Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Sumarsam, PhD Students, Alumni Present at Symposium

University Professor of Music Sumarsam demonstrated puppet movements at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA), in Penang, Malaysia.

University Professor of Music Sumarsam demonstrated puppet movements at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA), in Penang, Malaysia.

University Professor of Music Sumarsam and several PhD students and alumni recently presented papers at the 4th Symposium of the International Council for Traditional Music Study Group on the Performing Arts of Southeast Asia (ICTM PASEA). The symposium was hosted by Universiti Sains Malaysia in Penang, Malaysia, from July 31 to Aug. 6.

Sumarsam presented a paper titled, “Religiosity in Javanese Wayang Puppet Play,” and demonstrated puppet movements.

Wesleyan Mathematics Faculty Train Area School Teachers

Wesleyan’s Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen teaches an Intel Math class Aug. 11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. Wesleyan’s Assistant Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen teaches an Intel Math class Aug. 11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Wesleyan’s Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen teaches a math class Aug. 11 at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

This month, the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center is once again hosting its K-8 Math Institute for 29 school teachers from Vernon and Hamden, Conn. The 80-hour program aims to increase teachers’ mastery of math concepts as well as their confidence with math.

Sharon Heyman, a mathematics education specialist from the University of Connecticut, works with teachers at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Sharon Heyman, a mathematics education specialist from the University of Connecticut, works with teachers at the Green Street Teaching and Learning Center.

Wesleyan Associate Professor of Mathematics Christopher Rasmussen is teaching the institute along with Sharon Heyman, a mathematics education specialist from the University of Connecticut. This is the fifth time the pair has taught the course together. The institute includes the content-intensive, 80-hour Intel Math course over the summer as a foundation for teachers, several follow-up workshops during the school year for advancing teaching practices and arts integration strategies, and two professional learning community sessions a year in the form of Math Potlucks.

Green Street Director Sara MacSorley said this year’s course is going very well.

“As a group, the participating teachers are strong in math and really engaged in the material,” she said. On this particular day, a Friday afternoon with temperatures soaring into the 90s, “there are lively discussions about fractions at each table.”

Rasmussen ’87 Manages Expectations About the Military Defeat of ISIS

Nicholas Rasmussen ’87, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, spoke on NPR’s “Morning Edition” about progress made in the fight against the Islamic State. He said the tactical gains the U.S. military and its partners are making in Iraq and Syria are a “necessary” part of quashing the danger it poses—but not “sufficient.”

Rasmussen told NPR that government agencies—ranging from federal to local—are working well together, and counterterrorism leaders are confident they can detect, disrupt or stop big, complicated attacks on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001.

But the danger remains from smaller-scale attacks directed or inspired by ISIS, and these may linger a long time.

The Islamic State can be defeated both as a self-styled “caliphate” and as a terror network, Rasmussen said — but he stressed that the West can’t declare victory whenever allied forces recapture Mosul, in northern Iraq, and the ISIS “capital” of Raqqa, in Syria.

Even the death or capture of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, while it would be “significant,” might not create a dramatic difference, Rasmussen said. “The payoff from that … does not come quickly.”

Rutland Speaks on BYUradio about the Olympics, Nationalism

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, was interviewed on BYUradio about the Olympics and nationalism.

“The Olympics are practically built for indulging in what you might call ‘good nationalism,’ as opposed to the xenophobic kind,” said host Julie Rose in the introduction. Yet this year’s Olympic Games come at a time of fear of outsiders, both in the U.S. and abroad.

They begin by discussing the difference between patriotism—which has more positive connotations—and nationalism, which implies dislike of foreigners. The key distinction, says Rutland, is about having respect for people from all countries.

“In practice, the Olympics is a competition, it’s about winners and losers,” he said. “The Olympics is very contradictory. On the one hand, it claims to be transcending nationalism in a kind of fellowship of international athletes. But at the same time, in practice, it reinforces nationalism by encouraging people to cheer for their team and take pride in their team’s victories, and correspondingly, the defeat of other nations’ teams.”

Rutland also commented on the mass appeal of such competitions.

“It does tap into a desire to express our belonging to a bigger community—not just our family and neighborhood, but our country. And, at least when it’s going through the media—when it’s watching the Olympics or watching the World Cup for soccer, it seems to be pretty benign. It’s not like going to war. Sport, as George Orwell said, is a kind of substitute for war. Nobody is getting killed, nobody is getting hurt, and we’re all kind of on the same side, in that everybody is enjoying the competition, and you win some, you lose some.”

