Lauren Rubenstein

Associate Manager of Media & Public Relations at Wesleyan University

Fowler Uses Facebook Data to Analyze Role of Social Media in Elections

Erika Franklin Fowler is examining different sponsors of political advertising and the messaging strategy and targeting differences between Facebook and television. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

In this Q&A, we speak to Erika Franklin Fowler, associate professor of government. Fowler is an expert in political communication, particularly local media and campaign advertising.

Q: With the midterm elections around the corner, what’s caught your interest this election cycle?

A: The Trump era has brought many challenges for political communication broadly and journalism specifically to the forefront of public attention, so there are too many things to discuss, but I’ll mention two in particular. First, the politicization of news media is problematic as it erodes common understanding among the public, which makes for very interesting conversations in my Media and Politics class, but is certainly concerning for democracy. Second, with respect to elections, I am very interested to see the strategic choices of how campaigns communicate on the big policy developments in health care and tax reform in particular.

Q: You were recently invited to serve on an independent research commission, Social Science One, which will use Facebook data to analyze the role of social media in elections and democracy. Why is this a unique opportunity?

A: Unlike the comprehensive data we have for television, data on Facebook advertising has not been previously available to outside researchers. Social Science One sets up a new model for industry partnership with academics to increase responsible data access and foster research on some of the most pressing questions regarding the effect of social media on democracy and elections.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The Forward: Jewish Student is Youngest Woman Ever to Finish ‘American Ninja Warrior’ Course

Casey Rothschild ’20 is interviewed about her path to become, at 20, the youngest woman ever to complete the course in the popular sports competition TV show. Rothschild is also a track star, pole vaulter, circus artist, and dedicated student.

2. TIMEThe 25 Moments From American History That Matter Right Now

In this compendium of important moments in American history, Courtney Fullilove, associate professor of history, associate professor of science in society, contributed an entry about July 8, 1853, when Commodore Matthew Perry sailed his steam-powered ships into Tokyo Bay. She writes, “His insistence that the Japanese trade with the United States hinged on a belief that international commerce was a marker of civilization. He had no sense that military enforcement of this norm diminished its value, or that of the numerous American manufactures he brought as gifts.”

3. Hartford Courant: Wesleyan Janitor Facing Deportation Honored by University for Service to Students

Francisco Acosta, an employee of Sun Services, was awarded the Peter Morgenstern-Clarren scholarship for his service and impact on students.

4. The Times Literary Supplement: Don’t Listen to the Critics

In this essay, Hirsh Sawhney, assistant professor of English, writes about the author Michael Ondaatje, whose poetry and prose have made him a bestselling author, “while also earning him the ire of literary critics.”

5. Charleston Gazette-Mail: Appalachian Scholar Project helps Charleston teens prepare for college

Students from Wesleyan have been helping African-American teenage girls get into colleges — especially prestigious, out-of-state institutions.

Recent Alumni News

  1. ESPN: Michele Roberts [’77] Elected to Another Four-Year Term as NBPA Executive Director“The National Basketball Players Association unanimously elected Michele Roberts to serve another four-year term as executive director, union president Chris Paul announced Tuesday,” wrote ESPN staff writer Tim McMahon, and quoted Roberts on “’creat[ing] a system that allowed them [the players] to really believe that I and the team we assembled were going to be interested in one … priority only, and that is the best interest of the players.'”

2. New York Times Book Review: A White House Memoir That’s Equal Parts C-Span and ‘Sex and the City’

Paul Begala, political consultant, commentator, and former adviser to President Bill Clinton, reviews From the Corner of the Oval (Spiegel & Grau, 2018) by Beck Dorey-Stein ’08. He calls it an “addictively readable memoir … that is improbable even by White House standards.”

3. The Boston Globe: This CEO Doesn’t Like to Be Cornered

A profile of Dr. David Schenkein ’79, P’08, “CEO of Agios Pharmaceuticals Inc. in Cambridge, [who] runs a biotech startup that won approval last August for its first drug, Idhifa, to treat a rare and devastating form of leukemia caused by a genetic mutation.”

4. Forbes: The Three Tactics This Radio Personality Used to Make Her Mark in Media

Angela Yee ’97, “one-third of the popular The Breakfast Club, Power 105.1’s syndicated morning radio show based in New York,” profiled by Pauleanna Reid, features mentoring advice from Yee, including ”reach back to educate.”

