Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Loui Talks Tone-Deafness on Radio Health Journal

Psyche Loui is assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Psyche Loui is assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior.

Psyche Loui, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, discussed the phenomenon of tone-deafness on Radio Health Journal.

Millions people go through life thinking they’re hopelessly tone-deaf when they are not–they can distinguish between correct and incorrect notes, yet they’re just unable to sing them properly. Ironically, those who are truly tone-deaf cannot hear such distinctions, and thus may be unaware of their condition.

“You’ll see some people who don’t really know that they’re tone-deaf,” said Loui.

Identifying tone-deafness can be done by having people listen to, rather than sing, music. Many people who are tone-deaf don’t enjoy music.

“Some people think it all sounds the same, some people think it sounds like clanging, some people think it’s just really unpleasant,” said Loui.

People who are truly tone-deaf make up on about 2-1/2 to 4 percent of the population. They’re more likely have family members who are also tone-deaf, suggesting genetics play a role.

“It’s really a wiring problem, really a difference in connectivity in major pathways of the brain for regions that are important for sound processing and regions that are important for sound production,” said Loui.

Hear the full interview here.

Jenkins Writes About “Eye-Opening” Performance of Indonesian Dancers

Ron Jenkins

Ron Jenkins

Professor of Theater Ron Jenkins wrote in The Jakarta Post about recent performances of Rateb Meuseukat, a form of Acehnese dance from Indonesia, at Wesleyan and a few other New England colleges, which gave American audiences “an eye-opening introduction to an aspect of the Muslim world that is rarely seen in the West.”

The group “Tari Aceh” performed at Wesleyan’s Crowell Concert Hall on Feb. 27. The day after the performance, some audience members returned for a workshop in which they learned how to do the movements they had seen onstage.

Jenkins writes:

Images of Muslim women in Western media often focus on the restrictive nature of head scarves and other customary clothing, but the dancers of Aceh shattered these naïve stereotypes through the liberating power of their performances.

The women’s colorful woven headscarves accentuated the sassy energy of their movements. Their modest costumes used traditional textiles to heighten the dynamic quality of their choreography.

The hooting, stomping, finger snapping and body slapping that punctuated their dances gave the performance an unstoppable sense of momentum that erased all notions of female passivity.

The women dancers of the “Tari Aceh” tour were clearly the masters of the remarkable universe they created onstage.

New Volume of Elizabeth Willis’ Poetry Published

Elizabeth Willis

Elizabeth Willis

Alive: New and Selected Poemsa new volume of poetry by Elizabeth Willis, the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing, professor of English, was recently published by New York Review Books. The book contains poems spanning more than 20 years.

According to the publisher’s website, with these poems, Willis “draws us into intricate patterns of thought and feeling. The intimate and civic address of these poems is laced with subterranean affinities among painters, botanists, politicians, witches and agitators. Coursing through this work is the clarity and resistance of a world that asks the poem to rise to this, to speak its fury.

Willis is also the author of Address (2011), which received the PEN New England/L. L. Winship Prize, and four previous books of poetry.

Blatt ’17 Selected As a Doris Duke Conservation Scholar

Kai Blatt '17 plans to major in studio art and biology. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS '08)

Kai Blatt ’17 plans to major in studio art and biology. (Photo by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

#THISISWHY

Kai Blatt ’17 has been selected to take part in the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars Program at the University of Washington. This eight-week, all expenses paid “classroom-in-the-field” program helps students develop their vision for conservation, and gives them the natural and social science skills to become a conservation change-maker. The program is just entering its second year of existence, and this will be the second year a Wesleyan student has participated.

Blatt, who is from Los Angeles and plans to major in studio art and biology, learned of the program from her friend Joseph Eusebio ’17,

Wesleyan Welcomes Second Cohort of Posse Veteran Scholars

The newly accepted class of Posse Veteran Scholars, holding Wesleyan shirts, together with some current Posse scholars. Also shown are Andy Szegedy-Maszak, faculty mentor of the Class of 2018 Posse scholars, and Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek; John Gudvangen, associate dean of admission and financial aid/director of financial aid; and Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion/ Title IX officer.

Pictured are the newly accepted Class of 2019 Posse Veteran Scholars, holding Wesleyan shirts, together with some current Posse scholars from the Class of 2018. Also shown are, second from left, Andy Szegedy-Maszak, faculty mentor of the Class of 2018 Posse scholars, and Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek; fifth from left, John Gudvangen, associate dean of admission and financial aid/director of financial aid; and, far right, Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion/ Title IX officer.

Wesleyan has accepted a second cohort of Posse Foundation Veteran Scholars into the Class of 2019. The group, which includes three women and seven men, come from all over the United States, and have served in Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia, Italy, South Korea and Germany. Seven served in the Army, one in the Marine Corps, one in the Air Force, and one in the Connecticut Army National Guard.