Rutland also is professor of government, professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian studies, and tutor in the College of Social Studies.

Gross Writes About a ‘Tipping Point’ in Relations Between Police, African Americans

Professor of African American Studies Kali Nicole Gross

Professor of African American Studies Kali Nicole Gross

Kali Nicole Gross, professor of African American studies, writes in The Huffington Post about the case of Korryn Gaines, the latest death of an African American at the hand of police. Gaines was fatally shot after a five-hour standoff with police and SWAT officers in Maryland, and had prophesied her own demise during an earlier traffic stop, in which she had also been defiant.

While Gaines’ behavior may once have appeared irrational, and possibly a sign of mental illness, Gross writes, “after these and so many other deaths of black women and men killed during minor traffic stops, killed for selling loose cigarettes, or found dead in jail after failing to signal a lane change, Gaines’ defiance may gesture toward a desperate tipping point: that the system is so corrupt there is little distinction between notions of legal and illegal. It may also mark the mounting fear that for black people there is little chance of survival during even the most routine police encounters.”

Whedon ’87, Hon. ’13 Talks with Basinger on WNPR

Joss Whedon '87 presented Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, with an honorary degree from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2006. This photograph is on display in the "Buffy to Bard" exhibit.

Joss Whedon ’87 presented Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, with an honorary degree from the American Film Institute Conservatory in 2006. This photograph is on display in the “Buffy to Bard” exhibit.

WNPR’s The Colin McEnroe Show featured a conversation between Joss Whedon ’87, Hon. ’13; Jeanine Basinger, the Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives; and David Lavery, author of Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers and co-founder of the Whedon Studies Association.

Basinger described her experience with Whedon while he was a student at Wesleyan.

“When I encountered Joss at Wesleyan, he was my superhero because he was a really fabulous student, an original thinker and somebody who you just knew was born to be a storyteller. Those things were very, very clearly in place already with him at college,” she said.

Basinger is also asked about influences apparent in Whedon’s work.

“Joss is an original. Whatever he learned or saw from past movies, or got in my class—or in Richard Slotkin’s class—has been totally filtered through his own sensibility…

“For me, I definitely perceive it as work by Joss because I hear his voice, I feel his concerns. People sometimes ask me, ‘Who is Buffy?’ and I say ‘Buffy is Joss.’ There isn’t any other answer. He’s made things so much his own, and the kinds of conventions that come out of genre that he understands and uses, the whole reason they’re in our culture is to be tempered and redesigned and reconstituted and brought forth through the creative force of a new generation. And that’s what Joss has done with them.”

 

Wesleyan Students Recognized for Scientific Images

This summer, Stephen Devoto, professor of biology, professor of neuroscience and behavior, launched the inaugural Wesleyan Scientific Imaging Contest. The contest, which recognizes student-submitted images from experiments or simulations done with a Wesleyan faculty member that are scientifically intriguing as well as aesthetically pleasing, drew 35 submissions from the fields of physics, biology, molecular biology and biochemistry, psychology, earth and environmental science, chemistry and astronomy.

Participants submitted an image along with a brief description written for a broad, scientifically literate audience. The entries were judged based on the quality of the image and the explanation of the underlying science. The first-place prize went to Eliza Carter ’18 from the Earth and Environmental Science Department. Aidan Stone ’17 and Jeremy Auerbach ’17 tied for second places, while Riordan Abrams ’17 won third place. The images were judged by a panel of four faculty members: Devoto; Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, assistant professor of integrative sciences; Brian Northrop, assistant professor of chemistry, assistant professor of integrative sciences; and Candice Etson, assistant professor of physics.

The first-place winner receives a $200 prize; the second-place winner receives $100; and the third-place winner receives $50. Prizes were funded by the Office of Academic Affairs.

Devoto was inspired by a similar contest that his daughter won at Haverford College.

“Students at Wesleyan produce extraordinary scientific images, ranging from graphs and computer simulations to microscope and telescope images,” he said. “I wanted students to have fun, to think of their scientific images in an artistic sense. And I thought that the artistic presentations of student scientific images would be a striking testament to the quality and fun of student research here. I hope these will be displayed on campus to highlight the science and the creativity, which thrive at Wesleyan.”