5. Forbes: The Founder Of Tala On Her Leap From Finance To Fundraising For Her Mission-Driven Startup

Shivani Siroya ’04, founder and CEO of Tala, talks with Forbes staff writer Tanya Klich at Forbes Women’s Summit, delineating her fundraising process in a Q&A, as well as in a backstage video.

6. New York Times: ‘Emojiland’ and a Graceful Elegy at the New York Musical Festival

The “graceful elegy” is If Sand Were Stone, reviewed by Laura Collins-Hughes, who considered it a “strong offering” of that week. (Now closed, it was at the Acorn Theater.) It also featured the talents of recent alumni. Collins-Hughes writes: “With book and lyrics by Carly Brooke Feinman [’16] and music by Cassie Willson [’17], it’s a show whose subject—a middle-aged woman’s fast unraveling from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease—risks turning off potential audience members. But as staged by Tyler Thomas, with spare yet essential choreography by Nora Thompson [’15], part of this musical’s triumph is its sensitivity and grace.”

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. NBC’s American Ninja Warrior: Youngest Woman to Hit Buzzer: Casey Rothschild

Rothschild ’20 competed in the NBC television show’s Philadelphia qualifiers, becoming the youngest woman to ever finish a course when she hit the buzzer at 4:57. Rothschild has been training for years and uses the moniker Circus Ninja because of her background in circus arts. Read Rothschild’s interview with The Hartford Courant.

2. The Washington Post: This Is What It Feels Like to Be Separated at the Border

Victoria Smolkin, associate professor of history, associate professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies, shares her own heartbreaking experience of being separated from family at the border as she left the U.S.S.R. as a child refugee in 1988.

Rutland in The Conversation: One Likely Winner of the World Cup? Putin.

Peter Rutland

Peter Rutland

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Peter Rutland, the Colin and Nancy Campbell Professor in Global Issues and Democratic Thought, writes about the FIFA World Cup being hosted by Russia. Though Russia’s team is not expected to perform very well, he writes, leader Vladimir Putin understands the power of sports to “foment feelings of national pride” and boost his own popularity among the Russian people. Rutland is also professor of government; professor of Russian, Eastern European, and Eurasian studies; tutor in the College of Social Studies; and director of the Allbritton Center for the Study of Public Life.

One likely winner of the World Cup? Putin

Half a million soccer fans will head to Russia to watch their national teams compete in the FIFA World Cup. Billions more around the world will watch on television. Brazil and Germany are favorites to win the trophy.

But we already know one person who will emerge as a winner: Vladimir Putin.

No one is expecting the Russian team to do very well in the tournament. FIFA’s official rankings place Russia 70th in the world – the team’s worst ever rating, and a precipitous fall from the 24th place it enjoyed as recently as 2015. Soccer is nevertheless a popular spectator sport in Russia, where sport and nationalism are closely intertwined.

As editor of Nationalities Papers, the journal of the Association for Study of Nationalities, I find that our most-read articles are often those involving soccer, a sport that can serve as a focal point for nationalist mobilization.

Putin seems to understand the ability of sport to foment feelings of national pride – and, in turn, has repeatedly used sporting events to enhance his popular standing at home.

Putin’s pet project

In 2010 Moscow won its bid to host the 2018 Cup, a successful pitch that was very much Putin’s personal project. He even traveled to Zurich and gave an emotional speech thanking FIFA for the honor. A few years later, corruption scandals brought down most of the FIFA board that had made this decision.

But by then, the decision had been finalized: Putin was set to be the first autocrat to host the World Cup since Argentina’s military junta in 1978.

Of course, this was before Putin’s controversial return to the presidency in 2012, and before the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Now, as the World Cup begins, Russia’s standing in the world is at an all-time low.

Hatch in The Conversation: Digital Mental Health Drug Raises Troubling Questions

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer).

Associate Professor Anthony Hatch. (Photo by Robert Adam Mayer)

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.” In a new article, Associate Professor of Sociology Anthony Hatch writes about troubling ethical questions raised by the emergence of a new type of digital drug, which contains a sensor that communicates back information about the patient to doctors and pharmaceutical companies. Hatch is also associate professor of science in society, associate professor of African American studies.

Digital mental health drug raises troubling questions

Moments after Neo eats the red pill in “The Matrix,” he touches a liquefied mirror that takes over his skin, penetrating the innards of his body with computer code. When I first learned about the controversial new digital drug Abilify MyCite, I thought of this famous scene and wondered what kinds of people were being remade through this new biotechnology.

Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and Proteus Digital Health won Food and Drug Administration approval to sell Abilify MyCite in late 2017. This drug contains a digital sensor embedded within the powerful antipsychotic drug Abilify, the brand name for aripiprazole, which is used to treat schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depressive disorder. The goal of the digital sensor is for doctors to monitor their patients’ intake of Abilify MyCite remotely and ensure that the patient is adhering to the correct drug dose and timing.

Pills with embedded sensors mark a new era in digital health and, I believe, herald the arrival of a new kind of digital cyborg identity, which sociologist Deborah Lupton defines as “the body that is enhanced, augmented or in other ways configured by its use of digital media technologies.” Drugs are cybernetic technologies in that we absorb pharmaceuticals through metabolic processes that biochemically recode our brains and bodies.

The figure of the cyborg helps us recognize the potential of digital health technologies for enhancing human health, while at the same time critique how the practices of digital health can work to coerce, marginalize or transform individual people and entire social groups. In my view, having pills that connect us to our doctor and pharmaceutical companies via an app is dehumanizing and reduces patients’ psychic lives to a digital readout.

Wesleyan in the News

In this recurring feature in The Wesleyan Connection, we highlight some of the latest news stories about Wesleyan and our alumni.

Recent Wesleyan News

  1. The Washington Post: “Our Graduates Should Answer Cynicism and Insults with Inquiry and Reflection”

In this op-ed, President Michael S. Roth ’78 expresses his hope that this year’s graduates will feel empowered, and their capacity for inquiry, compromise, and reflection will be enhanced by their college educations.

2. The New York Times: “Eleanor Roosevelt’s Love Life, as Fodder for Fiction”

“[Amy] Bloom’s [’75] lyrical novel, laced with her characteristic wit and wisdom, celebrates love in its fiery and also embered phases,” according to this positive review of Bloom’s newest book, White Houses. Bloom is the Shapiro-Silverberg Professor of Creative Writing at Wesleyan.

3. Be the Change Venture: “Makaela Trains Leaders to Change the World. This is How.”

Makaela Kingsley ’98, director of the Patricelli Center for Social Entrepreneurship, is interviewed about her career path, her goals for the future, and lessons she’s learned along the way.

4. Yahoo! News: “Generation Z Opens Up about the Refugee Crisis”

Ahmed Badr ’20 is interviewed about his experience as a young refugee from Iraq living in the United States. Badr has traveled the world telling his story and runs a project promoting youth storytelling as a means of self-empowerment.

5. American Museum of Natural History Podcast: “Visualizing Planets with Radio Telescopes with Meredith Hughes”

Meredith Hughes talks about how we understand planet formation, and how the relatively new Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is “revolutionizing our view” of planet formation.

6. The New York Times: “Do You Know What Lightning Really Looks Like?”

Associate Professor of History Jennifer Tucker discusses the history of artists and scientists “pitting their fields against one another,” dating back to the emergence of meteorology as a scientific discipline in the 19th century. Tucker is also chair and associate professor of feminist, gender, and sexuality studies; associate professor of science in society; and associate professor of environmental studies.

Recent Alumni News

  1. The Wrap: Lin-Manuel Miranda’s [’02] ‘In The Heights’ Set for Summer 2020 Release

    “Warner Bros. announced on Thursday that it will release the film adaptation of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony-winning musical “In The Heights” on June 26, 2020.” This is the musical Miranda began writing as a Wesleyan undergrad.

2. Berkeley Lab: Steve Kevan [’76] Named Next Director of Berkeley Lab’s Advanced Light Source

“After an international search, Stephen D. ‘Steve’ Kevan has been named the new director of the Advanced Light Source (ALS) at the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab). The ALS produces extremely bright X-ray, infrared, and extreme ultraviolet light for more than 2,000 visiting scientists each year.”

3. Boston GlobeBoston Will Be the Hub of the Biotech Universe Starting Monday; quotes Amy Schulman ’82, P’11 and mentions Agios (David Schenkein ’79, P’08 is CEO)

The article, anticipating the annual early June Biotechnology Innovation Organization convention in Boston, included a quote from Amy Schulman, a partner in the venture capital firm Polaris Partners and CEO of the Watertown-based start-up Lyndra Inc. She spoke to the need for greater diversity in the biotech industry: “Study after study shows that when you have diverse people—people with different perspectives, styles, genders, ethnicities, and orientations—then you have better conversations that translate into better outcomes,” she said. “It’s really important.”

