Barry Chernoff, second from right, is pictured on stage with, from left, composer Felipe Perez Santiago, composer Graham Reynolds, and cellist Jeffrey Zeigler.
Barry Chernoff, director of the College of the Environment, was one of eight scientists recently honored with a new musical composition based upon his research—part of a concert and album titled “The Sound of Science, performed in New York City on Nov. 10.
The project aims to build “bridges between the musical and scientific worlds, celebrating their shared culture of inquiry,” according to the website. The pieces were written by seven celebrated composers for amplified cello and electronics, and were all recorded and performed by world-renowned cellist Jeffrey Zeigler, longtime member of Kronos Quartet and several other groups. The Grammy Award–winning quartet has performed at Wesleyan’s Center for the Arts, most recently in April 2018.
Each composer was paired with a scientist of his or her choosing and tasked with creating music inspired by and reflective of the scientist’s life and practice.
Chernoff’s piece, titled, “Pastaza,” was composed by Graham Reynolds, an Austin-based composer-bandleader-improviser who creates, performs, and records music for film, theater, dance, rock clubs, and concert halls. “Pastaza” and the other works can be played online here.
According to the website: “Graham was drawn to Chernoff’s work for its influence and importance on this grand scale…. When it comes to considering what future we are creating, there is nothing more crucial than the planet, its limited resources, and how it will fare for generations to come.”
The piece aims to honor Chernoff’s “abundant curiosity for the world” around him, and to examine the ways in which his work influences our understanding of “what came before and what’s ahead.”
“I am incredibly honored to have a piece of music inspired by my research and conservation efforts in the Amazon and in South America—and I am in awe of Graham Reynolds’s ability to have imagined the music without having traveled by dugout in the Amazon basin himself!” said Chernoff. “His composition, ‘Pastaza’ is so beautiful, if not breathtaking. Hearing the music performed live by Jeffrey Zeigler with Graham’s electronic backing with my photos being displayed on the wall was an experience I will never forget.”
Chernoff is also the Robert Schumann Professor of Environmental Studies, professor of biology, professor of earth and environmental sciences, and professor and chair of environmental studies.
In this op-ed, President Michael S. Roth writes: “In a year when inducements to political violence have become normalized at the highest level, colleges and universities must do more than just encourage our students to vote.” It is crucial that colleges actively work to protect free expression, free inquiry, and fact-based discussion, Roth argues.
Melanie Khamis, associate professor of economics and associate professor, Latin American studies, recently presented her paper, “Reversed Migration Trends and Local Labor Markets” at two meetings. She spoke at the North East Universities Development Consortium (NEUDC) at Cornell University on Oct. 27, and at the Kiessling Presentation, Economic Studies Division at The Brookings Institution on Oct. 16.
Khamis coauthored the paper with Emily Conover of Hamilton College and Sarah Pearlman of Vassar College. According to the abstract, the paper estimates the effects of the unprecedented decline in Mexican net migration from 2006 to 2012 on labor markets in Mexico, and finds that declines in migration can have an impact on labor markets in sending countries.
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, Professor of Government Mary Alice Haddad writes that the recent election of many pro-environment mayors was a promising sign for our country’s response to climate change. She describes the progress that cities in the U.S.—and around the world—have made in this area in recent years, at a time when the federal government is moving backwards. Haddad is also professor, environmental studies, and professor, East Asian studies.
Americans elected mayors who care about climate change
Being pro-environment was a winning strategy for this country’s mayors.
Twelve mayors in America’s 100 largest cities faced re-election battles during the 2018 midterms, and mayors – both Democrats and Republicans – who followed pro-environmental policies were rewarded. All six mayors who had demonstrated their commitment to the environment by signing the Global Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy – including Stephen Adler of Austin, Texas, Greg Fischer of Louisville, Kentucky, and Libby Schaff of Oakland, California – won re-election. The other big city mayors in re-election battles weren’t so fortunate – two won, two lost, and two are facing runoffs.
Of course, voters consider many issues when they cast their ballot. It’s unlikely that the environment was the deciding issue in these races. However, mayors that prioritize the environment seem to be making changes in their cities that please constituents. The positive election results in 2018 were not an anomaly – all 15 mayors who signed the covenant and sought re-election in the last two years have been victorious at the ballot box, usually by large margins.
Mayors with pro-environmental agendas aren’t just popular. I believe they are an important part of the answer to the global challenge of climate change.
As a scholar of civil society and environmental policy – this is just one of the positive signs I see not just in American cities, but around the world.
Climate change is urgent
A month before the election, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its latest report about the risks associated with climate change. The news was bad. Our planet is now expected to reach a 1.5 degrees Celsius increase in average global temperatures as early as 2030. One billion people will regularly endure conditions of extreme heat. Sea levels will rise, exposing between 31 and 69 million people to flooding. Seventy to 90 percent of coral reefs will die. Fishery catches will decline by 1.5 million tons. And that is if we are lucky and keep the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which will not be easy.
