Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Wesleyan Launches First-Ever Creative Writing Specialization on Coursera

Wesleyan's creative writing specialization is open to anyone with a love of reading or a drive to invent a story or tell their own.

Wesleyan’s creative writing specialization on Coursera provides an opportunity to learn from some of the country’s best contemporary writers.

Wesleyan will present the first-ever creative writing specialization on the Coursera platform, beginning Feb. 9. Taught by four award-winning authors, the specialization is open to anyone with a love of reading or a drive to invent a story or tell their own.

Titled “Creative Writing: The Craft of Story,” the specialization will include four courses, plus a capstone. The courses are:

The first MOOC launches Feb. 9, with subsequent courses starting every week after that.

Wesleyan Hires 8 New Tenure-Track Faculty

On Feb. 2, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Joyce Jacobsen announced that Wesleyan has hired eight new tenure-track faculty in fields including African American studies, sociology and physics, among others. Wesleyan also made a senior hire, which will be announced later this semester after a successful tenure review, Jacobsen said. Nine other faculty searches are ongoing and will hopefully be completed this spring.

“With 18 searches going on, we will likely have a larger than usual group of new faculty coming to campus next fall,” said Jacobsen. “We’re excited to welcome this accomplished and diverse group of scholar-teachers.”

Brief bios of the eight new tenure-track faculty follow:

Abigail Boggs, assistant professor of sociology, is a Wesleyan alumna whose PhD thesis from University of California – Davis is titled “Prospective Students, Potential Threats: The Figure of the International Student in U.S. Higher Education.” Her work crosses the boundaries of feminist studies, popular culture, queer studies, and transnational studies. Her first book manuscript, “American Futures: International Studies and the Global U.S. University” is currently under review.

Wesleyan Receives Record Number of Applications for Class of 2020

The Office of Admission received more than 12,000 applications for the Class of 2020. 

The Office of Admission received more than 12,000 applications for the Class of 2020.

At a time when many are decrying the demise of liberal arts colleges, Wesleyan has received its largest application pool ever for the Class of 2020. As of Feb. 1, 12,026 students had applied, marking a 22 percent increase over the previous year and a 10 percent increase over the previous all-time high three years ago for the Class of 2017.

“We’re very pleased by not only the sheer number of students who can see themselves at Wesleyan—amongst the highest of any liberal arts college—but also by the highly talented and diverse nature of the applicant pool,” said President Michael Roth. “I’d like to believe this is evidence that we’re about to see a resurgence of pragmatic liberal arts education in this country.”

Matesan Writes on Why ISIS Will Not Thrive in Indonesia

Ioana Emy Matesan

Ioana Emy Matesan

Following an ISIS attack in the heart of Jakarta earlier this month, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan writes on the blog “Political Violence @ a Glance” why she believes ISIS will not thrive in Indonesia. The ISIS affiliate in Indonesia remains very small, and “varies drastically from its counterpart in Syria in terms of motivations, organization, and perhaps more importantly, ability to challenge the state or claim territory.”

Matesan notes, “Indonesia has seen its fair share of violence, and even some earlier attempts to build an Islamic state.” She provides a history of different groups that over time have rejected the Republic and attempted to form separate Islamic states, resulting in periods of violence.

She writes:

Since 2009, however, there have been no major terrorist attacks in Indonesia. The trend that has been emerging over the last five years is a move away from hierarchical organizations and large scale attacks towards online, individual self-radicalization and decentralized networks of radical ideologues. Such is the case also with ISIS supporters in Indonesia, who are no more than several hundred across the entire archipelago.

This number is large enough to stage attacks such as the recent ones in Jakarta. But the number is minuscule when compared with the 50 million strong, pro-democratic and tolerant Nahdlatul Ulama (on their anti-ISIS and anti-extremism activities, see here). Compared to Syria and Iraq, there is also no significant challenge to the legitimacy of the Indonesian state or Indonesian democracy; there is no power vacuum or disintegration in the rule of law that these ISIS fighters could take advantage of.

To be sure, the threat of violence might not disappear in Indonesia. But it is important not to overreact to these attacks, not to overestimate the reach of ISIS, and not to conflate developments in the Middle East with developments in Southeast Asia. American involvement in counter-terrorism and harsh tactics by the police or Densus 88 (the counter-terrorism unit) have only spurred violent attacks before. Unlike many other countries countering terrorism, Indonesia has done many things right – it adopted a legalist rather than militaristic approach to counterterrorism and it has combined soft and hard tactics, understanding the importance of incentives, exit options, and respect for the rule of law. Rather than give in to an ISIS hysteria, the country should keep building on the lessons it has already learned from its tumultuous past.

