance cameras, employment background checks, and digital devices seized with a search warrant. The technology itself is still evolving rapidly; for example, the National Institute of Justice is developing 3-D binoculars and cameras that allow facial recognition and capture in real time,” she writes.

While some find this development unsettling, Tucker reminds readers that it is “actually just the latest outgrowth of an art and science that has been under development for more than 150 years.” The development of techniques for recognizing human faces dates all the way back to the introduction of prison photography in England in 1852, Tucker writes, taking readers through a brief tour of technology updates since then. And while these developments often have been met with hesitation from a skeptical public, they have nevertheless forged ahead.

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

President Roth and Professor Weil Make Second Major Campaign Gift

President Michael S. Roth and Professor Kari Weil have made a new six-figure gift to Wesleyan in support of endowment for financial aid, including a provision that royalties from President Roth’s latest book, Beyond the University, go to financial aid.

In announcing the gift, Joshua Boger ’73, chair of Wesleyan’s board of trustees, said: “This is the second major gift that Michael and Kari have made to Wesleyan’s campaign, and I am so grateful for their leadership and generosity. Their support of financial aid is particularly welcome because it underscores the University’s commitment to increasing access – the highest priority of our campaign. THIS IS WHY.”

Wesleyan has raised $125 million for scholarship endowment. Overall, Wesleyan’s generous supporters have contributed $354 million toward the campaign’s $400 million goal.
Roth established a policy of eliminating loans in favor of outright grants for most students with a family income below $60,000. The policy has also reduced the amount of loans required in all final aid packages by about 35 percent. This effort and all of Wesleyan’s financial aid grants, including a special scholarship program for veterans, are supported by gifts from alumni, parents and friends.

“Wesleyan continues to attract students of extraordinary potential from diverse economic backgrounds, meeting their full financial need,” says Roth. “The University’s commitment to financial aid fosters a campus community based on equality and freedom, where differences in the classroom emerge not from privilege, but from talent and effort.”

Three Wesleyan Authors Have “Notable” Books

The Washington Post selected President Michael Roth’s book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters, on its list of top 50 notable works of nonfiction this year. A brief summary of the review states:

The president of Wesleyan University describes two distinct traditions of a liberal education–one philosophical and “skeptical,” the other rhetorical and “reverential”–and argues that both are necessary for educating autonomous individuals who can also participate with others.

Beyond the University was originally reviewed in the Post on May 23 by Christopher B. Nelson, president of St. John’s College in Annapolis, Md. In that review, Nelson calls the book “a substantial and lively discussion” as well as “an economical and nearly jargon-free account of liberal education in America.”

Two other members of the Wesleyan community were honored in the Post’s “Top 50 Fiction Books for 2014.” The list included Lucky Us by Amy Bloom, distinguished university writer-in-residence and director of the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, and Love and Treasure by Ayelet Waldman ’86

As University Protestant Chaplain, Mehr-Muska Mentors, Offers Confidential Support

As the university’s Protestant chaplain, Tracy Mehr-Muska wears many hats, including mentor, cheerleader, religious tutor, celebrant of sacraments, caregiver, counselor, listener, worship leader and event planner, among others.

As the university’s Protestant chaplain, Tracy Mehr-Muska wears many hats, including mentor, cheerleader, religious tutor, celebrant of sacraments, caregiver, counselor, listener, worship leader and event planner, among others. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this Q&A, meet Tracy Mehr-Muska, Wesleyan’s Protestant chaplain. 

Q: Rev. Mehr-Muska, how long have you been Wesleyan’s Protestant chaplain, and what did you do before this?

A: This is my third year as a university chaplain at Wesleyan. Like many, my professional journey was not a direct route. After graduating from the Coast Guard Academy, I served as a Deck Watch Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. My love of the sea and my degree in Marine/Environmental Science led me to subsequently work as a marine scientist, conducting oceanographic surveys and engineering subsea cable routes for a company that installed transoceanic fiberoptic telecommunications cable. although I loved my job, I felt most deeply fulfilled when attending church, visiting sick or homebound parishioners, or volunteering with the church’s youth. I then transitioned to Princeton Theological Seminary, and after graduating, became an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). I served as a chaplain for a hospice program in Boston, where I ministered to people approaching death and to their families. Although I loved hospice chaplaincy, it has been thrilling and fun to now work with people at the other end of their lives—students newly emerging into adulthood who are working to discern their vocational identity and establish their priorities, distinctiveness and values.