As my colleague Gary Yohe reflected in a recent New York Timesarticle, “2 degrees is aspirational and 1.5 degrees is ridiculously aspirational.” At exactly a time when we need to become more ambitious in our efforts to tackle this global problem, the United States has pulled out of the Paris agreement and is dismantling many of its clean energy and other climate policies at home. One of my students recently expressed a common feeling of helplessness: “It makes me wonder if the best thing I can do is just go out in the backyard and compost myself.”
So, I’d like to say: There is hope. While the president of the United States may not be making much progress, many other people are. The election of pro-environment mayors and governors is one excellent sign.
Cities take the lead
A number of U.S. cities have gained global reputations for their innovative responses to the challenge of climate change.
San Francisco, which reduced its carbon emissions by 30 percent between 1990 and 2016, cemented its global leadership position by hosting the 2018 Climate Action Summit this past September, which gathered 4,500 leaders from local governments, nongovernmental organizations, and business together to address climate change. The summit resulted in numerous corporate and city commitments to become carbon neutral, as well as trillions of dollars of investment in climate action.
New York City reduced its emissions by 15 percent between 2005 and 2015. Its residents have a carbon footprint that is only one-third that of the average American. The mayor of the financial capital of the United States has also become a champion of oil divestment.
As in the U.S., global cities are also making significant progress on climate change. Tokyo reduced its energy consumption more than 20 percent between 2000 and 2015, with the industrial and transportation sectors making astounding 41 percent and 42 percent reduction respectively. By 2015, the city of London had reduced its emissions 25 percent since 1990, and 33 percent since peak emissions in 2000.
These cities are not waiting for presidents and prime ministers to act, they’re making changes right now that are improving the lives of the tens of millions of their own residents by improving air quality, reducing flooding risk, and expanding green space, all while helping to bend the global emissions curve downward.
Wesleyan President Michael Roth and Viral Doshi spoke about the value of liberal arts education at an event in Mumbai, Oct. 22.
On Oct. 22, President Michael Roth held a public discussion in Mumbai, India, with leading education and career counselor Viral Doshi on the value of pursuing a liberal arts education. Nearly 90 people, including many alumni, parents, prospective students, and high school counselors, were in attendance.
Over the past decade, an increasing number of students from India are choosing to pursue higher education in the United States. Wesleyan has seen applications from India increase by 70 percent over the past 5 years.
At the event, Roth spoke about the educational experience offered by Wesleyan, while Doshi shared his perspective on and insights into current trends in higher education. He is the founder of Viral Doshi Associates, which provides students and young adults with services ranging from psychometric testing and mentoring to career and college planning.
“I am delighted to return to India to discuss the importance of liberal arts education in today’s culture and economy,” Roth said. “Wesleyan University has long had deep connections with India, and today our students who come from this country are contributing greatly to our dynamic campus. Now more than ever, a creative, bold, and rigorous liberal education equips our graduates for lifelong learning and productive careers.”
Dan Bobkoff ’05 is the host and executive producer of the Household Name podcast from Business Insider.
Dan Bobkoff ’05 believes that, for better or worse, much of American life is lived through brands.
“Whether you like iPhones or Androids is almost like a religious affiliation,” he says. “Or you might have had a poignant family moment at McDonald’s.”
This is the lens through which Bobkoff explores brands in his new podcast, Household Name, from Business Insider. Bobkoff launched the podcast in July, and will produce and host 36 episodes over the course of the year. Its tagline—“Brands you know, stories you don’t”—captures the cultural history and surprising stories of unintended consequences that are featured in each episode about brands such as Pizza Hut, TGI Fridays, and Blockbuster.
“This is not a show for Wall Street traders. It’s a show for people who like stories and want to think about how we live,” he says.
President Michael Roth moderated a discussion with alumni in the entertainment field—from left, Jon Turteltaub ’85, Julia Zhu ’91, and Jon Hoeber ’93—on “practical idealism in action” at the inaugural Liberal Arts + forum in Shanghai on Oct. 20.
On Oct. 20, Wesleyan held its inaugural Liberal Arts + forum in Shanghai, China. This year, the forum focused on film education and U.S.-China film collaborations, and featured discussions between three alumni in the entertainment industry; President Michael Roth; and Scott Higgins, director of the College of Film and the Moving Image. Each year, the forum will highlight a different area of liberal arts education for an audience of prospective families, alumni, and the general public in China.