The four winning images are shown below, along with scientific descriptions:

Eliza Carter '18 submitted a scanning electron microscope image of the shell of a radiolarian (a protozoa) found near the top of an Antarctic sediment core from ODP site 697. The radiolarian shell is around 2.7 million years old and is made from silica that was produced by the radiolarian. Studying the percent biogenic silica in a sediment sample is a proxy for primary productivity: the more biosilica you have, the more productive it was.

Eliza Carter ’18 submitted a scanning electron microscope image of the shell of a radiolarian (a protozoa) found near the top of an Antarctic sediment core from ODP site 697. The radiolarian shell is around 2.7 million years old and is made from silica that was produced by the radiolarian. Studying the percent biogenic silica in a sediment sample is a proxy for primary productivity: the more biosilica you have, the more productive it was.

Forbes Ranks Wesleyan in the Top 10 Colleges in America

Forbes magazine has featured Wesleyan among the top 10 in its list of America’s Top Colleges 2016. Ranked at number 9, it shares the highest echelon with major research universities including Stanford, Princeton and Harvard, and liberal arts colleges like Williams, Pomona and Swarthmore.

The Forbes ranking is based on a weighted three-year moving average of each school’s total score. Critical factors include student satisfaction (measured by faculty ratings and freshman-to-sophomore retention rates), post-graduate success (alumni salaries and alumni on American Leaders List), academic success (alumni receiving PhDs and student nationally competitive awards), student debt, and four-year graduation rates.

President Michael Roth blogged about this honor in July, writing, “Despite knowing that ranking schools is more magazine public relations than science, and despite the tendency to reward the wealthiest schools with the highest rankings (all the schools in the Forbes’ top 10 except Wesleyan have endowments way over a billion dollars), I have to admit I was tickled to see alma mater get this recognition. This magazine (unlike U.S. News) paid more attention to outputs (how our alumni and faculty are doing) than inputs (how much do we spend per student, how many applicants do we reject), and I couldn’t help but think that we did well here because of the impact our grads are having beyond the university.”

He added, “I still think that all college rankings are pretty artificial, and that prospective students should find the right fit with a school rather than choose a place on which a magazine has conferred prestige. […] But it’s gratifying to see Wesleyan faculty and alumni recognized for the great work they do every year—whatever the rankings.”

Wesleyan Raises $482 Million in THIS IS WHY Campaign

More than 1,300 members of the Wesleyan community attended the “Wesleyan Hamilton Evening on Broadway” on Oct. 2, 2015 to raise funds for Wesleyan's THIS IS WHY Campaign. Pictured, from left, is Miranda Haymon ’16, Melissa Leung ’16, Wayne Ng ’16, Lauren Langer ’16, Amanda Roosa ’16, Emma Buford ’16 and Sadichchha Adhikari ‘16.

More than 1,300 members of the Wesleyan community attended the “Wesleyan Hamilton Evening on Broadway” on Oct. 2, 2015 to raise funds for financial aid through Wesleyan’s THIS IS WHY campaign. Pictured, from left, is Miranda Haymon ’16, Melissa Leung ’16, Wayne Ng ’16, Lauren Langer ’16, Amanda Roosa ’16, Emma Buford ’16 and Sadichchha Adhikari ‘16. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

#THISISWHY

Wesleyan University closed out its most successful fundraising campaign ever on June 30 with $482 million raised, far surpassing the original goal of $400 million. The biggest share, $274 million, went to financial aid, making a Wesleyan education possible for motivated and talented students who could not otherwise afford to attend. More than 36,000 donors gave to the THIS IS WHY campaign.

In June 2016, the Cardinal community joined together to secure 1 million for financial aid by participating in the $1 Million Cardinal Challenge. John Usdan ’80, P’15, ’18, ’18 gave $500 towards every gift made.

In June 2016, the Cardinal community joined together to secure $1 million for financial aid by participating in the $1 Million Cardinal Challenge. All funds raised were contributed to the THIS IS WHY campaign.

Not only was the THIS IS WHY campaign the most successful in Wesleyan’s history, but this past fiscal year was Wesleyan’s biggest fundraising year ever with $79 million raised in gifts and pledges. In the month of June alone, Wesleyan received 3,400 gifts, spurred by the $1 Million Cardinal Challenge. John Usdan ’80, P’15, ’18, ’18 donated $500 for every gift made during this challenge. In the last five days of the campaign, donors stepped up with $30 million in new pledges.