The group’s faculty mentor will be Giulio Gallarotti, professor of government, professor of environmental studies, tutor in the College of Social Studies.

In 2013, Wesleyan became only the second institution, after Vassar, to partner with the Posse Foundation in a new program to recruit veterans to top-tier colleges and universities, where they receive full scholarships. Read more about the partnership in this story. The first “posse” of students entered Wesleyan in fall 2014. Meet them here.

“Our second Posse Vets cohort brings an even more diverse and eclectic group of veterans to Wesleyan,” said Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion/ Title IX officer. “What continues to impress me is the unshakeable confidence that is backed by academic rigor and a deep sense of duty each of the vets brings to their educational journey.”

The first group of Posse vets “have set a high bar in terms of academic performance and community engagement, so we’re looking forward to welcoming the next cohort and watching them thrive,” he said.

Farias added that he’s grateful to the faculty who have volunteered to serve as mentors to these students, as well as the tireless staff that help ensure the transition from the military to a liberal arts college is successful.

“We’re thrilled that Giulio Gallarotti has been selected as the faculty mentor. Giulio brings a deep empathetic understanding of how to integrate and help different types of students excel at Wes, which makes him an ideal mentor.”

Teter’s Talk Opens Symposium on 50th Anniversary of Vatican II Council’s Declaration “Nostra Aetate”

Magda Teter

Magda Teter

In early March, Magda Teter, the Jeremy Zwelling Professor of Jewish Studies, gave the opening talk at a symposium in Poland on the 50th anniversary of the Declaration “Nostra Aetate” issued by the Second Vatican Council, which changed the tone and relations between Jews and the Catholic Church.

Teter spoke on “Continuity and Change in ‘Nostra Aetate.'” Teter also is chair and professor of history, professor of medieval studies.

Teter has been involved in Jewish-Catholic dialogue in Poland for the past three years. Her research into post-Reformation Europe led her to meet with a bishop in the southeastern Polish town of Sandomierz, a town long considered a locus of anti-Semitism due to a painting in the city’s cathedral depicting the “blood libel” of Jews murdering Christian children. Teter and the bishop discussed what to do with the 18th century painting, and how to bring the community together around a solution. The result was a 2013 symposium on the issue, partially sponsored by Wesleyan, that brought together scholars and clerics and led to the decision to unveil the painting, add explanatory signage and convene again. Read more in this News @ Wesleyan story.

In addition to Teter’s talk at the meeting this month, Bishop Mieczysław Cisło spoke on Jewish-Catholic dialogue in Poland, and John Connelly, professor of history at the University of California-Berkeley, spoke about the individuals involved in creating a foundation for the declaration, both in the interwar period and after World War II.

Faculty, Students, Alumni Present Research at Society for Research in Child Development Meeting

Jessica Taggart, former lab coordinator, presenting work done with Jillian Roberts '15, current lab coordinator Lonnie Bass, and Associate Professor of Psychology Hilary Barth, titled, "Minimal group membership and children's ideas of equality." This project is Robert's thesis.

Jessica Taggart, former lab coordinator, presenting work done with Jillian Roberts ’15, current lab coordinator Lonnie Bass, and Associate Professor of Psychology Hilary Barth, titled, “Minimal group membership and children’s ideas of equality.” This project is Robert’s thesis.

Wesleyan was strongly represented by faculty, undergraduates and alumni at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, the major conference in the field. The meeting was held in Philadelphia, Pa. March 19-21.

Members of the Cognitive Development Labs, co-directed by Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman and Associate Professor of Psychology Hilary Barth, presented research at the conference. Former lab coordinator Jessica Taggart presented work done with Jillian Roberts ’15, current lab coordinator Lonnie Bass, and Barth titled, “Minimal group membership and children’s ideas of equality.” This is Roberts’ senior thesis project.

Andrew Ribner ’14 presented his senior thesis, “Preschool indicators of primary school math ability” with Shusterman and former postdoc Emily Slusser. And Barth presented “A non-Bayesian explanation of adults’ and children’s biased spatial estimates” with Ellen Lesser ’15, Sheri Reichelson ’16, Anna Schwab ’16, Taggart, Slusser and Bass.

In addition, numerous presentations were made at the conference by alumni who did undergraduate work in Wesleyan’s Cognitive Development Labs. They included: Christian Hoyos ’11, Julia Leonard ’11, Jessica Sullivan ’08, Ariel Starr ’07, Nick DeWind ’06, Joanna Schiffman ’11,  Margaret Gullick ’07, Elise Herrig ’10, Kyle MacDonald ’10, Dominic Gibson ’10 and Samantha Melvin ’13. Former Shusterman lab coordinator Talia Berkowitz and former postdoc Mariah Schug also presented work at the conference. Learn more about all these presentations, and what these individuals are doing now, in this post on the Cognitive Development Labs blog.