The centerpiece of this public event, which was attended by approximately 80 people, was a panel discussion featuring Jon Hoeber ’93 and Jon Turteltaub ’85, screenwriter and director of the summer blockbuster, The Meg, as well as Julia Zhu ’91, a media and entertainment expert and entrepreneur and CEO of Phoenix TV Culture and Live Entertainment Company. Roth moderated the discussion, titled, “Practical Idealism in Action,” in which the three alumni described how their liberal arts educations prepared them for successful careers in the entertainment industry.
The three later shared insights into the future of film collaborations between the U.S. and China, in a conversation moderated by Higgins, who is also the Charles W. Fries Professor of Film Studies, chair of Film Studies, and curator of the Wesleyan Cinema Archives.
Higgins also offered a simulated film studies class for prospective students and others in the audience—bringing the Wesleyan liberal arts film education experience to Shanghai.
Higgins said of the Forum: “I learned a lot about how the Chinese and American media industries are interacting, and renewed my long-time interest in Chinese cinema. I also met with a few recent graduates who are now making commercials and short films in the country, and was introduced to a whole new generation who are just now applying to Wesleyan. It was touching to be so far away from Middletown and yet feel connected to our ever-growing community.”
Watch a video (created by Chengjun Huang) of the forum highlights below:
Additional photos (taken by Weiji Sun) of the forum are below:
Front row, from left, Julia Zhu ’91, Scott Higgins, and President Michael Roth.
On Oct. 15, Seth Redfield, associate professor and chair of astronomy, gave a lecture at the Morrison Planetarium at the California Academy of Sciences. He was invited to speak as part of the Benjamin Dean Astronomy Lecture series. The title of his talk was, “Exploring Our Galactic Neighborhood.” The talk will be posted to the Academy’s iTunes University site.
Redfield is also associate professor, integrative sciences, and co-coordinator, planetary science.
From left, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan, Imelda Deinla, Clark Lombardi, and moderator Mimmi Söderberg Kovacs in a panel discussion with policymakers on conflict resolution.
On Sept. 29–Oct. 1, Assistant Professor of Government Ioana Emy Matesan traveled to Switzerland to participate in a research workshop that brought together an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars working on conflict and violence, as well as in a meeting with policymakers.
Matesan was one of only six researchers from five different countries invited to attend the meeting with policymakers—primarily from the Human Security Division within the Swiss Department of Foreign Affairs—which was organized by the Folke Bernadotte Academy (the Swedish government agency for peace, security, and development), the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University, the Center for Security Studies in Zurich, and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland.
Matesan participated in a panel discussion on resolving conflicts involving Islamist actors, along with Imelda Deinla, the director of the Philippines Project at Australian National University, and Clark Lombardi, the director of Islamic legal studies at the University of Washington.
Ioana Emy Matesan
“The panel was centered on the question of what research can tell us about the prospects of conflict resolution, and what questions it raises for policymakers and practitioners who want to engage in negotiations and mediation,” said Matesan. “In my comments I drew on my research on Egypt and Indonesia to emphasize that group ideology and tactics can change over time in response to internal dynamics and public condemnation, but I also warned against policies that use overwhelming force, and the assumption that either groups or publics are passive recipients of propaganda with little agency.”
The annual Navaratri Festival is an example of Wesleyan’s long-time commitment to South Asian cultural programming.
Wesleyan has received a two-year $165,699 grant under the U.S. Department of Education’s Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language (UISFL) program to support the teaching of Hindi and Urdu, the research of STEM faculty and students in India, and the increase of cultural programming related to South Asia.
“This grant will allow Wesleyan to become one of a very small number of liberal arts institutions in the country with classroom instruction in Hindi and Urdu,” said Stephen Angle, director of the Fries Center for Global Studies. “We are excited about the ability this grant will give us to support STEM faculty and students doing summer research in India as a way of growing opportunities for international experiences in the sciences. Together with our existing faculty strength in South Asian studies (currently nine faculty across the arts, humanities, and social sciences) and the president’s initiative to expand Wesleyan’s visibility in India, the new grant will help to further solidify Wesleyan as a leader in South Asian studies.”
Richard Slotkin, Olin Professor of English, Emeritus, is the author of a new book, Greenhorns: stories, published Oct. 10 by Leapfrog Press.
Slotkin writes more personally in Greenhorns than in his past nonfiction books, in a series of linked semifictional stories based on his ancestors’ immigration from Eastern Europe early in the 20th century.
A kosher butcher with gambling problems; a woman whose elegant persona conceals unspeakable horror; a Jewish Pygmalion who turns a wretched orphan into a “real American girl”; a boy who clings to his father’s old-world code of honor on the mean streets of Brooklyn; the “little man who wasn’t there,” whose absence reflects his family’s inability to deal with their memories—these tales of early 20th-century Jewish immigration blur memoir and fiction, recovering the violent circumstances, the emotional costs of uprooting that left people uncertain of their place in America and shaped the lives of their American descendants.