Q: Coming from such a different background, what made you want to become a university chaplain?

A: My years at the Coast Guard Academy were immensely challenging personally, physically, and spiritually. The two caring and patient military chaplains who served as my chaplains were not only instrumental in my surviving, thriving, and graduating, but they were also influential in helping me find joy and deepen my faith.

Lily Herman ’16 Active in Online Media, Journalism

Lily Herman '16 co-founded The Prospect, a culture/lifestyle magazine and college admissions/college life website. Two years later, the site features about five new articles a day and staffs 140 contributing writers. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Lily Herman ’16 co-founded The Prospect, a website focused on college admissions and college life. Two years later, the site features about five new articles a day written by a team of about 140 contributing writers, all high school and college students. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

#THISISWHY
In this Q&A, meet Lily Herman from the Class of 2016.

Q:
 Lily, what are you majoring in and why did you choose Wesleyan?

A: I’m a junior double majoring in government and sociology, and I hail from the semi-boonies of Jacksonville, Fla. I ended up at Wesleyan after my mom checked it off in a Fiske Guide to Colleges when I was a high school sophomore and I read all about it. After visiting Wes on a clear, sunny September day during my senior year of high school, I was 100 percent sold and applied Early Decision. Despite the fact that no one went to Wesleyan, my entire family now consists of diehard Wes fans, and my dad owns more Wesleyan merchandise than I do.

Q: You are extremely active in the world of online media. How did your interest in writing and digital media develop?

A: I really started getting into writing (blogging, more specifically) during my junior and senior years of high school when I, like every other angsty teenager, started a Tumblr account. It was my first foray into online content and having an audience, and it was really the first time I saw the power and impact that words and images can have.

Lily Herman is a peer advisor for the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship; a verbal coach for a nonprofit that provides free SAT tutoring and college admissions assistance to underserved high school students; and a contributing editor for Wesleying.

Lily Herman is a peer advisor for the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship; a verbal coach for a nonprofit that provides free SAT tutoring and college admissions assistance to underserved high school students; and a contributing editor for Wesleying.

It wasn’t until I got to campus and joined Wesleying that I started putting the pieces together and researching the digital media sphere. My first semester of Wesleyan was really spent poking around trying to figure out how to write and be a journalist. I hadn’t even considered it as a possible career option in high school. I was convinced I was going to be POTUS [President of the United States], so it was a really enlightening and absolutely terrifying first couple months of college.

Q: In 2013, you co-founded The Prospect, which describes itself as part culture/lifestyle magazine and part resourceful college admissions/college life website (but all parts awesome). Tell us how The Prospect came to be.

A: The inspiration for The Prospect comes from a lot of places.

Roth Discusses the Value of a College Education

President Michael Roth appeared on CNN’s “Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield” to discuss the cost and value of higher education. The interview comes ahead of CNN’s premier Thursday, Nov. 20 at 9 p.m. EST of The Ivory Tower, a new documentary that asks, “Is college worth the cost?” Roth appears prominently in the film defending the importance of higher education. His appearance on Legal View began with a clip from the film in which he argues:

“Many intellectuals are saying it would be better if some people don’t go to college at all. I think that’s an assault on democracy and it’s an attempt to keep people in their place, and reinforce social inequality. Education should foster social mobility and the possibility of equality. You’ve got to be crazy to intentionally not get a college degree if you have a choice today. And if the college education is really a college education, and not just training in one particular little field, you learn how to learn, and that can actually open up new things in your life long after college.”

Asked by Banfield about the spiraling cost of higher education, Roth explained, “Costs have risen because people want the education, and there aren’t enough spots for those students. And it’s got to change.”

“The high sticker price is not what most people pay at the schools that have the highest tuition. At a place like Wesleyan, almost half of our students are on financial aid, and the average grant is over $30,000. But I think the problem that you point to, the increasing burden of student debt, is a national disgrace because it inhibits the ability of students to choose the careers after they leave college.”