4. NPR’s Wait, Wait… Don’t Tell Me!: “Not My Job: Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper [’74, MA ’80, Hon. ’10] Gets Quizzed on 2020”

In this NPR show, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper is asked introductory questions (“So we researched this—you are the first brewer to be elected to office, elected to be governor, since Sam Adams. You know that?”) that also flirt with his potential interest in running for president in the 2020 election. He is then invited to play a three-question quiz to win a prize for a listener.

5. AdLibbing: Badass Working Moms to Inspire You This Mother’s Day; includes Bozoma Saint John ’99

Profiled as one of “five mothers who are changing the world,” Bozoma Saint John was noted for “her illustrious career, in addition to raising her now 8-year-old daughter, Lael.”

 

 

Alumni, Students Celebrate 150 Years of Argus

On May 26, a Wesleyan Argus 150th Anniversary Celebration was held at Russell House during Reunion & Commencement Weekend. Current students and alumni, who contributed to the Argus from the 1970s through the present day, shared memories, caught up with old friends, and discussed the state of journalism today. (Photos by Tom Dzimian and Olivia Drake.)

The reception was held at Russell House, and was co-sponsored by Wesleyan's Writing Certificate.

The reception was held at Russell House, and was cosponsored by Wesleyan’s Writing Certificate.

Barber in The Conversation: From Homelessness to Citizenship

Michael Rowe, left, and Charles Barber, right.

Michael Rowe, left, and Charles Barber, right.

Wesleyan faculty frequently publish articles based on their scholarship in The Conversation US, a nonprofit news organization with the tagline, “Academic rigor, journalistic flair.”  In a new article, Charles Barber, visiting writer at Wesleyan, and Michael Rowe, professor of psychiatry at Yale University, write about a citizenship intervention program they developed over the past 20 years in New Haven to help homeless individuals reintegrate into society.

Not just a place to live: From homelessness to citizenship

Twenty years ago, Jim lived under a highway bridge in New Haven, Connecticut. He was in his 50s and had once been in the Army.

After an honorable discharge, he bounced from one job to another, drank too much, became estranged from his family and finally ended up homeless. A New Haven mental health outreach team found him one morning sleeping under the bridge. His neon yellow sneakers stuck out from underneath his blankets.

The team tried for months to get Jim to accept psychiatric services. Finally, one day, he relented. The outreach workers quickly helped him get disability benefits, connected him to a psychiatrist and got him a decent apartment.

But two weeks later, safe in the apartment, Jim said he wanted to go live under the bridge again. He was more comfortable there, where he knew people and felt like he belonged, he said. In his apartment he was cut off from everything.

As researchers in mental health and criminal justice at Wesleyan and Yale universities, we have been studying homeless populations in New Haven for the past 20 years. In that moment, when Jim said he wanted to leave what we considered the safety of an apartment, the outreach team, which co-author Michael Rowe ran, realized that, while we were capable of physically ending a person’s homelessness, assisting that person in finding a true home was a more complicated challenge.

President Roth to Debate Safe Spaces, Free Speech on June 23

President Michael S. Roth

President Michael Roth

On June 23, President Michael Roth ’78 will participate in a debate titled, “Trigger Warning: Safe Spaces Are Dangerous,” presented by Intelligence Squared U.S. in partnership with the John Templeton Foundation.

The debate will take place before a live audience in Banff in Alberta, Canada, from 7:30 to 9:00 p.m. (9:30–11:00 p.m. EST). It will be livestreamed here, and will air soon after as part of the syndicated public radio show and podcast “Intelligence Squared U.S.”

According to the Intelligence Squared website: “Universities and students have come under attack in recent years for promoting the concept of ‘safe spaces.’ Proponents of the idea argue that safe spaces promise a reprieve from bigotry and oppression by allowing students of all backgrounds the opportunity to express themselves freely. But to their critics, safe spaces pose a dire threat to free speech. Are safe spaces coddling young minds, or are they a necessary component of modern education?”

Sultan Delivers Lectures around the World

Sonia Sultan, right, is presented with a plaque by Ellen Harrison, wife of the influential biologist Rick Harrison after whom the Harrison Keynote Lecture is named. Sultan presented the lecture at Cornell's annual Evo Day symposium in May.

Sonia Sultan, right, receives a plaque from Ellen Harrison, wife of the influential biologist Rick Harrison after whom the Harrison Keynote Lecture is named. Sultan presented the lecture at Cornell’s annual Evo Day symposium in May.

This spring, Sonia Sultan, professor of biology, professor of environmental studies, has delivered several notable invited talks in different parts of the world.