Shusterman, Feld ’11 Article Published on Student Stress in College Prep High Schools

A paper co-authored by Lauren Feld ’11 and Associate Professor of Psychology Anna Shusterman was recently published in the Journal of Adolescence. Titled, “Into the Pressure Cooker: Student Stress in College Preparatory High Schools,” the paper was Feld’s senior thesis at Wesleyan.

The article will appear in Volume 41, June 2015 of the journal. It can be read online here.

In the study, Feld and Shusterman assess stress and related behaviors in high-achieving high school students. Specifically, they explored symptoms, sleep and eating, attitudes and coping behaviors related to stress. They found that students reported high rates of physical and psychological correlates of stress, as well as unhealthy behaviors in response to stress. Feld and Shusterman write that these findings indicate areas of vulnerability in high-achieving student populations.

Feld is now completing medical school at Mount Sinai, and just matched for a residency in internal medicine at the University of Chicago.

 

Ulysse Writes Tribute to Anthropologist Karen McCarthy Brown

Gina Athena Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology.

Gina Athena Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology.

Gina Athena Ulysse, associate professor of anthropology, wrote a tribute on the Tikkun Daily Blog to Karen McCarthy Brown, professor emerita of anthropology and sociology of religion at Drew University, who passed away earlier this month.

“Reading Karen’s Mama Lola kept me in grad school. Vodou got a human face from her,” Ulysses posted on Facebook after hearing news of Brown’s death.

She goes on to explain, “Mama Lola was published by the University of California Press in 1991. Based on extensive fieldwork conducted over a decade, Brown became an initiate of her subject, as a condition to deeper research and writing her life history. The resulting ethnography with its radical crossings blurred methodological and scriptive lines. Brown took creative liberties fictionalizing various strands of Lola’s familial and spiritual genealogies.”

Though highly celebrated, the book was not without its critics. Haitian anthropologist Michel-Ralph Trouillot questioned tensions between Brown’s ethnographic authority and totalizing narrative.

Ulysses writes, “Indeed, in many ways, Mama Lola was something of an insider ethnography. In retrospect, I formed an attachment to it precisely because I had some knowledge to discern fact from fiction, to fill in the silences and to decipher practices layered in an opacity that was part of a historically damaging trope. Simultaneously, it expanded my lexicon as I learned so much about religious practices in my birth country that to this day remain trapped in obscurity, familial and otherwise. In that sense, the book had done for me exactly what anthropology is supposed to do, make the familiar strange and the strange familiar. It also sensitized me to the restrictions of genres, fieldwork dynamics and negotiations among so many other things. I knew there would never be an ethnography of my family’s story. Performance, maybe? Memoir, definitely. Some stories are not mine to tell.”

Crosby Honored at Barnard College Event

Crosby

Christina Crosby, at right, was honored at Barnard College on March 10. She’s pictured here with her partner Janet Jakobsen, formerly a Wesleyan faculty member and fellow at the Center for the Humanities.

Christina Crosby, professor of English, professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies, was honored at an event March 10 at Barnard College. Several Wesleyan faculty and alumnae participated in the discussion.

Panelists Laura Grappo '01, assistant professor of American Studies, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies; Maggie Nelson '94, teaches at California Institute of the Arts; and Gayle Pemberton, former Wesleyan professor of English, currently professor of English at Mt. Holyoke College.

Panelists Laura Grappo ’01, assistant professor of American studies, assistant professor of feminist, gender and sexuality studies; Maggie Nelson ’94, teaches at California Institute of the Arts; and Professor of English and African American Studies, Emerita Gayle Pemberton.

The event, titled “Body Undone: A Salon Honoring Christina Crosby,” was hosted by the Barnard Center for Research on Women and NYU’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Studies. It focused on Crosby’s forthcoming memoir of living with disability, Body Undone: Living on After Great Pain. The memoir will be published by NYU Press in the “Sexual Cultures” series.

In 2003, Professor Crosby broke her neck in a bicycle accident.

“Spinal cord injury has cast me into a surreal neurological wasteland that I traverse day and night,” she wrote. “This account is an effort to describe the terrain. I want you to know, and I, myself, want better to understand, a daily venture of living that requires considerable fortitude on my part and a great dependency on others, without whose help my life would be quite literally unlivable.”