The campaign could hardly have started at a more inauspicious time, just before the financial markets collapsed at the start of the Great Recession in late 2007. Yet the Wesleyan community banded together to make a Wesleyan education their cause, with nearly 80 percent of alumni donating to the campaign. Wesleyan parents also donated $51 million.

“I am overwhelmed by the generosity of the extended Wesleyan family during the course of the THIS IS WHY fundraising campaign,” said President Michael Roth ’78. “In traveling around the world and speaking to alumni and parents about why they choose to make a Wesleyan education their cause, I have been so impressed by the loyalty and ambition of this community. The loyalty comes from a sense of belonging to an institution that decisively affected one’s life, and the ambition comes from the desire to see that institution continue to grow and provide to others a liberal education characterized by boldness, rigor and practical idealism.

“I have been able to describe to them how their gifts to Wesleyan enable us to strengthen the things they care so much about. This being Wesleyan, our supporters are not primarily interested in replicating the past. Instead, they tend to want to recreate the conditions of change that have allowed our University to have a powerfully transformative impact on its students.”

From left, Brandon Coulter ’11, Thalia Bernstein ’11, Julian Silver '12 and Stephanie Ullmann '11 gather during the "How to Destroy Higher Education" conversation in Los Angeles with President Michael Roth on Oct. 29, 2014. (Photo by Maiz Connolly '90)

From left, Brandon Coulter ’11, Talia Bernstein ’11, Julian Silver ’12 and Stephanie Ullmann ’11 gather during the “How to Destroy Higher Education” conversation in Los Angeles with President Michael Roth on Oct. 29, 2014. The event was held in conjunction with the THIS IS WHY Campaign. (Photo by Maiz Connolly ’90)

The three goals of the campaign were to increase funding for access, inquiry and impact. Of the funds raised, $286 million went to the endowment, to ensure future financial stability, while $196 million went to current use. The more than $274 million raised for access included the creation of 152 new endowed scholarships. About half of all students at Wesleyan receive financial aid. The two other focal points of the campaign were inquiry—more than $145 million in new resources to recruit and retain the most talented faculty—and impact—more than $61 million to advance students’ opportunities to deepen their learning through the creative interaction of scholarship and engagement with their community.

Highlights include the launch of four new interdisciplinary colleges—in the areas of film, East Asian studies, environmental studies, and integrative sciences—as well as the Center for Pedagogical Innovation, and endowment support for the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, the Shapiro Center for Creative Writing, Center for the Humanities, the Gordon Career Center, and the renovation of Boger Hall.

At a gala in Grand Central Terminal in New York City on June 16 to celebrate the success of the campaign, President Roth recognized the campaign leaders, including Campaign Chair and Trustee Emeritus John Usdan; Joshua Boger ’73, P’06, ’09, newly-retired chair of the Wesleyan Board of Trustees; Ellen Jewett ’81 P’17, trustee emerita; Alan Dachs ’70, Hon. ’07, P ’98, chair emeritus of the Board; and Donna Morea ’76, P ’06, chair of the Board—and thanked the entire Wesleyan community for its support. He also credited Vice President for University Relations Barbara-Jan Wilson and her team for their work throughout the THIS IS WHY campaign.

Levin ’19 Interviews Actor Cambor ’01 of Showtime’s Roadies

Peter Cambor '01 (Photo by Coco Knudson)

Peter Cambor ’01. (Photo by Coco Knudson)

Hannah Levin ’19 recently interviewed Peter Cambor ’01, an actor on Showtime’s Roadies, about his career and his time at Wesleyan. The interview appears on Master Chat Mag, a website Levin has been running since her sophomore year of high school, which serves as a resource for students who are passionate about TV, film, theater and comedy and wish to work in the field one day.

Cambor has starred in television series including Notes from the Underbelly and NCIS: Los Angeles. In the interview with Levin, he talks about catching the acting bug in high school, and about how his time at Wesleyan fueled his creativity:

I guess that the best thing for me was the faculty at the time was great, Bill Francisco was a great teacher who has since retired. A litany of great actors had come out of Wesleyan before my going there, like Bradley Whitford and Frank Wood. The ’92 Theater [Wesleyan’s student theater] had a play going on every weekend. Some of the plays were quite good, including In the Heights, as you know. There were things like that going on all the time.