In February, she presented the annual Darwin Day talk at the University of Glasgow in Scotland. Sultan was the first woman scientist to present this prestigious lecture, in which a prominent evolutionary biologist shares their research and its broader implications. Sultan spoke on “Eco-Devo Insights to Evolutionary Questions,” using results from her Wesleyan lab’s plant research to address basic questions about individual development, inheritance, and adaptation. She was also interviewed about her contributions to current evolutionary biology for the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health & Comparative Medicine podcast, Naturally Speaking.

In April, Sultan also gave a research seminar in Mexico City at the National University of Mexico’s Institute for Ecology, and in March, she presented her work to philosophers of biology at a European Union–sponsored conference in London.

Finally, on May 10, Sultan delivered the Harrison Keynote Lecture at Cornell’s annual “Evo Day” evolutionary biology symposium. The lecture is named in honor of Rick Harrison, an influential and much admired evolutionary biologist who served on the Cornell faculty until his death in 2016. Sultan’s next speaking event will be to give the closing lecture at a September meeting on “Advances in Evolutionary Biology” at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology in Plön, Germany.

First Cohort of Posse Veteran Scholars Graduates

The Posse Veteran Scholars Class of 2018.

The Posse Veteran Scholars Class of 2018.

As the Class of 2018 accepted their diplomas this month, among them was a special group of students: Wesleyan’s first full cohort of Posse Veteran Scholars to graduate.

In 2013, Wesleyan made a commitment to dramatically increase the number of veterans it enrolls by entering into a new partnership with The Posse Foundation, Inc. At that time, Wesleyan was only the second institution to join the Posse Veteran Scholars Program, which identifies talented veterans interested in pursuing bachelor’s degrees, and places them at top tier colleges and universities, where they receive four-year full scholarships. Each year, the veterans enter in “posses” of 10, which act as support networks to help these nontraditional students adapt to college life. As of the 2017–18 school year, Wesleyan has enrolled four full cohorts. One member of the first posse, Ky Foley, graduated a year early in 2017.

Before arriving at Wesleyan, members of the Class of 2018 Posse Veteran Scholars were members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, and several served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some had previously attended other colleges and universities; two have families.

Andrew Szegedy-Maszak, Jane A. Seney Professor of Greek, professor of classical studies, is the faculty mentor for the Class of 2018 posse.

“I’ve often said that the Posse initiative is one of the best things Wesleyan has done, and I still believe that,” he said. “Being the mentor for the first cohort has been at various times rewarding, challenging, frustrating, infuriating, and joyful, but never dull.”

From left, Darryl Stevenson '18, Ryan Poulter '18, and Michael Smith '18 at the Wesleyan Posse Veteran Pre-Graduation Celebration on May 26.

From left, Darryl Stevenson ’18, Ryan Poulter ’18, and Michael Smith ’18 at the Wesleyan Posse Veteran Pre-Graduation Celebration on May 26.

Antonio Farias, vice president for equity and inclusion, Title IX officer, agreed.

“Without question, the partnership with the Posse Foundation and the influx of a critical mass of post-9/11 veterans on campus has been an overwhelming success,” he said. “The Posse Veteran Scholars are exceptional human beings who contribute across the board to the living-learning environment, and demonstrate the vast talent pool that exists within this particular nontraditional student population.”

Wesleyan University Awards 2018 Hamilton Prize for Creativity

Sydney Kim of Weston, Mass. has been selected as the recipient of the 2018 Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity, a four-year, full-tuition scholarship to Wesleyan, worth as much as $200,000. Her submission, a short story titled, “The Driveway,” was selected by an all-star committee of Wesleyan alumni chaired by Hamilton writer/creator and former star Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ‘15 and director Thomas Kail ’99, from more than 550 entries. Kim attends Concord Academy, and will be a member of Wesleyan’s Class of 2022.

“This year’s submissions gave us insight into the minds of so many creative students,” said Miranda. “I admire their bravery in sharing who they are with the committee. Taking that leap isn’t easy. They are all inspiring.”

The Wesleyan University Hamilton Prize for Creativity was established in honor of Miranda and Kail’s contributions to liberal education and the arts and named for the pair’s hit Broadway musical, Hamilton: An American Musical, which in 2016 won 11 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Book, and Best Original Score. The first Hamilton Prize was awarded to Audrey Pratt in May 2017.

Hamilton: An American Musical has inspired and energized so many young people. Through this prize, we look forward to bringing promising new writers to Wesleyan, where they will find a community that encourages experimentation and values the sharing of creative work,” said Wesleyan President Michael S. Roth. “I can’t wait to see what these students produce with their Wesleyan educations.”