 

 

Allbritton Center to Host Series of Panels on the Refugee Crisis

RefugeePanel1

 

The Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life will host a series of three panels in February and March on the refugee crisis. All events will take place in PAC 001.

The first panel, The Development of the Crisis and the Response in Europe, will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 3. Moderated by Professor of Economics Richard Grossman, the panel is comprised of Bruce Masters, the John E. Andrus Professor of History; Robert Ford, former U.S. ambassador to Syria; and Marcie Patton, professor of politics at Fairfield University.

The second panel, The Refugee Experience, will be held at 7 p.m. Feb. 17. Moderated by Victoria Smolkin-Rothrock, assistant professor of history, assistant professor of Russian, Eastern European and Eurasian Studies, it will feature discussion between Steve Poellot, legal director at the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP); Mohammed Kadalah, of the University of Connecticut Department of Literature, Cultures and Languages, who was recently granted asylum after fleeing Syria in 2011; and Baselieus Zeno, a PhD candidate in political science at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst and a Syrian refugee.

The final panel, The U.S. Response, Locally and Nationally, will be held at 7:30 p.m. March 31. Moderated by Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan, the panel will include Christina Pope of Welcoming America; Chris George, director of Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services; and Jen Smyers, director of policy and advocacy at Church World Service. It will also feature a video message from U.S. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut.

For more information, contact Rob Rosenthal, director of the Allbritton Center, at rrosenthal@wesleyan.edu.

Ulysse: ‘Ode to Haiti’s Neo-Comedians’

Gina Athena UlysseGina Athena Ulysse, professor of anthropology, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, writes an “Ode to Haiti’s Neo-Comedians” in The Huffington Post about Haiti’s recently cancelled election runoff. The title of her essay refers to Graham Greene’s The Comedians, a book whose description read: “Set in Haiti, amid an atmosphere of brutal force and terror-ridden love, three desperate people work out their strange destinies.”

Ulysse writes:

Relevance of The Comedians is apparent in Haiti’s recently cancelled election runoff that was set for this past Sunday. Indeed, until then, the outgoing president Michel Martelly, a chap with dictatorial tendencies who leads the “Bald Headed Haitian Party”—insisted on proceeding with business as usual. His would-be successor, Jovonel Moïse the so-called leading candidate, is eager to turn Haiti into a “banana republic,” a discursive play on his plantain plantation commerce. The opposition, Jude Celestin, boycotted the event and penned an op-ed disavowing the impending masquerade as a total farce. The masses who continue to suffer were being forced once again to absorb this electoral crisis and participate in a “selection,” as they say in the local parlance. It is hard to discern which is more comic and/or tragic in these instances.

“Surely you jest,” I say to myself in a mocking tone as elders decry, “the country has lost its dignity,” knowing full well that my late grandmother would use expletives.

Davison Art Center Awarded 2 Photos by Iranian Artist Neshat

Shirin Neshat's "Ghada" and "Sayed," from the Our House Is on Fire series, 2013. Images courtesy of Gladstone Gallery.

Shirin Neshat’s “Ghada” and “Sayed,” from the Our House Is on Fire series, 2013. Images courtesy of Gladstone Gallery.

The Davison Art Center has been awarded two photographs by the Iranian artist Shirin Neshat, as part of a gift from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation to 33 leading colleges and universities around the world. The prints, titled “Ghada” and “Sayed,” are part of Neshat’s Our House is on Fire series, an exploration of Egypt after the Arab Spring, which was supported by the Foundation.

“Shirin Neshat is one of the most important photographers of our time, and these deeply moving portraits evoke our common humanity. Looking closely at the photographs, you can see a veil of calligraphy—the text in Persian for the poem A Cry, by Persian poet Mehdi Akhaven Sales,” said Clare Rogan, curator of the Davison Art Center. “These fascinating images prompt us to consider humility, complexity, and the interlocking role of the arts, letters, contemporary life, and politics—all topics perfect for teaching here at Wesleyan.”