Stemler’s New Study Finds Educational Interventions Cannot be “Scaled Up”

Steven Stemler, associate professor of psychology, collaborated with researchers at a number of other universities on a major new study, which found that context matters when implementing educational interventions.

Steven Stemler, associate professor of psychology, collaborated with researchers at a number of other universities on a major new study, which found that context matters when implementing educational interventions.

It turns out that teaching language arts, math and science to fourth graders is not the same as manufacturing cars on an assembly line.

That is, the microeconomics principle of economies of scale—or the cost advantages that businesses get by increasing the scale of production—do not always apply to educational interventions. Put another way, an intervention that works great in one specific educational setting cannot necessarily be “scaled up” to work in many other settings. This is the finding of a major new study funded by the National Science Foundation, on which Associate Professor of Psychology Steven Stemler collaborated with colleagues at a number of other universities including Yale, Cornell and the University of Sydney.

The study, carried out in 223 classrooms across the country in the early- to mid-2000s, was published in the American Psychology Association’s Journal of Educational Psychology in August. The paper is titled “Testing the Theory of Successful Intelligence in Teaching Grade 4 Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science.”

Rose on Keeping Babar’s Story Alive

Phyllis Rose, professor of English, emerita, and wife of Babar author Laurent de Brunhoff, spoke to The Globe and Mail about the iconic elephant of children’s book fame. Since the first Babar story was written by Jean de Brunhoff in 1931, it has become the longest-running children’s series in history. de Brunhoff’s son, Laurent, took over writing after his father died of tuberculosis at age 37. Now 89, Laurent de Brunhoff is working on his 50th Babar book.

According to the article, Rose “has long been helping her husband dream up ideas and pen the stories.” She assisted in other ways as well: When de Brunhoff attempted to draw Babar’s pregnant wife, Celeste, Rose “grabbed a pillow and modeled for him.”

In the article, Rose reflects on the original Babar story, which remains the most controversial:

Only a few pages into that first book, Babar’s mother is shot and killed by a “wicked hunter.” Today, many parents skip over that first book entirely to shield their children from any awful truths. “The Story of Babar would not get published today. There is no doubt in our minds,” says Rose, “I had a cousin who would never give her child a balloon because she was afraid the balloon would pop. I think that one of the purposes of children’s literature is to expose them to frightening and horrible things, in a safe way.”

‘In the Heights’ Returns to Wesleyan

Playbill.com highlighted the recent production of “In the Heights” at Wesleyan, produced by the Theater Department and Music Department. The show was developed by Tony Award-winning songwriter, singer and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02 during his sophomore year at Wesleyan. The book was written by Quiara Alegria Hudes, now Wesleyan’s Shapiro Distinguished Professor of Writing and Theater. The recent production was directed by Associate Professor of Theater Claudia Nascimento, who first connected with Miranda when he was a senior at Wesleyan and she was a new member of the faculty.

“It was such a crazy, full-circle feeling,” Miranda told Playbill.com. “First of all, you have to know that I met Cláudia my senior year at Wesleyan, when she was coming in as a professor as I was going out as a student. Her first year at Wesleyan was my last year; we became friends then. She didn’t advise on my senior project, but she was around. We worked together on a couple of shows, and I really like her…”

Nascimento told Playbill.com that “In the Heights” had attracted a lot of interest among students, and she was eager to discuss the musical’s challenges with its creator.

“I said, ‘This cannot be a musical cast only with Latino students. We need to cast the musical in a manner that is representative of the diversity that we have on campus,’ and he was, from day one, very excited, very supportive,” said Nascimento. “The only thing he asked me was to keep the respect for Spanish language, which I think is more than fair. The cast is very diverse as well because that’s the makeup of the student body at the university, and it has been a particularly touching experience for me to witness the kind of exchange of experiences— it’s not just ethnically diverse, but they have very different backgrounds of family histories…

“Some of them are international students, and since ‘In the Heights’ is a musical about community, that value or that theme has been transferred to the rehearsal process, and so the Spanish-speaking students coach the non Spanish-speaking students on how to speak the language. They exchange ideas about the accent when they speak English. Some students are from Washington Heights — they bring that kind of information — so it’s been generally a very, very positive experience.”