According to the event description, in her book, “Crosby grapples directly with the physical deficits of quadriplegia suddenly encountered at age 50 and refuses to look away from the rawness of grief over the loss of her active, athletic life. The book is an exploration of embodiment that reaches back to the author’s childhood as a tomboy in small-town in Pennsylvania, her brother’s life with (and death from) multiple sclerosis, and the feminist and gay liberation movements of the 1970s that were for her thrilling life-affirmations. In the end, queer commitments create life-sustaining possibility, and open to an unknown future, lived in an undone body.”

The event featured a reading by Crosby, followed by a panel discussion featuring, among others, Wesleyan’s Associate Professor of English Lisa Cohen; Professor of English and African American Studies Emerita Gayle Pemberton; Assistant Professor of American Studies Laura Grappo ’01; and Maggie Nelson ’94, a professor at the California Institute for the Arts.

Watch a video of the event here.

Robinson Studies Individual Differences in Reactions to Junk Food

Mike Robinson studies how individuals react differently when presented with a junk food diet.

Mike Robinson, standing, studies how individuals react differently when presented with a junk food diet. Pictured in the foreground is Sarah Mi ’16. (Photos by Olivia Drake MALS ’08)

Mike Robinson, assistant professor of psychology, assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior, and his students are interested in what makes individuals react differently when they catch a whiff of freshly-baked brownies or another sugary treat.

Mike Robinson and Rebecca Tom '16 remove the junk food concoction from the food processor.

Mike Robinson and Rebecca Tom ’16 remove the junk food concoction from the food processor.

These Pavlovian cues associated with junk food can trigger cravings to eat and increase the amount of food consumed. People who are more susceptible to the motivational effects of these cues may have a higher risk for over consuming readily available junk food and becoming obese. Furthermore, the overconsumption of junk food may itself heighten attraction to food cues. But what causes some people to be more susceptible than others?

Robinson, together with colleagues at the University of Michigan, explores these issues in an article titled “Individual Differences in Cue-Induced Motivation and Striatal Systems in Rats Susceptible to Diet-Induced Obesity,” published in the March 12 edition of Neuropsychopharmacology. Read the abstract here.

The researchers introduced a junk food diet (a mash of potato chips, chocolate chip cookies, peanut butter, and chocolate milk powder) to rats to study whether there were pre-existing and/or diet-induced increases in attraction to cues for junk food, and motivation to seek out the food. They found that prior to gaining weight, the rats that would go on to become obese with the junk food diet showed a greater attraction to food cues. After being exposed to the junk food diet and gaining excessive amounts of weight, those rats began treating food cues as a reward in of themselves, and were more willing to work to obtain them.

Rudensky Discusses Her Latest Project with Jewish Daily Forward, Rubin ’13

Sasha Rudensky

Sasha Rudensky

The Jewish Daily Forward has published an in-depth interview with Assistant Professor of Art Sasha Rudensky ’01. The conversation ranges from her immigration to the U.S. from Moscow at age 9 to her start as an artist to her latest photography project, Eastern Eve.

Hannah Rubin ’13, a former student of Rudensky, wrote the story as part of a larger series she’s working on that spotlights Jewish female artists.

Rubin describes Rudensky’s work: “She uses her photography as a means of personally investigating the contradictions and continuities of contemporary Russian culture. Though her work defies being labeled as ‘feminine,’ it culls from a sensibility that is distinctly gentle and yet perverse, that seeks to make photographs that are repellent and attractive. They trade in generalities, but their details establish her voice — a statue of Stalin in a hallway, a wall of faded shampoo advertisements, the surprisingly limber legs of an eleven-year old rhythmic gymnast. Each picture becomes a question, a statement, a kind of rhythmic curiosity of light, color, and form that points to a history and a future that both feel unknown.”

Asked about her latest project, Eastern Eve, Rudensky said:

I’ve been working on it this series of portraits for the past five years or so, kind of as a side project. The youngest model in the group is twelve and her name is Sasha and I think maybe it was when I photographed her that the idea gelled and came together. There is a kind of fetishistic fascination of Eastern European women: a very specific kind of prototype is conjured up. And in many ways, it isn’t completely mistaken. But in the reality, of course, it is so much more diverse. So I wanted to play with both of these ideas, and make pictures of women that are very confrontational, and contradictory to the stereotype, but not always. The title Eastern Eve plays on the generic woman notion: something that denotes a kind of every day, or a kind of Jane version of the Russian woman. But then that generality gets broken down by the specificity in each image. The specific skin, specific body type, specific haircut.

On a more personal level, this series is, in many ways, a projection of myself onto these women — looking at these women, at these lives that perhaps I was meant to lead. There is always this idea for me of what would have happened if I had stayed in Russia and grown up there. So, ultimately, it feels like a self-portraiture project.

Photographs from Eastern Eve can be seen here.