In Our House Is on Fire, Neshat investigates the universal experiences of pain and mourning on both national and personal levels. Traveling to Egypt, the artist invited various people to sit before her camera and to share their stories of loss, culminating in her new portrait series. Photographing her subjects up-close and with notable directness, Neshat creates a poignant connection between subject and viewer. She then overlays the images with a nearly indecipherable veil of text, inscribing calligraphy across the folds of each face, thereby mirroring the way in which a national calamity has become embedded in the personal history of each individual.

Stanley Fish to Deliver Hugo Black Lecture Feb. 18

Stanley Fish (Photo by Jay Rosenblatt)

Stanley Fish (Photo by Jay Rosenblatt)

On Feb. 18, Stanley Fish will deliver the 25th annual Hugo L. Black Lecture on Freedom of Expression. The title of his talk is, “Micro-aggressions, Trigger Warnings, Cultural ‘Appropriations’ and History: What’s Happening on Campus?” The talk begins at 8 p.m. in Memorial Chapel.

Fish is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and professor of law at Florida International University; Floersheimer Professor of Law at Cardozo Law School; Emeritus Professor of English and Law at Duke University; and Dean Emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Distinguished Professor of English, Criminal Justice and Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He earned a BA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1959, and a MA and PhD from Yale University in 1960 and 1962. He has previously taught at the University of California at Berkeley (1962-74); Johns Hopkins University (1974-85), where he was the Kenan Professor of English and Humanities; and Duke University, where he was Arts and Sciences Professor of English and Professor of Law (1985-1998). From 1993 through 1998 he served as Executive Director of the Duke University Press.

Fish writes regularly on The Huffington Post.

The lecture, named in honor of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo L. Black, is offered annually and endowed by Leonard S. Halpert ’44. The series is designed to bring to the Wesleyan campus distinguished public figures and scholars with experience and expertise in matters related to the First Amendment and freedom of expression.

Roth’s Beyond the University Wins AAC&U’s Ness Book Award

Michael Roth

Michael Roth

At its annual meeting on Jan. 21, the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AAC&U) presented President Michael Roth with the Frederic W. Ness Book Award for his book, Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matterspublished in 2014 by Yale University Press. The Ness Award is given annually to a book that best illuminates the goals and practices of a contemporary liberal education.

In Beyond the University, Michael S. Roth recounts the historic debates over the benefits—or drawbacks—of a liberal education. In this provocative contribution to the disputes, Roth focuses on important moments and seminal thinkers in America’s long-running argument over vocational vs. liberal education.

“As I argue in the book, a liberal education is more important than ever,” said Michael S. Roth, author of Beyond the University. “In 2016, we can work toward the wider recognition that liberal learning in the American tradition isn’t only training; it’s an invitation to think for oneself—and to act in concert with others to face serious challenges and create far-reaching opportunities. I’m honored to have the book recognized by AAC&U.”

Beyond the University was selected for the award by a committee of higher education leaders including Johnnella Butler (chair), professor of comparative women’s studies at Spelman College; Sandy Ungar, distinguished scholar in residence at Georgetown University; Elaine Maimon, president of Governors State University; and Reza Fakhari, associate provost for academic affairs at City University of New York Kingsborough Community College.

“Michael Roth provides the historical and contemporary rationale for the pragmatic, aspirational, and innovative liberal education needed for the ongoing transformations we need to meet the changing twenty-first-century realities both within and beyond the university,” said Butler.

The Ness Book Award was established by AAC&U in 1979 to honor AAC&U’s president emeritus, Frederic W. Ness. Recent award winners include Teaching Naked: How Moving Technology Out of Your College Classroom Will Improve Student Learning by José Antonio Bowen; Rethinking Undergraduate Business Education: Liberal Learning for the Profession by Anne Colby, Thomas Ehrlich, William Sullivan, and Jonathan R. Dolle; Why Choose the Liberal Arts? by Mark W. Roche; Tearing Down the Gates: Confronting the Class Divide in American Education by Peter Sacks; Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More by Derek Bok; Saving Higher Education in the Age of Money by James Engell and Anthony Dangerfield; Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi; Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts: Charting the Future of Teaching the Past by Sam Wineburg; and Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education by Martha Nussbaum.

Read press coverage of Beyond the University here.

Johnson, Alumni Author New Paper in Developmental Biology

Ruth Johnson, assistant professor of biology, assistant professor of integrative sciences, is the co-author of a new paper titled “The adaptor protein Cindr regulates JNK activity to maintain epithelial sheet integrity” published in the journal Developmental Biology on Jan. 7. The paper was co-authored by Hannah Yasin ’15, Samuel van Rensburg MA ’15, and Christina Feiler, an exchange masters student who worked in Johnson’s lab during 2012-13. The publication represents Yasin’s honors thesis, and van Rensburg’s and Feiler’s masters theses.