There are two sides to working as an actor professionally. There’s the creative side where you’re making all the fun stuff, making theater, which is great. But you also have to have a business acumen. Just like in any other business you have to know how to work on a team, how to work with other people, what’s realistic under great constraints and how you can find freedom within those constraints. You’re forced to creatively think your way out of problems. I think that little microcosm of the ’92 Theater really taught me that thing. People took big swings and sometimes things were great, sometimes things were awful. But there were always big, bold swings. Learning how to work together, fail together, succeed together was great.

I was also working with a great group of people. I was good friends with Thomas Kail (’99) who directed Hamilton, Lin-Manuel [Miranda] (’02) and I were in a play together, I did a film with one of the executive producers for Brooklyn-Nine-Nine. There’s just so many more: Zack Whedon, Joss Whedon’s younger brother. All those guys were there. That’s a pretty hefty group of people to be working with, which of course I didn’t realize at the time.

Read the full interview here.

Wesleyan Students Help Local Preschoolers Get a Kickstart on Kindergarten

stu_psychology_2016-0714141636

Stephanie Blumenstock ’16 works with children in the Kindergarten Kickstart program on July 14 at Bielefield School in Middletown. The program, which is taught by Wesleyan students and local teachers, is celebrating its fifth year this summer. (Photos by Olivia Drake)

Kindergarten Kickstart, a research-based, summer pre-K program for children in Middletown created by Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman and her students, is celebrating its fifth year. It’s marking the occasion with an event July 20 at the Middletown Roller Skating Rink (free for any current or past Kickstart family, 4 to 6 p.m.) and using a new grant to further develop student innovation in the program.

stu_psychology_2016-0714142901

At left, Megan Dolan ’17 and Stephanie Blumenstock ’16 help Kindergarden Kickstart students during outdoor playtime.

Shusterman and three of her students first launched Kindergarten Kickstart in summer 2012 as a pilot program with 15 children at MacDonough School. They designed the curriculum and taught the program together with a MacDonough teacher. Today, this five-week program serves 35 children at Bielefield and Farm Hill schools (who will be entering kindergarten at those schools plus MacDonough), with six Wesleyan undergraduates and recent alumni leading the classes and developing the curriculum. A certified teacher continues to work at each site. Funding comes from a variety of sources, including a small budget from Wesleyan’s Provost, the Foundation for Greater Hartford, Safe Schools/Healthy Students, and a seed grant from Wesleyan’s Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship.

The program is intended for children who could benefit from an extra pre-school experience before beginning kindergarten in the fall. Through a partnership between university-based research labs, Middletown Public Schools and local community organizations, Kindergarten Kickstart aims to bridge the research-to-practice gap and improve participants’ school readiness skills through a short-term, high-impact, low-cost preschool program.

According to Shusterman, children in low-income neighborhoods start kindergarten with academic skills up to two years behind their peers. Research shows that quality early childhood education makes a huge difference in helping to shrink this achievement gap. In fact, economists estimate a $7 return for every $1 invested in early childhood education, resulting from lower spending on school remediation, incarceration, unemployment and other programs that become necessary when children do not start out on the right foot.

Shusterman said Kindergarten Kickstart was started as a way to put early childhood research into practice.

Hornstein, Hounsell ’11 Co-Author Paper in Journal of Economics and Business

Abigail Hornstein

Abigail Hornstein

Associate Professor of Economics Abigail Hornstein and James Hounsell ’11 are the authors of a new paper published in The Journal of Economics and Business titled “Managerial investment in mutual funds: Determinants and performance implications.”

In the paper, Hornstein and Hounsell examine what determines managerial investments in mutual funds, and the impacts of these investments on fund performance. By using panel data they show that investment levels fluctuate within funds over time, contrary to the common assumption that cross-sectional data are representative. Managerial investments reflect personal portfolio considerations while also signaling incentive alignment with investors. The impact of managerial investment on performance varies by whether the fund is solo- or team-managed. Fund performance is higher for solo-managed funds and lower for team-managed funds when managers invest more. These results are consistent with the higher visibility of solo managers, and less extreme investment returns of team-managed funds. The results suggest investors may not benefit from all managerial signals of incentive alignment as managerial investments also reflect personal portfolio considerations.

Read the full paper here.