According to the abstract:

Epithelia are essential barrier tissues that must be appropriately maintained for their correct function. To achieve this a plethora of protein interactions regulate epithelial cell number, structure and adhesion, and differentiation. Here we show that Cindr (the Drosophila Cin85 and Cd2ap ortholog) is required to maintain epithelial integrity. Reducing Cindr triggered cell delamination and movement. Most delaminating cells died. These behaviors were consistent with JNK activation previously associated with loss of epithelial integrity in response to ectopic oncogene activity. We confirmed a novel interaction between Cindr and Drosophila JNK (dJNK), which when perturbed caused inappropriate JNK signaling. Genetically reducing JNK signaling activity suppressed the effects of reducing Cindr. Furthermore, ectopic JNK signaling phenocopied loss of Cindr and was partially rescued by concomitant cindr over-expression. Thus, correct Cindr-dJNK stoichiometry is essential to maintain epithelial integrity and disturbing this balance may contribute to the pathogenesis of disease states, including cancer.

LA Times Features New Dramatic Oratorio by Neely Bruce

The Los Angeles Times offers a preview of “Circular 14: The Apotheosis of Aristides, a new dramatic oratorio composed by Neely Bruce, the John Spencer Camp Professor of Music, which has its world premiere Jan. 23 at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles.

The piece tells the story of Aristides de Sousa Mendes, a diplomat and little-known Portuguese hero to many thousands of Jews during World War II. In June 1940, nearly 120,000 refugees fleeing from Nazi persecution amassed down the road from the Portuguese consulate in Bordeaux, France. Though Portuguese dictator António de Oliveira Salazar issued a vehement directive to deny safe haven to the refugees, Sousa Mendes still issued more than 30,000 visas in a matter of months. The article likens him to Oskar Schindler, the factory owner famous for saving the lives of more than 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust. In contrast, Sousa Mendes’ “contribution to history hasn’t received the same recognition mainly because Salazar took great pains to bury his story, Bruce says.”

According to the article:

After Sousa Mendes’ actions were discovered, his case went to the Supreme Court of Portugal, where he was essentially given a slap on the wrist. The punishment wasn’t severe enough for Salazar, so the dictator had Sousa Mendes stripped of all diplomatic privileges as well as his license to practice law. When Sousa Mendes married his second wife, Andrée Cibial, the couple were not allowed to marry in Portugal. Family members found it hard to secure employment.

“The petty cruelty involved was just ridiculous,” Bruce says.

Sousa Mendes died in poverty in 1954, and he was buried in a wooden box in the cemetery of Franciscan monks.

It’s a beautiful yet tragic tale, filled with larger-than-life characters — all the hallmarks of great opera, Bruce says, adding that the piece has been in the works for more than five years and that he ended up writing the libretto himself.

“I wasn’t writing a fairy-tale opera. I was writing an opera about real events, so I wanted to be as accurate as possible,” says Bruce, who has often visited political issues in his compositions and once set the Bill of Rights to music.

 

MLK Commemoration on Environmental Justice to be Held Jan. 29

Click to view event's poster.

Click to view event’s poster.

All members of the Wesleyan community are invited to attend the annual commemoration of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy. Dorceta E. Taylor, a leading voice in the environmental justice movement, will deliver the keynote address, titled “Different Shades of Green or Beyond the Farm” at 4:15 p.m. on Jan. 29 in Memorial Chapel. A desert reception will follow.

Taylor is professor, James E. Crowfood Collegiate Chair, and director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the University of Michigan. She is past chair of the environment and technology section of the American Sociological Association.

In addition to the Wesleyan community, Middletown High School students and members of the Middletown community will be in attendance.

The keynote is a ticketed event; tickets are free and available in limited quantities at the University Box Office beginning Jan. 19. Community tickets are available here.

Prior to the keynote, student leaders from the Green Fund, Students of Color community and Eco Facilitators will be holding multiple workshops designed to bring the Green and SOC communities together in sustained dialogue over matters of environmental and social justice, and how change starts here in our surrounding Middletown community. A student-led screening and discussion of the documentary Trouble the Water will be held 7:30–9:30 p.m. on Jan. 27 in PAC 001.